For the past week, I have been questioning the world and its intentions.
Paris. Beirut. And now Mali. What is going on with the world? What is going on with humanity?
My students talked about how they felt about things after the Paris attacks. I wanted to give these college freshmen space to talk about this — what they were feeling, thinking, etc. It amazed me that they were ready and willing to talk. They started with one question.
“Why would anyone do this?”
I couldn’t answer this question for them. I could answer how to punctuate a sentence or write a thesis. Yes, that was easy stuff but why do people hate and why do they act upon that hate as easily as ordering a latte at Starbucks…that one was more difficult.
So, I told them why English class was important.
“It’s not just a required class,” I started, their eyes looking at me in the middle of the room. “And this class helps you with thinking critically on paper but it’s not really about that either. This, these papers you’re writing are slices of humanity. This is how you combat hate. You learn to write what it is like to be a human in 2015 and use your words, not bullets, to communicate ideas. Civilizations have crumbled through the power of words, leaders have been created with the right thought at the right time. The written word is more powerful than bombs, swifter than swords, stronger than steel. Writing, words, thoughts, thinking, this is how wars are won. Not armies but words. You are in English class because your generation has the potential to change the world to something amazing. This is how you start. Words are your building blocks.”
After that, the class sat. They thought about it and their argumentative papers. I could tell they looked at their papers different because during class I was flooded with questions about their papers, specific questions. More than just please check if this is right. These questions were like, I want to make sure I’m saying what I think I’m saying.
I’d like to think that I said and taught my students more than just essay structure and thesis statements. I hope that I taught them to question and express themselves in a different way. I hope I taught them that they already have a weapon at their disposal and that it’s stronger than their fear.
I hope for them all things strong and good and fair. I hope for them a humanity of peace. I hope for them the answers to all their questions.
Even when the world is going mad, Dear Reader.