Regarding Charlottesville… I feel grossly inarticulate. I am stunned and horrified that such a thing could happen in the United States in 2017, and yet this is where we find ourselves.
I did grow up in the South, but was pretty far-removed from any significant glorification of the Confederate flag or white supremacy. I knew they were there–there was always a sort of undercurrent that never went away; you’d see the flag on the back of a truck, for example, or hear people make grotesque remarks. It may very well be the case that I was exposed to much more of this kind of thing than I actively noticed, because over time it just sort of became “white noise” (pun intended) that I tuned out.
I was clearly wrong to have done so, because that undercurrent of hatred, bigotry, bias, reductive and ignorant thought, and 100% pure unadulterated idiocy has punched through that thin wall that I had set up in my mind. There is a sickness running through the veins of this country–I can’t help but think of trying to draw blood but getting black slime instead. And I fear that things are only going to get worse, though I really hope I’m wrong about that.
I don’t have any answers to this. I don’t think any one person is going to be able to figure out how to resolve this neatly; it’s going to be a messy healing process that will require a lot of effort, heartache, and energy expended by a lot of different people.
What I DO know, though, is that a major/significant/undeniable contributor to where we find ourselves today is the absolutely wretched state of education in this country. It is embarrassing that a nation that, for decades, has declared itself to be the “best” at everything has failed its students in so many ways, for so many years. Things don’t seem likely to improve anytime soon; while Betsy DeVos may be well-intentioned, she simply doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal to make any meaningful improvements at the national level… and state and local education concerns are so frequently cash-strapped and time-bound that it’s a miracle if anything cohesive were to emerge from that mélange. I pray I’m wrong–I really do. I mourn for students who are being cheated out of learning how to harness all of the potential that they contain.
Look… at the end of the day I’m just one advertising and marketing professor at one liberal arts college. But you can be damned sure that I am going to double down on my efforts to make sure that any student that darkens the doorway of my classroom is forced to think. Thinking, fortunately, is a transferable skill; yes, I realize that we may be talking about John Cena in a Hefty commercial in my classroom, but if I’ve done my job right, the skills that my students develop or sharpen during that discussion will serve them well for the rest of their lives.