Monday, November 06, 2006

Immanentizing the Eschaton

Don't get all excited--this isn't going to be about immanentizing that eschaton. I'm just referring to the fact that this is the last week of classes here at Ohio University, and everything is winding down to the end of term/end of year kind of state. Also, Lisa and Michael will be returning from Paris today, signalling an end to my noble experiment in single parenthood. Although I've done it before--sometimes with two children in my care!--this time was rather different, as it lasted longer and it was just Olivia and I. Nobody got hurt, I'm happy to report, though somebody's hair doesn't look quite as good as it does when mommy is there to braid it.

Olivia's hair looks great, though.

Michael's hair, however, is apparently long enough now that people in Paris regularly mistook him for a girl. This rarely happens in Athens--last refuge of hippiedom east of Berkeley--but when I took him and Lisa to the airport in Columbus and we emerged from the men's room along with about a dozen other guys hurrying to catch their flights, one wizened old man came up to me and said "Did I see a girl in there?" I was non-plussed. I just said that I hadn't seen any girls in there, but that I did tink I taw a puddy tat. When I was Michael's age (1970) I had hair about as long, but mine was all frizzy and stood out from my head like an Afro, which in those days was pretty cool for a white dude. Nowadays I just wish I could grow hair on my head of any length.

While Lisa has been away I've been teaching her Latin class for her, which for me is rather fun but for her students I'm sure it's something of a downer. I have to admit that I admire their perseverence, coming in every day knowing full well that there's going to be a substitute teacher who's not going to just shoot the breeze with them, biding the time until the real teacher comes back. Their Latin is pretty good, too, which makes one proud to have been a part of their educational experience if only for a short time. Even those who are stuggling struggle valiantly, and one admires their fortitude in the face of adversity.

I've been teaching two classes this term, an introduction to philosophy and a survey of the philosophy of science. In both classes I pushed the students very hard and many of them rose to the challenge--I think that many of my students can be proud of their accomplishments this term, because they worked very hard for everything they got. One of the great things about being an educator is having the opportunity to take part in someone's intellectual growth--it is something for which every teacher should be grateful. You get a real sense of this when you attend the graduation ceremonies at the end of the year--often a parent will come up to me, son or daughter in tow, and tell me how much they appreciate all I've done to help educate their child. Often these are folks who never went to college themselves and hence have a particularly keen sense of the importance of the accomplishment of finishing it. Whenever I meet one of these people I feel humbled in the presence of their great gift: entrusting their child to me, and to others like me, to prepare them for the rigors of the real world. Whenever I worry that I may be pushing the students a little too hard, I remember this important trust and the magnitude of the task before me. In addition to being valuable in themselves, these kids are our future--you don't want to ignore them or treat them in a cavalier fashion, or deprive them of the hardest challenges you have to offer.

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