Beyond the book

This semester marks the first time in years that I’m not teaching a college class. While it’s nice to get a break from lesson planning and grading, life also seems a little bit emptier.

Initially, I struggled in school. Classes seemed meaningless—set apart from the “real world.” Then I enrolled in a challenging philosophy class with an instructor who encouraged—no, demanded—critical thinking. Next came the history of women and mass media class in which we discussed the likes of trailblazing reporters and the plight of a young girl’s fate in the classic horror film trope.

Some of the best lessons I received came via classroom discussions, not textbooks, and school became something of a haven—a place to take intellectual risks and push myself. That, in turn, inspired me to teach.

This week, SN&R goes back to school (see page 14) to study up on college culture. With recent academic dust-ups (between faculty and students, faculty and the administration, etc.) and pushes for trigger warnings and so-called safe spaces, are college campuses still an environment for the kind of education that goes beyond a book?

As a teacher, I’ve found that the best classes don’t pay slavish devotion to a textbook, but rather are built on conversation and ideas.

Modern classrooms comprise a diverse population of ages, ethnicities and viewpoints. This, in turn, can make for an exciting environment. There should be respect and decorum, but college isn’t the place for coddling. It’s the place to challenge intellect and comfort zones. If students can’t handle that in a classroom, they’ll have trouble in the so-called “real world,” too.