Somehow these not-so-connected elements have kept me grounded today.
A colleague of mine who has been slowly and successfully re-introducing me to Reagan this past school year, reminded me to take a 2nd-in-a-long-time look at the way the President spoke to America about the Challenger explosion, the heroic nature of the true 'pioneers' that launch themselves into space (still only in the infancy of our exploration in that direction), and the nation full of children who watched the live launch as 'one of their own' -- teacher Christie McAuliffe who was chosen out of 11,000 applications to ride the Shuttle -- died tragically in the sky above. I still remember being frozen in my high school cafeteria the day that occurred.
Politics aside, there is something utterly calming about listening to Reagan speak to the nation that day. Compare to any other political speech you recall with pride or infamy. Try to imagine one that even remotely speaks to the 'point' of school children and visionaries alike dreaming about our collective future. Reagan said:
"And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them."
I think it is one of the few 'political' speeches that truly transcends politics, at least in my lifetime.
Two, reading (with a bit of it-can't-be sadness) an NYTimes article (registration?) about the impending closure of Ohio's Antioch College, especially when I came across the following level-headed 'human' reaction on the teacher front:
And with the distractions of the pending shutdown and the service cuts, he said, “I am concerned about students we’ve had here this past year. Have they gotten the equivalent of a good education?”
Absolutely, many professors say. Dennie Eagleson, a photography teacher, said professors have gone out of their way to keep the imminent shutdown out of the classroom. “It keeps us sane to stay grounded in teaching and learning.”
Living/Teaching in Dayton, Ohio as a still-wet-behind-the-ears educator years ago meant falling a bit in love with the Antioch campus and educational mystique (or something like it, although with a solid counter-culture twist to be sure). Still remember taking a 'creative writing' class at 6am with writing guru, Nathalie Goldberg, who had all of us in a make-shift buddhist 'walking' experience -- often in the dark -- to inspire journal writing at various breaks before I would head to my school and teach 9th grade English hours later.
Sensing that Antioch could really shut down makes me wonder what happens when we end up losing institutions like this -- institutions that ideally serve a certain type of educator/student better than so many others, in a way that is so absolutely about service, community voice, and experiential education without narry a single trapping of the digital age -- all the while we are able to embrace virtual/global options left and right. A poor equation, but it's all I have as the school day winds down here on a hot-n-humid Texas spring afternoon.
Both links above -- to rob Eagleson's quote a bit -- allow me to "stay grounded in teaching and learning" when so often the temptation is to get giddy as a ferret chasing shiny objects into the future.