I enter the house, hands full, not a light on. All is silent but for the crickets. For the first time in 13 days they seem to be more outside than in. The day’s efficiencies behind me now, I can think back and remember what it is I wanted to say to those students whose conversation I overheard while leaving the building. Don’t volunteer to be a victim. I said nothing not wanting to be sure of what I’d overheard. It was more of an invitation than a response to the part of the conversation that I didn’t hear but could easily guess. I’m ditching, with you. The speaker was a young African American backpack wearer. His audience was a female of either Korean or Japanese ancestry and her body language said her mind was made up, torso leaning in the direction of the door, still open, as if waiting.
I said nothing because I didn’t know into which ear to whisper and could not guarantee that whatever I might manage to say would not be a rant. What I did know for certain was that they were not my passion’s primary audience. You can’t speak truth to power if there’s no one there. For the better part of two decades I have had a soapbox, limelight, and a center stage in front of one college classroom or the other and yet have remained virtually silent for all intents and purposes. Thankfully, that season has ended.
In the name of keeping better company I set out to a Border’s closing after a delightful dinner with a kindred spirit. The pretext was to find a copy of Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope or Clifton’s Ordinary Woman for the new dean who has invited us to share a book that tells her something about the giver. I know neither will be available but the quest provides reason sufficient for driving across the parking lot from Sweet Tomatoes to the once proud anchor store of this shopping plaza. For something in the neighborhood of eight dollars I score three titles, among them a reader, a memoir and a novel. All are written by authors known and beloved by me. The latter two are cloth-bound hardbacks and originally sold for $25. The reader is softcover.
Once home, I can barely put them down long enough to decide which will be first. Maxine Hong Kingston’s I Like a Broad Margin to My Life wins though, truth be told, I began Alvarez’ Saving the World in the bare naked bookstore amid row after row of garishly empty bookcases. It is one thing to read history. It is another thing to be awake in the world when it is passing before your eyes. First, the Post Office, now, this? When, after all, did the writing of letters fall by the wayside? Did it stumble and cry out, or whimper, as it lay in the road in broad daylight, gasping? Were there any witnesses? Where is Baldwin now – not Alec or Stephen, William or even Daniel, but James, the darker, older brother.
Marriage is no joke. It’s a spiritual gymnasium and God intends for both players to be fit. When Jesus is your life-coach you can expect a strenuous workout. And, at weekly weigh-in, when it comes time to pay the piper, no one can take your laps for you. No one can do your crunches and no one can bench press your weight but you.
No amount of love in this world can do for you what Christ has already done, so don’t waste your time or His trying to spare your beloved time on task. We can’t even give ’em a head’s up. Every circuit is tailor-made for the soul in training. Each must work out her own salvation. There are no short cuts to spiritual fitness. What worked for one may not necessarily work for both. There are no cliff notes, spark notes, crib sheets, essays for sale. And there will be a final exam – face to face. Salvation is after all an inside job.
Oswald Chambers further cautions:
Are we playing the spiritual amateur providence in other lives? Are we so noisy in our instruction of others that God cannot get anywhere near them? We have to keep our mouths shut and our spirits alert.
We may intercede for those we love but we must not interfere. Souls under construction are fragile and only one touch is right for such occasion and it’s not human. To be humane, take up your post as witness: Stand back, and let the Word do the work.
Their focus is five-pronged and completely embodies what I believe true learning requires.
The main purpose of a college is to promote student learning through:
Students learn to pull together ideas and concepts from many subject areas, which enables them to tackle real-world issues in all their complexity.
Students develop knowledge and skills through shared learning, rather than learning in isolation and in competition with others.
Learning Across Significant Differences
Students learn to recognize, respect and bridge differences – critical skills in an increasingly diverse world.
Students develop their capacities to judge, speak and act on the basis of their own reasoned beliefs.
Linking Theory with Practical Applications
Students understand abstract theories by applying them to projects and activities and by putting them into practice in real-world situations.
This I too believe.
Finished grading the term’s submissions an hour before quitting time today. That constitutes a personal best to be sure. I’m not finished as there are three who’ve yet to complete assignments. All three have been given the same extension. Two are working to finish. One went to the department head for an over-ride to withdraw in the last week of the semester. Of the first two, one got derailed by challenges in her family life. The other’s job diverted his attentions. The third had technical difficulties which I suspect were real enough but not sufficient excuse for shoddy work on the submissions he did post.
What I wonder is why do some students feel entitled to ask for a bailout and others take responsibility for their fates? Is this class conditioning? Culture? Not gender given there is one male on both sides of this equation. Perhaps it’s not privilege, but a history of having someone take your part and a resulting expectation that such should continue. In a perfect world, this should be everyone’s experience. But what’s the purpose of a withdrawal policy in the first place?