We are part of higher ed

Mar 012010
Authors: Anne Marie Merline

I am always wondering about what to write about next for this column. Of course, when something happens in front of the white board that is extraordinary, I am thrilled. Some of these columns have come out as thoughts I have about education, stemming from my life outside of the classroom.

I have only written about something that comes from the national news once before, when I wrote about Howard Zinn a month ago. Today, I feel compelled to write about the national higher education scene again and relate that back to our classrooms here at CSU.

After being horrified by the news of a shooting at The University of Alabama- Huntsville on Feb. 12, I have been wondering if I should write about the incident. It is pertinent since we are part of the higher education community, both near and far.

My inner self says, “no … don’t speak of unpleasant things,” but the devil’s advocate says, “well, this did happen, no use hiding the facts.” In my teaching, I have become more and more brave about taking on the issues that no one likes to talk about.

In my class on community, we talk about race relations and the value that we put on people that we know versus what we don’t know. In my class about the environment we talk about how we need to put the needs of the Earth before our wants as humans.

In my class about public education and inequality, we talk about those who live in impoverished communities and do not have equal access to many of things that we consider basic human rights in a developed country. In my human rights course, we talk about how life in different countries is sometimes better and sometimes worse than the culture in the U.S., and how to understand some basic standard of the human condition.

The way my parents socialized me and the system of education that I attended firmly rooted me in the “everything’s good” theory of life. I was never told the deeper truths about life and the way that our political and social system in the U.S. has operated. I don’t believe that telling children everything about the atrocities in the world, but I do believe in being honest with children when they ask questions.

My son Ben knows more about the real world as a 10 year old than I knew as a 20 year old. But college students are not children and are at a level of maturity and cognitive ability that they not only can handle the truth; it is my professional opinion that it is our duty as instructors to expose students to all the possibilities.

What happens to my students? They get embarrassed when we talk about things that relate to sex, they get depressed when we talk about environmental degradation, they get angered by the abuse of human rights, they feel deflated when they understand the inequality of life here in the U.S. and they feel frightened by the truth.

In the end, I feel good because I am doing what I am hired to do: To dissect life and to try to approach the truth of what happens in the world.

Education should endeavor to get to the “truth” of the matter. The truth sometimes is beautiful like the written word in a wonderful novel or stunning like a piece of art, but sometimes it is harsh and ugly like the taking of another human life.

Our job, as instructors, is to expose you to all that life reveals to us. As a collective, it is our jobs to take what we learn and to do our best with what is known to make the world a better place for all.

_Anne Marie Merline is an instructor for the University Honors Program. Her column appears biweekly Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com. _

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