This week a student mentioned that we were on the brink of civil war. Not sure what the context was, since this snippet of conversation happened in the busiest of classroom moments. In a completely other class, on an entirely different day, another student mentioned that we would be embroiled in WWIII before the month was over. There is much weight on our youth these days. My students, like all the others clear across this country, regularly practice what to do if an armed and dangerous person comes into the school to gun them down. Their last three years were interrupted by a global pandemic that has in fact infected many of them, and for some, left lingering health problems. Fear resides at the core of their being. Anxiety is discussed between them with an air of universality. They are equally troubled by what lies ahead. About our sickened planet, our dismal response to gun violence, the absence of empathy for the refugees at our border, and for the robed ones dictating over women’s bodies. They want our flag to stand for them, the queer, BIPOC, trans, questioning and demanding generation. The whole of this revolving planet is on the brink of extinction, they fear.
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Reposting from 2018 when a “plague on both your houses” was just a emotional line shouted out in desperation and not a world-wild reality that carved out even more distinction between those billionaires holding power and the rest of us dealing with all the fallout of a collapsed economy, a non-stop pandemic, and the Republicans still causing havoc. Regardless, I must say, as Shakespeare’s words fill my classroom and the minds of my students once again, we reach for hope. Will we ever attain those lofty hopeful aims? Will the old white men clinging to their past power ever step aside and allow for a new dawn and vision for a more diverse America, a more sustainable Earth, and a truthful assessment of our current challenges? Let’s say yes, for tonight, let’s find that thread of faith that leads to hope and believe in a perhaps. Yes, let’s.
As I embark on a Shakespeare unit with my students, nine graders reading Romeo & Juliet and AP Lit reading Hamlet, we start with questions. Questions Elizabethan thinkers might have pondered in 1598; questions we still ponder in 2018. I am struck with our timeless preoccupation over destiny: Are we the masters of our own fate? I ask students to think and write about their beliefs on this topic. Certainly, these teens, like those penned by Shakespeare, want to believe they are, indeed, in control of their outcomes, while I, I who have screamed up at the Heavens in distress, frustrated by the unpredictability of chance, those ‘why me’ moments; “O, I am Fortune’s fool” situations. As if we are pulled by strings invisible to our own hands. Just when we want/need/hope for a different outcome we must settle for what is… but as I look across…
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