#DigiLitSunday: Remembering my purpose

purpose

#DigiLitSunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Today, still reeling from Tuesday’s election, I am busy preparing for the new school week, and for the three presentations I am part of for NCTE16:

So, You Say You’re Not a Writer…  with my Two Writing Teachers colleagues (#2996103)

Saturday, November 19, 04:15 pm – 05:30 pm
Georgia World Congress Center B309  

Teachers As Writers: Practices and Possibilities (An NCTE Roundtable Session)… with Margaret Simon and Julieanne Harmatz (#3007716)

Sunday, November 20, 01:30 pm – 02:45 pm
Georgia World Congress Center B206  

Writing for a Better World: Poetry Response to World Events… with Katherine Bomer,Margarita Engle, and Poetry Friday friends (#2992479)

Saturday, November 19, 09:30 am – 10:45 am
Georgia World Congress Center B210  

As I gather resources and materials, and finalize lessons for the days ahead, Margaret’s word for today resonates deeply. What is my purpose in teaching? What is my purpose in presenting?  Today, I am re-reading and thinking about an  James Baldwin’s essay, “Talking to Teachers” published in The Saturday Review, of December 21, 1963.  Here are the words that speak to my purpose as an educator and a colleague of other educators:

Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a very dangerous time.  Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that.  We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country.  The society in which we live is desperately menaced, not by Khrushchev, but from within.  To any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible – and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people – must be prepared to “go for broke.”  Or to put it another way, you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance.  There is no point in pretending that this won’t happen.

….The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not.  To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity.  But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around.  What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society.  If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish.  The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk.  This is the only hope society has.  This is the only way societies change.

 

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One thought on “#DigiLitSunday: Remembering my purpose

  1. A clear purpose, yet a scary proclamation. We are all making a statement by who we are and what we do. We are showing the way for our students while allowing and honoring the people they want to be. Sometimes it’s hard to accept this purpose.

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