At the end of the class a student (clearly a lot smarter than I was) came and asked perhaps the most important two questions I had ever been asked as a teacher: What can we do about it, and what do you do about it?
At the time, I was able to answer to both questions - with a reasonable degree of confidence - "teach people".
Easy for me to say. As a lecturer in cultural theory, it was what I was paid to do. What I had to say on the subject carried value, and my poor students were obliged to listen.
So, I taught them about Jameson. I taught them about Marx and De Beauvoir. I taught them about Chomsky and Edward Said, Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, Toril Moi and Homi Bhaba. And at the end of all that I genuinely hoped I had persuaded them to a certain degree of both cultural criticality and moral indignation. I genuinely wanted my students to look critically at the world around them, and to understand hidden injustices and prejudices.
I wanted them to be angry about things, and to feel that they had the capacity to do something about them.
And then I stopped teaching.
The usual tale of stress and overworking was making me pretty unwell, and I was fortunate enough to get a pretty awesome job as a 'Learning Technology Advisor'. And I love it, I really do - but it means I have let go of all the old theories and ideas that used to get me so worked up. For the last few years I have blocked out the news that used to make me so depressed. Stopped reading the books. Stopped boring people about it all, whether on Twitter or this blog, in the classroom or (worst of all) to my wife.
But now I worry that all sounds a bit too much like giving up. All those things I believe in, and that drive me, just putting them away quietly in a drawer. And then I made the mistake of listening to the Martyn Joseph's The Luxury of Despair, where he sings:
And if the cockerel crowed what would I deny?
I’d hope any tyranny that met my eye
Or the right of domain over the mind of a man
And the lie that we cannot be equal or free
Oh bloody hell. Thanks Martyn.
Now I have to start thinking about those questions all over again: There is injustice in this world. There is plenty to get angry about. So, what can I do about it? Especially now I am no longer paid to bang on about it?
Answers on a postcard, please....