By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. Every now and again I would have a student mention the Illuminati.  Once in awhile, a young man might argue that ‘9-11 was an inside job.’  Heck, one time a student even whispered to me in confidence that the Ebola virus was a creation of the American government.  When I asked that student what the purpose of such an invention would be, he told me very calmly that the government was trying to wipe out half of humanity.

How could I not scoff at such irrationality? Most people didn’t believe this stuff….right?  RIGHT? Such ideas would always be the territory of a small minority of Americans….right? RIGHT?

Well, maybe not.  Conspiracy theorists are boldly emerging out of their dark caverns. No longer found just on obscure chat-rooms, they now get the seat marked ‘expert’ on cable news’ shows. During the last decade or so, conspiracies have become disturbingly mainstream.

How did this happen?  Why did it happen now?  These are difficult questions to answer, and I will get to them eventually.  But first, I think some differences need to be identified. We need to categorize the types of theories sweeping our culture today.

Arguably, there are three main conspiracy theory categories.  Each share certain characteristics. None are to be encouraged, but only one has proven to be historically dangerous.  Unfortunately, the dangerous type has gained the most influence in recent years.  Here is a quick description, from most innocent, to most troubling:

  1. ‘Top Secrets’ Theories: These are the most commonly held conspiracy theories.  They center upon the notion that governments have secret, revolutionary information that they will not share with average citizens.  Of course, this is based upon a larger truth. ac992ee4bf0b19154f9c30554512c9adAll modern nation-states have ‘top secrets’ for acceptable eyes only. But, the ‘Top Secret’ conspiracy theorist takes this truth to unlikely, or fantastic proportions. Hence, to him/her, the US government is not just hiding a new military aircraft at the local Air Force base; they are also hiding alien life-forms and/or space ships!   Or, the government weather satellites don’t truly STUDY the weather; instead, the satellites CONTROL the weather! It’s is okay to laugh. The conspiracy theorist might laugh with you.
  2. ‘Secret Power’ Theories: These conspiracy theories are not as common, but they are gaining a larger and larger foothold amongst American citizens. These theories are usually based upon arcane notions of power and influence. Conspiracy theorists who hold these beliefs will argue that there is a secret group within a national eye_reasonably_small_400x400government (or multi-national organizations) that has undue, authoritarian power. This conspiracy may be connected to notions that there are world-wide government entities that control policy and have nefarious plans for either a utopian, or a dystopian future. The two most common groups associated with such conspiracy theories are the illuminati and/or freemasons. Both of these secret organizations have been connected to conspiracies for centuries.  For the conspiracy theorist, this historical tradition further proves the supposed conspiracy.  Though darker than the ‘Top Secret’ conspiracy, there is still a heavy element of absurdity in the ‘Secret Power’ conspiracy.  Beyonce, the CIA and the Pope inexplicably work together to rule the world. Hmmm.
  3. ‘Apocalyptic Power’ Theories: These are the most dangerous conspiracy theories.  The conspiracy theorists who hold these beliefs argue that a group of people, either large or small, is attempting to destroy the cultural, social and/or political world of the conspiracy theorist. The conspiracy theorist argues that he/she is not only ignorant of secrets, or out of the loop of secret power, he/she is actually a threatened victim of the conspirators. Usually, these conspiracies focus upon governments, but they also can tie into the ‘Secret Power’ conspiracies in the belief of a small cadre having control over levers of power. These conspiracies are the most dangerous because of their absolutist, zero-sum focus.  For the believers in these conspiracies, there is no middle ground. You either fight, or you die.  You gain your freedom, or become a slave. Every event that is read into the conspiracy is another sign of the endgame; the theorist’s world is believed to be crumbling down, and hence, it is only natural that violence may be necessary. Those who do not hold to these conspiracies then are more than ignorant sheep to be looked down upon. The person not accepting the conspiracy becomes part of the conspiracy.  This type of conspiracy theory promotes a Manichean notion of reality. The conspiracy theorist is not laughing. It is deadly serious to him/her.

In the next blog post, I will illustrate how some of these Apocalyptic conspiracies have caused historical tragedies, large and small. Then, I will investigate how and why these types of conspiracies are gaining such a foothold in our modern culture. To those who don’t believe, conspiracies can be funny, absurd or deluded. However, we should not underestimate the power of true believers.  History proves as much.

To be continued…..

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

 

“Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 

In my literature classes, I use the preceding passage as a favorite example of situational irony, given that dying of thirst surrounded by water is truly a nightmarishly fraught end, one more probable than many might care to imagine.

Among the many things worthy of protection, I can think of few as elemental as water. Certainly no one can debate the necessity of protecting the water supply, primarily because water is quite literally essential to life.

watery

I said “no one,” yet the Trump administration plans to roll back government protection of waterways, The Water of the United States, or WOTUS.

Protection of the environment ought not be a partisan issue.

The water supply has been monitored by the EPA since its creation by President Nixon in 1970. Alas, the EPA will be ironically lead for the next (interminable) 202 weeks by an industry-friendly billionaire. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my EPA directors to be environmentally friendly.

I am, as ever, reminded of a brilliant work of satire, yet another example of the clairvoyance of artists. The sarcastic fun in the musical Urinetown I cheerfully endorse, but do not wish to endure.

Another powerful statement was made by the protestors who attempted to block the Dakota Access pipeline; I marveled at their strength, determination, and courage.

I suggest that those who would choose to endanger the water supply in order to profit from a supply of oil be required to drink the petroleum they so richly prize.

The water supply is tied to the health of the entire ecology. Tainted water equals contaminated soil and products from that soil. I’m fairly certain I learned that lesson in 5th grade biology, thanks Mr. Chapman!

watersupply

Happily, I am not alone in my adherence to science and fundamental facts.

Facts:

According to The U. S. Geological Survey, the surface of the globe is 71%water. Of the available water on earth, 96% is saline, leaving only 4% of fresh water on earth.

A human being cannot live without water. In fact, According to Randall K. Packer, a professor of biology at George Washington University, depending on the circumstances, death could come within hours, three days is often considered the frequent finding, and seven days remains the utmost limit a human can manage to survive without water.

In an era unhappily rife with anti-intellectualism, there appears to be a correlative scarcity of common sense.

By Justine Stamper, RMU Student.

Do you know how songs, paintings, or poems can take you back to a place in time or make stevieyou think of a special person? The song “Dreams” by Stevie Nicks, Monet’s “Water Lilies”, and the poem“Comes the Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall evoke monetfond memories of my friend Fawn. I’ll never forget her impact on my wonder years. I carry it with me to this day; Fawn showed me my dawn.

Growing up, my best friend Chrissy and I had a babysitter, Fawn. She was a senior in high school while we were barely in the sixth grade. Her long blonde hair, minimal makeup, sweet disposition, and laid back approach to life signified her hippie chick lifestyle. Her looks and persona were reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. As a bonus she had a good looking boyfriend who sang in a band, and they would take us anywhere we wanted to go. They were the epitome of cool.

Those summers were spent driving around in a station wagon singing along to the radio blaring, playing miniature golf, or tooling around the Brickyard Mall. Dinner was usually fawn-seth-amandaTaco Bell, where we’d always order Burrito Supremes with extra sour cream. Or Gene and Jude’s for rubber dogs (yes, that’s what they call their hot dogs!)

As I became a teenager, Fawn became less of a babysitter and more of an older sister. As I was growing up, so was Fawn. She became a mother and had gone through losing the love of her life. These losses and challenges made her even more of an old soul.

I would stay with her and her children in her small bohemian apartment, adorned with beaded entryways, dream-catchers, Monet paintings and the smell of incense mixed withfawn cannabis. She gave me solid advice during breakups with my first boyfriend. While we mulled over the dirty details of the breakup, she played Bob Dylan’s, Positively 4th Street.

To further solidify her place as my mentor, she gave me a poem with a heart, cross and an infinity symbol drawn on it. The poem was “Comes the Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall; it read… “After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean possession and company doesn’t mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises
. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead
. With chrissy-ithe grace of an adult not the grief of a child. 
And you learn to build your roads on today
. Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have ways of falling down in mid­flight.
 After awhile you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. 
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure that you really are strong. 
And you really do have worth. 
And you learn and you learn… with every goodbye you learn.”

As the years went by, I remained in touch with Fawn through occasional visits, and now through Facebook. I want to take my daughter to meet her; I’m sure Fawn will get a glimpse of our younger days when she sees my “mini-­me.” I appreciate the advice and support Fawn gave to me. I would love for her to share her life lessons with my daughter; after all it’s my daughter’s dawn now.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

My love for parks and gardens is long-standing, and steadily growing (horticultural puns intended.) My volunteer time spent at The Lincoln Park Conservatory reinvigorates my commitment to understanding and preserving our shared home, the earth.

In my ENG 325, “Writing for the Community” class, I include a “Parks and Gardens” week, which involves reading, researching, and reflecting on the roles that these special places play in our individual and civic lives. Through investigation, we discover new types of parks and gardens, including memory gardens for Alzheimer’s patients and parks designed to be enjoyed by people of differing physical abilities. Additionally, students consider their own relationship with parks: the fun, the play, the joy.

We encounter environmental pioneer John Muir whose writings, particularly My First Summer in the Sierra, so beautifully describe the minute and magnificent glories of the natural world. Thankfully, Muir was able to convince “Conservation President” Theodore Roosevelt to expand initiatives to preserve and protect public lands. Woodrow Wilson established the National Park System in 1916, described as “America’s Best Idea,” in the Ken Burns documentary.

lurie

Lurie Garden graces downtown Chicago

Here in Chicago, parks and gardens are enthusiastically supported by endless expansion projects, largely thanks to an 1830’s designation of the city’s motto, Urbs in Horto, “City in a Garden.” How fortunate for Chicagoans that nearly a hundred years ago, city planners recognized and respected the surrounding landscape, and sought to integrate development with stewardship.

The world is our shared home, so no one is as removed from nature as immediate surroundings might suggest. An excellent exploration of our necessary daily relationship with natural spaces comes courtesy of a TED talk, “Nature is Everywhere—We Just Need to Learn to See It” by Emma Marris, who like so many scholars and activists asks her audience to think like a child [and here are her notes—quite excited to discover that TED has a notes page!]. A child in nature wants to touch and explore. Ms. Marris’ statement, “we cannot love what we cannot touch” is particularly apt. When people learn to love and nurture and value the natural world, it can have a lasting impact.

2000px-us-nationalparkservice-shadedlogo-svg_Studying the impact parks and gardens has on civic life was recently imbued with larger significance. My admiration for and belief in parks and gardens has been further edified in recent days, with the brave stance expressed by park rangers across the country, particularly an inspiring statement from the former director of the National Park Service, Jonathan B. Jarvis. How unexpected and spectacular to encounter heroism in a small, yet crucial act of resistance: a refusal to remain silent on issues of scientific fact and historical import.

Now more than ever, we have an obligation to cherish the uniquely democratic ideal of protecting natural resources and inviting all people to share in American the beautiful, not through careless exploitation, but thoughtful preservation.

america-the-beautiful

Word

Posted: January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Another new year, another new strategy to improve my one wild life: everyone should be so fortunate.

Over the holidays, I spent time in Cleveland, concluded with an evening drinking with friends, Emily and Holly. Holly shared her plan to take on the “My One Word” challenge of selecting one word as her guiding principle for 2017, a yearly mantra, encapsulating the entirety of her intentions to live her best life. Naturally, Holly’s idea invited me to join in the important work of living well, beginning with  reflection and reaffirmation.

Having recently reviewed the contents of my 2016 Happiness Jar, I am keenly aware of the experiences that make my life meaningfully good.

inspiration

Motivation and inspiration

In class this morning, January 3, 2017, I sought a strategy to energize reluctant returning students. I began with an honest confession of my own negative feelings about January (wake me when it’s over?). Then I reminded my students that although we can’t change January, we can change our response to it. We can spend more time snuggled up with a good book, or loved ones. We can recommit to our fitness regimen, “summer bodies are made in the winter,”  after all. We can enjoy seasonal treats, too; hot chocolate with marshmallows makes the greyest January day more tolerable.

16-marshmallows

I use precisely this many too many marshmallows

Ultimately, we must find ways to inspire ourselves and each other, or being willing to accept an uninspired string of moments that add up to not really living at all.

Autonomy and agency

I value the time and space and freedom that I am capable of providing for myself. I understand the absolute gift this is, especially when compared to what unmarried women my age would have endured in the past. I make my own living, and am therefore able to make my own life.

Community and engagement

My neighborhood, my city, my nation, my world. Everywhere I go, I seek out the manifold, magnificent expressions of a place and a people, articulated through the arts, and in the many arenas of public life, parks and markets, and every other good thing that brings people together. My love of festivals and parades is well-documented.

Connection and celebration

Relationships with family and friends rule. Spending time with people I love is of paramount importance. Luckily, my friends regularly make time for each other to get together to eat, talk, and most importantly, laugh!

Thus inspired, I considered what one word could inform the many aspects of my life that I’m actively trying to invest in throughout the next 52 weeks. Words could be a thousand pictures, too.

In 2017, a year that promises numerous challenges, when far too many will allow themselves to be distracted by what things cost, or how much people make, I will remain undeterred, pausing to consider the fundamental nature of all things, knowing that lasting value has less to do with money and far more to do with worth.

worth

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

The announcement first came in German, then English: Next stop Dachau.

It was a beautiful sunny day in September. It was unseasonably warm; 80 degrees or so.

I stepped off the train and looked for the bus to take me to the KZ Dachau. I was in a hurry. I had to catch a night train to Rome that evening, and I wanted to get back to Munich to ‘flaneur’ around.  Luckily, there was a bus waiting. It was slowly filling with tourists. I was one of them. We had come to see the first Nazi Concentration Camp.  I hopped on the bus, and sat down.  As the bus pulled out, I  was struck with a sense of discordance. Dachua is not just a camp. It is a surburban enclave. It is….quaint. It is beautiful.

My imagination had not prepared me for what lay outside the bus window. Here was a supermarket, there was a small restaurant. People were walking dogs, enjoying the sun on 14330127_10207732700498004_3000411190714615599_npatios and drinking coffee at the local Starbucks.  The sun and blue sky made the suburb feel alive.  The colorful houses and buildings of green, red, blue seemed incongruous with the black and white photos of the camp stuck indelibly in my mind from countless history books.

As the bus made turn after turn, I wondered how far outside this little German suburb filled with gemütlichkeit we would travel.  Surely, the camp must be far removed in distance from the pleasant scenes I just passed.  There must be woods to cross through; perhaps some empty fields?  But no.  Here a park, there an electronics’ store, and the next stop was the ‘KZ’ (Konzentrationslager).

14322704_10207732700778011_9022260041487163341_nI stepped off the bus, back into the sunny warmth.  There are tourists everywhere, slowly walking through a twisting wooded pass. Before entering there was a sign of notices=.  No dogs, no Neo-Nazi clothing….be serious. This is hallowed ground.  Respect the over 30,000 dead of Dachau. Remember that they faced murder, torture, malnutrition, illness.  Forget about all that world you passed through to get here.  Throw your Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte away.

The camp is large.  People walk around in a daze. Student groups mill around teachers.  Religious pilgrims go to Catholic, Protestant and Jewish memorial chapels. I really don’t 14344681_10207732703258073_5736731126016002469_nwant to take pictures, but I can’t not.  ‘Click’…the barbwire fence.  ‘Click’…. the crematorium.  Glance at the ovens. Walk inside the gas chamber. Don’t worry though, it was never used.  Look, over there!  ‘Click’….a meandering path into the shady woods. Escape 14332926_10207732704018092_5335833254930929323_nthe sun. But  there is no escape from this place. The woods hold a plaque informing the visitor that the dilapidated wall to the left was the pistol execution range. The human nightmare scars nature.  The remnants of a ‘blood-ditch’ used to easily clean up the aftermath of the executions makes that clear.  14292522_10207732704658108_8986492502300581023_n

Need to get out of these woods. Back into that sun.  It is beating down. The sky is perfect. I am sure a couple hundred yards away, some teenagers are sitting in that park enjoying the last chance for a summer tan.

As I walk out, I get a distasteful moment of shock.  A young woman wearing heels and sunglasses asks her father or older boyfriend to take a photo of her leaning against the front gate that says ‘Arbeit Macht Frei‘.  She poses.  It looks as though she is concerned about her best side. All I can do is raise an eyebrow. 14358707_10207732701458028_4311876331519568457_n

I walk back to the bus stop.  I need to get to Munich.  The bus is crowded for the ride back to the bahnhof.  I look out the window again, and life is going on as if all is normal.  I wonder how these people out for walks to enjoy the sun can live in a place like this?  How do you say you live in Dachau? ‘I grew up in Dachau’, ‘I go to school in Dachau’, ‘I work in Dachau’.  The identity of these people is connected to a name that means cruelty and death.  The KZ is central to their town.  When it was built in 1933 it was an economic opportunity.  Hundreds of jobs for the local populace; you need KZ guards after-all.  And who is going to feed all those prisoners and guards?  Bakeries, restaurants, markets saw the opportunity.

No longer do prisoners and guards need nourishment. Now it is I and my fellow tourists. Stop for a bite at a local cafe after seeing the barracks. Grab a coffee, and try to erase your memories.  If you need to, reserve a room at a local inn and find some local Bavarian fare.  A little beer never hurts.

The people of Dachau must just get acclimatized.  They are desensitized to the horror that is right next door. Or, maybe they just turn away and ignore it.  If the Nazi period taught us anything, it is that people are really good at doing that.

 

Playful

Posted: November 23, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

playful

 

My fun-o-meter needs frequent re-calibration.   I love to laugh, but I’m not naturally playful.  I go through life as if there might be a pop quiz any moment. I need to be encouraged out of my daily rigidity and regimentation, invited to participate in the gleefully goofy. Luckily, loved ones in my life bring me these indispensable opportunities in abundance.

About a decade ago, I began a holiday family tradition of Christmas games with my entire family: my mom, six brothers and sisters, their six spouses, and their fifteen offspring.  It’s a full room. My intention was to encourage my family to enjoy the time we spent together, not just get in each other’s way in the buffet line. Nevertheless, my inner educator tended toward handouts and formal games, amusing, but still somewhat restrained. Game playing has been expanded and enriched by my more mischievous relatives.  Last year, my sister Barbara lead a ridiculous game that involved lying on the ground and manipulating candy canes without using your hands for no apparent purpose. The image of my family members wriggling around on the floor is, in a word, unforgettable.

Spending time with my favorite seven-year-old in the world is all fun and games. He has limitless energy. We play every minute: Boggle and Scrabble and hangman, indoor basketball, and anything outside when the weather is warm, and made-up games aplenty. At Cubs games, we climb up to the top of the stadium to enjoy the view. In order to get back to our seats, we spread our arms like airplane wings and soar down the ramps at Wrigley Field; I can’t imagine a better afternoon.  After a few hours in his adorable company, I am energized and exhausted, younger and happier somehow, too.

airplanes

One of the most lovable attributes my friends share is silliness. I’m not sure how these bizarre people found their way into my life, but I remain forever grateful. This past Sunday, I enjoyed a living room filled with laughter as I hosted some members of my Urban Family for Friendsgiving.

When I invite my friends into my home, they invariably find the opportunity to tease me (which I long ago mistook for affection). Their antics are nothing if not inventive, tormenting me via remarkable means.  For instance, when my friends Jenny & Jen visited the spring after college graduation, they waited until I fell asleep to hide the elaborately decorated Easter eggs I specifically asked them not to touch (foolish mistake). They sought out places that no sane egg hunter would ever consider; thus, I was forced to locate the eggs and then re-hide them, much to their fiendish delight.

My Urban Family in Chicago has taken a cue from this strategy, and in my absence or distraction, they have collectively re-arranged the artwork on my walls, stashed candy canes all over my apartment, replaced knick-knacks on different shelves, and even re-positioned large furniture. The fact that I find these stunts hilarious is hardly a deterrent, but I confess their absurdity makes every event more enjoyable.

silliness

To encourage conversation in my classrooms, I bring a ball of yarn or a set of light-up balls (spheres, if you prefer to avoid the giggling the word “balls” can produce, even among adults). Throwing spheres around class may seem childish, but I don’t consider that an insult. Letting silliness enter into our work and learning and relationships provides a tremendous way to simply enjoy being alive.

In dark days, laughter becomes even more crucial. When the world becomes too heavy, remember to add a little levity.

 

Liberal Tears

Posted: November 10, 2016 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

November 10, 2016

Dear sister,

Yesterday morning, you sent a text asking how I was feeling. This graciousness in you compels me to explain my sorrow.

Because I love you, I want to more fully describe why fifty percent of the voting population was and is disheartened by the 2016 election results.

Yes, I cried many tears.

These were derisively described as “liberal tears” by a colleague (one I respect and like) whose support for Trump shocked me.

Yesterday was filled with many such unpleasant surprises.

Knowing the power of re-appropriating language, I welcome the label “liberal tears” for the ones I have shed over the past two days. I have always been proudly liberal.

I cried at 3:00am when I discovered the outcome and was unable to sleep, fearing the uncertain future for so many Americans: POC, LGBTQ, immigrants, Muslims, and countless others who feel at risk.

I cried walking in the door of my college, where I teach a wonderfully diverse population of students, many who now feel undervalued and unwelcome.

I cried when I left work at 8:00pm, tired from a disappointing and demanding day, proud to pass protesters on the streets of Chicago.

I cry as I write this now.

Like yours, my vote was cast not only for a candidate, but for a value system. What I value above all is equality and social justice. I fear that these values will be undermined by the impending administration.

My fears have already been sadly justified as Vice President-elect Pence has stated his intention to work to eradicate hard-won rights for the LGBTQ community.

I fear for our environment, too, as cuts in funding and worse, for the EPA are planned.

“And, so it goes,” as Vonnegut said.

I tell my students who are looking for a second chance that I do not have a time machine.

We cannot go back. We must move forward.

In order to do that with integrity, I must reaffirm that when a person expresses racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic sentiments, and others listen, but do not reject these words, or pretend not to hear, they are in complicit agreement. This type of silence erodes humanity.

If you do not voice your opposition to the evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia, you are tacitly supporting these ideologies.

The words of Martin Luther King ‘s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” are sadly still apt, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” The frustrations and sadness being expressed stem from a place of true concern for the safety of others.

plyunity6

Thus, I must be more forceful in my rejection of prejudices, whenever and wherever they occur. I will continue to support and educate. I will speak out against hatred in every possible venue. I will donate more money to organizations that protect rights, especially the ACLU, Teach Tolerance, and Planned Parenthood. I will listen to those who need to speak.

Two weeks ago, our brother asked what I wanted for our country; this was my reply, “logical and reasonable leadership, inclusion of people from all cultures, religions, and sexual orientations. I care about social issues, always have, that is my voice and my vote.”

That will always be my reply.

I am glad I saved those words to share with you (I am rather sentimental, as you know).

I hope that clarifies why I could never vote for Trump. How any woman could bring herself to vote to Trump, I cannot possibly fathom. The reasons for my choices are something I wanted to convey.

Whatever changes republicans attempt to make to this country—which is already great, thanks to incredible work of a host of immigrants from all over the globe—I will work to ensure that none come at the cost of undermining basic human rights for all.

I simply cannot and will not sit by and let a person, group, or party espouse and insight hatred. I love and respect all people, even those with whom I bitterly disagree.

This country is divided, of that there is no doubt. This country is changing, which is in large part responsible for the divide.

It is also true that we are all in this together; I cannot hope for four years of colossal failures because that wouldn’t serve the common good. What I do hope is that messages of love, tolerance, and acceptance will break through the walls erected against acceptance.

I continue to hope for a better future (and leave the praying to you).

More importantly, I will work for a better future by raising my voice in protest and in support for those whose rights or basic humanity would be denied.

web15-siteimages-feature-humanrights-1012x729-v02_0

With love, always,

Tricia

Just Google It

Posted: October 26, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I were delighted to see a “Q & A: Student Discussion Panel” listed on our meeting agenda. Little known secret about teachers: we adore students. Students are the reason we do everything; we long to hear candid feedback from our target audience. just-google-1-516x300

At one point in the Q & A, a wonderful and ambitious student said, “We don’t even need to text books. Anything we need to know, we can just Google it.”

There was some laughter in the crowd, some incredulity, too.

I’m no fan of over-priced textbooks. In fact, members of my Liberal Arts department and I work to eliminate textbooks whenever possible, instructing students to use the University’s copious (and costly) library resources instead.  Nonetheless, the idea that Google could replace all book learning naturally upset my inner librarian and bibliophile.

A week later, I was in my HUM 310, a truly tremendous course in Contemporary Comparative World Literature, teaching “The Guest,” a short story by the brilliant Albert Camus.  After we discussed the story, I introduced my students to existentialism, often associated with Camus’ work, and a significant post-WW II philosophy that still resonates over 75 years later.

lux-ferre-philosophy-existentialism-jpgc200

If you also think this is hilarious, you might be a professor.

My students gamely struggled to even pronounce existentialism as I covered the basic precepts. Suddenly I was able to identify why I don’t think students can “Just Google” what they want or need to know. The truth is, many times we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t even know where to begin. They had never heard of existentialism; why would they ever ask Google about something of which they are completely ignorant?

In the same class, I shared an incredible project completed by an astounding woman, Ann Morgan, who decided to address the gaps in her knowledge base in an extraordinary way: by reading a book from every country in the world. In her talk, she explains difficulties she encountered as she sought to find books from each country to read in translation, and her complete unfamiliarity with leading authors in countries she’d never visited. Naturally, the Internet (and Google) helped make her amazing project possible, now allowing her to share her remarkable experience.  However, it also proves we need more, deeper knowledge than mere “fun facts” can provide.

While I’m glad my students believe that every seed of human knowledge is within reach, I’m certain that book-length texts (whether read in print or online) more fully enrich the foundation of our understanding, enabling natural curiosity to bloom and grow and thrive.

bookslearn

It’s always a good time to hit the books!

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

It’s back to school time here at RMU, the halls once again crowded with eager seekers of knowledge. I’m back at work with my beloved colleagues.

On the first day, we all imagine perfectly inspiring scenes from countless feel-good films suffused with persistent students, inspiring teachers, and life-changing intellectual achievement.

The reality is not quite so glossy.

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Nonetheless, there’s a lot to look forward to as we begin a new academic year.

Curiosity

dead-poets-society1

This is the dream of teachers everywhere, not the reality.

We wonder; we seek to know. We ask; we learn. The rest is homework.

Discovery

Marvelous insights patiently wait to be

discovered, a mine of jewels inside each mind.

Ambiguity

Ah, the persistent and wonderful tension at the heart of the grand and great complexities.

aristotle

Discord

Just for grown-ups. Disagree, with logic and clarity as your side. It’s healthy and beneficial, and the reason why there is more than one book on every subject in the library.

Harmony

Sometimes, classrooms can fill up with positive and productive energy. It is as rare as any other tremendously beautiful thing, and just as special.

 

Thus, hoping for the best, we start fresh, and hold our breath for a moment while the possibilities are still endless.