The book of moonlight is not written yet

I started teaching an eight-week accelerated version of the senior seminar a few weeks ago. The students are mostly adults, a few national guard soldiers, people who work all day. It’s a dog watch course, too, which means it begins at 8:00 pm and runs to 10:20, perhaps the worst time to teach on the college’s scheduling system. So here I am, at the end of my students’ day, trying to gin up a discussion or engage the class with new ideas. By 10:00 I know everyone is thinking only one thought: “How much longer is this guy going to go? I have to get up and go to work in the morning.”

Ostensibly the college offers classes at this god-awful hour because today’s consumer-oriented adult market wants to complete a degree fast, faster, fastest. And offering late course allows them to cram in an early and a late section, and do an entire year of credits in just 16 weeks. (Heck, why not just lock them into a rented hotel ballroom and shout at them round the clock like they used to do in EST seminars?) The other bit of conventional wisdom is these students like “real world,” “hands-on,” “nuts and bolts” instruction by people who have been out there in the hands-on, nuts and bolt, real world.

Three words: Bo-log-ney.

If anything this demographic of student is even hungrier for traditional liberal arts courses. Little that I teach is hands-on, and I defy you to find how my subject matter easily applies to the real world. I show them Cezanne, we read novels and poetry, discuss aesthetics. What I teach could not be more useless –and they love it. Last fall I taught The Iliad. One woman, a Bosnian immigrant, said to me, “I usually sell my books back at the end of the term, but I think I’m going to hang onto this one.”

I could have kissed her.


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