So, I was reading a far-future, hard science sci-fi novel the other night (as I am wont to do), and I wound up learning about Slavic spirituality, several schema of Czarist, Soviet, and post-Soviet government, and the Japanese notion of sub-culture-as-tribe. All from a bunch of trans-human “people” inhabiting “bodies” that make my beloved generation one Transformers look like only so many Go-Bots.
The whole experience was great. When I read and try to hold in my mind all the connections I see between thoughts and texts and people, I feel a kind of cranial-linguistic synesthesia. I experience wonder and delight. I feel alive.
When I was a kid, I loved rules insomuch as I loved feeling just. I was a nerd, but one oblivious to my privilege. I wanted to win role-playing games, card games, and all those debates in honors and AP English classes. Capote is mine and you can’t have him! I was a cad. The white ninja unaware of how ridiculous he looked doing all that damage to those around him, focused instead on invented foes.
In my youth, my heavy reading in comic books and games – and canon - “shielded” me from the world and my responsibilities in it. The life I lived in my mind and my small community of friends was meant to make me feel good. While I don’t blame myself for adolescence, I wouldn’t say no to a time-machine ticket to go back and talk some sense into me. Learn to program! Oh, and be nice!
Today, I read fewer role-playing game manuals and card descriptions, but I still read a lot – games, movies, social media, and – mostly – books.
I am still a nerd. But my nerdery serves a different purpose for me now than it did when I was a child.
I love the future. I love thinking about it. It is a particular sadness of mine that I won’t experience all of it alongside my wife, my children, my parents, my friends, my students, and my other loved ones. But I know it’s coming. I know that it will, at some point, seem miraculous for both good and ill. I know that so much of what we do now – and so much of how we school now – will be forgotten or ground into intellectual kitsch, fodder for meme sets broadcast galaxy-wide to crest and jump the quark in the bat of a purely cosmetic and sentimental representation of an eye.
What I do will decay and fall out of the Lagrange Point of my consciousness moving through this time. But that’s okay. That is the future.
I miss it already.
But maybe my students won’t. Maybe some of them will find ways to live that I can’t imagine. Maybe some of them will find ways to help others that I haven’t dared.
So I keep teaching, but I teach differently than before when test scores were like loot to me.
I teach with the unknowable future in mind, wanting my students to shape it and experience it according to dreams big enough to welcome in all children everywhere. The rules I embrace now are mutable – the adaptable systems, generalities, and kindnesses most useful to our learning in community. When we make stuff we love in our classroom, it’s practice for making a loving future full of wonder and delight for all.
This is my purpose: I want my students feel super-hero enough to learn whatever they want, but human enough to help others do the same. I want them to find themselves in the books we read, the discussions we have, the stuff we make, and the future they carry forward from our time together in the here, the now, and the nerdy.
You can make the future matter.
Chad teaches for the users. Roll a saving throw against following him on Twitter @chadsansing.