Apathy: the Death to all Passion, and Ultimately, the Birth of New Hope

This is the last blog post of English III AP.  Although I’m planning on continuing to blog in some form or another, I’d sort of like to end this year with a bang.  Undoubtedly, the most valuable thing I learned in this class was the danger of apathy.  Unfortunately, this theme transcended from themes inside novels, to directly inside our classroom.  What I mean is, our English class was not as enthusiastic to discuss topics as I thought we’d be.

Before the reader of this blog leaves because they’ve just been overwhelmed with negativity, please hear me out.  Before I started this class, I’d heard so many positive things from former and current students about Mr. Lindner that I couldn’t believe the lack of enthusiasm that I’ve sometimes sensed from this class.  I’ve found us students to be generally apathetic about the very things we were supposed to be excited about.  A great friend of mine, who’s soon graduating, told me of the wonderful times her class had discussing Invisible Man, my favorite novel this year.  She cited a 3-day long discussion in which last years’ juniors discussed race, politics, power, and virtually every interesting thing in that novel.  When the time came around for our class to discuss this, there was a resounding silence.  No one had much to say about race, politics, power, or really, anything.  Instead, people frantically studied their precal notes or did their accounting homework or worked on chemistry.  Through this, I really learned the dangers of apathy.  I’m sorry on behalf of me and 2nd period that we didn’t always ‘carpe diem’ those discussions as much as we should have.  Maybe its some belief of mine that we don’t measure up to the senior class this year, or that I’m generally sentimental about them leaving, but I can’t help but feel that we haven’t measured up in terms of engagement in this class.

Despite this, I still love English.  And another valuable thing I learned was the importance of doing something for ‘me’ and not for some misguided belief that doing something and getting a good grade on it will somehow get me into college.  I know I’m not perfect, but I do genuinely appreciate everything this class has taught me.  In fact, I told my parents the other day that if I really could do what I absolutely love, I’d sit around a table and talk about books, corruption, human relations, and people.  I really owe it to this class for that revelation. Before this year, I had no idea how much books and literature is just a study of the human condition.  Books are merely an amalgamation of smart people with the will to share their insight on what makes us, us.  Not only that, the way people respond to and analyze these insights are so indicative of character.  I know I’m wrong in this belief, but those apathetic when talking about Invisible Man appear apathetic about the very issues it discusses.  I don’t think anyone would actually argue that race relations isn’t worth talking about, especially in our social climate; however, we were so willing to let the opportunity to engage in discussion slip when, in reality, 2nd period English was the best forum we had to talk about these issues.  I suppose reading a novel without talking about it might work for some, but for me, discussing and engaging in the messages of stories is a social activity as much as it’s an intellectual one.  As a fairly outgoing and extraverted person, I’ve always needed that component when I read.  I want to hear the opinions of others and think about what they have to say.

Sorry this isn’t as positive as a “most valuable” post should be. My class is just a little like Huck Finn, I think.  We were too willing to run off West because we knew it was easier.  We were too willing to let a discussion go flat because we knew that it would take effort to really, truly, think about what the novels were saying.  Similarly, at the end of Mark Twain’s novel, the enemy no longer seems like the institution of slavery itself, instead, it is the deep-rooted complacency that southern society had with the institution.  When Huck runs off, it becomes clear that in order to bring about change we must (1) educate ourselves, but also, (2) act upon our findings.  If we let passivity dictate our actions, we’d never get anything done.  Huck spent the ENTIRE NOVEL getting hints that slavery was bad, and yet, he still didn’t do much to advocate on Jim’s behalf towards the end. Complacency is easy, apathy’s a breeze, but active engagement; it’s a rarity.

It’s “cool” to be unengaged.  And I couldn’t help but feel that I was perceived as “nerdy” or “kiss-ass” every time I participated in class.  Unfortunately, this mentality is driven by some weird social idea that if we don’t gel with the general consensus to be apathetic, we don’t fit in.  I’m certain this is what drove our class to be less active that to be desired.  But I also recognize that not everyone is culpable for this circumstance.  Everyone has their respective lives and friends, and not everyone has to “love” English.  I understand that.  But I know there are people out there who love English but put on an indifferent facade because they’re afraid to speak up.

Needless to say, this class really taught me about the consequences of apathy.  It was the best English class I’ve ever been in, easy.  This class challenged me to think in a way that I’ve never thought before. Every single book we’ve read has changed the way I view the world in some way or another.  For that, I’m thankful.  However, I leave this class with a purpose.  Next year, I want to try even harder to be engaged.  I want to have great discussions, always.  And most of all, I want to fight apathy in a way that all of the novels in this class have taught me to.  No more Daisy Buchanan, no more Brotherhood, no more Art Spiegelman toward his dad, no more indifference.

Junior year, I salute you.  No other year has revealed to me my flaws more than you have. English, you’ve been wonderful.  But, above all, Lindner, I thank you for ceaselessly encouraging us to talk and think and be true to ourselves, even when we’re not perfect.

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2 thoughts on “Apathy: the Death to all Passion, and Ultimately, the Birth of New Hope

  1. Thank you for this honest and , hopefully, inspiring look back at our class this year. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that people are often “willing to let a discussion go flat because we knew that it would take effort to really, truly, think about what the novels were saying.” I’ll keep fighting that apathy if you will.

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    1. Thanks for the reply. I sure will fight apathy. I think English is too valuable to be blown-off, but more importantly, I think apathy is too harmful to be allowed residence in English classrooms. While it is easy to see the immediate results of studying for a precal test or a calculus exam, in my opinion, it’s far more rewarding to have personal or class-wide revelations over something interesting in a novel. It’s empowering!

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