By JERRY H. GILL
When I was in high school, I read a book titled “Lucky to be a Yankee” by Joe DiMaggio, the great New York Yankee baseball player.
Today, I would like to share with you why I feel lucky to be a teacher. In addition to the pleasure of getting to know and work with my students, my feeling of being lucky stems from the subjects I get to teach.
One of my courses is The Philosophy of Religion. We read and discuss what some really great thinkers, such as Plato, Nietzsche, Hume, Kant and Kierkegaard had to say about such big issues as the existence of God, the problem of suffering and the relation between faith and reason. It’s always exciting to see how different students wrestle with these questions in their papers. Somehow, they always manage to surprise me.
Another course is New Testament. This is arguably the most influential document in the history of Western Civilization; thus it is always worthy of further study. One of the most challenging aspects of teaching this course is making it clear that the New Testament is far more complex than people generally have been led to believe. The academic study of Christian scripture is far different from its devotional study.
My third course this semester is Humanities 260, Intercultural Perspectives. We look at five different subcultures of American society: American Indian, Latino, African, Asian and Muslim.
Here, too, things are not always the way we have come to believe, and so there are many surprises and issues to address. In addition to working through the textbook, we watch a number of films and welcome a guest from each of these subcultures. Moreover, every semester there are several students in class from each of these different groups, and they of course add a great deal to our discussions.
Finally, I get to explore Postmodernism with a small group of students in an independent humanities course by that title. We read essays by famous thinkers and the students write papers on ones they select. We discuss each student’s paper in some detail and have lively discussions about them. I learn a great deal from these students, because they often write about thinkers or essays I have not yet read.
In each of these courses, we engage in careful discussions of the issues and thinkers involved. For me, this is where real education takes place, in reading, thinking and writing about them, and then discussing what they involve. We try to get at just what different points of view mean, as well as what they presuppose and entail. This sort of ongoing intellectual exchange lies at the very heart of real education.
In addition to the classroom, another enjoyable aspect of teaching derives from the supportive atmosphere provided by my colleagues and friends at East Campus.
In this respect, I feel lucky to be a teacher.