I put large poster portraits of great men of History and Literature on the walls of my classroom: Ernest Hemingway, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare. These men changed the world! Of course, I also have an equal number of great women who changed the world: Maria Sharapanova, Miley Cyrus, Megan Fox, Kim Kardashian. My goal is that someday my old mug will hang on classroom walls or perhaps the walls of a virtual classroom because my vision is to tear down walls and replace our outmoded Education model with a completely new idea, an idea where everyone is a giant in his or her own mind. My posters remind me that revolutionary reform is inevitable and that my efforts to end Education as we know it will triumph!
Give up. That’s what I tell my classes every year. Just give up, give in and die. You are not going anywhere. You will not live the life your parents lived. Global warming will crush you. Terrorists will kill you. There are too many people and you are a cancer on the world. Then I wait for them to object, to discover meaning in their lives. Sometimes a child will say, “I live for God.” and I laugh openly. Another child will say, “Are you telling us to kill ourselves?” And I say, “Not right away. This is an exercise in finding solutions.” And they say, “But we don’t know anything about these problems and we don’t care.” And I say, “And THAT is why your lives are meaningless! Now go find your true purpose and change the world!” Then they get quiet and stare at each other. Usually, someone will say, “Why don’t you kill yourself, Mr. Newhart?”
“Because I’ve found my purpose,” I tell them. “Inspiring children!”
Enough Is Enough
Tomorrow I go back to school so today I will play. No use getting my panties in a bunch and trying to plan every little detail because experience has taught me that planning never works out. Planning is a waste of time. Planning is dangerous. For example, I once knew a teacher, very respected old man who spent every waking hour planning for his retirement–where he would go, what he would do, how much money he would need. He was so busy planning that he forgot to live his life and exactly three years after he retired he contracted cancer and died. Now of course you can’t plan for that, but I often wonder what he would have done differently had he know what would happen to him. Maybe he would have spent a little less time on his calculator and a little more time telling me people that he loved them. Maybe instead of planning incessantly, he would do things: sleep more, make love to his wife, get drunk with his friends, walk across America. That’s why I never plan and I never know what I’m doing until the moment the bell rings. Then voila! I just start talking and the ideas flow. Some ideas are good, many of them are pretty bad, I admit. For example, one idea that didn’t work out was I told everyone to do a research report on a regular person–find out everything you can about that person using whatever resources were available to you– , which I thought was a pretty inspired assignment at the time, but I forgot to mention that they should ask permission from their subject before sifting through their trash, hacking their email accounts or publicizing their browsing histories, and so a few good folks got into a lot of trouble with their wives or the community. So people are still mad at me about that. But again, if I had tried to plan for every eventuality I would never have come up with that brilliant assignment in the moment, and the truth is that it did turn out to be an effective learning experience about the limits of privacy for many of us, so there you go.