The day may yet come. Certainly we are headed in that direction. Let us first be very clear that this is not about rose colored glasses: let us not attempt to pretend that a world where Brittany Spears and Kevin Federline can make millions of dollars unleashing their demon spawn, even as the grunting hedonist electorate clamors for more, can be headed for any eventuality but DOOM. Let us not pretend that a country that proposes to solve unsolvable problems by picking pockets and mortgaging the future can be long for this earth. Yes, the end is out there. But the end is not near.
If it's going to happen, one cannot believe that Armageddon can occur until there are more stupid, cruel, evil people than good, caring, sensible people. And that day has not yet come. My evidence is incontrovertible.
By day I teach Guitar, Philosophy, French, and Drama in various charter schools. The pay is nice. But the kids are nicer. They represent a broad cross section of socio-economic and religious backgrounds: from home schooled conservative religionists to barefoot counterculture hippy laissez-faire zealots. From privileged trust-fundians to middle/lower class smoke-with-your-kids-in-the-car trash. They are almost unanimously the nicest, most involved parents you can imagine. And any way you slice it, they have all made the similar decision to opt out of public binge and purge education, and they represent a demographic that increases almost geometrically every year. But we were talking about Armageddon.
Picture a world where an adorable, freckled, red head named Walter takes a guitar class, decides he likes it so much he wants private lessons, which the American school system is designed to pay for. He makes great progress. His parents thank the teacher and mom knits him a scarf with musical notes on it to thank him, as if the generous pay did not suffice. Halfway through the semester, the teacher says to Walter, "I'm really pleased with your progress." Walter replies, "well, I couldn't make progress without a great teacher!" Teacher fights back a tear and thinks: Walter has 5 siblings who are as polite, positive, and dedicated to goodness as he is. The world is in good hands.
Picture a world where another student sees his teacher doing some paper work. Without any kind of prompting from any adult, he crosses a crowded room and hands the teacher a small bag of Honey Nut Cheerios. "What's this for, Lucas?" asks the teacher. Comes the reply, "You're always bringing us treats. Someone should bring you a treat for once." Teacher gets a little choked up thinking of a future where little Lucas is teaching his own kids, by precept and by example, that one must go out of one's way to be gracious--even if it means giving up a delicious snack. The world has a smile on its weary face.
Imagine a world wherein a former Drama student found me on Facebook and asked if I could tutor him in French, which he was failing at a major University. He insisted on paying me what the school pays, notwithstanding his state of financial distress. Never mind that he was at least 3 years removed from my classroom. It wasn't there he learned that failure was not an option wherever effort and honorably attained help could be applied. He learned that at home. He's neither a Drama nor French nor Music major. He's studying economics, but he is artfully applying everything he learned from every class, with a clear understanding of the intricacies of life that make the numbers meaningful. And beautiful. He's a person. A great person who has opened up wide access channels to his store of infinite potential. And he's going to have kids who will follow in his footsteps. The world is striding towards glory.
Multiply these experiences by factors of tens and hundreds, and you'll understand the world of a charter school teacher. I am inundated every semester with bright-eyed kids who exhibit equal parts intelligence and grace. My cup overflows with the kindness of involved parents and the wonderful children they are raising. I am not Polly Anna. I know there are bad parents out there raising violent, ignorant children. I know there are drug addicts with 4 kids from 3 different fathers whose children are raised into a state of dependence by the State. I know this because by night I work at the Children's Emergency Shelter. I answer the crisis line. I take the reports of domestic violence and physical/sexual/emotional abuse. I deal with the ungrateful, ignorant behavior of poorly raised, disadvantaged children. For obviously opposite reasons, I get choked up about these kids as well. Especially when I think of the almost mathematical certainty that they will grow up and copulate, and raise up the next generation of system-dependent degenerates.
But when I weigh the two against each other, when I put my head to my pillow and try to make sense of this crazy world--most of all, when I look into the eyes of both groups of kids and see the same yearning for love and infinite potential for good--guess which side wins.
And until it stops winning, the hand written sign my inner hobo holds as he begs the Universe for spare change will read: THE END IS FAR AWAY.