Friday, May 4, 2012

Matt Damon's Dream Come True

The Death of Socrates - by J.L. David
I couldn't begin to quantify all that my time as a teacher has given me, but one thing I am sure of is that it's taught me to appreciate the joy of learning. Weird, right? To be surrounded all day by young people who act as though they're being tortured, rather than educated - where's the inspiration in that?

There are moments, though, when it's clear they've learned something, in spite of themselves. The light is on in their eyes and you just know they're actually enjoying it. Sometimes you even get the impression that instead of your classroom being the last place on earth they'd want to be, it's the first.

Granted - as the art teacher, I get more of those moments than most... but it's still weird for me. I had no art class in my high school; so for me, school sat somewhere between watching paint dry, and getting my teeth pulled. The term "life-long learner" meant nothing to me, and when I tossed that cap into the air after graduating Uni, I thought I'd never look back.

For the last four years, though, I've had the opportunity to teach other people about something I really, really love. These young, sarcastic, whip-smart little hooligans have forced me to get back into learning, just to keep ahead. They've reminded me that learning is about staying curious - about really being alive. I guess I've always been a bit like that - curious, and reading - but my experience as a teacher has convinced me to make it a habit.

A couple years ago I followed a link and audited(ish) a Harvard University course on Justice, Equality, Democracy and Citizenship, just because I could. It stretched me a little, and I had fun with it. So last night, it was with eagerness that I followed a Facebook-link to Open Yale Courses, and found a whole bunch more Ivy-League classes available, online, for free.

I mentioned this to my first period class this morning, and this freshman says, in a sort of off-hand, "yeah, I've completed two semesters at Princeton already" tone of voice, "Sure, Mr. Barkey... they've got piles of those for free at itunesu." Like, totally no big whoop, dude.

I'm not gonna say I wet myself, but seriously!? They're giving it away? 

Matt Damon's dream has finally come true. Damon, who actually went to Harvard for a while before giving it all up for the vastly more important business of telling cinematic stories (Yes, yes. I am being serious. Mostly), wrote and acted in this great scene with his buddy Ben Affleck, in which he confronts this pretentious Harvard ding-dong who's trying to embarrass Ben in order to score with the ladies.

Damon says, "See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you’re gonna start doin' some thinkin' on your own and you’re gonna come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life. One, don’t do that. And two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a f*c**n' education you coulda' got for a dolla-fifty in late chahges at the public library."

I guess the Universities watched Good Will Hunting, realized it was true, and acceded to the proposition that the whole thing was just one, big, pretentious trick to get women. It's like they woke up one day in the middle of a digital revolution and realized, "Hey, man - my basement is frickin' full of VHS."

Well, I've still got my VCR, baby, and I'm going to college. These are the courses I'm thinking of taking at Yale this next year:

1. Introduction to Psychology, with Paul Bloom
2. Listening to Music, with Craig Wright
3. Modern Poetry, with Langdon Hammer
4. Death, with Shelly Kagan
5. Game Theory, with Ben Polak

After that, who knows? Brown? Cornell? Or maybe, I'll just get online and buy some tickets to the movie theater. How do you like them apples?

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