Below is Harry Anderson’s classic painting, “Noah’s Preaching Scorned.” I’ve long identified with it as a metaphor for teaching. I’m at the point where simply encouraging students to take some time out of their hedonistic lives to read or think (or maybe even do homework) is tantamount to Noah waving his arms and screaming at people to repent. What is a good teacher today if not a wild-eyed reactionary on the fringes of society, exhorting reluctant listeners to a hopelessly old-fashioned, irrelevant way of life?
I hate to say it, but I see the reaction I get the same way. A majority of students I’ve ever worked with respond to my invitations to develop their minds not even with bemused nonchalance, but with reflexively hostile xenophobia. The crude mocking endured by poor Noah would be recognizable in, sadly, most high school classrooms today.
But Noah was only trying to help them! He was doing his job. He knew better than they did what the future held for those who refused to abandon their playground world for one of maturity. And he didn’t even complain about the low salary.
Oh, wait, sorry. That last part was about teachers, not prophets. See, it’s easy to get them confused.
Is this too negative? I mean, yes, it’s negative, but is it exaggerated, or counterproductive? I say that a pessimist is a disappointed optimist, and I admit that my idealistic aspirations have been heavily tarnished by years of enduring what I can only describe as militant apathy.
Is it unfair of me to characterize this of “most students”? Are the truculent wheels getting the cynical oil? Possibly.
Yesterday in church, my stake president said, “If you think the world is going the wrong way because of the youth, you’re looking at the wrong youth.” He has a point. Even in my “worst” classes, the real majority is making its way along, or at least has potential and is likely to grow up pretty decently.
And they’re all certainly better than I was at their age! But maybe those regrets just add to my agitation for them. After all, if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be disappointed so much.
So what to do? If nothing else, Noah never cast aspersions on his people, never held back because he didn’t get the results he wanted, and never stopped working his fingers to the bone for them, right up until the first raindrops fell (Moses 8:19-30: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/moses/8)
I might be wiser to take a page from his playbook.