Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Affected by the world around me

Sometimes, I'm completely clueless about world events. I live in a CNN-free zone; I frequently forget to check CBC.ca to see if anything's happened in the world. Sometimes, the only news I get is second-hand from bloggers. (When New Orleans flooded, I didn't find out for several days, until Chris mentioned something and was shocked to find out I hadn't even heard about Hurricane Katrina.)

But sometimes, I get really affected by world events. Yesterday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech is one of those occasions. Perhaps part of it was the fact that I found out about it right away; I was on the phone with my parents when the story came out on the news, and then had an entire day alone with my computer and my finals-marking as the story unfolded.

A large part of it is the fact that the shooting at Virginia Tech hits so close to home. Even though I know no one there, and I live on the opposite coast. But the details were too familiar -- the German instructor, the Holocaust survivor (especially because today's Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I've been steeped in the memorial culture, and the realisations of the horrors), the shooter being a young man born in South Korea (like so very many of my own students), majoring in the humanities.

But it also forces me to come to terms with the whole issue of campus violence, and the fact that many university campuses are vulnerable places. (And campus violence is way too common, beyond everything that's reported in the news.) We've established in the past what an idealist I am regarding higher education. Part of what affects me today is -- as Half Acre articulates here -- that there is part of me that wants to believe that academia is a world apart, some kind of ivory tower. I unconsciously refer to everything outside of academia as "the real world," as if the university has no place in it. I want to be able to inspire a joy in learning in my students. I want to be able to trust my students and my colleagues, and believe that they are really good people.

And it's hard to let go of that.

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