Lance Scranton: So what?
Within the margins and between the lines, we find the meaning. As teachers continually try to instill an analytical approach to reading in our young people, it is those of us who should know better that make analysis difficult. Each work of literature presented in Advanced Placement Literature classes is packed with intentional meaning, which we identify as theme — the author’s intended message. It is the “why” or “so what” of the literature, and it guides the reader’s purpose.
Students demand to know the “why” when you discuss just about everything, and reading with this purposeful intent allows them to discover something about themselves in everything they read. As we look around our country these past few weeks, we see the meaning behind what is being written and spoken about otherwise exemplary citizens. The search for truth and justice are the hallmarks of our system of laws, but these days it’s enough to simply assert without having to substantiate or prove.
Movements abound that take the word of one over the other, without the objectivity of justice being consulted even for a second. Lives are ruined and reputations forever damaged for reasons students are all too familiar with when we discuss each in class: money, power, and status.
Money is the easy one, because the green allows people to wield power, which, in turn, garners status. Our country has never been perfect in this regard, but the blind eye of justice has historically kept things in check.
Our politicians gather money to gain power in order to get re-elected and too often erode their moral code in acquiescence to the whims of political expediency. Rationalizing the destruction of people’s lives to further a political mandate is the epitome of the power-status relationship. Students are quick to point out that it seems obvious that the truth really doesn’t matter in these types of relationships, and I can’t disagree, because the value of reasonable analysis is jettisoned for the garnering of status.
Students understand that the ability to gather money is something that our economic system allows and generally rewards for the efforts of those willing to work the hardest. But the money-power-status relationship has gone horribly wrong when it is used to destroy people’s lives in an attempt to justify the gathering of power and status.
Too bad our politicians don’t have to sit in classrooms and explain to emerging adults why they do some of the things they do while hooked up to a lie detector which sends out a shock when they “misstate the facts.”
Lance Scranton is a teacher and coach at Moffat County High School.