Term happened, in which classes pass like stations through my train window on a long journey towards Christmas. And despite the e-mails, meetings, seminars and tutorials tying me to the ticking clock, it all seems so fitfully unreal. As if bereaved, I blundered on after the referendum hoping the American presidential election would salve my distress. Yet I keep being jolted awake by the realisation that what happened actually happened. Even in lectures, where discussions of Godard, Linklater, Lena Dunham, Sofia Coppola and others ignite relevant issues that should draw out students’ concerns, the syllabus trundles on, taking us away from this moment when the shock that simmers beneath awareness is pacified by a coffee break or distracted by a need to move on to the next lecture.
Education has a great and proud purpose nevertheless. The arts and humanities advance our thinking, create reflexively organised endeavour, seek out understandings and offer multiple constructs with which to frame our view of life. They interact with the sciences and other disciplines, adding poetry to movement, philosophical consequences to experiments, historical context for equations and the means of dissemination of ideas. My students are all on their way to being great people. They are a wonderfully mixed bag of nationalities, personalities, sexualities and realities, each with their own ambitions waiting to be directed, prejudices hopeful of being overturned, ideas tentatively approaching the light and voices being found and strengthened daily.
So what do we do when faced with ignorance, bigotry, hate?
We teach. We listen. We learn. We act.
And we hope.