I'm afraid our discussion got away from us today, at least in some classes. I don't want you think that I am an absolute idealist or that I think we should let children chase impossible dreams, but there is something really important about giving them room to try and explore and learn for themselves. Obviously, not everyone can be a rock star or a neurosurgeon, but that doesn't mean we should only want what is within easy reach.
To some extent, we need to follow rules and make plans and behave well; at the same time, we need to have the courage to chase something outside our own little sphere of existence. In order to achieve real happiness, we need to believe in something magical, to look with wonder on the impossible beauty of the world in spite of all the ugliness. Dreaming doesn't mean ignoring reality; dreaming means ignoring the belief that reality is all that matters.
As I've already said, you are all going to experience disillusionment, and it's going to hurt. But that's just what happens; it's basically a law of nature to suffer. The world is often chaotic and dangerous, but what really makes life worth living is the knowledge that the world is also full of magic and mystery. I know you have friends and parents and teachers and coaches and bosses all clamoring to tell you how to live, so your job is to cultivate a dream and insulate it from the overwhelming voices of doubt and fear. Keep your dream close. Love it, nurture it, and when it's ready, live it.
I want to take a moment and distill our conversation about defiance. As we discussed online and in class, it seems that most people regard rules and laws in the same way: namely, they exist for a good reason but most of them can be justifiably broken under certain conditions. I can concede that; rules meant to protect others should be followed carefully unless they put us in unnecessary danger. What I think we finally decided (or at least I did) is that laws, rules, and customs should exist only to protect people from each other. Stated another way, everyone should have an equal right to free will except when it causes harm to someone else.
Like I said in class, I do not and cannot expect you to believe as I do. My beliefs are grounded in my own upbringing, education, and experience, so I developed them according to the best information I have. Rather than blindly accept my findings as your own, I ask that you filter them and consider what they may mean to you. Likewise, I ask that you not dismiss my beliefs casually if they are different from yours; explore them and see what you may learn.
Finally, don't hesitate to disagree with me openly. The best way to learn from each other is for everyone to express him or herself with civility and respect.
I know you've been in school for nigh a week now, but I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome you officially to my class. Based on what I've seen so far, I can definitely tell that I am in for some lively discussions this year. Hopefully, we can enjoy many exciting conversations and still get lots of work done.
This is probably a good time to explain my approach to teaching AP Lang this year; I have made a pretty significant change that I think will really benefit you as students. In the past, I have taught major works (novels, plays, etc.) as separate pieces of literature without any context. This time around, I am going to embed our longer works in thematic units. In other words, rather than teach1984 all by itself, I am going to include a variety of shorter works that coincide with the dark themes of government oppression found in Orwell's novel.
In each unit this year, I want to explore the duality of the world in which we live. Beginning with our first unit, we are going to see how people operate on a spectrum between two opposing forces. Rarely do we find ourselves in a situation with clearly defined boundaries and a unanimous recognition of right and wrong. Instead, we usually have to strike a balance between two natural poles: male/female, youth/experience, love/hate. Our first unit will open the doors to the different roles we play as individuals and as members of larger societies.
If you click on the 1984 tab to the left, you'll find a document there called Individual/Society Overview. This document explains the nuances of our first unit, as well as lists all of the texts we will use in this unit.
Again, I'd like to extend a nice welcome to you as AP students, and I look forward to a great year.