Monday, July 30, 2007

That Critical Curriculum | Antioch Lives!

an open letter to the Board Of Trustees

I have been silent about Antioch College closing since June. Perhaps the silence is representative of where I am at in the grieving process. It definitely looks like denial. But, I think not. I believe it to be something deeper and more profound. Regardless, I invite you to witness my journey since I heard the news.

Ambivalence - of the “shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to fate” variety. I got an e-mail out of the blue from someone who was virtually my neighbour whilst I lived in London. She was an Antiochian. Just like me. She was doing what all Antiochians do when something unacceptable happens. She was organising; building community and preparing to take action. It made me smile and say, “Gee, I learned a lot there. We all did.” Most of all, it made me smile.

Ambivalence - of the “getting fifty thousand things done here, wait a minute” variety. The e-mails kept coming. I swished and swooped across the web. Between flights to London for my job at Historic Royal Palaces at the Tower Of London; being present in the lives of my twenty and four year old children; managing a transcontinental marriage and developing a fund-raising strategy for my local home education group’s curriculum lending library, I looked at everyone’s epinion. I didn’t have one. I was tired.

Ambivalence - of the “hit the school motto crescendo 10 years ago and still living it” variety.
I haven’t been ashamed to die since I was 33. The forty-three years in my life expectancy have begun to seem trivial and anti-climatic. What else can I do? There has been so much! It’s quite frankly overwhelming. But - there is Horace Mann forcing me to put one foot in front of the other everyday.

Antioch may die, but, in an exceptionally European framework. In the cosmos of my ancestors, Antioch will live forever. It’s name will continue to be spoken. The myths and fables and doctrine live within it’s alumnae. And it is contagious. We infect others. The disease of do-gooding is a disastrous and diabolical infection.

Relief - If Antioch dies, does this mean I can no longer be embarrassed to pursue a career as a ruthless, eccentric, narcissistic and evil billionaire because no one will challenge me on my dubious and questionable background? Does it mean I am released from the untenable geas of Horace Mann?

Relief - If Antioch dies, will I succumb to a frenetic and unabashed joy at choosing to be a stay at home mom - just like all the Princeton, Harvard and Yale ladies of my generation? Will I get to stop tap-dancing whilst spinning plates on poles, singing opera and serving 54 course meals? Will they write about me in the New York Times because I’ve made this choice?

Relief - Is Antioch's death a harbinger of the Apocalypse? Does it mean Bush has finally won? Does low enrolment mean we should give cows the vote? After all - they demonstrate more spunk than we do as they approach the slaughterhouse.

Despair - If no one bothers to witness what young people will do once they’ve been informed that they are responsible for their education, their lives, their communities and their government....will just saving one life matter anymore? I used to think transforming one life was a miracle. Some other folks seemed to think this was a good idea too. It paid my bills. It gifted me with satisfaction. It made me unashamed to die. But -the piece of paper credentialing my right to this belief in under attack from dragon fire!

Despair - I used to think about pond ripples. I used to see ripples and waterfalls as interconnected. I never contemplated the arbitrary vindictiveness of fire. Glory! A physics intro! But, wait, oh, yeah - wasn’t there a class at Antioch which offered science/math for the art majors? Oh, yes, didn’t I publish a poem years later about the calculus of menstruation? Oh, yeah - and that other poem I published about the chemistry of .........

Despair - When the last of us go, who will speak the name? Will the name Antioch become as obscure as the names of Gods beaten out of African tongues? If no one is there when they hold out their hands to receive the necessary tools, will the patient - our world - die?

Despair & Hope- How will the cows vote? Surely, they would want Antioch survive. They are spunky - those cows.

So here I am. Plodding through life. Wishing. I believe that right eventually triumphs over wrong. I think that words have power and I teach this idea. I am a product of fairy tales who trusts that the Hero’s Journey is readily available to any young person who desires the path. My small and unremarkable hero’s journey was the cumulation of my time at Antioch. That is the critical curriculum - teaching young people to accept the call; gifting them with tools they’ll need along the journey and allowing them come out on the other side as the mistress of multiple worlds.

Antioch took a girl who lived in an even tidier version of “The Cosby Show” and transformed her into a woman who skillfully navigates between worlds we haven’t even begun to allow into our collective consciousness.

Words have power, so, these are my words.

Antioch will not close. The Board Of Trustees will open themselves to wisdom. Antiochians will move from ambivalence to action regarding the donor who gifted them with the very tools they needed to navigate this curious blue plant in the light of positivity. We will pull together. We will reorient ourselves to this new world and revise Antioch’s place in it.

Amen. Ashe. So mote it be. Harambee. Namaste.

1 comment:

Em said...

I've just refound you, and added you to my rss reader thingie, so it updated me your last 25 posts, and down there, at number 14 was this!

And I'm shocked I feel a sadness for a place I've never been to.

Of course it lives, I just last week passed the book I bought after reading your blog ages ago about the school, to another HE friend I thought it would inspire.

Hope you're doing OK back over the water.