We have two weeks and just three classes left in this course before we conclude the semester. Our discussions have been as numerous and varied as our reading list (from Shakespeare to Lewis to Morrison to Butler, with everything else in between). One of our central goals is to figure out how we can connect our texts to our course objectives, and furthermore, how we can apply these connections to our lives outside the course. This is a pretty universal course outcome, and pretty vague in the way I phrased it, too. What I want to focus on is what will stay with me from this course once it’s over. We talked early on in the course about why it took us until now to consider the housing crisis, to look into its causes, and to be curious about our economy. For me, I wanted to believe that the answer to this question was quick and simple: laziness. But it’s not just laziness. I think my lack of willingness to look in to the housing crisis, as well as to the more general umbrella of “bad news” and negative current events (whether they seem to directly impact me or not) is something a little more sinister. I’ll see if I can do justice to my thoughts on this topic while still keeping this post relatively short and sweet.
In my humn 2 class last year, we talked extensively about the phenomenon of “willful ignorance.” I have this theory that one of the major goals of educators is to foster and encourage curiosity in students. Education and participation can sometimes be a painful thing, and not just in the sense that we might have to read something that we find boring or force ourselves to raise our hands once per class. If we’ve learned something that makes us uncomfortable, something that causes us to be introspective and confront ourselves and our worldviews, then our educators have done something right that goes beyond the checklist that upper administration hands them for our education. So the concept of willful ignorance (the link here goes to my final project for my humn class with Dr. Cope) is that “something” that made me a little uncomfortable, a little unhappy, and a little more conscientious. As the link will show, “willful ignorance” is something a person has when they purposely do not consider the consequences of their actions or inactions. This might look like me going to Walmart and buying a shirt without checking the product details to ensure the clothing wasn’t made in a sweatshop somewhere with really poor working conditions. It’s easier to pretend like we’re not participating the perpetuation of exploitation, especially if we can hardly afford not to.
So back to this year and this course. I think that I have not attempted to look in to the housing crisis previously not only because of laziness, but also because I would have rather been willfully ignorant than to invest in finding out all the ways the economy went wrong and all the people who were affected. I found out this semester that one of my mom’s friends lost a great deal of money and property around 2008, and I also realized that I haven’t been in contact with this man since before the housing bubble burst. I think two of the more valuable things I’ll be taking away from this course is first, to be actively curious and second, to look for connections/patterns. The old adage “there’s nothing new under the sun” rang especially true when we drew connections between Shakespeare and the housing crisis. The other adage “history repeats itself” also makes sense in this course, as we built up a foundation of literature to draw from to piece together how the different aspects of the recession nine years ago was reflected from other pieces of history we learned about.
Coming in to this course, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’m grateful now to have taken it. I feel a little more braced to be curious and empathetic. It’s easy to ignore how awful homelessness is, and it’s easy to not bother trying to figure it out. Looking ahead, I don’t want to be ignorant of homelessness, and I want to be curious about the economy and the wage gap. The first thing I’m going to do when I come back home after I graduate is to work at a real estate, so it’s not even like this is something I can pretend isn’t directly relevant to me.