Today I begin my 30th semester as a teacher in higher education. With any luck, it will also be my last as an untenured, assistant professor.
A new school year always brings with it a mix of emotions and stresses. One consistent for me for the better part of the last decade is the very specific excitement that comes with the fall semester’s beginning and the fresh crop of students enrolled in my intro-level Chicano/Latino history course.
As a class, it is the very reason I chose my vocation. The power and meaning that comes with being able to create an academic space that is collaborative, critical, and focused on narrating the diverse experiences of people of Latin American descent in the US is an overtly political act, and a very necessary one. So much so is this the case in our present moment that it is a point I need only casually make for my students this morning. As Chicanas/os and Latinas/os living in the US at this time, they are brutally aware of the consequences of “not knowing” and the stark lack of human compassion that is nurtured by this.
When we put it in those terms, however, that politics is inherently about people. And that is perhaps what sustains me most throughout the year. What we are going to do today and throughout the semester is not just learn, but build the greater likelihood of a more just, more humane, and more decent future for us all…
one mind at a time.