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Tuesdays With Morrie

My wife had read Tuesday’s With Morrie before I did. When I signed up for this course, she recommended it after seeing it on the list of possible books to read. Despite being a voracious reader in my younger years, I felt a little bit like Mitch Albom who had abandoned life’s purer, simpler pleasures like reading for work. Work for its own sake. Mindless, aimless work. Tuesday’s With Morrie was the first book I had read in many years and I enjoyed every page of it.

One of the most appealing ideas expressed by the author was the importance of human relationships. On page 124 Morrie talks about what he feels to be the unspoken mantra in our society today. More is good. More money, more property, more things. We are bombarded with advertising trying to convince us that we absolutely have to have this or that product to be complete human beings. Mitch Albom said it very well in a speech that I heard him give on C-SPAN. He said that the value of a person’s life can be measured not by his wealth but by what is said about him at his funeral and the memories that he left of himself to others. A person who was generous and giving of themselves tend to live on in the hearts and minds of others long after their bodies have withered away. I have always thought that this was epitomized by the fact that we can be moved by the works of a famous author or actor or performer whether they are alive or dead. We have the potential to take on a form of existence that transcends our physical bodies. This was one of Morrie’s ideas that appealed to me the most.

Another idea that I found appealing in the book was Morrie’s ideas on the family. On page 92, Mitch raises the issue about his generation’s dilemma about the family and having children, and how children would tie us down and make us into those “parent things we did not want to be.” Morrie felt that if you...”want to learn how to love and bond in the deepest way, then you should have children.” Again I was very much like the author in that I was an aspiring musician for many years and viewed marriage and fatherhood as threats to that dream. When I became a husband and father and had a family, I, like Morrie, experienced a depth of love and bonding that my music could only hint at.
On page 78, Morrie talks about how he became a teacher. he relates his experience as a young boy when his father tried to get him a job at the sweatshop he worked in. He recalls how much he hated it and how he vowed never to work in a place like that. He ruled out law because he didn’t like lawyers and he ruled out being a doctor because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. It was only by default that he became a teacher. After reading this passage I recalled the five years that I spent as a machinist and how I gradually came to hate it to the point where I considered a machine shop a certain kind of hell and that my working there was punishment for something evil that I had done.

Reading how Morrie got into teaching made me think of my own reasons for becoming a teacher. When I entered college I was originally a history major but at the time (the late seventies) the employment outlook for teachers was bleak so after suffering an attack of realism and practicality, I decided to become a business major. After I graduated, I spent nine years working in electronics manufacturing, hopping from one start-up company to another, hoping to get in on the ground floor of the next Microsoft or Apple. Toward the end of those nine years, I began to feel burnt-out and began to question my objectives and goals in life. While reflecting back on all that I had done, I remembered that the most satisfying part of all the various jobs I had had was the training of various people how to operate this or that machine or computer, or training them in various company procedures and operations. After remembering this, I realized that training and teaching were almost the same things and that my decision long ago to switch majors from history to business was a mistake. Or was it? When I began teaching subjects like Economics and Technology Education, I realized how valuable my business experience had been and that maybe there had been a reason for that nine years in that I had more to share and give to my students. I realized that most teachers have never been anything but teachers and had no experience in the workplace that most of their students will find themselves in after their schooling is done.

This brings up an aspect of my teaching philosophy that I don’t think Morrie would agree with. Though I believe in the need and value of a liberal arts education, I feel that the main purpose of education is to prepare students for the workplace. This is reflected in my policy of not accepting late assignments. I explain this to students by telling them that if they do this on the job they will soon find that they don’t have a job. When they are tardy, points are deducted from their grade for the same reason. College is fine but when you consider that only 25% of all students graduate from college, and that, in California at least, all secondary school education is geared toward preparing students for college, one would have to conclude that 75% of students are being prepared for something they will not succeed at. College is great but their must be options for students who are not cut out for college. I feel that vocational education classes must be part of the high school curriculum as an alternative to college. This is an area in which Morrie and I might disagree. I feel that my philosophy of education could be explained by referring to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where step one would be physical needs, step two would be safety needs, step three would be the need to be loved, step four would be self-esteem and step five would be self-actualization. I believe that an education should prepare one to meet all five of these needs whereas I feel that Morrie’s approach might prepare student’s to meet the higher needs at the expense of the lower one’s.

Despite this, the book was truly a joy to read and has caused me to reevaluate and consider the things that are really important to me in my life and the things that are not.

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