“It’s Always an Adventure with Africa!”

On Friday a good friend of mine and I went to our high school to visit our teachers. From the moment we entered the building, memories of our years in that building flooded into our minds: the mornings in the library, early morning cross country practice, singing in the choir room, hanging out in the theater room, homeroom in the cafeteria, European history class and, our favorite, tangoing during a thunderstorm in the courtyard on a May afternoon.

Our visits contained the usual questions and comments: “Look at you guys all grown up!”, “You’re looking sharp Talbot!” (referring to Talbot’s AFROTC uniform and buzz cut), “What are your majors”, “Is this class better than ours”, “What are you teaching the class right now”, “Oh that was my favorite unit!” and so on. One visit stuck out to me especially.

We came into our AP U.S History/AP Psychology teacher’s, Mr. L, room hoping to see our former outgoing red-head teacher question us with college and life. To give a better description, he looks like Mitchell from Modern Family (minus the gay aspect). He did ask us how life after high school is going for us but his outgoing nature seemed absent. In fact the entire room seemed absent of its passionate love for knowledge. It was merely a shadow of its former self. He was sitting at his disorganized desk reading a chapter on Africa for his World History class (he know teaches World History and AP Psych). “It’s always an adventure with Africa!” I said, trying to lighten up the mood.

“What’s really going on?” Talbot and I asked with some concern.

“Things have changed. No one is into it anymore. I tell the cool stories but no one is interested like you guys were,” Mr. L replied. “These parts aren’t what they used to be. If you haven’t noticed but I stopped my QOTD.” QOTD was his infamous Quote of the Day. Each day on the front board would be a humorous, insightful or odd quote from people across time. It was meant to get people thinking about life or history, depending on the quote’s context. “You need to be careful with what you say if you want to keep your job.”

Here is a little insight to our school. Vandegrift High was established in 2009. It was named after fallen Lt. Matthew Ryan Vandegrift who grew up in our community and graduated from Texas A&M. He died in April 2008 in Iraq. From the stories we have heard, Vandegrift was a one in a million kid who was always there for his family and friends, kind to everyone and had an aura that’s indescribable to speak through words. His Battalion’s motto is our school motto today: “Second to None”.

Our class shared some of the characteristics Vandegrift had. We were outgoing, for the most part passionate about things we were learning, and just different compared to the classes under us. We set the expectations as the first class to spend four years as Vandegrift Vipers (there is a class above us but they only spent 3 years in VHS).

We were saddened by his grim new outlook on life. Teaching psychology was his passion and to see it tear down and on the verge of slipping broke our hearts. There is some minuscule hope left judging by his refusal to give his World History class coloring worksheets. But society and the future of the students are still in question.

Wishing Mr. L would cheer up and realize all hope is not lost, I showed him my “Imagination is Key” blog post. When he finished, he smiled and said “at least we have you guys to keep going.” If I am correct, his day was brightened.

Talbot and I left confused. Happy but very confused. Is society really turning for the worse? Have we reached the Modern Dark Ages? Has life become so automated people have stopped to check to see what there is around them?

When I was a kid, my favorite things to do was play outside with the neighborhood kids and watching Saturday morning cartoons on WB kids. We didn’t have cell phones or iPads or Facebook. We had jump ropes, bikes, and trading cards. If we got bored, we made up games and imaginary worlds or played tag. Now, you see six year olds, seven years olds with iPhones and iPads at the dinner table watching movies or playing Angry Birds. I get how parents are trying to keep the kid happy and not screaming bloody murder in a public place but depending them on technology from such an early age is crazy in my opinion. What happened to playing hand games or “I Spy” or telling silly stories?

People are always saying to “live life to the fullest”. In this fast-paced, automated world, what does that even mean anymore? Society is stuck looking at a little screen and taking the world so literal. A tree is a tree. A stone is a stone. Order rules. Where is Dionysus to destroy the order? Where is Pan to tell us a tree is more than a tree but a beautiful creature that grows and lives and dances like a human?

I am still trying to sort this out in my head. For now, this is all I have come up with: don’t lose faith. If faith is lost, then everything will be lost.

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