Diaries Magazine

How to Avoid Talking About a Shooting

Posted on the 27 February 2013 by Cfburch4 @cfburch4

Of course we're talking about the shooting death of Anthony Liddell, a Coastal Carolina University student who was only 19 when he died last night.

But the university has decided to carry on with classes today. Instructors like me have been told to be lenient with attendance, but most of my students attended at their appointed times this morning. 

So part of the trick, on this difficult day, is to keep the course work and lectures moving along. But how?

In my first class, the schedule was a blessing. We're talking about how to write short stories, and one of the stories in the textbook seems written for an occasion that requires uplift."Bigfoot Stole My Wife," by Ron Carlson, is just as weird and funny as the title suggests. I read it to the class, and I'd like to think it helped. During the 8 a.m. hour, no one can really know for sure.

But my second class had already passed Carlson's story, and the next story on the schedule wasn't quite as immediately entertaining. Furthermore, several students in my second class live in University Place, where Liddell was shot. While none of my students said they knew Liddell personally, the circumstances required a strong dose of uplift. So as a parting treat at the close of class, I tried a music-video parody that pokes fun of Instagram addicts. It earned some laughs. Maybe it helped lift their spirits.

Meanwhile, however, I'm having some doubts about my three afternoon classes. We've been reading Hamlet. We've been playing segments of Kenneth Branagh's masterful 1996 film adaptation and then pausing to discuss the text.

One critic's essay on Hamlet argued that the play is not so much about the fear of dying as it is about the fear of being dead, of discovering what lies beyond the grave. Now a heavy topic just got heavier.

It's not easy to tackle heavy topics with students, even under more or less normal circumstances. Teaching, like everything else, competes with a massive entertainment industry benefiting from instantaneous distribution. Entertainment's values, like propaganda's appeals, have sunk into everything. In our age, if "someone will never sit through that," then rest assured no one will ever have the chance to. Entertainment alone is not the way to educate.

Still, everyone can use a little entertainment, and especially a little humor, on days like this one.

-Colin Foote Burch

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