edu180atl: bart griffith 1.11.12
I am thinking today about Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight in Paris, a story about Gil Pender, a conflicted screenwriter on family vacation in Paris. Beset by a loveless marriage and the seeming absurdities of the 21st-century, Gil longs to live with the expatriates, bohemians, and artists of 1920s Jazz Age Paris, an epoch he perceives as more honest, pure, and transcendent than the present. Through some surreal combination of fantasy, imagination, and magic, Gil gets his wish, going back in time to rub elbows with the icons of the era. He shares manuscripts with Hemingway and drinks with Dali. Along the way, oscillating between the romance of the past and the very real challenges of the present, Gil discovers self-knowledge and a renewed sense of purpose, his maturation marked by the recognition that nostalgia, when tempered, can promote insight and growth.
Nostalgia plays a central role in the conversations that my colleagues have about school change. I find that sometimes educators, much like Gil’s antagonist, dismiss such sentimental yearning “as little more than a flaw of the romantic imagination for those who find it difficult with the present.” Quite to the contrary, Gil’s immersion and reconsideration of things past stands out as a source of love, purpose, and voice in the present. Of course, obsessive commitment to “Golden Era Thinking” will paralyze a schoolhouse, but, on occasion, let’s grab a baguette and walk the Seine together, shamelessly summoning the chalk dust of the past. Who knows what its myths might teach us?
Bart Griffith is an English teacher, husband, and father in Atlanta, GA and enjoys hearing the funny, insightful, and nonsensical things that teenagers have to say.