Friday, June 4
I looked over the room and wondered if my objective is registering. I had hoped to use this lesson to arouse new insights and deeper interest about the things that got us to this point. Some are getting it and purposely taking notes, but most look like they’ve heard enough. I fear our founding principles and the enormous intellect of those who penned our governing edicts have gotten blurred by misguided social opinion. It’s disappointing to see so many students with such indifference for this part of our history, and the affect it has on their lives.
Some have already closed their notebooks, eager to leave and hoping I’ll not have a writing assignment. Wishful thinking.
I said, “Read and analyze Chapter 8 on the Confederation and the Constitution. For Monday, write a five-page essay. Those of you in the first three rows make an argument supporting the Federalist position. The rest will provide your reasons why the Anti Federalists’ ideology prevailed in ratifying the constitution. Use the same formatting as your other assignments. Have a nice weekend.”
There were a few groans.
I waited for the group to leave. Occasionally, very occasionally, one of them will stay and approach me with a question or thought-provoking observation. One of my more exceptional students lingered and worked her way forward after the room emptied.
She said, “Professor Swanson, “Had I been around during the formation of our constitution, I would surely have supported George Mason and his concern to protect the rights of individuals and the states.”
I said, “Siri, have you already read Chapter 8?”
“No, not yet, but I’m aware of the different principles in play and in which direction the individual authors leaned.”
“That’s good, it should be easy for you to make a compelling argument supporting the Anti Federalist viewpoint.”
“That’s what I wanted to talk about. I think it would be more challenging and a better learning exercise for me to make the Federalist case, which I disagree with. It would be easy for me to support Anti Federalism. I could talk for an hour about the benefits of smaller local governments and the importance of The Bill of Rights, even though much of Mason’s efforts were directed at forming a more powerful Federal Government—but he sought the right balance.”
“That’s interesting, and a good reason for me to agree. Go ahead and write your paper that way, then.”
“Thank you, professor. I appreciate that you’re receptive to things like this. I’ve enjoyed your class so far. You’re a good teacher,” and then more under her breath, “even though some don’t agree.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware of that.”
She said, “Sorry, professor, I figured you had read some of the online reviews.”
I said, “I haven’t. I suppose I should. Are they that bad?”
“Oh no, not at all. Most of your previous students who’ve commented there have very nice words for you. There’s always a few.” She adjusted the load of books in her arms and said, “You know.”
“What, in particular, don’t they like.”
“Well, you’re aware that you are quite demanding, and you tend to require an inordinate amount of homework.”
She backed up a step and said, “Oh, that’s not how I feel. This is a large, respected university. If students don’t want to apply themselves, they should’ve gone to community college.”
“I agree with you, Siri. I appreciate the feedback.”
Siri is my most inspired student and a joy to teach. She’s working on a BA in History but plans on entering law school after graduation. She’ll do well.
After going to my office to check my messages and gather what I needed for the weekend, I left Heller Hall and walked to the 19th Avenue parking ramp, using the footbridge over the busy thoroughfare. Two weeks ago, a student was severely assaulted here, on this raised walkway, so I try to exercise more awareness. Something like that could happen anywhere, I suppose. Heller Hall is on the West Bank, the Minneapolis side of the river, and crime is more prevalent here then over on the East campus. The walking bridge ends at the second level of the parking garage, not far from where I left my CR-V this morning. A man stood near the stairway adjacent to the elevator. He held a maroon duffle bag and he seemed to have been discarded there, like a marooned ship. I smiled and murmured a hello in his direction. Without moving his head, his eyes raised to consider me. He didn’t reply to my muted greeting but did maintain eye contact and continued to lean against the wall while watching me walk away toward my car. I’m sure this man is harmless, and I feel small about being suspicious, but every time I come here the memory of that first-year coed who was so brutally beaten still bothers me. It happened not thirty feet away. They haven’t arrested anyone and usually never do. I don’t imagine the police are even looking now.
I drove a block or so and by the time I reached Riverside Avenue I had forgotten the girl, and the man with the maroon duffle. I stopped and looked to my right and pulled out. Before I had my front wheels onto the intersection, a loud, long horn blast caused my right foot to find the brake pedal. The car skidded and jolted to a stop, and the vehicle I had pulled in front of swerved just inches from my hood. The driver’s outrage was evidenced by an angry glare, and he offered the universal finger of reprimand, which he rapped repeatedly against his side window.
I felt awful. It was an honest mistake. I had looked for oncoming traffic, but he must have been in a blind spot. People have become so intolerant, and angry. I watched him drive off and realized I was shaking. It was my fault and I could have seriously hurt someone. I kept my distance behind his pickup but had to pull up closer when he stopped at Franklin Avenue. I had my blinker on, intending to turn left and hoped he would go the other way. Unfortunately, he was signaling the same direction. I held back a good car length trying to avoid further confrontation. He pulled across both lanes on Franklin and stopped alongside the curb in the bike lane. He waited for me to pass and then pulled out behind me. Certainly, he wasn’t so upset he was going to follow me home. We both turned right on Seabury, my street.
A car had just parked at the corner immediately in front of my turn and the driver’s open door caused me to loop well around and into the far lane. I made this maneuver without signaling. I’m not sure if my un-advertised turn was the cause, but the guy behind me continued straight ahead down Seabury. I quickly turned again into the common alley servicing the back yards of all the Seabury homes. My new neighbor was outside, apparently cleaning or organizing his storage building. I waved but he didn’t seem to notice. I pulled into my circular drive stopping in front of the walk to my back door.
After reaching across the seat to retrieve my purse and tennis racket, I stepped out onto the gravel.
That’s all I remember.