The freshmen would troop uneasily into the class where he sat on the edge of his teacher's desk. Somehow the powers that be who were in the English Department of that college town had decided that he was worthy to teach the children of Alabama, just out of high school in the early 1970's, about the fundamentals of English Literature.
It was madness. Any sane person could have taken one look at him, in his cutoff blue jean shorts and hair down to the middle of his back and eyes rolling crazy in his head from the pastimes du jour, and stamped him unfit for duty. He, however, felt fully prepared with the weapons of enthusiasm and just enough knowledge of the actual subject matter to make a real difference in the lives of these freshmeats.
Once they were seated, he would immediately write his full name on the blackboard. The fact that his family name was a common euphemism for insane people only added to the mystique. Then he would begin the program; the programming of the young minds to think as he did. It was not about getting laid (usually) and it was not about popularity: It was a cause, by God. And the first few days were to convince the kids that there was no God.
He went about it quite surreptitiously, by the use of a timeline on the blackboard. He disguised this as having something to do with English Literature somehow, but he'll be damned if he can remember how right now. He would draw a line on the blackboard and mark the end at the right side of the board "now" and the far end at the left "the beginning." He explained to the very interested (by now) class that there were a certain number of years since "the beginning" and the "now." He would give the approximate figures, based on the current thought over in the Physics Department. But the numbers were not that important; the concept was to show how young Man was compared to the Earth. He would break it down in terms of the months of the year, to make it more immediate. He would show the month of the year, on that long line representing the entire life of the planet they all inhabited in a spinning void of nothingness (you see the point he was reaching for, don't you?), in which Life appeared. And then he would show the day of the month in which the dinosaurs first appeared, and how many days of that month their short, brief reign was, when compared to the long, long line stretching across the big, big blackboard. And then he would show the day of the month in which mammals first appeared. When he got to Man and showed the now-eager class how we've only been here since the afternoon of December 31st, he had them just where he wanted them.
They were now small and unimportant. This is what the liberal view of man is, anyway, isn't it? And he was going to teach that view so that they all felt as insignificant as he did, by god. This way, he could reduce them to small, small units ready to accept whatever a bigger unit (him) would tell them. As he looks back on it now, he wonders how many other instructors were doing the same thing, just by instinct? No one ever taught him to do this. No one ever schooled him on the fine art of brainwashing; but it seemed to come so naturally. It was the Cause: It was the Movement. He was as infected as anyone with the Ebola virus, and he was bound and determined to give this to everyone who would listen before his own body parts began falling off. Given his habits at the time, that was a distinct possibility any given day.
It actually shocked him that there were as few complaints as there were. Surely at least half of these kids had been brought up as right-thinking Christians, and he was telling them (perhaps for the first time in their sheltered lives) that it was all a lie, and only two or three each semester, when he was teaching three classes a semester, were going to the Head Dick of the English Department and voicing complaints? Was their faith that weak? Was the popular culture around them that strong? Were they doing the same drugs he was? Only one kid per class was finding fault with all this? Damn their parents and their high school teachers and their preachers for raising them so weak that they would allow this one solitary Freshman English Teaching Assistant to invade their minds and spew this bullshit without more of an assault.
One summer, he was asked to teach two Freshman English classes which were specifically for Engineering majors. He trooped in and began his spiel. Instead of eyes perking up and minds snapping to attention, he witnessed eyes glazing over and air being sucked out of the room. So he backed up and began teaching the proper uses of the semi-colon and found a way to interest the other side of the coin. That's when he realized he could only truly con the ones who didn't have a fucking clue what they wanted to do when they grew up.
Now he sees his own child going to school to hear what they have to tell her. And his daughter doesn't have a fucking clue what she wants to do when she grows up.
This scares him; not just a little.