I want to take a class. 

I have a specific class in mind, Theater 288: Reading Hamilton – Representation & History in the American Musical. It is a special topics class being taught by Professor Susan Kattwinkel at the College of Charleston, and I want to take it.

I want to take it, but of course I can’t take it. I have a job or three, one of which requires me to be available to others during the day and which also requires some travel, making class attendance problematic.

Also, I’m not a student anymore. That said, this did not stop me from looking up the course day and time to see if maybe, just maybe, if I could ask Prof. Kattwinkel for permission and also clear it with my boss, that I could take the class.

I can’t. I really can’t.[1]

But boy, do I want to.

I’m interested in the class for several reasons. I had a months-long obsession with Hamiltonthe musical, seeing it both in New York and Chicago[2], listening to the soundtrack approximately thirty-thousand times, and savoring every morsel of Hamilton: The Book, the behind the scenes take on the genesis and production of the musical.

The class as described promises to complicate both the musical and the person it is based on as well as how these things are positioned in the broader history and culture, to which I say…yes, please.

I’m also interested in the class because I find myself fascinated by the work that goes into the creation and staging of such a sprawling production. Deep in the hidden reaches of my ambitions, I have a notion to write a musical (the libretto, not the music or lyrics) and be part of a collaborative enterprise like this.[3]

Both times I saw Hamilton, and sometimes even when listening to the soundtrack, tears of emotion would spontaneously well in my eyes, and it’s not clear to me what triggers it, but as best I can tell it is some kind of soul-deep appreciation of a collaborative work of art. 

“One Last Time,”a song featuring George Washington explaining to Hamilton that he is stepping down from the presidency, and hoping for a future of peace for both himself and his country is a pretty reliable trigger of these emotions. There is something about the voices at the end rising in chorus and crescendo that overwhelms my sense and senses. There is joy in both the doing and the listening and I don’t know what to say other than there’s something awesome about it.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt an affirmative desire to take a class before.[4]In graduate school, I was far too anxious about my development and fate to embrace the spirit of taking a class out of a pure interest and joy even though I was very into most of it.[5]In college, I was like, whatever… about school.

What’s the cliché’? Education is wasted on the young?

It’s true to some extent I suppose that with age I am more attuned to my specific interests, more capable of appreciating what it means to dive deep into a passion.

But what if the reverse is true, what if we’re wasting the young with “education”? And by “education” I mean a system which privileges schooling over learning.

I’m not saying that every moment of a student’s education must spark this kind of interest. To expect students to be eager and excited about everyclass would be a difficult to impossible bar to clear, but is it too much to ask that they experience it with at least one class per semester or even once in the course of their degree?

Maybe it’s happening more often than I perceive, though.

Tell me where. Tell me why. Tell me how.

 

[1]I would miss at least five weeks because of already scheduled travel obligations.

[3]Did I honestly just admit this?

[4]I’m often eager to teach a course, particularly now that I’m only teaching occasionally. That’s worth pondering for a future blog post.

[5]Except for the course on bibliography. Also, maybe 17th century poetry. Not that into those.

Inside Higher Ed