Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Last Jew in Auschwitz

In yesterday's installment, I told you how I was criticized by the College Presidient for an episode involving "trouble-shooting and electric circuit". When I left off, I had just started telling you how in this particular course, we were operating under a strict imperative of keeping the students enrolled at all costs, if only for the social benefits. Let us continue with the story...


In the case of Facilities Tech Level Two, we had a further motivation for keeping our students enrolled: the numbers game. In fact, our total enrollment consisted of exactly one student: quite a bright young fellow actually, and incidentally not unpopular with the ladies. But alas Pete had a weakness for the bottle. His weekends would begin Thursday afternoon and sometimes last until Tuesday...twelve days later. Still, we needed him more than he needed us: and don’t think he didn’t know it. In a moment of black humor I once called him the Last Jew in Auschwitz, in reference to the German guards who carefully protected the lives of their few remaining charges during the final months of the war, not out of any sense of guilt or sympathy, but simply because if the High Command found out they were operating a concentration camp with no inmates, those guards might find themselves suddenly unemployed and, as a consequence, liable to be sent to the Eastern Front. Similarly, we had four instructors making a comfortable living off young Pete Ross, but only as long as he was willing to grace us with his presence, if only for a few days every other week or so. The point of this digression is that in the context of Facilities Tech Level 2, in that particular winter, the “curriculum” in the Thompson campus was simply whatever subject matter you could use to hold Pete Ross’s attention on any given day. And to go back after the fact and hold me as an instructor to any higher standard makes no practical sense.

Having said all that, what exactly was my crime? In Facilities Tech, the students work on a mock-up of a house in which they have to, among other things, install a water heater, which involved both plumbing and electical. I thought this would be a good topic to take a closer look at, so I showed Pete how to draw up the circuit diagram for the controls (remember: I was responsible for teaching math AND blueprints!), and then we did some measurements on the actual building water heater to see if it worked the way the control diagram said it should. How was this possibly outside the scope of what we might teach people in a program which covers carpentry, plumbing, and electrical? All I did was to take the student outside the classroom, into the "real world", in an attempt to make the textbook knowledge more meaningful.

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