When the Last Jedi’s Luke Skywalker Seems Too Real

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Spoiler alert: This post discusses the movie. It’s also about education but you have to travel through Star Wars to get there.

A friend and I have been debating Luke Skywalker lately. She feels that “her” Luke would never have become the curmudgeon living alone in the seaside cliffs of that distant green planet. He would always have been part of the fight for justice. He would have responded right away to Rey’s plea for help except, of course, that plea would never have been necessary. Luke would have been standing at his sister’s side.

To me, Luke’s isolation and bitterness make perfect sense. What has the Force ever done for Luke? The trail of bodies began with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and grew to include many of his childhood and later friends, eventually even Han Solo. He lost one arm while learning that his childhood boogeyman was his father, and reclaimed that father only on his deathbed. He learned that heroes could skew the truth — hell, outright lie — from “a certain point of view.” His attempt to train young Jedi led to the death of many of his own protégés and the defection of others, and the emotional loss of his only nephew, Ben Solo.

“What has the force ever done for Luke?,” I said to my friend while we were debating our different Lukes. “Why wouldn’t he retreat to a distant planet and decide to let the world fall apart without him?” I added a few examples from Luke’s life to support this view. Then I added the phrase that suddenly pulled me right back into teaching in a school that had been taken over by the state, back into my own life.

“You can break people,” I said.

Eduhonesty: I know you can break people. They broke me. I retired. I sit in a comfy blue room where I write and blog. I even teach some days, mostly half-days, because I never stopped loving teaching. I just stopped being able to put up with the constant put-downs because my bilingual students (gasp!) could not read the mandatory seventh-grade Common Core tests they kept failing — tests that all students in the grade had to take whether they were bilingual, special education, or “regular” students so that the administration could compare teachers. I did badly, of course. The inability to read the test (combined with my unwillingness to cheat) guaranteed I would do badly.

All that effort, all that time, all those kids I genuinely loved… I felt as if it was being swept away that last year I worked as people demanded I teach four years of material in one year, while simultaneously attending meetings many mornings and almost every afternoon. I was so relieved to retire, to go find my own version of a cottage by the sea. I can work as hard as anybody I have ever met, but I can’t work batshit crazy.

Maybe this blog is my own astral projection, the last shreds of energy and love for kids being sent out into the battle I can’t fight anymore.