Yesterday, we participated in the #letsblogoff about legacy. You can read all the articles submitted here. This morning, I opened the Wall Street Journal to this heart-breaking story of a legacy about to be erased from history. Apparently English teacher Thom Williams encouraged students at Marple Newtown High School in Pennsylvania to write on the walls. But the teacher died of cancer in December 2010 at the age of 63 and the school plans to repaint and renovate the classroom.
While the true legacy of Mr. Williams will always be the students he taught and inspired, there seems something wrong in being quick to wipe out years of written record so blithely, especially in a digital culture that seems intent on removing ink and physical medium and replacing it with transitory screens. Stories like this make me wonder why we are in such a rush to remove those quirky things that make us human and replace them with neat, orderly banality.
If the walls can not be preserved, we should at least make a record of it by photographing every square inch of the walls and recreate them on a memorial site or historical display at the school. To do less would be to marginalize Mr. Williams’ life and vocation.
Be creative, kids! Reach for the sky! You can win the future. But you’ll learn to do it in an environment of neatly painted institution-white walls.
PHOTO: Ryan Collerd for The Wall Street Journal. Please don’t sue me for using the photo. Thank you.