Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" was the earliest book I read that could be defined as a classic, at least of the science fiction genre. I was eight or nine when I first read it, and it spoke to me powerfully. A story about how evil adults have to rely on children to save the species? Instant favorite for a kid, especially one at the top of his class. I saw how these brilliant children were respected and the responsibilities they bore, and I appreciated an author who didn't underestimate kids.
But that book had similarly powerful messages about other aspects of humanity hidden in its pages. As I re-read it, and read about it, and read the sequels, I began to form a more comprehensive picture of the book. The two biggest messages I picked up on were:
1. Humanity has great capacity for destruction.
2. Quiet power is far more important than it seems.
The first point is pretty straight forward. The teachers at the Battle School wreak havoc on the minds and bodies of their young charges, all in the name of forging one into the man (12 year old) who could murder an entire species. Destructive may be an understatement.
The second point is, appropriately, harder to catch. The people who control these boys, and through them, the fate of humanity, are teachers. Teachers shape these children, and especially the main character, Ender. Ender's teachers have a more profound effect on him than anyone else in his life, save perhaps his brother and sister. Their influence makes him able to do what he must to save humanity. Their actions change the world.
This is a somewhat perverse way of saying that I want to be a teacher, specifically, a college professor. I don't want to be like these teachers. They are abusive and horrible people, to say the least. But they are shaping the saviors of humanity. Their impact is quiet and subtle but it is immense.
This book taught me the power of teachers, and the lesson was instantly reinforced by my life. My teachers have had an extraordinary impact on me. They've given me guidance and encouragement, helped me shore up my weaknesses and expand upon my strengths. They've made me who I am.
I want to touch people like that. To impact thousands, to teach them and enable them to go out and make things happen. Teaching is the best way to do that.
A teacher's power may not be obvious, but it is great. "Ender's Game" and my life have shown me what a teacher can do, and I would love to follow in that tradition of shaping the future of our world.