Today I started thinking about the most effective curriculum for my Fall shark-themed English class at Glendale College. In my pre-coffee haze, I assembled a jumble of potential texts and materials:
1. Opening chapter of the novel “Jaws”: as gateway to talking about shark attacks and shark biology.
2. “Sharkwater” documentary: so they can see what shark finning is
3. Selected readings on prehistoric sharks, all the extinctions they’ve survived
4. Info on the current extinction event that sharks might not survive
5. “Air Jaws” clips
6. “Jaws”: The Movie
7. Shark Gods of the Pacific Mythology & Ritual/Environmentalism essays (Derrick Jensen, etc.)
So much misunderstanding and reactionary butchering has resulted from talking about how scary sharks are, that it seems impossible to seriously address conservation and also enjoy some fear-fueled episode of “Shark Week.” But as the oft-quoted passage from E.O. Wilson so aptly puts it: “In a deeply tribal sense, we love our monsters.” Love is the word. I fell in love with great whites in 1975 precisely because they scared the hell out of me. I know that they do not acquire a taste for human flesh,” but I also know that I am utterly captivated by reports of shark attacks or “encounters”–like this one.
These feelings are primal and complex, but I think it’s possible to put our fear of sharks in context (human beings are driving sharks to extinction) while acknowledging the terror certain sharks inspire. Imagine if all the “Jaws” geeks around the world (I identify with this community) banded together, channeling their nerdy reverence into action to end shark finning? Or as the “Mad Men” actress and shark advocate January Jones suggests in this Huffington Post piece what would happen if the millions that tune into “Shark Week” each year decided to speak out on behalf of whale sharks or blue sharks or ocean white tips or great whites? As teachers, as fan-geeks, as parents or actresses we all have untapped sources of power and influence. We can’t wait for a movement to join. We are it