Although I certainly believed everything I wrote earlier this semester about the ways in which professors serve as "public intellectuals" in the classroom, as well as about the peculiarly valuable mission of teaching terminal M.A. students, I must admit that what happened last week in my graduate Milton class surprised me.
The high school teacher among my students--a smart, soft-spoken man of about my own age--announced that his departmental colleagues had been asking him about the course he was taking this semester, and one by one expressed first envy that he was studying Paradise Lost and then regret that they had never had the opportunity to do so.
So he's now leading a weekly discussion group, for service credit, to guide his entire department through the poem.
And okay: I'm surprised that so few of his fellow English teachers had read Paradise Lost before. And I'm a little freaked out by the thought that some version of my take on Milton will shape the way one high school's entire English department understands the epic. But I couldn't be more pleased.