Humans of MHS #3 - Joe Carroll

#3 - 6/2017

By Jackson Markow

*Note:  If you haven't yet read Humans of MHS #1, read it here!  It explains exactly what this column is and why it matters.

For June 2017, the Solon Spectrum interviewed Joe Carroll.

What is your name?

My name is Joe Carroll.

What do you do at MHS?

I teach Latin here, and I also moderate the yearbook committee.
Tell us something about your life before MHS.

I grew up in the Bronx, in New York City.  I have taught Latin, actually, since I left college, so in terms of my professional life, that’s all I’ve ever done.  I love baseball.  I love tea.  I love reading about history and ancient cultures, and I really love people.  I think the reason that I am a teacher is that I just really love people.  I love talking with them, I love learning from them, and I love interacting with them.
Tell us something that you love about life.

Well I love my wife, I think, first and foremost.  I know it’s corny to say that, but it’s true.  Another thing I love about life is that the choices that you make can determine whether or not you’re happy or sad or mad or frustrated.  I guess what I mean by that is, I know that there are external factors that can influence how you feel, granted, but my theory is that everybody has the power to approach a situation having happiness in mind or having frustration in mind.  So I love that I can choose at any given moment, no matter how stressful it is, to be happy in that moment and to get a sense of joy from that moment.  So I like to convert everything into good and everything into a happy feeling.  To me that’s something that I love about life, that you have a high degree of choice in how you feel about things.  Now the degree of choice in what happens to you, I grant, but in how you feel about things.
What is one thing, about your life or about the world, that you wish wasn’t true.

I wish it weren’t true that people who didn’t have the means to do things wouldn’t be prevented from doing those things.  I guess what I mean is that I wish, no matter that what the circumstances were, you have an equal shot at doing things at doing things you want to do.  I’m not sure that’s really the case, even in a country as rich as ours, and I kind of feel badly about that.  I’ve done things because I’m kind of a middle-class person that I wonder wouldn’t have been possible for someone to do that didn’t have that middle-class upbringing.  
And that’s not even to mention people in developing countries who have little to no means at all.  So I kind of wish that weren’t the case, I wish that there was at least that flat playing field, that equality of opportunity.  Not just equality for its own sake, but just like, if you wanted to, you would have the same chance at doing something.
What is an interesting thing about you?

I don’t know how interesting I am, but I think what I can bring to the table is a love of the way that history and philosophy, and I guess in general just the way that which has gone before us has influenced what we do.  I can bring that to the table.  I can explain why something is happening now as a result of something that has happened back in the day.  I like to use history as almost like a living tool, like applied history, like it’s not just you know a fact, it’s I know about that and now I can figure out how things are happening.  I would like to think, at least, that that’s interesting about me - that I view history as like a living organism, so to speak, that influences my decisions, that affects how I perceive the world.  I regret to say that I’m not so sure that’s the case for lots of people who view history as just facts, not as things to be understood and learned from.  So that I find interesting, and I hope that I make other people think that that’s interesting too.
And under that umbrella, philosophy - why do we make the decisions that we make?  Who has thought about that before?  I think that that’s something that’s lacking in general ed high schools.  Like nobody says “Oh, people have thought about how to live your life.  Here’s a choice - you have these guys and these guys . . .”  That’s not something that we think about anymore.  At least we still have history, but I worry, again, it’s just facts.  Is the phenomenon we’re going through now, whether you love or hate Trump, is that not something that’s teachable - in terms of, who like Trump has gone before, and who like Trump might rise up in the future, and things like that.
Is there anything you have to say to the people of MHS?  If so, what?

One thing I’d love to see is - this might seem like such a small point, but I like when people are in the hallway and you see them coming and they acknowledge your presence with a hello.  It’s so simple, but I have goals that are small and achievable.  I’m not going to say, “Be this way or that way,” like, that’s a lifetime process, but when I see someone in the hall and they say hi to me, that means the world to me, and I’m not so sure people do that enough.  We’ve all played the hallway game, where you’ve see the person coming and you put your head down.  I hate that.  I wish we were more like Japanese style, where there’s a baseline acknowledgement of humanity.  That’s what I would say.  But other than that, I would say that I love everyone that I know here at MHS.  It’s a fine community.