In 1980, our English college professor asked the class to write an ad copy - a one page description of a marketable product or service that could improve every day life for people. The purpose of this exercise was to see how well we could articulate a point, and of course, to check our writing skills. We could write about anything at all.

Being an animal lover and knowing how helpful they are to us, I wrote about a gadget that could actually allow humans and animals to communicate. This small portable device would translate the languages so each could understand the other. 

I named its many uses; for lonely people, in homes, special care, etc., as well as for emergencies and whatever else animals and people do for each other, only now we could actually understand each other clearly. I thought it was brilliant!

When our papers were returned, Professor Kevin saved my ad for last, to tell me and everybody in his usual condescending way that he thought "Creature-Talk" was the dumbest idea he had ever heard, in all his years of teaching. Lucky for me, he hadn't been teaching for long at the time. He was a lawyer wanna-be who was too scared to take the bar exams, so he was teaching English instead, as a second choice. Unhappy with his dilemma, he consoled himself by bashing his students' creativity and self-esteem.

Teachers like that shouldn't be allowed in the school system. It's criminal. They make a bad name for great teachers who help form and develop minds and characters. I've had plenty of those, thankfully. 

Teachers should encourage and help, not destroy their students.
Professor Kevin didn't destroy me, because by the time those comments hit me, I had already been through enough to toughen me. Just a few months before, I had wished my ex-husband well, on my way out of his life forever. My entire life until then had already been full of questions and hard decisions, and I was only 21. So his comments about my idea being stupid didn't crush me. All I had to do was think of where the comment was coming from: someone who was too afraid to take any chances with his own life. And there he was, telling me, who had already been through the hellfire of life at a tender age, that my wishful positive thoughts were stupid, in front of the whole class.
I was shocked, and he liked that. He liked to see his students cower under his so-called intellectual superiority. He kept reminding us that he had not one but count them...two careers!
I spoke out. Imagine the nerve! I said I couldn't believe a smart man like himself couldn't see the usefulness of something like that. His response was that he just didn't think it was possible. I reminded him that he said our product or service could be anything, not necessarily something that was available at that moment. I said, remember, one day, this will happen. He laughed sarcastically. He reminded me that we were not in Philosophy class, but in English make us better writers, not better dreamers.
Throughout the years since then, every time I hear about breakthroughs between animals and people, I think of Professor Kevin, and I wonder if he remembers me. One day, someone will develop the "Creature-Talk" and its uses will benefit all of the habitants of our planet.
Anyone out there interested in working on it? Let me know! Let's show Professor Kevin how wrong he was.
Wishing only well,

Carmen Colombo
May 2000

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