Pensacola State College’s John Holder believes we are living on borrowed time.
“There seems to be an implicit promise when you borrow something that you leave it in the same or better condition than when you found it…,” explained Holder, associate professor of history, languages and philosophy. “That’s part of what I do with the whole idea of service learning.”
Service learning combines educational objectives with community service – allowing students to solve real-life problems, apply information they’ve learned in the classroom, and understand a community’s needs.
Assignments for Holder’s students and the Philosophy Club, which he advises on the Pensacola campus, have included a Manna Food Pantry food drive, participation in the United Way of Escambia County’s Day of Caring and collecting donated goods for Favor House of Northwest Florida – a domestic abuse center.
“Today’s young people are often characterized as either being self-centered, internally-focused and completely oblivious to what is going on, or ‘triggered’ because of their sympathies and concerns over others or themselves,” said Holder who noted these perceptions are erroneous.
“What really amazes me is that there are a lot of students who genuinely have a heart for helping those who are in need.”
Holder wants his students exposed to a variety of ideas. Last November, several participated in the Florida Philosophical Association Conference in Ocala. Pensacola State ─ one of the few two-year colleges that participated ─ will host the conference in November.
This semester, he also took a group to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville for the 21st Annual Northeast Florida Student Philosophy Conference.
Holder’s ethics class is currently working on an interdisciplinary research project on justice with the English department. They are looking at real-life scenarios and applying a variety of theoretical frameworks.
“Students learn quickly that just because something produces ‘good’ doesn’t always mean its ‘right,’” he said.
In preparation of final exams, his group also will host an exhibit at “Stress Less Week” ─ April 23-27. They will offer instruction on guided meditation and Stoicism, a philosophy that encourages patience and self-control as a means of overcoming destructive emotions.
In order to walk his philosophical talk, Holder said it is important for him to roll up his sleeves and join in on service and research projects.
While Holder wears a tie and maintains a veneer of professionalism, he also strives to remain down-to-earth and approachable.
“I don’t want you to walk out of here thinking you’re stupid, I want you to walk out of here thinking, ‘Wow, this a really great interesting world and these are amazing ideas and there are questions I need to be asking,” said Holder who has endured his own struggles with behavioral issues and reconciliation.
“I ended up being somewhat mediocre when I graduated high school. When I got to university, I got into philosophy and religious studies and I found my niche.”
As a professor, he often shares personal experiences ─ honestly with his students.
“I can’t just be in the ivory tower, there has to be a sense of justice ─ justice in how I live my life and the things that I do. I don’t always succeed. I am, as Nietzsche would say, ‘all too human.’ I fall short more often than not. I want to use that to encourage people,” he said.
In contrast to his own humility, Holder’s praise for his Pensacola State colleagues is free-flowing – pointing to his “We are PSC” button.
“Our students are PSC, the career service folks and administrators are PSC. But really, we must never underestimate the incredible wealth of commitment, expertise and absolute enthusiasm that our instructors have…,” he said.
“Instructors and professors who not only know their material very well, but they really care about teaching. That’s the beauty of a community college. We must never forget that.”
Holder added he and his fellow instructors are doing their best to practice good etiquette on borrowed time.
“We want to make the world a place that we wouldn’t be ashamed to invite someone: ‘Please, come and stay in our world!’ ”