The Innocence of Education
Standing at the front, I’m conducting
the fourth grade, the first year of English.
Twenty Arab boys, eager to learn.
I teach Old MacDonald Had A Farm:
“E – I – E – I – O” we sing and sing
as we make all the animal sounds,
a cluck-cluck here and a cluck-cluck there.
They love Goldilocks and the Three Bears,
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf,
Jack and the Beanstalk. “Fee – fie – foe – fum,
I smell the blood of an English man,”
they chant, again and again, smiling.
The story they like the best of all
is the tale of The Three Little Pigs.
The picture of pigs enrolled in school
astonishes them. “Chinny-chin-chin,”
they shout, over and over, plucking
chins –– imaginary beards –– laughing.
© 2018 Earl Carlton Huband
A native of Wilmington, NC, Earl Carlton Huband is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill (B.A., M.A.T.) and a resident of Durham. His poems have appeared in journals such as America, The Lyric, The Main Street Rag, The Road Not Taken, and Visions International; in anthologies such as Earth and Soul, Heron Clan, Kakalak, and Pinesong; and in the textbook Unlocking the Poem. His chapbook The Innocence of Education is based on his experiences many years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Sultanate of Oman, where he taught English in a remote fishing village located in a then-restricted military zone near the mouth of the Persian Gulf
“Good poems also do what Joseph Conrad proclaimed to be the ultimate purpose of his prose: above all, to make you see. Earl Huband has through his poems in The Innocence of Education awakened me to what venturing as a Peace Corps teacher into a totally foreign environment, language and culture such as Oman’s involves. The harshness of the terrain and climate is made clear in several poems about Ramadan, the ‘hot’ month of fasting. Huband’s agreeably self-deprecating persona often learns as much from the locals as they from him. He does this by brilliant vignettes of incidents that incorporate dramatic and often amusing twists in their tail, e.g. when he introduces his Arab colleagues to a breakfast of oatmeal but later is rebuked for having served them horse food; or believes that an Arab girl is scrutinizing him with her penetrating eyes until she is led away and he realizes that she is blind. His pithy poems are enlightening and entertaining.”
—Christopher M. Armitage, Professor of English, UNC-Chapel Hill
“The Innocence of Education could be called The Education of Earl Huband. Innocence survives cultures. Education settles the uneasy ways which distinguish people. Huband’s Americana charts a seriously humorous sway, as The Innocence of Education surprises
and sustains the story of an American living and teaching English among the Arabs. Henry James would love the book, too, as I do, especially its compassion for travel, biography, and autobiography.”
—Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, 2015-2018
“Earl Huband has led an extraordinarily varied and interesting life, and I’m glad to see that his recent poems harvest that variety. He offers exotic scenes, characters, and idioms, but he never sacrifices the spirit of his native South that I, another native, can recognize as 100% authentic. He offers the experience of that familiar theme—the American abroad—in many poems realized in carefully measured lines of nine syllables. I look forward to reading and rereading these for years to come.”
—William Harmon, James Gordon Hanes Professor in the Humanities, UNC-Chapel Hill