Plymouth Voices: Professor John Christ

Luke Young


Staff Writer


Professor John X. Christ is a man truly meant for his job. Since he was a young man, he has been striving for some of the same goals he strives for today and teaches in his classes. His understanding of the coursework as well as his broad expanse of knowledge on various topics lends itself well to his classes and provides him with an excellent knowledge base to draw on during discussion.

Who are you and where are you from?

I was born at a very young age in Long Island, New York. I grew up in a Leavitt house, that was one of the original post-World War Two mass-produced housing developments. It had a lot of history in it, but at the same time, it was kind of a dismal place. So I was given reason, pretty early on, to think about my environment. I was close to the beach and New York City, but there were some other things that made me think it wasn’t the kind of environment where human beings should be. It wasn’t a place I wanted to be, not because of my family but because of the environment. So from early on, I was spurred to think of some of these bigger questions about how we organize ourselves. I think I’m still asking some of those same questions. 

I went to Queens College and didn’t quite know what I wanted to do there. I was torn between two things, geology, and art, neither of which I ended up doing. I spent two years as a music major and ultimately switched majors to get my degree in art history. I went to MIT, did my graduate work, and got another degree in art history in the School of Architecture and Planning, which in many ways fit my growing interests in the environment and how we organize our lives. Along the way I studied a lot of sociology and political philosophy, working up a broad background and seeing all of these things closely related to one another. I taught in Lowell in the Department of Cultural Studies, which suited my interests in art history as well as sociology and politics. In a roundabout way, that’s how I got here and I’m still teaching Politics and Art. 

How would you say that other people describe you? Students? Other Teachers?

How others describe me depends on what moment of life we’re talking about, and who we’re talking to. What I hear from students is that I’m pretty laid back and that I sometimes go on tangents in class. I do go on tangents and I tend to try to let them develop if I feel they’re closely related to what we’re talking about. It allows me to be more fluid and fitting to what the student’s interests are, especially when it’s not in my slides or in my brain coming to class. It’s often a choice for me to let certain tangents run if I think there’s something we need there and shut others down if I really don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. 

People who start talking to me about arts and culture, and what my tastes are may call them eclectic or weird sometimes. I don’t always keep up with what’s going on in mainstream culture as closely as others. I felt an obligation to watch the same TV shows as other people are watching, like Game of Thrones, but would prefer to watch some kind of weird movie instead, like Videodrome, that many of my peers and other students hadn’t seen, and the same goes for music.

In some contexts, people would think I’m some kind of weirdo and other stuff like that. On the other hand, I’ve realized that being a weirdo has always helped me in life and that in the past I’ve tried to pass as a bit more normal. I think we all do that to some extent. We all have our different personas and we project them in different places. We try to stay true to who we are but also have to be kind of malleable to be in different contexts of what people’s expectations are. I don’t try to hide who I am, but I often feel there are certain parts I keep more guarded in certain contexts.

What do you believe is your biggest Strength or Weakness as a professor?

I think my biggest strength and my biggest weakness go hand in hand. I think I’m good at listening to people and encouraging them to have a voice and to speak honestly and openly in class. I believe this has also led to some of the work I’m going to be doing in Lowell, which is about interacting with underrepresented communities and speaking about their backgrounds. My weakness is that I really love to talk. It’s tempting to just walk into a classroom and talk for an hour and 40 minutes easily about a topic and not let anyone else get in a word edgewise because I am so passionate about certain things.

What could someone expect from one of your classes?

You can expect a lot of discussions on various topics pertaining to political science with tangents, especially in connection to current events. There’s a few group projects you do over a period of a couple weeks before you present. It’s a very easy class as long as you pay attention and aren’t on your phone constantly. I often try to bring in current events because it makes the stuff we’re talking about feel more relevant. I don’t tend to like exams, as I am not certain that an exam is the best way to measure what I want you to learn by the end of the class and encourage the learning that brings about those outcomes.

What classes do you teach this semester and what will you teach next semester?

This semester, I am teaching two sections of Politics and Art. Next semester, I’ll be teaching one section of Politics and Art as well as Being an American, which is another political science class. This course asks, what does it mean to identify as an American, What is a national identity, and how does it relate to nationalism or patriotism? Who do we exclude from the category of Americans when our politicians start throwing around terms like ‘real American,’ which is often meant to explicitly deny certain individuals the status of being a real American? This course will be about American identity, national identity, and the dangers of such things. Part of it will be about citizen engagement and being an active American by getting involved.

How does one do well in your class?

By keeping up with the work. I do focus on writing essays over exams and such. I prefer to give a good amount of work and say, ‘If you do all the work I’m asking of you, are prepared for discussions, come to class, complete all the assignments, and put an effort in, you’ll probably get a decent grade.’ If you put that effort in, complete the writing on a regular basis, and do it earnestly, you will be learning something about the topic.

What is something you recommend every student do in college?

Broadly, getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing different people and activities and culture, perhaps in the process learning more about yourself comparatively, to meet other cultures, and perhaps even change a bit about who you are as you learn about different possibilities for living in this world.

In Plymouth, any you have the ability and no issues with water and things like that, then go for a float down the Pemi in a tube. I think that can be a lot of fun, and people should experience what New Hampshire has to offer. Obviously, a lot of people come here for the outdoor experiences of tubing the Pemi, or skiing or hiking and all that sort of stuff. Even if you’re not into that kind of stuff, try it out while you’re here. It is at least one good way to connect with something different even outside of people.

John Christ currently works as a political science professor who teaches a Politics and Art class this semester as well as teaching Being an American next semester. These classes play into his real-world experiences from living in Long Island as well as his extensive academic background. He acts in the community as the Chair of the Planning Board as well as working in Lowell with new immigrant groups. This work will be finding ways to integrate the cultural heritage of these underrepresented groups into the town and parks through working with the National Parks Service. He was specifically recruited for this job, which is why he will be teaching less next semester.