CJ Robinson, Reporter
Tom McCarthy may appear like an everyday professor, but he holds a past filled with travels, education and political activism.
McCarthy began instructing after earning his master’s degree, teaching English as a second language for a year and a half in both Mexico and former East Germany. This experience
helped to shape him later in life.
“It gave me a broader perspective on life,” McCarthy said. “Teaching English was a way for me to live overseas without having to pay the bills.”
This lead to a wish to continue teaching and the start of his tenure at Pierce College in 2005.
During his graduate program at Saint John’s Community College, McCarthy participated in The Great Books Program, which bases its curriculum around both seminar-based classes and the exclusive use of primary sources. He finds that this education has helped form certain teaching styles.
“That is a great program for critical thinking, so I try to bring as much discussion of ideas into my class as possible,” McCarthy said. “I try to bring in primary resources and have students analyze, evaluate and write about those primary resources.”
Currently English composition instructor at the Puyallup campus, McCarthy specializes in humanities.
McCarthy said he enjoys soccer, hiking, traveling and sailing.
McCarthy recently sailed to the San Juan Islands and back in a small craft advisory, which means for the size of boat that he sails, winds can be unusually difficult to deal with. The aspect that draws him most to sailing is the ability to get out of the city and enjoy quieter moments. Using fairly inexpensive techniques, he sees it as a form of meditation.
“There’s definitely a different personality type of those who prefer motorboats and those who prefer sailboats,” McCarthy said. “And I’m definitely a sailor.”
Included in McCarthy’s hobbies and passion are his political beliefs and demonstrations. He ran a campaign for a position on the Tacoma City Council in 2015. He’s been living in the district he hoped to represent for 10 years. He felt that he could’ve helped Tacoma maintain a clear vision for the city’s future and actualize its potential.
“Tacoma has been the city of destiny without a destination for a hundred years,” McCarthy said. “It’s got so much to offer.”
This was the first time that McCarthy had run for any political office, and he noted the seriousness of the commitment and the fact that politics can be dirty. He also stressed the importance of power and interests in the mind of many politicians, saying that many would do anything to protect them.
He added that low voter turnout, showed that people are feeling disenfranchised and as though they can’t make a difference, letting money and interests run our government.
“The French have a saying that ‘If you don’t do politics, politics will do you,’” McCarthy said.
He takes this saying quite literally, as he’s an avid political demonstrator who has organized several peace rallies in his lifetime. A self-proclaimed “military brat,” he also was stationed in Nuremberg, Germany, for four years during his childhood. This greatly impacted the reasoning behind his civic action, saying that soldiers can’t control where they go or the consequences of the placement. He added that there was often a violation of rights involved in these rallies, citing one incident where he was arrested for littering on a sidewalk.
“I was pulling out demonstration signs and was arrested for littering because I was putting those signs on the side of the road,” McCarthy said.
The charges were dropped, but he expected to have to defend his rights going into it.
McCarthy also encourages students to take an active role in politics.
With the cost of tuition rising, McCarthy said that nothing will change unless students get involved and confront the issue at its core.
McCarthy was awarded Human Rights Champion by the Human Rights Commission in late 2013. McCarthy gives a new perspective on modern-day political activism but also has shown a much more human side of him.
“Things never get better unless people get organized and build a movement to make sure that governments will address their concerns.” McCarthy said.
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