Years ago my brother gave me a copy of "Candide" from a college class of his. I devoured it and searched my high school's Instructional Materials Center (IMC or library)for anything Voltaire wrote. What drew me to him how he used satire to make his point, and that he was willing to take a risk for it, as well as to support the right of others to express an opinion, even if they disagreed with him.
I have taught adjunct courses for nearly 20 years at four institutions in two states in English, history, religious history, and ethics (some friends may smile at the latter one). Over time I thought humankind progressed to better places and higher understandings. Especially after last week's events in and around Paris, I now have some doubts. Certainly there were flashes of humanity, sacrifice, and courage amidst the shock and horror. But we have some ways to go, I fear.
Teaching literature has changed over the years. Not everyone appreciates satire or looking at things that are different, especially if they are out of their comfort zone. We need people like Voltaire who cause us to think, reassess our thoughts, and to move us a little closer to improvement.