I am sharing a two-part piece from a paper I wrote entitled Getting Real About Whiteness in Independent Schools. I broke away from script just a bit in the reading of this primarily due to length. The goal of course is to show a historical relationship dating back to the 1960s about why many African-American teachers are pronounced liberal in their construct. In this segment, I start in a more philosophical fashion denoting a mere semblance of black identity. In the second segment, I will delve into the more recent elements of the shaping of the black faculty member.
Category Archives: Independent Schools
The National Association of Independent Schools 25th annual People of Color Conference is coming up in December. Last year I delivered a session that addressed a major topic of a paper drafted. I wanted to further the conversation more, thus I submitted an abstract from a second piece discussing the historical and anthropological perspectives on race and independent schools. It was accepted a few months ago. Here is an edited version of my abstract regarding the session:
Title: Getting Real About Whiteness in Independent Schools
Abstract: The notion of whiteness, in which one believes the world is color blind, teaches us that race does not matter. However, blackness cries out that race does exist; it does matter, but is often silenced by the pressures of our environment. Both of these concepts tend to be the underlying assumptions that are pervasive in predominately white independent schools. This session will delve into the various change agents that predominately white independent schools must embrace in order to cultivate a true appreciation of multiculturalism. Research for this session was drawn from historical literature that analyzes trends in race, culture, and society… as well as from anthropological arguments.
2011 People of Color Conference
|December 1 – December 3, 2011
Pennsylvania Convention Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA2011 People of Color Conference
PoCC 2011 We the People: Painting Our New Mural of Community
Student Diversity Leadership Conference
I managed to get my application and brief abstract submitted to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) for their annual People of Color Conference; I have so much data and have put so much work into this project. It was “very” difficult describing my work in just 1,000 characters — which was the max permitted on the application. The conference will be held in Philadelphia from December 1 – 3. I should hear if my abstract is accepted come late July. I am very excited about this project and am hopeful to share my work with others who too share my interest.
My Title: A Vanishing Identity: Exploring How Independent Schools Promote Cultural Change
To be completely transparent, the two gentlemen above are friends and soul brothers I met while speaking on religious pluralism during a campus chapel forum earlier this year; I have stayed in contact with them, but they are not campus colleagues. In an ideal world, schools would plaster such a gathering of folks of color as noted in the picture above. Independent schools face a great challenge in creating a kaleidoscope of teachers. Of course, schools and other organizations must be aggressive in seeking out faculty members of color. Back in 2003 when I was living in Little Rock, Arkansas…I gave a presentation on the natural state of education through the lens of teachers of color. I expanded that presentation into a conference paper that I delivered in 2005 at the College Board’s regional meeting. In that session, I drew data from Pearl Rock Kane and Alfonso J. Orsini’s work, The Colors of Excellence.
In it, the authors stated that those members of color that responded to their survey, 65% were employed at their current school for 5 years or less. The interesting fact, according to this survey, was that 86% intended on remaining in the education profession, but not at their current school. Here are the reasons why:
- a desire to be in a more diverse setting
- feelings of isolation
- to be supported more due to cultural factors
- job advancement
- low salary
I am blessed and fortunate to know that I am at a great, but not perfect school. As I get ready to engage and participate in a forum regarding faculty members of color, the above matters will be at center. We will also address ways in which folks of color can do a better job educating their community on matters central to us. Diversity is paramount when it comes to education. In truth, I believe that the presence of teachers of color on campus speaks volumes about a school. As noted in my 2003 presentation, getting teachers of color is not easy; it is a very competitive process. Not only must schools entice such folks froth other professions, but they must compete against other schools. Diversity is complex. It does not happen in a year, but signs of progress do. This is more than a matter of academics. While working on an ad hoc diversity committee at HCHS, I served with a board member who is also a lawyer. We discussed the efforts his firm takes in recruiting and retaining lawyers of color. This went as far as being active at black colleges, and attending job fairs hosted by the National Black Law School Association (BLSA).
Last year, I gave a speech on campus to students about the threat of careerism. That is, seeking an education for the purpose of acquiring a job in a single and narrow fashion. I warned students against this. I advised them to pursue their passions, but do so for the sake of learning. In return, the skills acquired by way of seeking knowledge will reward them for their commitment toward understanding ideas. In a recent article published by Inside Higher Education, the author notes that too many teachers and universities have become too corporate. My public school colleagues believe that private schools are the most corporate entities around. They contend that private schools cave too often to misinformed parents, donors, and unmotivated affluent students. They blame the matter on a sense of false prestige by lower-tirer schools, and a system of legacy by upper-tier schools. In this Q & A, the author notes the problem and sense of entitlement of corporate students here:
Q: Why do you link this trend to the disengagement of students?
A: The corporate model treats students like customers, and as customers they expect services and products for their tuition fees. The services include high grades in return for little effort. The products include guaranteed credentials with a guaranteed value. With this sense of entitlement, most will not prepare for classes, and expect all material to be told to them in simple terms in entertaining classes. What is lost here is the implicit bilateral contract of higher education for students to meet their teachers “halfway.” When students put out the effort to partner with professors in the teaching/learning process, classes assume their proper place as the “tip of the iceberg” of learning rather than the “iceberg.” Programs that require students to learn only in classes — thereby misleading students that classes are the “iceberg of learning” — are little more than (pseudo-) vocational high schools. We now have many universities where a “culture of disengagement” prevails and students in this culture have a sense of “entitled disengagement” never found before in institutions of higher learning (i.e., while grade inflation and disengagement can be found in the past, never have both simultaneously occurred in such proportions and been condoned by universities).
But it is not just the students who are disengaged. Many faculty members are also, and following recent savage cuts to budgets, so too are many university staff members. In Ivory Tower Blues, we tied disengagement to the wider culture of entitlement and empowerment. Now in Lowering Higher Education, we can more clearly see the disengagement on the professors’ side as the corporate culture has come to eclipse what was formerly a quite special “job.”
You can read the entirety of this piece here.
While doing some reading on why the Christian School Movement is now dead , I have listed the following as my conclusion:
1.) It grew out of religious fundamentalism and weak academics.
2.) After Brown v. Board in 1954, racism championed its cause. Many southern churches opened their basements and Sunday school classes to allow parents an option. Many parents from the South sought options that would protect their interest from that of the federal government. By creating a school in a church, the federal government could not invoke its voice.
3.) The movement promoted and endorsed unqualified teachers. Many were not academics, but Sunday school teachers with a single agenda.
4.) Fundamentalism has shifted to the home school movement due to the financial uncertainty of the schools that made up this movement, and the limited options of other types of Christian schools that did not compromise to an overly conservative audience. Today many Christian schools seek to expand the knowledge of students by recruiting an elite faculty. Of course, such faculty members tend not to have a singular agenda. Many are highly academic. Case in point: This creates a conflict between the mission of parents who believe Bible classes should be taught like a Sunday school class, and not like an academic discipline.
5.) It lacks racial, cultural, and intellectual diversity. With small endowments and the inability to raise money, schools of this movement fail to attract a diverse population. Such schools also struggle in attracting faculty members that are both racially, politically, and intellectually diverse.
As noted in Pearl Kane and Alfonso Orsini’s work, The Colors of Excellence:
People of color, be they African-American, Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern or whatever ethnic group, have spent years discovering their roots, developing a keen pride in their heritage, and accepting who they are. So don’t expect the current crop of prospective faculty to fit into your conservative profile. Many of them will not, and, frankly, I don’t think they should even try! Is that shocking? Is that unacceptable to you and your clientele? Then, perhaps, diversity is really not for you. If a turban or a dashiki pants suit offends, then so will diversity! Diversity by definition implies that the status quo will be upset.
6.) Schools try to be and function like a church. Thus, there are too many single denominational schools with little academic focus. A school cannot be nor should it be a church.
7.) Status usurped that of faith. Some parents have learned that schools cannot be a church. Schools must be institutions that offer the greatest opportunity for the future success of their student. Thus, it is the job of parents to teach their faith, not a school. Now, this does not mean a school should lack a spiritual component. Many of the best sectarian and nonsectarian schools in the nation offer this.
8.) Schools of this movement invested poorly. They were satisfied with sub par facilities and little to no endowment. Because of race and the radicalism of the 1960s, the movement lacked a vision beyond that of dogmatism. In essence, their alums were not in a position to contribute to the present cause of the school.
9.) Pluralism is highly significant to the 21st century student. Schools of this movement tend to subscribe to a wholly protective way of thinking.
Disclaimer: I am not talking about Christian schools here; I am more concerned with the movement born out of the 1950s. Schools like Houston Christian and the Wesleyan School of Atlanta are grounded in the Christian faith; however, they seek a much wider mission than those of the Christian School movement. Keep in mind that a school can be religious and academic. But, the school’s mission must call for it.
The topic of faith and race is one of great interest to me. I want to use this post to jump-start an online discussion of Divided by Faith. The above topic fits in very well with much of Emerson’s historical analysis. If you are interested in participating in this forum, I will use the following two dates as days to address the book: February 10th (Intro. to Ch 5), and February 24th (Ch. 6 to conclusion. The work is not very long. I believe the first 5 chapters are only 93 pages long. Fire me an email or leave a comment if you think you would like to participate. I will open the discussion with my own reflections from the reading. Then, I hope to have some conversations not just about the book, but about Christian education, Christian schools, nonsectarian independent schools (many grew out of racism too), and faith. You can order it here. Below is a summary of the work:
Here is a summary:
Both religion and race have played important — and sometimes deeply interconnected — roles in American history. Religion was used to justify both slavery and abolition; likewise it was used to justify both segregation and desegregation. Today even conservative Christians support equality between the races, but that doesn’t mean that everything is settled or peaceful. In truth, evangelical Christianity continues to reinforce racial divides.
There was an interesting conversation on Houston’s Sports Talk 790 yesterday. The host discussed problems facing the NFL’s professional team, the Indianapolis Colts; if you do not follow pro football or pro football talk, here is the basic break down. The Colts have been one of the most dominant teams over the past ten years. Furthermore, one consistent reason for said success is that of its star quarterback, Peyton Manning. Though Manning has been brilliant throughout his pro career, he has struggled some of late; in his defense, Manning has been operating with a patchwork of players around him due to injuries. I say all of this to draw my thoughts back on what the sports talk host alluded to. When a team promotes from within, often there is a vacuum in which the new leader is unable to fill. For the Colts, they promoted Jim Caldwell, a coach I think much of and one I greatly respect; however, he has had it easy until now. He inherited a team from Tony Dungy; a team with many of the same parts in place. The problem is too much continuity. He has faced a wall this season and has not found a way to deal with its challenge. Caldwell is a religious man, one who speaks softly and carries himself in the same light as that of his predecessor.
However, the challenge Caldwell faces with the Colts this season is a reason why top-tier institutions avoid inbreeding. In academic circles, the notion of academic inbreeding has a negative connotation. It promotes a sense of safety and an element of conservatism. It follows the law in that what is best is what is known. Any thought of deviating from conservative decisions is irresponsible. But, conservative thinking in hiring also promotes cultural and intellectual stagnation. Thus, many top-tier institutions believe that it is best to hire from outside rather than promote from within. Often times, promoting from within stifles growth and curiosity; it does not allow a leader to truly be a leader; he/she tends to fall back on the same patterns that already exists. My current school has started its search for a new academic leader. We are in the process of conducting a national search via a search firm, which is the responsible thing to do. This, in my opinion, is how top-tier schools function.
As for Harding University, it is no longer a secret that its current president will be stepping down very soon; I would like to encourage its board to break away from its third tier mentality in promoting from within. Please do not hire a current faculty member. I am sure there are a number of great candidates, but will they offer the type of political and intellectual diversity lacking at Harding?
Yesterday afternoon, I participated in a gathering at HCHS that honored many of the areas top middle school students. The event focused on the many accomplishments of young leaders. Moreover, our Associate Director of Admissions, Chip Neuenschwander, did an outstanding job. His communication skills and energy level are highly impressive. Many of our visiting students will also benefit from a merit scholarship in the amount of $2000 per year if they elect to attend HCHS. In part, this is an excellent way to continue HCHS outreach to highly accomplished academic students. This also allows HCHS to focus on its development of future leaders via its Passport to Lead Program.
Two HCHS students spoke to perspective parents and students at last night’s meeting. (Pictured L to R: Students Andrea Ferguson and Chris Tutunjian with Chip Neuenschwander). Both students pointed to the diversity of venues found at HCHS. Such venues can be found in academics, spiritual life, and extracurricular endeavors. I was impressed with their anecdotes and leadership. One matter that has emerged of late among independent schools is the topic regarding scholarships: need vs. merit; I addressed this topic some here on an earlier post.
The endowment of Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire last year surpassed $1 billion, making it one of the richest educational institutions in the United States – richer than many universities.
Exeter’s 619-acre campus has two swimming pools, two hockey rinks and the largest secondary-school library in the world.
In a shift that reflects the moves of some universities, Exeter now promises to pay the full cost of attendance for students whose families earn less than $75,000 a year.
Tyler C. Tingley, Exeter’s principal, says schools like his compete to enroll the best students.
I have blogged a great deal about the importance of faculty diversity, and why school leadership must make it an absolute priority when recruiting and retaining bright faculty members of color. Better yet, this topic will remain high on my priority list, as it has for a number of top-tier independent schools. Thus, it is one of the reasons why I have been so involved with teachers of color programs, as they tend to focus on topics related to hiring, nurturing, promoting, and retaining a diverse faculty. (see earlier post here). There is nothing worse than reading about schools that discuss the importance of faculty diversity, but lacks the faculty composition to back it up. Moreover, the same can be said of a diverse student body. Recently while hard at work, or hard at goofing off … you decide, a number of young ladies from one of the courses I teach came by to take a picture with me. After looking at this picture, I could not help but think about the degree of student diversity we have here at Houston Christian. As is the case at any institution, you always want more. I promised these young ladies pictured below a post, and here it is. This is a great group of young ladies. And, it is always fun discussing topics of school diversity with them; it seems to be a frequent topic.
Pictured: (L to R) Alex Bui, Alaina Urbantke, Priya Chacko, Daniell Milton, Lane Walla, Kaimyn Kinkade. The doll is of W.E.B. Du Bois.
This article here explains the challenges of diversity as it relates to students. Ascertaining a diverse faculty is challenging, but far easier than doing so in the student body. Schools must commit to a diverse faculty.
While private schools can’t discriminate on the basis of race, they can be choosy about which students they accept, especially if they don’t accept any federal funding. Some schools require high admission test scores. Some will not accept students with disabilities or students who can’t speak English or those who have had previous discipline problems at other schools.
As a result, private school student bodies tend to be higher performing and fairly homogenous.
In 2004, 76.5 percent of private school students were white, compared with just 57.4 percent of public school students, according to NCES. Locally, private schools report only 6 to 8 percent of their student enrollment as minority, compared to 20.6 percent in Knox County Schools, according to the 2009 Tennessee State Report Card.
Minority achievement is higher overall in private schools than in public schools, according to the 2003 Nation’s Report Card, although there is still a gap between white and minority achievement levels.
One private school locally that attracts a larger than average minority enrollment is First Lutheran School, one of the city’s oldest private schools. Located close to downtown Knoxville on Broadway, it has about 15 percent minority students. “(We) fare very well on standardized tests – (we) score in the seventieth to eightieth percentile in the nation,” said interim principal Tim Wolfram. The school gives the Stanford Achievement Test and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test each year.
“It has such a spirit and vibe about it. I like the caring, loving atmosphere. I like the unity there, and the diversity,” said Patrick Randolph, a parent of two students there. Randolph, who is black, attended First Lutheran as a child and now drives his two sons from their South Knoxville home every day to the school on his way to work.
Randolph pointed out that the school’s uniforms serve as an equalizer among students.
“The kids get a great education there. Nobody sees each other as a race or as a class,” said Randolph. “Everybody has the same white shirt, same blue jacket.” (Source)
Most who know me get that I have a great passion for intellectual, economic, religious, and racial diversity. I am currently working on a few things that relates to the importance of diversity in independent schools; I am most excited about the hopes of being able to mentor and be mentored by other academics of color who are leaders in their field. The National Association of Independent Schools has made diversity its mission, as noted here:
“The NAIS board affirms the following for the People of Color Conference (PoCC) sponsored by NAIS: PoCC should be designed for people of color as it relates to their roles in independent schools. Its programming should include offerings that support people of color as they pursue strategies for success and leadership. Its focus should be on providing a sanctuary and networking opportunities for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities.” — NAIS board of trustees, November 2006
NAIS addresses two important needs at PoCC and SDLC: the need for people of color to come together for networking and support, and the need for schools to find ways to build and sustain inclusive communities. Both PoCC and SDLC serve as energizing, revitalizing gatherings for people who experience independent schools differently. Teachers, students, and administrators of color from across the nation and from foreign countries, along with Caucasian/White allies and participants, gather to celebrate, nurture, and activate representative diversity, multiculturalism, and equity and justice for independent schools. PoCC brings together a diverse group of people from independent schools: Asian/Asian Americans, Black/African Americans, First Nation/Indigenous/Native Americans, International Participants, Latino/Hispanic Americans, White/Caucasian/European Americans. Together, they share the challenges and rewards central to their experiences in independent schools. Robert Witt, executive director of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS), said it best when he reflected on his experience at the 2002 PoCC (Chicago): “We learned that the People of Color Conference is a community with a sense of belongingness. We learned that it is a community, which is a safe place to express one’s own self among dear friends and colleagues. There is a goodness and a caring, a breathing in and a breathing out, which creates a harmony and a sense of something very nurturing and very healing.”
The Christian Scholars’ Conference yesterday at Lipscomb University was great; it is not officially over until Saturday. The panel I served on gave a presentation on social networking in the academy. Dr. Mark Elrod, professor of political science at Harding University, chaired our panel. The chemistry of the panel worked well. I sensed no egos among the group. Furthermore, each member’s humbleness and desire to hear the rest of the panel was clearly noted. I believe the chemistry of the group derived from a common purpose: A.) Mark Elrod, every one’s favorite professor while a student in the history/ political science department at Harding, chaired the panel B.) We all know each other in some way: Jeff Baker of Faulkner University, Michael Lasley of Pepperdine University, and Jim Miller of Harding University – all graduated with me in the late nineties C.) There is a Church of Christ relationship due to the religious nature of our Christian backgrounds and our interest in Christian education. In the end, we all have academic jobs at schools we enjoy teaching at.
Professor Elrod opened the session by addressing the purpose of social networking and academic work in the academy; he outlined his talk by stating three points:
- If you are going to blog, find an arena that works. He went on to state that in the technology world of today, there are two populations. The first being technology immigrants (people such as me who did not use the Internet until college), and technology natives (the students I teach).
- If one seeks to blog, should it be public or private? I have elected to make my blog public, realizing that at times I post topics that might be unpopular – though that is never my intent. This point here lends itself to the title of my paper: The Harkness of the Faculty.
- Should one be open or anonymous?
Professor Jeff Baker discussed the impact of social networking on the position of authority. His premise dealt with the democratization social networking brings to the academy. Hence, how and to what extent might such a medium like Facebook redefine the relationship between teacher and student? Because Jeff teaches at a law school, he mentioned as well as the other panelist, that social networking has become a teaching tool. He finds himself teaching 24/7 due to the legal clinic he directs. Others stated very few students come by for face-to-face time during their campus hours of availability.
Above: I have dropped an additional 15 lbs in my quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon. My jacket is huge. Here I am pontificating about the nature of academic work within the confines of teaching at a Christian school. I spoke a great deal about blogging and why I blog, as noted here. I am expanding this topic for the NAIS conference to address the significance of faculty autonomy and voice within an independent school community. I might touch on topics such as faculty retirement and its meaning to school culture, as discussed here. I will co-author a paper and deliver a presentation on this matter at NAIS with Donald Morrison, an upper school administrator at Tampa Prep.
I started my paper off by addressing three basic questions when it comes to academic blogging:
- What are the challenges non-tenured academics and those who exist on a year-to-year contract face when deciding to blog?
- What are the main concerns facing academics who decide to expose their identity?
- What impact might blogs have on one seeking tenure or to obtain a position at a Christian institution?
In my introduction, I stated:
Addressing matters of faculty, academic voice, tenure, and promotion has long been an interest of my blog; I do believe that good schools — be it a university, boarding, or day school can be measured in status by the intellectual freedom and voice permitted on its campus. Honestly, this is what separates schools from one tier to the next. Often time schools want to break into the top-tier of schools not realizing that it is the collection of faculty members that makes a school … as well as a healthy endowment and good students. Furthermore, the promotion of ideas and diversity of thought promotes a democratic campus in which decisions are made by committee and the faculty. This concept has long shared a role with social networking and independent thought.
In Preparation for this paper, I sent out a survey assessing the extent to which faculty members at independent schools participate in academic networking and academic life. On my campus I found that 55% of teachers rarely read journals in their field, while 35% do so but frequently. 10% never read journals. Many teachers at HCHS prefer books to that of journals. In truth, I read three different journals in my field, but I do so as a means of reading book reviews. As much as I read, I do not read as much as my students think I read. They ask me how I know so much about so many recent works. I honestly tell them that I read book reviews. Faculty members collectively stated that they do attend conferences and seek them as an important means of communicating with others in their field. Moreover, the content and information gained from attending conferences contributes not only to their own intellectual growth, but it serves as an important means toward how they approach their teaching. 40% of my colleagues stated that they attend conferences annually and with great interest. While, only 15% stated they do not due to time constraints and financial matters.
The most interesting part of the survey I conducted for this paper dealt with electronic networking. While a number of faculty members still maintain most of their academic contacts through email, students have shifted away from this medium as a means of communication. Students prefer Facebook or texting to that of email. 90% of my colleagues stated that they prefer email to Twitter and Facebook. Though, most did state that they are not familiar with Twitter. 85 % of all faculty members I surveyed nationally were either very familiar or familiar with Facebook. 70% of all faculty members including those on my campus stated that they use Facebook, but not for academic networking. Thus, discussing the nature of politics of Aristotelian theology is not a Facebook topic. On the other hand, administrators and campus leaders view Facebook as a means of maintaining contact with alums and perspective students.
In professor Stephanie Eddleman’s paper, she noted that academic blogging is a means of sharing both her faith and teaching interest with students. Her blog is an extension of her classroom, as noted by all members of the panel. Blogs can be used to enhance one’s research, teaching, and ability to communicate with students and colleagues in a non-traditional venue, as noted by professor Lasley — who likes to use blogs as teaching a tool when it comes to writing. But this too brings about challenges when discussing academic life and academic work. Professor Jim Miller of Harding University, pointed out that a recent study found that students and many adults experience withdraw to the likes of being an alcoholic, when asked to give up emails, Twitter, blogging, and texting for a day. Jeff Baker commented that he and his wife have even adopted “social network” talk as part of their vocabulary. Case in point: professor Baker stated that they “check-in” before retiring for the night. Hence, to update their status and see what others are doing.
I. The Run
I was set to do an 18 mile training run this morning before work, but I got up way too late to get cover the miles. But, I feel great after doing a 15 mile training run at a 7:55 pace.
II. The Exam
I gave my last final today; it was for one section of world history. I assigned mucho writing questions. Better yet, the entire exam was an endurance test on hand cramping. Lots of writing was expected; okay, that was not the case for some. Just about done marking them.
III. As I write, I am expecting a call from the Dean of Faculty at a Tampa school who has agree to do some writing with me for the National Association of Independent School conference; we are in the drafting stage right now. I am excited to be working with an established leader in independent schools on this endeavour. I hope to blog more on this.
I will be joining the rest of the faculty for tonight’s class of 2010 commencement ceremony.
I most recently found myself engaged in an interesting conversation with a colleague and friend who teaches at a New England boarding school. The topic that emerged is one that I never considered: What happens to the faculty member once he/she retires? Sure, I have some time, but the extent of a faculty relationship to his or her campus once retired is an intriguing one. I realize that in most areas of employment, the worker moves on; however, I hope the climate of education and academic work never draws the same comparison; folks teach because it is not the real world, nor should it be. The real world sucks!
Though I do not have the miles under me when it comes to teaching and being a faculty member, I have witnessed over the years how some schools treat highly devoted faculty members once they decide to retire, or are forced to retire. My New England friend stated that a measure of treatment towards the retired faculty can be found on a campus at any given moment. Case in point: She mentioned to me that she desires boarding life at her school because she will be assured a place on campus once she retires; she will have access to its library, archives, athletic facilities, an office to work, and she will be permitted to reside in her current campus house.
However, it is this point that caught my attention: If your school cannot hold on to faculty members or if there is no desire for them to stay, then by time a faculty member approaches retirement, one might not know any of the surrounding faces (his or her colleagues). She went on to state that a measure of the retired faculty and its relationship with the campus can be seen in age; how often do you see older retired faculty members on campus and participating in campus life? What role does a school hold for those who are no longer actively employed, but who seek to contribute to the growth and tradition of the school?
I must confess that I have never considered any of this. I believe the topic of the “retired faculty” is one that all schools need to visit. At my previous school, I watched them destroy its relationship with one of the most respected and legendary faculty members there. Its focus was on the now. There was no “sense” of tradition or legacy for the position of the “faculty member.” Though I promised I would not mention my New England friend or her school by name, she told me that her campus at one point was very cold; it operated too much like a Fortune 500 company instead of a place seeking to expand its intellectual and cultural vitality. It took their faculty senate to showcase why her campus needed to change. In the end, there has been a greater shift toward the position of being a “faculty member” rather than a mere skeleton. Thus, making retirement worth seeking.
I posted an article a year or so ago about students of color and independent schools. My friend and colleague, John Lewis, one of three African-American faculty members on campus, and who teaches in the Bible Department, offers a response to race and its significance; I encourage you to read the above link at some point on students of color and the Black Alcove. Below is John Lewis talking with colleagues before commencement. Lewis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Race matters! It is idealistic to believe that we have grown so far where race, as defined by ethnicity, color, texture, cultural nuances, even musical genre doesn’t matter in America. Race matters in public places, private spaces and that includes public schools and private, Christian educational enclaves like Houston Christian High School. I somehow still long for; hope for; pray for a day of reckoning for those who violate the delicate hearts and spirits of people who yet endure racism, discrimination, and hatred in its many disguises. I shall wait perhaps as long as forever. I am not a pessimist to be sure- but my optimism with regard to the heart of man, (non-gender), is tempered with realism: people in America, especially those who profess Christ as Lord create more damage than any overt act of racism heralded by the likes of a Klu Klux Klansman when they employ conceited, willful, collusion to carry out their systematic practices to deny people of color equal access under the law.
The nation in which we live continues to ignore the meaningful data that suggests very clearly how little our advances have been in almost every area of the American way of life. Race Matters! The fact that it must still be discussed is a signal that [it] does. We cannot seem to grasp that something fundamentally flawed in our spiritual psyche when one man of color, the late Thurgood Marshall was replaced with another man of color, Clarence Thomas-matters not their political distinctions or judicial loyalties. There remains just one person of African-American descent on the highest court in our land. Race Matters when Antonin Scalia remains the only Italian-American on the court. It matters when there is the newly appointed, sole Hispanic-origin Justice now serving on the same high court. Spare me the court’s make-up represents a microcosm of our society” defense. It states in its own way that there aren’t but a few qualified black justices. Worse, we can only tolerate one at a time. These examples represent only a microcosm of the embedded practices of racism and discrimination still prevalent throughout our country.
We, at Houston Christian High School, still must face in new creative designs; the harboring nature of sin at its worse- when those who employ the name of Christ at the same time misuse one of His own choosing…and for what cause? It should be possible to discover somewhere in an ocean of 3.5 million people qualified, financially robust, politically connected, corporate gurus, reasonably well-connected in society with high school aged children that happen to be of color to join the family. I know that our admissions office do a great job in presenting the virtues of this school and its people. But our numbers are anemic in diversity- that’s just keeping it real. When you can count the number of students of color at any school with low-level arithmetic, you haven’t overcome the hurdle of racial matters.
Most preschoolers can count to 12. When you can count faculty of color with the speed of sound rhythm, then you haven’t overcome. It’s simple really. Race matters today as it did yesteryear. It will matter tomorrow. I suppose it is healthy in some sense to speak of it within the context of hopeful expectation. It is encouraging for me personally to hear some of our young students chime in on this issue. They still represent for me the innocent voice in our colored past.
I love and enjoy teaching social and cultural history to that of political history; I am sure this comes as a bit of a surprise in that many of my blog posts address political matters; however, I like to relate the political to venues and constructs related to elements of gender and race. And to an extent, it is difficult to ignore the impact of religious history. Much like my love of art, I avoid the technical elements that relate to paint and style; instead, I prefer to relate art to the historical periodization that promulgated it. This is true of religion, too. I, as is the case for many historians, prefer to address the impact of religion on culture. This affects the political as well. My interest in religious history greatly relates to my interest in African-American studies. As an active member of the American Historical Association, I receive one of their journals entitled Perspectives. In a recent issue, author Robert Townsend addresses the increase in religious history. According to Townsend:
A significant number of the respondents also described the renewed attention to religion as an extension of the methods and interests of social and cultural history—noting a growing interest that extended back to E.P. Thompson. A number of the specialists noted that social historians had highlighted the interests of common people and cultural historians had supplied the tools for studying the influence of religion, but until recently, much of the work treated religion as aberrant. There was a perception that this left a significant opening for new research that treated religion on its own terms.
I am not a biblical scholar, nor do I pretend to be one; much of what I do focuses on religion in the context of both historical analysis and philosophical theory. This past Sunday while attending a religious service, the speaker focused on the topic of reaching heaven not by faith or by believing in Jesus Christ, but by the actions of faith, such as baptism. In doing so, the speaker went on to list a number of verses regarding the actions of Christians in a secular society. I have long wondered why churches focus much of their time dropping and quoting scripture? Do not get me wrong, there is a place for this; however, Christians seem to interpret scripture in vastly different ways. Hence the vast number of different denominations. To me, this is a simple process. I think it is more important to look at what Christians and other people of different beliefs do and have done to address societal vice and ills as an active interest of WORKS. I did not completely agree with the speaker. His talk is a denominational matter — one in which he contends is the WAY. Of course, if he is correct, then there are a number of practicing Christians that are wasting their time because their way is not the right way. Thus it is here that religious history plays a major part. Academics must teach the importance of religious pluralism in a diverse world. Religious instruction at religious schools must avoid guiding curriculum in a narrow and directive way. Religious schools are not churches nor should they take on that role; in doing so, it opens Pandora’s box: Thus, in what way and to what extent are students permitted to think freely about faith and the impact of religion? Historians have a duty to be objective as well.
My friend and colleague Stephen Hebert has been discussing the direction of our Bible Department on his blog; he wrote a post regarding what he deems to be the best direction for a department teaching religion; I should make it clear that the emphasis is more on the Bible and less on religious studies. However, according to members in the Bible department, after they visited a number of other independent schools, the consensus from those schools was this: a school is not a church but a place to study religion and how it impacts the lives of people and societies; I agree with this. It is a dangerous game to play when “folks” want to assign a church label to an institution of learning. In doing so, such an assignment limits the processes of free inquiry and intellectual thought. Case in point: the speaker this past Sunday on his message regarding how one gets to heaven. This was presented from one view-point… his denominational position instead of a more universal process. I say this only because there are Protestants that believe one can get to heaven without baptism. The speaker did not see it this way. This is a matter that divides Christians in how they worship.
An issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a piece by Stephen Prothero on the religious ignorance of Americans; he did a nice job addressing how some liberal Americans are quick to anger when the Christian right states that homosexuality is wrong, but do not know why they hold such views. Moreover, those who are a part of the Christian right are quick to claim all Muslims are evil, but have not read the Qu’ran . I have stated this before: All students should be required to take at least a year of required religious studies. This should be the case for both high school and college students. I am not asking for a doctrinal course on how to be Anglican, Baptist, Muslim, Methodist, or Catholic; I am talking about a religious studies course. Even if a person has no faith in a “holy spirit,” part of being educated is being aware of various cultures, beliefs, and norms. Stephen Hawking is a physicist who has devoted much of his time to discovering and understanding black holes. His premise states that if black holes exist, God does not; yet, his religious IQ is not bad. How can he argue against God if he does not know what God has to say. Here is Prothero’s article on religious ignorance. You can read it here; it is pretty good.
A square-table concoction of the Harkness in my class.
Students at school X utilizing the Harkness via what is referred to as the Harkness table.
The post below was written by Tyler Tingley of Phillips Exeter Academy; it addresses both the culture and intellectual vibrant nature that defines one of the oldest American institutions. After graduate school, I quickly adopted this method of classroom instruction; I have been in too many classes in which the instructor stood in front of the class pontificating with little regard to the thoughts and interpretations of students; I find this method to be highly democratic in that it promotes free inquiry. Furthermore, assuming that students are prepared to engage in such discussions, the learning process allows for different voices. This is reflective in my own personal teaching philosophy, which can be read at my webpage. Here is a preview below:
Through the teaching of history, it is my objective to first deconstruct a false knowledge of history by teaching students to build a new synthesis that challenges their prior knowledge. It is at this point in which a teacher and a student work collectively to reconstruct a new historical synthesis. Reconstructionism contends that society is in need of constant reconstruction and change, and such social change involves both a rebuilding of knowledge and how society uses that knowledge to transform the teaching and learning of materialism. Mortimer Adler, who reflects some of the qualities of the realist school of thought, proposed a Paideia method of instruction, which emphasizes a discussion/seminar style of teaching and learning. As opposed to lecture, I find the discussion/seminar method of instruction to be more liberal, hence invoking greater academic freedom of thought. Furthermore, it is here that students focus more on logic, process, synthesis, and analysis over rote memory and conclusion.
Whether it’s English or mathematics, at Phillips Exeter Academy we call all of our classes Harkness classes and our teachers Harkness teachers. Harkness identifies a table you will find at the center of every class, both literally and figuratively. Harkness Tables are oval and seat a dozen students and a teacher, but they are much more than places to sit. Classmates learn by discussing their thoughts and ideas rather than just by taking notes. Teachers participate in discussions and guide students without lecturing.
Harkness Tables originated at Exeter in 1931 when philanthropist Edward Harkness challenged the Exeter faculty to create an innovative way of teaching. The purpose of the Harkness Table was to make class more involving. The 1930s faculty also understood that Harkness Tables would make being smart more fun. They knew that discussing even your least favorite subject around the Harkness Table would make that subject more interesting. But did they know that the Harkness Table would teach students to collaborate rather than compete with each other inside and outside class? And did they know that it would make the whole community respect one another’s ideas and become a safer place to learn and live?
Even though Harkness Tables are in every class, we refer to them as the Harkness Table. That’s because the unique experience of learning at the Harkness Table transcends any individual class.
When I first came to Exeter, I had a conversation with several new students. I asked them why they had come. One senior said, “I wanted to go to a school where everyone was smart and where I could have good conversations.” As principal, that resonated with me. Around the Harkness Table we learn to have intense conversations. When somebody says, “Well, what do you think?” we all have something to say.
A lot of students choose to come here because it’s safe to be smart. When you’re sitting at the Harkness Table, there is a notion of democracy that is characterized by the quality of thoughts, efforts, and enthusiasm. The respect students and teachers feel for one another grows out of being together at the Harkness Table and extends to every aspect of their lives.
Teachers are participants in Harkness discussions and respect the pupil’s perspective. Sometimes parents think this means the teacher isn’t teaching. In fact, the teacher is demonstrating to students how to learn rather than just what to learn. Harkness teachers excel at asking questions that excite inquiry. The more students want to know, the more they learn.
The Harkness Table fosters a sense of collaboration and encouragement that continues when class is over. Students tell me they learn just as much from each other after class as they do in class. “It’s incredible how much you can learn when you’re together instead of apart,” a student said to me. Imagine school like that.
My awesome friend and brilliant colleague, Stephen Hebert, a recent member to the English faculty, has a great post addressing my recent posts to my former student and why its the faculty that makes a school great! Check it out here…. Also, visit his blog.
As I noted in an earlier post, I was very excited to hear from a former student who is concentrating in history and wanted advice on the teaching profession. This student gave me the greatest compliment when she stated “I was inspirational in her career choice.” She will finish graduate school this spring and is open to any geographical region of the country as she seeks a teaching post at an independent school.
My first advice to anyone looking to teach is the most obvious: Know your subject and know it well. Knowledge of subject is the birth of effective teaching. I understand and do realize that courses in educational techniques are important, however, a command for what one teaches supplants all other things. Those of us that have been teaching for years realize the complexities of subject mastery. I am often asked how do I prepare for my classes? Simply — I read. And I read a great deal. I expect my students to read. The reality of course, is that there is always more to be learned. For me, I came to this realization during my very first semester of teaching; I never took courses in the study of world history; I took what might be amply referred to as regional studies. Hence, a course in African history, Western history, and Asian history. But never a course in “world history.” By the end of my first semester, I was way off my course outline and had made it only as far as the end of the classical period (collapse of Rome) by January term
It was at that point that I attended a seminar on “Defining World History” at Northeastern University. If you are like me, your teachers approached this discipline in a very regional way. Thus, by attending this seminar and reading Patrick Manning’s Navigating World History, I concluded that I knew Western history and regional histories, but not global history. Manning defines world history this way:
…is the story of connections within the global human community. The world historian’s work is to portray the crossings of boundaries and the linking of systems in the human past. The source material ranges in scale from individual family tales to migrations of peoples to narratives encompassing all humanity. World history is far less than the sum total of all history. Nevertheless, it adds to our accumulated knowledge of the past through its focus on connections among historical localities, time periods, and themes of study.
Keep in mind, the study of history and any particular field is a life-long journey; I am at times amazed at what I know and how much I still do not know. It is here that a new teacher should seek to engage in professional development that will allow he/she to grow as a knowledgable person. Keep a working curriculum vitae, noting your growth and contributions to your field. Do not just become a clerk, but look to be an active academic: write and submit papers for publication or to share with your colleagues at an association meeting/conference; join an organization such as the World History Association or the American Historical Association. Being a part of such societies will prevent burnout that can occur without the stimulation needed to grow as a teacher. Find a peer to work on a project with, perhaps presenting such work at a conference. Being active serves as an important position for any young teacher looking to expand his or her content knowledge.
The review of Manning’s book states:
Most new history teachers are prepared to teach an upper-level class in their field of research, but are most likely to be asked to do the opposite–to teach a survey of Western Civ or even more startling World Civilization. As a new colleague said in tones of whispered panic, “That’s everywhere, all the time.” Compounding the problem is the institutional disconnect in which surveys of World History are popular.
Being a member of various societies will permit…
- you to receive quarterly academic journals that contain a host of articles, book reviews, and field updates. At times I feel guilty for bypassing the articles and reading the reviews; it is impossible to read every book published. And seeing that on some university campuses people must publish a book to earn tenure, and another to be promoted — there is a lot of bad stuff out there. Thus, I read what I can but I never shy from book reviews; next time you are on campus, I must show you the sad fate of making annotations in the review of books section, which is half of the American Historical Review journal published by the American Historical Association.
- you with conference discounts and updated emails on the field are great.
- a feeling of belonging to something much larger than my campus. This is very important to me seeing that teaching can be the most isolated field on the planet. I have worked to avoid this.
- a sense of excitement as you go towards your campus box to find the most recent copy of a journal there. I get four: American Historical Review, Journal of American History, The History Teacher, and Perspectives. I have yet to renew my subscription to Foreign Affairs — one I need to read that addresses more recent events. I also receive a copy of Independent School and get the Chronicle of Higher Education via my campus library.
Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception.
This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’
Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a “learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.
The Warrior Round Table, a blog maintained by the headmaster at Little Rock Christian School and one that I have been reading for a while, recently drafted four reasons why they will not be viewing President Obama’s stream. You can read that post here. I am curious as to what other schools (public and private) are doing regarding this matter. If you know, chime in here. I know a number of the colleges will be viewing this from what I have gathered from many of my university colleagues. How about your campus Mrs. Chili? What about HCHS, Phenicie?