Kim Phuc, also known as the girl running naked in the Vietnam picture, spent time with my AP US History class today. We enjoyed her speech and emotional honesty about her faith and journey last night in the Ashburn Chapel.
Brooks’ History Department is hosting all-school speaker Kim Phuc tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapel. Ms. Phuc was a nine-year-old girl living in Vietnam when a napalm bombing changed her life on June 8, 1972. She was captured in a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph as she ran from the bombing site with third degree burns over half her body.
This past Easter Sunday I heard our school minister speak on Jesus as a person who championed diversity. He embraced all people and focused his efforts on love. I am one who greatly appreciates our chaplain’s wisdom, compassion, love, and empathy for all people. I am one who believes in the good of religion, particularly Christianity. I have seen its beauty first hand. Sure, I am not a highly religious person. And, I have just as much doubt as my fellow atheist; however, I have elected to work with Christians who value others and appreciate the beauty of love, empathy, and compassion for others.
My wife and her family represents Christians who love Jesus and believe in such teaching. I am troubled, however, by Christians who see otherwise. Further, I am bothered because they feel empowered to be the ponds of politicians who are playing a game for votes; we have seen this before. The manipulation of people for political gain. Now, there are those who are Christian that have their own agenda. I am sure Christ would warn them against using hate to advance his mission.
On the other hand, I am bothered by non-Christians who group all Christians, Muslims, and Jews together. Many have little to no knowledge of religion. They use poor Christopher Hitchens like examples to dismiss the good of religious people. I have even concluded that they, like some Christians, have their own agenda. And, some but not all is based on silly claims. I am also bothered by their lack of religious understanding.
In the end, I would like both sides to place their own interest aside for the good of love, compassion, empathy, and righteousness in a plural quasi-democratic society. As an academic who is well-balanced in terms of emotions, I have an obligation to help both parties. We shall see.
I am a football fan; I love high school football and the NFL, but I am not much of a college football fan. This post has been on my mind for sometime now. Chris Borland’s recent decision to retire from the NFL after one very successful season reignited my thoughts.
How will the end occur?
The end will not be an overnight occurrence. The process is already underway with a number of former and prominent NFL players filing suit against the NFL. Retired players often cite not being informed of future brain trauma. These players once stated they feared not being able to walk upstairs or get out of bed one day, but many were caught off guard by what is now called CTE, which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
The end will start with little league football players. Parents and guardians are now electing to either wait until their sons and daughters are older to play football, or they are encouraging them not to play. NBA player Lebron James recently announced he would not allow his sons to play football, citing health related concerns. With parents now directing their kids in a different direction, the early talent pool shifts to other sports. Thus, high school programs are the first to feel the impact. Very few middle school students will matriculate to the next level of play, forcing high schools to drop the program for other sports. In states where football is a big deal, the transition will look different. Schools will be reluctant to drop the program, but the talent and level of play will dissipate, creating greater disinterest. Middle class families will be ahead of lower income families due to means and information.
What About Colleges?
Programs outside of the Deep South, California, and Southwest will experience the impact first. However, much like high school programs in areas outside of the Deep South, DI type schools will eventually feel the impact. They will slowly see the decline of 4 and 5 star athletes. This will be noted in their football camps and via scouting. DI programs will recruit athletes they normally would not have recruited in the past. This shift along with declining interest in areas outside of the Deep South, California, and Southwest, will force smaller programs to close. This will later be seen at other levels and schools in different regions.
With a number of former players filing lawsuits and a diminishing pool to draft athletes, the NFL slowly transitions into a stage that looks more like boxing. I suspect the NFL will create programs and use greater safety precautions to garner more interest, but in the end, those actions will fail. Fans of the NFL have already grown concerned and annoyed by changes made. Even NFL players have voiced concerns related to new safety changes.
One player in this ESPN interview had this to say:
“I admire [Borland] for what he did. I admire him for being man enough and smart enough to know what’s more important in life,” Walker told ESPN.com’s Ian O’Connor. “If I had to do it over again, and I knew I’d end up in the amount of pain I’m always in, there’s no way in hell I’d play football again. With all of my injuries, including my neck, I took a chance of breaking my neck and ending up in a wheelchair. I look back and ask, ‘What was I thinking?’ ”
“Every individual has to make his own decision, and there’s so much money to be made these days. But is money more important, or is your life more important? I could never see myself hurting myself, but there have been times when I’ve thought, ‘God, I wish you’d just end this right now.’ I don’t sleep, I’m in constant pain, I haven’t felt my feet in 20 years. I feel like there are times when my whole body shuts down. Sometimes I feel like I’m 90 years old.
“[Commissioner] Roger Goodell is a good friend of mine. But I want the NFL to tell truth about what’s happening with players, and I think they sugarcoat everything.”
As a master history teacher, I would like to take credit for the admissions numbers; in truth, I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with me. I recall legendary Florida Gator coach Steve Spurrier once saying about UF professors, how many folks bought tickets to listen to a science lecture? Though I do not lecture much, I am pretty sure he is talking about my classes too.
This is good news for my classes. See article here.
If you know us ( Janette and I), you know that we believe the GREATEST lie preached is gradualism. We do not operate that way since it promotes stagnant behavior and complacency. Over spring break we are furthering our community efforts by volunteering time and action to be community organizers. We hope to gather folks who will act in a fashion to identify community issues and needs in a way that people will give their free time to eradicate social ill, vice, and hunger.
Here is a paradox: I am not anti fraternities, nor am I pro fraternities. Be it black or white ones, they are unhealthy due to their historical and current levels of de facto segregation. I LOVE how leadership and the OU campus responded to this racist chant about hanging blacks and excluding them. And, clearly a white fraternity member was so outraged that he sent the video to a campus organization. OU’s president stated: “Real Sooners are not bigots, real Sooners are not racist.”
If you have not read how the OC community got behind its president in a galvanized fashion to denounce such immoral actions, give this great article a read.
I am honored to call Leigh Perkins (seated to the left) and Susanna Waters (seated to the right) friends and colleagues. Susanna, who chairs the history dept., and Leigh who teaches in the English dept. were both presented two of the six prestigious faculty endowed chairs in chapel today. This is an endowed position one holds while on faculty. Further, it is the highest honor one can receive. Mucho awesome!
My African-American Studies seminar met at my home for class today; we discussed the historical roots of southern/black dishes, and how they came to fruition during the early points of slavery. Janette cooked a mean dish of fried chicken, collard greens with turkey bones, cornbread with molasses, mac and cheese, sweet tea, and banana pudding. Students were ready to cut classes and take a nap afterwards. Lots of fun.
I do not hate on Obama, though I wish he centered discussions around poor and homeless populations more. He is okay. I am not a Cornel West type of person. My African-American Studies seminar will explore Obama as a Neo-Booker T. Washington disciple, and less W.E.B. Du Bois with respect to a racial ideological normative that reflects cultural and attitudinal behavior. This is an ancient debate that, unfortunately, has been simplified.
My African-American Studies course spent a day discussing James Cone’s recent work, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, which explores the Negro holocaust in America. He draws a relationship between Christ’s crucifixion on the cross to blacks crucifixion by way of the tree. He notes that during his decades of research, Cone found, incredibly, no sermons, lectures, books or articles by white preachers, evangelists or theologians linking what happened on the cross to what happened on the lynching tree.
The image above denotes boarding school life under the Triple Threat model. If you do not know much about this, I define it in this piece. Criticism has grown regarding what many now call an outdated model. It burns faculty members out, and thus, will become difficult not so much in hiring young teachers, but retaining them. I have enjoyed this life, though it can be lonely as a Southerner far from home. I got a great email from a former student asking about life at a New England boarding school. In responding to that email, I thought it would be a great idea to script a post for this blog. And though not all boarding schools are the same, there are elements that define them. There was a question about Business Insider’s recent article on the 50 most elite boarding schools; I told her it was cool seeing Brooks on that list at number #33, but there were a number of problems with the list. I do not think anyone will dispute the top ten.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to teach some great courses. And, here at Brooks, I get to teach with folks who are brilliant and highly dedicated. During my first four years out of graduate school, when I taught courses in AP European History, AP World History, and World History, I worked to balance the many disruptions that came with teaching high school. Those disruptions, I discovered, were due to schools trying to do too much without proper planning. Then, I got frustrated. Flexibility was not my best part. I did learn to balance my courses, while dealing with changes I could not control. My tenure in Houston was nice in that it seemed as though I taught every freaking course created by God. Again, I had to be flexible. Here at Brooks, expectations are high in terms of rigor, though folks hate that term. I have been very successful at my previous two stops; hence, that is why I am at Brooks. My course load in terms of preps is a bit heavier than usual; however, as noted by my dept. chair when asked about the load, I simply stated: “It is just another walk in the park for me.” Plus, I am teaching courses I have taught before, and wanted to add an African-American Studies elective. I teach four courses this spring. One is a Modern World History survey, a section of AP World History, a section of AP US History, and an African-American Studies seminar. I have a total of 57 students, eight fewer than I had in the fall. My days are not too bad, in that under the current schedule, I feel I have some time to prepare for the courses I teach. My heavy day is on Thursday. And because it is such a heavy day, I am only available to meet with students for an hour. I have allotted a great deal of time to me with students outside of my set office hours. Those times become ever more significant when I start to meet with them individually about research papers and other written work. Yes, we do have classes on Saturday; I teach a fifty-minute session of AP World History and Modern World History. I am in the academic building from 8:15 to 11:30 on Saturday. I do not stick around much, unless I have a meeting with a student. In the fall we have football games on Saturdays, and as the head JV tennis coach, we play matches in the spring. I thought the Saturday thing was going to be difficult, but thus far it is not. But, it does make it tough to travel on weekends. I am usually up early to do some research and marking, while enjoying a cup of coffee.
I have yet to fully determine how boarding school life will fully impact my other academic interest. I have managed to publish three pieces since arriving here; I have delivered two conference papers, and have fully started on two other projects. The key, of course, is balancing my time with other obligations I have here at Brooks School. I am excited to see what papers I will be writing and seminars I will be leading in the near future. As many of you know, I fully believe that part of being a master teacher is the ability to understand current trends in one’s field.
Sports & Afternoon Activities
Getting a job at a top tier boarding school requires one to be able and willing to participate in extra curricular activities. So, being smart is not enough, as I have learned. For me, I am fortunate in that I can teach great courses, as well as coach a number of sports. I am driven by the need to be excellent on the field and off of it, as I work hard in developing relationships with my students. This is the case with all of my colleagues. When I went on the market seeking a teaching position, I knew there might be a chance I would have to divorce coaching runners. And as I suspected, here at Brooks they needed an assistant football coach. I love it. In the prep school world, faculty members contribute to school life in terms of residential life, academic life, as well as students’ athletic life. Afternoon activities, however, extend beyond just sports; it means theater, music, and community service, too. Most faculty members coach and/or are active in two of the three seasons. Because Brooks is a part of the Independent School League, there are universal rules. Case in point: a school cannot hire someone to “just be the football coach.”
Residential Life and Advising The vast majority of faculty and administrators live with their families on campus. Many live in apartments built into residential halls. Others live in separate apartments or homes on campus. Dorm faculty help supervise residential life, usually serving 1 – 2 nights of official duty each week and a weekend shift every 4 to 6 weeks. All faculty, whether on campus or not, assist with occasional evening or weekend supervision. This is an aspect that Janette and I most enjoy. On weekends we will cook for Blake House, the residential dorm I am assigned to. It can be challenging at times since I do not live in Blake, but across campus in the Farmhouse, an early 18th century home. It feels that way in the winter. Often we will prepare meals from home and commute them to Blake. We are trying to create a more interesting common room; it is our hope that students in Blake might want to hangout more . As of now, it is not a popular spot due to being outdated. We do invite and cook a meal each month for my advisees, who join us at out our place. We do our best not to talk about classes. I prefer we share things of common interest, such as attending the school play or getting ready for a break. As seen above, I have come to enjoy working with students and advisees throughout the day and night. It has become a family thing. Janette is as part of this as I am. We are having a review session for a scheduled AP US History exam. We ate Janette’s famous chocolate chip cookies.
While marking one of my student’s research papers, I noticed that he cited Henry Luce as an anti-communist source. I asked the student if that name sounded familiar, he said no. I then asked him about Brooks’ School Library. He looked at me strangely with an empty glare. I said that is okay. This is your first year here. Brooks’ library is named Henry Luce III Library; I went on to tell him that Henry Luce, the father, launched and edited Time Magazine. His son, Henry Luce III, graduated from Brooks with the class of 1942 and would later edit the Time Inc.
“My Lord What a Morning” is one of my favorite Negro spirituals. I found myself thinking about this song Thursday after talking to my Mother about the passing of my Grandmother. I keep thinking about her life and what she saw. How I failed to learn more from yet another black woman; she could have taught me more than all the books I have read. I feel my distance daily as I think about what I can learn from my Mother. I need to be with family. I am looking forward to my trip home to Selma, Alabama next week, as I think about the black women who shaped my life. If you do not know this beautiful spiritual, listen to it.There is beauty in those who believe in their God and faith. It is that which offers beauty to a generation of black folks who achieved more than I ever will. This song denotes that.
I finally got this framed picture on the bookshelf in my room. We had a great football season, one that reflected the leadership of our head coach and the dedication provided by our student-athletes. Yes, the picture reversed the 2014 Football wording. I enjoyed working with my fellow coaches and the players I coached.
In front of a vocal home crowd, the Brooks football team defeated Westminster School to earn the Sean Brennan New England Championship Bowl. It was the team’s first NEPSAC bowl win in school history. The game was much tighter than the 31-12 score would indicate. Strong defense and 21 unanswered points allowed Brooks to overcome a 10-12 halftime deficit in route to the final score.
Here is the team picture on our home football field.
This storm has given me time to read Toni Morrisons’s A Mercy for an African-American Literature course I am taking at Harvard this spring. The imagery in this work is deep and the narrative is clean. I am not done yet, but should finish it by tomorrow. This storm has forced me to move at a snail pace with my spring courses; I will finish constructing my syllabi and course outlines and assignments today. Having a clear plan is key, particularly with AP courses. We start almost a month later than many schools, and we teach a January Term course which furthers the unique challenges of meeting the AP objectives. Above is my home desk with everything needed to get my courses done.
I got to thinking the other day: there is something kind of cool about walking across campus on a Saturday morning, with a cup of coffee in hand, as the snow landed. I spent time drafting student comments for my American Jesus students, and organizing my spring syllabus for my African-American Studies course. That was an okay kind of snow, as you can see from my office window. We have had very little snow this winter. But as one can see below, the winter gods have had a change of thought; we cancelled classes for tomorrow, our first day of the spring term, as we completed our winter term. I am not sure what to make of my VERY first blizzard. We are facing over 24 inches of snow and wind speeds at 60 mph.
I spend a bit of time in my United States History and African-American Studies course talking about the greatness of Malcolm X. I do contend that by his death he had not fully reasoned with his anger, but instead, moved past it toward a conclusion of racial reconciliation. I will admit that I admire Malcolm X — not so much for his early views on segregation and a violent revolution, but for his change; it was his change and the power he held that scared many black nationalist Muslims. While presenting at a seminar in the Dallas area many years ago, I came across this street: N. Malcolm X BLVD.
As always, I could not help but notice that many schools and streets named after black civil rights leaders are located on the lower socioeconomic side of cities — the black side, whereas it is not unusual to find schools such as Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson located in black communities, too… but one does not see too many schools named after King in the upper side of communities.
After Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” in Washington D.C., Malcolm X would state — as noted:
The Negroes were out there in the streets. They were talking about how they were going to march on Washington…. That they were going to march on Washington, march on the senate, march on the White House, march on Congress, and tie it up, bring it to a halt, not let the government proceed. They even said they were going out to the airport and lay down on the runway and not let any airplanes land. I’m telling you what they said. That was revolution. That was revolution. That was the black revolution.
Malcolm X was able to capture the ears of many blacks who grew frustrated with America’s lack of political and economic progress. Moreover, with that heighten sense for change, King started to see his voice silenced within the black community. The recent film Selma showcased this well. However, earlier king would write in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
“You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”
King was aware of the challenge Malcolm X and other black nationalist groups presented; his voice was soft and passive, though he was a powerful and articulate speaker. Blacks’ sense of Christianity was one of division. Why follow a church and a God that allows such hatred to take place — many contended. King feared the evils of materialism and comfort as many who made up the black bourgeoisie became comfortable with their status in life. As I stated before, today the black middle class is far more conservative than many realize.
The debate over true liberalism among blacks still exist. I have found the black middle class to be far more conservative and less active towards civil rights and social policy of late. I am concerned that the black bourgeoisie is willing to shift its focus away from the liberalism that put them in their position. I believe integration is vital to a liberal society as noted by my neighborhood, friends, and place of employment; however, I do not think the black middle class should play the conservative card that carries with it values, attitudes, and behaviors that do not represent progress for all minority groups. Sure 93% of blacks vote in a solid block for the Democratic Party, but that block is not as tight as it used to be. Also, blacks should be mindful of American plutocracy, a norm that usurps progress and works against the aims of egalitarianism.
Here is the Brooks Gay Straight Alliance workshop for Unity Day tomorrow: FROM BYSTANDER TO ALLY: A CHALLENGE TO BROOKS: Participants will enjoy lively discussion about the legal and ethical limitations of free speech by debating the Sonoma County Superior Court Case, Rice v. Gans-Rugebregt. They will reflect on personal experiences to understand the difference between impact and intention of our language choices, and explore what it takes to move from being a passive bystander to an active ally role. Three workshops will be offered with a maximum number of 12-15 students/session.