Prize Day 2015 at Brooks

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Prize Day 2015

Prize Day (or commencement) was great. Great speech by our head of school, and the rain held off; and it continues to be a no show. I got a nice Cuban walking across the lawn as there were many being smoked by graduates and their folks. We honored some cool faculty members, as well as my advisee, whom I am going to miss. Our students are going to do some nice things in life. Great job 2015!

Talking about Du Bois

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Janette and I enjoyed spending time at the Center for Marxist Education. I was able to discuss my passion for Du Bois and African-American Studies in relation to racism, radicalism, classism, and religion. That is a bit for one talk, but expansive as I think about the recent work I have started on Du Bois. CME Talk II Here is just the intro to my lecture:

“Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in my own house?” W.E.B Du Bois exclaimed in his essay, Of Our Spiritual Strivings, as he pondered being a problem: a seventh son after other civilizations. The Negro watched Indians, Romans, Greeks, and Mongolians take a position of authority over the simple Negro. This white world reminded Negros of their inferiority, yet promised them a place with God if they behaved. Du Bois, the prodigy of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, was set to challenge the constructs put in place by WASPs. As a child in the Berkshires, he was reminded of his identity, particularly when it came to his encounters on the schoolyard with white females. Interracial companionship has always been one of the first casualties of puberty, as noted by historian David Lewis of Du Bois. And though early playground rejections would impact his later pathology toward Negro radicalism, it was his sense of understanding that equality in America could be achieved, though by his death Du Bois concluded America was not ready for the Negro. In Of Our Spiritual Strivings, Du Bois wrote…

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, —an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn’t bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face.”

Du Bois shaped this double-consciousness as a sense of racial awareness regarding the veil; it was within this metaphorical Veil that black people faced oppression. In order to deal with oppression and themselves as a race, Negros must become aware of the Veil. This point seems silly in that who would be unaware of their oppression; however, Du Bois speaks to years of Jim Crow, sharecropping, and tenant farming in which the Negro’s labor and welfare were exploited. Du Bois’s Veil was expressed in the literary piece, Invisible Man; here, Ralph Ellison introduces the American conscious to a Negro mind that becomes aware of why he is oppressed. Ellison wrote,

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination — indeed, everything and anything except me.”

Carl Degler, historian and teacher

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I read my journals. I participate in the online discussion forums with other teachers and historians. I attend the conferences. Yet, I just learned today that one of the giants in the field, Carl Degler, passed away. I cannot tell you how much of his stuff I have studied and read. He is a model to all historians when comes to the relationship between teaching and scholarship. Though not as public or as political as the late Richard Hofstadter, Degler has been impactful on my own thinking and teaching. Degler represents the weakness of Hofstadter’s scholarship when it came to changes in historiography — particularly the advent of multiculturalism and gender studies.

See article here.

My Talk: “The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People”

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I will be delivering a lecture on Sunday May 17 at the Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge. I am pretty darn excited about my work on Du Bois, black radicalism, and religion.

Dubois

Title: The Gospel of W.E.B. Du Bois: The Radical Savior of His People

Here is what the CME released about my intended lecture:

Social activist, educator, historian and Du Boisian scholar Edward Carson will engage participants in an interactive discussion on the problem of the twentieth century, which is the problem of the color line. African-American scholar and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois enshrined this iconic observation in July 1900, while speaking in London at the Pan African Congress. Du Bois repeated this phrase in his 1903 work, Souls of Black Folk, as he championed against Negro oppression, in a mythical democratic country. This gathering will bring Du Bois to life, as Carson discusses Du Bois’s transformation to the Communist Party USA, his critique of religion, and his expectations of elite Negros serving as a vanguard for an exploited race. Furthermore, Carson will offer an insightful conclusion regarding Du Bois’s response to the Baltimore riots and police brutality, based on Du Bois’s thoughts regarding capitalism as the cause of racism.

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The CME — as noted by the partial image of it above, and their statement here, aims to “…hosts reading groups, radical film showings, discussion groups, and public meetings, with more events being added to the calendar regularly.

Stalinism and House of Cards

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Josef Stalin would love Frank Underwood. This is a great speech from House of Cards. There are Americans who work hard and have committed their best, yet they watch folks enjoy lofty lives while they struggle day-to-day in silence. I like Underwood’s American socialism. It is aggressive and it puts folks with little money first. This is the best presidential speech yet. Too bad it is fiction. Most people want to work. They want to earn a living. People do not want entitlements. They want to make a living.

The Cross and LGBTQ Matters

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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.

The End of Football

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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.

NFL

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.”

Selective Year

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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.

Community Organizing

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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.

Good Leadership: “Real Sooners are not bigots, real Sooners are not racist.”

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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.

Faculty Honors

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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!

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Southern Food

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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.

Classic Debate

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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.

James Cone and Lynching

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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.

Life at a New England Boarding School

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triple-threat 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.

Teaching

Chalk 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.

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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 AdvisingBrooks-School-LDKwWM 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. Students 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.

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