Thank You, My Students

Dear Houston Christian students, the number of letters I have received in the mail this summer from you, my former students, is unreal. The emails and private messages are so comprehensible and thoughtful. In checking my mail today and reading what another former student wrote is humbling. Hey students from Houston Christian –thank you. It means the world to read your thoughts and appreciation for our time together. To see and read about what you are doing or about to do now that many of you are out of college motivates me. Having you share your freedom to be you is gratifying. Some of you are now able to live in your identity: gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. Others are motivated to use your faith to do what is right for others. For some, our beliefs in religion and many other things are so vastly different, and yet reading your thoughtful notes is profound. I am really moved by you. I am glad we were able to spend time together…in and out of the classroom. Please know that I keep a rainy day file in my office. I have kept everything. Some of you have traveled to stay with me, dine and drink with me, and yes, continue to make fun of me. There are so many graduating classes I admire. In the end — I admire all of you. I hate weddings and rarely attend them, but I will be honored if you desire to travel to yours as I have done in the past. Having you dedicate your thesis to me and ask me to be in your wedding has been an honor. You are loved and missed.

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Dear Colleagues…

I had a conversation with a friend and colleague who is not fortunate enough to teach in a learning environment that values free inquiry, love and openness for others, nor allows for true peace and freedom in one’s own life. I struggle in my understanding of institutions that fail at grasping the human spirit, mind, and ambition. This is particularly true when it comes to faith-based secondary schools and colleges. Yes – you know who you are. To my colleagues who feel trapped in intellectually and socially oppressive institutions, hang in there. You have friends and supporters like me. However, please keep your options in mind. I do believe that people sometimes stay at those places too long. I am hearing that many of you cannot write, present, and publish as you please. I hear that many of you often close your office and classroom doors when challenging students to escape the confines of narrowness. Some of you have had to turn me down for writing and publishing opportunities out of fear. Our students need us. You are loved and supported by many such as myself.

Christian Scholars’ Conference Panels

I am excited about the two panels I will sit on at the Christian Scholars’ Conference at Lipscomb University this June. I was able to organize a session with some brilliant folks. I was invited to join another panel at this conference too. Both panels address a great deal of my own academic work. It should be fun blogging from Nashville this summer. This will be the second time I have attended and delivered papers at this meeting.

This panel will address the “Invitation to the Voiceless Minority”

Edward Carson, The Brooks School History Department, convener

Michelle Mikeska, Houston Christian Bible Department, panelist

Stephanie Eddleman, Harding University English Department, panelist

Michael Brown, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Optometry, and Physician at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, moderator

The panelists will be addressing matters of faculty and student autonomy, academic voice, tenure, promotion, and expressions of faith, which have long been a topic of concern within faith-based institutions. Thus, the question of defining campus leadership in the 21st century lends itself to discussing the role of the voiceless minority – students and faculty members who possess a unique viewpoint due to their race, gender, ideology, or sexual orientation. The success of an institution can be measured by the intellectual freedom and voice permitted on its campus. The failure to invite this voice to the table creates a sense of isolation and works against a democratic construct of inclusiveness, inhibiting the advancement of thought in a safe community for all groups. This interactive session will consist of three scholars who will deliver individual papers relating to the theme of the voiceless minority within faith-based institutions, and concludes with a moderated question and answer period.

Professor Carson’s paper, titled, Racial Reflection and Sexual Identity: The Challenges of Silence in Conservative Institutions, discusses how black integration via political rights shaped twentieth century black studies circa 1970. Such studies, however, never fully materialized among faith-based institutions. Thus, with the advent of the twenty-first century, black faculty members and students have often been silenced by the notion of whiteness, in which one believes the world is colorblind. This is further exasperated by the identity issues in which gays and lesbians wrestle with in faith-based environments. This paper will delve into the various change agents that predominately white faith-based institutions must embrace in order to cultivate a true appreciation of diversity. Research for this paper draws on historical literature and anthropological arguments that analyzes trends in race and sexuality, as well as scriptural arguments.

Professor Eddleman’s paper, titled, Female Voices of Faith: The Untold Stories, explores how personal stories of faith are powerful things, especially at a Christian university. They encourage, instruct, convict, and inspire. But sadly, many beautiful faith stories go unheard simply because, often, there is no venue for Christian women to share their faith stories and learned wisdom with the larger university community. This paper will synthesize and present the responses of both faculty and students to this question: How would your experience at a Christian University be different if you were able to tell your faith story and/or hear the voices of women of faith?

Professor Mikeska’s paper, titled, A Nonviolent Hermeneutic: How to Promote Peace in Confessional Institutions, will discuss nonviolence as a subject rarely preached and commonly dismissed among leading Christian theologians. Jesus’ own critique of violence has either been silenced or viewed as impractical fantasy. The result is that American Christianity is commonly described as an effortless assimilation of national pride, right-wing conservatism, and religious conviction. This paper seeks to redress these assumptions by taking a deeper look into the teachings of Jesus as well as the works of John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. Ultimately, the aspiration of this study is for nonviolence to be viewed as a legitimate expression of Christian faithfulness in today’s society.

The second panel will address: “How to be an Ally: Hearing and Receiving Voices from the Margins of the Church and the Academy”

Jeffrey R. Baker, Pepperdine University School of Law, convener
Edward Carson, The Brooks School, panelist
Scott Lybrand, Episcopal Charities and Community Services, panelist
Julie A. Mavity Maddalena, Southern Methodist University, Ph.D. Candidate, panelist
Dr. Jeanine Thweatt-Bates, Princeton Theological Seminary, panelist

This panel will identify and explore issues of power, privilege, and participation in the church and the academy among those historically on the margins of these communities. Panelists will consider theological, religious, ethical, political, and educational theories that sustain and challenge structures and organizations that favor dominant, homogenous voices. Toward a vision of inclusion, dignity, and justice, the panelists will critique extant structures and dynamics that silence plural voices and will suggest ideas, strategies, and actions to promote full, rich, meaningful dialog among all people in congregations and schools.

The panelists each have engaged in such efforts from diverse perspectives and experiences and from different points of influence in the church and the academy. The panelists offer scholarly perspectives on theology, ethics, history, education, and culture. The panel will speak with expertise and experience about individual congregations, universities, and communities, including experiences promoting plural voices in contexts of diversity.

Nice Honor to a Teacher

Lerin Rutherford, my former student and our Valedictorian at Houston Christian, acknowledging me in her bound thesis from Davidson College. This is why I do this. This image will go in my book one day on being a master history teacher. Lerin is currently in her second year at Baylor College of Medicine. We shared a number of great outings together — wine, very late dinners, coffee, you name it. And in doing so, I loved my conversations with her. Click on the images below.

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A Student’s Experience in Carson’s Class

As I journey my way here at Brooks School, I am frequently reminded of what I most loved about my last school: my students. The were by far the joy of my teaching/coaching life at Houston Christian. And though I will develop the same relationships here at Brooks, I am always happy to know that they gained a great deal from me. Below is an essay a student wrote about here experience in my courses. Thank you Courtney Smith.

Hey Mr. Carson! We’re learning about banking vs. liberated education and had to respond to a forum that assigned – ” Write two paragraphs about a memorable learning experience (good or bad) and analyze whether it represented banking education, liberated education, or a mixture.” I wrote about your class and just thought I’d share it with you! Your new students don’t know how lucky they are!! Miss ya!

Only knowing what it was like to attend a private school, it was a complete normality to have classes taught with a combination of banking and liberated education. However, I had no idea what to expect walking into my AP US History class my junior year. Freshman and Sophomore year my classes typically had Socratic seminars once a week, but they were planned and the facilitator knew ahead of time. My teacher, Mr. Carson was about to change my view on how I enjoyed classes the best. A typical day looked like us coming into class and him handing us note cards with a number on them, the tables were shaped in a square and we sat in the corresponding seat to our number. Eventually we were phased out of the note cards, as we soon enjoyed switching seats and sitting by new people every class. Carson would sit down with us at the table, pass around an attendance sheet (here he would track our participation), and would start off the conversation. We all had reading the class before and we would discuss it, analyze it, and learn how to truly grasp the ideas.

History was always an interest of mine, but Carson turned it into an experience, something to be involved in, and made the students passionate about learning more. His passion about history fed into ours and he inspired us to love it. Class discussions where we led the conversation (and often resulted in debates) helped us learn other classmate’s views and expand our own understanding. I think Carson got something that other teachers in my school didn’t. He could have lectured us and had us memorize the material, make good test grades, and be semi-interested in class. Instead he saw the value of discussion, which helped us truly understand and remember the material (that we would need to keep in our heads for our AP test in the spring, not just the test in a week). My favorite thing of all though is that he didn’t show off his knowledge. He is one of the writers of the national AP European exam, yet he allowed us to take the reigns of the class. He didn’t correct us immediately, but let us find the answers, and when necessary would chime in. He would sit with us, which made us feel completely comfortable to talk about anything because it was like he was one of us. Carson would also let us go on tangents and discuss completely random things, and he enjoyed it. My two years with Mr. Carson inspired me to learn more. I think it’s fairly obvious that he displayed the Harkness Method and in turn, liberated education. Freire said that, “[those truly committed to liberation] must abandon the educational goal of deposit-making and replace it with the posing of the problems of human beings in their relations with the world.” I believe that in some subjects banking education is the most beneficial, however in many classes I think it’s important to have liberated education. The world is not looking for more memorizers.

Personally, I believe that if I graduated college, only having memorized my entire way through, a future job is not going to look that spectacular for me. What businesses need today are problem solvers who can think on their own and remember what is essential, not adults who memorize their way through everything and forget it several weeks later. I personally believe, and I think my history teacher did as well, that liberated education prepares a student for the real world, helps inspire passion for learning more, and allows us to analyze and think about other situations and viewpoints.

Authors Reception at HC

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HC’s Liberian organized a short forum for faculty members to discuss with students and teachers their most recent publications and academic work; I thought this was a great way to exhibit a culture of ideas and scholarship on campus; I was pretty excited to discuss a paper of mine entitled The Resurrection, which looks at how hip-hop lyrical culture is synonymous with the teachings of Jesus Christ. And, how the two are drawn together through a “sense” of spiritual reconciliation.  Christians contend that the Bible offers hope and understanding to those who are lost. The hip-hop artist contends that his lyrics offer a “sense” of hope and salvation, much like that of Jesus Christ.

This event reminds me of a recent email I received from a former colleague, who asked me how does one go about engaging in such work? I told her that I think it is a matter of what you are most interested in. I have written on a variety of topics related to the teaching of history. I am a teacher; it is what I love. What I write about usually reflects what I am teaching in my classroom. That is my passion. That said, I also have a passion and understanding for black intellectual history. Thus, I have sought to be a part of a greater community of people like me — but smarter. Just ask Phillip Sinitiere who is co-authoring a book with me; he will deny it but it is true.

I am a member of various history related organizations. I read the journals which often stimulates my thinking and thus drives me to want to contribute to ongoing discussion. I have found that sharing my work at conferences allows me a venue to grow in my content while enhancing my skills. Some find such academic work to be silly and nothing more than self promotion. Those folks find themselves isolated from a field of brilliant people. I learn so much from them. And, I hope I add to their knowledge too. In the end, our students are the winners.

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Above are a few of my colleagues who are doing some interesting stuff. I believe four of them are in the process or have already published a book. That is pretty impressive seeing their busy lives and heavy teaching load.

Great Students!!!

Okay. I must confess. I absolutely love the students that I teach. They mean the world to me. The class of 2013 is a personal favorite of mine. I have grown so much in my relationship with them. I am honored to be their speaker at commencement. I am honored to be called TEACHER by them. The two videos below made me smile and yes, cry a bit. What a great group. I will miss so many of them.

Below my students making fun of me:

I do use mucho too much.