Right now, while I am sitting on my couch, or in my office, I will not admit to which, Dr. Brandon Fisher is less than a mile from the summit of Mt. Everest.
Hopefully, possibly before you read this, he will have reached the pinnacle of the world- literally. That place is one of the most over used metaphors, most cliched, most exaggerated, and he will likely, hopefully, do what we hyperbolize.
My thoughts and prayers are with Brandon Fisher and the Radiating Hope team.
The first time I graduated I didn’t “walk”. I took my last final on a Friday and on Saturday morning I moved 5 states away. I stayed away for seven years. I was jaded and disgruntled and just wanted to get out and to be done. I wasn’t sure my degree was “worth it”.
The second time I graduated I sat through two ceremonies, walked in one, and I milked everything I could out of all of it. I wanted more. I loved it.
Now I have the opportunity to sit up on stage at graduation ceremonies every year and it gives me a moment to pause and reflect at the differences between my first and second ceremonies. Or rather, compare my attitude relating to the two educational experiences.
What I have learned from this reflection is at the heart of why I do my job.
What I learned is that I did it all wrong the first time. The worst part is that I didn’t know I had done it wrong till I did it the second time.
I had done it all wrong and because of that I didn’t think it had been worth it. I worked hard, and scrimped and scratched to pay for it, and I needed a degree to get a job, and sure I learned some stuff in there and I definitely needed a job, but in the end I felt spent and it was almost as if any real lessons I had learned were in spite of, rather than because of, school.
Then, thinking I was only pursuing career advancement in a trade school sort of way, I went to school again and it was as if fireworks, a choir of angels, and all the possible light bulbs surrounded me in glittering explosions of song and light.
I was risking more, spending ten times more, and it was the most wonderfully indulgent experience imaginable.
And because of it, I am happier every day after, than I was any day before.
That happiness is how I measure worth.
Education is worth it… when you do it right.
School is worth it.
Worth, all of it.
That is why I love my job. There are things about my job that are hard, that are drudgery, that frustrate me to no end, but I love it because I can feign some wisdom from what I have learned along the way and I can help others know how to do it right the first time.
You can do it right the first time.
Happy graduation season everyone!
The confederate battle flag was not just the banner flown by an army fighting for the right to own black people, it was also the banner that was revived and waved by those who opposed desegregation and civil rights.
In honor of the centennial celebration of the Civil War in 1961, South Carolina decided to raise the confederate battle flag over the state house. No black people were on the commission that made that decision.
Not only were they not on that commission, but South Carolina did not allow any black people to participate in their hosting of the national festivities. JFK tried to force the South Carolinians by moving the festivities to an integrated Navy base in Charleston, but the white people led a walk out and held their own official celebration in a segregated hotel. In that celebration Strom Thurmond gave a speech saying integration was evil and that the US Constitution never promised racial equality.
That is when that flag went up on the South Carolina capitol building. Black people (and some allies) have been asking for that flag to come down ever since. Those in authority continually refused.
On June 17th, 2015 a white supremacist murdered 9 black worshipers in a Charleston church. In the subsequent outcry against violent racism, there was some talk of the flag coming down. Those in authority thought they might allow it.
On June 27, 2015 a full 54 years after that flag went up, a black woman named Bree Newsome climbed the 30 foot flag pole and tore the flag down in defiance of the police who waited below to arrest her. She refused to wait for some democratic action to recognize her humanity when God had granted it from birth.
She was of course arrested when she came back down.
On July 9th the SC House of Representatives voted to remove the confederate battle flag in some seemingly gracious act of conciliation. It was an act that came not only 23 days too late, but 54 years overdue.
Bree, in her act of theater, gave America a symbol illustrating bravery and self determination in blackness.
Here is my nod to you Bree Newsome.
Yesterday the white house played host to presidents of historically black colleges and universities. You may have seen the picture. It is the one with our nation’s president at his desk, a smiling Amarosa at his side. The office is packed with black people in dresses and suits, and of course Mrs. Conway kneeling on the couch.
I wasn’t there. I don’t really know what happened and I can only guess at why.
But Dr. Walter Kimbrough, the President of Dillard University was in that room and he wrote about it. Oddly enough just last week three freshman were in my office asking me questions about student support and I printed out two different peer reviewed articles written by Dr. Kimbrough to help them.
Here is what he said about yesterday, “…the goal was for officials from a number of Federal agencies (about 5 were there including OMB) and Secretary DeVos to hear about HBCUs. That all blew up when the decision was made to take the presidents to the Oval Office to see the President… there was very little listening to HBCU presidents today- we were only given about 2 minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today.”
Today is the last day of Black History Month. The image I saw online had the potential to communicate some hope for these institutions. Sadly, as is the precedent, it fell far short.
Then I saw the Education Secretary’s statement following their meeting.
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have done this since their founding. They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education. They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution.
HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”
This is the kind of statement you make if you aren’t listening. But again, I wasn’t there so maybe she did listen, or maybe she didn’t get a chance to hear them, or maybe it is worse. Maybe she listened and then still chose to release the above.
It should be clear that Black colleges did not start because of too few choices, they were founded because of exclusion. There was a system in place that was working for white people, and those people fought hard to keep this benefit exclusive.
Once these schools were founded they did not represent an additional choice, or even an alternative, they represented the only option.
Had the Secretary chosen to listen to Dr. Kimbrough, the president of one of these lauded schools, here is what he would have said (which we know he would have said because he published it today),
“Fifty years ago a philosophy emerged suggesting education was no longer a public good, but a private one. Since then we’ve seen Federal and State divestment in education, making the idea of education as the path to the American dream more of a hallucination for the poor and disenfranchised.”
I am pretty sure everyone involved here knew the math.
My daughter’s third grade class is reading a book with the N-word in it. I am mostly happy about this. She is old enough to learn and think about right vs. wrong and how complicated these things get when humans interact. I am only mostly, and not completely, happy about this book and subject because I know how teachers of small people usually deal with America’s history of racism and Martin Luther King Jr. and the way they, or really we, teach this subject is incomplete and is in large part why our current state of negative race relations is so hard to eradicate.
My children were taught in school that back in MLK’s time black and white people weren’t allowed to be together. We were forced to be separate and MLK didn’t think that was right. So he organized a speech and a march and got the laws changed. That is the gist of it. Now today, we have a day of service where in King’s name we do kind things for the community.
I like that general message but it isn’t really how it happened and our children need to know a more accurate truth. They need to know because “those days” weren’t so long ago that all of those people are gone. And by “those people” I don’t just mean activists and freedom riders like John Lewis, I mean “those people” like the man who hit John Lewis in the face with a club.
You see, Jim Crow wasn’t really just “how things were”. No, people made it that way intentionally. They made it that way to preserve political power, to gain wealth, and to maintain an hierarchy with white people on top. And when people tried to pry some freedom and rights out of this intentionally created system, those in power reacted with violence. And those people in power were very much white.
In discussing the dangers faced by black people, who weren’t just fighting for a seat on a bus, but for the basic rights to be an American, she asked me if this struggle was dangerous for white people too. She assumed there would be white people helping because that is her experience. I told her about Jonathan Daniels and how he was shot in broad daylight by a deputy for trying to help black people vote. I explained to her that this deputy went to trial and was acquitted. She doesn’t know the word acquitted so I explained this means he didn’t get in trouble. She was appalled.
But she has learned these stories and she is okay. She has learned the truth that just like bullies are real people on the playground, that historical bullies aren’t really just “how things were”. There were bullies who made it that way and heroes that forced the bullies to change and if we want things to be good, if we want to get to the place MLK dreamed of, we have to face reality.
She is almost nine. Nine-year-olds are smart enough to know that bullies can change. She is smart enough and old enough to know that white people, not some ambiguous “they”, are the ones who created this whole back of the bus thing. She is smart enough to know that this truth doesn’t mean all white people are bad. She is smart enough to know the truth… unless we teach her to be otherwise.
I fear that we as a whole are not smart enough to get this lesson. At least our schools, the news, our policy, and the whole state of Arizona don’t think any of us are old enough to learn the truth. There can be no perpetrators in America’s racist past, only loving heros. As if teaching this fallacy in some way better prepares us for today’s challenges.
It does not. So today, I will not argue that John Lewis is a perfect man or perfect politician, but I will remember that a cop hit John Lewis in the face with a club because he wanted to be an American.
A broad “thank you” is in order.
I am generally skeptical of the sincerity of anything posted on social media, especially Fakebook. It is the home of the humble-brag, desperate calls for attention, and every narcissist’s second favorite venue for self aggrandizement (2nd to twitter). It is like the digital age’s version of a perpetual high school social dynamic with all of its posturing, superficiality and huge doses of TMI.
Then came my birthday.
This year I chose, for the first time, to allow my birthday to be public. I have seen long scrolling lists of people wishing other people happy birthday, and the snarky voice inside my head thought that really they were a bunch of people who wanted to bee seen wishing happy birthday rather than really wanting to celebrate any certain person, so I was not really surprised that many people sent me online well wishes, but I was a little bit surprised at how it felt.
It made me happy. It felt good.
People said some nice things. It was a bit like when the Grinch stole Christmas but the Whos still sang and hearing it made his heart grew bigger. My cynical inner Grinch told me that “happy birthday” from someone I never talk to means nothing and drawing satisfaction from such shallow offerings makes me the emotional equivalent of a toddler. But then some people PM’d me, a couple even called, others just said Happy Birthday on my wall and kicking and screaming my inner Grinch gave way to simple gratitude and appreciation. It was nice.
Sometimes people are just plain and nice and when they (you) are, it makes a difference. It matters.
I appreciated the well wishes. I learned from it.
So- thank you.
An important part of parenting is protecting your children from infectious disease. While my offspring have been able to avoid measles, mumps, and Jenny McCarthy, I am still a failure in this regard. You see, my daughter has contracted a condition that flares up every December. It elevates her stress levels, tires her out, and completely disrupts our life.
It is sad. She is only 12.
I wish there were a cure.
Some kids grow out of it, others learn to live with the condition even when it is in remission, but it never goes away.
This disease is called Balleritious Nutcrackevitus.
I heard it was first contracted in France. It found its way to my house when my oldest daughter was 5. It caused uncontrolled leaping and a swirly dizziness. She was a mess.
I hoped she only had the juvenile strain but as time has gone by, it has only gotten worse.
At first it was almost amusing, but then it started taking over. The uncontrolled swirls gave way to these repetitive motions. She would squat then stand, squat, then stand- for hours. She would lift one leg, then put it down, over and over again, and again, and again, and a gain. It ate up all of her mind and soul, and finally, it ate my weekends.
We have tried everything. We have seen experts, spent thousands of dollars on treatments, and finally, we visited an institution.
It was like some sort of leper colony where similarly infected young people could commune and older people could commiserate together. It was supposed to be therapeutic but it seemed to only make things fester.
We even tried relocating, thinking that perhaps a drier climate would help her system grow stronger. It was hard, she struggled. We thought she would finally break free, but then Decembers would roll around and she would succumb.
One specialist recommended we try these orthopedic sort of shoes. They build in some sort of contraption to try to control the spinning. These medical devices are expensive and not covered by insurance. She has become completely dependent.
I have learned that varying experts disagree on prescribed treatments. Vaganova says do this, Cecchetti says do that. Balanchine only treats a specific strain of the illness. I have been told that we have to pick a theory and go with it. I always want a second opinion.
I have watched the patient get worn down from a swirly little squiggle to becoming serious beyond her age. She tends to fixate and focus on every little bit of the therapy. You have never seen such a dedicated out-patient. All of the patients are that way. Fixated.
I fear that if she does not recover soon, institutionalization will be her only hope.
Merry Christmas Nutcracker families.