Friday was the end of 1st Semester, and my grades were all in before the end of the school day. I will begin the week with my students having several days left to complete a mandatory exercise that does not affect their grades but does affect my evaluation before I begin Thursday morning being observed as I begin a series of lessons on the Constitution and the convention that created it.
That might seem to be an interesting point at which to explore our current events which raise so many constitutional issues, but these are 8th graders in a course in US History through the Civil War and Reconstruction, so that is not a major consideration as I plan.
Nor is the fact that this particular school has for me turned out to be a disappointing and difficult setting in which to teach a major impetus to my writing this post, although it certainly contributes to it. The experience of first semester has led me to turn down an opportunity to complete my doctorate in education online in 22 months for only about $11K — in large part because I am seriously wrestling with whether I continue in education, and if I do whether I should try to switch to a non-public setting: in that regard I am attending two job fairs for independent schools on the next two Saturdays, although I recognize that at my age (turning 73 in May) and recent work history (this is my 7th school since I retired in June 2012) makes it quite unlikely I will even be invited for any interviews.
It is the combination of many things that bring me to writing this post at a time when perhaps I should be doing more planning for my teaching. It is certainly the experience of this year and the uncertainty of my future. It is the current state of our politics, including not only the ongoing investigations of Trump and related, but also the nascent nastiness already evident in the expanding Democratic presidential primary field.
It is also fueled by reading two articles that have provoked my thinking. One, by Andrew Sullivan, is the lead article for New York Magazine and explores in detail the crisis faced by the Catholic Church in addressing homosexuality among its clergy, including far too many bishops and cardinals (and probably at least one recent pope) to pretend that there is not a problem. The other appears in Friends Journal, the major Quaker publication in this country, and is titled We Are Not John Woolman and challenges its readers to live up to the standards set by that Quaker luminary, who as a young man decided not to benefit in any way or use any product produced by slave labor or by what he saw as the abuse of animals. I note that Woolman was perhaps the greatest single influencer on the Society of Friends moving away from tolerating its members from owning slaves. It also looks at the work of Lucretia Mott and Benjamin Lay, two other Quakers who put themselves on the line for what they believed to be moral reasons. These three are examined as Quaker models in light of the actions of Colin Kaepernick, with a challenge to readers to examine how they live, speak and act.
I will, below the fold, attempt to explain how all of this comes together in my mind.