A year ago on Martin Luther King Day, it was still President Obama and President-Elect Trump. The nation as a whole was living in a jittery state of uncertainty about exactly how January 20 would change us, and as yet unaware of the extent to which January 21 would play a role in reframing the context for the Trump presidency.
If you had the chance to listen in on a conversation between two longtime friends, both of them among of the best known, most respected, wisest people writing and speaking about girls in particular and children in general, you’d jump at the chance, wouldn’t you? I certainly did, attending an event Tuesday night at Smith College sponsored by Smith College Campus School, finding a seat next to our school counselor and my own longtime friend, Ellen Carter (and a few rows behind Julie Mencher, a noted gender specialist with whom our school has worked in the past).
“Please join us in wearing black tomorrow in solidarity with men and women asking for equality, respect and meaningful change within all industries. Pass it on. #WhyWeWearBlack #Time'sUp” - Alyssa Milano (Jan. 6, 2018)
Ms. Milano’s tweet referred to the Golden Globe awards, where many women were planning to wear black as a political statement, drawing attention to both the #WhyWeWearBlack and #TimesUp hashtags. On Sunday, it was announced that eight stars had invited key activists in the #MeToo movement to attend as their guests, including the movement’s founder Tarana Burke. In turn, Ms. Burke released a joint statement on her Facebook page: “(...) Our goal in attending the Golden Globes is to shift the focus back to survivors and on systemic, lasting solutions. Each of us will be highlighting legislative, community-level and interpersonal solutions that contribute to ending violence against women in all our communities. It is our hope that in doing so, we will also help to broaden conversations about the connection to power, privilege and other systemic inequalities. (...)”
I know we in the U.S. pride ourselves on our small town pride, but I still feel my town is extra special. When I tell people I live in Shelburne Falls, if they’re heard of it (and that’s more common than one might expect for a village of roughly 1700 people), they almost always tell me about an idyllic visit they once had to “such a beautiful town.” Though by no means as gifted a photographer as many of my friends and relations, I periodically post pictures of my home town, and they often draw a positive reaction.
I remember the air of celebration surrounding the first GLSEN Massachusetts student-educator conference I ever attended, some years ago now. I got the sense that here was a place where LGBTQ+ kids could - however temporarily - feel safe enough to burst forth from the closet. This year, that same sense of being accepted as one’s exact authentic self persisted, but in a calmer, more matter-of-fact way. This year’s conference theme, “Undone - Undoing - Still,” undoubtedly played a role in that. And in her welcome speech, Board member Trenda Loftin further expressed the mood of the conference, quoting activist Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
The Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE) has been on the cutting edge of middle school practice since it was founded in 1973 as the National Middle School Association, ten years after William Alexander pioneered the middle school concept. In this context, “middle school concept” refers not just to a generic school for young adolescents but rather to a specific set of values and principles that may or may not govern a given school’s program. These are laid out and explained in AMLE’s “This We Believe,” originally published in 1983 and now in its fourth edition. Not as many middle schools are based on the middle school concept as one might wish. Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School is one of the happy exceptions.
AMLE hosted their annual conference in Philadelphia from Nov. 6-8, and I was able to attend the third day, squeezing out a visit between two nights of rock band rehearsals.
This morning, Sarah Littman shared an article entitled “A+E Chief Nancy Dubuc: Abuse of Power Begins With Unconscious Male Bias (Guest Column).” Among Ms. Dubuc’s takes on the Harvey Weinstein scandal: “We're hearing that there have been attempts to report on this for years, so how does something time and time again rise to that level and then when it's finally reported, everybody gets to say, "Oh, I had no idea"? Something there doesn't make sense.”
The thing about viral campaigns on social media is that, while it can be argued they may raise awareness to some degree, they can also make it possible to feel good about doing something without actually doing anything of major significance. The recent surge of #MeToo posts seems to be a welcome exception, if nothing else sparking innumerable conversations that go far deeper than a simple click-and-share.
When you see the world through another set of eyes, it's a more beautiful place. - Melody Brook
I had a good fortune to attend the Translating Identity Conference on Saturday, October 14 at the University of Vermont. As the website says, “The largest conference of its kind in New England, TIC is a free, student organized, non-profit conference that seeks to reach not only the University of Vermont & the Burlington community, but the nation as a whole.” As I arrived, the “Welcome” was just getting underway, and Melody Brook, an adjunct professor at Champlain College and a member of the Einu Abenaki tribe, officially welcomed us with words and song to a site that once belonged to her people.
I hope this finds you well. In honor of the International Day of the Girl, my students will be hosting several Hangouts to connect girls around the world. The conversations will be self-directed by the students who attend, with student facilitators. We hope to provide an opportunity to unite girls across borders on the ways we are similar and bring us closer together by celebrating our differences.