Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Inherit The Wind

Forty two years ago, I was preparing to teach my first classes. I had spent the summer at the University of North Carolina, studying John Dewey, Jerome Bruner, Carl Rogers and American Literature. I was one of about fifty students who were about to enter the public schools as teacher interns. We taught during the day, went to school at night, and were visited frequently by the faculty in the School of Education. It was a baptism by fire. But it was training firmly rooted in the real world.

We were white middle class kids. Some of us were southerners -- from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. But a lot of us came from outside the South. I was the only student from outside the country. And, because a number of us were not familiar with the lives of African Americans, the faculty arranged a meeting between us and the kids on campus who were part of the Outward Bound Program. They were high school students who came from backgrounds less privileged than ours.

Martin Luther King had been killed the year before and the ghettos were still alight. During the course of the meeting, the conversation turned to guns and violence. Near the end of the session, one guy, from Long Island -- whose heart was in the right place, but who looked at the world with the flinty realism of a New Yorker -- said, "There's 22 million of you and 275 million of them -- and they have the guns. You can't win."

The Outward Bound kids were not intimidated by our presence. Unlike  their grandparents, they were not going to treat us with deference.One girl, who had been animated during the discussion, looked at us  -- as clear-eyed as the guy from Long Island. "I'd rather die standing up," she said, "than on my knees."

I've thought of her this week, as world markets have roiled and the cities of Britain have erupted in violence. During the last three years, people have been loathe to take to the streets. But, as things go from bad to worse, it would be foolish to think that those of us who live in steerage will not revolt against those of us who live on the upper decks. .It would be wise to recall that line from the Book of Proverbs, "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

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