Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Forward to the Past?

Proving that he's a poet as well as a history scholar, Dr. Bailey composed these helpful and insightful verses to introduce his students to history class on the first day of school.

A Poem for Students Moving toward a 2020 Vision of History, 
or Getting a New Pair of History Glasses on the First Day
By Clay Bailey, August 18, 2019

Sunday morning comin’ down, as wheels on bus go ‘round and ‘round.
Syllabi and info sheets, lesson plans and meet and greets.
This year’ll be different though, I have gained perspective mo’. 
Vilnius, Kaunas, Portsmouth too, I have grown and you can too.
You must learn for learning’s sake, electronic devices don’t partake.
Every day prepared to learn; be in the moment, feel the burn.   
Bring your book and pad and pen, don’t make me say this over again.
Respect each other every day, and yourself by your do and say.
We learn through history ‘bout world and self, don’t leave those lessons on the shelf. 
It ain’t just the what, but the how and why, not just about old guys who’ve died.
It’s also about the meek and lowly, and why the sign said for whites only.
Who’s to say what’s true or fake? Historians must for humanity’s sake.
Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jew, seek to understand each point of view. 
Does history change? Of course it does, as we reinterpret the what was.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

An Appeal to the Good and True

By Win Bassett, Associate Dean of the High School

James Agee is perhaps best known today for his book Let Us Now Praise Famous Mencollaboration with photographer Walker Evans that documents tenant farmers during the Great Depression. He also won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1958 for his autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family. But before he became celebrated for his writings of film criticism, journalism, and fiction, Agee attended a boys’ school during his formative, adolescent years.

A young teacher, Father James H. Flye, befriended Agee soon after the boy’s arrival and mentored him for the rest of the writer’s short life. In a book published last year on Agee’s time in Tennessee, scholar Paul Brown unearthed some of Father Flye’s long-forgotten articles written early in the last century. Brown includes an excerpt from one article in particular in which Flye’s observations and principles strike me as vital for boys’ educators today:

We look into the face of a boy,…and notwithstanding faults whose traces may perhaps be there[,] we are won by the infinite charm of youth, speaking to us of something purer and sweeter and higher than the hard, dry, practical, materialistic life which so many adults live. The child has his faults and failings, he is careless, his ethical standards may seem at times disappointing, and yet there is this delicate quality in his face which means innocence and faith, and love…something which seems to say that the faults do not express his real self…. The appeals of the world make themselves heard, the broad way is inviting, the world’s roughness has hurt and perhaps toughened him, low standards are constantly presented to him, and influences towards what is common and vulgar, and probably he has absorbed more or less of all this…. The boy can be touched by the appeal to what is high and pure.

That boys’ schools need to be countercultural remains as important as ever—our teachers, coaches, and staff cannot speak enough to our students of those matters “purer and sweeter and higher” than the materialistic world that often knocks louder. That boys’ schools need to show mercy never ceases to be the casewe, as educators, must always mind that “faults do not express [a boy’s] real self” and that instances in which failings overshadow the good are often the best teaching moments. Perhaps most importantly, we must remember that boys are ultimately drawn to the “high and pure,” or what my own mentor called “the deepest loves [that] are beyond reason, yet they are real and true and good. The heart has its reasons. The heart longs not to tear down and analyze, but to stand in awe, to appreciate, to enter into intimacy, to surrender. Let us not praise the famous of the world in our classrooms and on the fields and courts but praise the true and good.

Friday, May 17, 2019

How School Communities Could Be Better

by Brad Gioia, MBA Headmaster

Last weekend one of our graduates, Craig Franklin, Class of 1982, invited three of our English teachers who study Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with their students, to see the Broadway production of the novel. Craig Franklin called me in September to see if it would be okay to fly these teachers up to New York, to house them in a hotel, and to treat them to this play. This invitation was a sensational gift. Our faculty relished the experience and loved talking about literature, the theater, and interpretations of a great novel. I reflected how much more teachers would be respected and appreciated if there were more alumni in this world who had the thoughtfulness and generosity of Craig Franklin in remembering these teachers. I thought you would enjoy some images from their time on Broadway and this article about how Jeff Daniels studied the role of Atticus Finch so that he could play his part more fully.

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