Monthly Archives: February 2013

Bikinis, Lingerie, and Women’s Athletics

When I click out of my Yahoo! email, I often scan to see if there’s a news item that interests or intrigues me. The other day, I was shocked and outraged to learn of the existence of something called the “Bikini Basketball Association” through an article entitled: “Deion Sanders’ daughter joins the Bikini Basketball League (sic) despite her dad being ‘kind of upset’.”

Setting aside the focus of the headline on a male athlete and his disapproval of what his daughter is choosing to do…

My initial impression of the league from its webpage did little to calm me down, as the subhead was “Basketball League for Sexy Athletic Ladies.” The statement, “Women were selected based on athleticism, personality, as well as beauty. The combination of these traits will help the BBA athletes stand out in their respective communities.” reminded me of the tryout procedures and practices for the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League. In the 1940’s.

The Yahoo! article mentioned that the name of the league as actually something of a misnomer, as the players will be wearing shorts and sports bras, in contrast to the Lingerie Football League, where the players actually wore lingerie. Deiondra Sanders compared the two leagues in defending her decision to join the BBA: “I just think that it’s a lot different because we actually do have players, real basketball players, that actually have played in the WNBA before. So I think that this will make a difference because people are really gonna see real-life hoopers. They just look good while doing it.” (Sanders)

Thinking about what Ms. Sanders said, I tried to put myself in her position. Woman athletes don’t have a lot of opportunities to play professionally as there are far fewer leagues. The WNBA is much smaller than the NBA and doesn’t have a Development League. If I lived for basketball, was good enough to try out for the WNBA, and wanted a second chance when I didn’t make it, would I grab this opportunity? I truly don’t know. But I do know that, whatever I decided, I would be feeling incredible anger that the only way for me to get a second chance was to use my looks. It would be a way to play ball, for fun and for pay and with other athletes of my calibre – but in a context where I could never be sure people were taking me seriously as an athlete.

Meanwhile, in what appears to be an effort to be taken more seriously, the Lingerie Football League has decided to rename itself the Legends Football League and has announced their players will begin wearing uniforms, sparking a series of smirking headlines such as “Lingerie Football League shedding lingerie, and not in the fun way.” Will they continue to draw attention as the “Nation’s fastest growing sports league” or will they go the way of the Women’s Professional Football League, disbanded in 2006 after seven seasons, or fade into the obscurity of the other three women’s professional football leagues currently playing, the Independent Women’s Football League, the Women’s Football Alliance, or the Women’s Spring Football League?

The fact is, as members of my Life Skills 8 class are now even more acutely aware after watching “Miss Representation,” women continue to be primarily judged and valued by our society as a whole by their looks. My students know they are lucky to be part of a community where women’s and girls’ voices matter, where you are actually judged more by the content of your character than by your appearance. But they are also acutely, achingly aware that it will be tougher for them to be taken seriously in the world beyond our school.

And with all that in mind, I just can’t help but think that, even if well-intentioned, the Bikini Basketball Association is going to seriously undermine women’s chances to be taken seriously as athletes. You can’t fight patriarchy by reinforcing it. And meanwhile, for those of us who truly love women’s basketball, we still have the NCAA and the WNBA. For now, those will have to do.

For now.

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Filed under Athletics, Gender, In the Classroom, On Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School

Seeing the Trees Within the Forest

Sometimes, you can’t see the trees for the forest. Especially when your eyes are deliberately closed.

As I wrote Sunday, I deliberately snubbed the Oscar awards that night, primarily because of their historic and current misogyny. After finishing up the piece but before publishing, I realized I had not referred to Hollywood’s historic and current racism. I chose to leave the piece as it was, little suspecting the dramatic extent to which the ceremony was illuminating and placing in relief those same shameful character traits of the movie-making industry and their effect on our national dialogue about race and gender.

Let’s start with the opening musical number. On a night when men got four times the Oscar nominations that women did, the Academy chose to open the show with a number entitled “We Saw Your Boobs.” For the record, four of the nude scenes alluded to in Seth MacFarlane’s tasteless and voyeuristic song were rape scenes.

But then, mocking violence against women was something of a theme of the evening. In attempting a joke about the excruciatingly violent movie about slavery, “Django Unchained,” Mr. MacFarlane said, “This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who’s been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie.” Chris Brown, you may know has been accused of assaulting not only his girlfriend Rihanna (seen here in a painfully graphic image of that abuse) but also Frank Ocean, an R & B singer who came out recently as having had a homosexual relationship – and sure enough, there were anti-gay jokes too.

Stunningly, Seth MacFarlane’s humour did not represent the low point of the evening. That honour was reserved for “The Onion,” who posted – and later deleted – and much later apologized for – a tweet calling Oscar nominee Qudenzhané Wallis a crude and deeply offensive four-letter word often used to denigrate women (the original tweet is pictured here for those who haven’t seen it and want to know). Ms. Wallis, for the record, is nine years old – an age where even for the Oscars ceremony, she carried a puppy purse.

Meanwhile, the producers of the show, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron both stated they had no regret for including the “We Saw Your Boobs” number, and Mr. Zadan added, “You hire Seth MacFarlane, you want something to be cutting edge and irreverent.” (Zadan, quoted in The New York Times) Irreverent? Irreverent?!

As I understand it, the Academy is about 77% white male., so it is probably no surprise that a good deal of mansplaining and whitesplaining (thanks to my friend José Vilson for that term!) has been taking place attempting to explain away, minimize, and justify these attempts at humour that miss the mark so badly that one can easily be forgiven for having missed even the intention of humour in the first place (as I did with the “Onion” tweet). The misogyny is obvious to all but the most deliberately obtuse given the choice of words. The racism was equally obvious to many, but not all. Nonetheless, as Mr. Vilson points out – and it might be seen as merely a matter of bad timing though that seems highly unlikely – white child actors Dakota Fanning and Anna Paquin were not subjected to the same dehumanizing treatment inflicted on Ms. Wallis.

On Mr. Vilson’s Facebook page, Jennifer Dixey quoted her high-school-aged niece as having written, “If your humor is meant to be offensive, but you can’t deal with people being offended, your humor is probably about enforcing oppression.”

And with that comment, we’ve come a long long way from a ceremony meant simply to celebrate a form of entertainment – except that we really haven’t, as misogyny and racism are absolutely embedded in the movie industry. After all, they embraced Seth MacFarlane as host knowing what they were in for – and they defended him afterward.

This same weekend, in what seemed to be another world altogether, the girls of Stoneleigh-Burnham School presented a production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” that was absolutely stunning in its power. Jane as Prospera (the final “a” is deliberate) made every single syllable count for maximum emotional impact, Mary as Ariel made every single movement pure poetry, and Karen as Caliban had the audience in stitches simply through the guttural sounds she emitted before we even saw her. And these are just examples – every single girl in the play was strong and confident, and took an obvious pride in her performance. As the cast was leaving stage after the final bow, one of the 8th graders glanced out at the audience with a look that shone so strongly of pride, delight, and perhaps a mild surprise that my eyes watered.

That is what can happen when we give kids the love and respect they deserve. As Mr. Vilson put it, “Until we can embrace each others’ humanity because of our minimal differences, we will continue to have this deep-seated angst and frustration… [But] if we can all look at our children as needing our support, care, and love on their own paths to success, then humanity will come one step closer to seeing as others as equal.”

And I do believe we can. I do believe we must.

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Filed under Gender, On Education, Performing Arts, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Girls School Advantage, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Women in media

Deliberate Snub

I confess, I don’t usually watch the Oscars. I don’t get to movies as often as I used to, the glamour of the ceremony has worn thin with time, and at any rate I usually have at least some schoolwork left to do on Sunday nights and can’t just sit on the couch and focus on the TV. Tonight, though, in case Oscar is wondering, yes, my sitting in the dining room and working on my computer is a deliberate snub. Here’s why.

I was innocently scrolling through my Twitter timeline while waiting for water to boil for my tea, sorting past the usual red carpet blather and dross, knowing it was a rough year for women in terms of nominations for actual achievements and trying to decide whether or not I wanted to feel outraged tonight when I came across the following tweet: “I can’t focus on her face when she is talking! If she lifts her arm… her boob will fall out!” And suddenly, I definitely wanted to feel outraged. While the media is breathlessly talking about breasts and how much of them we might end up seeing and how distracting they are, here’s what’s been going on in the film world this year.

According to the article in the Huffington Post “Are Women Not Oscar-Worthy?” not even a single woman was nominated in seven of 19 categories and only 35 women received nominations of any sort compared to 140 men (i.e. a 20%-80% ratio). The article continues to point out that while Kathryn Bigelow did become the first female director to win an Oscar in 2009, she remains the only one in history.

In the documentary “Miss Representation,” Catherine Hardwicke talked about her own life as a director. Given the perspective (unsupported by credible research) that only a very few female actors are bankable enough to carry a big budget movie, in order to get her first film made, Ms. Hardwicke had to go about as low budget as possible. She co-wrote “Thirteen” with a thirteen-year-old girl and she shot it in her house, with actors wearing her clothes and driving her car. The film went on to success at Sundance and beyond.

Nonetheless, Ms. Hardwicke notes that two major studios turned down the “Twilight” project before a new, small company took it on. No one expected the movie to be successful – and of course the franchise went on to make over half a billion dollars. “But there’s a flip side to that which is kind of astonishing to me. On the next two ‘Twilights,’ they hired guys. They did not seek out a female director, and on the same side, I’ve gone after some jobs that I’ve been told flat out to myself and my agent, ‘Oh, no, we think a guy should direct this.'” (Hardwicke in “Miss Representation”) You can well imagine my 8th grade Life Skills students’ reactions to this passage. One of them was literally sputtering, so mad she couldn’t form coherent words at first.

Geena Davis, for whom her successive roles as Thelma in “Thelma and Louise” and as the gifted catcher Dottie Hinson in “A League of Their Own” may have cemented her reputation as a strong female actor, has founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. The Institute describes itself as “the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and under.” (Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: About Us). The website includes a wealth of information, and the organization is working hard to change perceptions and make a positive difference.

Next Tuesday, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, will be speaking at UMass on challenges facing feminists. Susanna Thompson, our Director of Communications, discovered the event, sharing it with a number of people including Hannah Richards, who also works in Communications as well as teaching 7th grade Life Skills, and me. We are investigating whether the talk will be pitched at a level these young students will be able to understand, and if it is, we may offer it as an optional activity.

Perhaps securing a greater voice in the media will be one of the challenges of which Ms. O’Neill will speak? It’s certainly plausible.

Meanwhile, I will continue my mini-boycott of the Oscars.

We’ll see how it goes next year.

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Filed under Gender, In the Classroom, On Education, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uncategorized, Women in media

Beauty Redefined

Sometimes, I feel as though I’m living in an alternate universe. Don’t get me wrong, I like my little world. But every so often, I look around me, shake my head, and wonder.

Take for example Friday morning. Checking through my school email, I found a link to top Yahoo! stories that made me blink twice and then decide I had to find out more about it. The headline? “Antarctica not bikini friendly, says Upton.” You’d think that would be obvious. So why did it need to be said?

It turns out that Kate Upton, for her photo shoot for the recent “Sports Illustrated” swimsuit issue, was in fact sent to Antarctica. The article in Yahoo! quotes her as saying, “When I came back I was losing hearing and eyesight because my body was shutting down. It was working so hard to keep me warm. My mom’s in my ear going ‘I told you not to go there. It’s a bad idea!’” The article followed up this quote by noting, “Planning for this shoot took about three years due to costs and scheduling, marking it as the first-ever fashion shoot that has taken place in Antarctica.” Wheeeee! History is being made! Later on, the article said, “The only bummer is that Day didn’t get the chance to tell Upton in person that all her hard work paid off. The model found out she landed the cover via Twitter when it leaked four days early. / Still, Upton is absolutely thrilled.”

So her body nearly shut down – which to me means she was at risk of dying – and the “only bummer” is that she found out secondhand that she had won the honor of being on the cover? As my students would say, how messed up is that?

Speaking of the cover, on which she is wearing only a bikini bottom and an open parka, there is an organization, “Beauty Redefined,” which was begun by twins Lindsay and Lexie Kite, who are about to receive doctorates in communication from the University of Utah. As reported in the “Salt Lake Tribune,” Beauty Redefined sells sticky note pads, $5.00 for a 50-note pad, which feature phrases such as “You are capable of so much more than looking hot.” Lindsay and Lexie are working hard to send a message to Sports Illustrated, and an image of Ms. Upton’s cover with one of their sticky notes covering her up from the neck down, is in fact getting some airplay on the Internet. To date, to my knowledge, Sports Illustrated has not responded. I have, however, seen several messages (from people of different genders) on Twitter commenting on how viewing the image with the sticky note humanized Ms. Upton.

It is absolutely critical that our students are aware of such outrages, including the subtext, and that they have a sense of how they can respond – that they feel their own power in the face of the ongoing dehumanizing of women in the media. And I do feel that awareness is higher than ever this year. The key will be to ensure these kids, as they grow into womanhood, keep their awareness, keep their voice, keep their sense of power – and furthermore, to instill these attitudes into new students as they join our community so that the fight for true respect and equity not only continues but also expands.

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Filed under Gender, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Women in media

Fight the Power

Recently, I had the chance to touch base with Sally, our Head of School, about some of the more political blogs I’ve posted here recently. I wanted to thank her, because I know that by no means would every school offer me the degree of freedom that I have here. She told me she views this school as being about finding one’s authentic voice, which was in one sense an eye-opening moment for me. Of course, that is a major part of our mission statement for what we do for our students, and of course, role modeling is always an important part of what we teach. But explicitly allowing and even encouraging adults to find their own authentic voices as part of a full-school holistic model? At that point, we are truly making our mission statement a way of life rather than just a lofty ideal we may or may not even be able to remember if asked.

Over the weekend, I was participating in a two-day webinar with the Center for Teaching Quality about an exciting project we’re going to be rolling out in a little while (I promise to keep you updated). At one point, they asked us to reflect on what our work with CTQ had meant to us. I thought immediately about two of the voices in the edublogging world who have influenced me profoundly, both people with whom I have worked in CTQ: Nancy Flanagan and Jose Vilson.

Nancy writes the blog “Teacher in a Strange Land” for EdWeek. Depending on the week, the “Strange Land” might be the world in which teachers struggle for voice in determining what’s best for their students, or it might be the edublogging world itself. In “Seattle Grace,” for example, Nancy begins with the question, “What would happen if teachers refused to do things that harm their students?” and develops a strong and supportive case for the actions being taken by Garfield High School teachers and others in actively resisting excessive and unhelpful mandatory district tests. In “Sports Authority,” Nancy writes about the curious parallels between sports and the edublogging world and how men, who make up 25% of the teaching profession, not only are way overrepresented in the edublogging world but also far too frequently act in a manner that marginalizes and diminishes women. In the ongoing struggle for social justice, Nancy notes, “Moving the needle is never a function of a single act of civil disobedience. The best we can hope for is a little grace–… a generous disposition toward those who care about doing what’s right.”

Jose has two outlets, his own website “The Jose Vilson” and the Future of Teaching blog in which he engages in dialogue with another strong voice whom I greatly respect, John Holland. Writing both as a male teacher of colour and as a teacher, period, Jose tells truths that may make some people stand up and cheer and may also make some people uncomfortable (with, of course, a possible overlap between the groups). His tone is always forward-looking – by speaking about and acknowledging these truths, by facing down any discomfort we may or may not be feeling, we realize, we can go about the fundamentally important work of building a better world. For example, in discussing the reactions of people to Leonard Cooper’s recent victory on Jeopardy in “The Curious Case of Leonard Cooper and the Perception of Intellect,” Jose poses the question, “Do we still perceive intelligent as natural to some and exceptional in others?” and goes on to note that “Leonard Cooper represents the potential of all children to transcend the perceptions already laid upon them. He represents adults, too, at least the ones who understand that what we see isn’t always what we get, and that’s a good thing for Leonard. For too many of our children, the buzzer sounds long far too early, and the judges aren’t as nice.”

These two people, enabling me to think deeply about my practice and the implications that go far beyond the so-called “standard curriculum,” have also inspired me to work harder and more actively for social justice in my school and in my life. In a sense, then, they stand by my side as I work with my 8th grade Life Skills students in following their lead and developing their voices. An activity on microaggressions led to deeper work with sexism; we then segued to look at girls’ brains and learning styles and research on girls schools. They are currently developing four proposals to strengthen the program of our school, and Sally has agreed to attend one of our class meetings to listen to the proposals and discuss them with the girls. The initial ideas are far-ranging, creative, and powerful in their potential, and the meeting with Sally has the potential to be the kind of signature experience in their lives they can carry forward into a world less inclined to hear their voices than it should be.

I was talking to one of my colleagues last week about my perception that the school is experiencing a cultural shift from being a girls school to being a feminist school, and she instantly came up with a variety of examples. Of course, there are many different flavours of feminism, including a way of being that rejects the label of feminist even as it embraces feminist ideals. In a school whose goal is to enable girls to find their authentic voice and be their own best self, one would hope and expect that you would find all these different flavours of feminism – and indeed, you would. In a school devoted to bringing about social justice, you would hope and expect that those feminist ideals would occasionally find voice through other struggles – anti-racism, gay rights, a broader gender activism that looks beyond female and male – and once again, I think you would find this to be true. Among our Seniors, you can find proof in Mary’s Women’s Film Series, Nafisatou’s speech on Martin Luther King Day and advocacy of the life work and legacy of Malcolm X, and Kate’s quiet but firm affirmations that sexuality and gender expression are a part of our true selves that each person alone gets to decide for themselves. Among our middle school students, you see it in the Life Skills 8 class’s questions about the full range of genders and sexualities, the Humanities 7 class’s affirmations that no one should judge anyone else by anything other than their actions, and Star’s ringing call one day to “Fight the Power!”

All teaching, Nancy and Jose helped me learn, is political. Every minute of every class is a lesson in civics, at least if I am doing my job right. Of course, as a given but also as an imperative if I am to help my students bring out their authentic voices, I must not promote a specific political ideology; as near as I can tell, I am successful in this. But, as I’ve stated before, I am uncompromising in my commitment to full equity for all people that they might be able to be their own true selves. So, too, it would seem, are my students.

I love my work.

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Filed under Gender, On Education, Uncategorized, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Candle in the Wind

And it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind
– Elton John and Bernie Taupin

It’s 2:05 in the morning and I really should be asleep. Indeed, I just blinked my eyes to refocus them, and stood up to go over and blow out a candle… and then just as suddenly sat back down, realizing I couldn’t blow it out. Not yet. Because, for the second time this year (and really, once was more than enough, thank you very much), I found myself lighting a candle in memory of a teenager who had touched my life, another soul lost to suicide.

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I will respect the privacy of the family and spare you all the details. But I think of the people in his life, forever separated from his physical presence and forever deprived of his emotional presence, no matter how firmly his memory is embedded in their hearts and minds. His parents. His girlfriend. His friends. Other family members.

And his coach. For, as I myself – who only knew this young man secondhand – have been struggling to deal with all the emotions swirling inside me, it has been an email from his coach that has helped the most. It’s a letter I will keep with me always. In it, the coach describes a memorial service the team held and shares the words he spoke, paraphrasing Baba Ram Dass. In turn, I share with you this excerpt:

“X finished his life on Earth and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts, as the fragile thread of our faith is dealt with so violently… For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves… Now X’s soul is free, and the love that you can share with him is invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space. In that deep love, include me.”

We all have our own inner demons, and we all struggle with them as best we can. For some, the struggle is harder than for others. For some, more than we feel we can bear.

But we need not bear that struggle alone. In reaching out to others, we find strength. And as I hear again and again and again the words of my advisees last December, raging out against the veil of silence so often placed over suicides so that the deaths become all but invisible, I find myself renewing my vow to do what I can to illuminate the facts of teen suicide, of suicide in general. Only by talking about tragedy can we hope to prevent more tragedies. We may raise awareness in potential victims of what they are going through, how to cope – and the hole they would leave behind – and incite them instead to reach out for help. We may raise awareness in friends and family of how to identify potential victims, recognizing they aren’t responsible for the decision but nonetheless helping them to know when to intervene before it is too late. We may think of the critical role teachers, coaches, and other significant adults in kids’ lives can play in raising that awareness, in reaching out to kids, in helping strengthen them – in doing something, anything, to prevent more nights like tonight.

It is now 2:41 in the morning and there remains the problem of the candle, flickering on a nearby table. Nothing, including the candle, lasts forever. But everything, including the candle, should live out its natural life. At least for now, then, I will let it continue to burn. And when its image is seared permanently into my brain as a symbol of my ongoing commitment to action, its flame, too, will have become invulnerable to the winds of changing time. Then and only then will I blow it out.

And hope I never ever light it again.

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An Open Letter to Dr. John Chubb

Dear Dr. Chubb,

I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: congratulations on your appointment to be President of the National Association of Independent Schools! Over the past decade, I have come increasingly to trust NAIS to gently but firmly shake up my thinking, causing me to examine at a deep level what I am doing, why I am doing it, and how it is working. In the process, and supported also with my work in other organizations such as AMLE, NELMS, MiddleWeb and the Center for Teaching Quality, I’ve learned to walk the talk in terms of being genuinely and deeply student-centered, I’ve learned about new research and how it can inform our practice, and I’ve seen my school’s middle level program, created in 2004, thrive as we have put these principles to work. As a member of NAIS, I am happy to welcome you to the organization, and look forward to working with you and the thousands of other members of NAIS to strengthen not only my school, not only independent schools in general, but also all schools in this country, public and private.

I know you’re aware there has been some concern over your appointment to this position, and while I suppose it goes with the territory, I’m sure it can’t be easy. I myself have shared some of those concerns, for example those expressed in this comment at ISENET while reacting to your article “The Best Teachers In the World,” but have also had the impression that you sincerely want the best for schools. That may be one reason why I chose to reach out to you via the NAIS website. And you proved the sincerity of the offer by reaching out to me, wanting as you said not only to answer my question but also to engage in a conversation in a way that email just wouldn’t have facilitated. I respect you for that, and through the conversation you gained my respect in other ways.

My question to you was, “How will you go about selecting policies you promote to help strengthen independent school education, and how do you foresee these actions strengthening public schools alongside us?” I appreciated your initial answer that you saw your job as more about determining policy directions desired by NAIS membership and helping facilitate those and less about trying to promote your own personal opinions. There are indeed some amazing thought leaders in the NAIS community, and they can be tremendous resources, supporting you in your work as you continue to help all of us learn about our profession and craft. Of course, NAIS is a large and diverse organization whose schools fulfill a range of missions, but I would hope and think there are indeed principles around which we could, would, should all coalesce.

Through your writings, I had come to think of you as a person who focuses on teacher quality and student achievement, and I know these are far too often code words for the overuse of testing and the provably unreliable Value-Added Measurement. Of course, research does confirm that teacher quality affects student learning more than any other factor within schools; we didn’t discuss this point but I’m sure you know that extra-school factors weigh even more heavily in student success. I was delighted and relieved to learn that you view success much more broadly than just measurable academic achievement. This reinforces a passage from the statement you wrote to members on your appointment: “We have become accustomed to thinking of our schools almost exclusively as places that impart knowledge and skills, boost student achievement, raise test scores, and help us compete in the international economy. I am reminded every day of the other things that good schools do for their children—love them, instill in them life affirming values, protect them, give them hope and confidence, and prepare them to make a better world.” (Chubb) I shared with you some of the priorities the parents in our school have set for their daughters – “Happiness,” the number one goal of parents in the 2006-2007 school year, or the top four goals of this year’s parents: emerging passion for something, self-confidence, leadership, and – again – happiness. You understood and agreed on their importance. And I agree that schools need to be about so much more than just academics.

Indeed, that is the design and focus of the middle school program I helped start here at Stoneleigh-Burnham nine years ago. Without the ossified structures and remnants of years of well-intentioned but misguided practice, we were free to look at what research told us to do, focusing particularly on the guiding principles of This We Believe, published by AMLE (then the National Middle School Association). Our intention was, as we put it at the time, to do it right, right from the start. Academic, artistic, athletic, and social development all have their place in our program, and mutually reinforce each other. I know in your podcast you mentioned your intention to do a listening tour, observing different schools and talking to members of their communities, and I am honored that you have asked to come visit our school and see our mission and philosophy in action. We look forward to welcoming you.

In our conversation, we also talked about great schools, and you and I agreed that examples can be found among traditional public, charter, independent, and other private schools. I offered the idea that this was an opportunity for NAIS, for if we were to promote great models of learning from across the educational spectrum, it would help us build bridges.

In your statement to NAIS members upon your appointment, you also wrote: “I am hopeful for all of our country’s schools. But I am especially optimistic about schools with the intelligence, focus, leadership, and freedom to meet the future head-on.” (Chubb) Once again, I completely agree with you. And as we all look to the future, I hope and trust we will all work together to strengthen not only the independent schools in our direct charge but also public schools, equally important to our nation’s future.

Sincerely,
Bill Ivey
Middle School Dean
Stoneleigh-Burnham School

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