Happy birthday, Frederick Douglass (a few days late)

February 17, 2008

Frederick Douglass didn’t know what day he was born — having been born a slave — so he picked a day, February 14. Timothy Sandefur at Freespace notes a new book on the way about Douglass, and a few other details.

Frederick Douglass

Douglass is to me the very model of an ideological reformer. He lived his beliefs 100 percent (even marrying a white woman in 1884; can you imagine?) and he, in his own words, agitated, agitated, agitated. But he was respectful, decorous, dignified, rebellious, and intelligent. He was eloquent and smart, but he knew the necessity of violence in some circumstances. And although he understood the need for occasional compromise, he compromised in the right way, never letting go of the ultimate vision and never letting his enemies forget that he knew why they were wrong, and that he would not rest until they were set right. Even then, his focus was not on defeating his opponents, but at getting to the right result. “The man who has thoroughly embraced the principles of justice, love and liberty,” he wrote, “like the true preacher of Christianity, is less anxious to reproach the world of its sins, than to win it to repentance. His great work on earth is to exemplify, and to illustrate, and to engraft those principles on the living and practical understandings of all men within the reach of his influence…. It is to snatch from the bosom of nature the latent facts of each individual man’s experience and with a steady hand to hold them up fresh and glowing, enforcing with all his power their acknowledgment and practical adoption.” That accurately describes Douglass’s own conduct in his life. He was a man of principles and a man of action.

Gotta note that for the calendar next year.

Years ago, the first significant piece I ever read on Douglass claimed that he was in the White House often enough to know his way around, and on more than one occasion was mistaken for President Lincoln by visitors unfamiliar with either man. It’s difficult to know how accurate such a claim could be, and I’ve not found it noted anywhere in the last decade or so. For my U.S. history class skeptics, however, I got a lucite cube that allowed two photos to be displayed, and displayed Douglass on one side and Lincoln on the other. Looking quickly, students often mistook which one was on display. I suppose such identity confusion is possible.

Douglass’s story is great inspiration, and a testament to the value of education. Every school kid should know it.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Meanwhile, back at the school: Carnival!

February 17, 2008

I always loved school carnivals. The elementary school versions always featured silly games and activities to appeal to kids of third grade mentality — right up my alley! Then I joined the PTA board at our kids’ elementary, and saw the numbers. The annual carnival took in several tens of thousands of dollars. A lot of that money bought new library books, some bought new science programs, all of it went for better education.

I really like a well-run carnival now.  Here are a few well-run carnival events.

Carnival of the Liberals #58 flew to England, at Liberal England. Double the posts, ten from England, ten from the Americas.  Geography and history teachers might be particularly interested in a post at Pickled Politics on whether Australia’s government will follow up with real action following their official apology to the continent’s aboriginals, for past mistreatment.

Will I ever catch up with the Carnival of Education? Teachers ought to browse this weekly — I haven’t looked at it weekly in the past month. Let’s go back to #155: Bluebird’s Classroom has a post about a teachable moment, involving her unit on weather, and the tornado warning that popped up during class. Pay particular attention to her use of the LCD projector and live television link. Odds are that your classroom can’t support such teaching, as mine cannot right now.

Hot 4 Teacher candy

The rest of Carnival of Education #155 plays out at Median Sib. But I’m much farther behind. #156 resides at Creating Lifelong Learners. #157 can be found at Colossus of Rhodey. #158 moves in at Instructify. That one features this post (from Creating Lifelong Learners) about using your iPod in class to high purpose. I’ll wager there is not a school of education in the U.S. that teaches iPod use as a tool of classroom control and educational excellence. This is why we need to read these on-line collections. (“Hot 4 Teacher” graphic borrowed from Instructify.)

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