Posted on 6 June 2010 Sunday

currently reading: The Senator and the Sharecropper: the freedom struggles of of James O. Eastland and Fannie Lou Hamer

Dear Readers, Amy Bowllan’s W.A.R. blog has moved. If you’ve never read her Writers Against Racism series, be sure to stop over there and read how some of your favorite authors have experienced racism in their life. Amy’s blog is a testament to the power of the written word and the hope we can find in the strength we create by being a community.

My reading these days is in preparation for my workshop on the Mississippi delta. I’m interested in seeing how much life has changed down there.

The day I was born, Fannie Lou Hamer turned 40. Hamer managed to finish the 6th grade before having to spend her days in the fields picking cotton. Her home, like the homes of most Blacks in Mississippi were shacks at best. Cotton was planted to the door step and there was so little food available in this land of rich, fertile soil that many diseases resulted from poor nutrition. Her mom, a woman of strong Christian faith, managed to teach her children how special they were and to instill a sense of dignity in them.  In one account, Hamer tells about the first time she received a pair of shoes and no longer had to wrap her feet in rags.

This made me think of my own mother who grew up in Charleston, MS. Somehow, her grandmother managed to own their home and my mother, grandmother and other family members never worked in the fields. Only when I was grown with children of my own did my mom elude to the poverty in which she grew up.  She said very little about it, but it was one of the few times she made a comment in a way that told me there would be no further discussion. I’m not sure when she left Mississippi and headed for Ohio, but I do know that she was still in school.

Schools in Mississippi were bad. In the delta region, as everywhere, dollars were appropriated for schools based on populations. In the delta, the population of Blacks was large, much larger, than those of whites. So, when monies were disproportionally  spent on White schools, they became  far superior to Black schools. But, these White schools were still vastly inferior to white schools in other parts of the nation. So thinking about this transition my mom made to schools in Toledo. There’s no wonder she didn’t want to finish: she hadn’t been prepared. While I’m sure she saw this as her own inadequacy, it was the schools that were inadequate.

I think of all she taught her three children, all of whom graduated college, and now I think about what these schools had to have done to her sense of self esteem, both the schools that didn’t teach her the basics and those that didn’t reteach what they found she never got.  And I think about what schools today continue to do to student’s esteem. We don’t destroy them because from time to time we have to tell them they have a wrong answer, we ruin their esteem and their confidence when we don’t teach them. Schools in Mississippi continue to be some of the worst in the country.

Should we even consider what technology is available to these students?


iPads aren’t being seen as the best tools for the classroom, they’re just too limiting. I was surprised to read how many companies have tried to develop ebooks for textbook use and have been unsuccessful. One downfall has been getting the text page to fit the ereader’s screen. Promise is on the horizon. Check this out!

Now wouldn’t it be great if these tools could be test marketed in Mississippi, or in my failing school in IN?? Typically, high performing schools with well connected teachers get the new technologies. These are schools where students are going to be successful anyway! Imagine what it would do to teachers and students in MS to be able to learn with this? Imagine the indirect lessons they would learn and the growth they would have.

Finally, if you need some motivation to get through the week because you feel like you’re missing something, I”m giving you 5 of the twenty ways Heart of Innovation provides for seeing the invisible. It starts with the Fed Ex Truck.

1. Pay attention to your dreams.

2. Ask children for the answer.

3. Invite unusual suspects to share their point of view.

4. Stop projecting your own assumptions onto everything.

5. Trust your instincts more.

Enjoy your week!

Posted in: Sunday Reads