Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lighting a Fire

“Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

The first Irishman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1923), poet William Butler Yeats composed “The Second Coming” during a time of widespread disillusionment following World War I.  Much quoted during the 1960s, it goes:
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
. . . .
And what rough beast, in its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

According to Anya Kamenetz’s article “Student Course Evaluations get an ‘F,’” statistics show that difficult graders receive more criticism than easy instructors.  Utilizing evaluations for tenure and promotion purposes, therefore, discourages rather than encourages rigorous teaching.  Kamenetz wrote: “Say one professor gets ‘satisfatory’ across the board, while her colleague is polarizing.  Perhaps he’s really great with high performers and not too good with low performers.  Are these two really equivalent?”  Cathy Billinger commented that Anne Balay was “a hard teacher but the one I learned the most from.”

The September 2014 issue of Indiana Magazine of History (IMH) contains Elsa F. Kramer’s Letter to the Editor expressing thanks for publishing an exchange exposing the hypocrisy of Mitch Daniels, who when governor tried to censor Howard Zinn’s works from a teacher-training program.  Kramer wrote: “One measure of an educated mind is a willingness to acknowledge and fairly examine the views of others.”  Kramer includes this quote from Aristotle: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”  She concluded that the controversy was less about Zinn’s understanding of history and more about Mitch Daniels’ misunderstanding of the role of education.  On IMH’s editorial board with me are two other Calumet Region researchers, Katherine Turk, now at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Paul O’Hara, still at Xavier.
Alissa, with green and blue lollipop

Miranda took a selfie with Les Gold, the Detroit pawnbroker featured on truTV’s reality series “Hardcore Pawn.”  Also on Facebook were pictures of Alissa at a 2014 Grand Valley State “Alumni Reunion” of Overseas Program students that she planned.  Sunday I viewed the first half of Bears versus  Packers (the last 30 minutes weren’t worth seeing, I learned later).  The Hagelbergs took us to Memorial Opera House for a production of the 1971 Neil Simon play, “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.”  It wasn’t my cup of tea (non-musicals rarely are), but I admired co-stars John Sanchez and Pegg Sangerman and enjoyed the recorded music beforehand and during intermission, including songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Credence Clearwater Revival, and the Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road”

In “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” 47 year-old Mel Edison loses his job and copes poorly with noisy neighbors, faulty air-conditioning, snobby siblings, and his Manhattan apartment being robbed.  Radio news bulletins (i.e., a Polish freighter rams into the Statue of Liberty) parody the perils of living in “The Big Apple.”  In the summer of 1971 a stifling heat wave and prolonged garbage strike took place in New York City, so Neil Simon was not off the mark to suggest that tenants like Mel might smell the aroma on the fourteenth floor. 

Kate and Corey Hagelberg joined the four of us at Popolano’s Italian Restaurant in Chesterton.  The weather was perfect for dining outside, where singer-guitarist Mike Bruccoleri was skillfully performing mainly Fifties hits for the silver-haired customers – several Elvis and Everly Brothers numbers and, my favorite, “Silhouettes,” a 1957 doo-wop tune by the Rays.  Cover versions by the Diamonds and Herman’s Hermits subsequently made the Billboard charts.  Bruccoleri has played with Peter Noone’s Herman’s Hermits and recently performed a set with Buckingham guitarist Bob Abrams. While the best-known Hermits song is the silly, “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am,” “I’m Into Something Good” is first rate.  When I saw Herman’s Hermits at the Star Plaza, the Buckinghams were also on the bill.

A Carole Carlson Post-Trib feature on Gary’s City Methodist Church made use of my account (in “Gary’s First Hundred Years”) of its construction 90 years ago. A shrewd fundraiser, Reverend William Graham Seaman persuaded U.S, Steel to donate $385,000 for a state-of-the-art Skinner organ.  An integrationist who, in Carlson’s words, “dreamed of an interracial church where black and white parishioners shared church pews,” Seaman proved too liberal for his patrician congregation and in 1929 got shuffled off to a small parish in Ohio.  His ashes, however, are in the church sanctuary.  Seaman Hall adjacent to the worship area was once home to IUN’s predecessor, the IU “Gary Extension,” whose faculty included the unforgettable Bill Neil, Les Singer, and George Thoma. 

Parisian filmmakers Blandine Huk and Frederic Cousseau got together with Jonathyne Briggs and Jamie.  Because Jon frequently does research in France on that country’s punk scene, I introduced them last year, and they exchanged email addresses.  Blandine wrote: “They are really nice people.  We spent a good time together.”

Back at Valpo University for Heath Carter’s race-relations seminar, I passed around James Madison’s “Hoosiers,” pointing out a photo of a dapper Mayor Hatcher, just 34 at the time of his first election.  I stated that white flight began pre-1967 when federal law mandated that black students be bussed to schools citywide.  Gary was no Shangri la before then, with ethnic gangs prominent and wide-open prostitution flourishing in the “Red Light District” along Washington Street.  I showed them my Alex Karras Traces article and told about his throwing food onto the floor during the 1950s when a Miller restaurant refused to serve his African-American friend and fellow Iowa Hawkeye teammate Earl Smith.  A student expressed surprise that Karras, the best NFL player not in its Hall of Fame, played Mongo, the dimwit who punches a horse in “Blazing Saddles.” 

Students reported on Shavings stories about Region race relations during the 1960s.  The only black people some suburban kids knew were maids or rivals in athletic competitions.   African Americans were becoming more outspoken during the 1960s; that’s what scared white bigots, as well as , bluntly pout, fear that their daughters might marry one. Gary did not experience a race riot, ubiquitous during that turbulent decade, in large part due to Hatcher being elected.  There would have been one, I told the class, had the Lake County Democratic machine managed to steal the 1967 contest.

Heath Carter examined what Hatcher meant by referring to Gary as like a colony.  A former Chicagoan, he compared white opposition to Hatcher to what Walter Washington experienced.  He cringes when neighbors say he must be relieved to be in Valparaiso, whose motto is “Where Living Is Better.”  Better than what, I wondered.  The implication is pretty clear.  Carter, very comfortable and popular, invited students (and me!) to his house for dinner in a couple weeks.  Would a 12-pack be welcome?  Probably not, but maybe I’ll ask.  Most students appear to be right around 21.  The only black student in the class is from Gary, and her mother has taken several classes with IUN Minority Studies professor Earl Jones.  Next spring Carter is taking 50 students to Selma with stops in places like Memphis in connection with events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March.

Time ran out before I could read this quote from Gary community activist Jean Thurman, a dear friend who was married to radical lumberjack and poker buddy Fred Gaboury:
  “We didn’t push the white people out.  They decided on their own that they wanted to go.  I remember hearing people saying on talk shows that they were moving because they couldn’t raise their children in a city where the mayor was black.  This was disheartening.
  I really don’t think Mayor Hatcher expected that.  You know, we can talk about how awful racism is but you never really want to believe it.  You want to think that, deep down, people are decent.  That came as a rude awakening.  He didn’t even get a chance to get in office before people were getting ready to leave.”

During the final 30 minutes VU political scientist Larry Baas (above, moonlighting) discussed an ongoing project of his Community Research and Service Center to document bias motivated incidents, such as cross burnings and swastika vandalism since 1999 in Valparaiso and throughout Northwest Indiana.  Lacking a Hate Crime statute, local police until recently didn’t aggressively investigate these incidents or keep records of complaints.  Baas has done research about drug addiction in the Region, and frequently speaks to local groups, where, he joked, some have nicknamed him “Bad News Baas.”  Larry definitely is someone I’d like to know better.

I walked around campus for a bit, taking in the atmosphere.  I’ve been “slouching towards Valparaiso,” as William Butler Yeats and Joan Didion might say, shopping at Best Buy and Penney’s, attending movies at Cinemark, and eating at downtown restaurants after plays at Memorial Opera House.  James and Becca have performed at VU’s chapel, where a steady stream of residents were heading for some sort of service.  Nearby three young men were speaking in Arabic.  I wondered if they and other international students (of which VU apparently has many – it’s a moneymaker) feel comfortable venturing into downtown, away from the shelter of the university.

Going into Monday night’s game between New England and Kansas City, all I needed in my Fantasy match against Garrett Okomski was for QB Tom Brady to earn me 5 more points than the Patriots kicker.  Barring an injury, it seemed a cinch, only Brady had a horrid game, with a fumble and two interceptions.   I barely won by a single point – too close for comfort.  Brady’s back-up with a few minutes to go engineered a TD drive.  Had New England kicked a field goal instead, I’d be 0-4 now instead of 1-3.  Ten years ago, Chiefs coach Andy Reid was with the Eagles, who with Donovan McNabb at quarterback, made a Superbowl appearance against Brady and Coach Bill Belichick.  New England won 24-21, their third championship in four years, but last night Reid got his revenge.
below, first ore boat arrives at Bethlehem Steel; by David Mergl

For years Archives volunteer David Mergl provided drawings touting safety procedures for area steel mills, in addition to duties as a photographer.  He has compiled several bound volumes, in addition to hundreds of photos documenting steelmaking, including Bethlehem Steel’s Burns Harbor facilities in is infancy.

No comments:

Post a Comment