Friday, August 19, 2005

Frederick Douglass, the man

As my "reading showcase" for the strategic reading program, (20 minutes at the beginning of every class where I read something aloud and my students watch a good reader read and watch me think aloud through it) I'm reading the narrative of Douglass. That man is a hero. The first chapter deals with the beginning of his life. He didn't even know the date or year of his birth, though from anecdotal evidence he thinks it was probably around 1817. He was the son of his slave mother and his mother's white master, though even that is anecdotal. He was separated in infancy from his mother and she died when he was a little boy and never verified it.
I am going to type some of my school journal entries (that I read aloud to my students) into this blog sometimes. That's what yesterday's was. This is today's:
Douglass was about 27 when he wrote this book. My son's age. I think about the differences. Once again I realize that people really aren't very different. I look at this life at 26, with family and education and power, and I look at Douglass's. But then, Douglass has power. He made his own power. And at 27 he is writing and has risen out of, gotten himself out of, slavery. I guess all our experiences are relative. But to have seen, for example, people treated like oxen, people who were owned, people who were not considered to be people...that's the thing I cannot fathom. I wish I'd let the topic be "iron heart."
Trent said he didn't like what he was hearing, about the whipping of the slaves and all, and part of me doesn't want to read about that, but the better part of me knows that ignorance of that reality only keeps people in the dark. And it's dark enough in this town right now. Dark. It got terribly dark when that little girl was found strangled, probably raped, and darker still when the woman and her little girl got shot for someone else's beef. How iron a heart does it take to do that? And how iron a heart does it take to sell a human being? Are we born humane and learn otherwise? Do we lose it because inhumanity is perpetrated against us? But what about people who are treated inhumanely and become more compassionate? Free will.
Third period. They took a few minutes to get settled into writing. I've discovered that it's a good thing to let them have that couple of minutes to make their noise. Then when they settle down to write they're doing it of their own volition. But Eris just asked Corey if he could think his thoughts in his head because he was disturbing her. Anyway, this idea of being owned...AGH. Writing has almost ceased. I've got to telephone some mothers. Or grandmothers. I wish they could understand that their thoughts are worth their time and space, that their thoughts matter. That the world needs their thoughts. That they're smart and good. All I can think is that they don't respect their minds. All I can think is that it's just easier to clown than it is to think. Maybe they're afraid to try. Maybe they've bought into the lie that all they are is clowns and that they don't matter.

Melanie

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