‘Culture of Arrogance’—A Commentary on the Steubenville Rape Case

The recent trial and conviction of two Ohio high school students for rape is a sad reflection of affairs inherent in the student and general population of this country. The ‘culture of arrogance’ that reportedly predisposed the event, is highly visible in student communities and the youth culture in general across America.  I experienced this cultural moral break-down during my five-year tenure as a high school teacher.  Students regularly engage in what I term pre-criminal, arrogant and insolent behavior on a regular basis towards teachers, administrators and other students.

There also exists what has been identified as a ‘permissive culture’ within the community of parents responsible for today’s high school students.  While most parents would deny that they are indeed enablers of their children’s misbehavior, their voices do not reach much beyond their kitchens and living rooms and noticeably are often absent in the classroom and on the campuses at large.  This is not due to the lack of preaching and teaching on the part of some parents; but often due to the sheer force of the prevalent culture of young people and ever-present peer pressure.

I have been confronted by irate parents who have approached me as a teacher as well as administrators because their children gave them a one-sided story of mistreatment or accusations of unfair treatment.  I even had a parent threaten me once via e-mail because of something her child conveyed to her.  I think it is highly prudent to verify the insights and observations of people in their teen years.  This can be accomplished often quite simply through a parent-teacher meeting or often a phone call.

American students can boast of being pundits of the Information Age, brandishing high-end cell phones and other communication devices that allow them the freedoms as well as the opportunities to engage in broad social discourse and interaction.  But, that being said, there are few moral filters to sort the influx of information and activity outside of the home environment.  This, combined with the often permissive, rather than restrictive environments of school campuses, student social groups, busy and disengaged parents, and educators limited by authority, can be a dangerous mix.

I deem ‘pre-criminal’ behavior evident when a child crosses a serious behavioral line or attitudinal line within or outside of a structured environment such as a classroom, campus or organizational environment.  This line is generally something that can be found as an organizational or social infraction or code of conduct violation and can be as diverse as use of profanity towards an adult, a verbal assault, or physical threat.  Also, what can seem less threatening, but may be equally or of greater concern is students simply refusing to follow instructions or students who disengage emotionally, but remain present physically.

The Steubenville case is a hard lesson in American social and student morality.  It is also a hard lesson for the case defendants and their families whose lives will never be the same; and the case plaintiff whose injustices to herself, hopefully, will be looked at, diagnosed and treated to prevent future abuse and criminality.

©Linda Tauhid

For Linda Tauhid’s Journal

3/18/13

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Women and Faith—an International Women’s Day Commemorative

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Women and Faith—an International Women’s Day Commemorative

Reprinted from March 2013 for Linda Tauhid’s Journal

My observations about women and their achievements has taught me that most women achieve and deliver not only based on a qualification and success models, but rather on a faith-based models that drive their achievement and success.  These observations were informed by my grandmothers, my mother and other women mentors and friends that I have acquired during my lifetime.

Both of my grandmothers, Dora and Mary were Christian women who took their faith seriously.  My Grandmother Mary was known to be in the ministry while my Grandmother Dora focused her faith activities on guiding our family of six children as we grew.  Nana Dora also assisted my mother and father on more than one occasion as a family mediator as well as a financial contributor to our household.

My mother also operated with a faith-based world view.  Although my Mom’s persona would seem a bit more worldly to the unstudied view, when I would come to her for help in some of life’s problems, she would always advise me to ‘do the right thing’.  She told me that if you do the right thing, God will help you, if you don’t, then you don’t know.

One of my early mentors was the late Mrs. Isabella Ravenell.  She was the wife of the minister of the local Baptist church that we attended as children and young adults.  Mrs. Ravenell, besides being the leader of the church based Girl Scout Troop was an educator and later a principal in the public school system.  She took a personal interest in my development as a young girl. Unfortunately, I was not always as cooperative or appreciative of Mrs. Ravenell’s efforts as I should have been, but at this point, I highly value the work and effort that she made in my development.

Later in my adulthood, Mrs. Ravenell continued to support me by attending a number of my public poetry readings that were held at a Boston Public Library.  She also, brought Mrs. Johnson who was another Girls Scout leader of our troop.  I was very honored to have these women support me even though I had often like a spoiled child when they were seeking to groom and mentor me.

As I proceeded through life, I found the need to establish a faith discipline to support me as the challenges of life presented themselves in increasingly complex fashion.  I converted to Islam when I was twenty years old.  I don’t think that I felt a necessity to deviate from the religion of my grandmothers, it was just that the Islamic faith presented itself to me at a time of need and with the solutions that were needed at that time and ever since.  I have since utilized my Islamic faith to establish a world view that allows me to accept the faith of my grandmothers and all other human beings as well as to further develop my own faith practice in a way that better meets my needs.

As I have continued to seek success in life through education and work, I have always and utilized women mentors and women peer-coaches.  No matter where they were and how they got there, they always used faith principles to motivate others and themselves.  Let me clarify here that faith does not necessary imply religion, rather faith and religion often work hand in hand to give people a template with which to navigate life.  While I have known many women of various religions, I have also benefited from faith perspectives that do not necessarily claim a religious base.

While today’s International Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women, globally; I would like to promote the underpinning of faith that I find inherent in many women of success.  It is this element (faith) that I believe will continue to effectively move women and their families and communities forward and to value women’s successes and contributions of the past, present, and future.

©Linda Tauhid, March 8, 2013

Linda Tauhid’s Journal   https://lindatauhid.wordpress.com/

Linda Tauhid is a Houston-based writer, blogger, poet, social commentator and educator.

All Things Irish–A Tribute to my Boston Public School Teachers

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We were educated mainly by the Irish teachers of the Boston Public School System.  I actually was well into my high school years before I ever was taught by a teacher of color in the public school system.  Yet we learned to read and write and reason; and we set personal and educational goals as we grew.  Many of the teachers recognized and honored our gifts when they were evident, and many others struggled with us and our parents when we were slower to understand aspects of a particularly critical discipline such as math, or reading or writing.

I always demonstrated a proclivity for language, both written and spoken.  I understood almost inherently the phonemic idioms and sounds of the English language from a very early age.  I was often recognized and encouraged by my teachers for this ability.  As I grew up, my abilities for language and speech transformed from the academic arena into the social arena that often dominates pre-adolescence and beyond.  In this social arena, my communication abilities generally never wrought me much outside of some hurt feelings, lost friendships, some scrapes, and once even a bloody nose.

With my penchant for word recognition and spelling, I was, however a frequent winner of Mr. Coyle’s spelling bees.  Mr. Coyle rewarded spelling bee winners with a chocolate ice cream sundae outing.  To my dismay, Mr. Coyle never allowed me to collect on this award even though I won more than once.  Very possibly this was because I always carried some extra pounds, even in those days, and he probably didn’t want to add to my condition. I also am reminded, probably because we are presently in the Lenten season, that Mr. ‘C’ used to give up his beloved chocolate for Lent every year. I’m sure that these Lenten efforts will serve to atone for the small disappointment of an overweight student.

One time Mr. Supple, my fifth grade teacher gave me the ‘crown of Caesar’, actually only a verbal accolade, for an essay that I wrote to summarize our historical study of Rome.  Basking in my laurels, I decided to read from our next essay assignment the following week, whatever it was, and was greeted by a scathing critical analysis of my effort. I suppose one of the very key lessons of academic excellence and overall success is humility. This plate of ‘humble pie’ was dished up with alacrity from my honored teacher.

I continued to write productively in the poetic genre as well as short stories and essays as I grew.  Some of these were published in high school.  One of my greatest promoters was a high school teacher named Mrs. Galvin.  She always encouraged me to write and publish. She even had me enter a public essay contest which I did not win.  I had even at this point established a social editorial bias to my work and the contest panel decided on a more neutral essay.  Ms. Galvin, however, assured me that she thought my essay deserved to win.

In and around all of these great learning experiences blazed the whirlwinds of the sixties’ racial and school busing crises in Boston.  At least twice I, along with other African American students opted out of the public school system and attended ‘Freedom School’ for a day to protest the decisive racial politics that often plagued the Boston public education system.  However, when we returned to school after our day of protest and reprieve, it was generally ‘business as usual’ as far as our teachers were concerned.

Finally, in high school, we were introduced to a small number of teachers of color–actually no more than four, if I remember correctly.  Most notably, Ms. Gail Washington, now Gail Della-Piana was an art teacher that took a strong interest in all of her students. Gail, as we were permitted to call her outside of school, arranged and led trips to art exhibits and even a senior trip to New York City.  She often welcomed us into her home for social events and remained friendly and in contact with us well into our college years.

One time while traveling in Ghana, West Africa, I ran into Gail Della-Piana and a group of her students who were touring the country.  I was amazed to see her and quite interested to note her entourage of mostly or all white students.  Ms. Della-Piana was clearly taking her teaching role internationally in a very impressive way.  She has always been a role model for me, even in light of the dedication and excellence of my many other teachers.

Sometimes now, I reminisce on my education that occurred in a racially tense and culturally stratified community.  It would seem that the tensions and stressors of the time would have negatively impacted the educational deliverables. However, I remember so many highly committed and diligent educators, that any exceptions to access to competitive education were for me, the exception, not the rule.

I want to thank my teachers and their families for rising beyond the pulls of the times and bringing their dedication as a whole; and very specifically, their Celtic commitment to educating thinkers, writers, leaders and other teachers like me.

©Linda Tauhid

March 6, 2013

For Linda Tauhid’s Journal

Guns & Roses–for Lucky Dube

images-Lucky Dube

i chanted

to your music

in that Nairobi-

kitchen

in a cloudy Christmas

time.

why should you

die

by the gun?

you brought us

the gospel

of the

roots-people

from the continent

of my mothers

and my heart…

and i

had more hope

then,

being closer

to my source—

my people.

why

should you

die

by the gun?

i saw you here

on this soil—

but it is different

here—

far from home

and the

holiday

dancehall crowds

that celebrate

The Word.

here they

are

silenced

by food

and drink

and the quiet

of their sleeping

spirits.

but i am here

remembering you

playing your music:

‘Guns and Roses’

in this trash-melee;

why

should you

so powerful,

so beautiful.

so proud

die

by

the

gun?

 

©Linda Tauhid

2/3/13

Brother Blue

Brother Blue

Brother Blue

(for Brother Blue, Dr. Hugh Morgan Hill, Storyteller extraordinaire)

Brother Blue—

i just thought of you…

down this long road

where time

has no meaning

and then has much

you remind me of love

and the freedom that

i have struggled for,

searching for all

the usual human

goals.

i hear you sing

in your undoubted bravery

above the noise

within the divinity

of  truth.

in a brief moment

we met

and saw each other

and now so much later

down the line

of time

i seek you again

for healing

for love

for purpose

for remembrance

Brother Blue

i just thought of you.

 

September 9, 2011

©Linda Tauhid

Houston, TX

Tribute to Jazz Trumbeter Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd

I heard of the death of jazz trumpeter Donald  Byrd yesterday.  I was introduced to his music during my college days and have listened to his work ever since.  Professor Byrd’s 1963 album ‘A New Perspective’ was a magical, historical and spiritual indulgence that engages all the senses in its artistic superiority.  A blend of instrumentation and voices album pieces such as the well known Christor Redentor speak to the soul of the listener in the tongues spirit and resilience.  Christor Redentor is a perfect piece of music to commemorate what many celebrate during this month of historical remembrance.  I also invite you to review the album personnel that features such jazz greats as Hank Mobley, Herbie Hancock and Kenny Burrell. Mr. Byrd also played and collaborated with many jazz greats, most notably the great John Coltrane.

Mr. Byrd is also well-known for his work as an instructor at Howard University where he taught music and founded the popular 70’s group comprised of some of his students called The Blackbyrds.  It was easy for me and many others to transition from the sophisticated compositions of Professor Byrd’s earlier work to the soul-funk foundations of Blackbyrds’ pieces like ‘Walking in Rhythm’.

I understand that Mr. Byrd’s work has been sampled by many contemporary artists.  I look forward to researching and listening to these samples. I saw Donald Byrd live in Boston.  Also, one time while I was attending a show at Yoshi’s, a popular jazz spot in Oakland, California, Mr. Byrd was hanging out in the audience.  He always presented as relatively humble and real.

In the African American and world tradition of jazz, the practitioners are honored as much more than just show men and women or entertainers.  Rather, jazz practitioners are seen as griots; storytellers; historians; healers; medicine men and women; and the wise people of our tribe. It would stand to reason that we would honor their existence, their contributions and at last, their passing.

©Linda Tauhid

For Linda Tauhid’s Journal

February 8, 2013

Tribute to Jazz Vocalist Abbey Lincoln

Abby Lincoln

i

have

cried this morning

…and before

making sense

of life

…and death

in a world

where my voice

weakens

with time.

i am consoled

in this Ramadan time

of mercy,

hope,

and faith

as much I know

passes

and new-worldly ideas

not based on truth

and originality

permeate

the environments—

dominate the thoughts

and actions.

while the essential

‘jazz’

so well articulated

remains hidden/forgotten

in the words

of singers,

storytellers

and

of ‘lost’ poets

like me.

 

©Linda Tauhid

8/15/10