Category Archives: public education

My Mammy’s Touch.

Mae Elisabeth [Learn] Sweet was my maternal grandmother. Her first grandchild, Alan Marshall, called her “Mammy”, and it stuck; she, and her husband, would be Mammy and Pappy to all 19 grandkids, thereafter. Let me tell you about her.
Image may contain: 1 person, eyeglasses and closeup
Mammy (seen in this photo, at about 95 years) was widely regarded by all who knew her as a human saint. She was the absolute sweetest, most loving, most gentle, most prayerful, hardworking, resourceful, generous, forgiving person anybody knew. Her character made most men whither. She prayed, daily, for everyone she knew, whenever they “came to mind.” I am not alone in believing that she was nearly psychic, able to attune to the slightest and most immediate needs among her brood, and beyond. And, when mum met dad on the train and began to write letters to him, placing those letters in the iron mailbox just outside the front door on the porch wall for the mailman to pick up and deliver, Mammy would discreetly take those letters and cross off the final two syllables of dad’s surname. Mum told me this, having discovered the act. Why did Mammy do that? Mammy did that, not because she wasn’t a loving, caring, forgiving, generous, prayerful, hardworking, resourceful mother and grandmother, but because systemic racism had borne itself out, in her; dad was Italian, and he was a source of shame to her. She had to remove the final two syllables of his last name, to make it appear different than the identifying  ” – zillo” which appeared naturally.
.
Was it Mammy’s fault, that she behaved this way? Did her actions arise out of some corrosive gangrene in her soul? No; it did not. It emerged because she had been taught by her Eastern Pennsylvanian, Danish/English/Germanic societal roots, to regard Italians as second class citizens, as shameful members of American society.
.
And, it is just such deeply rooted, largely subconscious behavior toward people of color which those of American “white” society have and continue to portray, however subtley however fleetingly however rarely, in their actions throughout the generations.
.
In 1944, mum married dad. Almost ten years later, after a nearly decade long divorce, they remarried. I was their second child, and favored my father; my hair was black, my skin was dark. And, Mammy was fond of stroking my face, doing so every time I would sit beside her. She would regularly exclaim at the beauty of my skin, its softness, and smile with deep fondness into my eyes.
.
It’s my belief that my birth changed my Mammy, ever more; she realized, and thereafter made conscious effort, to appreciate that which she had been taught to shame. And, in just such the same manner, only when we reach out and touch that which we are taught to revile will we ever hope to heal from hate.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
© 6/28/2020     Ruth Ann Scanzillo.     All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the rights of authorship.
littlebarefeetblog.com

No Limits.

Somebody has to say it.

Most trained educators will attest: those of limited intellect m.u.s.t. be led and protected by responsible minds. When I say “responsible”, I mean the kind of minds which comprehend the scope, nature and implication of such limitation.

Trained educators understand that those of limited intellectual capacity usually have the most difficulty comprehending abstractions. Theirs is a literal world, populated only by concrete objects which they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. Likewise, they react only to that which expresses concretely.

What is also important to realize is that those who are limited react as collectives; they either seek their own, or manifest genetically in large percentage within extended families. Next, while they do possess an occasional degree of awareness of their limitations they usually, if “outed” (and, given the opportunity to do so), express via angry or defiant outburst. When found in large gatherings, these are a palpable force. Even more critically, they react according to the limits of their understanding, and this point cannot be overestimated.

No child will obey unless either forced to do so by some perceived threat, or made to understand thoroughly the consequences of refusal. Those of limited intellect behave in similar fashion to children – but, have a far greater impact both on their surroundings and those who inhabit them.

Enter the kind of threat posed by the novel coronavirus, Covid-19. This threat is far from concrete, as perceived; it cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled or, apart from its symptoms, felt. Its power is abstract, and respecting that power REQUIRES comprehension of its unseen, undetectable properties.

I do not feel that those in current power within our government have behaved responsibly toward such individuals. Either policy or statistics wonks, they have failed to comprehend the nature of this percentage of our population – its inclination to band together, its almost complete lack of abstract reasoning potential, and its resultant stubborn refusal to comply with what seems to the rest to be simple orders restricting behavior.

I feel the threat of this absence of accountability toward our weakest population. It affects me every day, either by means of verbal retaliation or by actions which show defiance against orders laid out by our leaders. When a child doesn’t understand the consequences of action, such a child will go about his or her merry way, acting according to desire or preference. This is what we are seeing across our country: people who don’t fully, completely realize what is happening, and who are acting accordingly. It is this population which poses the greatest threat to public health, both to itself and that representing the rest.

Somebody, please; take a moment to sound this alarm. Make the Covid-19 pandemic rules clear enough for a fourth grader, and be SURE to include cause and effect on every point. Provide graphic representations, and post them on telephone poles and exterior doors of public places. Create sound bytes for radio, 15 second public service announcements, billboards – and, flood the communities which are underserved with them all. It only takes one insufficiently cognizant person to infect thousands and, when that happens, no limits are too great.

.
.
.
.
.
.
© 5/20/2020   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      Sharing permitted upon request of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for accepting responsibility.
littlebarefeetblog.com

Time For You To Go.

 

My last day as a public school music educator was not a celebration.

Although much anticipated, many times over the years, when the day came I was only aware of a couple, key feelings: exhaustion – and, readiness.

In the years one would have called my prime, I would arrive every morning in full, theatrical costume. Every class was its own creation, my body frequently the illustrated lesson. My students and I were perfectly attuned; discipline was a non-issue. If I didn’t have every child, mouth agape, in the palm of my hand, I wasn’t doing my job.

Time cloaked me. Over the years, the scene changed; once too often my perceived role was marginalized. My dear father, well into his ninth decade, moved in to be under my care. Well past my own half century mark, I found myself counting the months, and then the weeks. The Land of Diminishing Returns had worn me out.

Taken in totality, my contribution to public related arts education had hardly been scant or sparse. Ten fully staged extra-curricular drama productions; 250 beginning violinists, en masse, across several grade levels; instrumental ensembles of every conceivable permutation; competitive marching band; adjudicated concert choir and choruses; general/vocal music, K-8; mixed elementary chorus; focused curriculum for the hearing support. But, 25 years was a good, solid run; on June 9, 2011, I was done.

Today, Jared Kushner was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria on GPS. As President Trump’s senior advisor, he outlined the litany of accomplishments achieved by his father in law’s administration. Seven million new jobs. Trade deals, unprecedented. The dollar, strong. The endless war between Israel and Palestine reaching an also unprecedented mutually satisfying potential for resolution.

What makes related arts teachers distinct from the rest of their colleagues is the sheer measurability of their efforts. Everything they do with their students is readily observable by anyone. Art teachers produce student work which lines the walls of the school; music teachers create and direct performances open to everyone connected with the district. Their product is the direct result of their daily effort.

But, any teacher working past his/her point of positive affect becomes a liability. Good intentions are overtaken by fatigue; good judgment loses its edge. Children, ever intuitive, begin to resist them; administrators try to find ways to move them out of the building.

Given the past two years of the present Presidential administration, the glaring allegations, the deceit, the endless self-contradictions, the blatant lies, and the swarm of negative emotion generated, a great divide is now fixed among the American people. A clear half of the population of citizens wants nothing whatsoever to do with this President. Far beyond mere political ideology, the man himself is openly reviled. There is palpable hatred afoot, across wide swaths of the nation – hatred, for the President of the United States, by just under a majority of his people.

The recent impeachment trial has left half of America emboldened, and the other half utterly slain.  People can hardly look each other in the eye, fearfully wondering what is in the mind and heart of another. The climate, the prevailing mood is one of enmity. Were we at the mercy of the horse drawn carriage and musket, very little would restrain man from taking arms against man, woman against woman, child against child. All of this, over the person of the President of the United States.

Perhaps, instead of charging ahead like some Roman conqueror, President Trump should stop. It might be time for him to pull the lens back, expand to panorama, and take a candid look at the America his presence has created in the minds of its people. If he cannot do that, either because he is unable or unwilling, then he negates the very lives of those who are repulsed by him. He expresses virtual ethnic cleansing, reducing half of the population to zero value.

If he were not to stop, preferring instead to lead his faction into a future fraught by his own amoral, craven appetite for supremacy, the rift between himself , his following, and the rest of the nation would only grow wider. He would, by remaining in office, entrench the divide between the two Americas – perhaps beyond repair. In the face of and in spite of economic prosperity, he would single handedly destroy the soul and spirit of the entire country.

President Trump, don’t make us wait until November. Collect your laurels; accept your prize. Take your once in a lifetime lucky strike, and put it on the shelf with the rest of your shrine to self.

It’s well past time. Time for you to go.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

© 2/2/2020   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   Please respect the rights of those who produce original material. Do not copy, reconstitute, extract, or otherwise dismantle and distribute this piece without express, written permission of its author. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com