How Long?
Tad Roach

 

It is August, a time of anticipation, preparation, and excitement for schools across the country. Students are buying back-to-school clothes and supplies. Parents quietly hope that their children will soon meet teachers who are skilled, kind, accepting, and thoughtful.

As educators, we have enough time in August to remind ourselves of the sacred and inspiring mission and work of schools.

We teachers prepare our courses and classrooms. We know we are sharing the wisdom, habits of mind and heart, recognitions, discoveries, and explorations that have led our country and world into both miracles and disasters.

We try to help our students find their way to creative expressions of peace, humanity, and solidarity as they study the human story in all its complexity.

We pledge on these August days to educate in such powerful ways that our students will succeed us with courage, grace, and honor. Maybe, just maybe, they as citizens will love fiercely enough to begin to heal and rescue a fallen world. 

We start by building cultures within our classrooms and schools, emphasizing the dignity of all in our communities and especially looking out for anyone who seems uncertain, insecure, invisible, or frightened.

Our students in this generation seem remarkably eager to respect and honor one another; they actively seek others who have different experiences, cultures, viewpoints, identities. They seek unity in diversity. The are impatient with ideologies of hatred, division, intolerance, and fear. They look at the adult world of paralysis and fear with growing contempt and impatience. 

It is August, and we could say that the events in El Paso last weekend remind us of what we witnessed in Charlottesville two years ago when ancient and poisonous hatred, prejudice, and violence suddenly sought expression and erupted on the streets of a town dedicated in large part to education. We sadly are not surprised at the early designation of the massacre as a “hate crime”, for we know that we in America continue to deny or forget just what happens when we demonize, objectify, and scapegoat the Other.

We have declared victory again and again in this country against these forces of hatred, only to find that as long as we have despair and desolation in our land, the sparks of hatred and division can always be ignited again. Those who worship hatred, intolerance, racism, and violence find affirmation from one another on the internet and yes, they hear, honor, respond to mainstream voices that deliberately or foolishly encourage and profit from vitriol and violence.  

We have held celebrations of how much we have learned and how far we have come in America, only to return to moments like these.

We put guns into everyone’s hands.

As schools open in the wake of these shootings this month, I say again to the politicians on the left and right that it is completely unacceptable for children to be arriving and schools to be opening this year with the ever-present threat of shootings in our midst. 

It is contrary to a free society, to our democracy, and to the principles of education.

It is unspeakable to ask a generation of children to run, hide, or fight in a school dedicated to learning, collaboration, and engagement in the community. 

It is a complete failure of our democratic government to ask teachers to awaken young minds and at the same time prepare for the violence of warfare in the hallways. 

It is appalling that law enforcement personnel know that at any moment they must put their lives on the line to protect our community’s precious and innocent children.

Our colleagues in education throughout the world wonder why American schools operate in a culture of lockdowns, gates, and security screenings. They wonder what happened to the promise and spirit of the world’s greatest democracy.

Yet here we are again, lighting candles of mourning, solidarity, and sympathy, preaching love and peace, while the threats remain unaddressed, unmentioned, and untouched. For over twenty years now, our schools and colleges, churches, mosques, synagogues, concerts, movie theatres, malls, stores, and public spaces have been subjected again and again to violence and human carnage. We do nothing.

St. Andrew’s mourns the deaths caused by shootings in Dayton, El Paso, and Gilroy.

We again ask, “How Long?"
 

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Distinguished Alum Ed Strong '66 Shares Insights from His Career on Broadway
Distinguished Alum Ed Strong '66 Shares Insights from His Career on Broadway
etorrey

Ed Strong '66 P'07,'10 returned to St. Andrew's campus on Wednesday, November 30 to deliver a Chapel Talk to the School community. Earlier this year, Strong, who serves on the School's Board of Trustees and is a longtime Broadway producer, was named St. Andrew's 2016 Distinguished Alumni. The Distinguished Alumni Award is given each year during Reunion Weekend; the award was created by the Class of 1959 on the occasion of its 50th Reunion, and brings the annual recipient of the award to campus during the following School year to engage with students.

In his Chapel Talk, Strong explored the idea of "consequential inconsequentials"—those apparently small things in our lives (a gift, a conversation, a choice) that turn out to be transformational. He shared anecdotes from his time at SAS, where he discovered his love of theatre, thanks in particular to a lecture given in St. Andrew's Forbes Theater by the Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors on the playwright Berthold Brecht. "The work of this writer was a revelation to me," Strong recalled in his talk. "The vivid demonstration of how this German playwright... worked to re-conceive the dramatic form to educate and promote social justice—in Brecht's words, 'to create a theatre that makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange'— was in Ms. Lindfors' hands electrifying, inspiring, and unforgettable."

Following St. Andrew's, Strong went on to attend Harvard, where he acted in plays while majoring in American history; served in the Coast Guard for three years; and then attended the Yale School of Drama, where he received an MFA in Theatre Administration. In 1978, Strong and a group of friends from his Yale cohort founded the production company Dodger Theatricals, which has produced a number of critically acclaimed and hit Broadway shows, including Big River, The Who's Tommy, Into the Woods, and the 2006 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys.

The day after he delivered his Chapel Talk, Strong lingered on campus to visit theatre and arts classes, and talked with students and Headmaster Tad Roach over lunch. After lunch, he headed back to New York to attend the opening night performance of Dodger Theatricals' latest production, A Bronx Tale.

It's quite possible that Strong's own lecture could turn out to be a "consequential inconsequential" for a St. Andrew's student in the Chapel audience that Wednesday evening. "Consider the possibility that something inconsequential could be happening to you right here in Middletown, Delaware," Strong said at the close of his talk. "Consider your own stories and how likely it is that you will not necessarily shoot right up the ladder of success after St. Andrew's, but will experience what's been described as life's drunken walk, with fitful steps in this or that direction before you paint your masterpiece... what I can say to you is: go forth, St. Andreans. Fortune favors the bold. Godspeed to you all."

You can listen to Strong's Chapel Talk on our Podcasts page, or watch the talk on our Vimeo page.