Excerpt from “The Souls of Black Folk” – W.E.B. Du Bois

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, 1 the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, 2 — a world which yields him no true self-consciousness but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; 3 two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body 4, whose dogged strength alone being torn asunder.

The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging 5 he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, 6 for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.

Dune – Frank Herbert

‘Both open battle and secret,’ the Duke said. ‘There’ll be blood aplenty spilled before we’re through.’

‘ “And the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land,” ’ Hallack quoted.

The Duke sighed. ‘Hurry back, Gurney.’

‘Very good, m’Lord.’ The whipscar rippled to his grin. ‘ “Behold, as a wild ass in the desert, go I forth to my work.” ’

7 He turned, strode to the centre of the room, paused to relay his orders, hurried on through the men.

Leto shook his head at the retreating back. Hallack was a continual amazement 2  – a head full of songs, quotations, and flowery phrases 3…and the heart of an assassin when it came to dealing with the Harkonnens.

Presently, Leto took a leisurely diagonal course across the lift, acknowledging salutes with a casual hand wave. He recognised a propaganda corpsman, stopped to give him a message that could be relayed to the men through channels 4: those who had brought their women were safe and where they could be found. The others would wish to know that the population here appeared to boast more women than men.

The Duke slapped the propaganda man on the arm, 5 a signal that the message had top priority to be put out immediately, then continued across the room. He nodded to the men, smiled, traded pleasantries with a subaltern.

6 Command must always look confident, he thought. All that faith riding on your shoulders while you sit in the critical seat and never show it.

He breathed a sigh of relief when the lift swallowed him and he could turn and face the impersonal doors.

They have tried to take the life of my son!

“Flying Carpets” by Steven Millhauser

In the long summers of my childhood, games flared up suddenly, burned to brightness, and vanished forever. The summers were so long that they gradually grew longer than the whole year,7 they stretched out slowly beyond the edges of our lives, but at every moment of their vastness they were drawing to an end, for that’s what summers mostly did: they taunted us with endings, marched always into the long shadow thrown backward by the end of vacation.2And because our summers were always ending in games, we sought new and more intense ones; and as the crickets of August grew louder, and a single red leaf appeared on branches green with summer,3 we threw ourselves as if desperately into new adventures, while the long days, never changing,4 grew heavy with boredom and longing.

 

I first saw the carpets in the back yards of other neighborhoods.5 Glimpses of them came to me from behind garages, flickers of color at the corners of two-family houses where clotheslines on pulleys stretched from upper porches to high gray poles, and old Italian men in straw hats stood hoeing between rows of tomatoes and waist-high corn. I saw one once at the far end of a narrow strip of grass between two stucco houses, skimming lightly over the ground at the level of the garbage cans.6 Although I took note of them, they were of no more interest to me than games of jump rope I idly watched on the school playground, or dangerous games with jackknives I saw the older boys playing at the back of the candy store. One morning I noticed one in a back yard in my neighborhood; four boys stood tensely watching. I was not surprised a few days later when my father came home from work with a long package under his arm, wrapped in heavy brown paper, tied with straw-colored twine from which little prickly hairs stuck up.7

 

Millhauser, Steven. “Flying Carpets.” The Knife Thrower and Other Stories.” Crown Publishers Inc., 1998.

Holler If You Hear Me by Gregory Michie

The topics that dominate our upper-grade staff meetings rarely have much to do with how we can better teach our kids, how we can help them see themselves and the world in new ways. In truth, we seldom have time to talk about individual students at all, unless one of them is being suspended or has broken some sort of rule.8 Instead we go back and forth about detention schedules, or state goals, or lesson plan formatting, or bathroom supervision, or girls wearing too much makeup.2 The lipstick situation is getting out of hand.3 The minutiae become the agenda, and our mission, if we can even remember ever having one, gets buried underneath it all. It can all seem so overwhelming and discouraging that at times like tonight I ask myself why I continue. Why teach? Why do I do it? Why even go in to work tomorrow morning?

A few weeks ago I went to see Gyasi Kress, a talented high school student and actor I know, perform in a play.4 While waiting for the opening act to begin, I flipped through the program, which contained the typical capsule biographies of all the show’s performers.5 The only difference was that these had obviously been written by the actors themselves. Gyasi’s paragraph, written in the first person, predictably listed a few of his theatre credits and mentioned that he was part of a local rap trio. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it said: “I plan to change the world.”6

The words jumped off the page at me.7 I plan to change the world. A naïve notion? Maybe. Clichéd? Perhaps.8 But Gyasi’s bold declaration nonetheless crystallizes why I—and I think most teachers—chose our vocation in the first place, and, more importantly, why we keep on keeping on. At the core of our work is the belief, despite the distressing signs around us, that the world is indeed changeable; that it can be transformed into a better, more just, more peaceful place; and that kids who show up in our classrooms each day not only deserve such a world, but can be instrumental in helping to bring it about.9 Their voices are abiding reminders that there is something to hope for in spite of the hopelessness that seems to be closing in around us—something tangible, something real, something in the here and now.10

Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle that it is the difference between being defeated and admitting defeat that keeps the world going. The kids I teach know full well that the odds are stacked against them. They can find reasons to give up, to stop caring, to not go to school, almost anywhere they look. But I know that despite all that, come 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, Quincy’s opening bell will sound and, as if by a miracle, they will be there, ready for a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to be seen and heard anew.11 It is that realization that will propel me out of bed in the morning, and it is that through that I hold onto as I turn off my bedroom light ad try to get some sleep. We can make a difference. We can change the world.

Michie, Gregory. Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students. Teacher’s College Press, 2009. pgs. 192-193.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

They were tough.

They carried 12 all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing2—these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight.3 They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide,4 and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture.5 They carried their reputations. They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment. They crawled into tunnels and walked point and advanced under fire.6 Each morning, despite the unknowns, they made their legs move.7 They endured.8 They kept humping. They did not submit to the obvious alternative, which was simply to close the eyes and fall. So easy, really.9 Go limp and tumble to the ground and let the muscles unwind and not speak and not budge until your buddies picked you up and lifted you into the chopper that would roar and dip its nose and carry you off to the world.10 A mere matter of falling, yet no one ever fell. It was not courage, exactly; the object was not valor. Rather, they were too frightened to be cowards.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Mariner, 2009, p. 20