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In the Aftermath: The Ivory Tower and the City School as Sources of Insight

by Mary Metz - September 03, 2002

A consideration of the unique contributions that universities and urban schools can make to our understanding of the attacks on America.

On September 11th, the people of the United States suffered a shock on many levels.   We were attacked without warning, at least as most citizens experienced the events.  Not only was there a loss of over 3,000 lives in one day, but almost the whole country, indeed the whole world where there is access to television, watched dramatic and sometimes gruesome pictures of the carnage.  The attacks were symbolic as well as physical, as they left gaping holes in two of our flagship cities, representing the seat of our government and our commerce. Their human reach was national as well.  An unprecedented number of firefighters and police officers fell, people who are part of a brotherhood [] that spreads across the country and is represented in every community large or small.

A large proportion of the people lost were college-educated, cosmopolitan members of financial, business, and military communities that spread across the land. It is true that these accomplished victims lived in New York and Washington, except for unlucky visitors and the passengers on the planes, including the plane that did not reach Washington because of its brave passengers.  Nonetheless, because they were college-educated, and because their lines of work have become nationalized, their networks are more than local.  The people who read this publication, even those who do not live on the east coast and do not have immediate relatives in either New York or Washington, probably know two or more people who were killed or caught amid the rubble, if not directly then through family members, friends, or colleagues.   (Even though I live in Wisconsin and left my home on the east coast before I turned twenty-one, I have many such indirect contacts with persons who were at least very close to the events. My friends’ daughter and my advisee’s best friend were close to the buildings in New York and among those fleeing northward on foot; they were both seriously traumatized.  A new graduate student I was meeting with that day was deeply concerned about a sister who works in Washington. My nephew, a lawyer in Chicago, had several friends who were near the Trade Center and had clients at Cantor Fitzgerald.  And so on.   Most readers’ stories are probably similar.) The events of September 11th had a symbolic effect on the whole country, and a personal effect on those educated, middle class citizens who contribute most to public discourse.  Such an event finds few equals.

With that acknowledgment of the momentousness of those events, I turn my attention in this paper to the aftermath. However overwhelming the character of the events of September 11th, now we look toward the future.  Our response to those events, the policies, practices, and postures that we adopt right now and in the next year or two, will have critical effects not only for our future as a people and a nation but also for the future of many other citizens of the world.  The cognitive and emotional intelligence and perspicacity of our response is critical.   We should respond not only knowledgeably but humanely, not only based on good information but based on wisdom, and we must develop broadly ethical and compassionate strategies. 

In this paper, I address resources available in educational institutions to help our citizenry and our leaders develop both cognitive and emotional insights needed for those goals.  Because September 11th touched us all, I write this paper in the first person and I speak from my own experience.   But although my tone is personal, most of what I have to say is informed by my professional experience as a professor and by my research in schools and school districts as well as by my personal experience.

My point of departure is the belief that we may stand at a point of even more danger than that on which we stood September 10th.  Our response to these events in the coming months and years will determine whether September 11th was indeed a unique event, or the harbinger of a new age in which cycles of violence are played out on a global scale and with a new efficiency and ferocity permitted by our technologically shrinking world.  I want to argue that we must bring all our powers of both cognitive knowledge and emotional empathy to the task of finding a way to act in the post September 11th world that will defuse, rather than fuel, conflict.

The impulse for revenge and the instinct to use our physical might to crush any one who would threaten us is humanly very understandable.  Precisely because it is so understandable, we need to do the hard work required to recognize that to act on it, with the consequent loss of innocent lives and destruction of bystanders’ property and way of life, will create wrongs that will fuel the same emotions against the United States that we feel toward those who created the slaughter in September. We should see in the lessons of Rwanda, of Bosnia, of Northern Ireland, and, most glaringly at the moment, of the escalating violence between Palestinians and Israelis, that violence begets violence with hatreds that can last down the centuries.  It takes the most courage and insight to have the restraint to look for reconciliation.  

We need to bring every bit of knowledge of economics, politics, culture, and religion that we collectively can muster to bear on our efforts to develop an understanding of the conditions that make the motivations behind the acts of September 11th comprehensible, even if not acceptable, to significant proportions of the population of a region.  Intellectual understanding will only take us part of the way, however.  Despite great differences in regional and national cultures and in religious understandings, we must make every effort to develop empathetic emotional insight into the experiences and reactions of persons and groups who can give themselves with total dedication to the perspectives of Al Quaida and the highjackers. 


Even more pressing, our leaders and the citizens who pressure them as they set policy, must come to understand the perspectives of ordinary people in other parts of the world who accept claims that the perpetrators could not have been Arabs one moment and who halfway sympathize with and applaud them the next.  Only with such a concerted intellectual and emotional effort to understand the perspectives of others,  will people in the United States be able to understand the sources of these attacks and the ways to prevent the forming of more and more groups willing to perpetrate other such acts with the passive support of large masses of disaffected people.



What does all this have to do with education?  After the events of September 11th, I was appalled by my own superficial and spotty knowledge of Islam and the Middle East. All over the country, scholars who have toiled in obscurity studying both Islam and the history and politics of the Middle East stepped forward to help to educate the public.  The Ivory Tower, called upon with little warning, was showing its worth.  None of us can easily predict where we may next urgently need knowledge of apparently little practical use that has been developed with depth and subtlety.

Much of my popular education about Islam and the Arab world came from Wisconsin  newspapers and the effectively national New York Times.  I received at least an equal amount from the Ideas Network of Wisconsin Public Radio, which is “a service of  The University of Wisconsin Extension,” as I am reminded hourly.  This service is part of the university’s response to its obligation, as a land grant university, to serve the welfare of the whole state.  From immediately after September 11th, until after the New Year, as I prepared meals in my kitchen and every time I got into my car--going to work, to the grocery store, to the gym, to do errands, anywhere--I turned on my radio.  I got a surprising amount of  education on both Islam and the Middle East even by listening in unplanned snatches of ten minutes to half an hour, to the station’s steady stream of university and college experts on these topics.

These efforts underscore that universities in their supposed irrelevance, in the full meaning of the Ivory Tower, guard and develop specialized knowledge that the society may need in ways it does not anticipate.  The Ideas Network not only provides experts who explain relevant arcane matters in clear language, it does so interactively in a way that pulls in listeners with  a surprising diversity of backgrounds and opinions.   Most of the programs to which I listened have listeners call in with questions and comments.   They certainly vary across the political spectrum and they appear to vary in other demographic characteristics as well, although the college educated are doubtless overrepresented.


Finally, the relevance and importance of the universities to our current moment of response to September 11th and to the shaping of our stance toward the rest of the world has been reenforced for me in another way.   Tenure was originally justified as necessary to the life of the university because it allows scholars to pursue their understanding of truth even when it leads them to politically unpopular insights and statements.   Those of us who know something of the McCarthy era know that tenure is far from an absolute guarantee of security in the face of unpopular public stands.   Nonetheless, it does afford college and university faculties much more protection to speak out on politically sensitive issues than is afforded to politicians or even to  knowledgeable citizens in the private sector.  It was instituted for the sake of the public good, as a protection for persons whose distinctive competence was the pursuit of knowledge and truth with as much disinterest as it is humanly possible to muster. That freedom is something that the professorate has fought for.  It is important that we not yield to increasing pressures to define tenure simply as economic security or to justify it with the bureaucratic or economic implications that have grown up around it.  It is also important that we honor the obligations it carries.

I do not say this from a naive position.  I am well aware of, and generally agree with, most of the criticism that points out how much knowledge in the university is reflective of the social positions that are dominant in the professorate.  The pursuit of knowledge and truth in the university, as everywhere else in society, is tinted and tainted with lenses imposed by the social locations of those who seek it.  But at least in the university the formal charge is to seek knowledge for its own sake, not for economic gain or political advantage.  The norms of the institution push toward taking as disinterested a position as frail human beings can manage.  As imperfect and biased as the resulting understandings may be, the university at least provides both normative expectations and institutional protections, not available to most other societal actors, for the pursuit of disinterested inquiry and the development of insight not oriented to preordained partisan ends.

Popular fervor in the wake of the attacks--with its understandable impetus both for revenge and for strong measures seen to promote future safety--has muted discussion or debate about the best course of action in response to those attacks.   Instead, there has been an emotional movement, not to say a need, to close ranks behind whatever actions our leaders choose.  As in both major wars of the twentieth century, there has also been legislation curtailing civil rights of citizens and aliens alike.  Most relevant to the role of the university, has been the response of government officials to the beginnings of criticism of the conduct of its military campaigns and wider strategies of response. A significant number of officials have made immediate accusations of a lack of patriotism as the motivation for such commentary.   It is this kind of climate that suggests that the protections and freedoms afforded to the university may make its members uniquely placed to provide alternative views and to encourage rational debate and discussion.  


Times like this are ones when it is the duty of members of the professorate to speak out based on their best efforts at understanding the events around us.  Using their varied knowledge bases, university professors need publicly to address the issues that confront us. They may, and probably will, come up with divergent analyses of various factual contexts, and thus will give differing advice.  But at a time when rational judgment is likely to be clouded, it is critical that as many parties in the country as possible develop the most informed debate possible, free from political intimidation.  Professors are uniquely positioned to further public insight and debate by the university’s cultivation of knowledge gathered with more breadth and depth than if it were designed only for immediate ends or political debate, by professional injunctions and techniques in scholarly research that help scholars to work against their personal biases and predilections, and by the protections of tenure.


I move now, by a slightly circuitous path, to the way in which city schools can be sources of insight in our current national dilemma. As I was working on this paper, I heard a news analyst say that the Democrats will be able to get less of their domestic agenda in the upcoming national budget than they would have without September 11th, but that they will be less offended than they would have been because every one recognizes that when there is not safety in the streets, it is necessary to put such safety first. [] This speaker echoed a common theme since September 11th, that “we” must restore our lost sense of safety.

Despite the powerful character of the events of September 11th, that statement jars me every time I hear it.  I can explain that best with a short tribute to five victims of that infamous week in September.  John Hammonds, 31, Donald Mitchell, 26, Cedric Holmes, 24,  Donte Jackson, 14, and a little girl about 8, unidentified at the time her story appeared in the newspaper, all met sudden, unanticipated death that week.  All were young, with their lives ahead of them.  But these young people’s families received none of the outpouring of financial and social support with which the U.S. populace generously greeted the destruction of September 11th.   They did not because these young people were victims of the routine violence that stalks our city streets every day.  John Hammonds was walking down the street in the Roxbury section of Boston when he was shot three times, once in the back.  Donald Mitchell and Cedric Holmes lived in New Orleans.  Holmes was sitting on his front stoop talking with friends when he was fatally shot.  Donte Jackson, 14, lived in Memphis.  He was gunned down around the corner from his home.  And the little girl who was not identified was found abandoned in a water-filled ditch beside a “Houston street strewn with trash.”  I found these names in slightly over an hour’s search of an internet service that indexes newspapers.  There were doubtless other victims like them on September 11th. We are appalled at the loss of 125 Washingtonians and visitors along with 64 airline passengers at the Pentagon, but there were also 135 Washingtonians who lost their lives to homicide in 2001.

The people who died in the “events” of September 11th included lawyers and firefighters, stockbrokers and police, military officers and office managers.  Relatively few were waitresses, elevator operators, and janitors.  Relatively few were people of color, and relatively few lived in neighborhoods that are desperately poor and chronically dangerous.  John Hammonds, Donald Mitchell, Cedric Holmes, Donte Jackson, and the unnamed little girl did not have as wide a circle of direct and indirect acquaintance to register shock and to call for action at the outrage of their passing as did most of the victims of September 11th. 

In their communities the streets were not safe on September 10th, not on September 11th, and not on September 12th.  That was true not just in 2001 but for many years before.  To argue that the national social agenda must be put aside for the sake of safety in our streets, is to speak from the perspective of the large proportion of  middle class citizens who lack an empathic awareness of the lives of millions of American citizens whose streets are never safe. This is true even though any educated citizen knows that for many years before September 11th, some American streets were not safe, that many citizens can never count on parents and spouses, children, siblings, and friends, even the youngest, leaving the house for work, for school, for a routine trip to corner store, and coming home alive.

Part of the reason that this chronic danger does not galvanize us to action is its chronic character.  Not only were the events of September 11th far more visible, figuratively and literally, but their sharp departure from the routine makes them more shocking.  Homicide in cities is now routine.   Still, part of the reason that the steady, chronic loss of life on the streets of our cities is not construed as a national emergency is the social distribution of this violence.  Most of it happens in central cities and most of it happens to poor people, indeed to poor people of color.   Those citizens who can afford to do so avoid walking in those neighborhoods.

At some level the whole society is aware of the danger that the members of these neighborhoods face.  The evening news portrays bits of this reality, as do the back pages of every city newspaper.  Even mass entertainment gives those outside it glimpses of it.  But most middle class white Americans do not identify with the people who live with this danger daily. Even after the shocks of the riots of the sixties, the warning report of the Kerner Commission (U.S. Kerner Commission, 1968) and occasional urban conflagrations in the intervening years, many leaders in government and the private sector, as well as ordinary citizens, do not see anything like the urgent need to find measures for safety in our cities that they see for security in the aftermath of September 11th.

Without the widespread personal connections of September 11th, the majority of the middle class cannot imagine the life of families whose loved ones must dodge danger as they jump rope on the sidewalk, play basketball in the park, walk to school, or, in their teen years,  roam the neighborhood in search of weekend entertainment. They cannot imagine that these are the conditions in neighborhoods where fellow citizens--like them except for the accidents of class and color--eat, sleep, raise their families, and talk with their neighbors about all the little things that make up a local community.  For outsiders, the dangers in these neighborhoods remain an abstraction rather than a crisis.

If it is very difficult for people who live in suburbs to understand and identify with the citizens of their own central cities, how much harder must it be for the United States citizenry to understand and identify with the experiences and perspectives of people they/we do not know personally who live thousands of miles away and who practice a different religion through a different language in different cultural, political, and economic circumstances.  In both cases, it is challenging to reflect on the difficult circumstances in which the poor must live, while living in comfortable circumstances oneself.   There is a cognitive challenge of simply not knowing critical facts of daily life.  Further, it is painful to contemplate the ethical dilemmas that arise when the middle class looks at the proportion of the nation’s resources that it consumes in relation to its size or when citizens of the U.S. look at the proportion of the world’s resources they consume in relation to their proportion of the population of the globe.

Even though I am making these statements, I know that I fail miserably by these standards.  I can not really comprehend what it would be like to live in a dangerous U.S. neighborhood, let alone in a poor part of a Middle Eastern city.  In a world where low tech strategies can deliver massive destruction around the globe, the task ahead of us in making our country--and we would hope others as well--safe from more events like September 11th is truly formidable.  But it is not--primarily--a task of bombing strongholds or chasing down a small number of bad guys.  The undertaking is one of building knowledgeable understanding, increasing empathy, and finding our way to fair political and economic relations.  The mission is monumental and overwhelming, but like any other task it begins with the first steps.  We need to be sure those steps are pointed in the right direction.


Stated in broad strokes, part of what my education from newspapers and radio over the course of the fall of 2001 has taught me is that hatred of the United States in Arab countries (and others around the world) has important parallels with the anger that simmers under the surface of our troubled cities.  In the Middle East, there are many more people than in the U.S. who experience grinding poverty and who feel shut out from their societies.  As here, they seek an explanation and they seek redress. Further, some educated members of these societies feel oppressed because their societies as wholes are not treated as equals by the more powerful countries of the West or the North.  These somewhat different sources of a sense of oppression and alienation can easily come together to provide a diffuse basis for a popular movement.  The high levels of education of the leaders of Al-Quaida and even of the hijackers should not mislead us.  When the poor and oppressed find a voice they frequently do so through educated activists or spokespersons.  Think of Mao Tse Tung, of Martin Luther King, of Karl Marx, of Gandhi, of Lenin, of Che Guevara, and so on.

 The riches of the U.S. and some of its less than sensitive policies provide a visible and symbolic explanation for the poverty and lack of power of members of these societies. Their often undemocratic domestic leaders and more privileged classes are frequently happy to help them blame their troubles on the United States, in order to deflect their anger from domestic targets.  I do not attempt to assess the degree of US culpability here.  Successive governments of the United States and those who act as private entrepreneurs under the protections of its citizenship are not innocent, but neither are they as guilty as they are sometimes portrayed to be by persons in other countries whose own agendas are served by such portrayals.  The same ambiguity applies to divisions between classes and races at home. 

There are important differences between our cities and the poverty of the Arab world, and I omit many important issues including religion. The parallels should not be pushed too far.  Nonetheless, there are some general principles that apply in both cases.  That statement brings me back to education, this time for the lessons it can teach us that have to do with emotional as much as cognitive understanding.


The staffs of schools in blighted neighborhoods in central cities can be the most important link between those neighborhoods and the larger society.  Sometimes they are almost the only link in a neighborhood that does not in some way serve a control function, such as the police.  (I do not mean to slight many other representatives of the larger society, mostly public servants, who do come in and out of these neighborhoods on a regular basis such as bus drivers, social workers, and, more episodically, firefighters.  But even the social workers do not have the institutionalized, daily, legitimate contact with the people of the neighborhood that schools staffs have with the children, and to a lesser degree their parents.)  School staffs provide connections for the students to the wider world, allowing the students to be directly linked or linked through people they know personally with parts of their city that they may never have visited, even when they are only a short physical (but not social) distance away.  School staffs often find themselves also a link between their school neighborhoods and their private social worlds.  Their families, friends and associates may know only more privileged neighborhoods through first hand experience.  School staffs become interpreters of the experience and world views of the communities surrounding their schools for members of the public in a different social class.

School staff members who teach in poor neighborhoods and live elsewhere, literally and metaphorically, are boundary crossers.  It is their job, in Fred Erickson’s terms (Erickson, 1987), to see that the lines of distinction between their home neighborhoods and those in which the students live become simple boundaries, lines on a map, not borders that are socially opaque, carefully guarded lines of demarcation that one crosses only with permission as a stranger in a foreign land or as an immigrant with intent to transform one’s identity.  Some schools and some teachers succeed remarkably well at the difficult art of making sure that differences are only boundaries, that both teachers and students cross freely, back and forth.  Some fail.  When they do, even a visitor can see the spiraling patterns of mutual misunderstanding, attack, and defensiveness that build ever higher walls between school and students, teacher and class, teacher and student.  In the aftermath of September 11th, I think we have much to learn from both those staffs who succeed and those staffs who fail.  The first group provides a model, the second a warning.

Over the last quarter century or more, both in educational research and in educational practice, we now have developed a good deal of knowledge about how to build bridges between the world of the privileged U.S. middle class and the world of children in troubled inner cities, or children who are simply culturally different from the mainstream.  Probably, the first and most important lesson from both sources is that school staffs need to develop both respect for and understanding of the students’ worlds, and the strengths their citizens develop and display, as a starting point for education.

Certainly, another is that coercion, the use of force and threat, is a notoriously unstable resource on which to build a relationship of safety and cooperation.  (I made this argument many years ago (Metz, 1978) inductively from a study of classroom control and control in schools at large, and also on theoretical grounds, and with reference to prior empirical sociological work especially in prisons.  Research in the intervening years and the wisdom of practice have repeatedly shown the same thing.)  All schools, but especially schools in poverty areas, struggle with some difficult, alienated, students.  Unless school staffs have taken positive steps to build strong constructive relationships with the students as a whole, they usually find that when they use force to eject alienated students from regular classes or from the school others soon fill their roles and create very similar problems.  

Where there are deep cultural,  economic, and/or racial differences between students and the mainstream the schools represent, individuals who step forward to resist what they perceive, whether rightly or wrongly, as oppressive regimes speak for a host of others more hesitant to act or more moderate in their actions.  This can be true even when the leading resisters act partly out of individual psychological dynamics that can fairly be labeled dysfunctional.  Removing those individuals will not solve  problems rooted in the majority’s underlying resentment, sense of injustice, or even simply sense of exclusion or being discounted.  Staffs of good schools in poor areas know this, and research backs up the wisdom of their practice (Fine, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 1994; Metz, 1992).  Parallels with the project of removing the leaders of a terrorist organization are not far to seek.

The difficult line that schools, especially middle and high schools, must walk in really volatile areas is one between controlling students with psychological or social characteristics that make them constitute a potential danger to their peers or the staff and maintaining a constructive relationship both with those individual students and with the complex and varied student body as a whole.  I think particularly of “Charles R. Drew,” a school in a very poor area as an exemplar of this problem (Metz, 1990).  It was not unusual for the police to be called to the school over the behavior of a particular student.  Aides in bright yellow jackets walked the halls with two way radios and guarded the doors.  But those same aides struck up friendly conversations with difficult students as well as friendlier ones.  Many homeroom teachers developed cooperative relationships with their parents.  The assistant principal in charge of discipline got to know the more volatile students and their families well.  Meanwhile, while not perhaps an exemplar in all ways, the school strove both to be responsive to the cultural patterns of the student body and to offer them high status knowledge.

Such relationships require complex balancing acts.  It is no easy task to maintain safety from the real depredations of an angry, volatile, and sometimes irrational set of truly alienated or angry individuals while simultaneously trying to pull them and a surrounding larger group of less fully alienated, though perhaps equally dispossessed, students into constructive dialogue and academic engagement.  If this is difficult within a single school, with all the potential benefits of face to face relationships, a parallel task of constraining a relatively few downright dangerous people continents away without alienating the surrounding population is awe inspiring.  Still, I believe there are instructive parallels.  In both cases, acts intended to constrain the truly dangerous few may involve high levels of coercive activity that will induce two, three, and ten times more individuals  to become equally dangerous.  In the presence of a larger group that is alienated but not to the point of action, the wounds associated with coercive restraint, psychological in a school, physical in a quasi-war, can create a legion of individuals ready to go to the barricades where only a few were before.  In contrast, building constructive relationships with the majority can begin to isolate the inflammatory few.

Teachers, admnistrators, and teacher educators who work successfully with the problems of alienation and cross-cultural dialogue in the schools constitute an important resource for our society.   First, and most simply, they may help to leaven a popular opinion that turns too easily to revenge as an emotion and military constraint as a method.


Secondly, they may be able to use what they know to suggest, at least in broad terms, the kinds of strategies that are needed to start an intercultural dialogue.  If we focus all our energy in the aftermath of September 11th on the dangerous few--critical as interfering with their efforts may be--we will miss the larger, critical point.  We need to change our relations with the rest of the world to ones that involve more mutual dialogue--just as effective teachers working with students who differ from the dominant culture must do.  The very first step in that dialogue may be to question our own actions, to see how our acts as a nation-state and as economic actors in the global economy, and as representatives of a nation, may create experiences and interpretations in other people that make our problems worse instead of better.  Surely, a violent response in which many civilians will be killed or injured or their livelihoods lost will be one that will create lasting inhibitors to the building of more constructive relationships.  But beyond that, we need to find ways to build constructive bridges of mutual respect and learning.  We need to learn to understand, appreciate, and respect the rich traditions of Islam and of the Arab world, just as teachers who work with children from different ethnic groups than their own need to come to understand their heritage, their language, their artistic expressions, and the richness of their ways of relating to each other and to knowledge.  

I have seen schools and individual teachers who fail to do this develop deteriorating spirals of relationships with students that make both staff and students’ lives a misery.  Schools and teachers who do work on understanding their students’ home worlds, or even those who simply treat them respectfully, can develop constructive and productive relationships with the very same students.  These small scale relationships bear a lesson for geopolitics.  Many teachers, teacher educators, and educational researchers who deal with students who are  economically disadvantaged, students of color, or cultural minorities, or some combination of these, understand these principles well.  

It is the job of persons who understand these principles to speak out as citizens.  We need to talk with our neighbors, and families, and colleagues.  We need to write to our local newspapers and our congressional representatives and to the White House.  Now is the time to act, before we find ourselves too deeply entrenched in a pattern of escalating violence, resentment, and mutual alienation.


I have argued here that persons involved with education may have both special knowledge to help the society steer the right course in the aftermath of September 11th and special responsibility to speak out with that knowledge.  In universities, because of our continuing attachment to the knowledge of the Ivory Tower, there is already at hand a wealth of practical cognitive knowledge about both the religion of Islam and the history, politics, economics, and culture of the Middle East that can be of enormous use both to our government leaders and to our populace.  The service mission of the universities has developed a number of channels for sharing that knowledge.  The knowledge that the university has to offer may not be particularly welcome in many sectors of our society. The protections of tenure foresee that kind of problem; it is not unique to this situation.  While those protections have brought a comfortable economic security to many of us, the price of that security is the obligation to speak out, even when what we have to say is not popular.

If universities are centers especially qualified to give us the cognitive knowledge we need, effective staffs in “city” schools, or any schools where students may feel excluded by the dominant elements of society, have emotional, social psychological insights that are equally important.  The viability of social relationships in such schools that makes possible effective cognitive communication, teaching, and learning depends on restraint in the use of coercion, and the development of mutually respectful relations where knowledge and insight flows from students and community to the school staff as well as in the other direction.  Through such relationships, when they work well, school staffs learn to care about their students, to understand and empathize with their lives, and to be able to build a school community and an organizational effort aimed at learning.  They can also be ambassadors for these students, so that teachers’ families and friends learn to understand lives different from their own and to care about improving the quality of life in neighborhoods where “other people’s children” (Delpit, 1995) are growing into adulthood and citizenship.  As a society, we must develop a functional equivalent in our relations with countries around the world, but now particularly with Arab countries.  The best teachers have a wisdom that can help us in that effort.


Delpit, Lisa. (1995).  Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom.  New York: The New Press. 

Erickson, Frederick. (1987). Transformation and School Success: The Politics and Culture of  Educational Achievement. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 18 (4), 335-356.

Fine, Michelle. (1991). Framing Dropouts: Notes on the Politics of an Urban High School. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Ladson-Billings, Gloria. (1994). The Dreamkeepers. San Francisco: Jossey -Bass.

Metz, Mary Haywood. (1978). Classrooms and Corridors: The Crisis of Authority in Desegregated Secondary Schools. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Metz, Mary Haywood. (1990). How Social Class Differences Shape Teachers' Work. In M. W. McLaughlin, J. E. Talbert and N. Bascia(eds), The Contexts of Teaching in Secondary Schools:  Teachers' Realities. New York: Teachers College Press.

Metz, Mary Haywood. (199). Different by Design: The Context and Character of Three Magnet Schools. (Paperback edition.)  New York: Routledge.

U.S. Kerner Commission. (1968). Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Washington  DC: US Government Printing Office.

  I use the masculine word intentionally.  In New York, firefighters and police are still male. Only one woman, a policewoman, was lost in the line of duty from these groups.

  National Public Radio, Talk of the Nation, March 18, 2002.   “How is President Bush Doing?”  The comment I refer to was made by guest Ilona Nickels, visiting scholar at the Center on Congress, Indiana University in Bloomington.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: September 03, 2002
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11028, Date Accessed: 10/18/2021 8:55:19 AM

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About the Author
  • Mary Metz
    University of Wisconsin, Madison
    E-mail Author
    Mary Haywood Metz is Professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a sociologist who does qualitative studies of teachers in their organizational contexts. She has studied authority in the classroom, school culture, the development of magnet schools in the context of district politics, and the effects of the social class of surrounding communities on high school teachers’ working lives. Recent publications include “Sociology and Qualitative Methodologies in Education,” Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 70, No. 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 60-74.]
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