“There are about 40 desks in this small classroom,” says Denver middle school English teacher Amanda Lueck. “I’ve got students sitting on the counter.” She worries about limited resources and escalating needs. “If there were three of me,” she says, “I might be able to get it done.” Like other teachers interviewed in American Teacher, Lueck attests both to her dedication to teaching and the frustrations that come with it. The job is hard. “Almost nothing harder,” points out Brad Jupp, the US Department of Education’s senior program advisor, “because teachers are constant active decision makers, they make thousands of decisions a day, they do it about the life of a child in that moment.” In Texas, history teacher Erik Benner’s students love him, in part because, as he says, “I try to treat the kids like young adults,” even as he’s unable to support his family on his teacher’s salary at Trinity Springs Middle School (he also works as an athletic coach at the school and has a second job at Floor & Decor). And Rhena Jasey, in Maplewood NJ, remembers friends advising, “Anybody can teach: you went to Harvard, you should be a doctor or a lawyer, you should make money.” After six years teaching in public school, she took a position with the Equity Project Charter School (T.E.P.), in NYC’s Washington Heights, a change she
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“Both of us are very proud to be Americans and when you see someone is poisoning what you love, and what you believe in, I think if you allow yourself, you become someone who wants to fight against it.” As David McKay describes his thinking, you might think you know where Better This World is headed. McKay and Brad Crowley, two friends from Midland, Texas, tell a story that seems familiar: as young activists, they were arrested at the Republican National Convention in 2008. As the film unfolds, they’re fighting their legal cases. At the time, which is to say, after 9/11, says FBI Assistant Special Agent Tim Gossfeld, domestic terrorism was a specific target: “That is what we need to focus all our resources on,” he asserts, “to the best of our ability.”
“When do you sleep? You know, who needs it?” Jon Gruden’s first words to Bryant Gumbel on this week’s Real Sports. advised that getting up at 3:15am every morning to look at game film and prepare for work, Gruden agrees. “Yeah, it’s probably not wise at times, probably not normal,” he says, looking serious for a moment before he smiles. “But it’s my rhythm, it’s the beat that I go to.”
“I’ve always thought as I was growing up, the worst thing a man can do is nothing,” says James Armstrong. At 85 years old, this self-identified foot soldier of the Civil Rights Movement hasn’t spent much time doing nothing. Looking back in 2009, as Barack Obama is about to be inaugurated, Armstrong proudly directs your look at the photos and newspaper clippings that fill up every inch of space on the walls of his barbershop. “I got a lot of pictures of everybody that was doing something,” he says. And so you see, as the camera in Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday’s documentary The Barber of Birmingham pans to show pioneers ranging from Jackie Robinson to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Barack Obama. Premiering on the terrific series POV’s Short Cuts on 9 August, the film tells a story of inexorable progress and work to be done, of the slow, hard fight to secure the right to vote.
“The world is in turmoil,” observes 20-year-old Enas al-Khaldi, a Qu’ran student in Damascus. “There’s terrorism and a sheikh is talking about how thick a woman’s socks should be!” Enas and her classmates describe their education as crucial to their futures, as well as Syria’s. “Before, a woman was a prisoner in her own home,” another girl says. “There is a saying that a woman only goes two places, to her husband’s house, and then to her grave. This was a really dangerous thing.”
The girls’ understanding of history and enthusiasm for their future are at the center of The Light in Her Eyes. Filmed before the protests against Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March 2011, Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix’s documentary—airing as part of PBS’ POV series on TV and online—offers a glimpse at the thin line some Muslim women must walk. It also shows how Enas came by her commitment, namely, her mother, Houda Al-Habash. A preacher who runs a school for girls, Houda remembers, “When I was growing up, in my religious school, there were only four or five girls who had memorized the Book of God. Now there are thousands.” This despite a continuing effort by conservative clerics to suppress women’s education, efforts made visible here in a series of video pronouncements: “If a woman does as the prophet says, then she should stay home as much as possible,” or again, “Reading, for women, it is not required for them at all.”