What: “The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian,” a young adult novel written by Sherman Alexie, is the Campus Community Book Project selection
When: Alexie will speak at 4 p.m. (free) and 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 11
Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
This is an exciting time in our country. The presidential election season rolls around every four years, bringing with it opportunities for collective memory, dialogue and consensus-building about what it means to be American together.
During this time, we rehearse and remember, rehearse and remake the meta-narratives (big ideas) that hold us together. Some of the meta-narratives we are asked to subscribe to are frankly political, extreme ideologies of the left or the right. Some mask as election politics, but can redefine our relationships to one another, as the dialogue propagates in the public sphere.
Take, for example, the statement that all three Republican candidates have been repeating, first noted by me from Mitt Romney in January: “The creator endowed us with unalienable rights — not the government.”
That God gives us “our rights” is quintessentially, rhetorically American apple pie. The truth I must simultaneously hold, to not deny my absolutely true family history and myself, is that it took the United States government, in the form of the Union Army in the 1860s, the Supreme Court in the 1950s, and hosts of brave people of all races and ethnicities who litigated and demonstrated and boycotted and otherwise lived out quiet lives of integrity and kindness and courage, for me and mine to realize the value God endowed us with.
To embrace “American exceptionalism” means I am not allowed to reflect for too long or out loud on the absolutely true genocide of Native Americans, perpetrated to make the physical space divinely set aside for “Christians” (sic). I am not allowed to connect the dots out loud of how the present disproportionate poverty and disease of Native Americans is a manifestation of that historical trauma.
I do believe God endowed each human with immeasurable value, as reflected in God’s sacrifice in giving the life of his only son (or so the story goes). But to say we are a country that collectively and daily and internationally reflects that spiritual truth I personally hang my life on is to me, well, a stretch.
It rents my soul to hear some of the current narratives of America. It also breathes life into my patriotism to review and debate the contradictory narratives of those rebel Americans who have made this a better country, yet still with so much further to go before these truths are absolutely and daily self-evident when we walk down each of America’s streets.
Or perhaps we will say in one voice, “Some of us have not, because we haven’t worked hard enough for it, or chose dependence over freedom.” Yet, I have not seen flawed character any more prevalently in the poor of this nation than I’ve seen in the wealthy of this nation. I would not choose to let my unrelated brothers and sisters go hungry any more than those FDR folks who decided that the elderly must not be cold and hungry amid our wealth.
We need each other.
It’s a great time to review that. We need each other to be the America we are so proud of saying we are. Interdependence, as well as individual initiative and creativity, makes us great. Because none of us can be great alone, and still have it be America.
I hope you will join me in voting for Measure C in our island of America that is Davis. While many of us could easily afford the time and the money of art, music or sports education, our community is richer because we still get to offer these to all of our children during the course of their school days. For those Davis children not privileged by an accident of birth, we still have school counselors at ratios with which crisis intervention and academic mentoring can (barely) occur.
We can be proud of what all Davis educators have produced in such seemingly endless lean years. At Davis High School, Principal Jacqueline Moore is walking out the best of what the cutting-edge, educational literature says makes for schools where increasing achievement and developmental wellness characterize the student population.
Moore has instituted Professional Learning Action Teams, reflecting the concept of having (educator) communities of ongoing learning and development on behalf of students. Each staff meeting features a professional development topic, reflecting gaps in the performance of the school’s mission.
You can always find a provocative article on creativity or bullying or the importance of sleep on her desk. Moore’s administrative team and counselors are reading together Carol Dweck’s landmark book, “Mindset,” on how students can internalize the labels we prematurely give them and thus stunt their growth as confident, aggressive learners.
During the principalships of Moore and now-Superintendent Winfred Roberson, the latest data indicate an increase in the Academic Performance Index at DHS of 39 points for Latino students, 46 points for the socioeconomically disadvantaged, 27 points for English learners and 49 points for students with disabilities.
The Student Forum, an idea that emerged from the Race and Social Justice History class, serves as a student advisory board to adults responsible for athletics, administration and other activities. The excellent Davis Bridge Foundation, under the selfless leadership of Janet Boulware and others, is now at DHS.
Those of us who own property in Davis know what an incredible investment in our real estate value Measure C is. We need each other to succeed, though we could purchase a much shallower, more tenuous success for our individual children. We depend on each child’s potential being nurtured in the diversity of ways that reflects their varying talents and interests. That meta-narrative of interdependence is what holds us together as a nation and as a community.
— Jann Murray-García, M.D., M.P.H., is a Davis parent and pediatrician. She shares this monthly column with Jonathan London. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org