Harvard educated [and let's not forget Rhodes Scholar at Oxford] Kozol spent some time in Paris learning his craft as a writer but came back to his native land to work with children who hadn't had his opportunities. If you're in the education biz - and that's all of us in the University of Life - you could, with advantage, read his book: only $0.01 on Amazon. Kozol was sacked for exposing
Ten Bucks you say I owe you?
Ten Bucks you say is due?
Well, that's Ten Bucks more'n I'l pay you
Till you fix this house up new.
Which will resonate with anyone who is living in a shit-hole in Cork, Kilkenny or Dublin and dare not complain to the landlord in case s/he remembers to put up the rent. The rest of the poem here.
Barbara Henry also did a stint in Paris because her education had created a ferment in her mind and she wanted to see the world. Accordingly she signed up to teach Air Force Brats [I was a Navy Brat] at a USAF base in France where she met and married a dashing young Lieutenant from Louisiana and returned home with him to New Orleans. She got a job teaching in William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans which was chosen by the Feds to be one of the first to be desegregated in The South. When little Ruby Bridges rocked up with her ruler pencil and lunchbox she was accompanied by four Federal Marshalls and greeted by a hootin' and hollerin' mill of white folks who were trying to dam the tide of history by keeping small black girls from being in the same classrooms as small white girls. Here she is, captured by Norman Rockwell:
You can see that girl has back-bone. It might help to deconstruct the picture [spot the golden rectangles!] as a picture. It might also help to deconstruct the situation by noting that, when little Ruby turned up all but two of the white teachers stood down and almost all of the white kids were withdrawn from school. Ms Henry was the only person in the city who was prepared to actually teach the girl. That's nothing, or very little, to do with the Girl's Latin School or Paris. It is rather to do with the moral and physical courage that gave Barbara Henry the back-bone to defy the mob and get on with the job. Oh yes, and she loves the poetry of Langston Hughes as well:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot flyBoston Globe from two years ago. As Ruby Bridges acknowledges, you learn more from your teachers than ABC and where Paris is; you learn how to carry yourself. This is her story about knowing one white woman who cared for and pushed her: thereafter she was going to judge people not by the colour of their skin but the content of their character [Martin Luther King, he said that]. But that clip also reveals that her father lost his job and her grandparents lost their share-cropping holding in Mississippi . In 1996, these two game-changers, were re-united [R looking right happy to be in each other's company again].
56 years! What's changed? Well, the following year William Frantz ES was open and fully peopled including a handful of other black kids. But before you get all complacent and dismiss the events of November 1960 as so last century m'dear, you may care to remember Holy Cross School in the Ardoyne area of Belfast and the mob which tried to prevent Catholic children going to a Catholic School in 2001[no integration here].
Now here's where there really has been a big change. Check out the footage from 1960s Louisiana and try to spot the fat people . . . there aren't any.