The Scamp Sets a Watchman

I just finished reading the new novel by Harper Lee. Well, not exactly new, as it is supposedly the first manuscript that eventually led to To Kill a Mockingbird. It took me all of a week to read it, and to be honest, I am not sure that I liked what I read.

I tried to like it, I really did. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. I’ve read it numerous times, and always loved Scout, the pugnacious six-year-old who hated dresses, loved to read, and thought fighting was the best way to solve a problem. One of my favorite lines from the book was, and in a way, still is:

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing”.

I remember reading the book in high school and having numerous discussions about racism, moral compasses, and rape. I remember feeling like the discussions sounded much the same way a Sparknotes summary would read; kinda surface level, lacking of a deeper discussion, and very focused on how racism is bad, and how a good strong moral compass will always lead a person to the right answer (whether it is the popular choice or not). I remember reading the book a year or so ago, and feeling differently about the characters. While I still loved Scout, I found her somewhat naive, and in the process, found myself somewhat naive for missing a big piece of the story; Atticus Finch was always a racist. When Go Set a Watchman was first announced, people were outraged by Atticus being painted as a racist who attends Klan meetings, and despises the NAACP. At first, I was in that boat. How dare Atticus been shown as anything other than noble. Then I noticed he takes on the case of Tom Robinson stating that just because you already lost the game before it started, doesn’t mean you should play. He took the case because he was asked to by the judge, not necessarily because he thought Tom Robinson deserved justice. As the article Atticus Was Always a Racist: Why Go Set a Watchman Is No Surprise states:

 Throughout Mockingbird, Atticus is engaged in the foundational moonlight-and-magnolias Southern delusion that so swayed Ashley Wilkes and Ellen O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. He fought with the genteel cruelty of the slaver, in service of the other American dream, which is the idea that a man can  be the ultimate patriarch: the cultivated master of the lower orders, the head of a family that extends through his wife and children down through the slaves. Everyone but the patriarch, it’s assumed, is slowly developing out of moral infancy—and as such, the patriarch is charged with leading everyone in religion, work ethic and cleanliness. Atticus is the son of slave owners, and he’s acting the part of one when he argues that Tom Robinson is from a clean-living family, and the black servant Calpurnia can be trusted raising white kids—this is the race equivalent of chivalry, the imperiled pedestal.

At 16, there was no way I was clever enough to notice this. At 26, I did, but tried to pretend that was not what I was reading. There was no way that I was reading that one of my favorite literary characters was not actually a strong moral compass, but merely a man who had a strong sense of right and wrong, but was still deeply flawed when it came to racial equality. I had set my watchman in Atticus Finch, and there was no way that he was anything less than the strong moral compass I saw him as when I first encountered the book more than ten years ago. This is where Go Set a Watchman comes into play.

This book is also written from Scout’s point-of-view, but this time she is a 26-year-old living in New York. She has returned home to Alabama to visit her father. That is about the extent of what happens. While home, Scout gets in a fight with Atticus and is forced to shake off her naivete and see the world for what it really is, and her father is not the God-like idol that she has built him up to be. The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” It alludes to Jean Louise Finch’s view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass (“watchman”) of Maycomb, and has a theme of disillusionment, as she realizes her bigotry.

The problem with this book is the dialogue is awful, the story is often boring, and Scout is such a snotty 20 something that you cannot wait for her to get her comeuppance. The fight she has with Atticus is actually resolved way too easily, and it in the end, Scout decides that she cannot beat the crowd, and she won’t join them, so she ops to just sit on the sidelines and pretend what they are doing is a-okay. Chance Lee wrote a very insightful piece on the books. While I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said, there was one particular passage that really stood out for me:

The only interesting part of this book is the climax: the actual argument between Jean Louise and Atticus. However, the denouement ruins any impact this climactic battle may have had. In it, Jean Louise is slapped so violently by her uncle that her mouth bleeds. She learns that, as a young woman, she should respect the beliefs of elder white men. To not compromise with those who refuse to compromise, Jean Louise is a bigot. Her racist father, her racist aunt, are not bigots because they are right: whites are superior to Negroes.

This is a frustrating argument that still exists today, when religious fanatics who believe that their personal beliefs trump the human rights of others beg “tolerance.” Your hate is not to be tolerated. If any benefit comes from this book, it is to show us that we, as a society, have not evolved as much as we should have in the last fifty years.

The entire article can be found here: and is well worth the read.

I guess this is why I had trouble liking the story. One of the greatest literary characters of all time turned out to be a phony, and much the way Scout realizes her naivete, I now see that sometimes great men (real or literary) are not really all that great, and it is best to be your own watchman because at the end of the day, the only person who can really steer you down the right path is you.

The Scamp on the Battleground

I’m sitting in the middle of my qualitative inquiry class and all I want to do is cry (okay, let’s be honest, I cried. I actually got up and left the room and cried. Giant hiccuping sobs Snot, hiccups, and embarrassment. I came home before the second class started and had a beer, french fries and onion rings). Since I started this program I have continually battled with whether or not I made the right choice.


Days like tonight make the answer very clear: no. I made the wrong choice. I am now extremely depressed in a program that touts me as a racist, and today I learned that the program has never approved a proposal for action research. For anyone who isn’t aware of what action research is, here is a quick breakdown:

Action research is a practical approach to professional inquiry in any social situation. The examples in this component relate to education and are therefore of particular relevance to teachers or lecturers engaged in their daily contact with children or students. But professional practice need not be teaching: it may be management or administration in a school or college, or it may be in an unrelated area, such as medicine or the social services. The context for professional inquiry might change, but the principles and processes involved in action research are the same, regardless of the nature of the practice. (Water-Adams, 2006)

I believe as a future leader, and current practitioner that it is important to look at, and understand the practices in the classroom, and what needs to be changed in order to promote student success. I believe that my proposal not only lends itself to a dissertation, but it has merit and value in the field of basic skills writing. I also believe that as a future leader, I should be looking beyond race when I set out to help my students. I currently have 60 students, and I cannot, for the life of me, tell your the ethnic breakdown of my students.

In the program, that makes me a racist. I have made no secret to my displeasure in class, and my frustration with the mindset of some of the people. I have spent countless hours in therapy trying to deal with the boat I am in, but it is harder and harder for me to remember why I decided to stay in the program. Tonight I was told I have no critical consciousness, and therefore cannot be a good leader, because I do not look at the race, and I do not tailor my classes so that nonwhite students are given priority. I was also told that it is not my fault, I am white, and privileged, so I do not understand how to help students who are not white. I lack professional development which is just as much a problem of the college for not offering it, and me for not seeking it out.

Today I told my professor I saw no reason for me to continue in this program. Between hiccups I told her how attacked I felt, and how this program was only teaching me to be racist. I am not a quitter. I think anyone who really knows me knows that, but for the last year, all I have thought about is quitting. This program is one of the major reasons that I cannot wait to get back overseas. I was willing to just about break my bank to go to Estonia for a week at Thanksgiving, just so I don’t have to be anywhere near this program and these people. I’m seriously considering how bad it would be if I did not come home.

My friends have been pretty great. A few of the people in the program emailed and text me to make sure that I am okay. and my best friend sent me these words of wisdom:

It’s a long road. We’ll be 30 soon though, far smarter than our peers, angry at the world, paying of debt and having the times of our lives

He’s right. I just have to make it to 30. I will still be friends with the few people in the program I have really connected with, and I will never have to deal with the rest of them ever again.

The one thing that I have decided to do is fight this system. I am going to do an action research dissertation. I was the first person they ever allowed to defer admittance, so why can I not be the first person to do action research? I know I shouldn’t try and change the world right now with my work, but I want to do something I am proud of, and I will not be proud of anything less than the study I designed. This will be my giant “f-you” to the program. I haven’t decided if I am going to quit the program or not, but I have a meeting with the director on Monday to discuss my future. That gives me a few days to cool off and think about what I want, and how I am going to get it. In the meantime, I am going to ignore the classes, focus on my writing students, and figure out how to get myself into a clear mindset.


The Scamp Completes her First Week

I’ve finally completed my first week of teaching, and the first week of my second year of the doctoral program.

Teaching is great. I love my students. The first class I teach is at night, but they try to stifle their yawns, and they ask questions and engage with my lecture. The second class is a four hour once a week class, and although we have only met once, I have a feeling that I will get a lot of great work out of them. I like being in front of the class, and it has been awhile since I actually enjoyed my job. While I miss two of the women from the library, I do not miss the drama there. So far, teaching is a drama free environment. I can’t wait to really get into the teaching and the discussions with the students.

Being in the grad program has really changed the way that I view my students. I understand boring classes, and as someone who spends a lot of time looking at cat videos on the internet during the lectures, I have decided to be a little more relaxed about my phone and laptop policy. So far the students have respected it.

The second year of the program is off to a rough start. The results of the qualifying exam didn’t go well for a few people, and I do not like the way that it is being handled. If someone looked really closely at this program, I am not sure that it would be allowed to continue. It is clear that race plays a part in who gets to succeed int he program, and since I still have two years left, I am going to just bow  my head and keep silent.

I didn’t do well keeping silent on the first day, but I will be trying a lot harder from now on. I have never been in a place where racism was so rampant and blatant, and people who claim to hate racial stereotypes and labels applied to them place so many labels and stereotypes on white people. It is very clear that if I was struggling in classes, or having a hard time with the program that I would be on my own to figure it out.

We have a new professor this semester, and when he wasn’t talking down to us, or telling us how he wrote Achieving the Dream, he spared a few seconds to ask us what we wanted to do with this degree. After each of the cohort members talked about their end game, he had some comment about how he had done it, or how he could make that happen for us. He was so arrogant and  annoying. What was even more annoying was the plans for a lot of these people want to be deans and presidents of colleges, yet, they only want to help a certain group of students. These people are not going to work to make the educational system a better place. They are going to perpetuate the stereotypes and color focused system we have in place now.

But being on this soapbox gives me a headache, and it is a losing battle.

85 days until Thanksgiving vacation.

Thank the sweet baby Jesus I love my job.

If I didn’t need the fancy letters after my name to move overseas and start a life, I would have already quit the program and saved myself the aggravation.

The Scamp Encounters Self Doubt

The day I have been dreading is fast approaching. I’ve been studying, outlining, practice testing, and talking it out with my study group. I’ve been telling myself everyday that I am going to pass if I put the right amount of time in. I’ve kinda been remembering to take some days off.

And now that the day is almost upon me, I am doubting my ability to succeed.

Two weeks ago I took a practice test. I answered a question about promoting diversity on campus. I outlined a plan that looked at diversity as more than just the color of your skin, and made a plan that would help students of any color, gender, age, socioeconomic status and the like succeed. I left the practice exam feeling good about myself.

I got the comments back from the grader, and all that changed. She all but called me a racist, and all but said that because I am white, I am in power and therefore do not notice that people of color suffer in higher education. She didn’t tell me I would pass the test if I had turned it in as a real response.

It was then that I was painfully reminded of the glaring (yet unmentioned) problem with the program I am in. They do not value diversity. I am one of the few white people in the program, and I might as well sit in the back silently with a sign around my neck that says “white devil”. The idea of diversity and equitable education in this program means that white people are bad and do not need to be included in the help that is provided for students struggling in college.

In this program, I am a racist. I don’t understand struggle because I am white and never had to work hard for anything.

This completely discounts the fact that I grew up in a single parent household with a mom that worked her fucking ass off so I had a roof over my head. Sure, I didn’t struggle, but it is only because she slaved away so we wouldn’t have to.

This does not take into account that I worked hard to get good grades so that I could qualify for scholarships because there was no way that my mom could afford to pay for three kids to go to college.

This does not take into account the countless scholarships I have been turned down for because I am white.

This also doesn’t take into account the three jobs that I consistently have so I can pay my tuition.

I feel like all of that makes me sound whiny. I hate sounding whiny.

What’s worse, is it makes me think that no matter what I do or what kind of educational leader I want to be, for the next two years I will constantly told I am wrong.

This program is killing my spirit.

All of this self doubt makes me regret the choice I made to come home. To get through this program I have to just give the professors they want to hear, and keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. The only thing I am learning from this program is that it is shaping leaders who do not truly value diversity, and will only ever help a certain population of students. The only thing I am learning from this program is that I do not want to be a part of it.

If I did not have so much money invested already, and didn’t need the fancy letter after my name to get a good teaching job overseas, I would have already quit.

The self doubt is starting to affect my studying for the test. I am excited that the test is almost over and that one of my favorite people is about to land on my doorstep for a few days of pure California tourist fun.

Studying sucks, but it sucks a little less the closer I get to the test.

Qualifying exam is in three days…that means three days until FREEEEEEEDDDDDDDOOOMMMMM!


The Scamp and an Action Summary

One thing about this program, they love their end of the year action summaries.

How well do you feel you did this semester?

What did you learn from the class? From your fellow students?

How will this impact your studies and your work in your profession?

or, in the case of this paper:

Students will provide a two page final summary of self-reflection, learning, and action inclusive of

  • Evaluation of the students’ own effort, attendance, participation and engagement.
  • Reflection on the class and student’s own learning process and outcome from class presentations, discussions, readings, and assignments.
  • Student’s insights to ways in which the learning outcomes will be applied to student’s current personal/professional leadership roles and lives.


Please note that grades given for this assignment will incorporate class participation, class attendance, and reflection summary paper.

Great. I just love the fact that I have to discuss the fact that I was a sloppy hot mess this semester and have no idea what was said in half the class meetings.

I could have approached this one of two ways:

1. I could have put my rhetoric degree to good use and lied my fucking ass off. I could have spun a beautiful tale about how I am now a better leader because I learned 20 new leadership frames and models, and because I was 100% invested in the class. I could have written poetry about how the class, and the learning outcomes have made me a more take charge person at work who appreciates diversity, acts as a change agent, and is a strong critical thinker.


2. I could have been honest, admitted that I was a shit student this semester because I let a while lot of personal stuff get in the way, and talked about the two, maybe three classes I paid attention to and how hard I worked on the papers and assignments so as not to let my group members down.

Door number 1 would have been more fun. I have not had the chance to do much creative writing lately….even this little free writing space has become more of a dark and twisty spiral of my inner thoughts…..not very creative.

Door number 2 is real though.

I of course went with door number 2. I was honest that I was a bit distracted during class, but that I did put in the time and effort in regards to the assignments. That part was at least the truth. I have been working my butt off on the case study work, and I am actually quite proud of the work we did in that arena. Of course, the fact that we will be presenting that to the president of the college, and working on getting it published was a strong motivator. I was honest about how there were a few of the books that were presented this semester that I could use, and how I learned from the ones that I didn’t like.

The last part was challenging. I had to connect the learning outcomes to my job. Right now, my job requires me to dust shelves and read call numbers….not exactly the place to practice being a change agent (don’t get me wrong, I would burn that place to ground and start over to make it more effective if I could. I just don’t plan to stick around beyond August, so I am not going to stir the pot right now). The other thing that I was very honest about was the fact that it is hard to promote diversity seeing as our class is not always the most accepting of diverse opinions. This is something I will probably get smacked for later on, but I feel like it had to be said. If we are going to become great leaders, we shouldn’t pick and choose our words so we aren’t labeled as a racist. I’ve already been labeled a racist twice in this program, and considering I am only vaguely racist when the humor fits, I am not really content with the label.

Last time I wrote an action summary for this professor, I got an 8/10. Apparently I my writing was not that good…..or my participation sucked. I wrote more of a door number 1 option last time…..God help me for the grade honesty will get me.