Want to Create a Safer World? Create a Safer Classroom

Recent events in Mali, Paris, Beirut, and Nigeria focus our attention on the problem of extreme brutality perpetrated against innocents. As politicians debate policy proposals for dealing with terrorism abroad, scholars, community leaders, and students should not forget the importance of creating a culture of care in the classroom. 

Mainstream media seems to have forgotten about the South Carolina teen girl who suffered mistreatment and humiliation in front of her peers and her male teacher in a classroom. 

Also forgotten — the Texas teen attacked after leaving a pool party. The latter incident did not occur in a school setting, however the incident was witnessed by the girl’s peers and adults, including males.

It is important to revisit the space of the classroom where kids interact and form relationships that exist both inside and outside of the institution. Does the classroom space as a site of safety fit into the American narrative of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Educators and policy makers may reflect on how students’ affective classroom experiences impact their life choices. 

Research questions:

  1. How does witnessing violence in a school setting impact young people’s vocational and avocational choices? 
  2. Are kids who witness abuse of other kids in school more likely to choose authoritative jobs, or uninvolved   jobs (meaning jobs where they do not typically engage in boundary-setting with peers and subordinates)?
  3. Is someone who witnessed classroom violence more likely to become a leader or a follower?

Keeping West Virginia Wild & Wonderful 

MORGANTOWN, WVa. — When you are a displaced North-Central West Virginian, October holds special meaning. October is the month typically associated with peak color. Acres upon acres of forests swathed in rich Fall hues beckon Mountaineers to the great outdoors. The feeling of needing to witness nature’s color-show transcends one’s location. Whether you live in Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Washington, wherever you may be, if you grew up in Mountaineer Country, then the transition from Spring to Fall may as well be equivalent to a national holiday. Take a Mountaineer out of Mountaineer Country and come Fall, that Mountaineer wants to go Mountaineering. 

Mountaineering, the passion for beautiful West Virginia, takes many forms. For instance, strolling, hiking, mountain-biking, running cross-country, and rock-climbing comprise a good deal of a Mountaineers’s leisure-time. Cooper’s Rock State Forest draws visitors from all over. 

All of that time spent outdoors leads to creative emphasis on hospitality, especially when Mountaineering co-incides with Mountaineer-country’s other favorite pastime, Mountaineer Football. Tailgating at WVU-football events sometimes becomes quite elaborate. (Here is a link to an Instagram featuring a fancy tailgate spread that may or may not represent the kind of creativity one may find at a WVU tailgate event.)

Often, unwinding from a day of Mountaineering means indulging in good food and good drink. In Morgantown, Mountain People’s Co-op caters to health-conscious people who appreciate locally-produced, natural, and organic groceries. Morgantown Brewing Company features tasty brews and live music. In fact, the combination of good food and live music defines the North-Central region. Another favorite food-and-music spot, Black Bear Burritos features some of the best local beef in specialty dishes. 

Even the traditional biscuit gets a funky overhaul in North-Central. Charleston’s Tudor’s Biscuit World has franchises all-over the state, including Morgantown. And downtown Morgantown’s DiRty BiRd features outstanding chicken sandwiches as well as savory tuna and coleslaw sandwiches and other savory items. 

In Thomas, West Virginia, The Purple Fiddle features live music and vegan and vegetarian items. 

These travel notes are incomplete and in no way encompass the totality of my experience with the region or the state. This blog post reminds all North-Central West Virginians, and friends of Mountaineers — whether local or out-of-state — that adventure and good times await in the Mountain State.

Keeping it Wild and Wonderful, West Virginia.


Michelle Obama Reaches Teens Via Online Campaign: #BetterMakeRoom 

First Lady Michelle Obama launched a new  social-media campaign spotlighting higher education this week, #BetterMakeRoom. This combination of Internet-magic and U.S. public policy appeals to teens ages 14-to-19. Check out the new Vibe posts announcing the campaign here and here

The proposition:

Teens wanting higher education exceed  expectations when they are treated like stars. 

The First Lady factor:

Teens have Michelle Obama as a powerful ally. The First Lady and her team know how to reach teens where they live, online. Every teen seeking post-secondary education feels part of a happy, welcoming community of learners and doers.

Is #BetterMakeRoom an attempt by the First Lady to onstitionalize higher education as a rite-of-passage for youth?


Teens succeed when they are recognized by their communities as competent, capable, and fun and #BetterMakeRoom reminds education professionals that all children deserve an opportunity to attain education beyond high school.

Immigration from an International Perspective: Cecile Emeke’s “Passeggiando” Looks at “Afroitalians” and Italian Citizenship

This video gives the Italian perspective on what people who are not readily accepted into their native society face when it comes to social, economic, and cultural advancement. I cannot imagine any student of cultural studies and cultural politics not having something to say about this video.

Pope Francis Visits The United States of America and Demonstrates Intersectional Awareness 

Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, demonstrated intersectional awareness and shared that knowledge with a mass audience, last week. Argentine-born Pope Francis toured three cities in the United States of America reminding us that he, too, is an American.

This religious leader proved himself to be a skillful orator, a social worker, and a professor. Addressing the short-comings of clergy, the Pope focused on the sanctity of family-life and seemingly ordered  high-ranking religious leaders to get out from behind the protective walls of the church and into the homes of believers in order to positively impact families. This suggests that those with power and influence do not need to horde their talents, nor exclude others from receiving their wisdom. Instead, they must put themselves “out there” to join the lay community and the religious community beyond the sacred ivy-covered walls.

Regarding homelessness, the Pope urged people to consider how one becomes homeless and then to actively listen to those unfortunate, disenfranchised souls suffering from lack of opportunities and lack of access to good people who want to spend time helping them cultivate opportunities. The Pope urged audiences to create communities that positively impact the lives of Others. Being a cultural studies scholar, I naturally thought of the tendency to exclude minority women from certain cultural practices common to mainstream culture.

What stood out to me from watching this visit on television, was the Pope’s willingness to critically interrogate the causes of many social problems that impact diverse members of the American family. I considered my own position as a minority-woman located in a remote geographical space comprised of leaders with normative mating values that do not always take into consideration the needs of the Other.

I am not Catholic. I have attended Catholic mass once, however. I also have many fulfilling relationships with friends who were raised Catholic, or who consider themselves to be “culturally Catholic”. Although I do not know the intricacies of the faith, I, like many women, have questions about marriage, family, and economics that the Catholic Church (and other faiths)  address. I wonder how the concept of family life applies to me, personally, a black woman whose early peer relationships were mostly with white men.

I wonder if part of the Pope’s ecumenical strategy is to reach out to people just like me, women of color who spend part of the year living in urban spaces (Los Angeles) and part of the year living in non-urban communities (Appalachia) with little opportunity to build capital holdings.

Scholars at colleges and universities where cultural studies is taught, particularly scholars at Claremont Graduate University who study race/ethnicity and religion/theology, might consider adding Pope Francis’ recent speeches to the curricula. Professors ought to share insights and inspire conversation on the Pope’s recent visit.

In the meantime, below, I share my own research questions for consideration. They are:

Is it the case that we are witnessing a change in the way the Catholic Church practices conversion and educational outreach? How do  global economic conditions impact the Pope’s message on topics such as marriage, annulment, prison reform, and climate change? Can minority lay people play a role in the Catholic Church?

Further study of Pope Francis’ speeches in the United States would make for an excellent addition to the curriculum in the Cultural Studies program at Claremont Graduate University. IMG_4409