Academic journal article Middle School Journal

A View from the Middle

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

A View from the Middle

Article excerpt

What are your nonnegotiables?

One of the highlights of my first six months in Norway was the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at Oslo City Hall. I was one of four Fulbright scholars whose names were drawn at random to receive tickets to the event. The ceremony was unusual because the recipient of the award, Liu Xiaobo, was not in attendance; he was, and remains, detained in a prison in China for "incitement to the overthrow of the state power and socialist system and the people's democratic dictatorship."

Because Liu was unable to deliver a lecture at the event, actress Liv Ullman read the essay "I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement," which was issued by Liu in December of 2009, shortly after he was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He began the essay with a discussion of his work as a teacher and writer during the 1980s, and as I listened to the words, one line struck me: "What I demanded of myself was this: whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity." The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony was a celebration of Liu's life and work as an activist and advocate for human rights in China, but that simple statement of his principles and beliefs resonated with me. Over the years, I have become more and more convinced of the primary importance of our principles and beliefs in our work as educators.

Educators' principles and beliefs are especially important when viewed from the middle. The main title of the position statement for National Middle School Association is This We Believe for a reason. Possessing knowledge of subject matter, psychology, and pedagogy will not necessarily lead to effective, principled practice, and well-intended programs and school structures will not last if the people who implement them do not believe they will work. …

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