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T. Elijah Hawkes
T. Elijah Hawkes is a father, writer, educator. The views expressed in these posts are his own. He is Co-Principal at Randolph Union High School, in Randolph, Vermont. He was founding Principal of the James Baldwin School in New York City. His reflections on public schools, democracy and adolescence have appeared in Rethinking Schools Magazine, Kappan Magazine, Education Week, and Schools: Studies in Education.

Entries by T. Elijah Hawkes

Guns: What Teachers Should Carry

(4) Comments | Posted October 6, 2015 | 3:16 PM

When it comes to guns, what teachers should carry isn't a weapon -- it's the weight of the debate. Teachers must at least have more courage than Congress. At least let the kids study the issue.

In the wake of our latest school shooting, Nicholas Kristof wrote...

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Will Vermont Accept California Climate Refugees?

(2) Comments | Posted September 22, 2015 | 4:29 PM

Understandably, no one's really asking that question. Vermont is too far away. Plus, we don't hear words like "refugee" or "IDP" in reference to the thousands of Americans displaced by the California fires. We generally save the language of climate crisis and social upheaval for more far away...

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Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cormac McCarthy Walk Into a Bar

(1) Comments | Posted August 5, 2015 | 1:16 PM

Well, not a bar -- a book group. (Though this book group has convened in bars.)

My book group is unsure of what to read next. Perhaps we'll read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. There is debate about this, but since I'll be hosting, the final decision falls to...

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Dylann Roof Went to School

(0) Comments | Posted July 1, 2015 | 8:54 PM

Dylann Roof, the young man who allegedly committed the June massacre in Charleston, was once a student in school. He discontinued after ninth grade, so he only attended for about ten years. But ten years is a long time in a child's life. How did - or didn't - that...

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Cartoons Terrorize Parisian Family: Teaching Colonialism

(0) Comments | Posted February 18, 2015 | 9:56 PM

We'd begin with contemporary Paris, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and bloodshed. We'd then quickly turn to Caché.

If I were teaching again, this is how I'd start my literature and film class about colonialism.

Caché (2005), by Michael Heneke, opens on a quiet Parisian...

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School Bullies and Je Suis Charlie

(1) Comments | Posted January 12, 2015 | 9:45 AM

Thursday and Friday of last week, teachers and students joined voices across the globe in declarations of "Je Suis Charlie." A statement of solidarity: teachers and students standing with those who condemn the barbaric murder of the French cartoonists; teachers and students affirming the liberty-or-death importance of democratic ideals.


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NY Man, VT Baby: "Can't Breath," Killed

(2) Comments | Posted December 5, 2014 | 7:49 AM

Here in Vermont, many of us are troubled by the shocking decision not to indict the police officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner in New York City. Also in the news this week we heard another, more local story of a person who could not breath: a 27...

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The Public School Counterinsurgency Field Manual

(1) Comments | Posted August 4, 2014 | 4:25 PM


Their means may not be military, but across this great land, insurgent extremists are at work attacking public institutions and undermining the citizenry's confidence in the same. Our public schools are on the front lines.

In certain regions, the school casualties mount. Witness the

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The Common Core: Disabling Compassion

(5) Comments | Posted June 19, 2014 | 2:02 PM

What would James Baldwin, one of America's greatest non-fiction writers, have to say about the Common Core expectation that a high school senior's reading diet be 70 percent non-fiction text?

First, on the topic of standards, Baldwin might restate what he once told a group...

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Special Ed and Heroin: Letter to a First-Year Vermont Teacher

(0) Comments | Posted April 10, 2014 | 4:48 PM

This is an email I wrote to a Special Education teacher colleague in her first year. The text is more or less just as I sent it to her last week. Names have been changed.

Dear Abby,

Your contribution to the 7th Grade Team meeting was...well...brilliant!

We don't...

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Don't Quote Duncan: Public Schools and the State of the Union

(0) Comments | Posted February 5, 2014 | 3:37 PM

There's a pause in the president's speech. He tosses a wink to the audience. "Guess the world isn't so flat anymore, now is it, Tom?" TV camera shifts to Arne Duncan and Thomas Friedman. The Education Secretary and New York Times columnist exchange smiles and a high five.


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Teaching Homicidal Rage: Reflections on School Shootings and Suicides of 2103

(2) Comments | Posted December 27, 2013 | 10:53 AM

I sometimes see "f--k you" scrawled on the bathroom wall. I also sometimes see a quiet "help me." Both unsettling.

I wash my hands and pull the paper towel, sometimes imagining the worst: a child, a gun, rage, despair, and contemplations of murder or suicide. Unlikely extremes -- but...

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A Math Teacher Walks Out

(2) Comments | Posted September 16, 2013 | 1:28 PM

It was the first week of school and I saw my math teacher colleague walking away. She was pushing a cart of materials down the hall, leaving her classroom behind, leaving the school.

In the end, she didn't go far -- just to the adjacent building, site of the...

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9/11 and the Real Common Core

(0) Comments | Posted August 26, 2013 | 5:43 PM

Soon it will be time to commemorate September 11. I was teaching in a Manhattan public school on that morning, when three thousand people were killed three miles south of our school. It was a frightening day. But each year since, it's a chance for me to remember what it...

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The Problem with Service Learning

(3) Comments | Posted August 17, 2013 | 2:20 PM

It's August, back to school time, and we've entered a period during which a new regime of high stakes tests are rolling-out, with a fresh chorus of "failure" and "privatize" singing out from the testing results. As I've written recently, public schools are vulnerable, and because...

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Public Schools: Follow the Pope

(6) Comments | Posted August 8, 2013 | 6:06 PM

I'm not Catholic. I don't go to church. And it's part of my job to uphold the separation of church and state. So I never thought I'd be listening so closely to the Pope.

But as a principal in our public schools -- one of America's most long-established, far-reaching...

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