I have been thinking about one of my former places of employment, The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), which I helped to establish in the post-Nation at Risk heady days of teacher preparation reform in the mid-80s. We had a different concept about working with teachers than most, one that focused on intellectual and personal renewal, not reform. Recently NCCAT’s budget was cut in half by the North Carolina Legislature, and some of my former colleagues let go immediately, so I thought more about its legacy.
Cleaning out files this summer, I came across a photocopy of the foreword Maxine Greene wrote in 1992 for the book I co-edited on NCCAT with my late colleague Walt Oldendorf (A Place for Teacher Renewal: Challenging the Intellect, Creating Educational Reform, Teachers College Press 1992, reprinted Information Age Publishing 2008). I share some of it with you as it speaks to our situation now in education as it did back then:
“Pondering the pages of this book, recalling a few bright moments of engagement at NCCAT, I think of those lines from Melville’s Moby-Dick, when the narrator talks about the impossibility of total systems, more specifically of classifying every known variety of whale. … he concludes: ‘God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught – nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!’ Teacher renewal is equally, wonderfully incomplete; there is always, always more. Like feminist thinking, too, it refuses systematization, monologism, insularity. There are more and more connections, more and more relationships to explore.” (viii)
I am especially pleased that Maxine cites Herman Melville, as the sale of the headquarters of the Berkshire Historical Society in Pittsfield, Mass., to my parents enabled them to start a school, and for the BHS to then purchase Arrowhead, the home on the south side of Pittsfield where Melville lived for a time. He could see Mount Greylock, the tallest peak in Massachusetts, from his study window while he wrote Moby-Dick.