Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Think instead about children. People. Human beings. Feel for once that education is about people—not figures.”

This quote stood out to me because often in today’s educational system states, counties, schools, classrooms are all compared in numbers and figures. It often seems that it is about a figure about test scores or budgets and it isn’t about the children enough.
                Reading the end of this novel reminded me of another book that is actually an inspirational novel I read called, “Who Moved my Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. “Who moved my Cheese?” is about two pairs of mice that are put in a maze and have to run around the maze for days to find the cheese. Once the mice find the cheese they settle down and make a home and become comfortable in their routine. Eventually, the cheese supply runs out and in order to survive they must change their routine, run around the maze to find a new supply of cheese, and make a new home in a foreign place. One set of mice realize in order to survive and be successful, they must move and they eventually find cheese and become happy again. The other set refuses to change their home and ways and eventually die because they are unwilling to change. The School Board in “The Water is wide” represents the mice that were unwilling to change because they fear the change. Conroy and the others trying to implement change and be successful in giving these children a good education represent the mice that are willing to change and move in order to be successful. In the novel in Chapter 12 Conroy writes, “They were old men and could not accept the new sun rising out of the strange waters. The world was very different now.” This seemed to sum up the problem with the educational system on Yamacraw Island and why Conroy butted heads with Dr. Piedmont so much. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

“I never saw Mr. .38 but the idea of a loaded gun being pointed at my head by a woman who thought the Yamacraw people were out to get her made my stomach do handstands and somersaults.”

              In chapters seven and eight my dislike for Mrs. Brown expands and grows even more. The more I read about the way in which Mrs. Brown runs her classroom and beats the children with her whip, the angrier I become and the more I loathe this character. Mrs. Brown idealistically in her mind would like to be a white man. Conroy says in reference to Mrs. Brown, “There was something very wrong in the fact that a black woman in 1969 cast her lot with white men whose thoughts and actions dated back to 1869.” This statement is depicted not only in Mrs. Brown’s method of treating the children and punishing them with the whip and by embarrassing and humiliating them in front of everyone but also the way she talks about them. She does not want to see the children excel and succeed. All of the children despise Mrs. Brown.
                The system of hierarchy in the school system kind of resembles the backwards ways of Mrs. Brown. Nothing is getting done unless Conroy goes directly to Dr. Piedmont because everyone seems to be so intimidated and under his control that they are too scared to say something that might offend or make him mad in order to induce needed change in the schools. Conroy has a hard time going on field trips, getting change for the school, and the conflict we see at the end of chapter eight, negotiating his travel expenses because of the chains of command he has to go through that are not willing to help. Chapter eight exhibits many frustrations for Conroy but he does not let the system or Dr. Piedmont intimidate him. I really like that he goes after what he thinks the children deserve and that he is really passionate about the children’s future and well being. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

“I considered Yamacraw a touchstone: if the Yamacraw children knew about it, then the chances were excellent that the vast majority of American children had been reached.”

              “I considered Yamacraw a touchstone: if the Yamacraw children knew about it, then the chances were excellent that the vast majority of American children had been reached.” This sentence stood out to me when they were having a discussion about the movie, The Wizard of Oz. The children on Yamacraw Island do not appear to know about many things that many other American children that live off the Island know. 
                Building off of that quote, in my opinion, the children of Yamacraw Island probably do not know numerous things because they have not had the experiences to go along with the material they need in order to learn and relate to. The children are stuck in the classroom and do not get out to have experiences and learn from and build on them. Conroy’s Halloween escapade seemed like a huge step in chapter six. The children were allowed to leave the island for probably the first time in their lives and participate in Halloween with the white children. The opposition against this trip upset me. Mrs. Brown hassles Conroy all the time that he needs to teach the children the material and not play around, but in reality she’s the one denying her student of life experiences to learn from and make connections. Conroy even writes, “I knew for a fact that Mrs. Brown and Miss Glover both believed that education as best served in the cramped environs of the classroom, that both of them made a vast distinction between learning and recreation, that both of them felt that education and the leather strap went together like whiskers and catfish, and that both of them thought the trip was a welcome vacation, but not an experience that could be counted as having furthered the name of education.” Mrs. Brown’s and Miss Glover’s teaching philosophies greatly differ from Conroy’s in this manner. Even if Conroy doubts whether or not the Halloween trip made a difference and whether he is making a great difference, it is a start that the children have never had.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

“She was a poetess of profanity, an oracle of epithets who could outcuss a bathroom wall.”

                The difference in the relationship and personality of the people Conroy came to know in this chapter really stood out to me. The two families that I mainly noticed a comparison and yet such a huge contrast between was the Stone family and the Skimberry family. The Skimberrys consist of a black husband and a white, blond haired wife as well as two children, whereas the Stone’s consist of a white husband, a white wife, and a white son. The Skimberry family lives modestly and gets by on Zeke Skimberry’s janitor salary while the Stone family has the most power on the island and is wealthy because they are in charge of most of the jobs on the island. What struck me about the Skimberrys was their unpretentiousness and acceptance of Conroy into their lives and people in general. In chapter four Conroy writes regarding the Skimberrys, “They instinctively liked all people but had been conditioned to dislike and depreciate blacks.”  Ironically, Zeke Skimberry is black and his children are half black. This seems to be a common theme on the island however, the Stone’s degree of hate, especially Tim’s, extends to violence and genuine hatred and anger towards black people. This hatred and anger towards not just black people but anyone who doesn’t agree with the same ideas as him, is clearly evident when Conroy comes over to watch the news with him, and Stone goes on a rant about the “lice” of the world and how they all need to be dead and rid of. I think that Tim Stone lives on Yamacraw Island because he has the most power there and is in charge of basically everything on the island and is allowed to be in charge without question. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Christ must do a lot of puking when he reflects upon the good works done in his name"

The quote that stood out the most in chapter three came from a paragraph in which Pat Conroy is discussing how a white preacher from a church on the mainland that had donated books to the school would come to the island to give a sermon on Sundays. Ironically, if a black person were to step foot in his church, it would be closed down automatically. At the end of the paragraph Conroy writes, “Christ must do a lot of puking when he reflects upon the good works done in his name.” I found this sentence insightful because many people during that time and even before that time used religion as a platform to make themselves feel justified that what they were doing was right by manipulating what the Bible says. This sentence calls out those people out on their false beliefs.
The difference in the amount the students have learned in the amount of time they have learned the material is astonishing to me. I do believe their lack of knowledge was based on prior teacher’s lack of faith and belief that they were capable of learning and growth. It could also be the teacher’s teaching style. Either way, it seems to be prior teacher’s own laziness and lack of faith in their students. Mrs. Brown for example, believes in a strict classroom setting complete with whips and requiring children to sit in their seats and be quiet, but students that have risen from her class to Mr. Conroy’s class know practically nothing. She often says it is because they are lazy or just “retarded”. Mr. Conroy does not take these as excuses and does not use the same methods of teaching that are obviously not working in Mrs. Brown’s classroom. One of the forefront problems with the students at the Yamacraw Island schools is the common belief that they are dumb and lazy by everyone. It appears that no one has ever really put forth a real effort and treated them like real children that have ability to learn. I feel like everyone treats them as if they are wild animals that are incapable and that were made to go to school. The growth that has already occurred among the students is astounding to me because they had that potential all along and could have progressed so much further if just one teacher that had come through had tried harder to teach them in a way they could learn and grow.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Things are tough overseas"

The quote that stuck out to me most because of the poetic nature of the line is, “Lightening flashed around the island, thunder played its favorite game of scaring the carp out of all the shivering mortals on earth below.” However the quote that is repeated several times throughout the novel are the ones in which Mrs. Brown says, “You’re overseas now,” and “Things are tough overseas…” to Mr. Conroy. These give a good insight to Mrs. Brown’s excuse to the poor condition of the school and the student’s current levels.
Mrs. Brown seems to be part of the problem with the Yamacraw Island School. I don’t think it’s necessarily all her fault, I believe she is just acting in a way in which she thinks people in charge of her want to her act and control the students and the only way she knows that “works”. Mrs. Brown is a very interesting character in this chapter. I believe she acts in which the way she feels the white men in charge want her to act because she wants to appear to be on a sort of level she has in her mind as the white people she feels she needs to impress. The children that have come from Mrs. Brown’s class don’t know a significant amount of anything. I think this is partly because she thinks most of them are slow and lazy and that some are retarded so she probably treats them like they are these things and doesn’t challenge them or expect them to learn. It appears they have been taught to agree with the teacher or whoever and have not been taught to think for themselves. It seems the school board thinks Mrs. Brown is doing a good job because they have not heard any complaints from her about the problems of the school. This is one reason why they keep telling Mr. Conroy there are many problems on the island but no one knows exactly what the problems entail. Although Mrs. Brown so far does not appear to agree with Mr. Conroy’s teaching styles and has already reprimanded him once for rough housing with one of his students, his class has already been given insight and learned more about the world surrounding them than it appears they have the whole time they have been in school. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter One Blog

                A clip of Pat Conroy’s writing that stood out to me occurred on page 3 where Conroy is meeting with South Carolina’s superintendent, Dr. Henry Piedmont, to discuss his desire to teach on Yamacraw Island. The part of the segment that sticks out to me is the part in which Conroy is reflecting on the type of person Dr. Henry Piedmont is, how he believes he grew up, and where he came from. The excerpt in particular that stands out to is the one in which Conroy writes, “Intellectually, he was a thoroughbred. Financially, he was secure. And Jesus was his backer. Jesus, with the grits-and-gravy voice, the shortstop on the mill team, liked ol’ Henry Piedmont.” I really liked this sentence because I feel a little like Conroy is making fun of when Dr. Piedmont told Pat Conroy that Jesus sent Conroy to him to teach on Yamacraw Island. It was a very witty way of describing who Dr. Piedmont is and really helped the reader get an idea of what kind of person Dr. Piedmont is and where he came from.
                Throughout Chapter one, the author creates more and more suspense of what exactly the students, school, and life in general on Yamacraw Island is going to entail. Conroy also creates suspense towards what kind of adventures the main character is going to experience while teaching and living there. The wonder and curiosity of this Island began for me when Dr. Piedmont is so grateful that Pat Conroy wants to teach on Yamacraw Island. That made me wonder why nobody else wanted to touch the school on Yamacraw Island and exactly why it was so bad. As the chapter continues, some of the issues of Yamacraw Island become more apparent, such as: the industrial factory polluting the island’s primary source of income and survival—the oysters. This caused many families to relocate off of the island and move towards the cities.
                Another factor that created more curiosity for me was the fact that there was no bridge connecting the island to the mainland. Also, the island just recently had electricity implemented but there were still no telephones. The roads were unpaved, they had hand pumped water that was questionable, and still use ox carts as a major from of transportation (pg . All of these factors create a sense of wonder about what the school Conroy will teach in will be like as well as what the students will be like. The quote on page 4, “It is not a large island, nor an important one, but it represents an era and a segment of history that is rapidly dying in America,” gives us an idea of the island and the history it represents.