Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 


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Girls, sticks, stones, and real men and women

Yesterday I heard the story of a college volleyball recruiter who attempted to flatter a high school athlete by telling her that she "played like a boy." 

Intended as a compliment and taken as a clueless chunk of sexist residue, the comment is, sadly, all too common. 

Even well-meaning, feminist dads-of-sporty-daughters like me can parrot the language we inherit from our culture - and do insidious damage to the psyches of our girls . . . and our boys.

Those looking for a quick antidote can watch this terrific 3-minute video introduction to the #LikeAGirl campaign. Or read this article about Mo'ne Davis, little league flamethrower. 

Knowing that quick antidotes are rarely sufficient, our Upper School is focusing several of its social and emotional learning activities on gender this year. On October 9, we’ll host Jean Kilbourne for a parent coffee, followed by an assembly for students and faculty. Dr. Kilbourne focuses on the sexualization of children, tobacco and alcohol advertising, and commercial culture. Her own website link is above. Here’s the link to her TED Talk

Upper School Dean of Students Lindy Frasher and Dance Teacher Laci McDonald started a “Girl Power” discussion group last spring. They met several times with the main goal of clarifying and taking steps to address some of the particular difficulties girls face at the Upper School. That student/faculty group will plan several awareness-raising activities this year. 

In recent years our students have heard from:

  • Katie Koestner - the first date rape survivor to speak out nationally, a renowned student safety and wellness expert whose testimony on Capitol Hill was instrumental in the passage of federal student safety legislation

  • Joe Ehrmann - former NFL lineman, Founder of Men and Women for Others. Joe's “Be a Man” TED talk is a terrific resource for boys and their parents.  

  • Robin Sawyer - sex educator and Professor of Public and Community Health at the University of Maryland - Here’s a profile from the Washington Post.

All this has been echoing in my mind this week - bouncing against the multileveled disaster in the NFL. Like many across the country, I was inspired by the words of James Brown of CBS Sports. He clearly gets it - and I hope our students will too.

Two years ago I challenged the NFL community and all men to seriously confront the problem of domestic violence, especially coming on the heels of the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs football player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins. Yet, here we are again dealing with the same issue of violence against women.

Now let’s be clear, this problem is bigger than football. There has been, appropriately so, intense and widespread outrage following the release of the video showing what happened inside the elevator at the casino. But wouldn’t it be productive if this collective outrage, as my colleagues have said, could be channelled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women? And as they said, do something about it? Like an on-going education of men about what healthy, respectful manhood is all about.

And it starts with how we view women. Our language is important. For instance, when a guy says, ‘you throw the ball like a girl’ or ‘you’re a little sissy,’ it reflects an attitude that devalues women and attitudes will eventually manifest in some fashion. Women have been at the forefront in the domestic violence awareness and prevention arena. And whether Janay Rice considers herself a victim or not, millions of women in this country are.

Consider this: According to domestic violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners. That means that since the night February 15th in Atlantic City [when the elevator incident occurred] more than 600 women have died.

So this is yet another call to men to stand up and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their deeds and as Deion [Sanders] says to give help or to get help, because our silence is deafening and deadly.

Posted by mulkus on Friday September, 12, 2014


Thanks for writing this. As a mom with 2 girls, I talk about this issue almost daily. I hope the public conversation doesn't stop when the headlines do. Otherwise, we will be having the same conversation again. Thank you, DA for working to make #LikeAGirl a compliment.
from Michele Gutierrez on 09/17/14 at 08:50PM
Thank you for this thoughtful post, and the reference to the "Girl Power" discussion group begun at the Upper School.  It might be terrific to establish a similar (but age-appropriate) discussion group in the middle school, to help our adolescent students think critically about portrayals of girls and women in the media.  Early awareness could help students gain the perspecitve and confidence needed to stand up to negative stereotyping.
from Marjorie Pierson on 09/26/14 at 08:56AM

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