Dear 7th grade students in Ms. Borne’s class:
I had the chance to visit your class yesterday, along with a couple colleagues.
Three things stuck out.
1. You did a great job with complex material. You analyzed both the (in)famous 1976 photo of Ted Landsmark, and Masur’s 2008 essay years later, with skill. Anyone who visited this class would be deeply impressed with you.
2. I enjoyed your discussion. You listened to one another attentively. Seems like you genuinely get along, even after all these years together. Hands flew up when Ms. Borne posed questions. There was good energy. Your observations and questions were thoughtful.
One Q that I enjoyed was along these lines: “Why did that photo win a Pulitzer Prize? It’s obvious that the photographer chose to remain a bystander while a guy was about to get impaled?”
If you’re interested in the question of what should a photographer do — snap the photo versus get involved — here’s a short article that tackles that topic. It’s based on a recent subway incident in New York City.
When a news photographer witnesses a tragedy in the making, is his obligation to intervene or to document it?
That question has cropped up anew following the New York Post’s publication, on its front page, of a photo taken moments after a man was pushed onto subway tracks, and moments before he was hit and killed by an oncoming train.
3. I think you’re lucky to have Ms. Borne as a teacher. She’s excellent. While I’m not a particularly good teacher myself, I know it when I see it. I even study it, I’m kind of a “nerd” in this area. I hope you appreciate how much effort it must take — nights and weekends where Ms. Borne probably plans the lessons and grades your papers — to teach that effectively.
I wanted to share with you two ideas.
1. I know your homework yesterday was to connect this passage with what you’re reading in All Souls.
Guess what? The South Boston house where MacDonald grew up was torn down last week. They’re rebuilding Old Colony.
Here’s a random idea: Michael MacDonald sometimes visits schools as a guest speaker. Perhaps if a couple of you tried reaching out to him, you might persuade him to visit your class next time in Roslindale.
(I tried to book him once on behalf of a teacher I know, and almost got him, but we couldn’t make the logistics work. But he was polite about it).
2. Here’s another idea. Follow this link and you’ll see there’s not just one photo from this incident. There are 17. Look at all 17 and you may have a better idea of what those moments were like. You can play detective. The final image is Landsmark escaping his attacker.
I met Landsmark once. It was in his office once in early 2010. I was seeking advice. I remember he had lots of papers, articles, and books in large piles. This suggested to me he loves to read, but does not always have enough time to do so.
I also remember his passion for his work. He leads an unusual architecture school, where the instructors are working architects busy creating real buildings instead of typical professors. By all accounts, he did not let this 1976 attack (or the associated publicity) define his life. Nor did he try to erase or avoid the memory. He just moves forward.
I think he escaped his attacker metaphorically and not just literally, don’t you?
Again, thank you for having us visit.