When Hamilton actor appealed to Mike Pence, theatre showed its strength

Good commentary by Kelly Nestruck on the message the cast of Hamilton gave to VP-designate Pence, although he exaggerates the extent that theatre brings people together – there is a selection bias in terms of those who go to see the play, both from an ideology/values perspective as well as economic (check the price of those tickets!):

Theatre is a live art form – and, as such, it’s subject to alteration and improvisation and intervention at any given moment. Actors don’t have to stick to the script – and neither do audiences. This is something that has scared certain people, particularly those in power, over the centuries.

Add Donald Trump to the millennium-long list of puritans and politicians afraid of the democratic nature of the free speech zone that is theatre.

Last night, American vice-president-elect Mike Pence got an earful as he attended Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton on Broadway.

First, the audience had its turn. According to reports, there were boos directed at Pence as he took his seat – and the cheers were exceptionally loud when the musical’s signature line arrived: “Immigrants, we get the job done.” George Washington’s line “Winning is easy, young man, governing’s harder” was greeted by more applause than usual by the audience, re-authoring a lyric Miranda penned written years ago into a dig at those about to move into the White House.

Actor Brandon Victor Dixon, currently playing Aaron Burr in the musical about the American revolution and its aftermath, then spoke to Pence directly during the curtain call. “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us.”

We haven’t heard from Pence about how he received this epilogue yet – according to AP, he politely listened to it in full from the hallway outside the auditorium.

The President-elect, Donald Trump, however, took to Twitter to condemn the Hamilton cast for having “harassed” Pence. On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “The theatre must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

What happened at Hamilton is a sign not of rudeness, however, but of the theatre in rude health. Anyone who’s a student of classical plays will know that prologues or epilogues directed at the “court” are a long theatrical tradition – and a little audience booing is pretty tame behaviour compared to the riots that have erupted at performances through the ages from Byzantium to New York in the 19th Century.

Trump is half-right about theatre, however: It is a special place, but not a safe one.

There is nothing “safe” about gathering citizens together in the same physical space and having them listen to characters in conflict, that is, with different points of views. It’s only seemed like it in the West for the past century or so as we’ve lived in societies that have embraced free, respectful speech and democratic debate in common areas like the mainstream media, now derided and dying.

Now, however, just how “special” theatre is has started to become clear again.

The Internet promised us a place where we would interact with people unlike us – but it’s actually delivered the opposite. Facebook algorithms shove us into silos of like-mindedness, delivering us news articles and opinion pieces that match our worldview and turn us against our neighbours. Twitter’s an echo chamber – and, on those rare occasions when those who disagree do come together on it, it’s usually to hurl insults at one another rather than to try to understand one another.

Theatre is one of the few remaining places where citizens come face-to-face, sit side-by-side to hear ideas for an extended period of time. This is, of course, what made theatre revolutionary when it was born as an art form in Ancient Greece alongside democracy. The great innovation of theatre was to bring the concept of dialogue to storytelling – and the classics scholar Peter Burian has argued audiences learning to listen to characters present different points of view in the theatre paved the way to them listening to each other in democratic discourse.

We need that civics lesson again now. Hamilton’s a great example of theatre’s power to create empathy for those unlike us, or those we might disagree with. On one level, it is certainly a product of the Obama years in the United States – through its diverse casting and hip-hop score, comparing the young Americans of colour and immigrants of today to the Founding Fathers.

But Hamilton also asks black actors and other actors of colour to play historical figures, none of them simple heroes, like the slave-owner George Washington. This is radically out of step with the political left’s current call-out culture – asking us to step into another’s shoes rather than judge them.

That is indeed unsafe to Trump and those like him who profit off the politics of division.

Source: When Hamilton actor appealed to Mike Pence, theatre showed its strength – The Globe and Mail

Where to find school bullies? Not where you might expect: Saunders

Interesting study noted by Doug Saunders on the positive correlation between number of immigrant children and lower levels of bullying (and higher levels of academic achievement). End comment on Fraser Institute studies and real estate agents pushing the opposite view of note:

A few years ago, I found myself in the vice-principal’s office at a Toronto elementary school with a majority of recent immigrants and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East in its student body. I was struck by all the posters in her office, and in the hallway outside, devoted to anti-bullying campaigns. “I guess schoolyard bullies are a big problem at a school like this,” I said.

“Oh no,” she said, visibly surprised, “not here – we’re required to run those campaigns, but bullying is really something for the white schools. You don’t get much of it at schools like this.”

I later heard similar remarks from teachers and education experts in other cities: that it’s the “white” schools with mainly non-immigrant populations where bullying and psychological distress are serious problems.

I assumed, for a while, that this was a matter of perception. After all, bullying is a current obsession of middle-class white parents. New-Canadian parents, lacking fluency and time to monitor their kids, might not be able to perceive or report schoolyard abuse when it takes place, I guessed.

And then I ran into Kathy Georgiades, a clinical psychologist at McMaster University’s Offord Centre for Child Studies, who happened to be conducting a series of large-scale studies of exactly this question, and finding surprising results.

In 2007, she and her team of researchers conducted a study based on interviews with 14,000 primary-school students, their parents and their teachers. They found that children living in neighbourhoods with higher immigrant populations experienced “lower levels of emotional-behavioural problems” – including those problems that are usually classified as “bullying” and “being bullied” – than those in mainly non-immigrant neighbourhoods.

That study had its limits: The interviews were only conducted in English and French, leaving out non-fluent families who might be more vulnerable. And they were classified by neighbourhood makeup, not by actual school experience. Her results had doubters among education officials, who had always classified non-fluent immigrant kids as “at-risk” – extra vulnerable to emotional and behavioural problems. Her results suggested the opposite.

So Dr. Georgiades assembled a larger, better-funded team and spent the past couple of years conducting a more comprehensive study. It held lengthy, structured interviews with students, parents and teachers at 36 primary schools in the Hamilton area’s public and Catholic boards, in nine languages, on the details of their experiences, feelings and actions; and cross-tabulated the interviews with the students’ academic, standardized testing, counselling and disciplinary records.

She told me that the study results (to be published later this year) show conclusively that more immigrant-heavy schools have a lot less bullying, as reported by students, teachers and parents – especially if more than 20 per cent of the students are foreign-born.

“In schools with a higher concentration of first- and second-generation migrant students, immigrant students are less likely to report bullying other kids, and less likely to report being bullied,” she said.

This extends to all emotional and behavioural problems. The more immigrants in a school, the better the mental-health outcomes for the newcomers. It appears to be an example of what some scholars call the “protective effect of migrant density” – newcomers and their children are more likely to help each other out than to turn against others.

If immigrant-heavy schools are good for mental health, it appears they may also be good (or at least no worse) for educational results. Research in the United States and in Britain has shown that the introduction of significant numbers of immigrants and students not fluent in English tends to improve educational outcomes in schools – not just for the immigrants themselves, but for the native-born students, who appear to have better grades and higher graduation rates than they would if they attended a school with mainly native-born students.

This may be because immigrant-heavy schools have more resources, such as teaching assistants, and because they’re forced to abandon front-of-class lecturing and offer lessons at multiple levels and tailored to multiple learning styles and paces – which is good educational practice for everyone.

Given such findings, it may be time to rethink the way we judge schools. School rankings, such as the Fraser Institute database popular with real estate agents, tend to rate schools higher if they have fewer foreign-born students. It appears that they may have it backward.

Source: Where to find school bullies? Not where you might expect – The Globe and Mail

The face Canada showed the world – Margaret Wente

Margaret Wente’s cheery piece on what Canada got right, referring to the Hamilton video experiment on attitudes towards Muslims (Hamilton racism social experiment ends with a punch | Toronto Star) and the community efforts to clean up the damage at the Cold Lake Mosque (Volunteers help clean vandalism from Cold Lake mosque):

When I wear the poppy, I sometimes think of my dad and grandfather, who fought so that some day we could live in a nation just like this. But why us? Why are we the lucky ones? How have we managed to escape the racial and ethnic strife that plagues most of the rest of the world?

One reason is that Canada is so new. Almost all of us are immigrants – newcomers ourselves not so long ago. And our dual English-French identities have been a great test of our ability to accommodate our differences without tearing each other to shreds. So far, so good. We’ve learned a lot from that.

Our identity is not defined by blood, or by our sense of destiny. We have no concept of Volk. We’re just folks. We don’t care who you are or where you came from or who or what you worship, as long as you share our good Canadian bourgeois values. Don’t litter. Send your kids to school. Wear a poppy.

We are blessed with a lot of elbow room, and we have borders that are relatively impermeable. No massive waves of refugees and migrants wash up on our shores. We never imported guest workers who we thought would go home, but didn’t.

Unlike Europe, our immigrants come from all corners of the planet. We’ve dodged the problem of large subgroups that self-ghettoize and don’t assimilate. Here, everyone gets thrown together and winds up at Tim Hortons or maybe Starbucks. And the locals are extremely friendly, which means that the whole world wants to come here, so we get our pick. We have created a virtuous circle of tolerance and openness that is rivalled only by Australia, a nation just like ours, only with a better climate and a worse accent.

As my friend and colleague Sheema Khan said of Mr. Albach’s video, “This is the face that Canada is showing to the world.” After two terrorist attacks, people punched out the bigots and took flowers to the mosque. No wonder we’re the envy of the world.

The face Canada showed the world – The Globe and Mail.

Hamilton racism social experiment ends with a punch | Toronto Star

More dramatic than polling on attitudes:

One man immediately pushes back:

“You know, you can’t stereotype and judge people by their clothes, or their nationality or anything else, you know what I mean? What happened there, it was incident of fanatics.”

A woman pipes up, too:“It was awful and tragic, but I don’t think that’s any reason to persecute someone just because what they’re wearing.”

But Giamou keeps making his case, eventually trying to physically remove his fellow actor. At that point, someone jumps to the Muslim man’s defence and slugs Giamou in the face.

After a brief clip that shows him talking to a police officer, Giamou, who has a bloody face, offers this conclusion:

“So the social experiment had a negative ending to it, but its positive because he stood up for him and I appreciate that, that’s good, that’s good.”

Hamilton racism social experiment ends with a punch | Toronto Star.