On Monday, September 25, renowned author, sociologist, historian, and educator James Loewen was on campus as the opening speaker for this year's Gray Colloquium series.
The C. Boyden Gray Colloquium Series is designed to engage St. Mark's students in an exploration of one complex global issue annually. Students hear from outside speakers with varying viewpoints, participate in small group discussions, write about and debate the issue, and take part in all-community events. C. Boyden Gray '60, former Board President and current Trustee, has committed $1.5 million to fund this annual yearlong learning exercise. St. Markers, Gray believes "should think in big terms and be inquisitive about the outside world." Gray, a former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, White House counsel to the first President Bush, and recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, hopes that tackling these topics in an intensive fashion will inspire students to serve their country and the world. The theme for this year's Gray Colloquium series is "Building the Future."
At St. Mark's, Dr. Loewen met with students participating in the St. Mark's History Fellowship program. He also spent time with faculty, administrators, and students discussing recent events and ways to teach and conceptualize memorials and memory. He visited Ms. Putnam's Art History class to talk about public art and its meaning, and he had lunch with a group of interested students and faculty, where lively conversation ensued.
After lunch, Dr. Loewen delivered his keynote Gray Colloquium address: "The Most Important Era of US History That You Never Heard of, and Why It Is Still Important Today." From the stage in the Putnam Family Arts Center's Class of 1945 Hall, he spoke eloquently for forty-five minutes about the nation's forgotten and often incorrect accounting of the Reconstruction era in American History. Dr. Loewen addressed the political and social influences that caused factual errors to make their way into the teaching of Civil War era history, while also charging our students with being critical consumers of history.
"Dr. Loewen is well-equipped to help us with the consideration of citizenship rights and responsibilities as we build the future," stated Head of School John C. Warren '74 in his opening remarks, introducing the speaker. "This year's Gray Colloquium program will provide us all with the opportunity to spend time with historians, politicians, scientists, activists. And members of other professions. . . . The Gray Colloquium visitors will help the quest to build the future by providing the opportunity to analyze modern American culture, social issues, and the United States' standing in the world."
After his presentation, Dr. Loewen engaged with a number of students and adults as he signed copies of his book Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks & Get Students Excited About Doing History (2010). The 2017-18 Gray Colloquium series is off to a successful start.