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STANFORD -- Urging her fellow graduates "to reach back and grasp the hand of another, and another, and yet another," Arnetha Ball told a Stanford University School of Education commencement audience that the diploma "is not an end-all, a be- all or a have-all."
"It's just a tool. And as is the case with any tool, this diploma is really quite worthless unless used properly," said Ball, whose doctoral dissertation analyzed language patterns among African American adolescents.
Speaking at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Sunday, June 16, Ball exhorted the school's 137 new master's and doctoral graduates to be leaders "courageous enough to stand on our own convictions, to take risks."
"If Rosa Parks had taken a poll before daring to sit down on the bus on that memorable day in Montgomery, Alabama, she'd still be standing."
Ball quoted "the wisest man who ever lived," Solomon, in her opening remarks: "Get wisdom -- and in all thy getting, get understanding."
"There are those who would say, 'I've got mine. And now you've got to get your own.' But I'd like to propose that those people lack true understanding.
"The understanding that I'm talking about includes not only comprehension, but the power of discernment, interpretation and judgment.
"The kind of understanding that I'm talking about is needed in order for each of us to formulate a vision of our personal contribution to the making of a better world -- a world that is better for coming generations, not just for our own biological sons and daughters, but for all children; a world where 'isms' have been conquered -- you know, the racism, sexism, classism and, if you live long enough, ageism.
"And as we make our way to the top, we've got to take somebody with us."
The graduating class presented its teaching honor jointly to Profs. David Tyack and Larry Cuban. In the words of graduate student Carol Colbeck, who announced the award, "Together, they model how collaboration leads to excellence," encouraging colleagues to "work together rather than in competition with each other."
Moreover, she added, "they're at the top of the research field." Cuban, a former school district superintendent, heads the Stanford/Schools Collaborative. Tyack, Vida Jacks Professor of Education, is one of the nation's foremost education historians.
The class gave its staff award to librarian Juanita McKinley, for her "energy and tenacity" in making the School of Education library "one of the finest education library collections in the country," according to graduate student Ron Nakao, announcing the award.
McKinley, who holds a degree in education from Tennessee State University and spent eight years as a public school teacher, retired last year.
In a departure from the school's usual custom, only graduating students were speakers. Joining Ball were Amy Berfield and Nicole Holthius, on behalf of the school's 39 master's degree graduates, and Daniel Mindich and Brian Dunlap, for the 53 graduating students from the school's Stanford Teacher Education Program.
Berfield and Holthius noted that it wasn't unusual for graduate students, when beginning their studies, to be told by faculty, "Look to your left; look to your right. One of you will be gone before the end of the year.
"But [School of Education Associate Dean] Nel Noddings told us at the beginning of our studies, 'Look to your left; look to your right. These will be your colleagues for the rest of your life."
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