Clyde Edgerton and the Hubris of New Hanover

A simple google search for the definition of a great word: hubris.

hu·bris – ˈ(h)yo͞obrəs/ – noun

  • excessive pride or self-confidence.
  • (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.

I am not from North Carolina, but having lived here half my life, married a native tarheel, and raised my two children here in the Old North State, I could probably with a tad bit of knowledge claim that Clyde Edgerton is one of the state’s treasures. Among living novelists, Clyde Edgerton is probably the most well-known or at least can be mentioned in the same breath as people like Lee Smith and Fred Chappell. Even when I taught in Georgia, his books were used because of their accessibility and local color. He is a major reason why the arts flourish in North Carolina.

So when I read about the New Hanover Schools banning Mr. Edgerton from any campus of the system, I was rather surprised. In fact, after reading the reasons given by the superintendent for banning our beloved author, I was astounded.

The Winston-Salem Journal ran a story from the McClatchy Tribune on June 6th (“New Hanover County Schools tells noted novelist Clyde Edgerton to stay away”) and reported the following,

In May, New Hanover County Schools Supt. Tim Markley told Edgerton in a letter that he was banning him from all school system grounds. Markley says his decision stemmed from a parent’s concern that Edgerton had inappropriately obtained private information about her child. Edgerton had telephoned the parent and left a message indicating “the manner in which you obtained the information may have been potentially illegal,” Markley said in the letter.”

So, the word of one parent got one very highly regarded person banned from all campuses in the very schools he advocates for? A person who happens to be a tutor to disadvantaged students? A parent who is active in his children’s public school? That makes about as much sense as my calling up the School Board in New Hanover County and expressing concern that a person named Tim Markley had contacted me to ask me a question that made me have to use mental energy and having him banned from all campuses as well.

But interestingly, it was also reported in the article was that Mr. Edgerton had been fighting for more inclusion in the Spanish Immersion Program at Forest Hills Elementary. The report stated,

“Edgerton’s children attend the program, but he and other white parents have argued that students of color haven’t had equal opportunity to enroll. The program used a “first come, first served” policy instead of an enrollment lottery. “It was very clear to me the deck was stacked,” he said Wednesday.”

Edgerton’s activism led to the resignation of the principal and the school using a more fair system of the lottery for students in the program. And pointing out the flaws in the system must have made Mr. Markley mad making him act out because of a bruised ego.

Ironically, Mr. Markley WROTE a letter to a gifted WRITER who heads up the Creative Writing Department at UNC-Wilmington to explain why he banned Mr. Edgerton from the school. He did not “call Edgerton into the office”. He did not meet with Edgerton to express his concerns. He did not ask for Edgerton’s side of the story. He just went with circumstantial opinion.

But perhaps the greatest hubris shown in this situation by Mr. Markley was expressed in this one quote.

“If I get an explanation that makes sense, then we’re fine.”

If truth be told, it seems like the explanation that really needs to be given is by Mr. Markley. But if Mr. Markley really wants an “explanation” from Clyde Edgerton, he may find it in novel form, expressed in an accessible, personable manner with fantastic rising action and character development.

Widely read writers have this way of depicting life in ways that others can experience as well by just writing about what they encounter in their own lives.
I look forward to that possible book, but I really look forward to Mr. Markley getting over his hubris and allowing Mr. Edgerton do what so many teachers like me wish others would do: volunteer to work with kids.

We need to have more parents advocate for our students and our schools. Mr. Markley should know that.

3 thoughts on “Clyde Edgerton and the Hubris of New Hanover

  1. Pingback: Two Weeks in Review – Clyde Edgerton, Great Coaches, Jerry Tillman’s Math, the NCHSAA, Quarter Grades, Hero Teachers, and a Redhead Named Malcolm | caffeinated rage

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