“I [Have], with God’s Help”: Making Sense of My Time with a Cult, Part II

Friedrich, Caspar David. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. c 1817. Oil on canvas, height: 98 cm (38.5 in); width: 74 cm (29.1 in). Hamburger Kunsthalle. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog.jpg&oldid=607754223.
Friedrich, Caspar David. Wanderer above the Sea of Fog. c 1817.

Dear Friends, 

For deeply personal reasons which I have alluded, it has been a struggle to maintain this blog with the regularity I desire and the enthusiasm with which I started. Still, I have news to share. I have completed my degree program in social studies education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

I started this blog in 2015 when I returned to school at Marist College with the intention of going on to law school. I sat down with my advisor and stated my objectives rather succinctly, “Columbia Law School.” He had a chuckle. I was dead serious.  I balanced work and school and parenting.  I left my corporate job in finance for a minimum wage job at a resort so I would have part-time flexibility to be on campus and get face time with full-time faculty that could help me achieve my objectives.  Being back in school, I caught the learning bug – that passion for knowledge – and I became increasingly ambivalent about law school, so I returned to finance while I went on to pursue graduate study in American history and culture at Trinity College.  While there, it was presumed by everyone that I would continue onward to doctoral study, and that was seriously my intention.  I applied to two programs, one at Yale and the other Columbia.  Thinking about my own past as a traditionally aged college student and my present circumstances as an older non-traditionally aged student, gave me some serious introspection into what it is I needed to be successful and how that may be of value to students of all ages and backgrounds – one reason why I started this blog.  This, and reigniting my passion for history and knowledge led to me towards education.  I accepted a position as a social studies teacher at an independent Waldorf high school in New York.  I applied to a PhD program at Yale and another masters program in social studies education at Columbia University.  You could say I got lost on my way to Columbia Law School and found myself at Teachers College.

Being a graduate of Columbia University was a lifelong dream come true. Not just “Ivy League”—Columbia. When my paternal grandfather arrived in New York as a child with his family, his mother resettled them from West 61st Street to West 107th Street, precisely so her family would be closer to this esteemed institution of learning. She was a grammar school teacher, before marrying as the spouses of Crown Servants could not work, and she was also the first in her family to learn how to read. My mother’s family, I was not the first in my family to attend Columbia; the first was a polymath with two doctorates who returned to Warren County and invested all of his intellect into improving the communities of northwestern New Jersey, as he was also on the founding board of the American Museum of Natural History. The most intelligent man I ever met was an elderly, long retired English teacher and Columbia alum who came from a one-room schoolhouse. Those whom I relied upon in my personal and professional life such as academic advisors, professors, healthcare clinicians, lawyers, it was the Columbians who always possessed a cool about them that said—I got this. That’s why I chose Columbia, to be the historian and educator that looks at a student or a challenge and says, “I got this.”

When I was a boy, alongside wanting to be an astronaut, my fictional hero was Indiana Jones—the Nazi fighting archaeologist. Though born in Princeton, New Jersey, educated at the University of Chicago and teaching Marshall College, I always imagined he was teaching at Columbia. My masters thesis at Columbia University explored integrating archaeological research methods into our social studies curricula. Here I am, a Columbia educated, anti-fascist progressive, historian and social studies educator. Columbia was as much personal aspiration as it was the aspirations of the daughter of Gaelic-speaking tenant farmers, as it was the tradition of one of the oldest, prominent families in New Jersey.

Unfortunately, when I taught at the Waldorf school, there were those who maliciously sought to trawl through my social media to find dirt and so my blog and my Instagram became weaponized. I remember one of my elder cousins, a now retired history teacher, saying, “I don’t have Facebook because I teach.” You see, perhaps this is a generational difference, I have a public social media presence precisely because I teach. In this age of memes, and soundbytes, 160 character tweets, and “sips” of communication as Sherry Turkle calls them, I maintain a social media presence that shares ideas and fully developed thoughts rather than memes and hot air; my Instagram stories are reels from the World Economic Forum and the Washington Post; my posts are thought pieces and photographs of historic sites and natural wonders. Unfortunately, on March 18, 2021, I issued an in-class quiz to an unsuspecting class that had not been staying engaged, many of whom failed that quiz, and some students proceeded to stalk my social media and trawl through my blog and my Instagram looking for dirt which, of course, they never found. So, you see, it was difficult for me to stay committed to something which people thought they could maliciously weaponize to use against me. It did not stop there or limited to them. Last spring, I ended a personal relationship with someone who proceeded stalking my social media presence for two weeks before I asked her to stop, she proceeded to weaponize my social media presence against me in ways which were particularly and unforgivably hurtful; in many ways triangulating her anger towards me with her anger towards this same community. Even soliciting the assistance of someone recently convicted in federal court of attempting to extort $187,500 from a non-profit cancer charity. This stalking has never ceased, as most recently as of the morning of January 7, 2023, and has included suspicious text messages from TEN Google Voice and TextFree numbers which all have been disconnected with the information I have provided and excessive visits to my blog which most recently have amounted to 100 visits in only a three day period.

I see that my posts related to Egypt Mills are garnering a lot of attention. I am very pleased. I am starting to reach out and make local partnerships to, hopefully, develop this into bigger projects for historical research and education. This work in Egypt Mills ties in to my long in development book project which I am nearing the end of my research phase, and now have much more time to write. Additionally, I have three academic articles in the works: one on Gen Z and academic integrity; the other expounding upon my masters thesis and my work in Egypt Mills, integrating archaeological research methods into our social studies curricula; and the other exploring the history of a little known, yet “famous”, Vermont folk artist. Lastly, I’m working on a “memoir” exploring my educational sojourn from debate scholarships to Pell Grants to the Ivy League and my evolution as a history and social studies educator.

I will continue with this blog as a place to share my professional and academic work, and personal musings …

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