the cold reality of child labor

Today’s selection — from Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert. Little 10-year-old Ellen Hootten testified to the working conditions in British cotton mills during an 1833 investigation by the British government:

“Like Brecht’s haulers and builders, few cotton workers have entered our history books. Most left not even a trace; too often they were illiterate, and almost always their waking hours were occupied with holding body and soul together, leaving little time to write letters or diaries, as their social betters did, and thus few ways for us to piece their lives together. One of the saddest sights to this day is St. Michael’s Flags in Manchester, a small park where allegedly forty thousand people, most of them cot­ton workers, lie buried in unmarked graves, one on top of the other, ‘an almost industrial process of burying the dead.’ Ellen Hootton was one of these rare exceptions. Unlike millions of others, she entered the histori­cal record when in June 1833 she was called before His Majesty’s Factory Inquiry Commission, which was charged with investigating child labor in British textile mills. Though only ten when she appeared before the committee and frightened, she was already a seasoned worker, a two-year veteran of the cotton mill. Ellen had drawn public attention because a group of middle-class Manchester activists concerned with labor condi­tions in the factories sprouting in and around their city had sought to use her case to highlight the abuse of children. They asserted that she was a child slave, forced to work not just in metaphorical chains, but in real ones, penalized by a brutal overseer.
“The commission, determined to show that the girl was a ‘notorious liar’ who could not be trusted, questioned Ellen, her mother, Mary, and her overseer William Swanton, as well as factory manager John Finch. Yet despite their efforts to whitewash the case, the accusations proved to be essentially true: Ellen was the only child of Mary Hootton, a single mother, who was herself a handloom weaver barely able to make a living. Until she turned seven, Ellen had received some child support from her father, also a weaver, but once that expired her mother brought her down to a nearby factory to add to the family’s meager income. After as many as five months of unpaid labor (it was said that she had to learn the trade first), she became one of the many children working at Eccles’ Spinning Mill. When asked about her workday, Ellen said it began at five-thirty in the morning and ended at eight in the evening, with two breaks, one for breakfast and one for lunch. The overseer, Mr. Swanton, explained that Ellen worked in a room with twenty-five others, three adults, the rest children. She was, in her own words, a ‘piecer at throstles’ — a tedious job that entailed repairing and reknotting broken threads as they were pulled onto the bobbin of the mule. With constant breakage, often sev­eral times a minute, she only had a few seconds to finish her task.
Men, women, and young children worked in the cotton mills in Lancashire, England
“It was all but impossible to keep up with the speed of the machine as it moved back and forth, so she sometimes had ‘her ends down’  — that is, she had not attached the loose and broken ends of the thread fast enough. Such errors were costly. Ellen reported being beaten by Swanton ‘twice a week’ until her ‘head was sore with his hands.’ Swanton denied the frequency of the beatings, but admitted using ‘a scrap’ discipline the girl. Her mother, who called her daughter ‘a naughty, stupid girl,’ testi­fied that she approved of such corporal punishment, and had even asked Swanton to be more severe to put an end to her habit of running away. Life was hard for Mary Hootton, she desperately needed the girl’s wages, and she begged Swanton repeatedly to keep on the girl, despite all the troubles. As Mary said, ‘I cries many a times.’
“The beatings, however, were not the worst treatment Ellen experi­enced at Swanton’s hands. One day, when she arrived late to work, Swan­ton penalized her even more severely: He hung an iron weight around her neck (there was no agreement about whether it weighed sixteen or twenty pounds) and made her walk up and down the factory floor. The other children heckled her, and as a result, ‘she fell down several times while fighting with the other hands. She fought them with the stick.’ Even today, nearly two hundred years lacer, the pain of the girl’s life, from the tedium of her work to the violence of her abuse, is hard to fathom. …
“Like Ellen Hootton, thousands and, by the 1850s, millions of workers streamed into the world’s newly built factories to operate the machines that produced cotton thread and cloth. The ability to mobilize so many women, children, and men to work in factories was awe-inspiring. Many a contemporary was overwhelmed by the sight of hundreds or even thou­sands of workers walking to and from their places of toil. Every morn­ing before sunrise, thousands of workers walked down narrow paths in the Vosges to the factories in the valley, crawled out of dormitory beds just up the hill from Quarry Bank Mill, left their struggling farms above the Llobregat River, and made their way through crowded Manchester streets toone of the dozens of mills lining its putrid canals. At night they returned to sparse dormitories where they slept several to a bed, or to cold and drafty cottages, or to densely populated and poorly constructed working-class neighborhoods in Barcelona, Chemnitz, or Lowell.
“The world had seen extreme poverty and labor exploitation for cen­turies, but it had never seen a sea of humanity organizing every aspect of their lives around the rhythms of machine production. For at least twelve hours a day, six days a week, women, children, and men fed machines, operated machines, repaired machines, and supervised machines.”

Empire of Cotton: A Global History

Author: Sven Beckert
Publisher: Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC
Copyright 2014 by Sven Beckert
Pages: 176-179
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a knife to barney fife’s throat

Today’s selection — from Andy and Don by Daniel de Visé. Don Knotts vaulted to national fame in the 1960s as Barney Fife, the exasperatingly comical deputy sheriff and sidekick to Andy Griffith in theAndy of Mayberry sitcom. Just as Barney’s false bravado masked his insecurities, so Don’s ascent to stardom masked a deeply grim childhood:

“Don was fourteen years younger than his next youngest sibling, William Earl, a boy so slender he was called Shadow. Don was an accident, Elsie, thirty-nine and married to a forty-two-year-old invalid, had not planned to bring another child into the world.

“Don’s childhood was bleak, even by the sepia-toned standards of the Depression. The house on University Avenue sat in a crowded row of unkempt wooden colonials set against a steep hill. He slept on a cot in the kitchen, next to the stove. Two of his older brothers, Shadow and Sid, shared a bedroom with a boarder. Willis Vincent ‘Bill’ Knotts, the most ambitious sibling, had already decamped to seek his fortune as a manager at Montgomery Ward. Don’s mother and father slept in the living room, and Jesse Sr. spent most of his waking hours on the sofa, staring into space. Don’s brothers liked to drink and fight; there was little to distinguish them from the vagabonds who paraded in and out of the University Avenue home.

Don Knotts early in his career as a ventriloquist

“Don emerged from infancy with a ghostly pallor, a skeletal frame, and a predisposition to illness, traits he shared with his older brother Shadow. ‘I did not come into the world with a great deal of promise,’ Don recalled. ‘By the time I started grammar school, I was already stoop-shouldered, painfully thin, and forever throwing up due to a nervous stomach.’

“Three decades later, Elsie Knotts would ask Don, ‘Do you remember when you were in nappies, and your father used to hold a knife to your throat?’ Don did not. Only in therapy did the memories come flooding back. Don spent his first years living in fear of the monster on the couch. Jesse Knotts harbored a primal jealousy toward Don, the unexpected baby who drew Elsie’s attention away from her bedridden husband. From the day Don arrived, he competed with his father for his mother’s care.

“The only path out of Don’s kitchen bedroom led through the living room, where his father lay. Don would try to tiptoe by. Sometimes he would pass unnoticed. Other times, the father would emerge from his fever dreams and train his bloodshot eyes on his youngest son. Don would freeze as he heard the ragged growl of an unpracticed voice: ‘Come here, you little son of a bitch.’ Don would slowly retreat from the room. Usually, the summons was an empty threat. But on occasion, Jesse would rise from the couch like a shambling ghoul and stagger into the kitchen to find a blade. Then he would stumble through the house in search of his son; the hunt wouldn’t take long, as there was nowhere for Don to go. Jesse would pin Don against the wall, raise the knife to his throat, and terrorize the child with dark oaths: ‘I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch.’ “

Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show

Author: Daniel de Visé
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Copyright 2015 by Daniel de Visé
Pages 4-5
All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.
About Us is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

benevolence only makes things worse — 10/27/15

Today’s selection — from Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by Edward J. Renehan Jr.  The miraculous gains of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s brought untold new wealth to western societies, but simultaneously brought a new type of poverty and disruption among workers — equally unprecedented in its scale.

“The first few decades of the nineteenth century were a largely cynical and callous time in American history — a period of institutionalized harshness. It was in 1817 that a group of prominent New York merchants and professionals (many once having been the principal supports of such institutions as the New York Hospital and other worthy causes) officially and publicly began to rethink their charitable habits. Such previously generous philanthropists as DeWitt Clinton (now governor of the state), Thomas Eddy, and John Griscom took their cue in this from British reformers. In so doing, they succumbed to the rhetoric of several hard-nosed British social thinkers, most notably Thomas Robert Malthus, Jeremy Bentham, and the Scottish conservative Patrick Colquhoun.

“Twenty years earlier, all three of those gentleman had been instrumental in the founding of the London Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor. Despite the burden of its long-winded name, the London Society did not distribute charity but specialized in cutting off funds for social welfare. Malthus, Bentham, and Colquhoun believed that a distinct line must be drawn between the ‘deserving poor’ (those facing hard times as a result of unfortunate histories) and ‘undeserving paupers,’ namely, the drunk, the lazy, and the whorish members of society for whom aid was considered a reprehensible act of facilitation. Another key underpinning the London Society’s logic was the presumption (for lack of a more accurate term) that paupers outnumbered the deserving poor by a factor of about nine to one. In reform meetings and from church pulpits, politicians and clerics repeatedly cited this astonishing though unverifiable statistic, which soon became accepted as fact. In time, the public mind became convinced that a mere 10 percent of London’s poor were the crippled and the orphaned, while 90 percent were degenerates. For every one person in London’s slums who genuinely needed aid, popular wisdom said there were nine who required something else entirely: intolerance, punishment, and correction. As a corollary to this line of thinking, logic dictated that 90 percent of the charitable aid previously offered was superfluous. In turn, wallets closed.

A group of children at Crumpsall Workhouse_ 1895_97

“For decades the London Society remained influential in the development and spread of such institutions as workhouses and debtors prisons. It was also influential, through its example, in New York and other American cities. By the end of 1817, Clinton, Eddy, and Griscom, joined by hundreds of other New Yorkers, had formed a clone organization on the banks of the Hudson: the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism (SPP).

“Several months before the founding of the SPP, New York’s Humane Society forlornly announced the startling result of recent research: no less than 15,000 men, women, and children — the equivalent of one-seventh of the city’s population — had been ‘supported by public or private bounty and munificence’ the previous winter. Historians Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace have eloquently described the SPP’s point of view, expressed in response to the above data. In the London Society’s grand tradition, the SPP said it believed that ‘willy-nilly benevolence’ only made things worse. ‘Giving alms to the undeserving poor not only undermined their independence but also drove up taxes and sapped the prosperity of the entire community.’ Thus, ‘for their good as well as everyone else’s … the SPP recommended that all paupers in the city be cut off from all public assistance forthwith.’ Soon the Humane Society itself announced its intention to disband in the wake of its realization that the very act of giving charity had ‘a direct tendency to beget, among [the citizenry] habits of imprudence, indolence, dissipation and consequent pauperism.’

” ‘Tough love’ was in. Cruelty equaled kindness. Frugality equaled generosity. And all three were not only cheap, but easy.”

Author: Edward J. Renehan Jr.
Publisher: Basic Books
Copyright 2007 by Edward J. Renehan Jr.
Pages 48-49
All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.
About Us is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

treating psychopaths — 8/27/15

Today’s encore selection — from Inside the Mind of a Psychopath” by Kent A. Kiehl and Joshua W. Buckholz. The bizarre world of psychopaths, and the equally bizarre world of psychopathy treatment. Some researchers have estimated that as many as 500,000 psychopaths inhabit the U.S. prison system, and there may be another 250,000 more living freely — perhaps not committing serious crimes, but still taking advantage of those around them. Psychopathy is caused in large part by differences in biology. Images of psychopaths’ brains made by Kent A. Kiehl show a pronounced thinning and underdevelopment of the paralimbic tissue, and area which includes the orbitofrontal cortex, the amygdala, the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula:

“Between the two of us [authors], we have interviewed hundreds of prison inmates to assess their mental health. We are trained in spotting psychopaths, but even so, coming face to face with the real article can be electrifying, if also unsettling. One of the most striking peculiarities of psychopaths is that they lack empathy; they are able to shake off as mere tinsel the most universal social obligations. They lie and manipulate yet feel no compunction or regrets — in fact, they don’t feel particularly deeply about anything at all. …

“Psychopaths are curiously oblivious to emotional cues. In 2002 James Blair of the NIMH showed that they are not good at detecting emotions, especially fear, in another person’s voice. They also have trouble identifying fearful facial expressions. …

“Psychopaths often cover up their deficiencies with a ready and engaging charm, so it can take time to realize what you are dealing with. Kent A. Kiehl used to ask inexperienced graduate students to interview a particularly appealing inmate before acquainting themselves with his criminal history. These budding psychologists would emerge quite certain that such a well-spoken, trustworthy person must have been wrongly imprisoned. Until, that is, they read his file — pimping, drug dealing, fraud, robbery, and on and on — and went back to reinterview him, at which point he would say offhandedly, ‘Oh, yeah, I didn’t want to tell you about all that stuff. That’s the old me.’…

“A man we will call Brad was in prison for a particularly heinous crime. In an interview he described how he had kidnapped a young woman, tied her to a tree, [abused] her for two days, then slit her throat and left her for dead. He told the story, then concluded with an unforgettable non sequitur. ‘Do you have a girl?’ he asked. ‘Because I think it’s really important to practice the three C’s — caring, communication and compassion. That’s the secret to a good relationship. I try to practice the three C’s in all my relationships.’ He spoke without hesitation, clearly unaware how bizarre this self-help platitude sounded after his awful confession. …

“Thanks to technology that captures brain activity in real time, experts are no longer limited to examining psychopaths’ aberrant behavior. We can investigate what is happening inside them as they think, make decisions and react to the world around them. And what we find is that far from being merely selfish, psychopaths suffer from a serious biological defect. Their brains process information differently from those of other people. It’s as if they have a learning disability that impairs emotional development. …

“Kiehl has launched an ambitious multimillion-dollar project to gather genetic information, brain images and case histories from 1,000 psychopaths and compile it all into a searchable database. … Between 15 and 35 percent of U.S. prisoners are psychopaths. Psychopaths offend earlier, more frequently and more violently than others, and they are four to eight times more likely to commit new crimes on release. In fact, there is a direct correlation between how high people score on the 40-point screening test for psychopathy and how likely they are to violate parole. Kiehl recently estimated that the expense of prosecuting and incarcerating psychopaths, combined with the costs of the havoc they wreak in others’ lives, totals $250 billion to $400 billion a year. No other mental health problem of this size is being so willfully ignored.

“Billions of research dollars have been spent on depression; probably less than a million has been spent to find treatments for psychopathy. … There is room for optimism: a new treatment for intractable juvenile offenders with psychopathic tendencies has had tremendous success. Michael Caldwell, a psychologist at the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center in Madison, Wis., uses intensive one-on-one therapy known as decompression aimed at ending the vicious cycle in which punishment for bad behavior inspires more bad behavior, which is in turn punished. Over time, the incarcerated youths in Caldwell’s program act out less frequently and become able to participate in standard rehabilitation services. A group of more than 150 youths treated by Caldwell were 50 percent less likely to engage in violent crime afterward than a comparable group who were treated at regular juvenile corrections facilities. The young people in the regular system killed 16 people in the first four years after their release; those in Caldwell’s program killed no one.”

Kent A. Kiehl and Joshua W. Buckholtz
title: “Inside the Mind of a Psychopath”
publisher: Scientific American Mind
date: September/October 2010
pages: 22-29
About Us is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

british boarding schools — 7/21/15

Today’s selection — from The Story of Alice by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. British boarding schools in the late 1800s and early 1900s were places where the boys dormitories were largely unsupervised. The result was the frequent hazing of younger schoolboys by the older ones, which was often extended into forced sexual relations. The trauma of these experiences makes its appearance in much British literature, notably Robert Graves’ 1929 memoir Good-Bye to All That. Charles Dodgson [who we know better as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland] found this out for himself in the mid-1800s:
“What Lewis Carroll was also forced to recognize at [the Rugby] school … is that not every difficulty could be resolved as neatly as a mathematical problem. Whereas his brother Wilfred was a ‘keen sportsman’ who’ achieved distinction as an oarsman’ and was ‘one of the best shots of his day’, the kind of sports Carroll enjoyed, such as croquet, involved calculating angles and vectors rather than smashing into other boys, and these were not likely to make him popular at the school that had invented the modern game of rugby football. Violet Dodgson is probably right to claim that her uncle ‘worked hard and avoided games as far as possible’. What he couldn’t avoid was the ritual humiliation of being the sort of boy who ends up being picked last for a football team, or is told to field on the cricket boundary so that he can be kept away from the ball.

“Evidence that he was thought of as something other than a sporting idol comes from another school textbook, this time a copy of Xenophon he acquired in November 1846, in which he wrote his name and another hand added ‘is a muff’, before repeating the insult at the top of the page: ‘Dodgson is a muff: The word’s general meaning of ‘A foolish, stupid, feeble, or incompetent person’ was sharpened in school contexts to mean the sort of boy who was clumsy or inept at sports (a ‘muff’ also referred to a dropped catch at cricket), and it could be deployed in either an affectionate or a more hostile manner. In Thomas Hughes’s 1857 novel Tom Brown’s School Days, written in celebration of his time at Rugby under Arnold, Bill the porter is fondly chaffed as an ‘old muff,’ while the delicate new boy Arthur is openly laughed at as a ‘young muff’. In fiction, of course, young muffs like Arthur were usually protected by stout-hearted heroes like Tom Brown, who saves him from the bullies and then follows Arthur’s saintly example by saying his prayers every night beside his dormitory bed. The reality was usually far less reassuring. Another delicate new boy, this time a real one, left a full diary of the months he spent at Rugby before his early death, and it makes unhappy reading. Entering the school on 28 August 1846, seven months after Carroll, John Lang Bickersteth was not only frail and good at mathematics, but also remarkably pious — one of his diary entries reads ‘A man buried today — a warning to me’ — and he suffered accordingly. Sad and friendless from the start, he was accused of being ‘mean and stingy’ for not buying any pictures for his study, and was teased mercilessly by the other boys. During one especially bleak evening, he had a dog repeatedly set on him. By mid-September, his diary had collapsed into exclamations such as ‘O God, sustain me!’ and by the end of the following January he had died at home from a fever.

“There is no evidence that Carroll suffered as badly as this, but as an adult his references to Rugby were few and cool in tone, stating only that no ‘earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again’, and ‘the hardships of the day would have been comparative trifles to bear’ if only he had been ‘secure from annoyance at night’. There was no shortage of possible ‘annoyances’ in a shared dormitory. Collingwood notes that the older pupils would sometimes remove the blankets of the younger ones, leaving them to shiver through the night, while blankets also featured in a popular form of torture that involved tossing the smaller boys up in the air and letting them fall to the ground. (In Tom Brown’s School Days this is a favourite pastime of Flashman, the school’s chief bully, who also enjoys roasting boys in front of the fire like chestnuts.) However, the text Carroll probably had in mind isParadise Lost, which describes Adam and Eve ‘asleep secure of [i.e. safe from] harm’ before Satan tempts them and they fall. Did Carroll experience something similar? Rugby’s dormitories were certainly known as places where sexual activity took place; a history of the school published in 1856 included an oblique reference to ‘petty perversions’, which could mean anything from masturbation to full-blown affairs. For some boys, sexual knowledge could be just as traumatic as actual sexual activity: the chapter on ‘Dormitory Life’ in F. W Farrar’s popular schoolboy tale Eric; or, Little by Little (1858) describes an evening of fun that starts with a game of leap-frog, but quickly descends to ‘indecent talk’, leaving one boy, who urges his friends to stop, feeling ‘as if I was trampling on a slimy poisonous adder’. In case the metaphor is not sufficiently clear, Farrar explains that another boy listens in on the smutty conversations and becomes ‘a “god, knowing good and evil”‘ — another Adam who falls because of the temptations of a snake-like creature.

“Whatever Carroll overheard or witnessed at Rugby, it appears to have confirmed his sense that innocence was a special preserve of childhood that was constantly in danger of being breached. Once that occurred it was gone for ever: childhood was a paradise with gates that all too easily swung shut and locked behind you. Only in a story like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could they be reopened a crack, as Alice glimpses ‘bright flowers’ and ‘cool fountains’ at the end of a dark passage, and then shrinks even smaller to enter ‘the loveliest garden you ever saw’.”

The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland

Author: Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
First Harvard University Press Edition
Copyright Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, 2015
Pages 54-56

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About Us is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context. There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came.

Football and Eating Lunch Alone


Delanceyplace is a brief daily email with an excerpt or quote we view as interesting or noteworthy, offered with commentary to provide context.  There is no theme, except that most excerpts will come from a non-fiction work, mainly works of history, are occasionally controversial, and we hope will have a more universal relevance than simply the subject of the book from which they came. 

football and eating lunch alone — 1/9/14

In today’s encore selection — as reported by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Marx in Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood. Gilman High School in Maryland has a highly successful football team. And its coaches have a few unusual rules — such as an ironclad rule that no Gilman football player should ever let another Gilman boy — teammate or not — eat lunch by himself. And the requirement that players constantly base their thoughts and actions on one simple question:
What can I do for others?:

“What happened that first day at Gilman [High School] was entirely unlike anything normally associated with high school football. It started with the signature exchange of the Gilman football program — this time between [head coach] Biff [Poggi] and the gathered throng of eighty boys, freshmen through seniors, who would spend the next week practicing together before being split into varsity and junior varsity teams.

” ‘What is our job?’ Biff asked on behalf of himself, Joe, and the eight other assistant coaches.

” ‘To love us,’ most of the boys yelled back. The older boys had already been through this routine more than enough times to know the proper answer. The younger boys, new to Gilman football, would soon catch on.

” ‘And what is your job?’ Biff shot back.

‘To love each other,’ the boys responded.

“I would quickly come to realize that this standard exchange — always initiated by Biff or [defensive coach] Joe [Ehrmann] — was just as much a part of Gilman football as running or tackling.

” ‘I don’t care if you’re big or small, huge muscles or no muscles, never even played football or star of the team — I don’t care about any of that stuff,’ Biff went on to tell the boys, who sat in the grass while he spoke. ‘If you’re here, then you’re one of us, and we love you. Simple as that.’ …

” ‘I expect greatness out of you,’ Biff once told the boys. ‘And the way we measure greatness is the impact you make on other people’s lives.’

“How would the boys make the most impact? Almost anything Biff ever talked about could be fashioned into at least a partial answer to that question.

“For one thing, they would make an impact by being inclusive rather than exclusive.

” ‘The rest of the world will always try to separate you,’ Biff said. ‘That’s almost a law of nature — gonna happen no matter what, right? The rest of the world will want to separate you by race, by socioeconomic status, by education levels, by religion, by neighborhood, by what kind of car you drive, by the clothes you wear, by athletic ability. You name it — always gonna be people who want to separate by that stuff. Well, if you let that happen now, then you’ll let it happen later. Don’t let it happen. If you’re one of us, then you won’t walk around putting people in boxes. Not now. Not ever. Because every single one of them has something to offer. Every single one of them is special. Look at me, boys.’

“They were looking.

” ‘We are a program of inclusion,’ Biff said. ‘We do not believe in separation.’

“The boys would also make an impact by breaking down cliques and stereotypes, by developing empathy and kindness for all.

” ‘What’s empathy?’ Biff asked them. ‘Feeling what?’

“‘Feeling what the other person feels,’ said senior Napoleon Sykes, one of the team captains, a small but solid wide receiver and hard-hitting defensive back who had already accepted a scholarship to play college football at Wake Forest.

” ‘Exactly right,’ Biff said. ‘Not feeling for someone, but with someone. If you can put yourself in another man’s shoes, that’s a great gift to have for a lifetime.’

“That was the whole idea behind Biff and Joe’s ironclad rule that no Gilman football player should ever let another Gilman boy — teammate or not — eat lunch by himself.

” ‘You happen to see another boy off by himself, go sit with him or bring him over to sit with you and your friends,’ Biff said. ‘I don’t care if you know him or not. I don’t care if he’s the best athlete in the school or the so-called nerd with his head always down in the books. You go get him and you make him feel wanted, you make him feel special. Simple, right? Well, that’s being a man built for others.’

“How else would the boys make an impact?

“By living with integrity … and not only when it is convenient to do so. Always.

“By seeking justice … because it is often hidden.

“By encouraging the oppressed . . . because they are always discouraged.

“Ultimately, Biff said, the boys would make the greatest overall impact on the world — would bring the most love and grace and healing to people — by constantly basing their thoughts and actions on one simple question: What can I do for you?

” ‘Not, what can I do to get a bigger bank account or a bigger house?’ Biff said. ‘Not, what can I do to get the prettiest girl? Not, what can I do to get the most power or authority or a better job title? Not, what can I do for me? The only question that really matters is this: How can I help you today?’

“Biff and Joe would constantly elaborate on all of this as the season progressed.

” ‘Because in case you haven’t noticed yet, we’re training you to be different,’ Biff said. ‘If we lose every game of the year, go oh-and-ten on the football field, as long as we try hard, I don’t care. You learn these lessons, and we’re ten-and-oh in the game of life.’ “