Dallas Jesuit’s President on Living and Learning

One of his alums wins the Masters. Another becomes the poster boy of racism. Michael Earsing loves them both.

Have you ever had a more action-packed year than this one? There’s part of me that looks at being a president of a school a little like a starship captain from Star Trek. You look out the window, and it could be that you’re approaching the Pleasure Planet, where you’re going to have all great amusement parks and great things, or it could be a Klingon battle cruiser ready to fire photon torpedoes at you. You never quite know. In some ways, it’s the nature of working with boys and working with high school kids, teenagers. When you ask them, “What were you doing?” And they say, “Well, I wasn’t thinking.” And now, as we do more and more brain research, it really shows that—guess what? They really weren’t thinking. 

 If we make a mistake, we need to be sorry. We need to own up. We need to change it.

As the news broke about Parker Rice leading the racist SAE chant at the University of Oklahoma, what made you decide to confront it directly?
Well, we were the first school in Dallas to integrate, with Charles Edmond and Arthur Allen in 1955. There’s a responsibility, I think, that comes along with that, about trying to hold up the flag and be the standard bearer for what’s right. Certainly I have a responsibility to all my students who are here currently. We want them to feel welcome and safe and supported. I think young men too easily pick up on the negative side, and that certainly wasn’t what I want, and it’s not what we stand for, and it’s not what we work for.

On the other hand, how does it feel to be pretty much the closest anyone in Dallas can get to Masters champion Jordan Spieth?
His mom actually worked for me when I was principal. She was one of my assistants. She’s just a wonderful person. The family’s great. I’m very proud of Jordan. And Jordan deserves credit for being the kind of person he is. His family has done a lot to contribute to that. It’s interesting because that’s the big controversy, the difference between Jordan on one side and Parker on the other side. I think sometimes people forget, too, the environment that they’re under. 

Does it have anything to do with how we view young adults?
We really do have a confusing view of kids. In some things, we decide that they’re adults; in other things, they’re not quite adults yet. I made the comment to the guys that we’re all in formation for our entire lives. We should stop being in formation when we die. I think that’s true for everybody. I’m hoping I’m going to be a lot smarter when I’m 90 than I am now. 

Me, too.
I think all of us do. And it’s hard, because everybody wants to have this sort of line drawn in the sand, that the minute you graduate grade school, you should be completely baked—or high school or college. And it’s not true. You get a kid like Parker on the party bus, drinking, being taught this, pledging, all that kind of stuff. Now, he’s got to be responsible for what he did or didn’t do, obviously. But there’s sort of the idea of “Let’s go dog-pile on him.” I don’t know if that’s best. Society has a tendency to do that sometimes. 

The mob mentality has been a popular subject lately.
If we make a mistake, we need to be sorry. We need to own up. We need to change it or try not to make the same mistake again. God never said we’re not sinners; God said just don’t go sin again. Don’t do the same sin again. And there is certainly plenty of other sins we could do. But the idea is that you want to be forgiven, you want to move forward. 

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