Ernie McCray blogs

Ernie McCray: The Hip School where the arts rule

Ernie McCray: "

Ernie McCray: “

EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Tucson High School and University of Arizona basketball standout Ernie McCray is a legendary figure to Tucsonans and Wildcat fans. McCray, who holds the Wildcats’ scoring record with 46 points on Feb. 6, 1960, against Cal State-Los Angeles, is the first African-American basketball player to graduate from Arizona. McCray, who now resides in San Diego, earned degrees in physical education and elementary education at Arizona. He is a longtime educator, actor and activist in community affairs in the San Diego-area. He wrote a blog for now-defunct and has continued to offer his opinion and insight with McCray also writes blogs for

I had moments not too long ago when I thought that I just might not be around in 2017 – based on the complete lack of energy I was enduring day after day, with my belly under siege by some bacteria that just didn’t want to leave.

But I’m still here on the scene, happy as a lark, slowly getting back to my routines. Wanting to write something regarding my making it to 2017, I checked a writing prompt website and chose number 17 of the choices, as a symbol for 2017, and it read: “In 400 words create your ideal place.”

That put me in a nice place because the prompt could have been something like “Write a 150 word profile on somebody named ‘Margaret Mallory’” or write about “something wrapped” which would have called on more creativity than I wanted to own. I just wanted to kick the new year off in a nice tone.

Ernie McCray during his Arizona playing days. His 46 points in a 1960 game remains a school record (University of Arizona photo)

Ernie McCray during his Arizona playing days. His 46 points in a 1960 game remains a school record (University of Arizona photo)

So I began picturing my ideas of what might be an ideal place, wondering where it would be and how it might it look. My imagination sat me down in beautiful settings on tropical beaches. I visited exciting waterfalls and magical vacation getaways. Places where one could meditate in peace or play all the live long day. But it all seemed cliché.

Then I thought about it in another way, looking for something more representative of who I am and what I’m about as a human being and having spent so much of my lifetime trying to make learning fun in schools so students might enjoy the pursuit of knowledge, I envisioned an ideal place I call The Hip School (and broke it down in 400 words).

At The Hip School, teachers pretty much bypass worrying about test scores and such and roll up their sleeves to keep up with mentees who’ve inherited a world of electronic accessories, iPhones and iPods and iPads and a host of other iThis and iThat doodads like PCs and MP3s, not to mention CDs and DVDs.

These teachers are up to their knees helping students make sense of the sights and sounds that make their world go around – all the mysteries in their realities.

They do so by facilitating opportunities for children to: explore; sing and dance; sketch and draw what they see and feel inside; paint with the colors that stem from where their imaginations reside; sculpt shapes and write prose and poetry and plays that rise out of the drama in their lives.

Reading and writing and arithmetic and the sciences, et al, find their way to the students’ minds in the excitement of it all, as their minds are primed artistically, creatively, open to learning and analyzing and coming to understand that their world needs intelligent human beings if it is to thrive – if it is to, indeed, survive.

(Flickr commons photo)

It’s understood that in, say, music, just one of the arts, there’s so much math. It’s known that musical lyrics teach syllabification, phonics, vocabulary, imagery, history, myths, folktales, geography and culture.

At The Hip School, visual arts and theatre arts and dance arts are utilized to make history come to life and to introduce universal themes in safe student-centered environments wherein students, just from the culture of the school, learn: the value of hard work and being disciplined; how performing with others like in an orchestra, band, or choir, or in a drama, is all about working with others as a team with everyone striving for a common goal, learning to negotiate and empathize and sympathize.

At The Hip School, cultural awareness is a natural byproduct of students being engaged in creative activities that allow them to clarify and discover the intricacies within their budding ideas and life philosophies – as human beings learn best when they have a sense of self and others.

At The Hip School, students, simply, over time, because they’ve always felt free to rise and shine, discover who they are and what they have to offer their community and all of humankind.

At The Hip School, such thinking is seen as fulfilling one’s destiny.

Wouldn’t it be cool and wouldn’t it be neat if The Hip School was just up the street?

With the challenges future generations will have to face we, as a society, should think seriously about making our schools ideal places.

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