A nation is not an individual; it’s a family. The type of family — patriarchal or matriarchal, multigenerational or single parent — is often neatly captured by a country’s politics. Fiercely patriarchal religious families are ruled by Sheiks and Sultans in the Middle East. Messy multigenerational families bicker and shout and somehow noisily get along in India and other parts of Asia. Democratic communal families muddle through their ill-defined or overlapping roles in Europe. Male-dominated autocracies rule Russia and half of South America.
America has always been what we Americans would call ‘traditional’. That is to say, 2 parents and some kids, with relatives living in their own homes elsewhere. A father who works the outside, not just the job and income, but the yard and barbecue, and a mother tending to the inside, not just cooking and cleaning, but the kids and shopping. We are, in effect, a 2 party household. It’s a family and marriage that’s also reflected in our politics, with Republicans leaning to the strong paternal father of the family, and the Democrats taking up the role of caregiver and peacemaker. (And the kids, for their part, in noisy little corners powerlessly mumbling about the environment and socialism.) …
In schools across America, games are treated as secondary to learning, even counterproductive. Unless a game has some utilitarian purpose — a math puzzle, for example — it’s given little value. We do not study games in school, nor do we practice or perfect them in class. We treat games the way we treat a pencil or paper, as a tool. But once the game itself becomes the focal point of an exercise, it’s then considered a violation, a pleasurable indulgence standing in the way of actual academic learning.
As a teacher, I spend a significant amount of time kicking kids off their video games, especially while they’re “working” on computers during class. It’s impossible to overstate just how much games have become a pervasive classroom distraction since the advent of smartphones. The most significant complaint we hear and make about kids is: “All they want to do is play games!” And it’s true. People want to play games all the time, we just don’t let them. …
It’s not much of an observation to note that schools are communities. Nor is it very insightful to observe that within the larger community of neighborhood, town, state, or nation, schools play an essential role in prosperity, security, and stability. Neither is it surprising to consider how powerful the community aspects of a school are to the students themselves, from their sense of belonging to their academic performance to whatever roles they are trained to take up as adults.
Nor is it much of an insight to observe that schools are also charged with providing an education. …
1. Scale. If you made a thousand dollars a day, you’d have a million in 3 years. A billion? 2,740 years.
To earn a million dollars in a year, you’d have to make about $500 an hour, not including holidays. To get to a billion dollars in a year, you’d have to earn sixty dollars every second of every day, sixty seconds an hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days. $3,600 an hour. Most billionaires took about 10 years to get there, amassing wealth at around $6 a second for a decade. Amazon’s Bezos increased his wealth last year from $72.8 billion to $108.7 billion. …
A friend of mine gives his old dog 18 pills a day. Blind, deaf, nearly toothless, and — the friend tells me — suffering from dementia, the poor animal mostly lives a life of sleep. I can’t be too critical. Our own dog is around 14 (a rescue, so her age is uncertain) and her kidneys have failed. Every few months some infection overwhelms her and we spend another few hundred dollars so a vet can poke her with syringes to rehydrate her and administer antibiotics. She can only eat one kind of food.
The last time our own dog fell ill, she crawled deep into a hollow underneath the house, which is what animals do when they know they are dying. I had to get on my belly and worm through the dirt and dark to haul her out. Two days later, more needles and coaxing and expense, she was back to her normal shuffling self. …
The first thing we must recognize about our schools is that they are the perfect Covid-19 incubator. We could not have intentionally designed a more welcome Coronavirus environment than a classroom in a primary or secondary American school.
Take thirty or so young, healthy, mobile individuals from a more or less randomly selected cross-section of an entire neighborhood, town, or city and put them in a small, sealed room for an hour or two. Repeat this set-up with a few hundred more kids, put the whole thing in a single building, and keep them in there all day. Every so often, throw them all out into narrow hallways. …
It’s starting to feel deliberate.
In the midst of an exploding epidemic, our national Republican leadership is either doing nothing to slow the spread or a whole lot to speed it up. Collectively, the scale of negligence is ominous.
America is experiencing the greatest national crisis in living memory, yet our Republican leadership continues to dismantle, mismanage, and neglect every federal agency or tool we have created for precisely such an emergency.
In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, our Republican national leadership has alienated traditional democratic allies, cozied up to dictatorships and authoritarians, and pulled out of every major international institution created to handle global catastrophe. …
Counselling has a new poster on the door. Without Consequence There Is No Action. A picture of a windsurfer cresting a huge wave, board in the air kicking sea spray. What consequence? Guy looks free, leaping off that wave into the wide ocean blue, hanging on with both hands. What you see and what they say; never match. The boy hesitates a moment, tightens himself, then pushes in. There are two others inside: an older girl — glasses, fingernails a bright shade of orange, t-shirt that says ‘If you can read this, you’re too close to me’ — and a ninth-grader he recognizes from his repeated Injustice class. …
My father was always just a bit late
Promises were kept on his time
6 months, a year after they expired
They arrived, sometimes stale, but often enough
Still breathing somehow
Slightly creaky with age — a bit ripe –
Oversweet and tired, overgrown, needing a shave
A pedicure, a toothbrush
Once or twice, in the card, a handwritten voucher
An only slightly carefully cut photo from a magazine
A bicycle, a dog, a weekend promised
I sometimes pictured him, sweaty somehow
In a crowd of strangers, fighting for that thing he’d
Promised — the doll I wanted, the album — and
Reaching an empty shelf. Sometimes in his telling
He reached just as the last one left. …