Friday, May 29, 2020

“He’s human bro.”

The man asking the police to stop says, “he’s human bro.” George Floyd dies on the video with the policeman’s knee upon his neck. We can’t keep saying a few bad apples if three policemen watch while a fourth causes a restrained handcuffed non resisting man to die by his actions. That’s a bunch. That’s indicative of a barrel.

American society still lacks the will to admit there is something fundamentally wrong when we can witness the death of a person by another person while they’re running away or while they’re begging for mercy. No one wants to pause and recognize the innate wrongness of what has taken place. No one with enough heft demands that everyone stop and listen. Everyone needs to stop and hear that our black brothers and sisters “can’t breathe.”

Somehow our country lacks the stomach to say this is wrong. When we can see them dying and still some debate whether this is wrong, our whole capacity to identify good and evil is what needs adjustment. Our first reaction should be to seek justice for the blood of our brothers that cry out from the earth. We cannot be silent, or we tacitly allow for the sanitized phrase of George Floyd dying from the results of a “medical incident,” in a “police interaction" to persist.

Pedestrians pleading for him and his own words, brought no change in expression, no change in pressure, no change of action on the part of any of the officers. Eight minutes pass. 

He dies.

The four officers have been fired subsequently thanks to public outrage over the video, but no one has yet been charged with causing his death despite knowing who, when and how. Investigations on the State and Federal Level are ongoing. It’s true, we are a nation of laws and procedure and such things are important and even necessary to ensure due process is observed. Were there this reflective pause and hesitancy in investigations involving crimes the norm, George Floyd might still be alive.

When will our country stop pretending we don’t need some systemic reformation of how we want police to protect, serve, investigate and when necessary, arrest?

Answer: When we have leaders unafraid to hold all of us to a higher standard, a greater calling.

It should be unnecessary to say racism is always wrong, and racism is something we will always have to both be vigilant against, and mindful of, but it is, because too many people don’t think it’s real enough. 

How real does it have to get?

Too many people think if we talk about racism being a grave moral error that hurts all of humanity and continues to destroy the promise of this country, we’re somehow engaging in white hand wringing guilt or virtue signaling.

Racism is a toxic weed that poisons the garden of the American community. It hurts the children whose dreams die before they finish school when no one expects anything of them. It hurts the families of fathers and husbands and sons who might not come home. It hurts the mothers, wives, daughters and sisters who see the problem ignored time and again.

It hurts our government, schools, families, friends, churches, parks; it hurts our everywhere all the time. We’re all our brothers keeper. We owe it to our brothers, to love them better, to protect them better, and serve them better, in every arena of life. We owe it to ourselves and to each other because, “He’s human bro,” to come together and work to be part of that great coalition of this country that wants it to be good as it was meant to be, but never yet quite has been.

We owe it to our future, to make sure everyone in this country can breathe.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Over at the Standard Today

I've been a bit of a writing funk, meaning I've written a lot of junk I sent nowhere.   However, I did get a piece that I wrestled with for a good long time published over at the Standard.   Here's the link to The Unexpected Gift.

So just a reminder, be delibrate in your celebration of today and who knows, you might find an unexpected gift.  

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Five Things I've Learned from this Time of Online Learning

1) Teaching via proxy is hard, because teaching is not merely data mastered or skills repeated, but connection. Connection is most easily formed when we experience it via relationship. We can open cookbooks and read recipes, we can watch videos and practice techniques, but there’s something to working with a master, that makes mastering a skill more. The same is true with any other subject. In many subjects, in most subjects, learning comes easier with others in the mix. Children all across the country are aching for that more, that mix.
Think of the most moving examples of Zoom effectiveness we’ve seen; the orchestras and choirs. They revealed connectedness between individuals, working to one end, the production of a finished piece. Perhaps we need to require all those students to use their phones and connect with each other as a way of helping each other on, sharing their gifts, and the push and pull that normally takes place in the classroom. Perhaps we need to give the opportunity for that more by our being with them and bringing them out of isolation via the demands of instruction. We've become the facilitators of community or must be.
2) There is a difference between learning and working and that difference is measured in enthusiasm toward the subject itself. My son with Down Syndrome loves his math class where they are using calculators to facilitate number recognition. He’s mastered it sufficiently to recognize the code we use on the television and order himself Monster’s University and Scoob! before I realized he knew how to rent a movie. In reading class, they’re doing a chapter book one chapter a day, and he sits for the reading, but the quizzes indicate, he’s just putting in the time. The difference was illustrated to me, $3.99 at a time.
3) We are made for community, and anything short of it, is Folger's Crystals. We know it’s not butter. The Zoom meetings help my younger ones, as do the phone calls and Facetimes, but it’s not what we want. The other day, I drove to Jiffy Lube to get service and sit in my car while it happened and the mechanic in a mask engaged me in a long conversation about teaching, about the summer and Corona. Leaving from the appointment, I felt oddly refreshed and realized, we pine for conversation, for incidental encounters, for community and all three of these things are limited by the nature of staying at home and all the precautions we must take to keep everyone everyone loves safe.
4) Expectations don’t need to be low. They merely need to be clear. Yes, students and families are stressed as never before, but school and academics provide an anchor that isn’t there otherwise, of ordinariness in an extraordinary time. Students need the component of consistency academics give to a world that seems increasingly unpredictable. What students learn now in this time away from the classrooms may be the most important lessons we teach –that we care, that we’re here for them, and that we want them to challenge themselves even when the world is challenging.
5) Education is as much about connection as it is about introducing them to new thoughts. Everyone shares something of a common bond, as we all have been affected by the stay at home orders of our communities. We can teach about the importance of communities –the need for good civil leadership and laws, philosophies and principles, (government), the need for good health and hygiene systems (science and p.e and health), the consequences of supply and demand capitalism and finances and the interpretation of statistics (math, economics, more complex math), and the necessity of the arts. For what are we all starved for in this long isolation? Entertainment. We want beauty, we want art, we want comedy, we want escape from the boredom, we want the catharsis of story; (Yes, English and Art and Music and Theatre) which are of course, all my loves.
Everything is grist for the mill of the craft of teaching, and right now, giving students the gifts of these subjects we love. Our biggest task, is somehow conveying our love of those subjects through Zooms, slides and phone calls. Ultimately, our whole task as educators, is to keep strengthening the bonds of community forged through class and the classroom, whether virtual or actual, by what we do.

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If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!