Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hope is Always Necessary

People are tired of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and of presuming that whatever it is that will happen, will be bad. 

There's a solution to this fatigue, to this constant anxiety.   

Will to hope.   Faith is a gift but it also must be grown and chosen.  The more we choose, the more we will find.  The smallest of seeds in the soul will become a large tree in which other souls can rest.  

So too hope, the second cardinal virtue is a willed thing, something that we can enkindle in others by our witness.  

How do we hope when there is so much wrongness in the world...our politics, the pandemic, economics,  institutions that betray trust, scandals, when there is so much hurt said and unsaid?  How does one hope in the face of suffering?   

The same way we hold onto hope when we are not suffering.  If our hope was in these other things, it was misplaced.  Hope to acquire the grace God is always offering.  Hope to learn whatever it is we need to learn from weathering this time.  We may wish this time never came to us, but that is what all people of good will wish.

"However, that is not ours to decide. What matters is what we do with this time that we've been given."  --Gandalf to Frodo in Fellowship of the Ring. 

So if you want to defeat the evil of this age, ride out and meet it.   Will to hope.  

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Some Thoughts on What We Should Do and How We Should Do it

What our kids need now, not matter who they are, is HEAPS, not STEM. I'm not advocating for getting rid of those cherished disciplines, only de-emphasizing them based on what is our reality today.

They need History, to know we can weather a crisis, even a pandemic, and how it was done, and see what was done poorly, and what well.

They need English, because stories that take us out of now, but show us how to deal with now, are important. I think of the Chesterton quote about it, and it's paraphrased in the movie Coraline: "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

They need the arts because creating beauty is a form of joy, and this world right now, is short on joy. The focus on creating, rather than the product is essential, because everything reduced to what can it buy, means only those praised for the quality, and not the effort, will continue. They all need to continue.

Philosophy becomes paramount, because we live in a society that doesn't know what a society should be anymore, it's only frustrated and hurt by what it isn't. The human heart longs for a community that supports it, and is just and merciful and reasonable and understandable and fair. We do not have that right now, because everything feels unmanagable and unbearable and unfixable. We have to think about and assert what we value and why and also, be able to defend that on a logos, pathos and ethos level. Thinking about such things, helps us imagine the better we long for.

Social/Emotional Well being I saved for last, but it must permeate all. We've used a STEM model longer than we've had STEM. We grade things. We measure. We assess. The utilitarian method of grading goes from Pre-K up to Post Graduate, and favors the organized, the neat, the sophisticated and the clear. Right now, I think few of us fit that description, and we need to be forming people who can adjust, can laugh, can circumvent, can create, can imagine, can cope. None of these come from a method of exactitude, but from an attitude of experimentation and exploration and a fusion of creativity into every arena of academic exploration.

We live in a time that is very different than what we grew up in, yet we are trying to hold the exact same standards and rubrics and consequences as before. It isn't working --which is why some are pushing for going back to the buildings so the way it was can work better, but we also aren't being allowed to do things differently.

I don't have the answers, I only see that how we are proceeding, is a bigger problem than whether kids are turning things in or turning on their cameras. I'd love to see what my fellow educators think, about if they could reimagine school, attempting to address the needs and the issues and the crisis we have now, what would they emphasize and how and why?

---So I wrote and posted this piece in an Educators Forum, and man, did people not like the idea of somehow not holding onto STEM as the thing to hold onto --when what I'm looking at, is the reality that the kids are not okay.  They need means to cope with the not okayness of life --and those aren't found in STEM.   It doesn't mean we don't teach STEM, but it's folly to keep going as if nothing is happening when so much is.  However, people didn't like the proposal of change because right now, change is harder than it normally is, and changing what we emphasize would indicate we're not going back to how things were any time soon.   I think that is one of the underlying worries. 

I get that we need future scientists and researchers in case the current crop doesn't solve the problem.  I'm not trying to solve every problem. I just see a problem we're thinking will be fixed by a few videos on mindfulness and sleep, diet and exercise and I think, we will need to do more to help people endure this.   

Friday, October 16, 2020

Ten Things To Do if Halloween is Forbidden

 My county has banned trick-or-treating owing to Covid-19.  My house has always loved tripping out the home for Halloween and we've decided that we have our own plans to make it fun despite the absence of a walk around the neighborhood.  My teens immediately thought of ways to enliven the world with non-defiant but resistant joy.   I share their ideas here. 

10) Know those T-Rex Costumes?  They're funny no matter what.  Two of mine are considering donning them and skateboarding/scootering and throwing out zip log bags of candy to each home.  They'd bag the candy wearing gloves and so it would be sealed for all points of delivery.   

It's the great T-Rex Charlie Brown!  

9) They've also suggested all of us dressing as the characters from the Peanuts, including Charlie Brown and delivering rocks.   

8) Zombie tag outside on Halloween --basically, if you're touched, you're part of it.  Those who are touched have to carry a light stick everyone can see.  Last one not touched is winner. No talking during the game except Zombies can say Brains and when you're touched, you must yell touched and remain there until the ref (and you need a ref) hands you a light stick.  (Consider it the transformation stage).   

7) Cake Wars Halloween Style --this requires some work --only do the mini mixes so you don't have 1000 cakes afterwards --the cake in a cup, the big issue is decor and altering the cake in a cup to follow the theme.   (Pick three themes in advance, and have the fondant, frosting, sprinkles and extras ready). Set a timer, use spooky music and one of the adults should mc it a'la Alton Brown in Iron Chef.  Judge with three --taste, theme and presentation. 

6) Make old fashioned treats like stainglassed windows, popcorn balls and homemade candies.   It will take time, it will be fun, it will be a mess, but again, it will be fun. 

5) Pumpkin wars --yes, give everyone their own pumpkin and let them create a masterpiece. Give them a theme, let them do.   Paint is a good idea, as are sharpie markers.  

4) Live Still display.    This takes work and a desire to scare, but if everyone's on board, dress everyone up so they look like a display.  Set up with lighting on a night before Halloween, complete with music.  Every once in a while, move when a car drives by.   (Works great for teens and tweens).   

3) Classic Monster Movie Binge Night --Frankenstein, Dracula and Werewolf.   Serve popcorn and icecream floats.    Or alternatively, The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock.   

2) Decorate the house with as much Halloween as you can...and put on an old fashioned carnival for your kiddos --with costumes, grab bags, bobbing for apples, clothespin drops, ring toss to win a soda, and spinny art, press on nails, tatoos and face paint.   Make sure each activity comes with the equivalent of a chucky-cheese type tickets or tokens.   Have them trade in the tokens for various candies and plastic goodies that are fun.  

1) Zoom with your relatives.  Ask them to dress up.  Read scary stories.   Order Pizza.   Wish them Happy Halloween and don't be surprised if your teens skateboard down the driveway wearing dinosaur costumes.   

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