Stay Current, Live Well, (at times go “Nuclear”) and You Will Prosper.

“Dif-tor heh smusma” (Live Long and Prosper) – Vulcan Salutation…Star Trek

“Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam” (Perhaps today is a good day to die) Klingon Saying..Star Trek

“Of all our studies, history is the best qualified to reward our research”…Malcolm X

 

         As a school superintendent I visited many social studies/history classrooms and always wondered why that wonderful study activity: Current Events had fallen so much out of favor. I recall so well the PBS interview where that the great American historian John Hope Franklin, gave a charge and challenge to the teachers of history; he said: a critical objective in the teaching of history is to create the opportunity for the students to “think like historians”. As a student in middle school I loved the few minutes we spent each day on current events; it is amazing how different a “gifted and talented” educational program was from the education program given to the students who were(incorrectly) perceived and (horribly) labeled as: “less gifted, and less talented”; or worse no gifts, and no talents.  We knew when we walked into school every morning that the bound stack of NY Times newspapers in the lobby was for our class. It was always an honor for one of us guys to be selected to carry those papers up to the classroom. No one ever said it; but everyone knew, that the NY Times newspapers were for the “gifted kids”; the students who could decipher its long and hard words. We did it through our knowledge and use of “context clues”, prefixes and suffixes, and when all else failed, our always near dictionary was the translation weapon of last resort. The feeling of just holding those newspapers was empowering. It gave us a sense of comfort and confidence. Now,  we adolescents held and knew informational secrets that were hidden from most adults we knew. We learnd the different sections of the newspaper, the different voices in a newspaper. We were able to recognize  the difference between “opinion” and “news reporting”. I was taught, and believed  back then that they were separated by some sort of sacred wall titled: “objectivity/subjectivity”.  As a college student I  would grow suspicious and eventually abandon this belief in this “objectivity” rule of news reporting; but  believing in it was fine for middle school. We had to select an article from one of the three areas of: local, national or international news, for a reading, and then engage in a reflective writing exercise.  The key to this activity, is now what I know to be the “learning objectives”. The: who, what, when, where and why of the story. But my favorite part of the assignment was to connect the article to something we studied in history.  We didn’t know it back then, but we were following the “Franklin principles”; we were being taught to think like “historians.” The best written compositions were graded and placed, attached to the now ‘cut-out” of the article on a bulletin board titled: (no surprise here) “Current Events”.  Some “modernist” in the educational field have stopped this practice of posting exemplary student work on a classroom bulletin board; the reason (they claim), is that it “attacks” the self-esteem of the children whose work is not posted. But I think our teachers sought to, and did establish a high standard for academic work, for there was always a friendly completion to get your paper posted with the “very Good” or “Excellent” teacher comments written across the top of the paper. It is odd that over time we have diminished the recognition for academic achievement and competition, while maintaining a very strong and definitive reward system for school varsity sports. Every year there are numerous school /district based athletic competitions, playoffs and championships, and no one ever suggest that the team or player who comes in 2nd , 3rd  or even last, will experience some damage to their self-esteem; in fact “defeat”  in sports is viewed as an opportunity to learn, and become better….. But back to current events: Are we in danger of producing a generation of young people, who literally; don’t know what’s going on, not just in the world, but in their own country?  And would the revival of the study of current events help? Now what got me to thinking about this was the major current news event that just took place in the US senate, initiated by the Speaker Harry Reid. This senatorial “Nuclear” event, so-called because it is an action (weapon?) of last resort, an action avoided because its deployment is so devastating; aka a: “game changer”!  I am wondering;  and I guess a little worried, monitoring social media; (with the exception of  Playthell Benjamin’s: http://commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/the-majority-leader-flexes-his-muscle/ ) do folks fully appreciate what Harry Reid has accomplished here! There has been an unprecedented effort on the part of Republicans to block this president’s judicial appointees since his first election. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), put it as nicely and diplomatically as I guess they could (given the topic of “race” being the “3rd rail of an honest American conversation) , that the destructive and hindering behavior of the Republicans went  far  beyond the “normal” partisanship squabbling (http://cbc.fudge.house.gov/in-the-news/black-caucus-sees-race-as-factor-in-filibusters-eyes-rules-change/). But most important, the speaker of the senate Harry Reid finally said: Enough with this pretending that these “blocking actions” was nothing more than mere “politics as usual” or as the now I see as a not so objective and honest news media, just a sign of a “broken Washington”. And so Mr. Reid went “Nuclear”; or he removed the unofficial threshold for an honest “up or down” vote on the president’s judicial nominees and others appointments. Why did Mr. Reid take such a drastic action? An action as many commentators have claimed could be used against the Democrats if they were to become the minority in the senate? It was used because when someone takes citizens hostage, and proclaims: “no matter what you do, I’m either going to shoot the hostages, are keep them captive”; then that is the time for a full all out assault to rescue as many hostages as you can; and in any case eliminate the “power” of the hostage takers. It may not be a good, or preferred choice, but in the end, it is the only choice. The words of condemnation and denunciation from the frothing conservative mouths could not come at a faster speed.  Yes they are “mad as hell”, but at least they won’t be able to take anymore hostages. Alas, this has not been a good few years for the Ayn Rand readers circle (look it up so you can understand how the right-wing thinks; and most important how/what they think about you 47%’s!) Sometimes an individual’s great actions get lost in the noise of their own historical time. A lot of people (again where the study of history is important) thought , at the time, that the creation of Social Security was the beginning of the end of the free enterprise system, and that our nation was starting down the road to some type of socialist-communist state; well , what do people think of Social Security now; and it’s very hard these days to find a communist anywhere. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite its “growing pains” will someday also enjoy a place in our society when  some American students are studying history in the future, and  look back shaking their heads and say: “what were those people thinking back before the ACA; did they actually have millions of American citizen walking around with no health insurance? Future historians may also see fit to add Speaker Harry Reid’s name to the list of great American statesman; when years after he and Barack Obama have exited from the public political stage; and these very qualified and deserving Judges are making rulings on behalf of the mistreated, the denied and the disenfranchised; a grateful nation may at that point, think to thank him for his service.