Recognizing and cultivating “Mental Virtues” in children….

“First, there is love of learning. Some people are just more ardently curious than others, either by cultivation or by nature.”— “The Mental Virtues”; David Brooks NY Times 8/29/2014
As educators, we must admit that there is an “X” factor when it comes to the presence of extraordinary “mental virtues” in students. It’s not that we don’t know it when we see it; rather the question is, to what degree, and in what degrees, does it arrive to the school with the child? What causes some students to be more gifted than others in these qualities and practices? And what is our capacity to cultivate these mental virtues in any individual student? Are we stimulating and nurturing virtuous qualities that are “naturally” already present in the student? Can we teach the habits and practices of good virtues, like compassion and intellectual inquisitiveness to the unwilling, or even better, to the disinterested? For the virtuous quality of resilience; It is still a mystery to me as to why some students do so well academically, with so little material resources and so many “external social and familial hurdles”; and why on the other hand some students do so poorly with so much material resources and a great deal of social /home support. This essay is worth reading as a starting point, if for no other reason, it reminds us that habits and practices of “Mental virtues”, are just as important as any content or skill area we insist is important in a school’s curriculum. And yet it is very often the most difficult to capture and deliver as a learning objective. We know from a brief survey of US and world history that virtue-less (virtue free?) knowledge and technical skill can inflect a great deal of hurt and harm on the planet and its inhabitants. We as a society (and as a society of K-12 and college educators) have unfortunately delegated a “good character” to a lower state of achievement and recognition. The only objective is to climb the “career ladder”, by mimicking successful leadership tricks, techniques and strategies; it is only: “how to beat out the competition (by any means), and make the most money”; not how to serve humanity through a calling; or just being a good person, who is a force for good in the world. Schools (despite what we think) are never disconnected from the cultural imperatives and interest of a society. The quality of social-psychological life in Japan will deteriorate badly; as their schools have perfected the art of manufacturing a docile and solely focused on the “job”, ant-like work force. But if educational philosophers like Paulo Freire are to be believed; we can still knowingly “push back” against society’s desire that we just produce individualistic, ethically weak, selfish, docile, and moral-free willing workers. We can start by establishing what is important, in our home, our classrooms and our schools. I have always been a strong advocate of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Despite that professional interest I (often to the surprise of many) have also been a strong supporter and advocate for students reading and studying both fiction and non-fiction literature, creative writing and speaking, drama, the visual arts, music and dance. The creative arts will cause one to think about the world, and ones place in it, in a way that is inaccessible through the study of STEM; and interestingly, the study of the creative arts will actually enhance (as many schools of engineering are now finding out) and expand a STEM practice, while encouraging inventive and innovative thinking. Finally, I think we need to invite the student’s spiritual (not religious) intelligence into the classroom, because I believe there we will find the source and resource for the teaching of mental virtues.
“Mental Virtues”- http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/29/opinion/david-brooks-the-mental-virtues.html?action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=MostEmailed&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Adult responsibility, accountability and student achievement….

“Only 1 percent of teachers statewide were rated ineffective during the 2012-2013 school year — while a mere 31 percent of their students passed state tests. In their first year of evaluations, 1,291 of 125,956 state teachers were deemed ineffective, according to data the state Education Department released Thursday…”-NY Post 8/29/14

You wonder what on earth would give anyone the crazy idea that any adult should be held accountable for student academic achievement, after all, students come to school: Poor, Black, Latino, Asian, White, tall, thin, with flat feet, without flat feet, male, female, etc……

The awesome and stunning numbers here, invite some comparisons:
What would be the number of city buses totaled in accidents, as compared to the number of bus drivers deemed ineffective.
How many patients would need to die in a hospital due to ineffective treatment, before someone stepped in and put a halt to these destructive practices?

It gets better, with High Risk Organizations like: air traffic controllers, nuclear power plant workers, air craft carriers, an infectious disease lab, etc. These organizations have a very low tolerance for incompetence and failure; and a very high standard for the best, safest and most likely to produce success practices. Why, because with HRO’s incompetence, “human error” or failure can cause one, or many deaths. But what about the profession of education? I think an important standard for a profession, any profession, is that you establish professional standards and then you (the professionals) hold each other accountable for those standards. There should be the equivalent of a Star Trek like “Prime Directive” that says: We will remove all obstacles and excuses in moving every child to achieve their personal best! If not we should meet every parent at the Kindergarten or 1st grade door and have them sign (before their child can enter the classroom) a waiver stating: “We can only promise your child academic success ONLY, if they arrive with the following advantages”:
Not poor
A permanent home (house) in a “nice”, safe and inspiring neighborhood.
An intellectually stimulating home environment.
Mastered the learning standards of kindergarten, before they enter kindergarten.
English-speaking, well (college) educated, very good income parents (2 parents)
A rich informal educational experience (ex. Dance, instrumental music lessons, museum visits, books in the house, educational toys, etc.)

With that signed understanding in hand, no school system would ever be accused of not doing its job. They would have also achieved the distinction of never being accused of being professionals.

THE ART AND HEART OF TAKING ATTENDANCE….

When you witness a former student’s success, it is not their name so much that will bring tears to your eyes; it is the “story” that is associated with that name. Resiliency is such an underappreciated virtue….

A high school English Teacher once announced on the first day of classes: “Now, when I call your name, and you are not in your seat and ready to work, you are absent (1) .” One student (me) thought (2) : “But how could that be? If someone was “physically present” in the room, how could they also be absent?” “This”, I thought; “must violate some law of physics”: (The law: “A body inside the room is incapable of not being in the room, and therefore is present, and not absent from the room.”) The teacher then read my mind, so I thought back then; but learned later it was just a standard teaching Jedi trick-technique of reading faces. “Now, I know what some of you are thinking”, she said, “well you can get rid of that idea; ‘absent’ and ‘present’ is what I say it is!” And so it was…….

We call names in anticipation of a response: “Present”, “here” or silence (absence). Not just another bureaucratic excuse to do something “official”; there is much, much more here. Taking attendance is giving attention to recognition. This is a moment rich with symbolic meaning. When we take attendance we are taking into account (and counting) individual names attached to individually unique stories. And as we record the moment, we are at the same time, recording and taking a count of human possibility. What is it that we want each person to “present” to the world; and what are they “here” (called) to do in this life. And yet these eager minds, not often revealed by their faces, and slouching body language, are counting on us to give them a chance at doing something called “themselves” at some point in the future. They are, at the same time, also taking our attendance: “Is the teacher here, and present today for me?” And the silence of “absent”? I almost forgot that teacher also said: “And don’t call out: he/she is not here, or absent; I will know that they are absent by their empty seat, and the silence!” And so it was…….

The vacant and absent mind (the real “absent-mindedness”?) like the vacant and empty seat, lacks substance, weight; is missing a sense of personal presence and purpose. The unoccupied (and yet occupied) seat, the accompanying silence of engagement, is a sign of an unoccupied mind; physically present but not really there. The problem in our nation is that we have quite a number of behinds in class (or at least in the school building); but they are disconnected from minds, minds that are absent. School should be a place where students are not only marked “present”; but are also forced to present their best possible selves. And when they push back; as normal developmental psychology inclines them to do; persistently meet them with an equal force of high standards and expectations. And when they bring a great social need to school; we should meet them with an equal amount of scaffolding and support. (That really is a law in Physics :-). “Seat-time” can’t be confused with “learning-time”; and 12 years is a lot of time in a person life; and it should really count for something. A former colleague (Brenda Caldwell) spoke recently about a student who just earned her Master’s degree; she said that: “She knew her story”. In other words she knew the difficult journey that preceded the victory, and the positive role of “teacher-push” in a student’s life. This I submit is the difference between the engaged efficacy (3) of taking note, heart and mind of a student, and the everyday efficient exercise of just taking their attendance.

(1) I did not know it then; but she was bluffing; attendance taking is a serious official procedure that had to be recorded accurately (Serving as a principal I received several court subpoenas for students’ attendance records). But a great deal of what makes high school education work is the “bluffing” part; how else do you get (know everything in life there is to know) teenagers to graduation, before they willfully self-destruct.

(2) Thought and not said, because back then if you were disrespectful, and your parent grabbed you, the only one you could call on for help was the Lord.

(3) Efficacy: The extent to which a teacher believes that through their thoughtful, strategic and purposeful efforts; they can positively influence student learning, and increase the possibility for academic success

The Little League World Series Lesson for Parents and Educators…

The lesson for Educators and Parents from the success of the Little League World Series Philadelphia and Chicago teams is: Without an adult agent of encouragement, empowerment, high expectations and efficacy* (in this case coaches and parents) a child’s success will be based on chance. With the odds not being in the child’s favor; particularly (because of societal hurdles) if that child is Black, Poor or Latino. After parents have had enough of: the amateurish experiments, mis-labeled “school reform”; the turning of Black and Latino children into raw material and instruments for the profit incentivized charter industry; the educators who put adult employment interest above the educational interest of the children; and the tax-payers collectively rebel against a system that requires more and more money, while getting the same or worse results. At some point, maybe we will all sit down and study the works of Asa Hilliard and Ron Edmonds; read and study the work of Marva Collins and Lorraine Monroe; sit down and watch the movie: “Stand and Deliver”; and understand the: “you (we) can do it” approach provided by Jaime Escalante. And then, maybe we will come to the obvious realization that in the final analysis, academic success, and everything associated with it (i.e. behaving in school, working hard with a purpose in school, staying and graduating from high school) is determined by an adult(s) who truly believe in the talents and gifts of the children in their charge; adults who recognize their gifts and talents (both seen, and those hard to see); adults who are willing to sacrifice everything in order that those gifts can be realized; adults who won’t give up, or sell out on them; educators-adults who place the burden of student success, or failure on their own backs.
Anyone who believes that all of the baseball talent of young Black Americans (or even all of the talent that is to be found in Chicago and Philadelphia), was captured by these two teams is at best sadly mistaken, (and hopefully not working in, or near the education of children). These physically talented, intellectually gifted, and articulate young people were fortunate to encounter adults who saw greatness in them, and then made a choice to grow that greatness. Would it not be wonderful to expand that adult (super) vision and commitment to the waiting talents of millions of other children, young folks waiting with many different categories of talent. Those young people who are “not on the team”; who are uncoached, those who are talented and trapped, not without a dream; but rather without a group of dream nurturers to coach them.

*The extent to which a teacher believes that through their thoughtful, strategic and purposeful efforts; they can positively influence student learning, and increase the possibility for academic success.

The “dry dead bones” of our nation are speaking, but not in our language.

“The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”– Ezekiel 37:1-3

In the middle of this morning’s spiritual reading-meditation, I peeked (as I peaked in the session) at the news from Ferguson, hoping for the best, hoping that the righteous voices of those who are peacefully marching for justice, would not take a back seat to the “post-march” violence. I am very sad… People (and I am part of those people) are trying to make some logical arguments to the desperately dispossessed:

Acts of vandalism and random violence do not honor Michael Brown or his family.

All of the looting and destruction are self-inflicted wounds that will take years to heal; you are only destroying the place where you will need to live and shop.

The continued acts of lawlessness and violence, aid in the defense of the police officer. For those mean-spirited people who are seeking any justification for the crime committed against Michael Brown, any distraction is a welcome opportunity.

Angry? Register to vote, and then vote….

“Make some noise”, in school by becoming academically competent and excellent.

Get agitated about and change the “small” things that undermine the beauty, progress and promise of your community; the things you can control.

And the positive presence, calming and inspiring words of role models like Capt. Ron Johnson and a President Barak Obama…

But our logic and reason won’t be heard by those who are so far out of the American orbit such that they might as well be living on another planet, called “hopeless”. I have seen “the look” of hopelessness, early in the eyes of middle school students (mostly Black and Latino males); who at some point have come to an understanding (and like the young men of Ferguson, also respond inappropriately) that they are in the 6, 7 or 8th grades, and they can’t read and do math effectively enough to function as “real” students in those grades. And so they act out in a negative way, because somehow they know (despite all of our positive encouragements), that they are getting older, and with each grade, school is getting harder; and they are moving further and further behind academically. School for them is quickly, painfully and slowly becoming less of “that great American ladder” to success, and more of a place where their personhood is diminished and assaulted on a daily basis; because they can’t really grab the rungs of that ladder of opportunity. To be alive is to “act”, and they see their only option is to act badly, to call attention to the fact that they are at least alive. Believing that you are living without hope is a very difficult and sad way to live; and it creates a world view that is very different from those who do seem to have hope. We (the hopeful majority) want so much for young men of color in places like Ferguson, Philadelphia, Chicago, NYC or Baton Rouge to see their true human possibilities; humanity that can’t be fully realized through crime and violence. But contrary to our thoughts and wishes, these young men see destruction and violence as their only chance to act, and be fully human. For those of us in this nation who have the opportunity to function as full (or even partially) human, we can’t understand their logic of hopelessness. They are under or poorly educated, unprepared and inadequately skilled for a modern economy. And even if they partially escape the miseducation pipe-line, they can expect to be discriminated against and despised by the nation of their birth. Think they don’t know what is going on in our nation; think again (talk to them!) They see themselves as the real “border refugees”; only they are trapped without an escape plan inside of the US border, as we pretend that they are full citizens and heirs to the American dream. Daily they stand in hunger, glaring though the window of TV at the prosperity of those dinning on the fruits of the most powerful and resourced rich nation on earth; a nation that has only offered them employment opportunities during slavery. In their Unfortunate eyes, they have nothing to gain, and nothing to lose from listening to our logic; in fact they can’t hear us because they are the real “walking dead”; they are the dry dead bones of our nation; who know they can only speak, and be heard through violence and destruction; inflicting pain that is felt beyond themselves. It will take compassionate courage on our part to cause these dry dead bones to speak in our language. Will it ever happen?…. “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

The possible problems and dangers of applying Clintonesque Triangulation 2.0* in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Remarks Were Not an Attack, Hillary Clinton Tells Obama”- NY Times

Yeah Ok….sure hate to see an attack!

Even before I read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War; I suspected that a strategy that worked in one situation, and under certain conditions; could in fact invite disaster when applied in a very different situation, having very different conditions. In this life in general, and political life in particular; there is always that “X” factor (unknown, not anticipated and outside of your control.) That can derail the path to any inevitability. There is a danger here that the unexpected could actually occur. Just ask Thad Cochran’s Tea party opponent in Mississippi; where Black folks voted for a Republican in 2014, and in Mississippi of all places! Mr. Obama has a huge fan and support base, who see much of his problems being artificially created by a Republican-Tea Party’s commitment to undermine and disrupt any effort he attempts to achieve, no matter how worthy and beneficial to the nation. Any potential candidate who cynically places distance between the president and themselves, by holding the coats of that frothing right-wing mob; could create a feeling of disinterest on the part of progressive democrats for that candidate’s 2016 presidential campaign. There is also the necessary huge fundraising effort that is needed to compete in a modern era presidential campaign; I don’t expect those right-wing rock throwers to write any checks for a candidate Clinton. Perhaps the Mississippi experience achieved another goal; and that is to discourage the belief among Democrats that they can take their longest, most loyal and strongest supporters for granted; simply because they believe that: “They have nowhere else to go”. If the name of the game is (get your voters to) “turn-out”; anything that could dampen the enthusiasm of your core voters is a dangerous strategy. Further, there is also the possibility that the average voter, democratic or otherwise, may view loyalty as a very desirable trait in a potential candidate or leader. Finally, this is a learning curve problem; for didn’t we go through the: “pitfalls of inevitability in 2008?” Perhaps the best advice for a “front-runner” to employ is in fact: “don’t do stupid stuff”… Maybe the not so stupid stuff is for the Democrats to run as a Democrats; after all it’s not like the Republicans are “busting loose” in the polls!

Ok I’m finished… now what’s Elizabeth Warren’s website address?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/13/us/politics/hillary-clinton-tells-obama-that-interview-remarks-were-not-an-attack-.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

*“Triangulation is a name given to a political act in which a candidate in a traditional continuum-based political system tries to position him or herself outside of the continuum, or perfectly balanced in the middle. It is a relatively recent phenomenon on a large-scale, although it has been used to some extent for as long as modern politics have existed”…wiseGeek

@63#there are the everyday miracles of life that can affirm life!

One is brought to a greater sense of attention and understanding of life when someone your age commits suicide. The other night on the Newshour a “friend” of Robin Williams expressed that he had no sense that he was depressed, and in danger of taking his own life; but how could this be? There is I think a false and distant sense of closeness; that is exposed and explodes only when the friend we know “so well”, choses to dramatically reveal the myth of being in a committed fellowship with others, casually called friends. And beyond the societal resistance to acknowledging the presence of “clinical depression”; there is I believe something else going on here; something that engages all of us in some secret and hidden form of asking ourselves: “What is this (my) life all about (really), what is the meaning of my life, and does my being here, or not being here make a difference?” This question can either be a prelude to suicide, or the beginning of knowing and living a life of sincere and authentic purpose. But full and complete disclosure here; I wonder if these questions can be (and they should be) seriously pondered if the questioner sees themselves as only a random act of biological science. There is a spiritual understanding that propels and compels us to come out on the other end of those questions with the idea that your life, in whatever stage or state is no accident; that you were created for a divine purpose; perhaps unseen and unknown by even your closes friends. And then there is that contradictory understanding that does not lend itself to analysis to the best science or thinkers of this or any age; the idea that your life is, and at the same time, is not, your own. We resist this concept because it pushes against everything we are taught by society to hold dear. The powerful delusion of our individuality must not be shaken; and so we empower and enshrine it in social practices, and even in governmental law. But this belief in the “independence” of our personality has consequences when the “self” we have worked so hard to construct, does not measure up to what others (struggling with the same affliction) think of us, or even what we think of ourselves in those lonely moments of silent quietness. Our “less than what we think we are”, invades even the loudest distracting noise the world can produce. The great fear and suspicion we feel, that others will know and think, what we know and think of ourselves. Surely this path can lead to some type of emotional disconnection; even without the presence of a “clinical” cause. This separation of the ideal, from the less ideal (real) self; can be shocking. And my hypothesis for the high number of White males who are driven to suicide by way of depression, must result from a life time of experiencing a sense of empowerment and entitlement; only to see it come crashing down in the face of what society defines as a failed life. The decision to end one’s own life I suspect, does not come quickly; but rather it is at the end of a process, that can’t imagine any other way forward. It is the ending of a deep psychic pain, by putting an end to the sensory organs that report and record that pain. To the victim it is not seen as defeat or surrender; rather it is seen as the last brave act of affirmation, and self determined control of their life.
The alternative thought is to not seek a reason to live from the world, but rather to find that reason to live in the world. It is necessary for each of us to create meaning in the (and out of) midst of a world that is incapable of providing a reasonable meaningful meaning. It (meaning making) starts with the idea that I am not a result of a biological accident; that I am indeed uniquely made for a reason, purpose and task that only I (and no one else on the planet) can complete. This fundamental idea places us alone, and in conversation with God, without the buffer or distraction of the rest of humanity; and in the midst of that dialogue with God, it would be very difficult (impossible) to explain to Him why it is that we no longer want this life we have been given. It is said that suicides most likely take place when the person is alone; I don’t think they are alone; I think that God is present; and the potential suicide victim is explaining and trying to convince God, as to why their decision to commit this act is the best, and right thing to do. And so why does God not stop the person from taking their life? For the same reason we daily face having the power to choose to do good or evil; without free choice (which includes the freedom to make bad or evil choices); we can never realize our true spiritual destiny; and the true meaning of who and what we are. Our personal meaning is always wrapped and found in what we mean to other people. When we find our path of contribution (and everyone has the power to make a positive personal contribution); we will without additional effort, find a path to our own contribution to finding meaning in our lives. This will automatically lead to a solution to the last part of the question: “My being here, or not being here, does it make a difference?” Yes, because there is a difference to be made, and only you can make that difference.
My personal bias is that I believe that education should serve as the soil that could/should nurture and grow that unique difference factor in each person, such that they are able to see their own lives as the important positive difference in the lives of others. And this discovery (to borrow from the: Dead Poets Society) is the poem and poetic license we must all take in life if we dare to persevere and crate acts of lasting beauty through service. Therefore (and dare I say) schools can serve as an antidote to depression and suicide by serving as places of spiritual growth. A place where a person at age 6 or 16 gets a chance to discover their unique avocational and life affirming specialty, and how that specialness is important to the well-being of our planet and its people. And in almost a strange way school is also the place where we can be encouraged to see hope, new possibilities and miracles that continue to occur each day, even at age 63.

The Hardest Thing To Do Is Hard For A Reason!

449

Upon listening to a sermon offered by a former student and taking notes…..

To Daniel Gregorie: An excerpt from my daily journal notes/thoughts (and so forgive the literary flow and format): A post-homiletic reflection, or upon further thought…a thought.

Romans 12: 21- “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

A very short, and yet very often quoted part of scripture used by Martin Luther King. In light of your sermon on Sunday (“When Being Right is Wrong”), can you understand why? In a world where every person is at risk of being taken hostage by the endless pursuit of materialism. Where there is a great and constant fear that we live a continuous risk of feeling that someone else will “win”, and that (therefore) we will “lose”. Where the poor, and politically disinherited run the great risk of not being able to realize their full humanity. And then there is the risk of disassociation and disconnection from fame and fortune, if we dare cry out against evil acts visited upon the most defenseless members of our human family; those who are the least able to reward us with that same fame and fortune we so covet. In all of this stands the person who runs the risk of being defellow-shipped out from a mercantile culture that holds us in ethical check by either greed or fear. In all honesty, there is a price to pay for being, “wrong” (and we must say this in light of my comments to you, concerning the false promises of the “gospel of financial prosperity” movement, or the sanctification and justification through wealth accumulation approach.
This is where God acts like a great ATM machine in the sky. A God (and I never understood this part) who wants, “right-true believers” to prosper financially in the midst of poverty; while others, presumably less true believing-believers, or non-believers, are left to wallow in their unblessed impoverished state. The tough theological explanation here is understandably avoided, for it contradicts what the people see when they exit the church. It is sort of like teaching a child not to solve problems by the use of violence; by using violence (spanking) as a teaching model. The kids get it: When a misunderstanding exist, the problem can be effectively solved through the use of violence! By avoiding a tough theology (which thankfully you did not) the congregants have reason to doubt that “blessed are the poor”; thus this causes the “believing masses” to speak like a believer, but to behave like an “operational agnostic”. The truth is, that in this world (the world they see every day), “bad people” can and do have a very good (and perhaps the best) chance of financial success. Their chances are enhanced because they adhere to the selfish-exploitation rules of our commercialized society. And perhaps that is why studies always reveal that a small fraction of “Church goers” actually tithe; is this because the majority that don’t tithe are hedging their secular bets? At least one NYC pastor was honest (if not exegetically challenged) about this: “Yes, the poor will always be with us; I just don’t want to be one of them”. He was speaking of his rich and lavish “blessings” life-style; while at the same time, he squeezed the last rent and food bill dollar out of his poor congregant’s pockets. Make no mistake, being right (wrong in the: “city of man”) comes at a great cost; and perhaps we should not under (thankfully you did not) explain it! Yes, as James Baldwin once wrote; there is: “The price of the ticket”; that is, a ticket to not ride a float that is destined and determined to make you lose sight of who you are, who you can be, in committed and creative service to humanity. And it can and will be a very heavy price to pay. The price of the choice of wanting others to win, with you. The price of not invoking and exacting one of the least effective of human emotions-revenge. The choice to resist the constant urge that only you, your friends and family, your neighborhood, those who share your religious beliefs, who look the most like you; those, who through no effort on their part, have a citizenship status (and not those trapped, without human status on the border); your nationality, ethic group; yes, the misinformed and morally shortsighted thought, that only you, and your “group” have suffered, and therefore others, not in your group must suffer in order to relieve your groups suffering. A separate peace (piece) of enrichment and entitlement, is a false hope. For only when you erase the borders that hold your care and concern for others captive, can you successfully do that thing that is the most hard to do; the seeing of yourself, your dreams and hopes in the dreams and hopes of others; you may end up being “float-less”; but at least you will be free to float to the better places of the human heart. Thanks for the sermon!
MAJ.

WE NEED A CEASE-FIRE ON THE INTERNATIONAL WAR AGAINST CHILDREN

Strange feeling this morning, I am actually afraid to look at the overnight news updates, hoping and praying that this cease-fire holds….

Adult political conflicts produce permanent harm to children. The least able, and least interested in starting or conducting a war, are also the least able to protect themselves from the overflow destruction of war. They have become the “collateral damage” of conflicts; in many ways like a building destroyed by an on purpose, or errant missile. But we can rebuild that building in a way that I don’t think we can rebuild a human being; particularly one whose classroom and teacher is war itself. That is why we need a cease-fire on the international war against children. I am thinking about 3 groups of children who now face an uncertain (for sure interrupted) education: The Nigerian children who have been physically and violently kidnapped; and also those Nigerian children whose schools have been destroyed; who now can’t attend school, and thus their dreams have in a sense been kidnapped.
The children of Gaza whose lives have been physically and mentally devastated. Most of their schools probably destroyed or badly damaged. These schools, if they still exist and are salvageable, understandably, will be at the end of the reconstruction effort. Of course, the restoration priority must be food, water, shelter, hospitals and electrical power. In these types of conflicts schools are the first institution to close, and more than likely the last institution to fully open. And even then, one wonders how can a child learn in a school (that they thought would be a shelter) that was hit by bombs; accidental or otherwise; do they sit in class not able to concentrate because they are thinking and waiting for the next bomb to fall? Sadly, the recent conflict in Gaza set an important military standard for modern democratic nations; schools will no longer serve as sanctuaries for non-combatants. We can painfully see in Nigeria what happens when a national army lowers itself to the standards of the stateless, rule less insurgency.
And then I think of the children trapped on the US border; trying to escape violence, hopelessness, political and social upheaval in their native countries. Drawn by the lighthouse one might seek when lost in the sea of trouble and turmoil. I am wondering how and when these children will be able to get into a formal school setting. With education, time is not neutral; the loss of time is a negative, that can’t truly be made up. I don’t believe that American (or British, Japanese, German, etc.) have a monopoly on love for their children. I truly believe that these parents sent them not because they don’t care, but because they saw no other hope for their children; I believe these parents are desperately trying to save their children. Staying in their native lands would mean a quick, or eventually death. And so it is strange to hear Republicans, and other right-wingers “de-peoplelize” them, and refer to them as “invaders”; as if these children are on a military mission to topple the U.S. government. There is a need to cease the incendiary language, and behavior, take a deep breath and show some compassion. The same people who continually refuse to vote, or even discuss a comprehensive emigration plan, (that was on the table before this present crisis) are the same folks who want to engage in political theater at the expense of these desperate children.
They are in fact are using this crisis as an opportunity to go after and deport those “Dreamers”, presently in the country; that’s just plain old mean. I believe that there is a purpose and reason for a rich material blessing( i.e. America); and when you treat your own blessing as an opportunity to deny to other children what you so want for your own children, that blessing turns into a curse. Religions, Nations, political factions, that don’t see the children of the “other”; as real children, are surely dooming their children to live in a world where the forgotten “other” children will act out their pain.