Education: valuable or dangerous?

I went to the post office one day to mail a book. The clerk was one who knew me as a regular, often mailing my Paperback Swap books on to another reader. As he went through the standard script and asked, “Does the package contain anything potentially hazardous?” I replied flippantly, “No, independent thought is still legal.”

He laughed, thank goodness. I can just see the post service suddenly searching my mail because of my slightly sarcastic sense of humor. Oops.

There have been a few changes since that day.

  • This guy, one of my favorite clerks, has since retired.
  • There’s a new majority on Capital Hill.
  • A recent poll indicates that the new majority, the Republican side, doesn’t value education in general. Worse: the Republican caucus thinks higher education is a waste of time and even bad for the U.S. (See the Pew Study results here)

Independent thought may still be legal, but learning and thinking are less and less valuable to our government. In fact, the impression I get is that the current folks in charge want to keep the populace ignorant, malleable, and easy to control.

This is scary, people. Very scary. Dare I suggest – keep reading, keep learning, and keep connecting with your legislators. Remind them that they work for all of us, not just those who voted them into office. Call, email, send postcards, attend town hall meetings. If you dare, participate in rallies and protests.

Independent thought is still legal. Let’s keep it that way.

 

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Rating Signs at the Earth Day Rally

Listen to the Scientists.

Climate Change is Real!

Make America Think Again!

Science and Education are crucial to a Sustainable Future!

Think Global; Act Local (I prefer “Think Globally, Act Locally, personally)

Alternative Energy, not Alternative Facts

With that last one, I must persist in my role as English Language Arts teacher as much as my role as progressive activist. Positive statements are much stronger than negative. If you, the sign maker, need the word NOT in big letters, go back and rephrase it. For example, “Climate Change is Real!” is much stronger than this slogan.

NOT is not a good word for a protest sign.

The phrase “Liberal Conspiracy” is more likely to stick in someone’s mind than the idea that “Science is Real.” The sign to the right has a major problem, too: no one can read it. The letters are much too thin and faint, and they fade completely in the bright sunlight.

This sign is a good example of what NOT to do. Too pale, and features NOT prominently instead of a slogan.

Clever. Could backfire, though, if those watching the march don’t get it and instead feel insulted.

Picture is from a different rally, but I saw tee-shirts announcing this philosophy.

As for message, this one gets right to the point.

I’m with her, indeed.

 

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Encore – Almost – for Autism Awareness

It’s April, again. Autism Awareness Month. What are the numbers now? A few years ago, autism occurrences were estimated at 1 in 88. That’s looking almost common, rather than unusual.

Well, folks, it’s time we start learning about each other, neurotypical or on the autism spectrum. Even under the old numbers of 1 in 166, the estimates indicated so many children and adults with autism that “normal” needed redefinition.

Awareness, people, is not enough. Awareness is a low form of knowledge, and knowledge itself sits down low at the base of the learning pyramid. Awareness means knowing that the student sitting next to your child in class might have autism. Knowledge and understanding come around when that child responds to gestures of friendship, perhaps awkwardly, yet making a step toward joining the social peer group in some way.

Awareness? Awareness means slapping a multi-colored puzzle-design ribbon magnet on the back of the family minivan. Understanding means that when the minivan next to yours at the red light is moving back and forth propelled by the rocking of the teenager in the front seat, you notice but don’t judge. You might offer an understanding smile to the driver if the opportunity comes up. By refraining from negative comments, a parent provides a role model for the rest of the minivan passengers. Parents can take it to the next level by explaining to the others in the car pool why it’s so important to be supportive of others, neurotypical or autistic or with no label at all.

These days, with a dangerously unqualified Secretary of Education and a potential Supreme Court justice who has ruled against students with disabilities multiple times, awareness can go to…well, anyway, awareness is nowhere near enough. During this year’s Autism Awareness month, make a vow to move beyond awareness into the category of understanding – or better.

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40 Bags in – Well, Approaching 40 Bags.

The 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge got difficult about a week ago. Chuck and I kind of hit the wall. Part of that was schedule related. I had some long days and a lot of grading to do. Chuck was working some mandatory overtime, and he needed to carve out time to sleep somewhere in his 24 hour cycles. Excuses aside, we weren’t keeping up.

And then Chuck started the Piano Project. We’ve been looking at our antique baby grand piano, a lovely piece of furniture with many memories, just as lovely. No one in the home currently plays piano, unless it’s in the guise of helping Amigo learn his barbershop music. For that purpose, we bought a Yamaha electronic keyboard. It works well and takes up very little space.

The piano is now destined to be repurposed and upcycled. Can an object be both? This one can. Chuck is currently taking it apart, piece by piece, with a goal of creating bookshelves. As he’s working, we are storing all the pieces. This isn’t helping the de-junking project, but it is going to help create space in a big way.

What’s that keyboard doing on my fireplace mantel?

The felt hammers needed to rest in the living room. That’s Amigo’s Spark Plug award on the left, a white elephant gift in the middle, and a cactus on the right.

A cactus in a tuba. Every home should have one.

Meanwhile, Chuck is working diligently to loosen the strings and remove the sound board of this lovely instrument. I pulled out the dampers today and set them aside.

When the project is done, I’ll post a few “After” shots. I think you’ll like it, readers. Maybe you’ll even forget that I didn’t make it to 40 bags in 40 days. Instead, we attacked a major family project.

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The People are Speaking, and Speaking Loudly!

The original Executive Order on immigration was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Or was it the hole in the dike? I have no idea how the protests started. I only know that citizens knew it was wrong. Americans knew they had to take steps to take care of those who fell victim to the timing of this awful, unconstitutional action.

Folks, it’s like the sixties, but with the addition of social media. When word gets out, it goes out far and it gets out fast. As I watched news from airports all over the country, I was struck by the signs. The homemade signs, quickly conceived and quickly made. They didn’t look uniform and artistic like the signs (and hats) of the Women’s March a week earlier, but they looked fantastic.

No hate; no fear; Immigrants are welcome here. No ban; No wall. 

And it gets better.

Mr. Trump, you’re making Voldemort look compassionate!

Immigrants make America great! 

Deport Trump! 

Grandchild of an Immigrant (but she was white and Catholic, so that’s cool, right?)

Fear ignorance, not Muslims.

My grandfather is from Syria.

And a favorite, seen at several airports: 

Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; the retched refuse of your teeming shores;

Send these, the homeless, tempest, tossed to thee;

I lift my lamp upon the golden door! 

Get used to it, Mr. President. You’re doing dumb things. People will resist. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last time the American people will speak out. Face it; the right of the people to peaceably assemble is still there, in the first amendment, and no executive order will knock it down.

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Project Postcard

I didn’t attend the women’s marches. I didn’t protest the pipeline. I don’t have my senators and representative on speed dial, either. Email is easy to send – so easy, in fact, that many in the legislative branch have inboxes that are full to overflowing, making email actually unlikely to be read.

Nevertheless, I feel I must persist.

La Petite and I have embarked upon the journey we call Project Postcard. Here’s the list of ingredients.

Awesome, artsy postcards

Postcard stamps and an easily accessible source for buying more

Return address labels, complete with zip code

Address labels for our congressional reps and our senators

All this makes it easy to make a statement quickly and get it in the mail immediately. The flashy postcards make the process fun. The stamps and address labels make it easy. We’re ready, so ready, to take on the legislative branch of that three ring circus in Washington, D.C.

Letters to D.C. offices take a while to get through. Remember anthrax? Yeah, the vetting process for mail is lengthy these days. Postcards should go more quickly, right? Well, just in case that process is also super slow for postcards, we ran address labels for our public servants’ local offices, too. Ron Johnson has an office in Oshkosh, Tammy Baldwin in Green Bay. Mike Gallagher’s local staff work out of a nice place in my lovely downtown. La Petite lives in a quasi-suburb of Milwaukee, so she sends her postcards to quasi-suburb Brookfield.

Here’s an example. Concise, to the point, includes the name of the bill and why it’s a bad idea.

No caption needed. Nope.

Mailing after the fact is important, too. My fair state has senators on opposite sides of the aisle and on opposite sides of many issues, as well.

Unqualified? That’s an understatement.

Senator Tammy Baldwin is up for reelection in 2018, and the conservatives are already taking aim at her seat. I plan to let her know when she’s voting wisely, just like I will let Ron Johnson know when he isn’t.

And so Project Postcard begins. Readers, take note. How are you reaching out to contact your elected lawmakers? Town hall meetings? Phone calls? Or will you join us in Project Postcard?

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Why We March – and keep on marching

When they go low, we go high. And that’s why I won’t show you some of the signs from the Women’s March, no matter how clever. I saw plenty held by women my age and older announcing “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this #$@&!” This woman managed to say the same thing without profanity.

‘Nuff said. Or is it?

“Nasty” has become a synonym for strong.

With a piece of poster board and some good paint or markers, these two women made a point that many do not see. We women worked hard to get the right to make decisions about when and whether we’ll bear children. We paid out of our own pockets for birth control for a long, long time.

Many young women don’t know the history. They don’t remember when a woman couldn’t teach school if she became pregnant. Too many women tell stories of how they wore baggier and baggier clothes until they couldn’t hide their growing bellies, at which time they lost their jobs.

I explained in a Facebook thread the very real danger of losing access to birth control and access to health care in general, and the role Planned Parenthood plays in helping young women on both counts. Someone commented – or should I say, shouted? – “Buy your own damn birth control!” Face to face, that person would have looked at me and known I wasn’t one of the young women I mentioned. I am 56, had my last child 25 years ago, and had a hysterectomy three years ago. I am well past my child bearing years. Buy my own? I did, for years, because my health plan didn’t cover it.

This ignorant comment, however, reinforced the need for advocacy. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for women’s rights, especially a women’s rights to control when and whether she will become pregnant.

You can purchase Mary Engelbreit’s print here.

Proceeds from this print, and this print only, will go to Planned Parenthood.

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The Wardrobe of the Rebellion

I bought my Teach Peace sweatshirt last fall. It didn’t seem radical then, but now I wonder whether I should wear it to school or not. I decided yes, I can wear it, because the sentiment is not rebellious. Peace is a valuable, if not exactly realistic, goal.

Nasty Woman gear hit the interwebs after the third debate of the presidential campaign. In the feminist world, the term became synonymous with strong.

Ah, the pink pussy hat! A coworker told me she has one. She leaves it in her car when she gets to school, but she has it. She wears it. She describes it as “cute.” I don’t have one – yet – but the question comes to me: What does it mean to wear this in public? Wearing a pink pussy hat to a rally has a clear meaning: don’t mess with me, celebrity or not. Thousands of women wore them on January 21st, and the world took notice. I predict these hats will stay in style for, oh, at least four years.

The safety pin is still out there, just not as prevalent as it was initially. The trend started in the U.K. and spread via social media to the U.S. after, you know, The Inauguration. The safety pin quietly announces that the wearer is a Safe Person. If someone is being harassed, threatened, and needs help, the victim can reach out to the one with the pin. I see safety pins on Facebook profiles, Twitter hashtags, but few in public. Heck, maybe I don’t travel in the right circles. I know many who consider themselves advocates but don’t wear the pin. This symbol might see a surge in popularity wlong with the surge in deportations.

An old favorite, the Believe There is Good in the World tee shirt, attended the Women’s March in Chicago on my sister-in-law and niece. I wore mine at home – mine being the second I’ve purchased with this slogan because I wore out the first. No matter who leads the free world, I hope many will continue to believe and to Be The Good in the World, too.

The latest on the tee shirt scene is Nevertheless, She Persisted. Senator Elizabeth Warren was “warned, given an explanation; nevertheless, she persisted” to read the now-famous letter from Coretta Scott King criticizing the now-infamous Senator Sessions in his quest to become Attorney General. This slogan has been applied retroactively to Ruby Bridges, Susan B. Anthony, Rosie the Riveter, and more straight up strong women. This one, folks, may last more than four years.

On Election Day in 2012, I slipped my Team Obama tee shirt under a fleece bearing the logo of my employer. Will I do that again? Readers, what are you wearing to the revolution? Your pink cat hats? Teach Peace athletic wear? Something I’ve forgotten? Leave a comment, if you dare.

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Alternative Facts

We’ve all heard them. We disregard them, sometimes even laugh a little at the sheer ridiculousness that someone might want us to believe. Here are a few alternative facts that circulate – wherever.

One size fits all.

Easy open package.

Lifetime warranty.

Easy return policy.

Sanctuary cities are hotbeds of crime.

The dog ate my homework.

Wikipedia rocks.

Painless childbirth.

3 million undocumented immigrants voted in 2016.

Contents not included.

He must have misspoken.

Okay, readers, I’ve made my point. Can you think of others? Add comments for me, please.

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Walk a Mile in my Shoes Empathy Book Club

Sanctuary cities. Executive orders. Airport detentions. A border wall. The news is full of negatives, stereotypes, anger, and fear. What’s missing? Empathy. Here’s a book list to encourage empathy for those who come to America from other cultures, whether voluntarily or as refugees. With the exception of the first title, all are suitable for young people.

  • A Step from Heaven by An Na
  • A Korean family moves to America, and the daughter has to find her inner strength to keep herself and her family whole. Despite her intelligence and ability to learn the language quickly, the girl encounters racism and sexism as she adjusts to her new home.
  • The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
  • The Hmong people were recruited to help American troops during the Vietnam war. After the war, when the new government began to persecute them, the United States provided a safe haven for Hmong refugees. Kao Kalia tells the stories of several generations as they flee Laos through camps in Thailand and eventually settle in the Midwest. The first person accounts make for a powerful read.
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Esperanza is forced to leave Mexico after a tragedy takes her safety and her family’s wealth. She is unprepared for the challenges of living in a new country with no money and no home. Esperanza is Spanish for hope, and 13 year old Esperanza finds her inner strength as she follows a path that leads to hope and a better life. This book won the Newbery Award in 1999.
  • Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhja Lai
  • A new home in Alabama means safety from the Vietnam war, but this family misses their old home in Saigon as they adjust to the new culture, new landscape, and strange foods and customs. Discrimination is rampant for their Asian appearance and poor English skills. A Newbery honor book in 2012 – well worth the time for the amazing writing and heart felt story.
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
  • The story takes place in Brooklyn, NY, during 1947. The backdrop of Major League Baseball’s integration helps Shirley Temple Wong and her family adjust to being recent immigrants from China. Winner of many awards, this is a valuable read.
  • Grab Hands and Run  by Francis Temple
  • Felipe is twelve when his father is killed and he must grab hands with his sister and mother and flee El Salvador for safety in Canada. This book follows their long and difficult journey, and includes the dangers they face and their doubts about leaving their home.

Readers, what are some other books you recommend – for young adults or those who are grown-ups?

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