Ole white guys …

[Please know that the title is meant somewhat with tongue in cheek. I might have qualified this as Angry ole white guys. Hmm. Would Good ole white guys be better?] … and the women that support them.

Let me start this off by saying, I am married to one (well, he will be soon) and am the daughter of another, so clearly I love some of these people. Additionally, I want to be sure that you know this is based on my experience as an American. Does it apply to other countries as well? Probably, but I don’t live in them and I am talking about what is transpiring on US soil, right now.

If you get sick of reading this long-winded post, consider stopping over and listening to this ole white guys reverb nationgroup instead: oldwhiteguys.

Geoffrey announced last Wednesday that he had a project up north that would take him a week to complete.  I was really annoyed that he was giving me almost no notice and that all the things we do together to organize our lives and keep things running smoothly, would fall to me. After I got him to postpone it for a few days so we could do that more easily, we planned it all out to a point that I felt I could handle things without interfering with my work or my sleep. The biggest challenge is our 95 pound dog, who unlike my 108 pounds, is all muscle.  He is my physical superior and he knows it.  Luckily I think I outdistance him in IQ.

Anyway, one of the things we like to do together before we close out our day, is watch our favorite shows.  We DVR everything so we can watch what we want, when we want to.  We have copies of all the past episodes of Mad Men, my all time favorite drama series.  But Sunday night, the day Geoff had to travel, was the premiere of the final season and we had planned to watch it together.

Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president. — Southern Poverty Law Center

angryoldwhitemenIt is funny how things come together for me to drive home some principle I am working out either in my life or mind.  This week, as I mowed the lawn and washed and polished the car (more on this in an upcoming post) I was stewing over the equal pay for equal work issue. It brought back to me how much things have changed, how dramatically male and female roles in the United States have evolved.  They are not what they were in the 1960′s but they are not where they should be as late as the 2010′s either.

Then I noticed an e-mail for Mod Cloth, a clothing source I look at for inspiration occasionally and saw the question: Are you a Joan, a Betty or a Peggy? Referring, of course, to the three main female characters in Mad Men.  I realized there isn’t any female character on Mad Men with whom I would identify closely.  Background and fashion taste-wise, I am closest to Betty. But education and values-wise she and I couldn’t be more different.  One indicator is the men we chose, Betty and I.

My husband is no Henry Francis or Dick Whitman, thanks god.  For all the flaws that he has like any normal human being, King G. is an egalitarian, a champion of human rights and de facto, women’s rights, among others.  He and I share the chores in the house.  He doesn’t have any rules about what women do and what men do or should do.  We could easily switch just about any task, except he is stronger and I am more organized.  He has talents I lack and vice versa, but they have little to do with being male and female.

I didn’t end up watching the opening episode of the final season.  Instead I re-ran last season’s episodes so I can watch the new MM with my SO when he gets back on Saturday. Seeing Donald Draper treat all the women in his life like interchangeable disposable toys reminded me once again of what happens when we objectify others and identify groups, give them a category or classification (consciously or unconsciously) and then put them on a hierarchy to be treated according to some set of norms we or others dreamed up. Almost always, these norms have no validity, especially when we apply them across the board to all members we drop into that categorical group.

Revisiting Mad Men, thinking about the non-gender specific roles in my own household (as well as considering the ones I grew up with), melded with the political fight over the fair pay measures that were defeated by one of our political parties last week, and culminated (as I was reflecting on all this and it swirled around in my mind today) with the tragic triple murder hate crime in Kansas by a former Ku Klux Klansman and Neo-Nazi hater at a Jewish center.  He meant to kill Jews, presumably, but ended up slaughtering two Methodists and a Catholic. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alan Dershowitz both, independently, pointed to the rise in armed militias and paramilitary hate groups, from the bottom up (grassroots, as they style themselves) since the election of our first non-white President.  The easy access to propaganda on the internet means that people with these inclinations can find plenty of fuel for their anger at sites devoted to disseminating lies and conspiracy theories to stoke the flames of the unstable, low information loons that like to shoot, hurt and kill and use just about anything as an excuse.

What are these people so afraid of?

All weekend long I heard Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Donald Trump, Louie Gohmert, Michael Lee, Mike moreangrymenHuckabee,  and a long parade of aging WASPs at the so-called “Freedom Summit” fulminating against the usual suspects: women, especially young, single mothers, feminists (hey check out the diverse “list”, interesting) “liberals”, Democrats, the President – on and on. Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sibelius, Hillary Clinton, Wendy Davis, Sandra Fluke, Lois Lerner, Elizabeth Warren, Sonia Sotomayor — all devil-women according to this crowd.  Heck, they are even piling on Jeb Bush, because he dared to defend Mexicans as people who come here for heartfelt reasons!

It’s not what ya don’t know that gets ya into trouble, it’s what ya know that just ain’t so that gets ya into trouble — Will Rogers

These are the same men who don’t want the poor, black, elderly or disabled to vote in Ohio; they want women to forego contraception of virtually all kinds; they are against immigration reform, mischaracterizing the Dream Acts as amnesty. They champion the governers in 24 states that have opted out of the medicaid expansion that would provide health care to millions of citizens and inject billions of dollars into the economy. Oh, and while they don’t want poor people, aka ‘freeloaders’, taking federal tax dollars (SNAP and Medicaid), they sure as heck ardently defend a rogue wealthy Nevada rancher who defies the law, practically advocates sedition, for heaven sake, and refuses to pay for leasing public land. This guy actually threatened to put women out in front of his posse, so the Feds would fire on them first. WTH? Traditional values indeed.

thedonaldThis is the crowd, led by 1200 billionaires, who want to interfere in local elections, instigate gerrymandering districts so their electoral votes will all be Republican, are against wind and solar power, endorse fracking and oil pipelines that endanger our environment. They want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, (to say nothing of SNAP – Paul Ryan’s budget chops 5.1 Trillion dollars from Federal Programs, largely impacting the middle class and the working poor, while giving an average $200K tax break to the top 10%), even though they have no replacement and its elimination would re-empower private insurance companies and take health care away from 40 million Americans, the vast majority of whom have several jobs and are not indigents. They are against raising the minimum wage, which would again, economize safety net outlays and inject more billions into our stalled economy.

This is the group that believes women are inherently inferior, weaker, and that is why they are earning 75% across the board of what is paid to the average man.  They deny that single mothers make up the largest percentage of those on food assistance in America. Their antidote to everything is the oversight of an older, white man.  Older, white men should be the Deciders.  Ladies, if you want to live a comfortable life, find yourself one. Can you believe we even heard from that fossil Schlafly, who says the best way to improve the lot of women is to give men more money so women will have more security.  Every hear of trophy wives, Phyllis?

Then I think about my dad.  Here’s a guy raised in a big, old fashioned family with all those celebrated traditional Americangetoffmylawn values.  Four brothers, three sisters — every one of them educated professionals.  Of the group, my Aunt went the farthest, getting a PhD in audiology and heading an NFP that provided aid to the hearing impaired free or with low-stress subsidies. My father is (as her father was) her proudest champion.  My dad married an educated, professional with a career.  Even though he cracked the whip with what I would say was a heavy hand, he encouraged me to go as far as I could, to get a great education and to have an income of my own.  He believed no woman should have to worry about losing a husband and face poverty as a result.  He is no fan of Germaine Greer, trust me.  And, I might add, he was a Roosevelt (all three, Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor) Republican. He became an independent when Ronald Reagan was elected — he had the sense to see what was coming and considered Reagan a phony, unqualified for the job.  You can just imagine what he thinks of the latest crop.

So, what I want to know is, why would any female be a Republican now, support hateful policies and ideologies, freely choose to be identified with men who think so little of half the world’s population that they go out of their way to hold these important revenue-generators back in every way possible, including and above all, preventing them from being independent?

It is really rather offensive to characterize the problem as being old WASP males and the main reason I am doing it here is to point out how ridiculous it is to keep using categories and sweeping every person who matches the description into them, so we can fight a group rather than take on the arduous task of understanding individuals.  And, may I add, it is equally loathesome to keep on blaming the transformation that attends progress, with all its warts and setbacks and dashes down blind alleys, on the brave pioneers who gave up both freedom and reputation to carve a path that others could use to better their lives.  As if they were demons of some sort, whether male or female, just because they broke with the stultifying myopia of their day and struck out to bring about needed change.

unspeakableCivil rights, suffrage, liberation — these are the movements that built modern America.  Take a look at the people who started them and moved them forward.  What were there motives? Hatred? Selfishness? Anger? Bigotry? Wasn’t it to right an imbalance? To give parity to all those people who had been (and continue to be!) disenfranchised?

Society is evolving and the wheels are going to grind on. This, despite the naysayers, those who fear the new order that is coming, haters who are just angry because instead of being creative and embracing the changes underway by finding a place among them to survive and even thrive, it is so much easier to recast their efforts in a diabolical light. To call them ‘evil’ and then feel righteous and smug.  As if they know something the majority of intelligent people don’t.

Hey, here are some ole white guys I really like: my dad, my SO, my FIL (rest his soul), Robert Osborne, Lyndon Johnson, Paul Newman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Feynman (more on him soon), Jimmy Carter, The Eagles, Bill Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Steven Colbert, Fiorello LaGuardia and let’s not forget Bill de Blasio, Jon Huntsman, Jerry Brown — lots and lots of happy, good, ole white guys. You get the idea.

Unlike Oprah who Ronan Farrow quoted as saying of these people who grew up “marinating in prejudice”, ‘…they just have to die…’ before this country can move on, I don’t feel that way.  I want them to jump level, as Geoffrey’s friends in Arica are fond of saying. They need to get with the future and stop holding us back.

This is what is on my mind this week, while I wait for my other half to return, so we can get on with our partnership, moving ahead on level ground.

Images: reverbnation.com,vheeseburger.com,goodreads.com,esquire.com,dailymail.co.uk,

paw2014-s

 

 

 

 

 

Methed to madness

This week I noticed that Oscar Pistorius’ infamous trial is getting a lot of press coverage, even though it is on the other side of the world.  The heightened emotionality of that drama is indicative of the intense affect that spills out of human beings when they interface with crimes of passion. There is a world of criminal events happening all around us, of which most of us are blissfully unaware, thankfully. I had never heard anything about the one that crossed my path this past month until I was sitting on the jury.

The day I was selected for jury duty, and found out what the upcoming experience would entail, both in terms of subject matter and duration, I felt utter dread. judgmentThis was no simple matter, even putting the best face on it.

For one thing, the process of jury selection is daunting.  I was annoyed that I was chosen, but they had previously assured us the average trial lasts only about 5 days.  Mine was 5 weeks, but we only found that out after we were selected. I eventually understood why they kept mum. Ours was no ordinary case but one that could and should have been splashed across the news from coast to coast.  In my opinion, it was far more complicated and grave than the many of the notorious trials of the past decade. For some reason, this one was under the radar and for the life of me, knowing all the facts that I do now, I do not understand why.

Through the entire trial, there was not one reporter in the gallery. People wandered in randomly, as trials are usually open to the public. Some looked like passers-by, who happened to be in the building or on our particular floor for one or another reason. None looked like they were there for any predictable purpose. Not one family member of the actors involved attended either.  Given what we see in the media and on neat little crime shows, with packed galleries and all kinds of recording devices and attention, and rapt loved ones, this really surprised me.

If you have never gone through jury selection screening, be prepared to bare your soul during the interrogation the judge conducts for the benefit of all the attorneys who have a stake in the matter. Lest you think you can still get out of serving by any of the predictable methods people traditionally employ to avoid giving up their lives for this process, forget it.  The very thing you think will furnish an out, is the thing they are probably looking to include you for. In my case, it was my experience with some renters in my neighborhood who were running a meth operation, but I only figured that out after the fact. The court saw over 100 prospective jurors before they whittled it down to 18 (12 primary, 6 alternates).  There was a musical chairs-like process that jury candidates go through. It drove home the thoroughness and seriousness of the system. That is how they identify the people that all parties feel will be the most fair and impartial yet capable of handling the information about to be disclosed.

juryThey want a team that can process and synthesize the entire evidentiary body of the case before rendering a very tightly controlled decision of guilty/not guilty on every charge or count. And the less outside information that group of jurists has a priori, the better.  I now see that it is wise to omit certain emotion-evoking information. Proven fact is meant to trump feelings in our legal system, even though it is hard to avoid giving in to visceral reactions, especially in this instance.

Out of the original more than 100, about 30 people tried to get out of duty using “hardship” of one sort or another as an excuse.  When you do that, you have to stand up in front of the entire court, potential jurors, lawyers, defendant(s), clerks, judge, everyone and reveal what your problem is.  A judge is a formidable person, not only as an individual, but a holder of the office or position of authority representing the full weight of US law, so standing in front of him/her and asking to be excused is no trivial experience.  Of the people who nervously or boldly stammered out their reason for not wanting nor being able, supposedly, to be there for the estimated week, only a handful were excused after a thorough personal unpeeling in front of the whole courtroom full of people.

If you don’t like embarrassment, don’t even think about attempting this.  The people who tried, were quivering by the end of it, one way or the other. summons for jury dutyShowing up the first and second days, you sit and wait for a judge (there are multiple courtrooms and constant rolling trials) to call for a group to be impaneled. Then, jury selection takes two days.  The final day of that week, is taken up addressing the 18 people selected from the previous 4 days.  So one week is gone before the trial itself even begins, with introductions to the case, a primer on the mechanics of the pertinent law(s), summaries of positions of all parties and opening arguments. Then, after all sides have rested, more detailed law is read to the jury and the case handed over to them; deliberations can be a few hours or a few weeks.

So, this is no snappy process.  Instead it is a slow moving, meticulous, deliberative ordeal, and staying alert, without losing your lunch over the details along the way (not in all cases, but in the one I sat through), takes stamina and endurance. It also requires complete self-control. The stakes are high and you don’t want to be the one to trigger a mistrial. The schedule is also a barrier to be overcome.  You obviously have to get to the venue in plenty of time to get a parking space, get inside after passing through very careful security with a list a yard long of things you cannot bring with you, like glass bottles, knitting needles, any kind of needle or metal object for that matter, etc., etc., and then take care of any personal habits before you are expected to sit in readiness outside the court on fewer benches than there are bodies that want them.

The judge decides each day what time court will start and end the following one.  In a nutshell, there are hours of down time. So the trial process is not efficient for the jurors.  In that interim period, judges hear misdemeanor and minor felony cases while jurors for the main event wait outside.  There is variable internet or phone service so you may or may not be able to use that time to check your devices.  In all, this requires patience, calmness of spirit, fortitude and cheer.  No one wanted to be there and it didn’t help that we were all in the same boat. Somehow though, in this particular instance, the legal teams picked a good jury. No clueless, hasty folks this time, simply skirting diligence to get on with their lives.  Almost to a one, these were professionals with responsibilities that were in california penal codesuspension while they served.

By the end of five weeks, you bond with the other jurors, even though they were a rainbow in every respect: age, gender, ethnicity, occupation, economic stratum, etc. The jurors were painstakingly chosen and proved to be worth the effort, in my estimation, in the end. The crimes were shocking. Only when the doors closed on the limited number of players involved in this drama, now including the 18 newcomers, the depravity of the matter descended on all of us like the proverbial ton of bricks.  I am sure had any of us known what was coming, we would have rent our garments and beaten our chests to avoid exposure to it.

This case was brewing, with preliminary hearings and witness interrogations in progress for half a decade before we sat in those critical seats up near the judge. We all felt vulnerable, in full view of every face involved, lawful and otherwise.  It was as if we were on a stage where we were not to move, react, grimace, sound, or otherwise in any way be seen to be human past our outer appearance.  It was so tension-producing, that we found ourselves gripping the chairs and the floor. You could cut the silence in the courtroom with a kitchen knife. Every break unleashed almost a volcanic relief.  And, since no one was allowed to speak about  the details with each other, family, friends, the public – no one – until the verdict had been read and entered into the books, the pressure continued around the clock for the duration.  We were warned not to even smile or reveal any recognition toward the attorneys in or out of court.

Wearing an alphanumeric badge that said JUROR, at all times on the premises, we were a group apart.  It was a strange experience, like bearing a scarlet letter A or yellow star. Looking at oneself with that badge on, you feel the weight of responsibility pressing down from years and years of society’s attempt to regulate the behavior of all participants so its citizenry can go about daily living unimpeded by the chaos that human beings inflict upon each other by dint of being complex and variably self-disciplining. fdr quote

When people who have been brainwashed systematically and deliberately by private interests who have a largely economic and power-related motive for doing so, rail against “government”, they fail to recognize the importance of this exacting and carefully constructed system of constraints that keeps the wolves from our individual doors.  Not that governments don’t make mistakes or that there isn’t abuse of power — clearly there is and it has to be kept to a minimum.  But, unless you are party to the daily activities taking place in our justice system without our attention to it, it goes on unappreciated. It is there working relentlessly, around the clock and calendar, keeping anarchy and apocalypse from crushing our small and vulnerable species.

I could write a thick book about the particulars of this case.  There were numerous crimes, the main being murder and torture.  Multiple players, locations, occupations – mostly illicit and yet supposedly legal by the strictest definition.  It had all the elements that we cut our Shakespearean teeth on: sex, drugs, domestic violence, abuse, lies, betrayal, greed, stupidity, graft, blackmail, the list goes on.

medical marijuanaMost of all, the crimes showed utter indifference to other human beings and the sanctity of life. Gruesome, hideous crimes, documented in graphic living color that we all had to see and are now burned in our memories forever. Perpetrators and their coteries involved in “businesses” that circle the drain of the lowest activities people can engage in, yet on the surface having a front that society has reluctantly come to accept, when higher values should prevail and common sense should overcome sentimental acquiescence.

Knowing what I know now, I will put a great deal of distance between myself and the types of places where these base practices fester and creep out, sliding their insidious tentacles in many subterranean directions. Ironically, one of the many tangential elements of this complicated case involved controlled substances and more specifically meth-amphetamines, their illegal sale and use.

We not only received a thorough education on the physical ramifications of this dangerous narcotic, we learned stepwise how it has seeped into our culture and is destroying lives exponentially as time goes on.  Given that this misery-creating compound was being made, sold and used on my very street recently (those two losers finally fled California in February probably to avoid the three-strikes law; the house had to be gutted and months later, the destroyed structure is being rebuilt stud by stud), I was shaken to think that I came so close to people whose actions were driven in part by a lethal and shattering poison. sociopathySeated just feet away from one or more sociopathic killers was a consciousness-altering experience for me, too.

Every day, I watched the parties lined up in front of the judge — the expressions and habits of each player in this twisted drama acted like a magus drawing back a dark curtain to reveal a nest of sadists.  It was sickening. How do I know sociopathy or psychopathy was involved?  In addition to the graphic details of the crimes themselves, I watched the face(s) of the perpetrator(s) at various key junctures, let’s say, when exhibits were presented high and wide on a broad expanse behind the judge’s dais.

While the jury and attorneys struggled to maintain their composure, there was no response or worse, inappropriate reaction on the part of the defendant(s). Wrapped up in the capital crimes were other tangential illicit businesses operating out of so-called legal establishments, medical marijuana “pharmacies” and skin-stamping studios.  This is where all of us need to tune our self-preservatory radar. I have always been leery of such places, probably due to my characteristic hypervigilance.

I don’t want to sound melodramatic or to exaggerate the circumstances of this trial.  But believe me when I say, it was in a category of its own. I would characterize the driving forces as severe pathology. Let me close out this purposely cryptic post by expressing my unbounded admiration for the prosecutor.  This was someone who calmly, prosecutorwithout malice, with an exceptional economy of emotion, meticulously laid out the facts, evidence, proof and timeline of the case so expertly and with such uncommon sensitivity that nothing the other attorneys did (and did well, I might add) could obscure the clear and deserved outcomes in terms of the multiple defendants, counts and verdicts. She said she was handing us a road map to conviction and a tool box to enable us to get there with no reasonable doubt.

This was a complex of serious crimes, but fact prevailed over all else, in the end.  It was instructive in an indelible way and justice was ultimately done. Thank you all for indulging me during this long process and for letting me share this as best I can to see if there is something I can learn and offer others, so it was not all in vain in the final analysis.

Images: cnn.com, 123rtf.com, newsday.com, amazon.com, wikipedia.org, nytimes.com, ghostbusters.wikia.com

paw2014-s

Recipe: Blondies with Brown Sugar Frosting

bethbyrnes:

This is an absolutely wonderful formula by one of my favorite bloggers. Gluten-free flour can easily be substituted here for a fantastic chewy blondie. <3

Originally posted on A Spoonful of Style:

Blondies

I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake so it will come as no surprise to hear that brownies don’t feature high on my list of favourite things to bake. Recently though, I’ve come across several recipes for blondies – basically brownies without the chocolate – which I had earmarked to try on a rainy day. Well, yesterday that rainy day finally materialised. It was the first day of the Easter holidays and with Clemmie still recovering from flu and the aforementioned rain pouring down outside, it was the ideal time for all of us to get stuck into some baking. With icing sugar covering every surface of the kitchen like fairy dust, we measured, poured and stirred in relative harmony.

And the end result? Well, the kids loved the frosted blondies but they were a little bit too sweet for my liking. I think next time I will omit…

View original 463 more words

Save Tigger

As I was sitting at my desk this morning applying the latest in one of my favorite nail polish lines (Essie) to my nails, ‘Go overboard’ — a rich, dark sea green, to coordinate with the five new outfits I have already lined up on save-the-tiger-jack-lemmon-1973-everettthe bench next to my bed for the week ahead, I was musing to myself that I give myself permission to be reinvented regularly.  Otherwise, even five years ago, when I was simply wearing something every single day that Milani called ‘Angel pink’, or ten years ago when only Chanel would line my fingertips, I would never conceive of wearing every color of the rainbow on toes and fingers the way I do now.  That made me think about what teachable trait enables people to evolve and progress rather than harden and atrophy in various aspects of their lives, irrespective of age, socioeconomic category, gender or IQ, an ongoing topic of interest to me.

Does teaching kids to get ‘gritty’ help them get ahead?

And what exactly defines progressing, what is the goal toward which we should be evolving as individuals and as social animals? My suggestion is that we promote happiness and health of the greatest number of people and do so by espousing (to invoke Aesop): slow and steady wins the race. To do this, of course, we have to understand what it means to be human as a species: a civilized social and cooperative hominid.

It is trendy now to accuse parents and schools of being too soft, and easy instead of militarizing child rearing, and to put undue emphasis on individual achievement to the exclusion of group considerations. One reason this is now in vogue is because our schools seem to be lagging behind the rest of the advanced nations of the world and failing to properly prepare children to get the jobs that a new economy offers. Some people are now calling the key to producing the desired corporate automaton (my characterization of the being this approach would create) the trait they refer to as grit. Seriously? A term, one of the meanings of which is a sandy or stone-like irritant with sharp edges?

I like to think instead along the lines of persistence and intellectual courage, a well trained and optimistic mind.  And yes, it can be taught. But how best to do that? Not the way it is being done in the educational trends of the 2010′s.  I talked a bit about this in a recent post.  Do we really need to harden minds and toughen children in order for them to succeed in the post-modern job market? Is the answer to our school failures introducing children earlier and earlier to what some are fond of referring to as the so-called harshness of life?  There is a movement afoot to push children to the limits of their ability in such a way that failure is emphasized, so they can be inured to it. This is so ignorant and frankly, appalling.

One thing you learn by sitting in a courtroom for a month – yes, week five starts Monday– is the meticulous and painstaking manner in which attorneys have learned to present evidentiary or factual material, ideally to enable a jury to render a just decision. Every single scholar and writer should be taught this method.

Instead, for those of us who have had the privilege of higher education, we are left to figure out a method for doing this largely on our own. And the result is, for example, that we have a lot of educators stabbing around and concocting theories out of their own heads with no empirical foundation whatsoever.  One unintended consequence, in the US at least, is an educational system that is a hodgepodge of ideas that grab the public’s imagination and become enacted in the classrooms of countless schools unquestioningly (and certainly without reference to any form of investigational proof) — especially the charter schools whose performance across the board has been shown to be mixed at best and subpar on average and the point of which is to justify a new version of segregation and to take down the public school system.

Personally, I would not send a child I cared about to a school where the teachers are allowed to come up with any curriculum they want.  I would only trust a lesson plan system founded on a true understanding of child piagetdevelopment. I would start by using the principles of probably the greatest child development scientist of all time, Jean Piaget who studied children properly and constructed a theory of cognitive development that stands to this day.  Piaget was the Einstein of the field.

This gets to the core of the topic that I believe to be at the center of every challenge human beings face as we mature: what makes a successful adult and what type of social system contributes best to the desired outcome.

A couple of weeks ago or so, I read these two articles and reacted to them strongly:

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117021/triple-package-amy-chua-and-jed-rubenfeld-reviewed?b&utm_campaign=tnr-daily-newsletter&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=12317496

http://www.npr.org/2014/03/17/290089998/does-teaching-kids-to-get-gritty-help-them-get-ahead?utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=20140323&utm_source=mostemailed

In a nutshell, every parent and every teacher want a child to succeed.  What does success mean? Getting out into the world and standing on one’s own, getting a job, keeping oneself afloat through adulthood and secure retirement.  When you define success largely in those terms, then, Tiger-momism and Gritty-kidism make sense to you. No wonder people have grabbed onto these faddish and false notions.  They are easy!  The striped bullet. Yay! Just do these things and voila, done and done: a perfect human being.

Uh, not so much.

Who was it that said, ‘nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come’? That is really the key principle behind success in human development. And let me also say, no one of us can predict what that success will look like for any individual.  At birth, no parent or pediatrician or psychologist, much less attorney, politician or even educator can tell you who that child should be. It will unfold from that individual naturally and be realized in full, some time around the age of 21 and it will look different for each person, especially if you equip each child with basic, muscular and flexible traits such as a love of life, trust in the world around them, the ability to make wise decisions, and most of all the freedom of mind to recognize goodness and the courage to act on it as circumstances change.  That is not likely to happen if you teach them to believe, too early, that the world is a difficult place in which to live and that they must fight their way through it to survive. Keeping a child on edge will produce a neurotic or psychotic adult.

The miseducation of the tiger mom

How do you then herd people together and teach them if everyone’s development is so varied in each individual person? How can you teach a group of children sitting together in lit boxes for eighteen or more years? By the way, I say 18 years because children as young as six months now are abandoned to day care, which is their second group environment — the first being their family — and since it is a separation from their mother, that environment creates an experience for a baby that is akin to being on their own. Something that ideally would not happen until they are 7 years old, as shocking as that may sound to 21st century sophisticates.

finnish lessonsI once saw an ad for an astrology class that read, ‘There is a plan for your life, astrology can help you find it’. Well, I would phrase this a little differently, saying ‘there is a plan for our lives, human science can help us find it’. There are places where the correct and empirically verified principles of human development are employed to form the basis on which a curriculum is designed and where every teacher is rigorously trained in these principles and expected to teach accordingly, at every grade level through the end of secondary school.  Two countries that come to mind are Switzerland and, famously now, Finland.  If anyone is interested in the Finnish success story (top in the world in the STEM subjects, for example), they can get hold of a copy of Finnish Lessons, from Amazon.

The fact that our school system is failing children has led to all kinds of wacky theories and initiatives that are sure to make for some miserable adults down the road.  It started with the feckless and failed “No child left behind” program, meant mostly to exclude public schools from Federal funding and divert taxpayer dollars to private companies that greedily snapped up money, with promises of better educational outcomes.  These were based on test scores, skewed to favor advantaged families.  Largely discredited, people like Michelle Rhee, early advocates of the corporate approach to education, have at last been booted to the side (not that she is penitent for the damage she caused in D.C. schools and nationally by her misguided and ignorant philosophies and practices).

I could go into great and tedious detail of why and how a child development approach, based on proven research, should be the basis for the curricula in every school from nursery through 12th grade, but that information is easily found elsewhere.  The point is, as the article above on the infamous “tiger-mom” points out, that if we want to produce a nattering, driven, self-absorbed, materialistic, neurotic adult, emphasize tiggercompetition and economic rewards, and a hostile world.  Drop that baby off with strangers earlier and earlier.  Heck, just park them with a service right after birth and merely come back to check that their progress matches the unrealistic universal benchmarks that people like those cited in the articles above promote.  Make sure you or your surrogates teach him or her that the key to success in life is jumping ahead of your neighbor, sneering at anyone who isn’t driven and ambitious, stoically enduring any amount of suffering as early as possible, to teach him to toughen up and pilot through the jungle (the ‘real world’ as these people are so fond of saying) like a nervous prowling cat.

poohs little instruction bookI think the Jack Lemmon character tells us all we need to know about that outcome.  Better Tigger than tiger; better A.A. Milne than Disney.  Better a properly raised, slowly simmered human being than one rushed through childhood simply to aggrandize an ignorant ideal of financial advantage that is not founded on science or what is best for a cooperative, joyful society, but merely ego, bigotry and selfishness.  Is it any wonder that we are spawning more and more fiercely competitive school-age bullies with ideas like these?

 

Images: imdb.com, amazon.com

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