Singled Out

My daughter was excluded at school today. Not from some game on the playground or for misbehaving in class, but because we opted her out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test. All the kids who took the test over the last couple weeks had an ice cream party, but my daughter—and other kids who opted out of the test—were asked to leave the class while the party took place. In fact, it was covered up. She was sent to another class to share a story, and she didn’t know what was happening until she returned to her normal class. When she entered the room, the other kids were whispering, “Shhhh, don’t tell her!”

Where do I begin?


Unschoolery: A Look Beyond Limitations


Our oldest has just entered her fifth year of public school with our middle child entering her second, and it's becoming more and more clear, every day, that much of what I read about school from around the country is true for us: public education is broken. I am not an education expert, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems to be that even at some of the "best" schools, education and learning is still about getting good grades to get a good job to make money to buy stuff. And how to get good grades still looks very similar to my primary school education 20+ years ago. In fact, the rubric for success in school is basically the same, too (i.e. turn in your homework, do well on tests, don't rock the boat, etc.).

working out loud

Working Out Loud

working_out_loudAt the National Writing Project I’m the manager of much of NWP’s presence on the interwebs, and I’ve recently had the privilege and opportunity to work with teachers from around the country who are helping to create, facilitate, and implement some of our summer initiatives. This is the Summer of Making and Connecting and besides getting to observe some pretty amazing work around the country, it’s been refreshing to take a new look at what I do professionally.


Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior (A Review)

Not knowing exactly what to write, I wanted to write a review to remind myself of the key points in this book and share something that is likely not on most people’s radars. Much of this book can’t be summarized or fully captured in a blog post, but I think the quote below gives you an idea of what you’ll find in here. The basic premise is that we need to fully accept what it means to be human, taking our “bad” with the good, and facing this fact—embracing our humanness—is an act of being a warrior. And actually it teaches to not think of things as “good” or “bad” in our nature, but merely as a state of being what we are. Once we can accept this, then we can begin to move forward in “uplifting our lives.”

A great deal of chaos in the world occurs because people don’t appreciate themselves. Having never developed sympathy or gentleness towards themselves, they cannot experience harmony or peace within themselves, and therefore, what they project to others is also inharmonious and confused. Instead of appreciating our lives, we often take our existence for granted or we find it depressing and burdensome. People threaten to commit suicide because they aren’t getting what they think they deserve out of life. They blackmail others with the threat of suicide, saying that they will kill themselves if certain things don’t change. Certainly we should take our lives seriously, but that doesn’t mean driving ourselves to the brink of disaster by complaining about our problems or holding a grudge against the world. We have to accept personal responsibility for uplifting our lives.


Love Everyone, Even the Stupid Ones

In high school I was a big-time hacky-sacker. Oh yeah, me and my hacking crew were practically pro. Anyway, as you may or may not know, true hackers follow general Rastafarian rules. One love. Don’t self-serve. All are welcome. Most are high. Some are even vegetarian. I have to admit I loved the physical challenge of the sport, and I never self-served, but that was just about it. I didn’t love everyone. I never smoked pot and there was no way in hell I was going to be a vegetarian. Through my acquaintances in the “hack world” I came to know and love reggae music though, and as I listened to the lyrics and felt the proverbial vibe, I really did believe that it would be great to love everyone. I mean, how can you argue with that? In practice though, I loved my shit-talking and clung to my opinions and judgements like a religion.

Back in the day, I used to joke that I was really working on loving everyone, and my friends who knew me best always laughed, because they knew my sharp wit and tongue weren’t on board. And today, I would say I’m much closer to this goal, and my tongue is too, but I still struggle like hell. Maybe you can help me? Here’s a list of people I’m having a hard time loving at the moment:

  • Tea Baggers (a.k.a. Tea Party peoples): What the hell is up with these people? They’re mostly financially stable white people with, as far as I can tell, very closed minds and very short sight. (See Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated) Well, I guess that sums up the Repbulican party (see next)
  • The Republican Party: I truly believe everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but what kind of people don’t believe everyone on earth deserves peace, love, happiness, comfort (physical, financial, emotional, etc.), and an education? No exceptions. Sure these things are almost impossible in some countries, but we can’t call ourselves the greatest country on earth- which these fools shout from the mountain tops every day before they pray over their Wheaties- if we can’t give every person in America a job opportunity, health care, an education, and safety. These people need to READ their bibles, not just throw them.
  • Guys With Super-Jacked up Trucks: C’mon. Seriously? Absolutely no utility and don’t say it’s part of culture. Even cowboy culture- which I believe use trucks quite often- thinks it’s rediculous, trust me. What I love best is that 90% of every douche-bag driving one of these is 5’8″. It might be fine if they didn’t also have chrome balls dangling from their trailor hitch and bumper stickers that say “Gun control means using both hands” and “All fags will burn in hell” right next to their “Jesus is King” sticker. Sad shit.
  • People Who Talk Over Other People: Just plain rude and shows you’re not listening and not interested in actually having a conversation. Might as well just go home, record yourself, and play it back over and over and save the rest of us the frustration.

Okay, I’m done…for now. Even after getting riled up here, I still want to keep working towards that love. I guess the bottom line is I’m open to coversation with anyone who has an open mind, and I know I may have something to learn from you, even if I think you’re stupid (and as long as you don’t talk over me).