Thursday, June 28, 2018

Building Blocks Of The Next Friendships

"It's our food," she told me when I paused to take a look at what they were doing. "We're baby panthers and this is our food." She was arranging containers of sand at the base of one of the cedars that divide the upper and lower parts of the space.

They had been playing together intently for the better part of an hour, this girl and boy. Their history together prior to last week had been minimal, but they have now found one another during this brief two-week session of summer time at Woodland Park. I didn't reply other than to smile because I didn't want to interrupt their flow, but she wanted to tell me about their game.

"We're baby panthers. This is where we eat our food." She shifted the bowls needlessly, but purposefully, as she spoke.

Her new friend chimed in, "I'm a boy baby panther and she's a girl baby panther."

"And we're lost from our mother," she added, her eyebrows pushed together in an expression of sadness. "We're also sick and need a doctor."

I said, "That's a sad story."

"It's the saddest story in the whole world," the boy agreed excitedly before catching himself to affect a look of sorrow.

The girl snarled at me, "We're baby panthers."

"Yeah, we're baby panthers.

I've overheard them playing this game for a few days now. From what I can tell, saying, "We're baby panthers," stands at the heart of the game. They say it to the other children, who sometimes take it as an invitation, asking to join them. They say it to the adults, who sometimes feign sympathy for their plight as sick babies without their mother. They say it to one another, again and again, continually affirming their connection, their alliance, in this game that has come to fill their days. It's a friendship that is likely to end today when the session does, but they will both carry the experience away with them as a building block for future friendships.

The instinct to connect with other people through friendship is among the strongest and most important ones humans have. It's why we worry so much when our children struggle with it, or are misguided in their attempts. Yesterday, a two-year-old was sitting between a five-year-old and a three-year-old while I read a story. The older boys were trying to pay attention, but the younger was poking them with his finger. Each time he did, the boys would say, "Stop it!" but he either didn't understand or care about their clear cue, continuing to poke first one then the other as if non-verbally asking a question about these other people with whom he found himself, and confirming his answer over and over. Finally, I stopped reading to call his name and say, "Those boys don't like when you poke them." He looked at each of them again, then at me, and said, "Stop it!" and he did. This is another one of those building blocks of friendship.

The path is never smooth. I've had a number of adults tell me that their best friendships came through conflict, which seems bizarre to me because none of mine ever have. Some people, like our daughter, prefer a large, ever-growing and evolving group of friends, with several "best friends," instead of just the one or two. I remember clearly how she experimented with these concepts during her preschool years: she was always happiest in the midst of her "girl gangs." Others, of course, are just the opposite. For some, like myself, our best friendships tend to grow out of doing things with other people, engaging in a project with them, working shoulder-to-shoulder, while others build their strongest friendships while turned face-to-face, talking and sharing and listening. Some friendships grow from long, shared histories, while others become fast in a moment, like an epiphany. Whatever the case, we are all born with the drive to create the connection we call friendship, even if we have different natural instincts about how to pursue them.

Childhood is our most important time to figure these things out, to collect the experiences to use as building blocks for the next friendships. Some of our experiments are successful, like the one between our baby panthers, while others will end in people telling us, in so many words, to "Stop it!" There will be incredible joy and heartbreaking sorrow because it is both important and often very difficult, more so for some than others. As important adults in the lives of children, our job is to give them the time and space to perform the experiments they need to perform, knowing that it will as likely lead to conflict as it will intimacy. We will often see them heading toward pain, or see them pursuing friendship in a way the seems unfair or unbalanced, and the temptation is to caution them, and we should, gently, but we also can't be surprised when they don't heed us. Sometimes we just have to poke the other people before we really understand they don't like it.

Like most things in life, friendship is not a destination, but rather a never-ending project, one that is different for each of us. And therein, I think, lies both the challenge and the attraction: even as we pursue our own paths, no one, by definition, can travel the path of friendship alone.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Children are always making rainbows. They draw rainbows with pencils and markers, color them with crayons, and paint them on easels. As I've travelled the world, visiting preschools from Greece to China, from New Zealand to Iceland, I find rainbows adorning the walls and bulletin boards, happy arcs of color, often with a self-portrait of the artist, or even the artist's whole family, standing under them, smiling.

We've all seen them, and often, any of us who spend much time with kids. It's tempting to wonder why they do it, although it's entirely unnecessary to know. The fact that children everywhere make rainbows, I think, is enough.

And they don't just make them with "art" materials. Every day, someone will call out, "I've made a rainbow tower!" or explain "This is a rainbow in a box."

In nature, rainbows are somewhat rare, only appearing when the conditions are just right, only lasting for a short time, and only visible from certain angles, but at preschool they are everywhere, in everything, making our world brighter.

Sometimes when children talk of rainbows, they are referring to the classic shape, but more often than not they are talking of all those colors, side by side, beautifully, joyfully, a concept that is incomplete with even one of them missing.

We spend most of our time working on projects together and sometimes we need to decide upon a color. Our process always starts with someone proposing their favorite which is followed by another color and another. We list them all, usually intending to then vote for which one it will be, but invariably when it comes time to select just one, the children always opt for rainbow, the consensus choice, the one that includes us all.

It's tempting to wonder why they do it, why children surround themselves with rainbows, but do we really need to wonder? I think we already know why.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships -- love or the lack of it.  ~Mister Rogers

Yesterday, I went with my parents to see the Won't You Be My Neighbor, the documentary about the great Mister Rogers. It's a film that every single person must see, and not just parents and teachers, but everyone.

I was six-years-old when Mister Roger's Neighborhood, his groundbreaking, radical show, debuted in 1968 with its singular mission to treat children with unwavering respect. We didn't watch much television when I was a boy, if only because there wasn't much on, but this was something special, something for which we made time. Although I suppose his intended audience was preschoolers, I watched regularly until I was eight or nine, and to this day, I'll revisit my old friends upon occasion.

Most of us who grew up with him, knew him as a kind, attentive man who was always happy to see us, told us that he liked us just the way we are, and helped us to think about our big feelings. The film shows us the deep thinking and commitment that went into everything about the program, a show that single-handedly proved that television can be used for good. Indeed, he came to television in large measure because he was appalled at what he saw in this young medium. He once told an interviewer, "I went into television because I hated it so. I though there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

I learned some new things from the movie, especially from the interviews of his long-time cast and crew members, but most of all I was simply reminded. There was great beauty in how he was able to slow things down in a world that was revving up, to focus on the smallest things, to allow us to ponder in silence. He was a radical, even as he embodied the definition of "square," openly exploring such personal matters as death and divorce as well as the larger societal issues like assassination, civil rights, and war. At bottom, it was a show about love and respect, a show like no other.

It's tempting to think that we need Mister Rogers now more than ever, but watching the movie I was reminded that we've always needed neighbors like him. Won't you be mine?

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.  ~Mister Rogers

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Monday, June 25, 2018

A Long Way To Go

On Friday, I shared an old post about the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade, a self-consciously outside the mainstream community art event, one that I've participated in for the past 15 years. I've never been in Seattle's Pride Parade, but I've been attending it for even longer. Back in the day, Pride was, like our solstice event, a thumb in the eye of convention, and to some extent it still is, but as I watched the floats and ensembles pass me by, I couldn't help but reflect upon the fact that so much of what once made this event outrageous has now become, at least in Seattle, mainstream, for better or worse.

Sure, the parade is still lead by Dykes on Bikes, revving their engines, making noise, showing off, and generally having a grand time. I was moved to tears as they circled in the street in front of us, honking their horns, waving, beaming with pride, being celebrated by the city of Seattle. This has not always been the case for Dykes on Bikes. They were followed by an ensemble of Native Americans, then veterans, then the scouts. You can't get much more all-American than that. Every single local elected official was there as well, glad handing as politicians do. Every city department was represented from the police to parks and recreation. Civic groups, churches, and non-profits came out to fly the rainbow flag. And the corporations, they were all out there: I can't think of a local major employer that was missing. It was almost tedious to see them parade past, one blending into the next, in their matching rainbow t-shirts.

As I watched, I reflected upon how mainstream Pride has become in my city. I'm not normally one to celebrate convention, but over the course of the past decade, Pride has come in from the cold. I'm not saying that discrimination no longer exists, because it does. I'm not saying that there are no bigots here, because there are. And I'm not saying that prejudice is a thing of the past, because it isn't, but there has undeniably been a major cultural shift. Everyone, it seems, wants their share of Pride, to show their support, to be a part of it. Indeed, many of my gay friends complain that Seattle Pride has gone too mainstream, that it creates a false sense of social progress, that it provides politicians and corporations and soft-bigots an excuse to pat themselves on the back, while not always acting in the best interests of the gay community on days other than this one. And I share their critique: I have no doubt that there were a lot of people out on the streets yesterday just for the party and not the cause, and perhaps even more who are lulled by a mainstream celebration like this into a state of complacency.

If I've learned anything over these past few weeks, it's that we can never stop fighting, even when, especially when, it looks like we have already won. I can't believe, for instance, that I'm having to, in this day and age, fight for a dark-skinned child's right to not be taken from her parents and put in a cage on a concrete floor. I guess I made a mistake when I assumed that that kind of heartlessness, at least in America, was in the past. I'd gotten complacent, thinking that my fellow Americans were at least on the bandwagon of how to treat children.

Still, things have changed: the battle ground on gay rights has clearly shifted into the mainstream, at least here in Seattle. Our Dykes on Bikes didn't scare anyone as they once did, but rather seemed right at home with the veterans and corporations and local politicians. For a day, at least, the city of Seattle wrapped itself proudly in the rainbow flag, an indicator of progress, but the very fact that we still need Pride at all is evidence we still have a long way to go.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

A Respite

If you've been reading here this week, you'll know that I've been reacting to the horrible news of the day. (Please click here, here, here, and here in case you don't know what I'm talking about). I've been so absorbed that I forget to recognize the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, which happened yesterday here in Seattle at 3:07 a.m.

"Solstice" is Latin for "the sun stands still," which is derived from the fact that the sun appears to rise and set in the same place twice a year. Whereas the Winter Solstice tends to be a time of hunkering down and taking stock, this one tends to be about celebration. Our school is in a neighborhood called Fremont, an inner-city neighborhood known as "The Center of the Universe." We are a place of trolls living under the bridge, communist-era Vladimir Lenin statues, and the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade, a 30-year-old annual community art parade that has evolved to be lead off by some 3000 naked cyclists, followed by a slew of floats and ensembles created by folks from the neighborhood. When you look at the top of this blog and see me in a cape: that's me in the parade, something I've participated in for the past 15 years.

This year, I was out of town, in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand specifically, where I experienced the coming of the longest night of the year before winging my way back home to enjoy the longest day of the year. This seems auspicious somehow.

Today, as a kind of respite, I'm going to re-post one of the very first posts I ever wrote, one that still speaks for me today:

"Participating in the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade has become an annual tradition for my family.

Our school being located, as it is, in the heart of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, many of our Woodland Park families are regular attendees, if not fellow participants, in this one-of-a-kind, homemade procession of music, dancing, oddities, titillation, and unbridled joy. It’s a pure artistic expression by a community, which is what appeals to us most. There are no commercial sponsorships (although local businesses chip in to help with the $30,000 cost of producing the parade), the floats must be human powered, and the audience is encouraged to leap out into the street to participate in the festivities.

For those who’ve never experienced this quintessential Seattle event, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. The parade is kicked off by a sea of naked cyclists – over 500 this year -- their bodies transformed into beautifully painted canvases. This year featured a larger than life puppet of Pope Clementine VII and a macabre band of undertakers, a 25-foot beach ball that was rolled over audience members who lay down in the street, a cadre of “Ice Queens” wearing 10-foot wide regal courtesan dresses, a life-sized elephant puppet, stilt-walking crows, “sustainable” bull fighters, hundreds of musicians and dancers, and countless other strange and beautiful things.

I was one of about 60 Superhuggers. Clad in tights and capes, our mission is to simply hug as many people as we can. I’d say I got in a good 200 hugs throughout the parade, so if everyone else did the same, that’s a good 12,000 hugs. Not a bad day’s work.

My favorite hugs, of course, came from the dozens of current and former students who lined the route. What fun it was to hear the cry of, “Teacher Tom! Teacher Tom!” There were 50,000+ people out there yesterday, so I know I missed some of my friends and I’m sorry about that.

And while I love finding friends in the crowd, it was the strangers – who for a brief moment ceased being strangers – that are ultimately the most meaningful. Hugging that many strangers is an act of subversion, I think, one that pushes through our tendency to erect barriers between ourselves and those terrifying, unknown “others”. When I talk to people about Superhugging, they warn me that I’ll catch cold, contract lice, get punched out, or worse. This is our third parade hugging those thousands of strangers and none of those things have ever happened. Sure there were a handful of rejections, but each time I waded into the crowd it was into a flurry open arms. I hugged men, women and children. I was part of large and small group hugs. I saw strangers in the crowd hugging one another.

I tried to make eye contact with each person I hugged, saying things like, “I’m so happy you’re here!” “Happy solstice!” and “I love you!” And every word I spoke in those intimate moments in the middle of a parade was echoed back to me, “I’m happy you’re here, too!” “Happy solstice to you, too!” and “I love you, too!” Amazing.

I’ll never forget the developmentally disabled girl who struggled to get her arms around me as I knelt in front of her wheelchair. When she finally succeeded in getting her hands on my shoulders, the crowd around us roared. Or the little boy who remembered me from a prior parade, “Last year you hugged my dad!” That I’d made a memory for a stranger that had lasted that long touches me to the core.

After last year’s parade there was a photo in the Seattle Times of a man, his hands thrown up over his head as he was surrounded by red-caped huggers. In his open mouth you could see the gaps from missing teeth. He had the look of someone who has had a hard time of things. The paper quoted him as saying, “This is the greatest day of my life!” Holy cow! And sure enough, there he was again along the parade route this year, reveling in hugs once more.

Today, some of my fellow huggers have shared their experiences with our group via our email list. They speak of feeling exhausted, yet “full” and “exhilarated”.

One of them wrote: “I’ve been teary all day. I have many snapshots in my mind of people who “lit up” when asked if they wanted a hug, especially the people who looked so closed.”

What I’ve learned from being a Superhugger is that we’re not as afraid of each other as the news of the world sometimes leads us to believe. We are born to love. We are all in this together.

Here are some photos of the Woodland Park community in the parade."

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Raising Holy Hell

In democratic societies, we educate children so that they will learn the values, habits, and skills they will need to be good citizens; so that they are capable of undertaking their role as citizens in a self-governing society. That is the ideal, at least, and one that I seek to fulfill as a preschool teacher. There is a good debate to be had about whether or not the United States is a democratic society, and we unquestionably fall short at times, but whatever the case most of us still place a high value on democracy, both as it is embodied in our Constitution as well as in how we live our day-to-day lives.

Yesterday, the President, after weeks of claiming that his hands were tied, that the law required him to separate the children from their asylum-seeking parents and put them in concentration camps, signed an executive order, ending the policy with the stroke of a pen. He had this power all along, just as the cruel policy itself was his and his alone. This is an admission that he and his entire administration has been, and continues to lie to the American people, inflicting irreparable and unforgivable abuse on children. The good news about the executive order is that children will, for the time being at least, be allowed to remain with their parents. It is a win for these kids no mater what, even if this dark period in American history is far from over.

We can all take a moment this morning to acknowledge that we made this happen. One of the skills required of full citizenship is to raise holy hell and we have done just that. It was our emails, phone calls, social media rants, and street protests that made this happen. We may not have them on the run, but we have knocked the forces of evil off balance. We have made them flinch, we have backed them down, and made them afraid. We have proven that we are legion, a force to be reckoned with, we the people.

But let's not get lost in patting ourselves on the back. Like I said, this is far from over. It seems that the administration now plans to basically imprison entire families, not for crimes, but for coming to our nation's border to seek asylum, a perfectly legal act. And even if there are some who have crossed the border illegally, this is still not a crime under US law, but rather a misdemeanor, which is why past administrations have cited them, set hearing dates, then released them until their cases could be considered, the way one does with misdemeanors like writing bad checks or disorderly conduct. And while kids will get to stay with their parents, children will still be imprisoned in our name; these will still be concentration camps.

The current law, as detailed in a court agreement referred to as the Flores settlement (the very law the President lied about tying his hands) only allows them to hold children for a maximum of 20 days, after which they must be released. Government lawyers are apparently going to court in an effort to have that changed so they can imprison these families indefinitely, but from what I've been reading, they are not likely to be successful. My take on this is that the executive order, as imprecise as it is, is designed simply to create breathing room for the administration, to allow them to catch their breath after the holy hell we've raised. We cannot give them breathing room! From where I sit, the next front line is to demand that the 2,500 children who have already been stolen from their parents be returned. These children have already been brain damaged, and it is getting worse with each passing day. Please don't let up. These kids need us.

They cannot enact their evil policy without the help of corporations. Here is a partial list, including emails and phone numbers of companies known to be collaborating. This is an effective way to raise holy hell. Yesterday, American Airlines announced it will not continue transporting these children. Apparently, United Airlines and Southwest have joined them.

There has been a lot of misinformation (and flat-out lies) being spread about this. Here is fact-checking by the ACLU that addresses most of the major lies being told. Despite knowing better, I have found myself trying to persuade people that they are wrong, but they seem to be immune from facts, calling everything I say "fake news." We don't engage in these debates on social media in order to persuade the people with whom we are debating, we do it to inform and persuade the third-parties who are reading along: fact-checking does persuade the undecided.

There are a huge number of street protests happening every day all across the country, especially in places where there are ICE facilities. A national day of protest is being organized for June 30. Let's put our feet in the street for these kids.

There are also opportunities to make financial donations, including the ACLU who are fighting for these children in the courts. You might also want to consider this group: they have raised over $15 million to date and the number is growing by the minute.

And finally, of course, continue to call your representatives, even if they are already on our side and raising holy hell of their own. Let them know you want them to keep going: don't let them catch their breath either. And if your representatives are still siding with the President, it is even more important to continue to hammer them with your moral outrage. This is what has knocked them back. This is sometimes how things must work in a democracy.

No one ever said that democracy would be quick or easy, but it only works when we the people step up to the responsibilities and challenges of self-governance. As the grandfather of progressive education wrote, "Democracy has to be born anew with each generation, and education is its midwife." Those of us who work with young children, whether teachers, parents, or grandparents, are the midwives of democracy, and part of that is to raise holy hell. So let's keep raising it!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Because We Stand Together

For the past two days, I've written about the tragedy taking place along our southern border, where children, infants even, are being torn crying from their parents' arms, and being confined in concentration camps. The administration is clearly feeling the pressure as citizens continue to call, write, and protest, but sadly, the evidence is that they are attempting to double down. I urge you to continue to apply pressure to not only our elected representatives, but also the businesses that are helping them do this. If you need help in how to get started, please click here and here. Here is a good place to make a donation. Here is a good place for information about businesses that are complicit. Here is where you can learn more about feet on the street protests being planned in your area. If you care at all about children, if you care at all about your own humanity, there is nothing more important to be doing than this. Please don't let up. Not for a second. Thank you.

In the moments I've been able to step back from the abuse happening our name, it's hard not to connect this to a wider societal problem. As I've heard the callousness, the heartless jokes, and the grasping-at-straws excuses being made by those who support the administration's border policy, I am more aware than ever that there are too many Americans who devalue, and even hate, children and childhood. This is the most recent, horrifying, example, but it crops up every day in the form of those who advocate for "tough love (which isn't love at all)," spanking (which is child abuse), and high stakes standardized testing (which, among other things, destroys the love of learning, steals childhood, and raises stress levels into toxicity). All of my efforts on this blog are attempts to push back against this.

I am obviously not the only one. Indeed, we are an army of parents and other advocates who daily champion the view of children as fully-formed human beings, worthy of our respect, our genuine friendship, and our love. We are the defenders of childhood and my fellow teachers stand at the front. Last week, for instance, the Seattle Education Association, our local teacher's union, voted for a resolution calling for a two year moratorium on all standardized testing in our schools. This comes after years of effective protest by these teachers on behalf of their students, an effort that has involved a strike, boycotts, and facing down the threats of disciplinary action. This latest resolution does not come without risk, but I am confident that as they have done in the past, parents will rally behind them. That's what we do for our children: stand in solidarity in their name, fighting together for what is right.

I take great comfort in knowing that I am not alone, that we are legion, and that ultimately, no force on earth can stand long in opposition to children, parents, and teachers united. We will prevail because we stand together. It's the least we can do for children.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Be A Bringer Of Light

I spent pretty much the whole day yesterday doing whatever I could to put pressure on those who are aiding the US government in its terroristic policy to rip children, including nursing babies, from the arms of parents who are seeking asylum in our country and confining them in concentration camps. In particular, I focused on exposing corporations that are helping our border control agencies in their evil. Here is a list of companies that have so far been identified as collaborators. This Facebook page is also doing a good job of tracking down companies that are profiting from this. I shared the information I gathered via social media throughout the day and did what I could to track down opportunities to put feet on the street in the form of actual physical protest. 

The administration has pushed back with flat-out lies. They claim that their hands are tied, that they are only following the law, but legal expert after legal expert has asserted that there is no law requiring families to be separated at the border.

They claim that these people are entering the country illegally, but time after time we find that most of these families are coming to our border seeking asylum, which is not illegal, but rather a foundational tenant of our nation: we have always provided refuge for those fleeing violence, oppression, and grinding poverty. And even if they have crossed the border illegally, under US law this is not a crime, but rather a misdemeanor, an act not worthy of imprisonment, let alone the torture of children.

They claim that Congress must pass a law to stop them, but legal experts, political pundits, and even Republican Senators, call this a lie: the President could stop this with a single phone call.

I don't care what Obama did; this is about what's happening right now. I don't care about border security; there is nothing that justifies stealing children from their families and putting them in concentration camps and anyone who defends this is no better than apologists during The Holocaust. Every company, contractor, or business that aides in carrying out this policy will be held to account; saying "I was just following the law" or "I didn't know" are not acceptable.

From where I sit, this is all-hands-on deck time. We don't have the luxury of feeling helpless or of shutting out the news or of worrying about the ugliness of political debate. This is about the abuse of children in our name.

I'm hopeful that today will be the day that things start to turn around. I know that the administration is feeling the pressure. They had their emissaries out in force yesterday on all the news shows, trotting out their bald-faced lies and I saw reporters pushing back, calling them on their lies, challenging them, making them sweat. Some of them even looked like they were about to cry. The pressure is working, but we can't let up for a second. I reckon I have lost readers in my advocacy. As I wrote yesterday, I'd already lost friends. I also expect that I've made some mistakes by pointing fingers in the wrong direction, and for that I will apologize both in advance and when I've learned of those mistakes. But, I can't sit idly and, I hope, neither can you.

Please join me. Please do not let up. History will remember this as one of the darkest periods in our history, but we can be the bringers of light. Be a bringer of light.

UPDATE: A nationwide protest day is in the works for June 30. Please pledge to participate. 

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Monday, June 18, 2018

These Children Are Suffering In Our Name

I've been out of the country for the past two-and-a-half weeks. I've watched from afar in a state of both disbelief and helplessness as evidence of the current administration's inhumane policies have lead to thousands of children being forcibly separated from their parents and confined in concentration camps. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that children are being kept 20 to a cage in 100 degree plus weather. This is inhumanity on the level of the worst atrocities ever committed by our country. I will not stand by as it happens

I've already lost friends over this and I'm prepared to lose even more. I will not broach any person who seeks to excuse or defend this practice. It is a policy based on lies, fed by hate, and driven by a desire to inflict as much pain and suffering as possible. Yesterday, a former friend accused me of being a "tool" of the left when I asserted that these children were being "ripped" from their parent's arms. What do you call it when they are taken from their mothers while in the process of breast feeding? What do you call it when they are told their child is going to be bathed, then informed "you will never see your child again?"

The lies begin with the word "illegal." Many if not most of these families, have come to our borders seeking asylum, fleeing dangers in their home countries. There is nothing illegal about seeking asylum. Indeed, that is what this country is supposed to be about: providing sanctuary for those fleeing violence, political oppression, and poverty. These asylum-seekers are voluntarily turning themselves into border authorities who are, on the spot, declaring them criminal, taking their children from them, then labeling the children "unaccompanied minors," which is the cover (the lie) they need to warehouse them in abandoned Wal-Marts. And what if they have illegally crossed the border? According to US law, that is not a crime, it is a misdemeanor, yet this monstrous policy rips (yes I'm using that word) children from their parents, perhaps the worst punishment imaginable without judge, trial, or jury.

The hatred behind this policy is clear. These are darker-skinned people from nation's that this administration has labeled "hell holes." This is not happening to white people who have, say, overstayed their visas or who are likewise seeking asylum. No, they continue to enjoy the rights and protections of our laws. It is only at our southern border that this is happening.

When I think of these children, I cannot think of anything else. These children are suffering permanent brain damage from the trauma that is intentionally being inflicted upon them. Every week, every day, every minute they spend in these concentration camps is making that brain damage worse, something from which most will never fully recover. The cruelty being done in our name cannot be tolerated.

It's easy to point fingers at the administration, but every single person involved with this is to blame in the same way that even the secretaries at the Auschwitz concentration camp are guilty for the Holocaust. Everyone who works for the Department of Homeland Security must be held to account for the abuse and terrorism. Every individual who works for the companies contracted to build and run the concentration camps, from those that supply the beds and food to those providing the fencing with which the cages are constructed, must be held to account. They know what they are doing and they are doing it for money. I will not let them off the hook. "I was just following orders," or "I didn't know," are not acceptable answers.

Several within this administration have asserted that what they are doing is "biblical," claiming the moral authority to commit these atrocities in the name of Christianity. I've not heard enough from Christians. Is this really what your religion is about?

I was relieved to see street protests over the weekend, but they were pathetically small compared to the horror of what is happening. My social media feed has gradually begun to be filled with outrage, which is a good sign, but still not enough. Our elected representatives have begun to speak out, but I've heard almost nothing from Republicans who seem determined to support this administration no matter what kind of hell they are bent upon. I've been calling my elected representatives to demand an end to this, something I know that many others have done, but that is only a beginning. We must also start to pressure the people who are enabling the abuse and terror.

A company called Southwest Keys is running the Brownsville Wal-Mart facility I posted about last week. They must be called to account, and not just their CEO, but every single person who takes a paycheck from them. Defense contractors are also cashing in on the cruelty. I have committed myself to further research into who is profiting from this. I am pointing my fingers at them. I will not forget their complicity, nor will I forget those who, in full knowledge, continue to aid and abet these monsters. Indeed, they themselves are monsters.

Today, I am calling on every other education blogger, every education leader, every parent, every person who cares about children, to step up. There is nothing more important than to end this. Our outrage is not enough. Our social media posts are not enough. Our phone calls are not enough. Our donations are not enough. These children are suffering in our name. We must move heaven and earth to end it. Whatever it takes.

UPDATE: All of the photos and information we have so far is about where they are keeping boys aged 10-17. Where are the girls? Where are the young children? We need to know.

UPDATE: Here is a list that is being regularly updated of companies that are collaborating in this evil.

UPDATE: Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen is claiming that these asylum-seekers are just "posing" as families. What a pack of lying sacks of sh-t these people are. And even if they are posing, that still doesn't justify putting children in concentration camps.

UPDATE: Yes, some Republicans have spoken out, but none of the leadership, and even those who have expressed "sadness" have thrown up their hands as if there is nothing they can do. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is flat-out lying when he says that the only way to fix this is through legislation. The President can end this with one phone call! Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has been silent. This is evil.

UPDATE: A nationwide day of protest is finally in the works. Please pledge to participate and share the word!

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Best Preschool App Is Here! Download It Today!

Let me state right up front, it wasn't my idea to download this latest app for the preschool. It was Luca's mom Megan who thought the school just had to have it. Her own kids had really enjoyed it, it was sooo educational, you know, the usual blah, blah, blah.

I guess I should quit fighting it. After all our kids are growing up in this world, and huge sheets of cardboard are going to be part of it, but I worry about what it's doing to their brains. Still, for better or worse, there we were, taking part in this grand social and developmental experiment.

It didn't surprise me, of course, that the kids took to it right away. I mean, it's cardboard, right? They all seem to be drawn to it.

Honestly, it's amazing how they somehow intuitively knew how to turn it on and start using it.

It only took a few seconds for them to figure out how to get to the napping function where they all cozied in together and made me turn off the lights. I have to say, that doesn't happen often without the app!

But what really impressed was when they discovered the fort building function. How they did it, I'll never know, but, I mean, there they were, 3, 4, and 5-year-olds already learning their forts! And I don't think they even knew they were learning anything. I mean the cardboard app can't be all bad if they're doing forts as young as three years old -- that's a lifelong skill there, people!

They started with the upright, roofless kind of fort. Like I said -- three years old. If you could see my face right now, I'd be raising my eyebrows at you in a knowing way.

Then, get this, they figured out another kind of fort that involved getting low and adding roofs! I mean, I'm an educated guy, but these preschoolers took to the technology as if they were born with it in their genes.

And I have to say, they didn't seem to be turning into cardboard zombies the way I'd feared. Only time will tell, of course, but for now they seemed quite actively engaged: not only with the cardboard, but with each other, and it really looked like it was involving their whole minds and bodies. 

I asked Megan if she'd found any need to set limits or anything, but other than "not in the living room," she hadn't so far. And she guiltily mentioned another feature that I'd secretly been enjoying myself: it really kept the kids occupied when she needed to get something done. I mean, let's be honest, that isn't always a bad thing.

Then they figured out the slide, human sandwich, pig-pile function, which made them squeal. Anything that can make children laugh like that can't be all bad. Still, I had some questions.

I decided to ask a few experts about their thoughts on young children and cardboard, starting with a psychologist who sighed, and said, "Well, it's cardboard. What can you do? You can't ban it. That will only turn it into forbidden fruit." The neuro-scientist perked up when I asked him for his thoughts, saying, "There's actually some very compelling evidence that early exposure to large sheets of cardboard stimulates not only the part of the brain that makes you feel good to be alive, but also seems to have some effect on the every other region of the brain worth developing."

This information in my pocket, but still not entirely convinced, I returned to school determined to try my own experiments. Of course I didn't tell any of my fellow teachers about this in advance for fear of being ostracized, but I took the cardboard outside.

That's right. I was nervous about it, but the kids knew just what to do, discovering the paints and painter's tools function and transforming the cardboard into everything from a bus stop to a castle to a maze to a work of art.

They engaged as if they were born to do it, creatively, scientifically, and socially. 

It's a brave new world folks. I'm a convert. Download this app today! You won't regret it.

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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