So a delighful rant is on Jezebel today that I really enjoyed. It seems a bunch of mothers in Brooklyn’s posh Park Slope are banning together to oust ice cream vendors from their local park. Now it’s not because they don’t want their kids to get fat, rather, it’s because they don’t want to say “no” to them. Imagine that.
Oh, good god. Yes, let’s ban the sale of ice cream within 100 yards of schools and playgrounds. You are seriously furious that someone is trying to make a living in your vicinity? Well, I live in Park Slope, and I am furious that you bring your children into the the nail salon while I am trying to enjoy the yearly manicure I splurge on in peace, and I am furious that your child regularly runs into my feet with his scooter. But I do not try to ban your child from my sight. Why? Mostly because I am too lazy to get into that kind of legal battle. But also because I am an adult whose parents taught me that the entire world does not revolve around me. They taught me that I will not always be completely happy; that I sometimes need to wait for things I want or not get them at all; and that other people have just as much of a right to do what they want in this world as I do. And you know what? I cried a lot when I was young because these lessons pissed me off. And my parents were annoyed by my crying, but they dealt with it because they knew that in the end it was better for me to cry for five minutes than to grow up to be a complete asshole. It’s called parenting, and it’s hard work, whether there’s ice cream involved or not.
And as for the point that another made about kids becoming diabetic and/or obese, Murdoch has even more advice:
First of all, if occasionally eating ice cream in the park gave you diabetes, most of us would have died before the age of ten, but also, she is aware that if her kids aren’t begging her for ice cream, they’re going to be begging her for some other thing—even if it’s something sad like the kale chips she brought to the park in her bag. It’s what kids do: they needle, they whine, they constantly try to get whatever they can. And it’s your job to deny them, again and again, until they grow up to be people who the rest of us can tolerate being around. It’s also your job to give them ice cream once in a while so they don’t hate you for depriving them of all joy in life.
Entitlement starts young these days because parents don’t have the marbles to say no to their kids. And I realize that kids can be a pain and that they whine and drive you crazy. My dog barks until I give him a treat every time I eat and I usually just give him a kong to get him out of whatever hair I have left in my head. But sometimes I ignore him as well. He’s trained to know that if he wants food he has to be submissive. Most of the time Haze the Dog is better behaved than most children I encounter and even a few entitled college students I meet as well (but only a few–most college students want limits and guidance).
There are no bad kids, there are just bad parents and worse teachers who tolerate the parents’ behavior.
For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.
Read the rest…it should be required reading for business students.
Sometimes it’s best to just walk away. I wonder if burning this bridge will hurt him in the long run but I also hope someone sees this and realizes that we need people with his kind of integrity.
“In totalitarian governments, they would love our system,” McFadden said to during the interview. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all those tried to establish a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”
And there wasn’t a person in the diocese who thought that this was a bad idea? Who reviewed this? And why wasn’t their response, “I get your point, Bishop, but that’s not the way to say that. You’re going to offend people if you write or say that.” It seems the communications department is asleep at the wheel.
This is beside the fact that the statement is not accurate. Public schools (of which I am a product–elementary and high school) are quite diverse in their thinking. They teach many ways of looking at a problem, not a monolithic way. Being at a public university where that kind of diversity is valued has furthered my thinking in this area. Openness is of the highest possible value it seems on public campuses be they High School, College or even grammar schools.
Now that being said, I’m not opposed to school vouchers or in disagreement that people can choose to send their kid to whatever school they choose. I would say that that choice includes public schools and in promoting education, Catholic Schools shouldn’t have to put public schools down, by comparing them to fascism in order to lift themselves up.
Some additional thoughts on public vs. Catholic or private schools.
From Kindergarten to 6th grade I attended Public School in Yonkers, P.S. #23 to be exact. I got a phenomenal education there. My two favorite teachers were Mrs. Balassi and Mrs. Richter–two old school style teachers who expected much and still kept a gentle hand.
When I got to “Middle” school, my parents decided that I should attend our parish school instead of Enrico Fermi Middle School, our local public school. Fermi had a bad reputation. It was a wild place, as any place with a large number of teens, a lot of experimenting was happening. I remember finding two of my childhood friends smoking at 13 on my walk home. I’d hear stories of people getting drunk. One of my classmates got pregnant that year and despite being in a public school (gasp! #sarcasm), she had the baby, raised it well and sacrificed much for her child as a single mother.
Meanwhile, I attended Mt. Carmel-St. Anthony School. The school day itself was probably more sedate than what you’d find at Fermi and we were loaded up with homework every night, but the teens were no less wild than anyone else. Girls flirted and hiked their skirts up often higher than the public school girls. We found one girl smoking just off school grounds. There were drinking parties and sexual hijinx all around us then and the nice quiet little school did little to protect us from those things. Moreover, I think I received more abuse there from kids than from other schools. Apparently, I was the nerd and that gave others carte blanche to take aim at my awkwardness. More bullies existed there than anywhere else. And there was certainly plenty of trouble just beyond the school gates.
What protected me from finding that trouble often? I really was a good kid and even when friends would smoke or experiment, I didn’t find myself even wanting to at that age or even through high school. (My first beer was at Clarke’s Bar at Fordham!) What protected me was the rational guidance of my parents. We lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t always great, drugs were around, alcohol use was fairly pervasive amongst the families of my friends. Domestic violence, arson, and even a murder–all occurred in the neighborhood of my youth. Some parents are indeed heroes. And mine were certainly heroes for me. They had expectations of how I would behave and while I don’t remember ever being seriously punished for anything, I thought there would be repercussions for my actions if I stepped out of bounds.
High school had me return to public school and while the ship was run bit looser there, by no means was it a zoo. Could it have been better? Certainly. But did I get a good education there? Absolutely. It was there I learned to write well (Thanks to Mrs. Gladys Stein). Coaches began to take in interest in my gift for broadcasting and for sports. I honed speaking and science skills. I became a student leader despite nerdy-ness. And my parents kept me out of trouble, by demanding curfews, an adherence to homework and an expected respect for others.
And they did it all without cable TV–because they didn’t want to pay the $21/month for it. No internet either. I did have a sleek Atari 2600 though.
So when a Bishop says essentially that public schools are akin to fascism, I cry foul! Parents are not merely responsible for the choice of school their child attends–they are even more responsible for the values that they instill in their child, so that the school might enhance those values and the student might appropriate both the school’s values with what they’ve learned from their parents.
So Bishop, no offense, I get your point, but maybe the time has come to take a look at what kinds of lives the students in your diocese are leading outside of the classroom. And talk about that–if you can.
When it comes to teachers, Gladys Stein was a true gem. She was my high school English teacher and because of her I guess I became a writer and a speaker–but most importantly, Mrs. Stein helped me find a voice in the first place.
I was an awkward high school sophomore when I first encountered Mrs. Stein’s English class. She required us to have a journal and write in it daily, even if it were just a few lines. That year our class was overflowing, so much so that we ran out of seats. I parked myself on the classroom radiator and refused to move. Mrs. Stein would tease me that her classroom would smell like Crisco if I sat there, but she allowed me to stay and there I sat for an entire year.
Mrs. Stein was a character. She had an “ain’t jar” in her classroom. It was a huge pickle jar and every time someone would utter the word “ain’t” she’d simply remove the lid and wait for someone to deposit the 25 cent fine that she imposed for the infraction of bad english. My classmate Denis Lawlor was a frequent offender.
Mrs. Stein: Tonight you all have homework. Read the first act of Julius Caesar and then answer these reflection questions in your journal.
Denis: I ain’t doin’ it.
Mrs. Stein: (Removes lid and looks angry)
Denis: I ain’t giving you a quarter.
Mrs. Stein: You mean fifty cents and you own me another quarter for yesterday. See, here’s the IOU.
Denis: Wait a minute! That ain’t me!
Mrs. Stein: SEVENTY-FIVE!
Denis: Aw shit, I ain’t ever gonna gonna win.
Mrs. Stein: (Trying not to laugh) One Dollar!
Denis: (Gets up and walks to the front of the room with a ten dollar bill unfolded and deposits it in the jar) Just tell me when it’s gone.
The money would be used to buy donuts for us to eat during our midterm and final exam and she always did use it.
We shared a love of Bloom County comic strips, liberal politics and a rye sense of humor. I even gave her an Opus the Penguin (one of the strips main characters and she’d always sign her notes and cards to me Love, Opus and Me. She made us name our journal and I aptly named my “Shithead” and when I did she was able to draw out many of my childhood insecurities.
And that was the start of a wonderful mentorship. I decided to run for treasurer for one of the popular clubs in the school. It was a huge popularity contest and I was relegated to “no chance of winning.” I confided in one of my gym coaches, Coach Hughes, that I didn’t expect to win. He replied, “Don’t bother running then. If you can’t say something positive than don’t say anything. Go up to Mrs. Stein and have her help you with your speech!”
That idea changed me. She was more than happy to help and she knew all the gimmicks. Since this was a treasurer she asked me: “What does a treasurer have to know how to do?”
And because I was a wise-acre I said: “Count!”
“EXACTLY!” she said. “Here’s the start of your speech. ‘Hi! I’m Mike Hayes, that’s 9 letters. I’m a sophomore that’s 9 more letters. And I’m in Chemistry. Which is also 9 letters for a grand total of 27 letters. As you can see by this remarkable demonstration, I can count!”
I laughed but I didn’t think anyone else would. But I trusted her enough to give it a shot. We littered the rest of the speech with similar stuff and even ended with the grand total of letters in the speech (before computers and letter counts I might add). After that first line, which I delivered with great timing, I paused and one person in the back of the class let out a roaring laugh.
Now everyone was paying attention to the nerdy kid who nobody knew.
“This is my third year in VICA (the club in question). That’s five letters for third and four more for VICA to add 9 more. And I’m 16 so that equals 25!”
“YEAH! ALLRIGHT!” Someone shouted from the back! Everyone was on their feet clapping and chanting now. I had them in the palm of my hand.
WHen I hit that grand total of letters, the whole place was in a frenzy. My two opponents, one who still had yet to speak, were flabbergasted. They were done and they knew it. I won in a landslide and was re-elected the following year and was even elected Senior Class Treasurer and a National Delegate to a National VICA convention and finished up as the State Extemporaneous Speech champ.
I ran to her classroom and said, “I think we just pulled this off!”
Her response: “Ya think? Come with me!”
She knew where my next class was and she told me to walk in. There a bunch of my closest classmates burst into applause. She later would tell me, “Never, ever count yourself out of anything. You’re smart and funny and should have more confidence in yourself.”
She encouraged my gifts for speaking and writing. And even after I had left high school she called when a rumor broke out that I had killed myself (a rumor that was untrue and nobody knew how it started) and told me that she knew it couldn’t be true but wanted me to know what was being said. I showed up at the high school when I could and people thought they had seen a ghost. Rumor squashed!
While we didn’t share a religion, she often encouraged mine. She always said that she found me to be a “healthy person” who shared emotions openly, showed empathy to others and who was faithful to his beliefs. The same can be said about her, in fact that’s probably where I learned much of that.
The truth is that Gladys Stein was a true mench. She was named New York State teacher of the year in 1994 and after a group of students suggested that they dedicate the yearbook to her because she was retiring, she was so moved that she called off calling it quits. (The yearbook advisor refused to ever dedicate a yearbook to her again!).
If you were one of her students, you probably dropped a quarter into that ain’t jar, or received a note written in purple ink (she hated red ink–said it reminded her of blood all over the page). She may have even made you clean her entire classroom with a toothbrush as she did to a group of my friends who showed up to class drunk. (The alternative was to tell their parents).
But most of all, she loved us. Every one of us.
If you have an extra shekel or two…the family would appreciate contributions to the Saunders High School Gladys M Stein English Scholarship Fund c/o District Guidance Department, Yonkers Public Schools, One Larkin Center, Yonkers, NY 10701
Rest in peace, Mrs. Stein and thanks for giving me my voice.
I’m giving you my permission to leave this blog today and to go and buy Thomas Groome’s new book on building a more modern religious education ministry. Will There Be Faith? takes the title as its premise directly asking the larger question of whether faith can survive in the state it is in today. Groome deftly reminds people who bemoan the state of religious education today (and at times, I’ve been one of them) that we are facing an entirely new climate in the world when it comes to religion. Not that long ago, faith was presumed by most. People would readily religiously educate their children. Today more than ever before religious adherence is becoming outmoded in favor of “moral therapeutic deism” a term coined by Christian Smith a well known sociologist who I’ve quoted at length here often.
I go a step beyond Smith’s characterization of the religious climate as describe the world as “Googlism” — meaning, that people want God on their terms and instantly. People aren’t random spiritual searchers in my view, rather they search for God only when they feel they need guidance or direction or simply a nice shot in the arm (a hat tip to Dr. Smith’s theory here).
Dr. Groome on the other hand has given us much to chew on in his “It-takes-a-village-schemetic-diagram” of religious education. He claims that we need a new model of religious education–one centered on Jesus and the actual life experiences of those we aim to educate. The model as he puts it is from “life-to Faith-to life.” And he starts by stating that Jesus used this exact model himself by employing the teaching methods:
-Beginning with people’s lives
-encouraging their own reflections
-teaching them His gospel with authority
-Inviting them to see for themselves, to take his teaching to heart, and
– Encouraging their decisions for lived faith as disciples
Groome masterfully weaves stories into his chapters, many from his own life, including a touching tale about a former student who he met at a conference who welled up because he remembered him by name. Perhaps that indeed is a greater point: religious education thrives when we insist on knowing the members of the community well. He details this throughout his pages extremely well, at time explicitly calling for the practice and others demonstrating it by the practices he encourages himself.
His first four chapters details much of the whys in modern religious education and he forms his reader to be able to understand what the blueprint for what we would like to experience with persons (both adults and children) in terms of how we religiously educate.
The second half of the book I found most helpful. His description of total community catechesis in these chapters are in great detail. I often wondered how this would practically work and Groome sold me from the get-go. I even realized that we used this model in our parish for our marriage ministry and he allowed me to be able to outline some further steps in educating our engaged couples in the faith.
An amazing storyteller, Groome reminds us that family is the primary educator of religion, something that’s always been true in my experience both personally and anecdotally from others I’ve known. My parents certainly talked about religion with me and it became a part of who I am. My childhood friends had a more lukewarm experience. They received their sacraments and promptly took a vacation from church after confirmation. He lauds parishes that respect families enough to let them be the primary educators of religion but also, give them enough tools to be able to do a great job at it.
This book should be required reading in all schools of pastoral theology and ministry. I plan to buy it for my LifeLong Faith Formation Director and it gave me the confidence to figure out how I can do a better job of religiously educating students and young adults and allowed me to see what’s already going well.
I have two small quibbles:
1) The book lacks a bit on ideas about evangelization of younger people. I can see someone saying “I’d love to engage people with Total Community Catechesis–if they were here in the first place.” He does offer some thoughts on the parish as witness which will certainly have evangelization effects. I think his thought on starting with some life events and having a shared experience of these to serve as the jumping off point for further education will also attract some, but not all, I fear.
2) With the above point in mind, I would submit that time is an element here that could be problematic in his model. He does admit a need for technology to help with serving the needs of young people (meetings on Skype, use of social media), but I wonder how many young people would take the time to deeply reflect on a life experience and then spend time in community sharing. Evangelical churches have done this with great success, but I still see a lot of push back on how lengthy the programmatics of what he proposes might be. Groome sheepishly also admits that there are more choices today and that Jesus often offered people an opportunity to engage with him and some just left completely. (The Rich Young Man comes to mind).
In all though, Groome’s book is ultimately a boon. Our communities he challenges need to realize that “Christian socialization that was once acquired in the village simply by osmosis must now be intentionally organized & planned” That would include not just a school model but also a community model.
Who are we called to teach? That might be the question Groome asks each one of us. The answer is: “We’re called to teach all with our lives and because of that we have to celebrate those lives with much fanfare.
So grab Tom Groome’s new book. If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Groome, he’s one of the foremost religious educators in the world and he is at Boston College.
My father was a school custodian and my mother didn’t work because of illness and her choice to stay home with me and my sister. There wasn’t always a lot of money but we always had enough. They knew how to prioritize their lives and they always put family ahead of any luxuries that they would have liked to have.
We didn’t have cable TV. We didn’t take vacations (Dad was happy to be home with us). We didn’t have a sleek car (Dad’s 1971 Chevelle was still running when I was a junior in high school in 1987). We took care of things and made them last.
The neighborhood, however, was another story.
I was talking with a colleague who was complaining about fireworks late at night in her largely quiet suburban neighborhood. I sympathized with her, but also remembered what the 4th of July was like for much of my young adolescence.
My friend’s brother sold illegal fireworks (and drugs) in our neighborhood. And on the 4th there was a huge fireworks “show” right out my front window. It went on and on until 3 or 4AM. We routinely got no sleep and were often afraid of someone burning down the neighborhood.
There was a lot to be afraid of in my neighborhood. I was mugged in front of my own apartment house for a lousy two bucks by someone I knew and his friends. My dad got hit with a rock from a pissed off teen ager who was annoyed at him for asking him to move his car. A young man was shot to death in front of our corner store and when I mentioned that I knew who he was was, albeit not well, my 7th grade catholic school teacher looked at me askance.
Somehow, thanks to my parents and sister, I stayed out of trouble, graduated high school with honors, struggled in undergraduate years and have had two fairly successful career paths.
It all started on a not-so-little street in Yonkers.
My parents still live in that apartment and the neighborhood is about the same. It’s still not a safe area, albeit the evening noise has quieted down significantly. There’s an amazing view of the hudson and the Palisades from my parent’s bedroom window. Until I went to middle school, I’m not sure if I knew how dangerous the neighborhood was.
In high school my dad drove my baseball teammates home on occasion, saving them the requisite bus fare. “They’re a lot worse off than us.” he’d say. He was right. Their neighborhoods were war zones some days. Drugs being the predominant problem. One day, Dad had to drop me off at home so I could get ready for a family event. He then proceeded to drive home Tommy and Carlos, two of my teammates, both hispanic, and both who lived in the seedier side of town.
When he got to our apartment, I started to get out of the car. Tommy said, “Yo Mike, I didn’t know you lived in the ghetto!”
It wasn’t a slur. It was a message of acceptance, perhaps surprise, even. The next day, Tommy and Carlos told me that they were in fact, surprised that me, “the smart kid, the one who we imagined lived somewhere really, really nice, lives in a place that’s not so different from us. And he’s not as tough as we are. How does he ever make it through the day?”
I smiled and said, “Guys, look, a lot of people are gonna look down on us, all of us, because we’re sons of custodians, sanitation workers, postal carriers and other jobs requiring manual labor. Some of our teammates even get public assistance. But just because we struggle doesn’t mean that we’re dumb. Just because there’s a lot of people who are more advantaged than us doesn’t mean that we’re any less smart than they are. If we work hard and work together, we’ll be OK.”
I remember those teammates fondly. I was hardly a great baseball player. Tommy had a few cups of coffee in the minor leagues and even tried out for the Yonkers team that I was the color commentator for one year on the radio. I tried to convince the GM to buy his contract, but she passed. Carlos went to a small college and I lost track of him after that. Those guys often took some extra time to work with me on my baseball skills and at times I’d help them with schoolwork or getting a teacher to cut them some slack.
Mostly, though, they taught me a valuable lesson about diversity. We were all sons and daughters of people who others would look down on, and who many educators and sociologists would say didn’t have a chance to get out of the “ghetto.” At our tenth reunion, I looked around the room and couldn’t believe that we all had done pretty well for ourselves.
Poor does not mean stupid, and I fear that’s something that many people think. Today let us pray for the working poor. Those who are often challenged by the economy and who live check to check trying to make ends meet. Let’s pray for the “ghetto,” often a term that means a bad neighborhood, it can also be a symbol of overcoming the odds that was placed against you.
Not that long ago, my colleague Bill McGarvey and I were talking about someone who we admired as an author. Frankly, I was envious of her achievements and Bill was quick to remind me that “(I) had come so much farther in writing (my) book.” I did it without any contacts or guidance from parents or even a bunch of money. Sometimes it’s that much harder to succeed when you don’t come from a place of esteemed wealth, but when you do, one should be much prouder of that.
So today we say thanks to all who helped along the way. And we hope that there’s more than a few others that we can help along the same road as time goes on.
An NPR story today tells us about San Quentin State Prison and the Prison University Project. The question of whether while serving time prisoners should be allowed to have access to higher education while others may not, is indeed one to explore.
The Prison University Project is the only on-site, degree-granting college program in the state’s prison system. There are well over 100 teacher volunteers from schools such as UC-Berkeley, Stanford and San Francisco State. They go through three security checks to get into the prison. And then they hold classes in a nondescript trailer overlooking the prison’s baseball field
Phillip Senegal and valedictorian Felix Lucero earned associate of arts degrees in 2009 at a ceremony in San Quentin state prison, where they are inmates. The college program is an extension of Patten University in Oakland, Calif.
The program started in 1996 with two volunteer instructors. The program grew. But in 2000, its part-time coordinator quit. One of the volunteers, UC-Berkeley graduate student Jody Lewen, thought if nobody took the program over, it would fold. So she agreed to do it, thinking it would only be temporary. That turned into a full-time commitment.
Lewen decided she had to create an independent non-profit to raise funds to keep the program strong and stable. The project operates with no state or federal funds.
Today, 320 inmates are enrolled in the college program that could earn them an associate’s degree granted through a partnership between the Prison University Project and Patten University, based in Oakland, Calif. Two of this year’s five graduates have been paroled.
The question of whether this helps inmates is at the heart of the matter. Are prisoners given a better chance to not end up back in prison if they get educated while they are there? There’s not enough evidence yet, says our story. But anecdotally, one can certainly see the positives.
We don’t know enough about rehabilitation for prisoners but we do know that locking them up and not giving them enough to keep themselves occupied is not a recipe for success on the outside.
Pet therapy is another way to give prisoners some responsibility and keep their anger at bay. Check this vid out from a prison in France.
Similar reports about maintaining calm have surfaced with the education offerings as well.
Scott Kernan, who manages day-to-day operations at California’s 33 adult prisons, says the college classes and other programs are important not only for the inmates. “You give them something meaningful to do, something they are engaged in, something that is exercising their mind, then it becomes a safer place for staff,” Kernan says.
If inmates are idle, he says, there’s a much higher chance of violence.
San Quentin certainly experiences the violence. In May, there was a riot in a wing of the prison dedicated to the short-term inmates awaiting transfers to other state facilities. They don’t have access to the college or other programs. But the general population is encouraged to participate. Among that group, which numbers around 1,800, there are far fewer incidents.
Bobby Evans Jr., who is not eligible for parole until 2020, earned his degree at San Quentin five years ago and now tutors other inmates.
“I’ve seen guys transfer in from other high-level prisons and they come in with that mask,” says Evans, who says he came in with that hardened attitude, too. He says it takes time for new arrivals, even those not in the college program, to get used to the calmer atmosphere at San Quentin.
“In a couple of weeks they start opening up, because it’s different,” he says. “The racial tension is less. We start valuing things, and we don’t want to destroy them. And so it’s a life-changing thing.”
It seems to me that the question is two fold: First, there’s a question about money. Will San Quentin be the only school of it’s kind or will states or even Universities invest in this process? Secondly, is taking someone’s freedom to come and go as they please enough of a punishment for heinous and violent crimes?
I would say it is. And that educating them just might be the link that they all need to not return.