Archives for category: Character

On this day, we remember the life and work of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is inspiring to read his speeches, and I urge you to do so.

Today you will hear politicians praise his legacy even while they betray that same legacy.

Dr. King was a champion of the weak and powerless. He fought for the rights and dignity of Black Americans, and he was a champion for all Americans whose basic needs had been ignored and whose rights had been trampled upon.

These days, one is likely to hear wealthy and powerful people claim that they are “leading the civil rights issue of our time” by pushing to eliminate public schools; Dr. King never, never opposed public schools. He wanted them to be desegregated and he wanted them to provide equality of educational opportunity to all children, so that every child had the ability to develop to his or her full potential. It is jarring indeed to hear Donald Trump declare (as he did in his first State of the Union Address) that “school choice” is the “civil rights issue of our time.” No, it is not. Dr. King never said that. His words should not be appropriated by billionaires, hedge fund managers, and those oppose Dr. King’s fight to eliminate poverty.

Steven Singer wrote this post about Dr. King’s education philosophy.

He writes:

When we think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we usually think of the towering figure of the Civil Rights Movement who gave the “I have a dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963.

However, as a teacher, I find myself turning to something he wrote in 1947 when he was just an 18-year-old student at Morehouse College.

While finishing his undergraduate studies in sociology, he published an essay in the student paper called “The Purpose of Education.”

Two sections immediately jump off the page. The first is this:

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

So for King it wasn’t enough for schools to teach facts. It wasn’t enough to teach skills, math, writing, reading, history and science. The schools are also responsible for teaching children character – how to be good people, how to get along with each other.

It’s a worthy goal.

Singer goes on to analyze the kind of school–public, private, or charter–that is likeliest to achieve Dr. King’s goals.

 

 

On a flight yesterday, I watched a documentary that was a biography of Roy Cohn. It is called “Where Is My Roy Cohn?,” a phrase uttered by Trump when he was disgusted by his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who apparently had some scruples about destroying the Justice Department on behalf of the man who appointed him.

The biography is short. The story is compelling. It portrays a man who had absolutely no scruples, no ethical core, no moral values. He was willing to lie, cheat, steal, twist words, anything to win. Winning was everything. He was a closeted homosexual who gleefully collaborated with his mentor Senator Joseph McCarthy to find and expose other homosexuals. He died of AIDS, but never admitted that he had the disease (he preferred to call it “cancer of the liver”).

The loathsome Cohn was Trump’s attorney and his mentor. He defended the Trump Organization against federal charges that the Trumps excluded blacks from their federally-financed housing projects. He helped to prosecute the Rosenbergs and assure that they got the death penalty. He was the chief lawyer for the Mafia and helped many of its leaders avoid long prison sentences. He was disbarred for stealing from his clients.

It is contemporary history. If you can find it online, watch it. It explains a lot about the world we live in now.

The following story appeared in the Washington Post. Elijah Cummings was a man of conviction. We will miss him.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Democratic leader and regular Trump target, dies at 68

His office cites ‘complications concerning longstanding health challenges’

Elijah E. Cummings, a Democratic congressman from Maryland who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died early Thursday morning at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Baltimore. He was 68.

After undergoing an unspecified medical procedure, the Democratic leader did not return to his office this week, the Baltimore Sun reported. A statement from his office said that he had passed away due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”

Born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist preachers, Mr. Cummings grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the 1950s and 1960s. At 11, he helped integrate a local swimming pool while being attacked with bottles and rocks. “Perry Mason,” the popular TV series about a fictional defense lawyer, inspired him to enter the legal profession.

“Many young men in my neighborhood were going to reform school,” he told the East Texas Review. “Though I didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers.”

In the Maryland House of Delegates, he became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first African American to serve as speaker pro tempore, the member who presides in the speaker’s absence.

In 1996, he won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Kweisi Mfume (D) vacated to become NAACP president. Mr. Cummings eventually served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as ranking Democrat and then chairman of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

He drew national attention as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief defender during 2015 congressional hearings into her handling of the attack three years earlier on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

He was “the quintessential speaking-truth-to-power representative,” said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. “Cummings has never shied from a very forceful give-and-take.”

The death of Freddie Gray

Baltimore’s plight informed Mr. Cummings’s life and work on Capitol Hill, a connection exemplified by his response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in April 2015 and the explosion of outrage that came after it.

Gray died of injuries suffered while riding, improperly secured, in a police van after he was arrested for carrying a knife, in his pocket, that police said was illegal. His death ignited rioting in Baltimore and elevated tensions nationally over perceived racism and excessive violence in law enforcement.

Speaking at the funeral, Mr. Cummings, who lived near where Gray was arrested, bemoaned the presence of media to chronicle Gray’s death without celebrating his life.

“Did you see him? Did you see him?” Mr. Cummings asked in his booming baritone. The church exploded with applause, and civil rights activist Jesse L. Jackson sat, rapt, behind him. “Did you see him?”

“I’ve often said, our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see,” he said, his voice rising. “But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see! There’s something wrong with that picture!”

When looting began, hours after the funeral, Mr. Cummings rushed, bullhorn in hand, to a troubled West Baltimore neighborhood, where he worked to restore order and to assure residents that authorities were taking the case seriously. (Six officers would be charged in Gray’s death, although prosecutors failed to secure a conviction against any of them.)

Amid the unrest, he and a dozen other residents marched, arm in arm, through the streets, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

Mr. Cummings was known for showing the same kind of commitment in the House. The bullhorn he wielded in West Baltimore was emblazoned with a gold label that read, “The gentleman will not yield.” It was a gift from his Democratic colleagues, bestowed after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) silenced Mr. Cummings’s microphone at a 2014 hearing into complaints that the Internal Revenue Service had unfairly targeted conservative nonprofit groups.

The next year, while serving on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he sparred with Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) during hearings Republicans convened to examine Clinton’s role in the Benghazi debacle.

When Gowdy interrogated Clinton about Libya-related emails sent from a longtime confidant of hers, Sidney Blumenthal, Mr. Cummings interjected: “Gentleman, yield! Gentleman, yield! You have made several inaccurate statements.”

Talking to reporters in the hallway later, Mr. Cummings said his primary purpose was not to defend Clinton but to seek “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

“Let the world see it,” he said.

The experience didn’t appear to sour Gowdy on Mr. Cummings.

“It’s not about politics to him; he says what he believes,” Gowdy told the Hill newspaper. “And you can tell the ones who are saying it because it was in a memo they got that morning, and you can tell the ones who it’s coming from their soul. And with Mr. Cummings, it’s coming from his soul.”

Dealing With Trump

The first two years of the Trump administration were agonizing for Mr. Cummings. While battling ill health, including heart surgery, and as many other democrats advocated a strategy of resistance to the divisive president, he made fruitless efforts to work with the newly elected Republican in the White House and found himself sidelined by his House colleagues in the GOP majority.

In a bipartisan gesture, he attended Trump’s inauguration and, at the luncheon afterward, raised an issue on which he felt they could find common ground, lowering prescription drug prices. In that and in future encounters, he urged the president to pursue policies that could unite the country and burnish his legacy. The congressman said that after a few promising meetings, he never heard from Trump again.

“Perhaps if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had a lot of hope,” Mr. Cummings later remarked. “He is a man who quite often calls the truth a lie and calls a lie the truth.”

As ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Mr. Cummings became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a change that critics contended would discourage participation by documented and undocumented immigrants alike.

He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. He described the Trump White House as inhumane in its use of “child internment camps.”

After Democrats won control of the House in the November 2018 midterm elections, Mr. Cummings was elevated to chairman of the Oversight Committee, a position that he used to sound further alarms. He spearheaded probes into security clearances issued by the White House over the objections of career officials and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Mr. Cummings had a combative streak, but he was adept at calming volatile situations, such as the sharp exchange between Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) during a hearing in February 2019.

The Oversight Committee was taking testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, and Tlaib accused Meadows of pulling a “racist” stunt by having a black woman, an administration employee, stand behind him. Meadows demanded that her words be stricken from the record.

Mr. Cummings called Meadows “one of my best friends” and prompted Tlaib to say that she was not calling Meadows a racist. By the next day, the conservative Meadows and liberal freshman Tlaib were hugging in public.

“Interaction, man,” Mr. Cummings said by way of explanation. “Human interaction, that’s all.”

Lawyer and lawmaker

Elijah Eugene Cummings was born in Baltimore on Jan. 18, 1951. His father worked at a chemical factory, his mother at a pickle factory and later as a maid while raising seven children. Both parents came from sharecropping families in South Carolina. Although they struggled to feed their family, his parents would can apples and peaches and give half the preserves to people in need.

The proprietor of a Baltimore drugstore where Mr. Cummings worked paid his application fee to Howard University and, during Mr. Cummings’s time as a Howard student, regularly sent him $10 with a note that read, “Hang in there.”

At Howard, he served as student government president, and he received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1973. He received a law degree from the University of Maryland three years later and practiced law, mostly in private practice, for nearly two decades.

He also helped law students develop their oral and writing skills as chief judge on the Maryland Moot Court, a competition in which students submit briefs and present oral arguments in a hypothetical appellate case.

In the Maryland House of Delegates, where Mr. Cummings served from 1983 to 1996, he championed a ban on alcohol and tobacco ads on inner-city billboards in Baltimore — the first prohibition of its kind in a major U.S. city.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Cummings was among the minority of House members and senators who voted in 2002 against authorizing a military invasion of Iraq. President George W. Bush’s administration, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was alleging that Iraq continued to possess and develop weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Cummings said there was not sufficient evidence of such weapons to “send our young people off to war and thereby place their lives in harm’s way,” an opinion supported by subsequent investigations.

Also in 2002, Mr. Cummings was elected chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, a position he used to push for increased funding for public education and the Head Start program.

He was the only member of the House delegation from Maryland to oppose the release of the Starr Report, which contained salacious details of President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

His first marriage, to Joyce Matthews, ended in divorce after a long separation. In 2008, he married Maya Rockeymoore, a policy consultant. Besides his wife, survivors include a daughter from his first marriage; and two children from other relationships.

In the mid-1990s, he had financial difficulties. He was sued by creditors and owed $30,000 in federal taxes, which he eventually paid. He told the Baltimore Sun that during his time as a congressman, he endured two winters without heat because he could not afford to fix his furnace.

He has said the money problems stemmed from his struggles to keep his law practice afloat while running for Congress and also from helping to support his three children. “I have a moral conscience that is real central,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t ask the federal government or anyone else to do me any favors.”

Mr. Cummings said he considered running to succeed Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), who did not seek reelection in 2016, but decided that he was needed in Baltimore to help the riot-torn city.

A member of New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, Mr. Cummings said he was driven by his faith and secure in his conviction that history would recognize his resolve to stand up for what he believed was right.

“In the city of Baltimore, there are over a thousand monuments, and not one monument is erected to memorialize a critic,” he once said in a speech. “Every one of the monuments is erected to memorialize one who was severely criticized.

Jenna Portnoy covers Virginia, Maryland and D.C. politics for The Washington Post. She previously worked for the Newark Star-Ledger and the Allentown Morning Call, and has been a newspaper reporter since 2001.

Antonia Noori Farzan is a reporter on The Washington Post’s Morning Mix team. She previously worked at the Phoenix New Times.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

© 1996-2019 The Washington Post

This is a powerful documentary about the Great Boatlift on 9/11/01.

Boats of every type and size converged on Lower Manhattan to rescue half a million people who were trapped after the Twin Towers fell.

It reminds us of the power of good that brings people together in common purpose.

 

In a time of daily trauma, when the world is topsy-turvy, here is a sweet story. 

In Southold, New York, Superintendent David Gamberg started a garden at school. The students learn to garden. They grow vegetables and flowers. He instructed students about how to make bouquets and arrange flowers artfully.

The flowers are in full bloom.

The students are bringing beautiful bouquets to residents of a nearby facility for the elderly.

Not big news, but small news.

We have to make a point of finding stories about people who are kind, decent, caring, compassionate.

 

 

I was driving home from a friend’s memorial service held in Salisbury, Connecticut, and I tuned in to CNN, where I heard the live broadcast of a speech by Joe Biden. He was in Burlington, Iowa.

It was about American values, what we stand for, what our ideals are, and how Trump has betrayed those ideals and appealed to the darkest forces in our society. Trump is a propagandist and apologist for racism and White Supremacy, he said. The biggest applause line was when he said that Trump was like George Wallace, not George Washington.

He spoke of the stain of racism that runs through our history. And he spoke of the constant struggle to extend our ideals and overcome our history of slavery and racism.

He tore into Trump with passion and vigor. He described as clearly as possible why this accidental president is unfit for the office he holds, Why he is a threat to our democracy, and why he must not be re-elected.

The link from NBC.

 

 

In this comment, posted not long ago, reader Laura H. Chapman describes the Ohio view of education as workforce preparation. The pioneers of education had nobler goals. Above all, they considered the purpose of education to be preparation for citizenship in our emerging democracy. That meant literacy and numeracy but also character development with the hope of cultivating a commitment to democratic values and a readiness to participate in improving society on behalf of the community, not just oneself.

A resident of Ohio, Chapman describes the state’s narrow, utilitarian view of the goals of education. She notes that this goal was announced without any public discussion.

Several days ago, she wrote:

 

Today March 30, 2019, several Ohio newspapers had variations on the same announcement of a new non-profit headed by Lisa Gray, a long standing point person for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gray is now the “founder” of Ohio Excels, a corporate-led non-profit intent of making evidence of job preparation the priority for all high school graduates . The mission statement also includes educational choice, a policy perfectly consistent with the view that early apprenticeships and career prep from preschool are the singularly important missions of Ohio’s public schools.

This set of policy and practice priorities, comes to us hard on after the State Board of Education published Each Child, Our Future. Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education: 2019-2024 in June 2018. That plan also included a strong emphasis on workplace skills and early career education, notably with Lisa Gray participating in a “workgroup” on “ High School Success and Postsecondary Connections ” led by LEAH MOSCHELLA from JOBS FOR THE FUTURE (JFF) where Moschella is a senior program manager for the Pathways to Prosperity Network, a collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

I judge that plan 2018 Ohio plan (a conceptual mishmash) left too many CEOs unhappy, so Ohio Excels will be putting a new plan is in place–one that is an offshoot of Jobs for the Future (JFF) and the Pathways to Prosperity Network.

I looked at the board of Ohio Excels and see lots of CEOs, many from activist positions in metro area business committees and civic and cultural groups. One is also on the board of Hillsdale College–a radical right school. I recognize another as a major supporter of the arts. Another was leading an initiative instigated by the MindTrust in Indianapolis, seeking more charter schools in Cincinnati with the usual patter about needing more “high quality seats.”

I am still unravelling the connections among all of these outfits, but so far I have discovered that JFF has received 35 grants for a total of about $122.5 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation dating from 2002. Early grants pushed the Common Core with “college and career” readiness, beginning in earnest in grade 9.

The Pathways to Prosperity Network has been funded within each member state (e.g., annual participation fee for California, $500,000) in addition to funds from the Carnegie Corporation of New York $450,000, the James Irvine Foundation (about $12 million, most in California), the Noyce Foundation (before it closed in 2015), and SAP an international Software company.

Jobs for the Future,appears to be inseparable from the Pathways to Prosperity Network. JFF has 18 projects in Ohio. All of these are designed to make Ohio education serve corporate interests. I have not yet done research on each of these projects.

Pathways to Prosperity Network (a project and all host to other efforts);
Center for Apprenticeship & Work-Based Learning;
Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative;
Postsecondary State Network;
Student Success Center Network;
Nudging to STEM Success;
Early College;
Improved Reentry Education;
Jobs to Careers;
Counseling to Careers;
Middle-Skill STEM Pathways Initiative;
New Skills at Work;
Digital Career Accelerator;
Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership;
Lumina Foundation Talent Hubs;
Google IT Support Professional Certificate;
Policy Leadership Trust, and the big surprise:
“Pay for Success in K–12 Education” wherein venture capitalists overtly hope to make money from turning K-12 education into a financial product with little or no public voice and oversight.

Jobs for the Future has “partners.” These are

GOOGLE,
California Endowment,
Salesforce.org (cloud computing, artificial Intelligence),
Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) Foundation,
The James Irvine Foundation,
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,
Social Finance (Pay for Success contracts), and yes–
US Department of LABOR and US Department of EDUCATION.

This national network of interlocking programs, foundations, and corporate groups has an agenda far removed from vocational eduction.

Ohio Excels, the new Ohio non-profit to be led by Lisa Gray has three staff and a policy agenda for public education that has not been shaped by public discussion. Our students are to part of the “talent pipeline” that CEOs say they want. Never mind what the life of our students may offer or require beyond getting a job and getting ready for a job beginning in Kindergarten. I hope to offer more detail about “Ohio Excels,” Jobs for the Future, and Pathways to Prosperity in another post.

 

The boys’ volleyball team at Kepler Neighborhood School, mostly 7th and 8th graders, went for a run over a bridge near the school. They spotted a woman attempting suicide, dangling from the bridge. They raced to ask their coach what to do. He said, “Tell her that her life matters,” as he dialed 911.  The boys ran to the woman and told her again and again that her life matters, that people care about her, that she must not give up.

She pulled herself up. She did not commit suicide. The boys persuaded her to go on living.

According to the NAEP data, Fresno schools and students are among the lowest performing in the nation. Their scores are very low.

What do you think of those kids in Fresno now? Put another way, what do you think about using the scores to judge the worth of these boys?

We live in a time of maximum selfishness and greed. It is important to remember that true heroes acted selflessly, doing the right and principled thing with no expectation of honor or reward. We must hold on to those memories so we can reclaim decency, when the opportunity presents itself.

The New York Times recently published a little-known story about a Japanese diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of desperate Jews during the Holocaust. In these dark times, this story might restore your faith in the possibility of human goodness and courage in the worst of circumstances. It was written by Rabbi David Wolfe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. If you are able to open the link, you will see a picture of the hero of this wonderful story.

NAGOYA, Japan — “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that flies to him for refuge.” This Samurai maxim inspired one gifted and courageous man to save thousands of people in defiance of his government and at the cost of his career. On Friday I came to Nagoya at the invitation of the Japanese government to speak in honor of his memory.

The astonishing Chiune Sugihara raises again the questions: What shapes a moral hero? And how does someone choose to save people that others turn away?

Research on those who rescued Jews during the Holocaust shows that many exhibited a streak of independence from an early age. Sugihara was unconventional in a society known for prizing conformity. His father insisted that his son, a top student, become a doctor. But Sugihara wanted to study languages and travel and immerse himself in literature. Forced to sit for the medical exam, he left the entire answer sheet blank. The same willfulness was on display when he entered the diplomatic corps and, as vice minister of the Foreign Affairs Department for Japan in Manchuria in 1934, resigned in protest of the Japanese treatment of the Chinese.

A second characteristic of such heroes and heroines, as the psychologist Philip Zimbardo writes, is “that the very same situations that inflame the hostile imagination in some people, making them villains, can also instill the heroic imagination in other people, prompting them to perform heroic deeds.” While the world around him disregarded the plight of the Jews, Sugihara was unable to ignore their desperation.

In 1939 Sugihara was sent to Lithuania, where he ran the consulate. There he was soon confronted with Jews fleeing from German-occupied Poland.

Three times Sugihara cabled his embassy asking for permission to issue visas to the refugees. The cable from K. Tanaka at the foreign ministry read: “Concerning transit visas requested previously stop advise absolutely not to be issued any traveler not holding firm end visa with guaranteed departure ex japan stop no exceptions stop no further inquires expected stop.”

Sugihara talked about the refusal with his wife, Yukiko, and his children and decided that despite the inevitable damage to his career, he would defy his government.

Mr. Zimbardo calls the capacity to act differently the “heroic imagination,” a focus on one’s duty to help and protect others. This ability is exceptional, but the people who have it are often understated. Years after the war, Sugihara spoke about his actions as natural: “We had thousands of people hanging around the windows of our residence,” he said in a 1977 interview. “There was no other way.”

On Friday I spoke at Sugihara’s old high school in Nagoya, during a ceremony unveiling a bronze statue of him handing visas to a refugee family. After the ceremony, in front of some 1,200 students, I spoke with his one remaining child, his son Nobuki, who arrived from Belgium to honor his father’s memory. He told me his father was “a very simple man. He was kind, loved reading, gardening and most of all children. He never thought what he did was notable or unusual.”

Most of the world saw throngs of desperate foreigners. Sugihara saw human beings and he knew he could save them through prosaic but essential action: “A lot of it was handwriting work,” he said.

Day and night he wrote visas. He issued as many visas in a day as would normally be issued in a month. His wife, Yukiko, massaged his hands at night, aching from the constant effort. When Japan finally closed down the embassy in September 1940, he took the stationery with him and continued to write visas that had no legal standing but worked because of the seal of the government and his name. At least 6,000 visas were issued for people to travel through Japan to other destinations, and in many cases entire families traveled on a single visa. It has been estimated that over 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man.

With the consulate closed, Sugihara had to leave. He gave the consulate stamp to a refugee to forge more visas, and he literally threw visas out of the train window to refugees on the platform.

After the war, Sugihara was dismissed from the foreign office. He and his wife lost a 7-year-old child and he worked at menial jobs. It was not until 1968 when a survivor, Yehoshua Nishri, found him that his contribution was recognized. Nishri had been a teenager in Poland saved by a Sugihara visa and was now at the Israeli embassy in Tokyo.

In the intervening years Sugihara never spoke about his wartime activities. Even many close to him had no idea that he was a hero.

Sugihara died in 1986. Nine years earlier he gave an interview and was asked why he did it: “I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place.”

Of course many were in his place — and very few acted like Sugihara. Moral courage is rare and moral greatness even rarer. It requires a mysterious and potent combination of empathy, will and deep conviction that social norms cannot shake.

How would Sugihara have responded to the refugee crisis we face today, and the response of so many leaders to bolt the gates of entry? There is no simple response adequate to the enormity of the situation. But we have to keep before us the image of a single man, overtaxed, isolated and inundated, who refused to close his eyes to the chaos outside his window. He understood the obligations common to us all and heard in the pleadings of an alien tongue the universal message of pain.

On Friday, I told the students that one day in each of their lives there would be a moment when they would have to decide whether to close the door or open their hearts. When that moment arrives, I implored them, remember that they came from the same school as a great man who when the birds flew to him for refuge, did not turn them away.

Nancy Bailey opened her mail and saw that Angela Duckworth was on the cover of the handout for Costco Connection, touting the virtues of grit and why every child needs it.

I had somehow hoped we had passed through the “grit” phase and moved on to something else. Probably, the fact that it is featured on the cover of the Costco flyer means that it is already passé.

Duckworth has has list:

Her grit goals for children include the following:

I am a hard worker.
Setbacks don’t discourage me.
I finish whatever I begin.
I don’t give up easily.
I am diligent.
I will never give up.
Numbers 3 and 6 might especially give us pause.

Nancy rightly notes that teachers have been instilling “grit” since time immemorial.

For starters, grit is a repackaged idea. If you’ve read “The Little Engine Who Could” by Watty Piper to your child, you’ve taught them to try their best. Many children’s books incorporate the idea of endurance. It’s a timeless virtue.

Teaching character traits like perseverance through children’s literature seems more meaningful, and enjoyable, than browbeating students to carry through on every task to prove their stamina.

Lots of good ideas here. Nancy warns about the “strictness” imposed by KIPP-style no-excuses.

It’s important to remember, that with grit and high-stakes standards, including Common Core, children are not always setting their own goals. They aren’t dreaming of passing tests. They want to do well on them, or they fear them, because it’s what adults tell them to do. They’re being set up to please adults.

That’s a huge problem with grit and what makes it disingenuous.