Archives for category: Hope

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Peter Greene begins with a tweet by Jose Luis Vilson and then proceeds to address the question that is the title of this post.

High expectations are free. So are hopes and dreams. But are they enough?

He writes:

It was a tweet by Jose Luis Vilson that drew my attention to the quote:

“It doesn’t cost one penny more to have higher expectations for kids, to actually believe that kids–low-income kids, kids of color, English-language learners–can succeed,” he says.

The speaker is TNTP CEO Dan Weisberg, speaking about TNTP’s latest “report.” I’ve addressed that report elsewhere, but this particular idea is worth a closer look because it has been so persistent. Arne Duncan was a big believer in the magic of expectations, and Reformsters have often touted its powers– perhaps precisely because it is a “reform” they can have for free.

But are expectations free?

I suppose expectations themselves are free, just as wishes and dreams are free. But creating the conditions and providing the tools that allow those expectations to be met– that’s not so free. And without support, some expectations are just cruel.

I mean, I can expect someone who is confined to a wheelchair to live a full and active life– but somebody needs to provide that person with the actual wheelchair as well as appropriate physical therapy. Stephen Hawking’s super-cool chair, computer interface, and voice synthesizer were not free.

And when we talk about education, there’s a problem with free if by “expectation” we mean that a teacher should expect a child who is hungry, who lives with poverty every day, who lacks support for education at home, who lives with fear and instability in her world– well, if we’re just supposed to “expect” that child to handle school as if she lived a comfortable, stable, well-fed existence, that’s just wrong.

It is also wrong to “expect” that students who go to school where there are not enough books, not enough desks, not enough supplies, but plenty of mold and decaying corners of the building– to expect those students to approach school as if it were well-supported, well-funded, shiny and clean. Too often this business about the soft bigotry of low expectations is another way to say, “No, we’re not going to fully fund this school, nor are we going to address the systemic racism and poverty that surrounds it– just get in there an expect harder.”

There is, of course, a solid core of truth to this talk about expectations. Every decent teacher understands that expectations are important in a classroom, that if you approach students with an attitude of “Well, these are just the dumb kids, so let’s not expect much, try much, or do much” you are failing those students.

But. But but but.

Read the rest. You know how good Peter Greene is when he begins to eviscerate foolishness. How many TFA teachers have been told that high expectations are enough, then run into the harsh reality that students are hungry or need a winter coat or are worried about an ill parent?

Beware, he writes: Expectations are just a form of faith, and even the Bible tells us that faith without works is dead. Expectations matter, but expectations are only a foundation and no, you can’t build the house for free. “Teachers should just expect harder,” is just an excuse for politicians and policy wonks to avoid the issue of giving underserved, underfunded schools the resources they need, the kind of resources and funding that politicians and policy wonks would give them if those guys really, truly believed in the success of those students.

A corollary: Teachers should have high expectations, and teachers should have the resources and supports they need, and states should raise taxes to pay for the schools that students and teachers need. If they are not willing to pay for good education, they won’t have the schools and teachers that students deserve.

The richest woman in Connecticut no longer gives to charter schools and Teach for America. Barbara Dalio has shifted her giving to public schools.

She fell in love with public education.

She fell in love with the schools that take everyone, even the least of them, the children that the charters reject.

She got woke.

In the past three years alone, the foundation, which Barbara co-founded with her husband, has donated $50 million to public education programs in Connecticut.

“I never thought I would get into education because it’s not my background, so I am learning as I go along,” she said. “I love it. I don’t play golf or tennis. This is my passion.”

Connecticut Adds Two More Billionaires To The Forbes 400 List. Here’s A Look At All Nine Members.
Dalio, 70, who is universally described as humble and hands-on, said in an interview last week that her shift toward traditional public school districts came about as she learned more about education and became concerned about the achievement gap and students who are disengaged from school.

Dalio said she observed that the kids who go to public charter schools have parents who are often more involved and have the initiative to seek out an alternative for their child.

But many parents, she said, don’t have the time to do that.

“It’s not that they don’t care about the kids,” Dalio said of those parents. “It’s that they are burdened in many instances with just one parent having two or three jobs. That really struck me.”

It’s a shift that some of the wealthy donors that have focused on charters and other reform efforts are also making in recent years, some experts say.

A few years ago, there was a feeling among some wealthy donors that giving to local neighborhood schools might be a waste of money, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies with the American Enterprise Institute.

“Now the zeitgeist has changed,” said Hess. “TFA [Teach for America] and charter schooling are more controversial than they were eight or 10 years ago for various reasons and after the teacher strikes, teachers are more sympathetic. There’s a sense that if you’re a wealthy person and you’re trying to give away dollars in a way that you feel good about, you might make different choices in 2018 than you did in 2008.”

When Dalio arrived as an immigrant from Spain in her 20s, she knew very little about the American educational system except that she saw it is as inspiring.

“One of the things that struck me was all the people that succeeded or were able to have a very good education just through the public schools,” Dalio said. “I just admire that democratic side that the United States has. I don’t know if it still has it but I thought it was so amazing that anyone of any social class can just go to a public school and get a great education.”

Dalio, who lives in Greenwich, learned more about the public schools as she raised her four sons who attended both public and private schools and had very different needs and learning styles.

“I didn’t have a formula that would work for all of them, so I had to be very nimble and had to rely on teachers to help me help them,” Dalio said. “So that’s how my love for teachers started because they were always really there for me and for them. They were very caring.”

As the family’s foundation was expanding, Dalio said, “I really felt for the public schools and I really wanted to be helpful.”

But she realized she needed to be educated. So she began volunteering at an alternative high school in Norwalk where she started coming in once every two weeks and soon was up to two or three times a week.

“I learned really how many needs the kids have because they had kids with learning differences, kids that have had trauma in their lives, kids with emotional needs,” Dalio said, as well as kids who are hungry. “So it really is challenging for the school, the teachers to address all of those needs, especially with [budget] cuts” that eliminate social workers or mental health programs, she said.

Dalio said she learned through the alternative school and also with her own children, one of whom has bipolar disorder, that all children can succeed if given the right the services and help.

Her own son is in very good shape now, she said, “but it took a lot of resources and patience and time and you know if we didn’t succeed, he could have been just one of those kids.”

“So I always feel a bit for the underdog … or the kids that don’t have opportunities and I see that if you give them what they need, which is sometimes not that much, [with] just a little attention and love, you can really turn them around…”

David Callahan, editor of Inside Philanthropy, said he hopes “other philanthropists will pay attention to what (Dalio is) doing and the hands-on immersive approach she’s taken, which is how philanthropy should operate if it doesn’t want to alienate the people it needs to engage to succeed.”

“If Barbara ever gets focused on the national level,” Callahan said, “I think that could be a big deal, given her mindset and the sensibility she brings to this space.”

Public education should not have to depend on the goodwill of philanthropists. It is a civic duty to educate all children through taxation.

But billionaires have banded together to destroy education and to promote choice instead of raising taxes.

Thank you, Ms. Dalio, for putting your money where it does the most good for the most children.

I am a native Texan. I met Beto O’Rourke when he was not well known outside the state. I went to a small fund-raiser in a coffee shop on the lower east side of New York and was very impressed. He spoke as a liberal but avoided harsh political rhetoric. He talked about going to small towns that Democrats hadn’t visited in 30 years. He talked about bridging partisan rancor.

Now, much to my surprise, he was endorsed by my hometown newspaper.

It is a compelling editorial.

The Chronicle wrote:

The collective swoon that U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke has aroused among victory-starved Democrats nationwide recalls, even as it far exceeds, the fleeting infatuation that attached itself to another Texas politician not long ago. A Democratic gubernatorial candidate known for her 13-hour filibuster on the floor of the state Senate against stringent anti-abortion legislation, as well as for her watermelon-hued running shoes, she drew the same sort of clamorous attention that O’Rourke is getting this year.

As it turned out, of course, the Wendy Davis crush couldn’t survive another sort of crush – an ignominious 22-point loss to her 2014 Republican opponent, then-Attorney General Greg Abbott.

A similar fate may await O’Rourke in this still-fervid red state, despite the charismatic El Pasoan’s attention-getting and indefatigable campaign, the ubiquitous black-and-white “BETO” signs in yards across the state and an astounding fund-raising operation that has raised close to $40 million while eschewing money from political action committees. Impressive, yes, but Lone Star State Democrats have learned not to get starry-eyed during their nearly quarter-century sojourn in the political wilderness.

With eyes clear but certainly not starry, we enthusiastically endorse Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate. The West Texas congressman’s command of issues that matter to this state, his unaffected eloquence and his eagerness to reach out to all Texans make him one of the most impressive candidates this editorial board has encountered in many years. Despite the long odds he faces – pollster nonpareil Nate Silver gives O’Rourke a 20 percent chance of winning – a “Beto” victory would be good for Texas, not only because of his skills, both personal and political, but also because of the manifest inadequacies of the man he would replace.

Ted Cruz — a candidate the Chronicle endorsed in 2012, by the way — is the junior senator from Texas in name only. Exhibiting little interest in addressing the needs of his fellow Texans during his six years in office, he has kept his eyes on a higher prize. He’s been running for president since he took the oath of office — more likely since he picked up his class schedule as a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Houston’s Second Baptist High School more than three decades ago. For Cruz, public office is a private quest; the needs of his constituents are secondary.

It was the rookie Cruz, riding high after a double-digit win in 2012, who brazenly took the lead in a 2013 federal government shutdown, an exercise in self-aggrandizement that he hoped would lead to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Cruz, instead, undercut the economy, cost taxpayers an estimated $2 billion (and inflicted his reading of Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” on an unamused nation). Maybe the senator succeeded in cementing in his obstructionist tea party bona fides, but we don’t recall Texans clamoring for such an ill-considered, self-serving stunt.

Cruz’s very first vote as senator was a “nay” on the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, a bill authorizing $60 billion for relief agencies working to address the needs of Hurricane Sandy victims. More than a few of Cruz’s congressional colleagues reminded him of that vote when he came seeking support for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Cruz’s Texas cohort, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, was effective in those efforts; the junior senator was not.

Voters don’t send representatives to Washington to win popularity contests, and yet the bipartisan disdain the Republican incumbent elicits from his colleagues, remarkable in its intensity, deserves noting. His repellent personality hamstrings his ability to do the job.

“Lucifer in the flesh,” is how Republican former House Speaker John Boehner described Cruz, adding: “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, famously said: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

Graham, of course, was being facetious — we think — and yet Cruz’s off-putting approach works to the detriment of his constituents. His colleagues know that Cruz works for Cruz, first and foremost.

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican who was adept at tending to Texan needs and who worked tirelessly on the state’s behalf, once reminded the Chronicle editorial board that Cruz would have to decide where his loyalties lay when he got to Washington: with fellow Texans or fellow obstructionist ideologues. Six years later, it’s obvious he’s decided.

Cruz’s challenger is running as an unapologetic progressive. He supports comprehensive immigration reform, including a solution to the Dreamer dilemma; health care for all; an end to the war on drugs (including legalizing marijuana); sensible (and constitutional) gun control, and other issues that place him in the Democratic mainstream this political season.

What sets O’Rourke apart, aside from the remarkable campaign he’s running, are policy positions in keeping with a candidate duly aware of the traditionally conservative Texas voter he would be representing in the U.S. Senate. Representing a congressional district that includes Fort Bliss and numerous military retirees, he has focused on improving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with special attention to mental health. He’s a strong believer in free trade and global markets, an economic position that should appeal to pragmatic Houston business interests.

As a lifelong border resident, O’Rourke supports our trade ties with Mexico and our need to sustain and encourage those ties (despite the anti-Mexican malice that emanates from the White House). In fact, he once partnered with Cornyn on a bill to improve those economically critical border crossings. He opposes Trump’s wall, not only because it’s an absurd and colossal waste, but also because he objects to the government’s use of eminent domain.

“While he may look like the second coming of Bobby Kennedy to D.C. pundits,” political scientist Jay Aiyer of Texas Southern University has written, “Texans can see that O’Rourke has more in common with the politics and approach of former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, who advocated for modernizing Texas through bipartisan cooperation during his time leading the Texas Senate.”

Aiyer also compares O’Rourke to Lloyd Bentsen, Ann Richards and Mark White – reform-minded Democrats all, “who recognized the need to expand opportunities systematically when leading a conservative state.”

There’s one more reason O’Rourke should represent Texas in the U.S. Senate: He would help to serve as a check on a president who is a danger to the republic. Cruz is unwilling to take on that responsibility. Indeed, the man who delighted in calling the Texas senator “Lyin’ Ted” all through the 2016 presidential campaign, who insulted Cruz’s wife and his father, is bringing his traveling campaign medicine show to Houston next week to buoy the Cruz campaign. The hyperbole, the hypocrisy and the rancorous hot air just might blow the roof off the Toyota Center.

While the bloviations emanate from the arena next week, imagine how refreshing it would be to have a U.S. senator who not only knows the issues but respects the opposition, who takes firm positions but reaches out to those who disagree, who expects to make government work for Texas and the nation. Beto O’Rourke, we believe, is that senator.

The “I Promise School” sponsored by LeBron James as part of the Akron public school system is the most innovative school in America. Its focus is on developing healthy children, whose dreams are big and whose education equips them to make a life for themselves. It accepts only children with low test scores. It’s goal is to help children overcome trauma. Its philosophy is informed by LeBron James’ experiences as a child growing up in dire circumstances.

Contrast this school, where children are surrounded by love and caring, with the harsh and punitive “no excuses” charter schools. Read this article and answer the question: Which is better? Love or Fear? Charter advocates should learn about this school and learn from its example.

The greatest of all innovations: a school in which love and kindness are built in as policy.

This article by Eddie Kim goes into detail. I am not posting the whole article. I urge you to read it. It is inspiring.

It begins:


An eight-year-old LeBron James sometimes didn’t attend school because there was no one who could give him a ride. He sometimes skipped class outright, instead playing video games by himself at the ramshackle one-bedroom home in Akron, Ohio, owned by a friend of his mom, who would disappear during the day. Other times, Gloria James and her son were simply too entangled in the task of securing a place to sleep and food to eat that night. “We’ll just skip today,” they’d tell each other. Then another day would rise and fall, and another, with no attendance in class.

Ultimately, James skipped nearly 100 days of school as a fourth grader in Akron. He had moved a dozen times in the three-year span between age five and eight, with Gloria struggling on welfare and relying on a network of friends to give them shelter when the rent ran dry. He didn’t play sports. He barely had friends. He lagged on basic reading, writing and math skills.

What got James back in school was the stabilizing force of Bruce Kelker, the Pee Wee football coach at James’ elementary school who first discovered his athletic talent. Kelker offered to house James, with Gloria (who could live with a friend) welcome at any time to see her son. Toward the end of 1993, Kelker and his live-in girlfriend decided to move, but another youth football coach at the school, “Big” Frank Walker, extended his suburban Akron home to James.

James credits both families for steadying his life and getting him back in school, and the saga between fourth and fifth grades has become one of the superstar’s favorite allegories. But more than just a motivational tale, James has taken his experience and molded it into a philosophy on what it takes to keep poor and stressed-out kids on the right track.

That philosophy now exists in physical form with the I Promise School, a new campus that opened a month ago as part of the Akron Public Schools system. It debuted with 240 third- and fourth-graders who are struggling academically and largely from underprivileged families. The school will grow to include first through eighth grades by fall 2022, but the fundamental features of the program are already in place.

School days are longer, running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as is the school year (from July through May) in order to take pressure off working parents. Students receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks. There’s a new grading system in place for the kids, as well as “support circle” sessions each day to help students learn how to calm their emotions and talk through challenges. Parents, too, are given more feedback at school (in individualized meetings with advisors) and also offered help in the form of housing and job-placement services, GED classes and a food bank — all things that James’ mother, Gloria, could have benefitted from too…

This is where Nicole Hassan and a squad of veteran Akron Public Schools staffers stepped in, organizing half a dozen “design teams” last year to hash out every ambition they could bake into the DNA of I Promise School. The teams spent months debating features that today form a public school unlike any other in the country. It’s supported in part by the LeBron James Family Foundation — it’s pledged $2 million a year to support the school’s growth — but otherwise funded by taxpayers as part of the Akron system. It’s an experiment in what a public institution can do to help kids in the most crucial aspect of their development into adulthood. “The hope is that this can become a model for more schools across the country in urban centers where young students need the most hope,” Hassan says….

The biggest point is with it being public is that it’s something that can carry over across the country. Our mission is to be a nationally recognized model for urban education. The common idea is that it’s easier to do a charter school, or it’s easier to do private because you don’t have to work within the confines of a public school system. But then those schools are only available to certain students, whereas every community has a public school. I want the elements of I Promise to be the norm for our district and spread across the nation so that in Chicago, in Detroit and in other areas where students have a lot of trauma, they’re utilizing these practices as well.

Of course, one of the things we’d love to see is that other communities help support such a school. A lot of our contributions have been from community partners beyond LeBron’s foundation. It’s important that LeBron’s a part of it, but he definitely couldn’t do it alone, and I think other communities could generate the same contribution. Honestly, if we believe that education is the way to create generational change and improve a community, then communities need to start supporting the school system in a real way.

Of course, LeBron James deserves a place on the honor roll. So does the Akron public school system, which thought through the whole child, loving-kindness policies of this innovative school.

Thanks to reader Christine Langhoff for bringing this article to my attention.

 

I recently visited Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I learned about a very successful program called “The Kalamazoo Promise.”

The concept is simple: Every student who attends the Kalamazoo Public Schools from kindergarten through senior year and graduates receives a full scholarship for any public or private university in Michigan where he or she is accepted. All costs, tuition, books, fees, are covered. For those who attend the KPS schools for four years of high school, 65% of tuition is covered.

The donor or donors are anonymous. They do not seek recognition or honor.

The effects of the Promise have been impressive. Enrollment in KPS, which had been declining before the Promise was launched in 2005, has increased by 25%. A pre-kindergarten program has been adopted by the schools. Students are working purposefully, knowing that they can win a debt-free college education if they persist. Parents, teachers, and the community are collaborating around the goal of student success. The Promise is available to students for two-year colleges, trade schools, or four-year colleges. It can be used at any point for ten years after graduation.

When I spoke in Seattle, I recommended that someone in the audience tell Bill Gates about the Kalamazoo Promise. It is far more successful and appreciated than any of his interventions into education. Without breaking a sweat, Bill Gates could launch the Washington State Promise and guarantee every high school graduate in the state a debt-free college education. Instead of being a goat for sinking billions into test-based teacher evaluation (which failed), Common Core (the reform that dare not speak its name), and charter schools (which are highly controversial and often ineffectual), he would be universally praised for making postsecondary education available at no cost to all high school graduates in the state. Washington State has no income taxes and no corporate taxes. This would be a swell way to give back.

For all those billionaires out there looking for a sound way to invest in education, explore the Kalamazoo Promise. We know that more and more students need a postsecondary education to succeed in the twenty-first century, and we know that the cost of that education burdens students with intolerable debt. Stepping in to aid students to reach that dream is a win-win.

 

Although I often disagree with Rick Hess, I think he is the most insightful of the reformers and the nicest as well. He has a code of civility, and he never descends into mud-slinging or name-calling, unlike others in the reform camp.

In his latest article, I was surprised and delighted to see his acknowledgement that the pendulum is swinging away from the Bush-Obama reforms. He tacitly admits, as few other reformers do, that the era of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top has failed, and (as John Merrow said in his latest post) “the air is humming,” and something great is coming. The current federal law (Every Student Succeeds Act) is a stripped-down version of NCLB, still insanely test-focused, in my view. Under ESSA, despite its grandiose name, there is no hope, none, that “every student will succeed.”

Rick looks at the wave of teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky (with more likely to happen) and draws five lessons.

First, “Teachers are immensely sympathetic actors. For all the gibes, harsh rhetoric of the accountability era, and tsk-tsk’ing occasioned by polls in which people say they don’t want their kids to be teachers, the reality is that people really like teachers. In surveys, no matter how much talk there is about “failing” schools and problems with tenure, teachers are trusted and popular.” Although he doesn’t say it, I will: People trust teachers more than hedge fund managers or billionaires.

Second, “The Trump era has made it tougher for GOP officials to plead “fiscal restraint.” For years, GOP governors and legislators have said there is no more money, but the national GOP has just added billions to the defense budget, over a trillion dollars to the national deficit, and cut taxes for corporations by more billions.

Third, the reform movement must shoulder a significant part of the blame for demonizing teachers, demoralizing them, and building a reservoir of rage. “Along the way, teachers came to look and feel like targets, rather than beneficiaries, of “school reform,” which may be why bread-and-butter demands from teachers are ascending as the guts of Bush-Obama school reform are sinking to the bottom of the “discarded school reform” sea.”

Fourth, teachers’ strikes and walkouts are succeeding because they have broad appeal.

Fifth, he sees the current moment as a good time to rethink compensation, pensions, and staffing. In the minds of reformers, this could be converted into their usual mindset: merit pay, performance pay, replacing pensions with savings plans, etc. As the Kentucky walkout showed, teachers will not sit still while their retirement benefits are whittled away. Part of the appeal of teaching is the expectation that one will not retire to a life of penury after a career of low-paid service.

This is one of the most hopeful articles I have recently read about the pendulum swing that almost everyone knows is coming.

 

 

 

Leonie Haimson is first out with a video of Richard Carranza singing and playing in a mariachi band, as well as a beautiful letter that he wrote to his new colleagues at the Department of Education.

He expresses humility, a love of public education, admiration for the work of those in the trenches. He hits all the right notes. In only a matter of hours, he has made New Yorkers happy and hopeful about the future. Knowing how New Yorkers love to complain, that is quite an accomplishment.

And he plays a good fiddle too!

 

While many people are demoralized about the ongoing attacks on education, the environment, and almost every institution of government, as well as the Trump administration’s plans to widen the income and wealth inequality gaps, Steven Singer thinks that 2018 may be a great year for turning the tide against the neoliberals and neofascists.

He begins:

As 2017 chugs and sputters to a well-deserved end, I find myself surprised at the pessimism around me.

Yes, I know. Donald Trump is still President.

The plutocrats have stolen trillions of dollars from the majority in unnecessary tax cuts that threaten our ability to function as a nation.

A slim majority of their sniveling creatures at the FCC have repealed Net Neutrality gifting our free expression to huge corporations.

And big business continues to sack and burn our public schools only to replace them with charter and voucher swindles.

This is all true.

But it does not make me lose heart.

These defeats may be fleeting, momentary as political and legal challenges mount against them. As far as the tide has pulled back, a wave is gathering strength at sea, such a prodigious burst of water as to create a new ocean once it hits land.

Yes, we endured many scars from the year that was. But we have gained something truly amazing – something that we probably could not have grasped without our sexual predator in chief, a reality TV show conman posing as a political leader.

People.

Are.

Awake.

They see the undeniable destruction, the naked power grabs, how our lawmakers are owned by the super-rich and the outright denial of democratic principles.

They see and they understand.

It is no longer debatable that we have lost control of our government.

Resistance begins with outrage. It grows with hope. And hope is what we must sustain to give us the strength to resist and continue resisting.

David Greene, teacher of teachers, author, and photographer, offers these thoughts and reflections in this time of anxiety. He says this is a “mashup” of the last chapter of his new book, He Could Make Words Sing: An Ordinary Man During Extraordinary Times.

He writes:

Relax. We are just ordinary people living in our own ordinary times. As my friend Harris sarcastically says, “We all think our times are the most extraordinary ‘evvvvverrrr’.” However bad things might seem as we read this today, they are really rather ordinary historically. Our times do not compare with the extraordinary times Harry Greissman’s generation faced.

Yes, we face economic inequality and loss of jobs, but the unemployment rate is under 5%, not hovering at 25% as it did in the GREAT Depression. Yes, we face racial issues and de facto segregation, but de jure segregation is pretty much gone. Black Lives Matters would have had a far more difficult task then, when lynching was rampant and whole neighborhoods in cities like Tulsa Oklahoma were burned down by whites. Watch the new movie, “Mudbound” as a reminder of Black Lives in the south in the 1940s.

Broken Healthcare system? Then, there was none to break. Medicare and Medicaid were mid 1960s inventions. The numbers of veterans with wartime injuries, both physical and emotional during World War 2 was in the millions, not thousands. The environment? Coal fired furnaces were everywhere. I played in a coal chute as a kid in the Bronx. Whole cities were covered in clouds of grey smoke and soot. Choose a domestic problem, any problem, and it was worse when they grew up. What rights did women have then? For the first fifth of the 20th century, they couldn’t even vote. I know that Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” had it far worse than my privileged Boomer generation, Generation X or today’s Millenials.

Of course, today’s new stories and cable shouting matches called newscasts scare the living shit out of many of us. We are still stuck in the longest war in our history, and face terrorist threats daily, these are nowhere as horrific as the death and destruction of World War 1 (when poison gas bombing was used as a weapon de jure), the Armenian Genocide (before Syria even existed as a country), World War 2, the Holocaust, the Korean “conflict” and the Vietnam War. North Korea is not exactly the same nuclear threat the Russians were, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. We sat at the edge of our chairs watching Kennedy square off with Khrushchev.
Refugees refused? Border walls? How about turning away victims of the Holocaust? Poison gas in Syria? NO comparison to the Nazi poison gas chambers relatives of American families died in.

The Red Scare? McCarthyism? The Civil Rights struggles? Selma? Birmingham? Mississippi murders? Kent and Jackson State? The assassinations of MLK and RFK? Battles in the streets of NYC between hardhats and hippies? The whole world WAS watching. The Pentagon Papers? NIXON?

Relax. This is not to disparage those in duress today. God know our world faces too many serious man-made problems. We have Trump and his reality-TV version of the world that is becoming all too scarily real. Environmentally, like the Wicked Witch of the West, the world is mellllllting. The immediacy and verbal violence in social media’s, divisiveness and fear mongering stresses us to no end.

Are we as bad as Orwell’s1984 or Asimov’s Fahrenheit 451 predicted? No. We aren’t even as bad off as what was “predicted” in “The Man In The High Castle”, Philip K. Dick’s alternative history novel and the TV series based on it…All we have is “alternative facts”.

But if we take the long historical view of human endeavors, how special is our time? Even the “Jetsons” predicted we would be farther along technologically than we actually are. Where are our flying cars and personal robots? Alexa doesn’t compare to Rosie.

Relax. There is a monologue in Steven Levenson’s play, “If I Forget”, spoken by the patriarch of the family, Lou Fischer, who in the year 2000, is a 75-year-old World War 2 Veteran. In it he describes the horrors of being one of the American soldiers who liberated Dachau. After a long sigh, he says as I believe many of his generation would have said, “For you, history is an abstraction, but for us, the ones who survived this century, this long, long, century, there are no abstractions anymore.”