Monday, March 24, 2014

Because of Tootie Pie


An apt metaphor for the effect Tootie Pie
had on my life.

Tootie Pie and I just finished "Because of Winn Dixie", our first book with no pictures.  The author used a literary device where India Opal's father told her 10 things about her mother, who abandoned her when she was very young.  She cherishes these 10 things as a way to hold on to the memory of her mother, whom she can barely remember.  But, at the end of the book, when Winn Dixie goes missing, India Opal creates a list of 10 things about her dog so that she can put these ten things on a "Lost" poster.  She realizes that you cannot get to know a dog, or a mother, or anyone from a list of ten things.

An even better metaphor!
Still, though, the ten things about India Opal's mother and Winn Dixie were nice lists.  I want to make my list of ten things about Tootie Pie, not so that you will know her, but so that when she grows up, she will know something about herself at six years old. 

Ten Things About Tootie Pie
  • She has never given anyone any trouble
  • She jumps up and down and squeals when she's excited, which is often
  • She loves to dance and sing, and does both very well
  • She sings German and Mandarin songs with no detectable accent
  • She loves to learn and make connections
  • She will hold hands with special friends and relatives
  • She will invent funny stories and even speaks her own language, called Carrot language
  • She is loved by all who meet her
  • She has made my life more rich and fantastic than I ever thought possible
  • She has a great sense of humor and makes people laugh

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Growing Up Open-Minded in the 2010's

Oftentimes I am sad for my daughter growing up in today's crazy world.  She doesn't know why people put paper in water in the dark to magically make a picture, and she could look at a typewriter forever and not understand why there are keys and no screen.  Her peers are plugged in and dumbed down, but, there are advantages to having never known the 20th century. 

Tootie Pie and her crush.
I wouldn't say that my daughter does not know color, but I would say that it is a non-issue in her world.  She's only ever known "Baba Babama" as president.  There is no plurality in her class, whereas I grew up in a wonderful neighborhood, but our idea of diversity was Italian versus Irish.  Tootie Pie's first crush was an Asian boy, and the current object of her affection is black.  When she first drew him, he had peach-ish skin, but then she pointed out how his skin is brown and redrew their (her?) love. 

What do you think the cartoonist was
trying to say?  I don't think it was that
all presidents have been men, but that
is certainly a pattern that has yet to
be broken.
She has no preconceived ideas about homosexuality, religion, or foreigners, either.  Perhaps this is a product of where we live, but I'll take it.  Now, if only we could equalize the perception of women in this society.  In her lifetime.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

School Lunch: Service or Responsibility?

It's the eve of yet another snowstorm here in the city, and the thought of driving into work in a blizzard again is daunting.  New York City has a new mayor, and he is poised to undo a great deal of damage that his predecessor inflicted on educators.  De Blasio is fighting against charters setting up shop in public schools, he's in negociations with the teacher's union to create a contract to replace the one that expired  4 and a half years ago , and is generally much more teacher and education friendly then Bloombergito.  However, his refusal to close schools during the last snow dump dampens some of my enthusiasm for our "education friendly" mayor.

So, I risked my daughter's life so that she and
her classmates could do this?
The reason De Blasio gave for not closing schools last time was not treacherous conditions; it was terrible and dangerous weather last snowstorm, and having spent a large portion of my life in snow-charmed Michigan, it's no small achievement to get such a negative assessment of snowy circumstances from me.  No, he said schools were kept open in order to provide hot meals to children who otherwise might not get fed.  This is a lofty enough goal at the surface, but it begs the question, what is a school designed to do?  Is one of the functions of a school to feed its students?  I say no, it isn't.  It certainly is not justification to force over one-million students to venture into a white-out jungle.

A school is not a food pantry.  School does provide lunches, but the reason it does so is not so that children will not go hungry; the school lunch program was initiated to help farms unload excess food, not to feed poor children.  Schools once relied on students to provide not only their lunch, but to ensure they got to school on their own, and of course, produce the necessary supplies to learn.  Now, we do it all for them, for the good of the children.  But, the food they get in school gets thrown out immediately without a second thought, the school buses that we provide for them are havens for unruly, unsafe behavior, and the supplies we give them are mistreated.  And I think part of the reason is that we don't value things that we don't earn.  Now, food is different than transportation and books, in that it is a basic need, but it is still not appreciated if it is given to you, and eventually, it is seen as a sort of birthright. 

"I would never expect anyone to eat anything out
of the garbage."  That's funny, because I would never
 expect anyone who couldn't afford lunch to throw
 a free one away.
School is a place to learn.  Despite what the Common Core says, it's not to make students "college or career ready".  Schools are to teach children the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic.  Students were always "college or career ready" after their education, but it is not the state's job to prepare students for jobs; that is the private sector's responsibility.  It's the state's job to prepare people for life, and to give them the basic skills to make their way in the world.  Food has no place in this equation.  Buses don't either.  It is time for the state to let people know that the services it provides are not constitutional requirements and students need to realize that hot meals and buses are not part of their civil rights.  If a child was given a sandwich in colonial times and threw it out, he'd be forced to eat it, given a beating at school, and again at home.  Now, it's as if the teacher who made the child eat the food provided to him is the bad guy.  If a mayor wants to feed children, then have just the cafeteria staff come in during blizzards.  And even this is just a nicety, and should by no means be seen as part of the function of a place of learning.  But to risk the lives of every teacher, every student, every bus driver, pedestrian, commuter and citizen because the school has become a soup kitchen is ludicrous and it's creating a society of entitled brats.  Parents, it is your job to feed your kids.  But for the grace of God goes I, so, occasionally, you may need help nourishing your children.  Food stamps, WIC, SNAP: they're all there to help.  But school, no.  School is a place for learning.  Full stop.

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