The Sandy Hook Shooting, Alienation, and Us

We just passed the anniversary of the shooting in Newtown. I thought I might actually post this on that anniversary, but it is too hard. I have to move slowly and pretend it will be ok. I have to gently herd these skittish truths into an open field where they can be seen – despite a fairly certain dread that once I get them into the open, they, and I, will be open targets.

On the morning of that shooting I was also moving slowly. I was running late on my way to work – probably because driving my daughter to the high school added almost an hour to my morning commute. So I was running late, but I was refusing to act late. Hurrying had become constant, and I was tired of it. Besides, driving gave me time to think. The sky was clear and the roads were quiet. I’d get there when I’d get there. Continue reading “The Sandy Hook Shooting, Alienation, and Us”

The Most Important Message

The World Says School is Critical

This message is for anyone who is having problems with a child in school.

Please look at your beliefs about school and your feelings about your child. If you find yourself believing there is something deeply wrong with you and/or your child…take that belief, very gently, and place it on the shelf. If you find you are ashamed of yourself and/or your child, then take that shame, very gently, and place it on the same shelf. If you find yourself so angry that you want to lash out, then take that anger, thank it for letting you know how important this is, and stick in on the shelf with the others. Then stand back with me and consider leaving them there, out of the way, where they won’t do you any harm, until you can replace them with something more useful. Continue reading “The Most Important Message”

Tortuous Journeys, Navel Gazing, and Ineffective Writing…


Lizardguts and I have identified a major problem. The jumble of thoughts in my head is roiling. They are all fighting so hard to come out that they just won’t play nice. They don’t pay any attention to the titles at the top of the screen. They don’t wait in line for their turn. They don’t listen politely to each other and talk with their indoor voices. They are, pretty much, acting like we acted at my childhood dinner table, dying for attention, waiting for any break in the conversation to interrupt, then hurling insults at anything that gets in the way of their fleeting opportunity to be seen and heard over the din. Continue reading “Tortuous Journeys, Navel Gazing, and Ineffective Writing…”


I’ve been writing these posts in a little vacuum. I can write and write and write, and never worry that someone might actually find me here and see what I’ve written. There is no correlation between the time and effort spent and the actual communication accomplished. In fact, in my own case I think there might be a correlation between time, effort, and cringe factor. I’m really good at taking a fairly fresh idea and pummeling it into an empty pulp of platitude. I can spend days working on the same passage going from ok, to pretty good, to kind of, to wow that part actually works, to ruined it, back to ok… all in the protective cocoon of my bedroom while getting nowhere. Continue reading “Lizardguts”

The Merit Model

Every time I drive through New Haven I’m amazed at the huge differences in class and wealth between Ella Grasso Boulevard and the Yale University Campus. Poverty butts up against privilege, ramshackle row houses are blocks away from green courtyards, gothic archways, and high end boutiques – and it’s color coded in black and white. I can’t help wonder how the students and staff at Yale reconcile themselves to the contrasts.

High school classroom versions of history just don’t get the story across. Children learn that slavery used to exist, but we fixed that; Jim Crow laws used to exist, but we fixed those too; and segregation was common once, but now its illegal and we have affirmative action to counteract it. Not only do we learn that the major problems have all been fixed, we’re also left with a bit of an afterglow from the huge achievements ending each atrocity. Aren’t we good for ending all that bad stuff!

But if we’re so good then why is so much of our country still drawn in black and white? Continue reading “The Merit Model”

Who Defines Education?

Americans are very attached to our ideals of equal rights and equal representation. We’re also fond of the idea that anyone who works hard enough can enjoy the American Dream.

But the shine on our American Dream has tarnished a bit. The President of the corporation I used to work for loved to talk about our Meritocracy. The concept that people succeed due to merit makes the extreme wealth divide more palatable, especially when you’re at the top, looking down on those you’ve out-merited, but it seems to satisfy a lot of people near the bottom, too. There is great comfort in believing that your destiny is in your own control, and that you have as much chance as anyone around you to succeed. All you need is to work hard enough. Continue reading “Who Defines Education?”

Submission, Diagnosis, or Delinquency

Most people assume that school has a positive effect on the lives of its students, but that isn’t always true. It can also be very harmful. I suspect the negative effects of school aren’t always acknowledged, in part because these stories are prone to being buried under shame and embarrassment, or they’re pushed aside to minimize their toxic effect. I know this because my own stories can’t always be told.  The stories aren’t mine alone, and I generally have to think carefully about the possible effects their telling will have. I’ve come to understand some things very well, though, so whether it is through my own stories, or those of others, I hope to share what I’ve learned. Continue reading “Submission, Diagnosis, or Delinquency”