Critique of Warren (or Clinton) isn’t always sexist

I don’t think I am sexist, but maybe I am and just don’t know that I am?

This issue arose as I exchanged messages with a few on twitter regarding the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren. I can comfortably say that when you engage in critical analysis of ideas, and the ideas are those of a woman, critique isn’t evidence of sexism or misogyny-it’s evidence of an ability to engage in critical thought.

If you are involved in public education, assessment and the analysis of data: it’s vital that you know what that type of cognitive engagement means and what qualifies as evidence of it happening. To suggest that a person’s ideas aren’t worthy of standing alone for analysis and must be defended simply because the thinker is a woman says more about you, your lack of objectivity and your feelings regarding a woman’s ability to think than the nature of the critic or the critique. 

But let’s just keep it about my analysis regarding candidates, not the self-congratulatory “gotcha” mindset of those who latch onto what’s in a candidate’s pants instead of what is in their platform.

If Warren had run against Clinton in 2016, I would have voted for her over Clinton in a heartbeat. Over Sanders too, to be honest. That move by Warren would have spoke to what is in her heart and to her drive to lead- and a belief that she would be better for this country than Hillary Clinton (which I believe is true). Even though I was inspired by the Sanders run, and am again, I knew (then and now) that the machine would rise up against him in a way it wouldn’t be able to against Warren. I had seen Warren speak about a First-Lady Clinton and read her words about what allegiances with the wealthy do to candidates and office-holders:

 “The bill was essentially the same, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not,” she wrote. “Hillary Clinton could not afford such a principled position. Campaigns cost money, and that money wasn’t coming from families in financial trouble.” (from this 2016 Washington Post article)

I had also seen prior to that the February 2005 testimony given by Warren regarding consumer protection from bankruptcy. You know, the one where lifelong mansplainer Joe Biden sides with protecting the profits of creditors over consumers, and tells a then Professor Warren in a very paternalistic way “You’re very good, Professor”   when it becomes clear that he is intellectually and morally outmatched.

I actually thought back then: This woman could be president someday.

But Warren didn’t run for the 2016 election and my choice was Sanders or Clinton. Have you asked yourself why Warren didn’t run? The seeds of a potential run must have been germinating in her mind. She must have thought about it. Others besides me must have hoped she would.

Her unwillingness to step up to seek leadership was probably a result of her being told not to; being informed that it was Hillary’s turn; that this Hillary run was planned in 2008 after a humiliating defeat by Hope and Disappointment Obama. So Warren dutifully stepped aside, and actually endorsed Hillary-even though her self-styled persona would seemingly align more with Sanders. Ironic that the banker and Wall Street shamer sided with the candidate who refused to release the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches and not the candidate who made no such speeches. I was hoping then for a Sanders/Warren ticket when Warren didn’t run, so those hopes were dashed.

But let’s stick to the here and now. I am still inspired that two candidates who offer the potential for new directions are near the front of the pack. I am sad that the establishment and mainstream media have whipped a Biden candidacy with no other justifications than nostalgia, association with President Obama, and fear of the change we so desperately need. There are too many strikes against the man already, and he just keeps swinging his bat around like some kind of maniac who doesn’t even realize he’s not up to the plate. And there isn’t a pitch to swing at. And he’s not on a baseball field. Or talking to Corn Pop at the local pool.

Warren and Sanders. Neither are unintelligent, and both have a history of being on the better side of many issues, in my mind. So why wouldn’t they team up and sweep this mother? They would be an unstoppable force and it can’t be that I am the only one who knows it. “Alas” (as an expert on being passive-aggressive once wrote). It appears I won’t get that ticket and need to compare/contrast (common core literacy standard for that skill at the grade level I teach is here) . “No tears, please” (to quote a genius I know well). To adults and children who fear those CCLS performance indicators: we can do this.

They both agreed on about 90 some percent of the votes in the 115th Congress (2017 to 2018), and are seemingly pretty simpatico , which is why I am trying to send some psychic unity vibes their way. Honestly, I don’t care who is on top of that ticket.

But there are key differences between the two. One is her support of military budgets and U.S. militarism:

“While Warren is not on the far right of Democratic politics on war and peace, she also is not a progressive—nor a leader—and has failed to use her powerful position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to challenge the status quo. While she’s voted for military de-escalation on some issues, including ending the Yemen War, she’s gone along with some of the most belligerent acts that have occurred under her watch, cheerleading Israel’s devastating 2014 war on Gaza and vocalizing her support for sanctions against Venezuela.”

Another is her willingness to court the big money. It just doesn’t look good for a candidate who has positioned herself as a watchdog of the wealthy elite and big money interests to turn around and take the payoffs from them.

Didja take offense at me saying she “scolds” them while Sanders “fights” them? Huh…didja? Suck it up. Money buys allegiance and policy, everybody knows it. Sanders is clearly more aligned with the masses, and that is why the money is aligned against him, and that is why I would choose him first.

It’s unfortunate that people who pose as data-minded, objective thinkers ignore history and historical patterns, evidence, behaviors, and data when it comes to those we would choose as leaders and those that a “Citizens United” paradigm allows us access to . It is weak thinking, whether male or female, and the failure of those types of voters, a failure to demand a better type of candidate and leader, that brought us a Trump presidency. Yuuup.

So, from a man who owes who he is today to his wife; from a father of three brilliant daughters who won’t take crap from anyone and will one day rule the world: I blame you morons for us having a President Trump. Not any “bro’s”, not sexists or misogynists. Get over yourself and give up your sad scapegoats and excuses. Vote the way you want, but if you go public with accusations that avoid intellectual engagement and deflect attention from your weakness in character: expect return fire.

Only my daughters

About halfway through this family vacation, we looked for some active participation thing for the kids to do together. Jet skiing? Parasailing? A museum or a tour of some sort? One of the things my daughters and their cousin have enjoyed in the past are escape rooms. That is what they have decided to do.

If you aren’t familiar with these things, these “escape rooms”, let me describe them briefly. They are far more than rooms, and yes-the point is that the challenge is to escape. The escape is quite often a successful navigation of a mystery or adventure of some sort, not you as the victim of a kidnapping or unlawful restraint. The “escape” is a stage by stage progression through multiple rooms and areas as you successfully solve each stage of the mystery or quest. You emerge “free” at the end if you are successful in the time allotted.

A couple years ago I did one of these escape rooms with my two older daughters and a college classmate of the oldest. Between the four of us we believed we had quite a collection of brainpower, so we chose the most difficult “room” (you are provided a success percentage in the description of each before you sign up). We succeeded with the granting of a few extra minutes. Your progress, I guess, is observed via close circuit video and occasionally a voice from the sky either provides vital information as it’s scripted, or may give a hint. I think the extra time came after my oldest, in a moment of worry and frustration, looked up into the camera and said:

 “Can we please have more time. I will do…anything.

We escaped, and nothing ever came of that commitment, but my daughter worries about the day when the phone rings and that debt comes calling. She also worries about going back into the clutches of the same organization she made such a huge open-ended promise to. Which will happen tomorrow.

Of course I’m dramatizing this. There’s very little chance that all will happen. What will happen, though, or what is very likely to happen, is that these kids will run out of time and some very befuddled escape room staff will wonder what the hell is wrong with my daughters, my nephew, and the tagalong boyfriend who came with us. He’s an awesome kid. He came with number two, is a little younger than her, but a standup young guy.

Anyways, why my prediction?

They spent the time immediately after deciding on the escape room, and once again choosing the hardest room, deciding on what roles each would play within the world of the challenge. They have chose some pirate themed one. The basics are that they are supposed to complete a mission on the pirate ship in service to their captain. Before they get any details on what we’ll be paying for, though, they have decided to hatch their own plan. They have picked pirate names and back stories. They have assigned general roles. They are practicing pirate accents and insults. And have done a blind draw to see which one will take on the role of a traitor to the group… All I can imagine is these facilitators watching them act out this crazy crap as if they are on a stage built just for them and their story, while they try to complete the story they’ve paid for.

I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

My Good Fortune

I can’t explain my good fortune

I can’t explain my good fortune, and why should I try? It is what it is. I am consumed by the understanding that I am blessed, I am nearly brought to proud tears daily when I am lucky enough to spend time with my family. My daughters three, one in college, the second off to college, and three navigating the path through high school, amaze me with their keen intellects, warm hearts, and  open souls. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve these people around me.

But consider first what this train of thought implies. Was some decision made to grant me these things, this life, these daughters, my wife? Or instead, have my decisions and my approach to the world sown the seeds for the garden that has grown? I can hardly believe I’ve earned it, I just need to acknowledge that it’s here, and realize that my navigational skills (and let’s say it’s spiritual and intellectual navigation, okay? I mean, I could get lost in my own home town) have some influence.

So follow me, let’s talk navigation, I’ll be Magellan.

Republican leaders ’take shelter behind hypocrisy’

This first appeared as a letter to the editor in the Syracuse Post Standard. It can be seen online here.

For the Republican Party, religion seems more about branding, less about belief. Passing time brings less doubt. Make no mistake, I’ve been a political junkie since the day I turned 13 plus one week. That night, I watched 6-foot-something of Bryll Cream and B.S. say, “There you go again.” It was a smug, rehearsed response to another man’s observation that Republicans would gut social programs. The former would go on, as president, to pursue that exact agenda. The latter would go on to build houses for the homeless, bring medical care to the sick in impoverished nations, and serve to this day as an actual example of grace and morality.

I’ve also spent a considerable amount of time in church, though I could do with more — only for the fact that it could make me a better son. But there’s no religion I know of that allows you to take shelter behind hypocrisy and still claim the moral high ground. Sen. Mitch McConnell should just come out and say, “I am going to blame the Democrats for obstructing if I don’t get my way, and then I will proudly refuse to cooperate with anything they want to do. Amen.” Now their standard-bearer is either an embarrassment to silently endure, or champion they are ashamed to claim.

The true struggle, though? Overcoming the complicity of Democrat leaders. They have somehow turned “lesser evil” into an art form. No wonder new blood within their ranks has both sides worried.

Raise Them Right

This appeared first in The Cortland Standard

It’s graduation season, and I’m watching the second of my three daughters spread her wings. Is she ready?

As a teacher, I’m all too familiar with “college and career ready” propaganda, but as a parent I feel that’s a limiting construct. I want my daughters reality-ready. I want them  readied within themselves to meet head-on the world that actually is, not the one someone else defines. I want them to have high expectations of themselves-not aspire to anyone else’s. Above all, I hope for their approach to be “what can I bring to the world to make it a better place” not “what can I get out of the world for me”. Think about it: aim to make the world better for those around you, and the world around you becomes a better place. In my mind, that’s how they’ll fly-this graduating daughter and my other two. Actually, they already fly pretty well in that regard, so I am excited to see what comes next.

In addition to graduation season, it is high-season for political theater. This brings into sharp focus some contrasts between a self-interested bipartisan establishment, their mainstream news apologists, and my “what value should I try to bring to the world” mindset. It seems that the “do for others” approach is radical; far left; even (gasp) socialist!Is “being your brother’s keeper” radical now? I am proud to be raising daughters smarter than that, I just wish politicians were as well. All I have to say is watch out world, here they come.

What Reformers Avoid

Our students need to come loved first.

This post comes from the original, written by me about five years ago. My oldest, mentioned below, is now hours away, recovering from her second heart surgery.

My first daughter was born five weeks early.

I remember that night clearly: we had just got back from some shopping and my wife had sent me out for a Burger King cheeseburger (one of those pregnancy cravings that had to be satisfied occasionally). When I got home, not too many minutes later, I found her in our bedroom on the floor-laying on her side with a stopwatch in one hand, and the book “What to Expect When Expecting” next to her. It was one of those “triple-take” moments…my wife…the stopwatch…the book. Later I was to find out she had sent me out on purpose, and that she had felt “something” was happening.           

Before long we were in the car,

… and on our way to the hospital, which was maybe 3 small village blocks away (a five minute walk). I was driving like she might give birth in the car and she had to let me know that I could slow down…that the baby wouldn’t come in three minutes, but I had many memories of TV shows and movies where babies were delivered in the backseat of cars by husbands, cab drivers, firefighters, or some other random good Samaritan. It always happened quick with some yelling, screaming, crying, then smiling. Painful, messy, happy…and scary.  Needless to say, my wife was right and we had plenty of time-but I was right too-it was scary. Not just because it appeared that the moment may have arrived-but because it was five weeks early (at that stage, complications are more likely).

Even though there was no backseat birth or waiting room delivery,

…it became clear that our first baby was coming when they could do nothing to stop the contractions with medication and decided instead to induce labor. The worry was that if birth-weight was too low, our baby would be whisked away to a hospital more than a half hour away, and my wife would remain.            I’m pretty sure someone had their thumb on the scale-she was so tiny! But she was able to stay in Cortland, close to us. Jen was in recovery, Chloe was taken to the newborn observation room, under a hood with oxygen being pumped into it and being monitored. I went back and forth between Jen and Baby Chloe. Sometimes I would sing softly to Chloe, leaning down close to do “You are my Sunshine”, the same way I did while she was in Jen’s belly and I would sing with my mouth pretty much on her.

I can’t remember how long I did this back-and-forth between rooms,

…singing/ talking/ comforting… But I finally went to one of the nurses on duty and asked if they could bring Chloe to Jen. Jen had just given birth to her first child, prematurely,  and was stressed. Chloe hadn’t really spent any time with her mother and was in a bright impersonal room under a plastic hood. It had probably been a few hours-but time gets warped in situations like this. It was almost as soon as Chloe was in Jen’s arms that both seemed to be better. 

Chloe is 15 years old now,

…one of three sisters, one of four of the loves of my life. Parenthood is an amazing, painful, wonderful, awe-inspiring responsibility, and as I write this, I am seeing my wife’s post on Facebook. She is home with her own father and family right now. I won’t share details, but home with her father is where she needs to be. There isn’t much time left for that. I am home with our daughters. Jen’s  connection with her father is a powerful one-recognized and respected by everyone in her family (and me). She knows that she’s his favorite, (so does everyone else), and while he isn’t in the mood for much right now-she is the one he wants with him.

Her FB post:

Me: Dad, remember when you used to take me fishing?
Dad: Yeah, Beansie (her younger sister’s nickname, Jen’s is “Ding-Ding”…don’t know where these came from) went a lot too.
Me: How did we ever catch any fish? We sure did talk alot……… I guess is wasn’t about the fishing was it???
Dad: I guess not…
Me: Thanks Dad. 
*****sniff sniff*****

Chloe is sleeping right now. She’s a teen, but gives us virtually no trouble. She is bright, beautiful, creative. Brenna, 13, could be described pretty much the same (in addition to the sleeping thing)-but is already taller and “leggier” than her mother and Chloe…a fact she enjoys razzing Chloe (and Jen) with. Our youngest, Ella (8), sits on the couch with the journal of letters Jen and I wrote to her when she was only “Little Fetus McConnell”. There are too many great moments to remember, too many awesome things these kids do every day…We have from day one loved them, held them, supported them, encouraged them, and made it clear we love them unconditionally. And I think you can tell. If you are familiar with them, know them, or have seen any of the crazy stuff they do-you can probably get it.

I’m not trying to brag, I think we’ve merely fulfilled a minimum requirement that many others do as well.

But fewer parents can or do these days-cut loose to the free market and investment wind as well as policy makers and the silent hands that guide them.There is our real achievement gap problem. Education reformers avoid this conversation like the plague, because it is impacting factor numero-uno on student outcomes. Finding someone in school to blame (not something outside of school they might have to help fix) is the current agenda because it holds opportunities in a new “education reform” market. But what reformers won’t engage with is a meaningful discussion regarding the quality of the bond that parents and children share, and how significant that is in determining a student’s ability to focus and achieve in school. If their basic needs are met, if they are emotionally secure, they are more likely to succeed.  

Reform stars would probably say that they too understand and feel this love,

…this unbelievably strong bond that begins even before the moment you see and hold your baby in your arms. The feeling that parenting is the most important thing you can ever do-to unconditionally love; to put the needs of another first; to give the world the best possible future by laying a loving foundation in your family world first.
            They would say they feel the same way, and that they know lots of others who do as well. Of course they do. That’s likely how they were raised, that’s the world they live in: where families have the resources and background to form these secure and loving bonds.

For the sake of public relations, reformers cherry-pick just that type of family to put out front for their lawsuits or enroll in their semi-exclusive schools.

What they are NOT getting, or willfully avoiding, is the fact that more children are coming to public school classrooms without that quality family foundation in place. They are unfamiliar with and/or unwilling to discuss a different type of family and dynamic that leads to a different sort of student coming to many public school classrooms. And more of them are coming as we sacrifice real life truths to the demands of market perspectives.
The arrogance of enjoying a gated sort of existence and undeserved influence over others, then using outcomes of inequity as criticisms of those combating inequity is aggravating. Using influence from within those gates of inequity to decide on and enforce a brand of generic education for the masses outside is wrong. All kids should have the connections I see in my family, in many families I know, and that those driving reform likely have.

But fewer and fewer do.

No amount of testing, no exclusive “public” charter school, no amount of arrogant rhetoric from those who will not take on the real burdens, no posturing from someone who themselves enjoys a gated sort of existence can do it. It is time for honestly “shared sacrifice”. Those who already have sacrificed are being asked for more by those who continue to avoid it.

Think reformers will agree?

What Reformers Cautiously Avoid

Previously, several years ago, blogged out here . I am doing some reorganizing of old writing and it brought a tear to my eye.

My first daughter was born five weeks early. I remember that night clearly: we had just got back from some shopping and my wife had sent me out for a Burger King cheeseburger (one of those pregnancy cravings that had to be satisfied occasionally). When I got home, not too many minutes later, I found her in our bedroom on the floor-laying on her side with a stopwatch in one hand, and the book “What to Expect When Expecting” next to her. It was one of those “triple-take” moments…my wife…the stopwatch…the book. Later I was to find out she had sent me out on purpose, and that she had felt “something” was happening.

            Before long we were in the car, and on our way to the hospital, which was maybe 3 small village blocks away (a five minute walk). I was driving like she might give birth in the car and she had to let me know that I could slow down…that the baby wouldn’t come in three minutes, but I had many memories of TV shows and movies where babies were delivered in the backseat of cars by husbands, cab drivers, firefighters, or some other random good Samaritan. It always happened quick with some yelling, screaming, crying, then smiling. Painful, messy, happy…and scary.

            Needless to say, my wife was right and we had plenty of time-but I was right too-it was scary. Not just because it appeared that the moment may have arrived-but because it was five weeks early (at that stage, complications are more likely). But even though there was no backseat birth or waiting room delivery, it became clear that our first baby was coming when they could do nothing to stop the contractions with medication and decided instead to induce labor. The worry was that if birth-weight was too low, our baby would be whisked away to a hospital more than a half hour away, and my wife would remain.

            I’m pretty sure someone had their thumb on the scale-she was so tiny! But she was able to stay in Cortland, close to us. Jen was in recovery, Chloe was taken to the newborn observation room, under a hood with oxygen being pumped into it and being monitored. I went back and forth between Jen and Baby Chloe. Sometimes I would sing softly to Chloe, leaning down close to do “You are my Sunshine”, the same way I did while she was in Jen’s belly and I would sing with my mouth pretty much on her. I can’t remember how long I did this back-and-forth between rooms, singing/ talking/ comforting… but I finally went to one of the nurses on duty and asked if they could bring Chloe to Jen. Jen had just given birth to her first child, prematurely,  and was stressed. Chloe hadn’t really spent any time with her mother and was in a bright impersonal room under a plastic hood. It had probably been a few hours-but time gets warped in situations like this. It was almost as soon as Chloe was in Jen’s arms that both seemed to be better.

            Chloe is 15 years old now, one of three sisters, one of four of the loves of my life. Parenthood is an amazing, painful, wonderful, awe-inspiring responsibility, and as I write this, I am seeing my wife’s post on Facebook. She is home with her own father and family right now. I won’t share details, but home with her father is where she needs to be. There isn’t much time left for that. I am home with our daughters. Jen’s  connection with her father is a powerful one-recognized and respected by everyone in her family (and me). She knows that she’s his favorite, (so does everyone else), and while he isn’t in the mood for much right now-she is the one he wants with him.

Her FB post:

Me: Dad, remember when you used to take me fishing?

Dad: Yeah, Beansie (her younger sister’s nickname, Jen’s is “Ding-Ding”…don’t know where these came from) went a lot too.

Me: How did we ever catch any fish? We sure did talk alot……… I guess is wasn’t about the fishing was it???

Dad: I guess not…

Me: Thanks Dad. 
*****sniff sniff*****

            Chloe is sleeping right now. She’s a teen, but gives us virtually no trouble. She is bright, beautiful, creative. Brenna, 13, could be described pretty much the same (in addition to the sleeping thing)-but is already taller and “leggier” than her mother and Chloe…a fact she enjoys razzing Chloe (and Jen) with. Our youngest, Ella (8), sits on the couch with the journal of letters Jen and I wrote to her when she was only “Little Fetus McConnell”. There are too many great moments to remember, too many awesome things these kids do every day…We have from day one loved them, held them, supported them, encouraged them, and made it clear we love them unconditionally. And I think you can tell. If you are familiar with them, know them, or have seen any of the crazy stuff they do-you can probably get it. I’m not trying to brag, I think we’ve merely fulfilled a minimum requirement that many others do as well.

           But fewer parents can or do these days-cut loose to the free market and investment wind as well as policy makers and the silent hands that guide them.There is our real achievement gap problem. Education reformers avoid this conversation like the plague, because it is impacting factor numero-uno on student outcomes. Finding someone in school to blame (not something outside of school they might have to help fix) is the current agenda because it holds opportunities in a new “education reform” market. But what reformers won’t engage with is a meaningful discussion regarding the quality of the bond that parents and children share, and how significant that is in determining a student’s ability to focus and achieve in school. If their basic needs are met, if they are emotionally secure, they are more likely to succeed.  Reform stars would probably say that they understand and feel this love, this unbelievably strong bond that begins even before the moment you see and hold your baby in your arms. The feeling that parenting is the most important thing you can ever do-to unconditionally love; to put the needs of another first; to give the world the best possible future by laying a loving foundation in your family world first.

            They would say they feel the same way, and that they know lots of others who do as well. Of course they do. That’s likely how they were raised, that’s the world they live in: where families have the resources and background to form these secure and loving bonds. For the sake of public relations, reformers cherry-pick just that type of family to put out front for their lawsuits or enroll in their semi-exclusive schools. What they are NOT getting, or willfully avoiding, is the fact that more children are coming to public school classrooms without that quality family foundation in place. They are unfamiliar with and/or unwilling to discuss a different type of family and dynamic that leads to a different sort of student coming to many public school classrooms. And more of them are coming as we sacrifice real life truths to the demands of market perspectives.

            The arrogance of enjoying a gated sort of existence and undeserved influence over others, then using outcomes of inequity as criticisms of those combating inequity is aggravating. Using influence from within those equity gates to decide on and enforce a brand of generic education for the masses outside is wrong. All kids should have the connections I see in my family,many families I know. and that those driving reform likely have. But fewer and fewer do.

            No amount of testing, no exclusive “public” charter school, no amount of arrogant rhetoric from those who will not take on the real burdens, no posturing from someone who themselves enjoys a gated sort of existence can do it. It is time for honestly “shared sacrifice”. Those who already have sacrificed are being asked for more by those who continue to avoid it.

Think reformers will agree?