Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Coop’s Childhood Part 5 – Burns Park & Divorce

March 26th, 2014

1139-martin-plWhile the events of the U.S. civil rights movement and the Vietnam War were roiling the larger society, the first big event that I was privy to in our little family’s cataclysm was in early April of 1964 around my ninth birthday, bearing helpless witness to my mom having what later I would learn was a panic attack. I recall that I was in my room and heard her out in the living room pacing the floor and crying haltingly punctuated by gasps for air. When I came into the living room to see what was going on she looked at me with absolute terror in her eyes, “Cooper… I can’t breathe!”, as if somehow she was hoping I could do something about it.

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Please Support My Ride for North Valley Caring Services!

March 14th, 2014

Bikers-with-sign-206x181Dear friends… For the sixth year now, I will be riding in the North Valley Caring Services 2014 bike-a-thon to raise money for this great community organization that supports the poor mostly Hispanic community in Panorama City, just a couple miles east of where I live.

Please support my effort by making a donation of $25, $50, $100 or whatever amount you can give by clicking the “Donate” button below! My goal this year is to raise $1000 for them!






 
To learn more about North Valley Caring Services and the great work they do, go to their website at www.nvcsinc.org.

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Coop’s Childhood Part 4 – Boys, Bushes, Baseball & Beyond

March 1st, 2014

Lilac bushes in Almendinger Park

Lilac bushes in Almendinger Park

The brooding and mostly repressed sexuality of America in the 1950s that I was born into, was being transformed by a sexual revolution that was taking form in the early 1960s. The seeds of this insurrection included Zoologist Alfred Kinsey’s reports on his research on human sexuality in males (1948) and females (1953), along with French feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex (1949), starting to rekindle the feminist movement including the right of women to have the same freedom to express and act on their sexual desires as men.

Many of my huge Baby-Boom generation born starting in 1946 into a burgeoning middle class after World War II were beginning to come of age in a relatively prosperous America. We had better access to education, and through the growing electronic media of radio and television, access to a popular culture that included championing the expression of sexuality and other forms of human liberation. Facilitated by the development of a reliable birth control pill in 1960, elements of American culture were moving away from traditional values and social strictures towards more permissive and informalized attitudes. Rock-and-roll music, emerging in the 1950s borrowing from black R&B roots and becoming mainstream in the 60s was a huge cultural aphrodisiac, urging its listeners to “rock”, its thinly-veiled code word for sexual activity.

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Does a Learner-Directed Education Support a Democratic Society?

February 22nd, 2014

Discipline-the-Child-230x300A lot of progressive people still struggle with concept of young people directing their own learning, whether in one of those rare democratic-free schools like Sudbury Valley or by a flavor of homeschooling that is known as “unschooling” or “life learning”. They feel that for our society to truly progress we need to ensure that our young people, all our young people whether privileged or not, learn a standard body of knowledge that will allow them to be get good jobs and participate fully in our democratic society. They ask good questions like, “What is the societal purpose of education?” and “Does personal achievement outweigh social progress?” There is an underlying concern that a learner-directed education, in a democratic-free school or by unschooling or life learning, focuses only on the individual and not that individual’s participation and contribution to a larger community.

Here’s an excerpt I got recently from a thoughtful comment from a teacher Adam on my piece “What is a Democratic Free School?”…]

To me, the ideals of democratic-free schools are all expressed in terms of the individual development of the children, rather than the benefit to society more broadly. How do such schools support social progress?

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Coop’s Childhood Part 3 – In School & Out

January 29th, 2014

Bach Elementary School

Bach Elementary School

Nowadays K-12 school has become such a high stakes endeavor that academically oriented parents like mine might do their best to “game” the system by letting their kid start school a year later than possible, thinking to give them some sort of developmental and competitive edge relative to other kids. But in 1960 when I turned five, judging me to be an intelligent and precocious kid, my parents had me tested to see if I could skip kindergarten and start public school in first grade instead.

I recall that I found the IQ test they gave me intimidating. Anytime adults focused on me, particularly in a more formal or judging way, I felt uncomfortable. All adults, including my parents, felt like another species entirely rather than simply older versions of us kids. They seemed like large all-knowing deities even, that had me at a total disadvantage.

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Coop’s Childhood Part 2 – Play, Play School & Other Explorations

January 18th, 2014

Me & Molly age 5

Me & Molly age 5

Though I was born in the 1950s with all its conventionally stark division of gender roles, my mom and dad were a pretty unorthodox couple, with a much more egalitarian relationship than the norm. They had been acquaintances and friends for a number of years before their relationship became a romantic one. They were both intellectual and athletic, and both comfortable with parenting tasks ranging from changing diapers to throwing a ball.

I believe theirs was a natural inclination to parent in the most progressive way, but it was certainly aided by the new parenting wisdom championed by the most popular pediatrician of the day, Dr. Benjamin Spock. His bestselling book, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, challenged the rigid childrearing practices that had been prevalent since the beginning of the century that included warnings against excessive affection to prevent children from becoming spoiled or fussy. Instead, Spock advised parents to be flexible in order to treat each child as an individual. He also educated parents about the stages of child development and how to create an appropriately safe but nurturing environment for each of those stages. And perhaps most importantly for my mom and dad and how they raised me, Spock urged them to trust their own common sense, instincts, and judgment.

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Coop’s Childhood Part I – As I Was Told

January 4th, 2014

Eric & Jane

Eric & Jane

I was born on April 2, 1955 in the maternity ward of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor Michigan. My mother, Jane Roberts Zale, was 32 years old, older than many first time mothers in those days. My father, Eric Michael Zale, was six years older than Jane. Theirs, I would later learn, would be a very unorthodox style of parenting, much more egalitarian than conventional practice, giving me a greater amount of freedom than most kids were blessed with. But given particularly my mom’s childhood story (I know little about my dad’s) that gift of an independent childhood had been passed through the generations.

As I get older, I am more and more amazed about the story of how my mom decided to go to Ann Arbor. An unlikely odyssey in 1947 for a single young woman of 23, but one consistent with her independent spirit, well nourished in her own childhood, that started a chain of events that led to my birth. Another thirty-two years later in 1978, I would embark on my own comparable odyssey to Los Angeles, coincidentally at age 23 as well.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 10 – School’s Out

December 13th, 2013

schools-outAt the end of each previous school year, I was jubilant to have survived another “tour of duty” and be liberated, at least for the summer, from society’s schooling requirement imposed on my developmental path. Finally finishing my senior year, there was a measure of that usual relief, along with a sense that somehow the ball was now finally in my court. What to do next was no longer mandated, but up to me. As I walked that big impersonal marble hallway of Pioneer High School for my last time as a student, the nihilism (an ideology that I had learned in my Modern Russian History Class was very different than anarchism) of Alice Cooper’s hit song, “School’s Out”, resonated with every fibre of my being…

Well we got no choice
All the girls and boys
Makin all that noise
Cuz they found new toys
Well we can’t salute ya
Can’t find a flag
If that don’t suit ya
That’s a drag

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces

No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

Out for summer
Out till fall
We might not go back at all

School’s out forever
School’s out for summer
School’s out with fever
School’s out completely

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Coop Goes to High School Part 9 – On My Own Terms

November 23rd, 2013

Me bottom row 2nd from the left and some of my JLO comrades

Me bottom row 2nd from the left and some of my JLO comrades

Living life on my own terms, at my own cadence, surrounded by those with whom I could share a sense of real collaboration and community, that’s what I wanted. Not some day in the future after I’d jumped through all society’s hoops and proven my worthiness to be a full-fledged adult, but now, January 1972, as I pondered what classes I would sign up for for my last semester of high school. There was so much going on, as George Harrison so elegantly called out in his song “Within You Without You”…

And the time will come when you see
we’re all one, and life flows on
within you and without you.

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Coop Goes to High School Part 8 – Starting Senior Year

November 2nd, 2013

JLO's 1972 production of Oliver! on the set I designed

JLO’s 1972 production of Oliver! on the set I designed

For the past eleven years, as my summer vacation waned each August, I would avoid for as long as possible thinking about having to go back to school. When that moment finally came and I had to focus on getting ready, I would prepare my tender psyche as best I could for all the new situations I would be thrown into and all the new people I would encounter who I did not know, and did not know me. The latter had always been particularly problematic for me, because I was shy and I hated being judged by other people, particularly people who I had not had the long time I typically needed to establish “diplomatic relations” with them. Those “diplomatic relations” involved the other person accepting and respecting me for all the aspects of myself that I had revealed and my doing the same for them. The more I could reveal over time the stronger the relationship became and the more I could relax and be myself. Any person I could not establish this sort of pact with I would avoid as best I could. School seemed always to be a problematic venue for my sort of interpersonal “diplomacy”.

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