Tag Archives: politics

Shot Across my Boomer Bow

I think there are way too few conversations going on between us Baby Boomers and our kids’ generation about our commonalities and areas of divergence and friction. Given that, when our young adult son Eric posted a link on Facebook the other day with the following intro…

Everyone should read (and share) this. Everyone.

Followed by posting a provocative quote from the linked piece…

“From every corner of the institutional spectrum, the whole of American society has been rearranged so that the limits of vision coincide exactly with the death of the Boomers.”

I took notice!

Eric, now 26, has emerged from his youth into adulthood as a thoughtful person not prone to hyperbole, and someone I (biased perhaps) would consider a thoughtful spokesperson for his circle of young adult peers and his “Millennial” generation.

Eric’s must read is a piece in the April 2012 edition of Esquire magazine, “The War Against Youth”, by 36-year-old Canadian Stephen Marche, who writes a monthly column for the magazine, “A Thousand Words about Our Culture”.

FYI… Per a short Wikipedia article on Marche, he was a finalist for the 2011 American Society of Magazine Editors award for columns and commentary. Also noted in that article, is that during a Canadian election campaign in October 2010, the Toronto Globe and Mail published online a commentary by Marche where he “effusively taunted a candidate for mayor of Toronto for the man’s obesity”. Assuming both these citations are true, Marche perhaps combines an incisive social criticism with a penchant for anger and at times hurtful words. But given Eric’s nod, I don’t necessarily want to judge the message by the messenger.

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Unschooling in the Art of Social Transformation

It is my continuing effort to promote the concept of “unschooling”, the mostly unsung method of human development that often gets short shrift compared to more formal modes and venues for education. Wikipedia defines “unschooling” as a term coined in the 1970s by radical educator John Holt, representing…

A range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. There are some who find it controversial. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities, often initiated by the children themselves, facilitated by the adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each child.

Becoming familiar with the concept of unschooling reading works by John Holt, Pat Farenga, Matt Hern and John Taylor Gatto, I have been taking a long look back at the road I’ve traveled and the key developmental experiences that have contributed the most to who I am today. Though I went to school (K-12 & college, some 20 years worth!), my school experience contributes relatively little to who I really am today, and the wisdom and skill set that I bring to my life’s activities. What is more significant, in retrospect, are the major themes of my own self-directed learning done mostly outside of school.

I have already told the story of my developmental themes around participation in theater and military simulation board games. What follows is a narrative of my continuing interest around the theme of social transformation. What I’m trying to get at is the “deep dive”, the robust weaving of many threads, that can happen with a totally self-directed effort to learn. This rather than learning initiated by an external entity that the learner is “assigned” to learn to a prescribed extent.

I will warn you up front, like the others, it is a long piece, some 7000 words.

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Seeking the Essence of Unitarian-Universalism

nullIn her blog piece “Love is More Important than Freedom”, Unitarian-Universalist minister Victoria Weinstein writes…

It has come time for Unitarian Universalists to admit that we have honored free thought over love as an institutional commitment, and to consider the possibility that our obsession with personal freedom of belief has caused our organizations spiritual harm. We have developed a congregational culture that honors intellectual dominance over love and tenderness. We are brilliantly conversant when voicing opinion, but do not know how to engage each other as vulnerable persons in need of hope, grace and healing, leaving it to the self-identified victims in our congregations to motivate and then control most discussion of what it means to love, to welcome and to accept.

There are probably less than 700,000 “UUs” in the United States today (I among them), and not much more than a million in the entire world, and the denomination has soul-searched over the last several decades to find the missing keys to significant growth. The denomination has particularly struggled to gain adherents beyond its white Anglo-Saxon Protestant roots into communities of color. UUism is often criticized as a religion of the head rather than the heart, and thus of limited appeal to most people.

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Person of the Year

I caught the cover art of the recent Time magazine piece calling out the “Protester” as its “Person of the Year” and thought it was very cool. For the second time in this new century this long-time bulwark of the Eastern U.S. establishment has gone against its longstanding elitist tradition of calling out a member (or at least a darling) of the elite as its (once “Man” and now) “Person of the Year”. You may recall back in 2006 when “You” were the “Person of the Year”, Time‘s nod to the growth and importance of the Internet and the egalitarian social networking it fosters.

My understanding is that Time magazine has always represented the world view and biases of its founder Henry Luce and his second wife and successor, Clare Boothe Luce. Stalwarts of a moneyed New York establishment, Republican in that old school Nelson Rockefeller or Henry Cabot Lodge sort of thinking, prior to that farther right drift of the GOP starting with Goldwater in the 1960s to the various incarnations of the political right today.

I remember my mom, who was a Democrat and feminist activist in the 1960s and 70s, telling me that she always read Time to see what the other side was thinking. (One of many bits of wisdom she gave me – putting yourself in the shoes of your adversary to more effectively challenge that adversary.) So my mom, were she still alive and ticking today, would certainly alert me to take note of this new perhaps more egalitarian nod from one of the champion voices of the elite.

I for one would like to see this new century be all about “us”, the regular folks of the world, rather than “them”… highlighted members of some defined elite or even the iconic leaders (like Barak Obama for example) that may rise out of “us” but then grab the spotlight to lead and perhaps vicariously represent our aspirations. To the extent that people in the U.S. still live vicariously through celebrities – whether politicians, sports figures, media stars, etc. – I’m so ready for all of us to move beyond that! We can move our society forward without having to put so much stock in the beneficence of our anointed superstars! Continue reading →

Moving from Hierarchy to a Circle of Equals

When people ask me, “What do you do?” or “What kind of work do you do?”, they generally are asking me what kind of job I do to make a living. And particularly because I am a white male person of some economic and educational privilege (with a head full of gray hair), they often presume that that job is a fairly high-powered one, and a major part of how I define myself. My job is fairly high-powered, I am a “business process consultant” for Kaiser Permanente, specifically the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, which is a not for profit health insurance company. But nowadays, that is not how I answer the question of what I do or even what my “work” is.

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Moving Beyond “Us and Them” to only “Us”

In response to the Arizona shootings, congressperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on the PBS News Hour Thursday that we’ve got to “stop treating our opponents as enemies”. President Obama eulogizing nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green said, “I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations”. The issue of civility in political and legislative discourse, which I attempted to address in my last two blog pieces, is now front and center in public discussion in the media.

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My Tentative Embrace of Left-Libertarianism

Logo of the Alliance of the Libertarian Left
In the profile section of my Facebook page and increasingly in conversation when asked, I’m describing my political orientation as “left-libertarian” rather than “progressive” or “liberal”. I kind of feel like an adolescent experimenting with or trying on for size a persona that they are intrigued with but may not yet be fully comfortable with. Perhaps in wrestling with principles built around the primacy of liberty, I’m trying to rationalize some sort of continuity with ideas that I inherited from my parents. My mom always saying that in terms of parenting principles, that “kids will tell you what they need”, and when it came to education, “teachers should run the schools”. My father (though never explicitly stated as far as I can recall) believing that life at its best is an adventure, with twists and turns and outcomes always in doubt.

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