Poem: A Good Education

MJ Auditorium at Gardner

At the Middle School two driveways down the street,

Hollywood safari vans tote tipsy tourists and King of Pop-culture purists

to contemplate like jurists the Michael Jackson Auditorium, whose much-lauded eponym

was sleek and slim, and boyishly indiscreet.

At this school, Russian parents take parking spots and umbrage,

when their children start to bleat

about the Czech (or Slovak?) wreck teaching home ec with no respect for Moscow discotheques, who expects to check classwork bereft of facts about the colossal crime in Crimea carried out by the usual suspects.

To my American neighbors, it sounds like the indirect vivisection of Vladimir Putin’s next election. Dollars and cents, rubles and shekels.

Garbage cans moved. Emotions operatic. Blissful harmony, discordant static.

Who’s more entitled, the white men born between borders or the white men with connections to the Kremlin? No one’s starving. No one drives a Gremlin.

When the SUVs and minivans . . . → Read More: Poem: A Good Education

Kumare

Kumare Poster

Vikram Gandhi is a handsome and charismatic filmmaker; Kumare is an Indian guru who espouses a nice-sounding mélange of yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, and chanting — all standard stuff for seekers of Wisdom. Gandhi’s documentary shows how Kumare, with the help of two fetching female assistants, builds a fabulous reputation and a community of followers. The catch? Kumare is Gandhi in disguise, abetted by a terrific Hindi accent. Is he a false prophet, a powerful teacher, or both? The answers are surprising and enlightening — exactly the kind of revelations we expect from our gurus.

 

Perverse Priorities

oaksterdam

Sometimes our chaotic, unknowable, seemingly random Universe arranges itself with perfect symmetry. In these moments of bracing clarity, authored by a Creator (in whatever guise or nomenclature you prefer) whose sense of irony is matched only by her/his/its sense of wicked humor, our innate foolishness and learned stubbornness are robbed of their pretensions. We see what we have wrought – and then pretend we didn’t, because, despite our professed wish for “change you can believe in,” change is the process we’re most unwilling to endure.

Last week provided several of those The Way It Is moments, with several illuminating events happening almost simultaneously, twinned like opposite sides of a coin, as though the worm-hole theories of modern physicists were getting an earthbound demonstration. Our chief prophet of change you can believe in, President Obama, who seems intent on being as big of a disappointment to as . . . → Read More: Perverse Priorities

Educating Everyone Excellently

flock of properly educated sheep

My dear mother is a knee-jerk liberal hippie Democrat progressive pro-labor vegetarian yoga-doing leftie. For most of her adult life she’s served as one of the most beloved and revered elementary school educators in her community. She’s taught across the spectrum of scenarios: inner-city public school with “at risk” students; suburban public school with “smart kids” using all the best learning tools; and private college-prep school with privileged children enjoying every advantage in the world. At every milieu Mom has succeeded: her children learn what they’re supposed to at their grade level and then much more. They leave her classroom prepared for the next grade and for an inquisitive, thoughtful life.

My mother is a great teacher, not just a very good one. Her classroom is a place of wonder and imagination, like a hybrid Children’s Museum-Zoo-Library-Art Studio-Epigram Factory. The bulging file of thank you letters . . . → Read More: Educating Everyone Excellently

How Propaganda Transforms Young Minds

propagandafiles

If we can put aside millennial-old inquiries into the nature of Truth, assuming such a thing exists, we can agree that propaganda, which is less concerned with veracity than with delivering a particular message, is a kind of prevarication. A lie. A tendentious assertion that’s antithetical to our notion of Truth.

I was reminded of this uncomfortable tension when my family informed me that my nephew and nieces, ages 8-10, were being inculcated at school with a “zero tolerance” policy toward drugs. The children, I was told, were alarmed to learn that their Uncle Mike, who has written an honest book about marijuana, was, according to what they were being taught in public school, breaking the law and ruining his brain.

Their parents warned that when I next saw the kids they would have many questions and would want explanations.

My answers, however, couldn’t contradict the . . . → Read More: How Propaganda Transforms Young Minds

My Mom

Renice-Konik-Michael-Konik's-Mom

Mother’s are like dogs: Everybody thinks his is the best.

Unless we’re living in billions of parallel universes, everyone having the best mom (or dog) is impossible. So I would like to clear up any confusion surrounding this question and set the matter straight. It is I alone who have the best mom in the world.

Sorry. I’m just a lucky guy.

Now, I’m big-hearted enough to recognize the lovely and endearing qualities all the other mom’s out there possess, and I’m gladdened to know that countless sons and daughters enjoy something approaching the satisfaction I enjoy. Nothing in life matches a mother’s love and affection, her concern and care, her passion for her children. Maternal nurturing is one of the brightest forces in the known universe, and all of us fortunate enough to have a mother to guide us and protect us know the beauty . . . → Read More: My Mom

Do We Really Believe in Education?

Educated and Ready to Work!

Aside from the concept of family, few pursuits are more important to Americans than education. Our politicians return to the theme as insistently as the repeating leitmotif of a pop song: We must invest in our future; we must spend more, do more, care more so that the quality of education improves — and, the logic follows, the quality of life for our children and society in general will improve.

It’s a constant and unwavering belief: Education is our number one priority (except when there’s a war on or our oil interests are being threatened.)

But what would happen if everyone, not just the sons and daughters of the economically privileged, got the best education money can buy? Who would labor in our factories, drive our trucks, stock the grocery shelves? The vocational point of getting a good education — aside from becoming a wiser and more . . . → Read More: Do We Really Believe in Education?