Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Leave me alone."

We have no privacy. Our smart phones, computers and devices leave a cyber trail that makes it possible for companies to target ads tailored just for us; grocery stores send coupons to me based on my recent spending habits; my favorite game site and Facebook have ad banners showcasing similar items I have recently purchased. If I Google my name, I can find out more about myself than I wish to know. Which means, anyone can know what I am spending time and money and interest, where and what, in almost every facet of my life, except (maybe?) my inner life. Although, perhaps by examining my reading list one could find some misleading clues; but what you cannot know is how many of those books I have actually completely read and appreciated, unless I post a review. My point, I emphasize, is unless I let you know.

Here we all are in Candyland, the place of easily and readily accessible knowledge and merchandise, available with a thought and a click. It is interesting that the trail while browsing the internet is referred to as leaving ‘cookies’—such an innocuous term, but like the fairy tale reference to Hans and Gretel, if you examine the premise, it is pretty scary; being preyed upon and exposed to malevolent, unseen forces is not something most would willingly choose to do. These unseen forces are bullies. As I have pointed out before, cyberbullying is the worst form of harassment, as there is no safe haven, no place that you cannot be found as you have left evidence of your whereabouts on every device you use.

What am I leading up to and what is my bully issue now? It is a personal matter that I have concerning rights to privacy.  I received notification of impending vote from the condo association in Honolulu that owners are to decide on three subjects:  one of which is to have our entire buildings and premises, including inside the apartment, smoke free. There are two buildings, a common area on the fourth floor, and 938 units. This is a lot of space and a lot of people, but not all are owners of the units they reside in and not everyone will get a vote on this proposal. I understand that there are people with medical and personal objections to smoking, that it is a matter of maintaining the grounds and secondhand smoke; but I do not understand the rationale of dictating what goes on inside my condo unit. And unfortunately, precedent has been set where a condo association in Colorado won the case to have a smoke free property outside and inside a newly built complex.

How will anyone know what I am doing inside my unit? Will there be a camcorder set up to monitor my actions, or a drone? Will I be sanctioned with a written warning, verbal abuse, or eviction from my property if I light up? Will I have to sign a pledge that I will abide by this rule and turn in my neighbors if I know someone has broken the covenant?

What happens down the road if/when someone decides that alcohol is unhealthy for everyone and no one should be allowed to drink beer, wine, or spirits? Or wearing green shirts is inflammatory and prejudicial to chameleons? Flip-flops are really not very healthy for the feet—perhaps no one should wear flip-flops in the interest of insurance coverage.

I am not trivializing this, but trying to make a point that there has to be a boundary between the outside and inside of our lives that cannot be legislated; what is happening is an over legislating and intrusion upon fundamental rights by a majority, but a majority that is not totally representative of the whole. Frankly, I am scared that we are one step away from being institutionalized, with no basic individual rights upheld against a bureaucratic process.  (Madness?) As I have stated in another context, once you have abnegated your rights, it is hard to win them back.

We need to be very careful about giving away our right to privacy, either knowingly or unknowingly. This has been my wake up call to pay attention to the erosion of my fundamental right to be left alone in my own house, my private space. I will be paying closer attention to how much of my life, my activities, gets monitored and marketed back to me, deleting trails where and when I can, as well as protesting any which way I can. Stay out of my bedroom, my closet, my living room. I may be a small voice, like a clownfish in a sea of whales, but I will heard. You can count on it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Penny in Time Chapter 6: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Part 1)

"Childling, what are you doing here?"

Well, wasn't that the question of the year!  Before I could answer, the creature, I'd guess at least eight feet tall, shook his pearly mane and scolded, "It's much too late for you to be out."

He seemed to know me and I had a feeling I knew this shaggy, but well-groomed creature that towered over me, extending a paw-like hand towards me.  His fur was satiny-white and he had liquid brown eyes beneath puckered eyebrows in a rather stern, human-like face.  It was not an unkind face, just not too friendly.  Yugo, snuggled in my arms, wasn't the least bit afraid of him, either, not that I could sense.  But Yugo also didn't give out any information on this guy, which left me wondering if I should shake his hand or what.

I'd trust my instincts.  I clasped his hand and replied, "Please call me Dusty."

"Humph," he squeezed my hand and let go, "'Dusty' is not a proper name, Elizabeth Conner."

Now I knew why he felt so familiar, he reminded me of my Dad.

"Come along," he took a key from a big ring and unlocked the gate, a soft clicking echoing throughout the deserted streets. "You may call me Mr. dIAmand."  He swung the gate open and as I took a step, he stopped me with an upraised hand.  "You must," he pointed to Yugo, "leave the misbegotten outside the city walls.  It must return to the desert."

"No!" I shot back, without a moment's hesitation, heartened by my voice ringing in the still night air.  "Yugo and I stay together.  I must get some food for him.  He's starving."  I stroked Yugo and he purred.  "Maybe you can help find his parents."  I smiled at the man-thing, seeing a resemblance between him and Yugo.  Yugo would probably grow up to look a lot like Mr. dIAmand.

"It is not possible," he rejoined, stepping over the threshold into the city.  "Misbegottens are not allowed here in the Perpetual City."

"But he's one of your kind!" I shrieked.  "You can't leave Yugo to die out in the desert!  You can't!"  No one could be that cruel.

Yugo burrowed deeper into my arms.  We both felt terrified that we'd be left outside to die.
The keys jingled and I realized Mr. dIAmand's hand trembled as he spoke.  "It isn't done. The misbegottens do not come back.  You must understand, there is no place for them."  He met my eyes, and I thought I saw sadness in them.  "You mustn't interfere with the way things are here, Elizabeth Conner."

I took three steps over to him, facing him so that he could not avoid looking me in the eyes while I spoke.  "Is that the way things are done here?  Murder of the innocents?"

"No!" he boomed.  "These misbegottens are not innocent!  They accept that they must not be."  Then with a careful gesture, he touched my shoulder with his shaggy hand.  "Do not take it upon yourself to change things.  You cannot make what is acceptable seem wrong.  This cannot be tolerated!"

I sounded a lot braver than I felt, but I had too much to lose to give in to him, even if my own life depended on his help.  "It's murder, Mr. dIAmand, and you'll be a murderer."

"I am only responsible for you!"  He thundered, cutting great arcs with his hand-paw.  "I can do nothing for the misbegotten.  Now come along!"

"Who says?" I challenged.

"Who says?" hooted Mr. dIAmand, clearly puzzled.

"Who makes all these rules and says you're only responsible for me and not for Yugo?"

I had obviously asked the right question by the smug look on Mr. D's face and the sound of his voice.  "Why, the Perfect Council decided these matters long before you or I were born, Elizabeth Conner."
"Well then, Mr. D, we'll challenge the Perfect Council.  You'll be only responsible for me, as I assume full responsibility for Yugo."  I had a vague notion that Mr. D was in a bind; he must have been assigned to take care of me and I meant to use that to my advantage.  "I won't go with you if you won't ask the Perfect Council to consider my case for Yugo."

All the while Yugo mewed I stroked him, offering him all the comfort I could muster.  I banked on Mr. D's sense of 'responsibility' as being about as rigid as he was.

"Excellent idea Elizabeth Conner!  We shall do that.  Now, please come along."  He stood aside for me to walk by and I kept Yugo tucked out of reach, for I wasn't real sure Mr. D wouldn't snatch Yugo and throw him away.

"Elizabeth Conner," Mr. dIAmand brought his hand gently upon my shoulder, "you mustn't call me any name other than my rightful one.  It isn't proper."

Yugo still needed food and I had pushed Mr. D about as far as I thought I could, but I was stuck on a principle.  "In a way, I understand that.  You call me Dusty and I'll call you Mr. dIAmand."  I stretched as tall as I could make myself and looked Mr. D in the eye.

"But, childling, I must call you by your rightful name.  Surely, you can understand that?"  He asked so sincerely, so clearly baffled, that I had to reply with the very truth of the matter.

"It offends me."  I didn't want to go into all the whys and wherefores, so I added, "For reasons of my own."

He studied me, which gave me a chance to look him over, too.  He really was quite beautiful, with long, shiny hair that begged to be brushed and stroked.  He had a nice face, but one that I doubt I could remember or describe, other than it was nice.  I guess that's why he reminded me of my Dad, only Mr. D had a lot more hair.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Power of Play

“And never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that we would have to defend children’s right to play.” - Nancy Carlsson-Paige

How ‘twisted’ early childhood education has become — from a child development expert
by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post

“Nancy Carlsson-Paige is an early childhood development expert who has been at the forefront of the debate on how best to educate — and not educate — the youngest students. She is a professor emerita of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Ma., where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools. She is also a founding member of a nonprofit called Defending the Early Years, which commissions research about early childhood education and advocates for sane policies for young children.

Carlsson-Paige is author of “Taking Back Childhood.” The mother of two artist sons, Matt and Kyle Damon, she is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Legacy Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps for work over several decades on behalf of children and families. She was just given the Deborah Meier award by the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing.”

Read the entire article>>

by Tim Walker,

“The changes to kindergarten make me sick,” a veteran teacher in Arkansas recently admitted to me. “Think about what you did in first grade—that’s what my 5-year-old babies are expected to do.”

The difference between first grade and kindergarten may not seem like much, but what I remember about my first-grade experience in the mid-90s doesn’t match the kindergarten she described in her email: three and a half hours of daily literacy instruction, an hour and a half of daily math instruction, 20 minutes of daily “physical activity time” (officially banned from being called “recess”) and two 56-question standardized tests in literacy and math—on the fourth week of school.

Read the entire article>>

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Practicing Kindness

6 Simple Ways Children Can Spread Kindness in Schools
by Dr. Michele Borba

Practicing kindness is what helps children tune into other people’s feelings and needs, trust more, step out of their own skins to understand others, and become UnSelfies (my term for kids who are “more we, less me” oriented). Each kind act nudges kids to notice others (“I see how you feel”). Care (“I’m concerned about you”), empathize (“I feel with you”) and help and comfort (“Let me ease your pain”).

Helping students practice kindness also activates empathy and creates more caring schools. That’s why I consider “Practicing Kindness” as an essential habit of empathy.

Over the last years, I’ve observed countless classrooms around the world as I researched ways to nurture children’s empathy and reduce bullying. Here are a few favorite ways educators help students practice kindness and acquire empathy from my book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World. The book includes over 300 practical ways based on the latest science, and none cost a dime, and are simple to implement.

Read the entire article>>