Tag Archives: values

How Might You Engage with Children and Young People about the Nazis March in Charlottesville?

The Charlottesville march of hatefulness and weapons was terrifying!  Seeing and/or hearing the aggressive and vile outburst is frightening and complicated to process for our children and young people. We know this because it is a lot to process for us adults.

I think about how many parents and grandparents may want to help the children and young people in their lives to have an understanding of why the Nazis must never gain power again.

The topic of Nazism is something that parents and grandparents may find difficult to speak about with the children and young people in their lives.  I offer some information here that may be helpful to you.

Stories can help young people to begin to understand a big and complex concept. This can be true for the big concept of Nazism, which is a terrifying concept to learn about.  The idea that some people use power to control and seriously harm other people because of the other people’s race or religion (or for other characteristics) is more than unsettling.  It is frightening.

I share with you a children’s book, Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, by Eve Bunting because this story is both accessible and thought provoking.  Also this is the kind of book you can read to children or young people of whatever age you think is appropriate.

Terrible Thing Eve Bunting Book Cover

This allegory may provide a way to begin a conversation. A dialogue is a great way to connect to individuals – old or young.  This is a topic where the convener will want to appreciate, respect and honor the prior knowledge and current thinking of the young people you engage and converse with.  And, by framing this as a dialogue or conversation around the discussion of this book – you are opening the door to additional interactions in the days, weeks, and months to come as you potentially return to the book.  Plus, because you will have read it aloud – you can restart the conversation by just referring to the shared experience you had around to book.  The dialogue may pop up weeks or months after the read aloud.

This book has the potential to open up deep thought and sharing around many topics that are of importance today.  They include, and are not limited to: social injustice, bystanders, violence, spreading terror, the Charlottesville march, and/or the possibility of ‘normalizing’ something that is not normal and not appropriate.

Please think about what I am recommending and embrace the concept that you will read this book aloud.  Sure, many children or young people could read it on their own and those same children or young people would likely benefit more from sitting close to you and hearing you read this story to them. And when you are the reader, it sets a tone for the dialogue you want to engage in following the story.

You might get the dialogue started by saying something like: “Wow, take a minute to think about what you just heard.  What are you thinking about?”  Or, “Would you like me to read it again?” – if the answer is yes – you might say. “OK and as I read it think about what you would like to talk about related to this story or what you might want to ask me about.”

And as you begin to get one or more of the listeners talking – try to keep them thinking and talking by saying to them: “Thank you, please tell me more about that thought.” Or, if you are reading it to two or more children or young people, you might ask the brother who is listening to his sister, “What do you think about your sister’s thought?”

As you listen will want to express an understanding of what was shared.  You can do that by paraphrasing what the child or young person said. If one of your grandchildren said, “Grampa, I didn’t like the way the other creators said mean things about the animals that were gone? Like when the birds where gone the creatures said those birds where always so loud.”  You might respond, “It sounds like you didn’t feel like it was right to talk badly about the animals that vanished.  Can you tell us more about what that got you thinking about?”  Or, you might respond by say, “It sounds like you really noticed that when the other creators said things – like about the squirrels ‘never sharing’ that you thought that that was kind of nasty for the other creators to say.”

And you can probe about a topic that hasn’t come up yet like the Holocaust.  You might say, “Who will read the full title of this story to us and tell us why you think the word Holocaust is in it?”  And if more probing may be needed, you might say, “Please listen to me as I reread the introduction found just after the author’s page.”  After you have reread it, you might say, “Who wants to try to put into their own words what we just heard?” Or, “Have you heard about Nazis and the Holocaust? What do you know or what do you want to know about Nazis and the Holocaust?”

You may find that the conversation goes at a pace that is slower than usual.  That is normal when a topic is serious and troubling.   You may find that there is silence and a desire to hold and look at the book. There is no one way children or young people will or should react.

And, if you are looking for ideas to discuss with the children or young people you share this with you might check out online resources such as: Fighting Injustice by Studying Lessons of the Past Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting with special attention to Lesson 1.   Or, Making Choices: Bystander, Perpetrator, Victim, Upstander, created for 3rd through 5th graders by the For Action Initiative.   Please know that there are many, many resources on the internet and you may find other ideas that help you to create a rich and meaningful dialogue with those you read it to.

If you want to see the illustrations and hear the story read aloud and you can do so on You Tube in as a video.  The video is intended for educational purposes.  I really encourage you to get the book, either from your library or by purchasing it (it is currently is available as a $10.00 paperback).  And, once again, I am encouraging you to read it aloud.

Below is a famous quotation/poem by Martin Niemöller. You may just want to read it as you your prepare for your dialogue.  And/or you may choose to read it to the children or young people you are sharing Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust with.  Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The quotation stems from Niemöller’s lectures during the early postwar period

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A Time for Striving To Understand Our Neighbor

 

From my point of view, it has always been essential to understand the thinking of our neighbor’s. I am not saying that it is a common practice or that I am good at it.  And I do believe that to appreciate how others feel about being ‘included’ or ‘not so included’ in the community is a big part of what it takes to make a community. To be aware of their view of the future and possibility that may lie ahead for them, their family or their friends.

Now, in February of 2017, it is becoming more and more clear to many of us that we don’t have access to our ‘neighbors’ thinking other than through parody or even mockery.

I have been looking for accessible voices of those that might be able to help me understand how it is that so many of my American ‘neighbors’ choose to support Donald Trump.

We benefit from living in East Lansing: and one of the many benefits is that each February, at MSU, there is the Slavery to Freedom lecture series open to the entire community.  It is a tremendous resource! Last week’s speaker was Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post opinion writer, MSNBC contributor, and he made several excellent points provoking thought and discussion.  The comment that stuck with me is when he challenged us all to seek out voices other than the voices that we agree with in an attempt to learn more, understand more and appreciate more.

Jonathan has a podcast, Cape Up and as I was listening to some of his interviews, I came across this recent one.   Arthur Brooks explains on January 24th how dignity links Trump to Obama.  I found it fascinating and thought provoking.  I started to think a little deeper than I had been about how others chose to vote for Trump.

Go to iTunes, or whatever you get your podcasts and search for Cape Up and then listen to Jonathan’s conversation with Arthur Brooks from January 24, 2017.

To anybody who wants to explore a thoughtful new podcast, I recommend Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart.

jonathan-capehart

Orange . . . Read the Book Too!

“The United States has the biggest prison population in the world – we incarcerate 25% of the world’s prisoners, though we’re only 5% of the world’s population. This reliance’s on prisons is recent: in 1980 we had some 500,000 Americans in prison; by 2010 we have more than 2,300,000 American people locked up. Yes, that’s close to 2 ½ million Americans now!”
Piper Kerman has written a great memoir of for 13 months in the Federal prison system. Many people know about her work because they’ve seen the TV show which was created as a result of this memoir. Yes, Piper Kerman wrote Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.
I like the TV show AND the book. When I write “like” – it is the kind of appreciation that comes when I am made to think deeply about information and when I find myself caring about something which, previously I hadn’t given much thought to.  I also love good stories with characters that are authentic. Where people grow and evolve.  Where people are complex. All of that and more is happening in the book and the TV series.

If you are interested in learning more about our current American prison system – this book is a place to start. It is the story of one of those many million Americans who have spent or are spending time in prison. It is a story that let us into a world we don’t necessarily know much about. Yet, the world of prison life is huge in America. So, yes – this book and TV series gets us thinking about our country and how we operate.
Kerman sees clearly that “America has invested heavily in prisons, while the public institutions that actually prevent crime and strengthen communities – schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, community centers – go without.”  I see this too and  would add to the list the need for greater resources in responding compassionately and productively to homelessness and community and mental health across the country.

Piper_Kerman
Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman 2010, 2011 is published by Random House and can be bought or checked out of libraries everywhere. The TV show is a NETFLIX original series (Orange is the New Black) is based on the work of Piper Kerman and season three is to begin in the summer of 2015. That gives you lots of time to read the book and catch up on season 1 and 2.
The complexity of the American prison system is important for all of us to think about.  Kerman asserts that we “Over incarceration in America destabilizes families and communities, making life outside the mainstream more likely by limiting opportunities for change. We have a racially biased justice system that over punishes, fails to rehabilitate, and doesn’t make us safer.”

The quotes above can be found on pages 303, 299 and 303 of the paperback of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

Water Falling on the Stone

                  From: The Rock Will Wear Away

Can we be like drops of water falling on the stone
Splashing, breaking, disbursing in air
Weaker that the stone by far but be aware
That as time goes by the rock will wear away
And the water comes again
~ Holly Near

In what ways are you the “water” that “comes again”?

For me I am the splashing, breaking, disbursing water when it comes to:

Having equity and dignity for all

Ending war

Bringing an end to poverty

No one is hungry

Education for all

Ensuring that everyone can read and write

Thinking interdependently in service of the common good

In what ways are you the “water” that “comes again”?

Man must Never

 

 

Inquiry Combined With Deep Listening

conversation_002Exploring with others through sincere and effective inquiry combined with deep listening for understanding are great tools to develop for working well with others. Often small or large groups of people are faced with working through what seem like insurmountable challenges.

How we ‘show up’ matters: It is worth considering that reframing the situation into many possibilities and opportunities rather than insurmountable challenges is a potentially more proactive platform to be working from.

I do believe that we are in charge of our own perspectives and that any group of people is in charge of their own perspectives. And that our perspectives influence how we navigate opportunity or, as some may see it – insurmountable challenges.

Further, I believe that the questions we ask can be powerful in setting a ‘frame’ for our thinking and actions. Great questions are valuable for the person who asks them – if that person is ready to listen deeply and consider what is shared. Great questions are valuable to those who take them seriously by pondering and responding to them.

Michael J. Marquardt puts it this way: “Great questions cause the questioner to become more aware of the need for change and to be more open and willing to change. The questions themselves may actually cause the leader to become a change catalyst. The leader who leads with questions will more likely champion new ideas heard and developed in the course of inquiry. New ideas and perspectives enable the leader to make strong arguments for advocating change.” Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, Revised and Updated, 2014, pages 42-43.

Marquardt also states that: “A questioning culture strengthens individual and organizational learning; it improves decision making, problem solving, and teamwork; promotes adaptability and acceptance of change; and helps empower people by strengthening self-awareness and self-confidence.” page 6

These are the kinds of questions that may have the power to help a leader or participant of a group to deepen and improve the culture and quality of thinking and work:

If you were to overhear an honest conversation about this intuitive 30 months from now – what would your highest hopes be for what you would hear? What do you believe you would actually hear, given the current trajectory of the project?

How would describe the way you want this project to turn out?

What resources might we tap into that we haven’t used before or not using currently?

What crucial or vital behaviors can we target that seem to provide the greatest leverage for dramatically advance our goal?

How can this team become more efficient and productive while also supporting its members in the pursuit?

What inspires us about this work?

What happens if . . .?

Have we ever thought of . . .? (This question and the two directly preceding it – may be good ones to go around the group and have everyone add in their ‘. . .’ and then go around again and possibly again to generate new and potentially provocative thinking)

For any of these or other such questions to have value a culture of open shared thinking must be supported and the questions must be asked with sincerity and listened to with a commitment to strive to understand and appreciate the perspective(s) being shared.

PERIODS OF CHAOS CAN BE EMBRACED AS A PORTAL TO CHANGE

As I read Roger Lewin’s and Birute Regine’s Weaving Complexity and Business: Engaging the Soul at Work (2000) I was impressed with their message regarding ‘complexity’. Yes, they write from a business perspective where managers are many and their roles are very important. And yes, some educators and educational leaders might not like to think of ‘businesses’ and ‘managers’ when they think about schooling.
Given that, please read the following quote from their book. “When managers accept that periods of chaos are natural – even desirable – in business, then they will come to see chaos with different eyes. Specifically, periods of chaos can be embraced as a portal to change, which may be enhanced through respectful and limited influence, not as an aberration that needs to be avoided.”
Most of us would likely agree that education is going through a time of dramatic change. And that the concepts of maintaining the status quo or going back to the specific order of less chaotic times are not reasonable.  So, the times we live in, raise our families in, help with our grandchildren in and work in are changing.
These times may lead to a better and different future. Maybe our influence on the future may be limited yet respecting the fact that change is here and is continuing to unfold – we need to be part of the ‘unfolding’.
Our vision has to be on the future and not on the past. Helping to shape tomorrow for our children and grandchildren is important work. To do that we need to be clear on our vision of all children benefiting from schooling and all children being effectively launched as citizens of tomorrow. IMG_6481

Five Smooth Stones

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to read this book.  Back in 1974 or 1975 I didn’t read for pleasure.  We were married in December of 1973.  You were surprised and saddened that I didn’t read for pleasure.  You had a plan.  You asked me – if you suggested a book of fiction to me, would I agree to read it because you asked?

You introduced me to the world of “want to” (as opposed to “have to”) reading through this book, Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn, and I am forever grateful to you.

As I would read we would talk about what was happening and how the plot was unfolding each night at dinner.  Those discussions were rich and real.  Thank you, Karen.

On the occasion of our fortieth wedding anniversary I decided to reread Five Smooth Stones.  I was once again enthralled and captivated by this piece of art.  I found myself attracted to the rhythm and pulse of the story, characters and issues.  This is a love story, an epic tale of family, a historic and dramatic glimpse of the struggle for basic civil rights in our country and a challenging stimulant related to the realities of social privilege – all making for a truly great read.

This is a story of beauty amid reality, injustice and brutal violence.  This is a story of people who are so real I found myself believing that they were.

Fairbairn is a writer! She crafted characters of clarity and difference: Each real and provocative. She generated story lines that begged to be followed.  Mostly she was an artistic ‘weaver’ of divergent and convergent ‘wrap and waft’ of material.  Whether it was individuals, history or events – she brought this huge story into what I consider a treasured piece of art.

Ann Fairbairn published this work in 1966. I recommend this novel to anyone who wants to get immersed into a compelling, intense, serious, loving and abundant story.

I am a slow reader and the hardback copy of Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn I was reading from was 853 pages long.  I loved its length.  Actually I wished it were longer.  Shucks . . .  who among us wants a good story to end?

Thanks again, Karen!

Five Smooth Stones