I repaired a stuffed animal this morning

Well, it was a shirt on a stuffed animal. A green shirt on a little panda that my daughter calls Pandy. We picked the critter up in London in the long-gone and much lamented pre-COVID19 days… I don’t know why they make these things so fragile (read: I do, but it’s not acceptable), and I am not a seamster/sewer/machine needle man. But because she was on the verge of tears over her beloved object, I did what any caring father would do and I picked up a damn needle and thread and started winging it (thanks, Amelie, for finding the needle and thread…).

So this little project got me thinking. It was out of my comfort zone, so I would never have naturally chosen it for myself – but isn’t that the nature of things that make us grow? I thought, this is a metaphor for what we need to be doing. Scale it up, and this is the problem – we are specifically and unequivocally bad at stewardship. I am not suggesting that we need to look at our elected officials as parents. Nor am I suggesting that we pursue the outsourcing of our responsibilities in such a fashion. But a few conversations over the last few days have led to this idea. And I realize it’s not new, or even particularly exciting. It requires effort on our part and a great galloping horde of us are apparently so lazy and entitled that we think showing up to a rally and holding a sign is the extent of our social and representative , civil obligation. Or worse yet, reposting memes into a vacuum channel like the social media outlets that won’t be named here…

Don’t get me wrong, protest is invaluable. I have protested and will continue to in order to spur myself onward and illustrate my understanding of civic responsibility. As well as to demonstrate that importance to my children. I mean, I get it. I am lazy also. But at some point we have to care enough about each other to actually do something… more active. Yes, get rid of politicians who would rather use their positions to line their pockets by conceding to the wishes of wealthy individuals and transnational corporations; yes, hold accountable the publicly elected officials who are selling us out in the name of holding us up; yes, use your purchases to drive a better and more ethical world. Isn’t there more, though?

I feel like there is, or there should be. The space occupied by this ephemeral agenda – it’s like looking for the surface of the water from inside the boat while you’re buried in a dense fog. You know it’s there, you can hear it, but what if there’s a water moccasin?

We are disconnected. From each other, from our own society.

We tend to have small enclaves of like-minded individuals that we cozily inhabit, because it’s safe and warm there. But over the last five years, some of us have heard the wild outside, and have turned to face the doorway. Do we step out and confront what haunts us, or do we wait for it to enter our spaces?

Two or three days ago, a friend posted a meme on Facebook. It doesn’t matter what the meme was, just that this friend and I do not see eye to eye on a lot of political ideology. I responded to the meme with a reasonably well-considered bit of analysis and posted some links that I had found that addressed the topic. No, it didn’t spin out of control. I thought it might, hoped it didn’t. It’s thanks to the character of the person posting that possibility did not occur. But it got me thinking, as did my conversation with my wife this morning about ethics.

When we were kids, so-called character education was largely gone from the American classroom. Along with many other hallmarks of traditional or classical education, as it turns out. It was a typical baby-with-the-bathwater, knee-jerk reaction. The same kind of thing that has invited massive corporations to commence the strip-mining of our educational system, wherein you have to buy our products to get better results, and then “assess” using our “testing instruments” in order to measure those results. Having trouble? Hire our consultants to come fix it. One silver bullet in the right spot…

Of course that doesn’t work. You know what does? Letting the people who teach all day decide what works. And supporting them when they say we aren’t doing enough to guarantee or support the social/emotional growth of our young people. That we aren’t providing mental health resources at appropriate levels. That we aren’t teaching level-appropriate content. That we aren’t consciously encouraging an active discussion about right and wrong that allows children to think for themselves and read consequences for both positive and negative behaviors.

But we’re afraid. We are afraid to speak truth to power because we have an awful history of paying very steep fines for that truth.

If it’s your kids, maybe you will speak up. I hope so. We certainly have. But it gets mixed results: anything from outright disdain to refutation to receiving the label most parents dread… being THAT PARENT.

Look, I know. I taught for ten years. I have three kids and they have been in a wide variety of educational environments. I know what works for my people may not be one size fits all, but the teaching of ethics is the foundation of civilization itself. And no, I do not believe that we should have prayer in the classroom or “bring the Bible back.” It’s not gone anywhere, folks. That is a deeply personal decision and you decide for your own family. You don’t get to enforce it on everyone else. It’s perfectly acceptable to embrace all philosophies when having a constructive conversation. Why can’t we do this with children?

You have to let go of the idea that your way is the only way. That causes vastly more problems than it provides solutions. I stitched a green shirt with blue thread. The seam is lumpy. It looks like someone who has no idea what they were doing conducted the repair, as in fact was the case. But I made the attempt. And I learned something while doing it. And I thought about how it related to a bunch of other things, so I think it was worthwhile for all of us.

Take a moment to repair something you can, even if the result is a bit dodgy.

Published by cbrannonwatts

teacher and writer

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