Sort of a different take on a similar theme to Wallace’s commencement address. Green talks about conscious choices, including knowing the value and limitations of dreams. One of his key takeaways is that we should not be beholden to the dreams and desires of our past selves.
This excerpt from a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace always stops me cold and forces me to reconsider my perspective. He discusses the mundanity of adult life and the ways in which our conscious choices about how we perceive the world around us shape how we find meaning. See also: Tim Urban on empathy.
So there’s that.
Accidentally watched four episodes of The OA before I forced myself to stop. Wow. Compelling, captivating, original. Netflix is the only network I need.
First I wanted to write this off as another stupid and distorted postmortem think piece, then I found some passages I wanted to quote, then it just kept going, and getting more real. It’s like a meta analysis punctuated with equal parts snark and real talk. Maybe that means I don’t have to read anything else for a while?
Argues that his foreign policy platform is pretty settled, and predicts the challenges to international order that they entail.
For the last week I have dreaded loading Facebook for what I might see. Today my feed is full of hope and cheer and possibility. Let’s savor this, for at least a few more hours.
There is intense debate in Massachusetts right now around Question 2, a ballot initiative aimed at raising the cap on public charter schools. I am generally of the opinion that legislating through ballot initiatives is a poor idea (with all the normal downsides of direct democracy). This being New England, we experience the flaws of direct democracy perennially at our horrible “town meetings,” which is apparently not enough to discourage proponents of ballot initiatives.
Which leaves us with Question 2, and the requirement for a simple “yes” or “no” vote. I have been a big believer in public charter schools ever since attending Santiago Charter Middle School in Orange County, California. Before that I attended a magnet program that was also excellent. Both were formative experiences that I believe profoundly affected who I would grow up to become.
I have no experience with privately run charters. I was in a very diverse environment, but as a student on an accelerated learning track my classmates often looked like me, and my experience has no relevance when discussing the needs of underserved populations. My school district was run at the county level, with over 20 elementary schools. My middle school of approximately 1000 students is roughly the same size as the entire enrollment of the school district of Hull, where I currently reside.
Santiago has 42 credentialed educators providing a diverse range of programs including wood shop, theater, dance, Chinese, and various other additions to standard, remedial, and honors curriculums. Hull’s Memorial Middle School has a quarter of the students but almost half the teachers, spends vastly more per pupil, and offers far fewer programs. Economies of scale cannot be achieved unless towns are willing to regionalize their school systems, which seems extremely unlikely to occur.
Which is all to say, educational policy and funding is extremely complex. A yes/no ballot question on charter caps is a very coarse instrument for making policy improvements. And based on my education, experience, and research, I cannot offer a concrete conclusion on whether passing Question 2 will improve things in aggregate, or not. From what I have read, the impacts of Question 2 in the first few years will be primarily in Massachusetts’ larger cities, while the majority of the opposition comes from its smaller suburbs. I don’t want to see public school districts anywhere suffer from decreased enrollment to competing charters if it negatively impacts educational outcomes. But I’m also not sure there is a better policy prescription than charters for continuing to experiment with new programs and approaches for education.
On balance, I think the benefits of more charters at least slightly outweighs the potential downsides.
As a student of American civilization, I continue to work to understand what drives supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. The many media narratives to choose from are universally simplistic and self-reinforcing. The more I read, the more muddled my thoughts become.
The people I know who support Trump do not fit the narratives being peddled, and the people I know who should fit those narratives are not Trump supporters. One thing I know for sure is that the simplistic characterization of Trump followers as rural working-class white “trash” is an easy crutch for urban elites, but a false one.
I have been thinking about this and reading about it for months, for years, if you go back to the rise of the Tea Party movement, but even still I cannot form my thoughts into prose. I will delete the many paragraphs I have spent so long writing and instead simply link to a few of the stories I have found most compelling and enlightening. They don’t all agree with each other, but they are all good food for thought.
As I write this the odds are somewhere in the 90% range that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. But even if she wins, and even if the Democrats take back control of one or both houses of Congress, the Trump supporters are not going to disappear, and the problems of rural whites are not going to magically get better.
Two perspectives of the urban vs rural divide and the plight of the white working class, the first more irreverent than the second:
- How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind
- Dangerous idiots: how the liberal media elite failed working-class Americans
A long read that discusses the social science around white nationalism and traces its roots and effects around the world, going back to World War II:
And finally, two articles discussing recent books on the subject, Strangers In Their Own Land, about the Tea Party movement, and Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir of growing up in an Ohio steel town:
I do not want to see bombings become a normal part of American life. But, much like homicides, robberies, and drunk driving, we cannot let individual incidents of violence terrify us or change how we go about our lives. Informed, engaged communities; committed, dedicated police and investigators; trust in the power of a democratic society to bring justice — this is how we remain resilient and free.
Ultimately, we give up and we leave. That’s how the story ends.Justin Gillis, “Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun”
Meghan’s aunt gave us a ton of jalapeños from her garden, so I tried making poppers for the first (or possibly second?) time. It was a very time consuming process. I should have worn gloves (oh, the burning!). But they turned out absolutely delicious.
Pretty interesting. The amount of technology and human capital assembled for a temporary event is mind-boggling. Sounds like a fun challenge.
Today’s rainstorm in Louisiana is at least the eighth 500-year rainfall event across America in little more than a year, including similarly extreme downpours in Oklahoma last May, central Texas (twice: last May and last October), South Carolina last October, northern Louisiana this March, West Virginia in June, and Maryland last month.Eric Holthaus, “America’s Latest 500-Year Rainstorm Is Underway Right Now in Louisiana” in Pacific Standard Magazine.
Anyone in federal elected office who still refuses to acknowledge human-caused climate change is a menace to our society and should be impeached, recalled, or tried for treason. The longer we wait to act, the worse it will get.
The weather was so nice I cut our run short when we got to the pier and went for a swim in my running clothes. Salty would not come in at first. He freaked out and ran around the pier and float, then for some inexplicable reason picked up my socks and flung them into the water in exasperation, where they sunk before I could get to them. It was hilarious and also sort of problematic, because I had to run back home, wet, with no socks. I did manage to get him into the water eventually, and he swam around a bit, then repeatedly attempted to climb atop me and drag me under.
Michael Moore said the same about Romney, so while the arguments are real and concerning, they are more of a warning.
On my run this morning I stopped by to visit my grandpa in the park. Looking over that vast ocean of grave markers, it occurred to me that no matter our standing, wealth, or lineage, we all end up in the same place in the end.
Passing the memorial to drunk driving victims on the way out, I pondered the many ways we can care for each other but choose not to. And I noticed the names that surrounded me, family names that span the world — some I could not even pronounce. I remembered that we all came from somewhere, near or far, but we all ended up here.
So maybe in the short time each of us has, we can try to be a little more understanding, a smidge more accepting, a tiny bit less hateful. Because in the end, we are all just a few words on a headstone and the memories we have left behind.
Short answer: no.