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Youth Voices Matter

This year’s my 30th class reunion. I’ve now been teaching for 25 years. At 48 I certainly see how impulsive teens can be and how prone to they can be to drama. But I also know how reflective & insightful they can be.

When I was a Junior and Senior in high school the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. I was on our school newspaper at the time, and this case was about a principal censoring stories in a student newspaper about teen pregnancy. That case helped many of us Gen-Xers to realize that teens (us, at the time) are capable of critical thinking and responsible speech.

This weekend hundreds of thousands of teens and young adults participated on more than 800 “March for our lives” protests across the United States and the whole world demonstrating that youth can pick up the torch of leadership and speak out on important issues.

While that Hazelwood case gave school administrators greater editorial power over the student press as de facto publishers and reasserted the “en loco parentis” doctrine established in “Tinker v. Des Moines,” it also stated that teens do indeed have the same First Amendment Rights as adults. Freedoms of speech, assembly and petition for redress.

Yet some adults are complaining that they’re too young to purchase firearms themselves, yet they want to influence laws affecting the second amendment rights of adults to buy weapons.

It’s barely been six weeks since these kids were hiding from a gunman in their school trying to kill them! 17 of them were killed by one shooter with an AR-15. Four more than died in the Columbine massacre in 1999 by two shooters.

I’m not the first adult to point out that if they’re old enough to die or be shot & witness 17 of their classmates be brutally murdered- they’re old enough to have an opinion about it.

How calloused, cruel and without empathy can anyone be to accuse the victims of being villains? Yet people are making comments and posting and sharing graphics claiming that the survivors of the Marjorie Stoneman school shooting are propaganda tools, indoctrinated by the left-wing media elite.

Ask yourself who’s being indoctrinated when even a majority of NRA members want reform that will prevent the sale of automatic (military grade) assault rifles.

This is not about revoking the 2nd Amendment, (that for 200+ years was interpreted as being about a “well regulated militia,” ) it’s about reform meant to save children’s lives!

As a History major, one of the things I studied about in college was the “Children’s Crusade” in Montgomery in 1963. Junior high, high school & college kids WANTED to oppose injustice.

Of course white segregationists accused MLK, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, & the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee of being “outside agitators” led by New York Jews & millionaire trying to brainwash the “colored” children.

This isn’t Dem vs Rep. It’s not even Trump vs. anti-Trump. It’s preventing school shootings vs. an industry lobby group (the NRA) trying to hold on to profits.

Surely any reasonable adult can be both intelligent and compassionate enough to see that. I would hope they could see that ALL Americans, no matter how young or old have the right to speak out for what they believe in. Most of all I wish people could see what poor taste it is, how heartless it seems, to attack shooting victims and children who lost friends and underwent such a trauma.

I for one am proud of America’s teens and find hope in the future and encouragement from their voices being raised. We can all be confident that as tumultuous as our times are, democracy is alive and being exercised.

For weeks now a song has been running through my head. I first heard it in junior high on Billy Joel’s Russian Concert album, but Baby Boomers know it from it’s original author, Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan:

‘Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’.

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’.


Happy Dad’s Day

I was unfairly blessed with an incredible dad whom I always knew loved me unconditionally. I know I’m not the perfect dad, but I’ve been blessed with three amazing daughters, all of whom make me enormously proud & none of whom I could imagine life without. If you’re half as fortunate as I am, remember to count your blessings & tell your dad you love him.
Over 25 years of teaching & coaching, I’ve known too many kids who lost their dads too soon, never knew their dads, or were stuck with jerks, deadbeats or monsters instead of decent dads. 

This weekend, keep these kids in your thoughts & prayers because it can be a painful holiday. 

For me, one of the best parts of teaching & coaching has been getting to know those kids & hopefully being able to be there for them when they’ve needed it. I could never replace a real dad, but I hope I’ve been able to help.  In many ways there are a lot of kids that I’ll always have in my heart, as if they’re my own. I know a lot of teachers think of their students as “their kids.” What a blessing that can be.

All year round why not try to be a friend or mentor to children without parents (or with broken parents)? You don’t have to be a professional teacher or coach to be a reliable, stable adult appropriately available to kids who need it. 

As the saying goes, “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Psalm 68:5-6a “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

Multi-Front Attack on the First Amendment

c_fasm_rpr_2Collective Bargaining is the very embodiment of at least three, if not four of the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment & public employees, police, fire, civil service and yes public school teachers MUST have it protected for them.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court has equated campaign money with “free speech,” so that billionaires and corporations have enormous leverage over individual voters, but workers are denied the leverage they need to balance their needs with the interests of employers, corporations and political pressure groups.
A free and freely functioning press/media is not only vital, but imperative for the functioning of a participatory democratic-republic. Incidentally, this is also protected by the First Amendment.
If Christians are honest about wanting “religious liberty,” they MUST protect this right for all religions, no matter how egregious their teachings or some interpretations or misinterpretations of their teachings may be. Ironically, the contentious travel ban on 7 majority Muslim countries not only violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, it also violates many of the teachings of Jesus Christ about welcoming strangers, loving our enemies, and caring for the dispossessed.
The First Amendment protects our rights to free speech & expression, peaceable assembly & association and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. If you don’t want people to riot, let them march and picket. If you don’t want them to burn or walk on flags or fly them upside-down, then don’t deride them for taking a knee instead of singing the national anthem.
Voting is the most important means of exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of thought and participation in our democratic-republic. The Voting Rights Act was intended to protect this. In recent years it has been gutted and Congress has refused to renew it. In that climate, state governments and officials have taken advantage of the opportunity to make it harder for groups of voters to exercise their God-given right.
Meanwhile systemic dysfunction plagues our criminal justice system. You can argue that you don’t believe it’s “institutionalized racism,” but regardless of cause, there is unarguably demonstrable gross inequity in arrests, grand juries, prosecution and incarceration. Even if this weren’t deliberate discrimination by design- it is undeniable that huge portions of our population are having their 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights violated or ignored.
So that when Senator with a recognized history of racism has been nominated to become the Attorney General, who’s very role it is to insure justice and fairness and protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens, it is only fitting that another Senator might oppose his nomination by reading a letter from the wife of a slain civil rights leader.
And when the Senate majority leader prevents her from being heard in the well of the Senate itself, not only is he violating the First Amendment right of that Senator, he his violating the rights of ALL Americans who would stand for justice and equality.
Make no mistake- “…our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”
THIS is why we can’t remain silent. I teach my students that your rights (and your brains, for that matter) are like your muscles, “use ’em or lose ’em.”
Disagree with me. Be offended by me. Think I’m over reacting to the changes in government since the election. But I can’t shut up. YOUR rights are being challenged and eroded and violated. Not just foreigner’s rights, refugees’ rights, Muslim rights, Black rights, Mexican rights, not just liberal’s rights, not just my rights, not just your political opponent’s rights. OUR rights. Americans’ rights. Human rights.
Please take this seriously. It’s not complicated or boring or academic and theoretical.
If you don’t like “#BlackLivesMatter,” how so you feel about #democracymatters? Does the First Amendment matter?
  • Religion
  • Speech
  • Press
  • Assembly
  • Petition

Don’t give up any of them. Don’t deny them to ANYONE, no matter how different they are from you, no matter how differently they exercise each right or how much you disagree with them. These are fundamental human rights. God-given rights. These are the principles on which America was founded.

Preamble Principle #1 More Perfect Union

“We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union…”

Initially, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, no doubt were concerned that the 13 little countries that were the states would cooperate better under a single Federal government that would be more secure and more efficient than the fragile “league of perpetual friendship” offered under the original Articles of Confederation.

But it’s also the point of our original national motto found on the Great Seal of the United States; “E pluribus unum” which in Latin means, “out of many, one.”

We are not all Germans, or Spaniards or Magyars (Hungarians). We are a nation of immigrants. We are English, Dutch, French, Russian, Italian, Polish, Greek, Lithuanian, Senegalese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Malaysian, Nigerian, Somalian, and don’t forget Sioux, Navajo, Inuit and Cherokee. Americans are by our very definition, a blend, a mix, a hybrid.

We need to come together in spite of our differences, political, religious, philosophical, linguistic, cultural, gender, age and economic. Singles have different interests than couples and families. Retirees have different interests than children or those of working age. Civilians have different needs than military personnel. Rural has different needs than urban. Urban different than suburban.

But somehow we still need to overcome out differences, hash-out and negotiate compromises until we settle on common-ground so that we can coexist and better yet work together toward common goals… goals like, oh I dunno, just grasping for anything here… “justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, the general welfare,” and just maybe “the blessings of liberty.”

United we stand, divided we fall. There’s power in numbers. We’re all in this together.

Sure we all want to be independent, but to remain independent, we need to lean into our interdependence for the sake of our common goals and interests.

I’ll tolerate debate and discussion about degrees of sharing and balance, but be careful when toying with concepts like nullification, interposition and especially secession because Americans gave their last full measure of devotion to help maintain this union.


POEM; All God’s Children


All God’s Children
Seared in flames
One hundred years later
One hundred years later
Still languishing
One hundred years later
Where is freedom?
Where is justice?
One hundred years later,

All God’s Children
We cannot walk alone.
As we walk
As we walk

All God’s Children
We can never be satisfied
We can never be satisfied
We can never be satisfied
Until justice rolls down

All God’s Children
I have a dream today
I have a dream today
I have a dream

All God’s Children
This is our hope
This is the faith
With this faith
With this faith

All God’s Children
Go to jail
Stand up

All God’s Children
Let freedom ring
Let it ring
Let it ring

Free at last
Free at last

All God’s Children
Free at last
At last
Thank God Almighty

One hundred years later
Still languishing

All God’s Children
One hundred years later