Guess what, the old-timers are right, we actually did get more snow and cold here in the NoCo during my childhood, in the '60s and '70s, than we do now - climate change is, indeed, a thing (even though it doesn’t feel that way today as a snowstorm swirls outside my window, while I write this). Back then, we also had cars that were built like tanks, and there were not nearly as many of them on the roads. Not to mention that there were far fewer obligations and activities to get to, and hardly any overly aggressive, angry, impatient drivers.
We also had Danny B, the weather guy on WWNY in Watertown and Byrd B at WPTZ in Plattsburgh (North Pole, Burlington) standing in front of chalkboards with the low-pressure lines (I remember, they looked like little triangular flags on a curved line) drawn on (yes, with chalk). These guys were our versions of local celebrities (Danny even had a Saturday morning kids show), but let’s be clear – they really didn’t have the tools to know what the hell was going to wallop us 24 hours in advance – never mind 3-4 days before hand. And, I don’t think either of them would have known what a polar vertex was even if it hit them upside the head.
Sounds cheesy, or, maybe even like an excuse, but it really was a simpler time, filled with prejudices and biases that were accepted, without argument, as normal. It was an age when most women stayed home with their children, men were out earning the family income (and, were welcomed home with a kiss on the cheek and dinner on the table), I was told that “boys will be boys” and that I should behave like a “lady” and obey all adults (call them: Mr., Miss, and Mrs., please), no matter what. Gloves and hats were worn in church – except by the boys who had to take them off as a sign of respect. Books were an absolute luxury (of course, Amazon didn’t exist); with the exception of the collection of “Little Golden Books” at my grandparent’s house, I had a total of five (well loved – to the point of falling apart) “chapter books” my entire child/teen-hood. Looney Tunes, Merry Melodies, and Hanna Barbera took over the Saturday morning airwaves with “violent” cartoons. There was no ethnic diversity up here to speak of, and let’s not forget that the only references to LBGTQ were putdowns in Junior High, behind the teachers’ backs. Nixon and Watergate occupied my parents for months (or so it seemed), when they devoted an inordinate amount of time to watching the hearings on our little black and white Zenith TV in '74. Even in that context, I, personally, had no idea what Watergate was - besides the pistachio pudding and Cool Whip “salad” served at holiday meals – until I took a History of the 20th Century class at Cazenovia College, ten years after the fact, and watched All the Presidents Men.
Before the Vietnam War protests, most folks didn’t believe or even understand that they had any “power” to change governmental process (except for voting), but even then, the protestors were labeled, “those crazy (no good, slacker, stoned) hippies” by the majority of the population. We were a country brainwashed and held hostage by clever propaganda devised during and after WWII that hid the multitude of atrocities executed by the US Government. They said, it was all in the name of combating the spread of communism. Indeed, it was an era when the news was delivered to our living rooms in a ½ hour long series of soundbites, interrupted by commercials, painstakingly chosen for our consumption. My parents and grandparents got all their news either from the Watertown Daily Times (of which I delivered for 6 years) or the above-mentioned television stations; although, for a while, all we were only able to watch was CTV or CBC on that little black and white. They firmly believed, as gospel, everything Walter Cronkite of CBS, Chett Huntley and David Brinkley, and then John Chancellor of NBC, told them in those nightly reports.
Therefore – No! As a citizenry who has, 24/7, access to media (over-flowing with a new brand of propaganda), quite literally, in the palms of our hands, we are not alarmists or wusses, as we have been accused. We are merely responding, accordingly, to life in a completely different era: where weather updates, including a radar map, are accessible to even the least scientifically minded, where the words “friend,” “like,” and “follow” have a whole new meaning, where “digital” doesn’t only refer to a type of clock, and where even the youngest of our kids are very aware that equal rights, civil rights, social justice, drug, gang, and gun culture, hunger, homelessness, lock-downs, and, yes, hashtags are “a thing.”
And, more importantly, we live in a time where there are a host of ever-evolving technological advances that completely change our reality on the daily. Instant connection is the norm. Time has undeniably sped up and there is no going back. Which in no-way means we have to throw out the old technologies and stop using them – we, simply, have to acknowledge that being receptive to change, builds the connective place where respectful dialogue and hard work meet to make positive transformations.
Meanwhile, there are folks who relate to the world as if it was still 1974, resisting and raging against social reform and change, while living in their cozy little bubbles made possible by all of those convenient modern technologies. Their perceptions of reality are derived solely on the illusion that our underlying culture has gone unchanged for the past forty-five years. As demonstrated earlier, we are light years away from what we were, even, fifteen years ago. We no longer have the luxury to claim innocence or naivete.
To insist, today, in 2019, that everyone make life choices based on societal norms of the '60s and '70s is irresponsible and down-right dangerous. This is how inbred radicalization begins. If we are going to move forward (survive) as a culture (or, a human race), beside embracing change with a completely open-mind, we also need to supply this generation with a toolbox filled with, not only the latest technologies, but, natural curiosity, confidence, kindness, empathy, and the courage to take on all of the challenges, instead of ridiculing them and insisting that they behave as if nothing has changed since we were children. Then we need to allow them to use all those tools (again, without, contempt) in the vanguard, as the change makers, creating positive, outside the box solutions for a healthy, sustainable society.
Please plan on joining us February 12th from 6 -10 pm at the Buccaneer Lounge for the DRC Shiver Me Timbers Silent Auction. Check out the items on the website (the list is updated almost daily) and purchase your ticket here.
If you would like to donate an item to the auction - please get in touch!
What do you like? What makes you happy? What are you excited about? What are you curious about? What are you good at? What do you want to do today, next week, or ten years from now? How would you like to use your talents to help others? How can we (DRC) help you get to where you want to be? Whoa? What? Slow down! Over the years, after encountering that particular look of, “what the hell have I gotten myself into?”, more times than I would like to admit, I have learned to pace myself and let our new students settle in for a few weeks before I bombard them with the thousands of questions I would like to ask, during our very first conversation.
Because, I know, without fail, after a few weeks or even months, they will begin to have questions of their own, like: “So, what am I supposed to do?” “Is it really OK if I spend my days drawing, cooking, playing guitar, writing a story, talking and socializing, taking long walks, pounding on clay, messing around in the shop, playing outside, etc.?” Or, the big one, “What if I get behind?” And then, I watch their expressions of pure astonishment during a mentoring session, when I tell them first off, there is no such thing as “being behind” and that, yes, this is hard, but I will always trust them to make good choices. Then it abruptly changes to utter terror, when I also explain that I will always be available to support and guide them - nevertheless, I expect they will always ask for help when they feel themselves struggling, tell me what support they need to move forward, and how (what) they are feeling. That is the instant when they fully comprehend what it truly means to be totally in control of their education, as well as their life.
And, that is the critical moment when they either pick up the gauntlet and accept the challenge, or mentally (and/or literally) pack their bag (backpack) and head back to the comfy place (because self-direction is not what they assumed) where they will always know what is required and where someone (an authority figure) will always tell them what to do next.
The kids who give themselves permission to flounder, relentlessly and bravely, through that period of self-doubt and indecision come out the other side stronger, more self-sufficient, and happier, because they have faced down the fears and discover that they really are excited about exploring the world on their own terms.
Oftentimes this process is protracted and painfully obvious to anyone watching from the sidelines, but occasionally it isn’t. We don’t even know that the student is going through the intense self-questioning period, until they have already decided that the effort is too scary, and, simply, not worth it to them. They never told us they had doubts; they never asked for support; they never gave us the slightest, little clue that they were thinking this was too difficult and that they were not up to the task. Then they go back, with very little warning, and leave a gaping hole in our community. These are the moments that break my heart - when I begin to question myself: Why didn’t I see this coming? What hints did I miss? How could I have prevented this outcome?
Then, after I take some time to castigate myself, I come to the realization that they, actually, have learned something from us. They are taking charge of their education, just not in the way I thought they would (should). They are using their free will to do what they think is best for them. Yes, indeed, this (self-directed education) is hard and it is not for everyone. There are some people who are not up for the task and that is okay - as long as they find what makes them happy and are able to move forward positively. That is all I wish for anyone.
A shout of thanks to the Clarkson students who came out to DRC, yesterday, for their MLK Day of Service. The space is super shiny clean (even the windows), our computers are updated, our wii systems are connected to the network, and all of our books are now alphabetized! You guys are awesome!
Shiver Me Timbers, the 3rd Annual Silent Auction will be held at the Buccaneer Lounge in Canton, Tuesday, February 12th, from 6 - 10PM. Please plan on joining us for a fun evening of competition and camaraderie for a good cause. Admission tickets are available on our website or at the door.
The board is seeking donations of goods and services for the auction. If you have something you would like to contribute, please get in touch.
All contributors will be recognized and thanked publicly on Social Media, the DRC website, as well as the local media.
As human beings, we all come into this world as scrappy, fierce, and focused little sponges ready to soak up, and, yes, even do battle for every bit of skill and knowledge that we crave. This phenomenon, we call self-actualization or motivation, does (will) not disappear at any point over our lifetime - unless we are actively taught to hate learning.
I see it over and over – kids who have spent their first - four or five years joyfully discovering new concepts and ideas through play and independent exploration, suddenly grow to be morose, disengaged, needy, and completely unmotivated. Either they quickly submit to become obedient cogs within the coercive system purposely designed to teach them the bare minimum to survive in said system, or they rebel, resist, and otherwise “misbehave.” Whichever, the result is the same; the process, effectively, extinguishes their shining little lights.
All the “new” technology, methodology, pedagogy, along with their acronyms, despite the hype, have not changed the basic system. Providing STEAM and STEM activities and opportunities, which are designed and presented by teachers and other professionals, doesn’t make kids more creative or “smart.” After you look beneath those bright and shiny (expensive) bells and whistles, you will find that kids are still limited by explicit directions and rules. Nothing new here folks – they are still learning to color inside the lines and following conventional thought patterns.
No, a thousand times, no! Our schools are (were) not devised to provide what these kids need to thrive and become unique, happy, productive, and compassionate citizens of the world.
Over the years, I have heard parents say – “if we can get him beyond this rough patch, he’ll be fine.” Or, “she is going to school now, we’ll just keep pushing her to finish.” What they don’t understand is that by forcing them to participate (until they absolutely refuse or create serious behavioral trouble) in a regimented system that does not recognize their true brilliance or allow them to be original and innovative, or seek out information in their own way – they are smothering that inner spark.
As a consequence, I have students who find their way to Deep Root Center in their mid to late teens – many of whom despise learning. Their inner fire is barely smoldering. They resist new ideas, concepts, and change. They are shut down creatively. And, possibly the most disheartening result, they refuse to take responsibility for their own lives. In some cases, it literally takes years of mentoring support in our safe, non-coercive environment before that tiny remaining ember of curiosity begins to glow again. Only, then are they able to recognize the barriers they have erected and begin to tear them down one misconception - one illusion at a time.
Let me be clear, the challenges the NoCo faces (see Trajectory, last week’s blog) are not, necessarily, about the lack of educational opportunities. Instead, I believe this closed-minded culture of apathy, disengagement, and disenfranchisement has been created, by allowing our children – our bright, inquisitive, passionate, imaginative little stars - to effectively be contained and constrained within societies tiny little box of paltry expectations.
by Maria Corse
I am sure, the scientists among you have a complicated definition (formula) for trajectory. However, for these less than scientific purposes, my understanding will work just fine: Each of us is on a personal trajectory or track, which is determined by the decisions (big and small) we make every single day, as well as our personal ambitions.
Most of you, undoubtedly, have a pretty good idea where your life-path is heading. You have probably made innumerable decisions that have propelled you toward your aspirations, and can, most likely, count on that trend continuing, even though, chances are, you have made a couple of doozies that have sent you into a brief tail-spin.
I wonder how many of you, actually, regularly, consider how your particular privileges have influenced the trajectory of your life (and, in some cases, saved your butts). You often forget that when you have (or feel) the luxury to consider multiple positive options --- you are, quite simply, far less likely to fail, merely, because you have a built-in back-up plan and the world is indisputably wide open. And, as luck would have it, your children have similar advantages.
Unfortunately, many folks, here in the NoCo, as well as other economically depressed areas of the country, are working within the confines of limited options, with absolutely no safety-net, making their life decisions based on pure economics (how many dollars are in their pockets at that very moment). They are literally choosing the best from the intensely poor selection abject poverty provides. These folks are failing, not because they are lazy or not working hard enough, but rather because they don’t have built in immunity from the ill-fated decisions they are being forced to make, or, for that matter, the confidence to make changes. This cycle seems never-ending - passed from one closely spaced generation to the next. Indeed, the babies are having babies - just one more blinking light that we are ignoring, along with the devastating drug culture, and reliance on corrupt industries for jobs, on the dashboard of a broken, irreparable system.
DRC’s dream is to break that pattern – to smash into oblivion. We offer our students an opportunity to look at life from a different viewpoint other than dejection, apathy, inevitability, and victimhood. DRC is where they can discover the pure pleasure of exploration and play, and where they learn that being open to new ideas and concepts can bring them great pleasure, as well as profound understanding of themselves and the world they live in. Our ultimate goal is that all of our kids comprehend that their aspirations are achievable because they are built from, not only, hard work, but also passion, creativity, and an unshakable belief in themselves and those around them.
Our message, to the masses of young people here in the NoCo, is that their trajectory is not inevitable. They can change the direction, as well as the ultimate target, simply, by taking charge of their life – all of the decisions - and not leaving it up to society, culture, or even their family to determine who they really are and where they are headed.
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