Things to Read - Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on Tragedy, Children's play, Formerly rich people, Kinfolk, Chinese labor camps, Big families, and Funerals)

* The Atlantic published a short article highlighting the importance of discussing world tragedies in the classroom -

"Adolescents often have fragmented notions about real-world, R-rated themes: violence, death, sex, scandal. Sheltering students from these distressing subjects only keeps their frame of reference limited to the grapevine. And I fear ignorance far more than scruples. Talking about difficult issues such as gun control from a young age is a positive way to influence students' developing sense of belonging in society.

A gratifying byproduct of current events education is how it enhances their other school subjects. Social studies becomes palpable. Literature suddenly has social context. History is thought-provoking, like the time our discussion about marijuana legislation turned into an analysis of Prohibition."

* Peter Gray wrote a great article on the play deficit and how it affects most children -

"[There has been ]a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.

. . . .

The decline in opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism, both of which have been assessed since the late 1970s with standard questionnaires given to normative samples of college students. . . . Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes."


* Even though I never heard of Simone Levitt before reading her profile in New York Magazine, I found myself fascinated by her story and life (as summarized by the author "[Levitt] was once married to Bill Levitt, one of the richest men in America. Now she lives in a rented one-bedroom, alone with her memories. But oh, what memories.")

""When I asked about her state of mind—what does that kind of loss of wealth and status feel like?—she smiled the way Ruth Madoff might smile if she became a ­Buddhist. “We had a life that was unimaginable,” she told me. “But I’m happy with today. Look, I told my daughter—she bought a new apartment—‘Nicole, don’t be cynical. You’re forgetting to enjoy today. Don’t say you can’t wait for it to be finished. Don’t do that. Squeeze everything out of the moment. Don’t look for tomorrow.’ I don’t look back. If I do, I never regret. I appreciate. I believe that nothing is forever. The painting on this wall, in another five years maybe it’ll be on someone else’s wall. My rings and jewelry, the shirt I have on, it will be on somebody else. Nothing and nobody lasts forever. Everything changes hands.”


* Is anyone else sick of the whole Kinfolk ethic (i.e. "a life of a cultivated beauty that serves up the illusion of simplicity.")? I loved this piece.

"After thumbing through three-hundred-plus pages, it occurs to me that the Kinfolk cookbook is a variation on a single theme: the creation of a life lived in an Anthropologie catalog. It’s the reason why we get lost in blogs and the lives of strangers. We want to be happy, always. We want a life free of storms and sorrow. We want our linens, and bowls, and kitchens with reclaimed wood—and in this way, Kinfolk succeeds, for its America is rarefied and specific, rife with denizens who are preened to dishabille perfection and apply pretty filters to their photos. I recall a similar charade: GOOP. While escapism looks lovely on paper, in practice it’s difficult and expensive. You don’t need a book to tell you how to gather, you don’t need a formula to cultivate simplicity. Find the people you love, a space to lay down plates, and a meal that binds the two."


* Sometimes it's important to remember where several of our "cheap" goods come from. One women had an awful surprise when her plastic pumpkin included a note from an inmate in a Chinese labor camp - "The decorations came in a $29 "Totally Ghoul" toy set that Keith purchased in a local Kmart store in 2011. When she opened the package before Halloween last year, a letter fell out. In broken English mixed with Chinese, the author cried for help: "If you occasionally (sic) buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here... will thank and remember you forever. The letter went on to detail grueling hours, verbal and physical abuses as well as torture that inmates making the products had to endure -- all in a place called Masanjia Labor Camp in China."

* David Sedaris wrote a sad, but wonderful personal history for the New Yorker about his family's trip to the beach after the suicide of his sister.

“Why do you think she did it?” I asked as we stepped back into the sunlight. For that’s all any of us were thinking, had been thinking since we got the news. Mustn’t Tiffany have hoped that whatever pills she’d taken wouldn’t be strong enough, and that her failed attempt would lead her back into our fold? How could anyone purposefully leave us, us, of all people? This is how I thought of it, for though I’ve often lost faith in myself, I’ve never lost it in my family, in my certainty that we are fundamentally better than everyone else. It’s an archaic belief, one that I haven’t seriously reconsidered since my late teens, but still I hold it. Ours is the only club I’d ever wanted to be a member of, so I couldn’t imagine quitting. Backing off for a year or two was understandable, but to want out so badly that you’d take your own life?

“I don’t know that it had anything to do with us,” my father said. But how could it have not? Doesn’t the blood of every suicide splash back on our faces?

* And, finally, Deirdre Sullivan reminds us to always go to the funeral (such good advice, I wish I had followed it earlier in life) -

"Always go to the funeral" means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don't feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don't really have to and I definitely don't want to. I'm talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex's uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn't been good versus evil. It's hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

In going to funerals, I've come to believe that while I wait to make a grand heroic gesture, I should just stick to the small inconveniences that let me share in life's inevitable, occasional calamity.

1 comment:

  1. Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes. - an argument for more play, but even moreso, for better schools!



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