Living to See Another Birthday

April Fool’s Day.

I was born 63 years ago this morning at 8:02.

No foolin’.

It’s hard to believe I am 63.

I’m getting to the point where when I take a survey that asks you to choose your age from different age groups such as 48-64 and 65 and up, I’m almost at the next to the last selection.  That’s depressing.

The older you get, you truer it is how fast life flies by.

I feel that if I could live another 63 years, it still wouldn’t be enough time.

The truth of the matter is, I’d be lucky to be still living in 20 years, and 20 years seems like a blink in an eye.

The two things people have no control over during their lifetime:  being born and dying.  If you are human, both will happen to you.  Being born is a blessing.  Having limited time is a curse.

As I approach one year of retirement, I realize how important work is for people for this reason:  it is a major distraction from the inevitable end to all of our stories.

Most of my life I have obsessed about death.  Unlike most people, the fantasy that I would live forever was blown up when at age 11 I saw my grandmother dead in a coffin.   Now 52 years later, I still can’t get that image out of my mind.  It forever changed my view of the universe.

While I am a strong believer in eating well and exercising often, the truth of the matter is, good lifestyle habits may ward off certain diseases, but nothing that you do will prevent death.

I wish I didn’t know this at such an early age, but that cruel awareness has motivated me that, as the saying goes, tomorrow is never promised.

There is a famous children’s prayer to be recited before going to sleep each night:

            Now I lay me down to sleep,

            I pray the Lord my Soul to keep;

            If I should die before I wake,

            I pray the Lord my Soul to take.

The phrase “if I should die before I wake” has always haunted me.  What happens if you go to bed one night, and you never wake up again?

I think it is one reason why I often wake up early in the morning when it is still dark as if to resist never waking up again.

Well, I woke up today which is why you are reading what I wrote.  For me, having an awareness that I will die one day is not depressing; it is more a powerless feeling, not sad really.  Just the way of all living things.

So, I will go out for breakfast for my birthday, I’ll eat some cake, I’ll talk to friends and family.  And, one day at a time, appreciate a gift too many of us take for granted.

March 13, 2020 – The Day America’s Classrooms Stood Still

Last year at this time, I was still teaching in a classroom with my students.  An ordinary event that only now a year later seems extraordinary.

I marvel at how that final week of me as a classroom teacher after 31 years transpired.

I find it fascinating how the last day of real school was a Friday the 13th.  If you wrote that for a movie, it would seem cliched.

Where I worked, it was the last day of the third quarter, a shortened day ending around 12:30 p.m., right before the start of a one-week spring break vacation.

For the past couple of days, rumors were flying that schools would stay closed an additional week or two, and that schools would not resume until early April.

Two unusual events happened to me during that last week.

On Tuesday, March 10, I had two guest speakers from Cal State Northridge give a one-hour presentation to my 10th grade English students about an upcoming concert that some of them were going to see.  “Violins of Hope” was a traveling exhibit from Israel which was coming to the West Coast for the first time.  Dozens of violins saved from the Holocaust and restored by a master violinmaker would be on display and, more amazingly, played in live concerts around the Los Angeles region.

One of the guest speakers was a violinist who played during the presentation on one of those rescued violins.  It was quite an emotional moment for my students and I.

What made the proceedings surreal was that a city official was invited to watch the mini-concert, and as he came close to me to shake my hand, I temporarily hesitated thinking about the news reports flooding the airwaves about the importance not to shake people’s hands since this new coronavirus spreads through contact.  Yet, shake his hand I did, more focused on not embarrassing him than my own health concerns.  As soon as I could, I sterilized that hand yet still worried throughout the day that I may have caught Covid.

Two days later, March 12, Glendale Unified held its last official school event, the Scholastic Bowl, where five-member teams from all four high schools compete in a game show-like setting on stage in a school auditorium answering questions from an array of academic categories.

I was the coach of Hoover’s team and, like another Hollywood moment, my students won the competition to cap off my 12-year run as coach—what a send-off.

However, a pall was over the two-hour proceedings because the district had announced that no one would be allowed to watch the Bowl in person due to virus concerns.  Only the parents of the students were in attendance to add their sparse applause to the cavernous auditorium.

Less than 16 hours, “have a nice spring break” would be the final words I would ever say to students in my classroom.

Now that is not a Hollywood ending to a 31-year career.  But who knew what was to transpire?

Oh, the Books You Won’t Read!

When people cry out against a film or book’s contents, often those critics never saw the film or read the book.

So, upon hearing the news on March 2 that Dr. Seuss Enterprises, who controls the publication of Ted Geisel’s (his real name) books, would no longer print six of his titles due to racist images, the first thing I did was reserve them at my local library so I could see for myself the controversial drawings.

Let’s take a look at all six books in order of publication date and the questionable material.

And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937)

There is a drawing of “a Chinese boy who eats with sticks.”  Don’t some Chinese use chopsticks?

One image not labeled as offensive is a Rajah who is pulling a wagon of seven musicians, all white.  Does that indicate that the white men are enslaved by the Rajah?  I guess that’s okay.

What makes this book’s demise worse than the others is that it was Dr. Seuss’s first book.

McElligot’s Pool (1947)

I had to research the offensive image since I couldn’t find one.  It turns out that on the page which reads “Eskimo Fish from beyond Hudson Bay” the fish appear to have oval not round eyes.

If I Ran the Zoo (1950)

This is the only book on the list that I would agree has two troubling racist drawings:  one of Africans and another of Asians.

Scramble Eggs Super! (1953)

An Arab-looking man in a turban.  Don’t some Arabs wear head coverings?

On Beyond Zebra! (1955)

An Arab-looking man sitting on a camel.  Don’t some Arabs sit on camels?

The Cat’s Quizzer (1976)

On page 11, a question asks, “How old do you have to be to be a Japanese?”  Answer on p 58: “All Japanese are Japanese the minute they are born.”   What’s wrong with this?

On page 28, “Do the Japanese eat with pogo sticks or joss sticks?”  Answer on p. 58: “Pogo sticks they jump on.  Joss sticks they burn.  They eat with chop sticks.”

Seuss does draw the Asian characters with narrower eyes than Caucasian’s.  So, what should a cartoonist do?  Draw Asians with Caucasian-like round eyes?

By the way, in none of these images are the characters portrayed as villains.

And who is picking up on this so-called offensive material?  The kids?   You mean, a child is going to ask his parent, “Mommy, why does this man eat with chopsticks?”  And if this ever did happen, the parent has a teachable moment that is now never going to be there because that book from 1937 with the one image will no longer be there.

Also, why aren’t those who are supercritical of Dr. Seuss books concerned about the non-stop gutter language and other images that permeates all media these days?  Surely, that is causing more damage to young people.  Think of how many parents don’t monitor their children in their own homes using cell phones and laptops and the content that they are absorbing.

Another criticism of Dr. Seuss is that he mainly drew white people thus perpetuating white supremacy.  First of all, these are not history books but fun, light-hearted children’s books. All the characters are drawn in fantastical ways not meant to resemble photographs.

Second, Dr. Seuss was white so it makes sense that most of the humans in his books are white.  How does make him a racist?   If the illustrator was black and drew only black characters, would that artist also be viewed as a racist?

Seuss drew mainly men with very few women. Does that mean Dr. Seuss was a sexist?

The absence of certain sexes and races does not denote a sexist and racist person.  Like any good writer, he wrote based on his experience.

 What the publisher should have done is followed the lead of companies like Warner Brothers who have disclaimers on DVDs of old cartoons, some of which were propaganda during World War II, but allow the uncensored material to be seen in its original form.

Look, we all can do better when it comes to treating all people with respect and dignity.  But for critics to seek out in all the nooks and crannies every dot of possible insensitivity and to obliterate the book, the movie, the statue, such action is doing much more harm than the image itself for those who are “woke” are determining what future generations will know about the past.

And then do you know what you are left with?  Nothing.  No history of how people lived in a certain time period, or insight as to what people were dealing with in that moment.

What is preventing future generations from destroying the concentration camps in Europe so that the German people don’t feel victimized?

Sounds farfetched?  Not when Dr. Seuss books are being canceled.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises has caused more damage to Geisel’s reputation than these few images ever did.  Plus, they are benefitting financially at the expense of his reputation since once people heard about the banned books, they became hard to find items. 

What the publisher should do is collect all the money that is pouring in for these six titles and donate it to groups promoting tolerance such as the Anti-Defamation League. 

But I wouldn’t hold your breath of this ever happening.  It turns out that Dr. Seuss earns the most money of any deceased celebrity except for Michael Jackson; according to Forbes, in 2020 he earned $33 million, with more coming in for 2021, I’m sure.

Coke Should Air 50-Year-Old Ad for Super Bowl

“I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

Remember that song?  Remember that commercial?

You would have to be of a certain older age to answer yes to those questions.

The most famous Coca-Cola ad of all time was the 1971 “hilltop” spot with the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” 

For those too young, go find it on YouTube.  You’ll see people of all nationalities coming together on top of a hill to sing the praises of the soda along with a simple message of people around the world getting along with one another despite our differences.

When Coca-Cola first aired it in 1971, I was at the cusp of adolescence.  Every time I saw it on TV, I rolled my eyes thinking to myself, “How corny and hokey.” 

Now looking at it these days in my advanced years, I think, “Coke should air that again.” Sometimes hokey is good.  Sometimes corny is what we need.  And we need something right now in this country to remind us that no matter our background, we are all people.  We are all human.

Considering the horrible times in which we are living, from the pandemic to political divisions, what our country could use right now is this iconic commercial to bring people back together. 

I am asking the Coca-Cola Company to resurrect the original ad and air it on Super Bowl Sunday.  What better time to rerun it than its 50-year anniversary in 2021?

We have a vaccine for Covid.  Now we need another antidote to fix our other issues.

Coke did a reunion commercial 19 years later in 1990 which included original actors with some of their children.

With the actual anniversary coming in July, there is plenty of time to make a new 50th anniversary edition.  How special it would be to bring back some of those actors again this time with their grandchildren.

But don’t stop there.  Recruit famous Republican and Democratic politicians coming together on Capitol Hill, in front of the U.S. Capitol building.  Model for Americans how to behave with each other no matter whether we mask or don’t mask.  Trump or Biden.  CNN or Fox.  America needs a reset.  Now.

Cancel my Subscription to 2021

Lately I have begun watching old episodes of a very popular TV series that aired from 1952 to 1961:  This is Your Life.  In an era of live television, this was the show to watch because right at the beginning producer/host Ralph Edwards surprised the person whose life was to be told and no one could be sure how that person would react. 

“This is Your Life” (“TYL”) and “Candid Camera” were television’s earliest reality TV shows in capturing live events of people being surprised.

I am enthralled with everything about “TYL.”  From the sincerity of Edwards to the amazing stories of its honorees.   From a sociology standpoint, it is also curious to observe how people used to interact with one another unscripted.  As a former school mate or early mentor would appear on stage to talk about the honoree, the language used and the enthusiasm of the handshake or hug seem so remote from our society today—polite, respectful, truthful.

Even the audience is well-mannered and well-dressed.

While I was but a baby when “TYL” went off the air in its first run (years later a revamped version aired that was not live or as captivating), I recall watching reruns years ago.

But recently I began watching them again on YouTube.  I was trying to figure out why was I doing this?  Is this a sign that my retirement is failing? 

And then on Jan. 6 it hit me.  Watching another live TV event, this time an angry mob rioting the U.S. Capitol Building, the one government building that represents democracy throughout the world, the one that the 9/11 terrorists wanted to destroy with the plane where passengers rushed the perpetrators sending it crashing in a field in Pennsylvania, I was shaken.  Just what the hell has happened to our country?

In absorbing myself in the 1950’s, I’m trying to pretend that I am living in another time period.  Any time period other than now.

Yes, the 1950’s had its own scary issues, from segregation to the threat of nuclear war.  But human qualities like decency and consideration for others were mainstays for most people. 

That hasn’t been true for a while now.

Each morning I take a walk around my neighborhood with my mask on.  On average, I pass about a dozen people, some walking a dog, a few jogging.  Maybe three of them have on a mask.

This is the way it was months ago before the most recent surge that began in mid-December, and nearly 4 weeks later, nothing has changed even though the Los Angeles area is displayed on maps in a deep fireman red coloring to denote high cases of COVID-19.

I also observe drivers and bicyclists not obeying speed laws or stop signs.  I walk by 14 four-way stop intersections on my route and rarely see a driver make even a California stop.  Most slow down a little then accelerate through.  A few drivers blow right through them as if they had a green light.  God forbid a parent with a stroller or a child on a bike is not in their pathway for it would result in severe injury or death.

People no longer feel legally or even morally obligated to stop at a stop sign or wear a small mask over the lower half to protect fellow human beings.

Every day I think about this when I am supposed to be focused on enhancing my mental and physical health.

In one hour I see a microcosm of selfish human behavior that when inflamed to a high temperature erupts into domestic terrorism.

Why do I seem to be in the minority of people who feel an obligation to do the right thing?

It’s almost as if many people were not brought up right.   They lack strong parenting that should have established a foundation of knowing right from wrong, a foundation of values and morals.  They lack a Golden Rule education of consideration for others, respecting those unlike themselves.  People used to learn how to be decent from their parents or their religious upbringing; now, many are brought up on social media.

Going back to that driver who purposely chooses not to obey a stop sign.  Why does he misbehave?   He feels the chances of a police officer catching him breaking the law is miniscule.  But what about the law of morality?  There is no conscience in this person, no little voice begging them to do the right thing.  Whether you believe in a heaven or hell, or some kind of after-life reckoning, for those who are self-absorbed without being brought up correctly, our society will continue to devolve.

Too many bad people get away with bad behavior.  A society without consequences is no longer a society.  Chaos takes over.

Decency must come from within each one of us.  You can’t legislate a law about it.

Without decency we are no longer human, just animals like the ones who stormed the Capitol.

Today, Americans can hardly come together about anything, even when it comes to a global health crisis.  But once they stop accepting the definition of what it means to be an American, the United States will no longer survive.

Being an American means respecting others, believing in equality for all.  It also means welcoming immigrants for that is the story of America.

When I grew up, I believed in the American story because it was my parents’ and grandparents’ American story.   They came to the United States not to get better jobs but to not be killed in their homelands.

Millions of Americans no longer believe in this story anymore.  Immigrants are viewed as ugly foreigners.  Forget the adage of loving thy neighbor.

Look at what President Kennedy said at his inauguration 60 years ago, “Ask now what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  Citizens believed in that sentiment once.  Today, the reverse is true.

One of the few benefits of being my age is knowing that not that far in the future, I will die and won’t witness more decline in civilization.

I thank God that I had loving parents who brought me and my siblings up the right way.  I’m thankful that I am the way I am and wish more people were decent.

I will try to remind myself of the better parts of people each day despite seeing firsthand evidence to the contrary so that their indecency doesn’t erode mine.

Hope of 2021, One Person at a Time

Hope springs eternal—so goes the cliché—but truer than ever as we finally reach the finish line of 2020.

We have a lot to look forward to in 2021.  The Covid-19 vaccines will be widely available.   It seems that by the time June arrives, we should have a better idea of how much of the pandemic is behind us.  It may seem like a long stretch, but we have already survived 9 and a half months of dealing with this contagious virus; another 5 and a half months is doable.

Let’s hope that many of those who lost jobs will return to full employment.

Let’s hope that restaurants will soon reopen, at least outside, as well as gyms and other businesses.  Could people return to sports and concert venues by the end of the year?

Think about how special next holiday season will be to celebrate with families in person.

One thing the pandemic shutdown has done is given each one of us the time to look inside ourselves and see what type of people we are.   Some can see more gracious and generous spirits, while others may have doubts on their ability to show selfless concern for their neighbors.  Unfortunately, it is during trying times when both the best and worst qualities in humans are on display.

I highly recommend the new Pixar film “Soul.”  Inadvertently, it speaks to the times in which we are living.  Its theme revolves around the meaning and purpose of life, quite ambitious for a cartoon.  Kids won’t get it, but adults will.  Maybe some will even learn from its moral.

A new year always offers people the possibilities of improving themselves.  Losing weight and exercising more are typical resolutions made.   More importantly would be for each of us to wake up each day and think how we can make not just us but others around us better in our families and our communities.  

There was a time back in the 1960’s when songs like “Let There Be Peace on Earth” were sung on TV variety shows often by a children’s choir composed of all ethnicities.  When I was younger and heard that song, I dismissed it as pollyannish and contrived.  Now that I am much older, the song resonates as a simple yet doable anecdote to the divisiveness in our country which is a worse contagion than the coronavirus.

If there were more people doing as the song says that for there to be peace “let it begin with me,” then as a nation we would be pointed in a brighter direction.  Instead of waiting for others to be nicer and kinder, how about each of us polishing those human traits?  Corny?  Perhaps.  But what a wonderful world if those things became contagious.

America the . . . what?

Every holiday season, I look forward to re-watching some of my favorite Christmas shows.  While the enjoyment comes from feeling nostalgic about my childhood, today I find myself trying to relive the feelings I had about the United States and my fellow Americans.  I feel sadness that the place I call home is not recognizable anymore.  This country seems foreign to me now.

I watch 1962’s “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” and wonder about my favorite song in the show, “The Lord’s Bright Blessing,” and think to myself how in today’s times such a song would never be written today.  Too religious.

How about the climax in 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when Linus tells the story of Jesus so Charlie Brown knows the true meaning of the holiday?  Even back then “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz had to fight the producers to keep that scene intact.

“Home Alone” (1990) has a tender scene in a church where the boy character Kevin meets his neighbor Old Man Marley in a church to have a heart-to-heart about family.  Would this make the final cut 30 years later?

One shutters to think that one day the most famous line uttered by Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “God bless us, everyone” may not be saved.  Will the g-word become the new n-word?

No, this isn’t another one of those War on Christmas columns.  It’s more about how Christmas time is one battle in the War on America.

Though I am not Christian, my parents brought us three kids up to believe in the dream of America.  As first-generation Americans from their families which immigrated to this country, it wasn’t enough for my grandparents to get to the shores of New York City.   They wanted to be a part of America, not apart from it. 

As one of the few Jewish kids in school I didn’t feel insulted or disrespected whenever we had to learn carols like “The First Noel” for the holiday program.  It wasn’t about religion for us; it was about America which is why we grew up loving Christmas.

That’s called assimilation.  And without it, each of us recedes onto an island with our own kind.  It is one of several reasons why our country is so split these days.

Too many citizens identify themselves first by their ethnicity, not by their country.  Saying “I’m American” used to be a special declaration.  It meant that we live in the only nation on earth where all kinds of people are welcome and have a chance to be treated equally; a noble experiment going on 250 years that still hasn’t reached its goal, but has made strides towards it.

No one seems interested anymore in reaching out to fellow citizens unlike themselves and finding common interests. Instead we stand our ground that only our rights matter.  The wearing of masks controversy symbolizes such selfishness.  “No one tells me what to do” is a mentality that is un-American.  Goodness, decency and values have been buried as relics from the past.

I find it sad that generations of people alive today never experienced the America I knew.  I don’t pretend to look at my past with rose-colored glasses.   There were lots of problems in the 1960’s as well.   Much has improved during my lifetime.  But the stuff that is disappearing is eroding this country’s definition.

As a father I have done my best to raise respectful young men.  As a teacher I taught students to be respectful to those unlike themselves.

But as I look around, I see less evidence that other parents and teachers are doing their work in raising young people to believe in morals which is instilling a belief in democracy and this country.

It is like I am living in a real “Planet of the Apes” twist ending where I’m walking along Santa Monica beach and come across the crowned head of Miss Liberty submerged in the sand.  This is America?

4:30 a.m. Wake-up: A Sign of Our Times

A green-colored glowing 4:30 a.m. is the first image I see nearly every morning.  No matter how hard I try to close my eyes and not open them, my mind continues to turn its gears. The harder I try not to wake up, the more my mind fights this by accelerating its pistons.  Ultimately, one to two hours later, I can’t stand it and give up and get up out of bed.

Articles have been written about people who have a similar sleep disorder during the pandemic, called Covid-somnia or coronasomnia.

The year 2020 is almost over, and thank goodness.  If you live in Los Angeles, the Lakers and Dodgers each winning a World Championship in October, the first time that has happened since 1988, were two bright spots in a year that will otherwise forever go into the history books as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Congratulations—we are surviving a world health crisis.  This was a golden missed opportunity for people of all political persuasions to come together on a common goal:  diminishing the impact of the virus.  If we had the right president in office, a unifier not a divider, this would have been an enlightening moment for America.   While not as bad as the Great Depression or World War II, this was our crisis test to continue the American tradition of working together for the common good of our neighbors.

Thank God most of us do not have loved ones defending America around the world.  Limiting contact with friend and family to Zoom sessions should not have been that big of a sacrifice.

Sadly, we failed the test.  If people can’t agree on science, then conflict separates us.  Wearing masks, staying at home, limiting social contact were traits on a resume to see if you were Pro-Trump or anti-Trump.

The new surge in Covid cases across the country combined with a President who does not want to leave office continues playing havoc with people’s sleeping habits.

No wonder I keep waking up at 4:00 a.m. each day.  From mid-March to mid-November, 8 straight months and counting, has been the most anxious continuous length of time most of us have ever lived through.  And it will likely be another 8 months before the majority of Americans receive a vaccination.

If you are waiting for normal to return, best to wait it out until 2022 which is less than 14 months away.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself overeating and not sleeping well.  Even the holidays are dripping with anxiety.  Families unable to be together, arguments in families between those who fear the virus and those who ignore it, masks vs. no masks is enough unpleasantness to kill the Christmas spirit.

Besides sports, during this year I have found solace in comedy.  My wife and I discovered “Schitt’s Creek,” the best family sitcom since “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  What makes the show so appealing is its perfect casting from the stars to the supporting cast.  What makes the show memorable is that it treats a family with a gay son as nothing special.  The show is not about messaging about homosexuality.  Its only message is about the love between parents and children.

The other thing I find calming is watching old Huell Howser episodes.  I just finished the one he did in 2005 on Oak Glen with all the apple orchards.  I still can’t believe he died in 2013 at age 67.  He was such a genuine loving human being, with the curiosity of a child and the heart of a saint.  Not a phony bone in his body.

It didn’t matter if he was visiting an old oak tree or an old man with an elephant as a best friend, his ingratiating personality always reacting with a genuine “wow” at discovering something is a salve for today’s times when it seems Americans are fighting other Americans.

It is also something of a curiosity to see how life used to be not that long ago when people shook hands with one another and stood a foot not six feet apart.  In one episode at Oak Glen apple orchards, customers were encouraged to use the their bare hands in sampling free apple slices from paper bowls.  No social distancing, no washing of hands, no masks.  A farmer with his bare hand used a knife, cut off a hunk, and handed it to Huell who ate it and . . . lived without getting sick.

And every person Huell interviewed was decent and nice, something that is missing in so much of our lives these days.

I am worried about the future of our country and world.  There is little connective tissue that we share anymore.

For so long, Americans shared common experiences.  We now live in a time when each person can create his own world.   Some may like this, that they can tailor their music, social media, TV content to their own taste.  But when each person lives in a bubble when it comes to facts, science, and only feeds themselves political views that they have, they can easily vilify those with different views. 

History has plenty of examples where once people look at other people as unequal, we are only a small step away from causing harm to the “others.”  History is full of these stories.  They are called genocides.

Once people like me die off who lived through better times for America, younger people who didn’t grow up that way won’t even recognize the loss.  I’m glad I won’t be around to see what that America will be like.

And that’s why I see “4:30” each and every morning.

Of Squeaky Mice and Little Men

The Burbank Unified School District has taken the anti-education stance to halt the teaching of the following classic books due to their perceived racism: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Cay,” “Of Mice and Men,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” (Newbery Medal), and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Pulitzer Prize).  Interestingly, “Roll of Thunder” is written by a black author.

I wonder if the BUSD superintendent and the five-member school board have actually read any of these books?

I taught “Mockingbird” and “Mice and Men” for most of my 31-year career as a high school English teacher; these books were often the favorites of my students.  In “Mice and Men,” the wisest person in the whole book is Crooks, the sole African American character.   In “Mockingbird,” Tom Robinson is found guilty by an all-white jury then shot 17 times by the police.  I have seen students cry over the death of Tom.

The texts, part of a unit I called Dislike of the Unlike, teach anti-racism, decency and empathy. 

Since African-Americans make up a small percentage of Burbank’s population, it is all the more reason to mandate that these literary treasures remain as teaching tools for educators. 

For BUSD to empower four parents to alter the education of 15,200 students is short of astonishing.  This reminds me of all the times district officials would listen to a select few squeaky wheel parents and not to their professional teaching staff.

Did any one of them take the time to speak with their English teachers about this matter before pulling the plug on these books?

BUSD is not even following their own policy that “challenged material may remain in use until a final decision has been reached.”

English teachers are the most knowledgeable people on how to effectively use these books, not the parents.  They are the in-the-trench heroes who are trying to make a difference, teaching young people how to live peacefully in a diverse country that is too quick to pounce (think cancel culture) not pause when an uncomfortable moment arises.  We used to call that “a teachable moment.”

I hope the BUSD school board comes to their senses and doesn’t turn Burbank into one of those communities which starts censoring literature that has stood the test of time.  What a black eye that would be.  The city and its children deserve better than this.

Closet Cemetery

There is a graveyard in my bedroom.

I know it is Halloween time, but this is no decoration.

Hanging in my closet and folded in my dresser drawers are the clothes I used to wear every day.

When I retired in June, I figured that my sport jackets, ties, dress shirts, slacks and shoes would be put to less use.

Combined with the pandemic’s shutdown, I have had even fewer opportunities to dress up with nice restaurants closed.

One of the things I miss about not working is getting dressed for my job mainly because I got dressed up.  I enjoyed choosing which tie to wear with each shirt, which socks with each pair of shoes.

The majority of people don’t dress up anymore, and now with the economic shutdown forcing people to work from home, t-shirts and yoga pants have become standard work wear.

Where I worked, I was a walking anachronism.  In 31 years, I can count on one hand how many male teachers I saw regularly wearing any form of dress-up clothing:  a tie, a jacket, a dress shirt, long pants, shoes with a heel.  It was common to see men wearing shorts and sandals.  As Judge Judy would admonish, “Where did you think you were going today—the beach?”

In recent years, not even the male administrators dressed properly.  If it weren’t for the gray hair and facial wrinkles, they could have been mistaken for students in their hoodies get-up.  I’m sure when they passed by me, they thought, “Who does he think he is?”

What I thought I was was an educator, a role model for young people.  Dressing formally meant that teaching was a serious profession just like medicine and law.