We Miz

A recent NY Times news story, “In a Mother’s Case, Reminders of Educational Inequalities,” by Peter Applebome plunged me into fetid shadows akin to Dickensian London and Victor Hugo’s Paris of injustice on the brink of revolution… the dark and shameful inequalities that define the American school landscape circa here and now.

“Facts” are troublesome (and I perhaps no reliable narrator), but the story at hand is of a drug-involved mom who allegedly used her babysitter’s address to enroll her kindergartener in a better school district—and who now finds herself (aside from drug charges) facing charges of “first degree larceny” and “conspiracy” on account of sending her kid to a better-equipped suburban school when she actually lived in a poorer urban school district.

The boy, Andrew Justin Patches, bears a name-is-destiny sort of Dickensian yoke (just in patches/rags) and half made me wonder if I was dreaming (or is it nightmaring?) as my dandelion tea cooled beside my laptop last Thursday morning.  Is this a narrative to illustrate the spirit, if not crisis, of our time?  Are these people for real?  Are we, as a culture that leaves so many kids behind for real?  What sort of revolution might grow out of such injustice?  And what good might it do if this is where we are, centuries after much-vaunted revolutions in France and America, that have come and gone on in business as usual inequality and injustice?

While laws organize a society (but may also oppress it) and morality attempts to dictate behavior, consciousness is a self-organizing principle; it grows like a tree or a bird into what it simply is.  Humans are interesting in that they self-determine their culture, however the ego-self (society’s architect) is swamped by the melancholy of its own mortality (and perceived scarcity of resources).  The scared, lizard-brained, ego then aggresses against it’s own fellows, miring itself in a situation of vast melancholy and loss of purpose and meaning.  Achievement appears to the the meaning, but it is really a manic denial of smallness and of the inevitability of death.

Love and compassion, not leaving each other out in the cold, behind, hungry or broken… might this not constitute a revolution of a different, subtler, n0n-action stripe?  Perhaps if we were to educate and support all our children (and not just our precious chosen favorites) we might actually feel proud of ourselves as a culture, and we might spend more of our resources in life-enhancing (education and wellness) rather than life-ending (so-called “defense”) arenas.

Thus, perhaps if we consciously come together, and henceforth not leave any kids behind, at least in our shared consciousness (as simplistic and unmeaningful and unpragmatic as that may sound), perhaps we will, strangely enough, find ourselves feeling less left behind, less unloved, less impoverished and less frightened.  To make changes in our consciousness can render us non-violent, compassionate and free… inner circumstances rippling out to influence our own lives and the shared world we truly co-create.

We know we do leave kids behind.  We know that our culture is not organized around loving kindness, compassion, inclusion and love; nor is it organized around integrity, authenticity and non-judgment.  In our hearts we may suspect that if our society was ordered this way (something that cannot be decreed, legalized or religiously demanded) then we would trust, share, love and be markedly happier, more creative and more productive.  The challenge is to think, and love and live this way before it is the norm, when it is not the norm and when it sounds naïve, even ridiculous, to speak of it.  But if we turn to small shifts in trust and mindfulness, to loving those in our circle (and drawing ourselves into this circle of compassion and connection), we change our consciousness, and this changes the world just as surely as believing in/clapping for Tinker Bell revives her, and makes us feel good and efficacious and included in the bargain.

So while most readers of this blog are not packing crack cocaine under their wigs like Justin Patches’ beleaguered mom is accused of doing, we are all interested in having “our” kids get into the “right schools,” how can we possibly be happy when all schools are not the “right schools?”  (And how much calmer might we be if they were?)

If we cannot be happier than our least happy child, then every urchin who went to school today without breakfast, every five-year-old just-in-rags and patches, every drugged out kid and stressed out kid, is placing a drag on our potential (collective and individual) happiness, liberty and exuberance.  Perhaps we might take change to another level, releasing our misguided perception of good and bad people in favor of awake and asleep people, gently awakening those who toss and turn in a nightmare of scarcity, rousing with butterfly kisses and unremitting love.  This is how children think—and it is children who shall change our world… if only we stop stopping them.

Meanwhile, Andrew Justin Patches’ mother faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted of this “larceny.”  Larceny means taking something that doesn’t belong to you; does a good education belong to every child or not?  If it does, then perhaps it is our broken educational system, our scared and broken society itself, that is committing larceny by defacto thieving a fair and equal education from any child born on the wrong side of whatever tracks divide Our Town.

If there is something you can do to help widen the circle of our shared consciousness so that more and more of our fellows are inside it, go for it.  What I felt inspired to do in the awareness of yet another child left behind and a mom who might end up behind bars for advocating for that child was to write these words and thus invite you, and every kid we know, and know of between us, into our circle of widening, and loving, consciousness.  In this way a better day may be no longer coming, it may be here.

Namaste, BD



7 Responses to “We Miz”

  1. Mark Brady Says:

    As someone who has worked in education for decades, it’s difficult not to despair over the “state of the art” at even the so-called “best” schools. The best and the brightest that the American Education System turns out are keenly equipped with the sharp edge of intellect and mostly wholly divorced from the wisdom of the heart. It’s sad.

    But then, there are points of light all over the place, when I change my focus. Places like this – a chapter started locally in her home town by a student of mine: http://www.girlsontherun.org or this Hearts and Hammers organization founded locally: http://www.mark-the-moment.com/groups.html or this community food bank also founded locally by a friend of mine: http://www.goodcheer.org/

    So, I get to BOTH curse the darkness AND light a candle, I guess.

  2. BigLittleWolf Says:

    As a parent – and one who has dealt with a city (public) school system – it’s hard to know where to begin with this post. We are “public school” people in our family – by economic situation as well as by choice, though economics removed any options some years ago.

    Like your previous commenter, I’ve seen points of light – truly fine teachers who address their talents not only to the brightest but to those who need more creative support. I’ve also seen “the system” look the other way as certain students were allowed to bypass its rules, for any number of reasons.

    Larceny? Really? Your initial premise returns with its own sort of outrage when we stop. and. think.

    Every child has a right to a decent education. Not every child has parents who can assist. Why aren’t we all rolling up our sleeves and trying to do so, to the extent that we can – any way that we can?

  3. Pamela Says:

    I agree. The fear of “public school – oh NO!” has led to a crisis in education, where the affluent attend private schools, and those without funds and left out in the cold. There are so many things broken now, it’s hard to know where to start. One would think with the underprivileged, like Justin Patches.

    Thanks for adding the orgs that help so that we can help them.

    Much love,

  4. Alana Says:

    Widening the circle with you Bruce. Thank you for sharing your outrage (I feel it too) and your thoughts.

  5. Stephanie Hubbard Says:

    Agreed – this is some crazy ass shit – thanks for writing about it!


  6. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    I heard about that story–just crazy. Although I didn’t know the kid had such an Oliver Twist-esque name…how fitting!

  7. meaganfrank Says:

    I cannot help but to be spurred to action by this. I taught high school English for three years, before my kids arrived on the scene, in an affluent public school. It was in stark contrast to the impoverished school that was on the other side of a literal train track. The public funding would have been the same, but the involvement of the affluent parents, both financially and physically, was overwhelming. It is the mindset of the whole that needs to change…this mortal fear that our own children might be left behind if our energy is not poured singularly into them. I love the idea of butterfly kisses for every child. My mind’s circle has widened with this…and I thank you. MMF

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