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Civics 101 part 2

Civics 101 Podcast Part 2

Pivot is a great word taken over by business types and made cringeworthy. They did the same to silo. But NPR’s excellent podcast, Civics 101, has created a part 2 and pivoted toward classroom education. And since it’s NPR, they’ve done a bang-up job of it.

If you have kids in middle school or high school, I highly recommend this particular resource. Summer is upon us and in many areas there is no end in sight to all this sitting around and getting on each other’s nerves. If your kids aren’t interested in it, give it a whirl yourself. As usual, I am going to quote from NPR’s webpage rather than reinvent their wheel.

“The single greatest compliment Civics 101 can receive is that you use it in some way with your students. Whether it’s assigning episodes as a primer before class, listening to the show in class, entering our student contest, or (my personal favorite) having students put in headphones and take a walk; we want to do whatever we can to support you and your teaching.

We have created Graphic Organizers on which students can take notes while listening, offer timestamped transcripts for all episodes, and cut our more recent episodes into 3-7 minute segments for easier use in class. All of these are available on the page for each episode.

If you’ve had any success using the show in your classroom, we’d love to hear what you did so we can share it with others. Drop me an email anytime, nick@civics101podcast.org, and I promise we’ll get back to you. Furthermore, if any of you would be interested in contributing lesson plans paired with our episodes, please send us a message, we’d love to collaborate.”

The original post we wrote in 2018 about this excellent NPR podcast can be found here. Happy learning!

news apps

News Apps

Someone needs to come over to my house and remove all the news apps from my phone. I am just scaring myself with them. No one has scarier maps than The New York Times. All that red pulsing out from city centers and swallowing the rest of America. 

There’s no good news right now but I keep checking to see how bad it’s gotten. Am I helping or hurting myself? I think if I check too often or spend too much time it can be harmful. That being said, this is no time to wallow in ignorant bliss. 

I have set myself a schedule of reading the news for an hour in the morning and another hour at night. 

Do I follow this schedule?

Not even close. But when I get in the weeds with charts and quotes from specialists, I remind myself of my limits, shut down the apps and try to focus on something else. 

But what? Thus far, I have two things I am doing.

One is playing solitaire with actual cards, which is fun. My mom taught my sister and I math facts and pattern recognition using a deck of standard playing cards. Solitaire, blackjack and poker were the usual games. Having a deck of cards in my hands makes me feel that much less alone. 

The other thing I’m doing is my very own low skill version of knitting. I am making a scarf because that is all I know how to do. The thing is going to be six feet long in honor of social distancing. It will probably look gnarly even when it’s brand new. 

No matter. The point is to putter around, staving off cabin fever as long as possible. I am hoping my anxiety will settle down and I can go back to reading books rather than newspaper articles but until then there is the tactile joy of just messing around with cards and yarn.

 

child care

The Child Care Challenge

According to a Pew Research Center report, “Child care is a major concern for parents with children who are not yet school age. A majority of parents with one or more children younger than 6 say it’s hard to find high-quality, affordable child care in their community.” This concern traversed all socio-economic, race and gender delineations. Single parents and low-income parents, who are sometimes one and the same, had even higher levels of concern and frustration regarding affordable, high-quality child care for children under the age of 6.

None of this is news to anyone who has ever tried to find child care for a child under 6. And if you’ve ever tried to find care for a baby or a child that is not potty trained, the level of frustration and cost of care skyrockets. With wages what they are, stagnant for most and shockingly unfair for many (Latinx women earn 53 cents for every dollar a white man makes), child care costs can push women out of the workforce. Especially if a second child comes along.

Why are women the ones often pushed out of the workforce? When women perform the same jobs as men, they tend to be paid less than men. Women are also pointed toward and hired into fields that traditionally pay less than fields that employ men (construction vs cashier). If in a heterosexual couple the man makes 53k a year and the woman makes 28k, guess who’s staying home? And for every month and year she stays out of the paid workforce, the gap in her resume grows and grows, making it harder and harder for her to find a good quality job when the last of the kids finally go to elementary school. And if like many of the schools around here kindergarten is only 4 hours, she has to wait until the last child goes to 1st grade. And even then there is the gap between when a child’s day ends and when the traditional workday ends.

With all the hand wringing around the falling birthrate in America, one would think someone in government might realize that the stress, frustration, and heartache around quality childcare might be a pretty big contributing factor.

And then, if one finds childcare there can be all kinds of problems. I found childcare for my younger son that was affordable, had extended hours and FED THEM BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND SNACK! Anyone who has ever pleaded, nagged and cried their way through a time-constrained breakfast with a toddler and cleaned out a grotty lunch box five days a week for years knows why I was so thrilled.

There was only one pretty big snag. The childcare was through a local church and there were many religious components to the program. My family is without religion. I was concerned that there would be friction between what was taught at school and what he heard at home, but needs must. I had gotten a promotion at work that changed my schedule to weekdays from weekends and we really needed the money. So we enrolled him in the school and luckily he really didn’t understand what was happening. For awhile my younger son thought Jesus lived in New York City and when you died you went there and lived with him. My older son quickly adopted this theology, saying he hoped Jesus would provide him with a snug third floor walk-up with quiet neighbors and a reasonably chill co-op board.

We were very, very lucky. When I explained the theology swirling around my house, the director nearly hurt herself laughing. But what to do when the only quality, affordable child care teach ideals that clash with what’s taught at home? Many of my friends have had this problem. Some child cares include service requirements where parents must volunteer a certain number of hours per week in the class. Some of those parents have been a nightmare to deal with.

Anti-vaxx parents chiding children for the bandaids proclaiming they’d gotten a flu shot. Judgmental comments about the contents of a hastily packed lunchbox. Endless fundraisers, lists of required ‘donation’ items, and the general melee of drop-off.

It’s enough to send any sane woman screaming from the workforce. Hell isn’t always other people, sometimes it’s other parents.

New rule: keep your highly researched opinions to yourself. Nobody has time for it. Unless someone says the words, “What do you think,” keep all comments to the weather and how adorable everyone’s kids are, even if they are sniveling little bridge trolls. I can say this because I was a sniveling little bridge troll when I was a little kid.

No one has an easy, controversy free answer to the child care crunch in this country. For example, the second you start talking about extending local, state and federally funded schooling to every child from birth to college, everyone on either extreme of the political divide loses their minds. You know who you are so don’t even try to deny it.

But that leaves the millions of parents in the middle struggling with no end in sight. Maybe it’s time to stop thinking of only our children and begin to think of all the kids. They deserve better than the patchwork of care on offer in this country. This is just a staggering breakdown of 10 places in the country where childcare bills for center-based infant and four-year-old care will cost you the most.

I don’t want to end on a hopeless note. Here are two different ideas about how we can provide high-quality, affordable child care for all Americans who want it. Each is from a controversial figure from either end of the political spectrum.

President Trump’s 2020 budget has a request for a one time 1 billion investment in childcare programs that mostly push deregulating the business of childcare. The proposal is tied to border wall funding, which is in turn tied to the entire Trump border policy which is inhumane to say the least.

Senator Warren has a more comprehensive plan for childcare. Here is her Medium article explaining it. Basically any family that makes less than 200% of the federal poverty line would qualify for high quality child care at no cost to the family. And our nation reaps the benefits of having more children in high quality early childhood educational programs.

The Argument Podcast

The other side is dangerously wrong. They think you are too. But for democracy to work, we need to hear each other out. Each week New York Times Opinion columnists David Leonhardt, Michelle Goldberg and Ross Douthat explain the arguments from across the political spectrum. Their candid debates help you form your own opinion of the latest news, and learn how the other half thinks. Find the best ways to persuade in the modern search for common ground.

(text from The Argument’s webpage)

The Supremes' Greatest Hits

The Supremes’ Greatest Hits

I bought a copy of The Supremes’ Greatest Hits at the Supreme Court gift shop last summer. Yes, there is a gift shop and yes, it is as delightfully dorky as it sounds. I sat in the actual Courtroom, where the long, high bench resides, along with the 9 tall chairs sitting behind it. I honestly couldn’t believe they just let people line up then walk in there, sit down and listen to a little history lesson given by a very nice man in a very funny jacket. But they did. You can’t get near The White House and yet, possibly the most important building in these entire United States, sits open all day long, welcoming anyone who wants to have a look around. I love America. We make inaccessible places that don’t really matter and leave open places any lunatic would happily burn to the ground. Read more

Kyrsten Sinema

The Honorable Richard E. Neal

We are breaking with our custom of featuring female talent crushes because this guy just asked the IRS to cough up Trump’s tax returns. Onward Honorable Politician I had never heard of until last week!

We have included a link to the letter, just in case you wanted to read what the legal version of “no matter how long it takes, we will get the truth out of you even if it’s the last thing we ever do” looks like.

Sen Martha McSally

Sen Martha McSally

Sen Martha McSally (R-AZ) need never have said a word about the sexual assault. But some people show up for their compatriots above and beyond the call of duty. Here is a link to her comments, it’s only 2 minutes, please watch.

Gov. Janet Mills

Gov Janet Mills

Gov Janet Mills signed Executive Order 1 on her second day as Governor of Maine, making 70,000 more Mainers eligible for health insurance. The former governor, Paul LePage, refused to expand Medicaid coverage even though the population of Maine voted to expand it during his tenure. Read more

Work Like a Woman Reading Challenge

Work Like a Woman

Work Like a Woman, by Mary Portas is part autobiography, part political commentary and part, as she says, a manifesto for change. Read more

Kyrsten Sinema

Nancy Pelosi

The look on her face when she clapped at him. Oh, Nancy Pelosi. You give us hope.

To see a woman in a white suit do that in front of the whole wide world…I can’t come up with a reaction that isn’t just swearing interspersed with maniacal laughter.

Thank you, Nancy.