Yesterday was Father’s Day, a day that I feel is something of a celebration not just of fatherhood, but of manhood.

In my Facebook feed were dozens of tributes to men, teaching both their sons and daughters the meaning of being a man.

It seems that our culture doesn’t really know what makes a man anymore. But a lot of men certainly do.

Our culture doesn’t really have any rites of passage anymore – a significant event in which manhood is conferred. So in its place, our culture tells us that manhood can be acquired…

Manhood can be acquired by buying a particular product. Maybe one of the dozens of gendered products that say “for men.”

Manhood can be acquired by playing or being devoted to sports.

Maybe manhood can be gotten by driving a particular car.

Perhaps one becomes a man by growing a mighty beard…

…Or by eating lots of bacon, or drinking a brand of beer.

Is being a man as simple as hanging out in a “man cave?” Must a man cave be a musty, derelict room to truly be a “cave?” Are the men who preen and groom their caves to perfection not as manly?

I didn’t see anyone posting tributes to the men in their lives because they use manly Dove soap, or drive a flashy car, or their facial hair, or their bacon consumption.

Our culture peddles a caricature of men that none of us really measure up to. It is a caricature that makes all of us, if we buy into it, feel unmanly.

There are lots of different kinds of men, and lots of different kinds of masculinity.

But there is one characteristic about masculinity that I think probably holds true anywhere you go.

Masculinity cannot be purchased. It cannot be conferred. It cannot be acquired.

It can only be earned. And there are very few ways to earn masculinity, but the chances are, there are opportunities every day.

masculinity

 

The thing about battles is they always cost. A battle is never won for free.

Masculinity takes sacrifice. It requires loss.

There will be many opportunities today, and they won’t come with a receipt. We need a lot more men who don’t buy the consumeristic vision of manhood, who know that manhood is actually acquired through sacrifice and loss, rather than gain.

 

My first reaction, like many of you I am sure, was…

"You mean I'm going to stay this color???"

“You mean I’m going to stay this color???”

“What?”

A white woman has been “living as a black woman.”

My first question, in all seriousness was “What does it mean to live as a black woman?” But soon enough, things were cleared up.

Rachel Dolezal was lying about her identity.

Not that lying about your identity is what it means to “live as a black woman.” She was just trying very hard to be a black woman. She was dishonest with people. She implied that she had an African-American father. Bruce / Caitlyn Jenner didn’t have the luxury of lying about his / her gender.

Rachel Dolezal told Matt Lauer that she has been this way since she was five, drawing self-portraits with the brown crayons instead of the peach colored crayons.

On the one hand, Rachel appears to have had a challenging and unusual childhood, so maybe that’s true. On the other hand, she has been proven to be a very unreliable narrator for her own life, so who knows what we should believe.

But here’s the thing. Rachel may be unusual. She may be unreliable. She may even be unethical. She might even be crazy…

…But I’ll claim her.

Continue Reading…

There is a place…a place not too far away from here…

…where the idyllic days of summer vacation…

…do not exist.

Yes, a school district in my town is toying with year-round school. Maybe some parents are cheering, but I’m hoping this idea stays right where it is, and doesn’t spread. I’m hoping those kids don’t do any better on their state-mandated tests.

It’s not just because I’m a teacher and I need two months of “vacation” (it used to be three). My time off is spent working…on the next school year. The space of summer gives me the mental margin to think creatively about the coming year. I’m a better teacher because I get time off from teaching.

Your kids need it too. I know there is a lot of talk about how much academic progress is “lost” because of vacation. But here is the thing: we have more and more people in charge of our kids’ education who don’t know a whole lot about kids. They know some philosophy of education. They are obsessed with data points. And they are working tirelessly to make school more regimented, more micromanaged, more rigorous.

In the midst of this, your kids are losing one of the greatest learning tools they have…

Play. 

Recess is not an “extra.” P.E. isn’t to try to make our kids not so fat. Kids have an intellectual need to play. That’s what summer is all about.

And I’m not talking about the little playdates you arrange for them. I’m talking about wandering around. I’m talking about picking up sticks, running through puddles, getting dirty, experimenting, taking risks, real play. 

It is through play that children truly learn about the world around them. They read about sticks in school, but through play, they experience sticks, and dirt and bugs. The world becomes their laboratory. Through play, they develop the skills to not be antisocial, lonely adults. Through play, your kids learn to stop hanging onto your leg and go be independent problem solvers.

Albert Einstein even said that play was the “highest form of research.”

IMG_9428 (1)

Parents, play time is under attack, I believe. The powers that be are contemplating taking away two months of free “research” each year. Free range parents are having their children taken away for letting their kids do what kids do best.

Let your kids learn as much as they can, before school makes them come back and learn the answers to a test.

I know what I’ll be doing.

mckinney-eric-casebolt-640x420I was actually afraid I might have seen things wrong on Monday.

I don’t usually write about stories immediately as they are happening. But Monday was different. Sunday night, I saw the video of McKinney cop Eric Casebolt subduing black teenagers in swimsuits. I went to my computer and wrote my immediate reactions and hit “publish.” I didn’t even know if anyone else was paying attention to this.

Then, the next morning, I saw the story on Good Morning America, and I knew this was a real, big thing.

As my Facebook feed flared up with links and comments, I wondered if I had got things wrong. I boldly claimed that – yes, we do not know the whole story of what happened at that pool party, but – no, none of the rest of the story matters.

I wondered if some insightful person would offer a comment that would punch a hole in my theory, that the rest of the story doesn’t matter.

I looked and looked. No one was able to.

Oh sure, plenty of people offered “explanations” and “defenses” and “analysis” of the police’s actions. But none of them changed my mind. None of the extenuating circumstances made a bit of difference on what we saw on film.

I am tired of the ridiculous, indefensible excuses being made on behalf of abusive police officers. These are among the comments that may cause me to block you in my social media stream.

Continue Reading…

Yesterday, like many of you, I saw the video of a McKinney police officer “serving and protecting” the community.

It was disturbing.

It was maddening.

Everything he did was probably illegal.

I thought I had had my dose of righteous indignation for the day. Then I read the story from The New Yorker about Kalief Browder, a teenager who was detailed for more than a thousand days without a trial, was abused, starved and beaten by guards on video, and recently committed suicide after his release.

The thing I found myself thinking about these two stories is that I don’t need to know the whole story. With stories like Michael Brown, the issues that we could have talked about were undermined by the fact that we do not know the whole story.

But in these two cases, we just don’t need all the facts. It doesn’t matter that one video doesn’t tell the whole story. An officer kneeling on a hundred-pound girl in a swimsuit is all we need to know. The same officer pulling his gun on teenagers while kneeling on the girl is all we need to know. The officer running around, cursing at teenagers is all we need to know.

We do not need to know anything about the robbery that Kalief Browder was never tried for. We do not need the details of his life.

Why do we not need any of these things?

Because they do not matter to the outrage we should feel. Not one event, not one circumstance that preceded these stories makes anything justifiable. There is just no reason for an officer to act the way this guy is acting. There is no conceivable reason why a sixteen year old should be detailed for years, waiting for a trial, and be abused while being detained.

So I ask you, parents, when are we going to start teaching our children about where they come from?

Obviously, the parents in that McKinney neighborhood are teaching their kids where they come from. They put up signs around the pool, thanking the police for keeping them safe. But that’s not what I mean.

I mean teaching our children that the world doesn’t look like our own homes.

We keep a photo of the Rwandan boy whom we sponsor on the fridge, because we want our child to see that the world is not a middle class neighborhood. Not everyone is white. Not everyone gets to go to school. Not everyone gets the (modest) luxuries that his parents can afford. If nothing changes, our child will never live in danger of poverty. And we are having serious discussions about how to help give him a sense of justice toward the children who do live in poverty.

How do we even start to teach him that not everyone is afforded the same police protection in this country? I have next to zero fear that my child will ever be assaulted by a police officer. I just don’t know.

I don’t know how we are going to teach our son about these things, but I think the point is that we are going to do it. It took me until I was an adult to really see these things in the world. I don’t want it to take so long for my son.

teach

Those parents in McKinney appear to be completely tone-deaf, or they didn’t see this officer going on a rampage.

But I’m done. I can’t teach my son to unquestioningly trust authority. I can’t teach him that police are always there to help.

We usually tell our children that life is not “fair” when they whine or complain that they don’t have what they want.

I think I’ll show my child just how unfair the world can be, just how unfair his life really is…

Love.

 

That’s the response.

Continue Reading…