Archive for September, 2018

The Best Way Forward for Michigan?

The Best Way Forward for Michigan?

Earlier this week the Washington Post had an article, “American paradox: Voters want the anger to stop but can’t stop being angry.” It really could have been about anyplace in the United States, but the dateline was from Rochester, Michigan and centered on Elissa Slotkin’s campaign against incumbent Mike Bishop for Michigan’s 8th congressional district.

Slotkin is experienced (three tours in Iraq and 14 years working at the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon), but a political newcomer. She felt compelled to run for office to address healthcare and economic issues. But in this hyper-partisan climate, she has found it a challenge to reach many of the voters she would like to help.

People are angry, which is understandable because there is plenty to be about. But the anger — especially when it has been released with a scream-fest at the family gathering here or a passive-aggressive tweet there — destroys the chance for further communication. As she campaigns, audiences are often asking her for advice:

“How do you deal with friends and family that are constantly posting things that are not accurate or that go blatantly against what you believe? How do I respond without turning into an angry person that no one wants to be around?”

Slotkin says that campaign events “often feel more like therapy sessions.”

Be nice, but don’t be a doormat. Express your feelings, but don’t be a jerk about it. Don’t compromise your ideals, but be willing to find consensus. Alas. Knowing all that and effectively executing it — that’s the difficulty. It’s at least comforting to know that people like Slotkin are trying to figure it out.

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The Sellout Price for My Vote

The Sellout Price for My Vote

I gotta admit, it was a great summer. Hot. Dry. Lovely. If you could stand the heat (and I have a pretty high tolerance), there was no reason not to be outside. I spent many a happy moment shooting hoops, chilling on the back patio, playing with the cats, putzing around the yard.

But no more. Oh, the weather is fine. Perfect, actually. It’s just that the sudden explosion of mosquitos has made being outside absolutely miserable. Recent rains seem to have spawned a whole year’s worth of hatching. At least in West Michigan, they wait for you to exit your car and then swarm like the cloud of dust that hovered around the Pig-Pen character from Peanuts cartoons. There are too many to all draw blood, so the extras busy themselves flying into ear canals and pinging off cheekbones. And you have to do that baboon walk — arms flailing around your head, legs bowed and taking giant exaggerated steps — just to survive. AAAUUUUGGHHH!

Look, I know I should be grateful for what we had, and things certainly could be worse. Like, hurricane worse. But as Joe Walsh used to sing, “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do.”

If there is some good that comes from this it might be helping us recognize how vulnerable we are to impulse. We’ll soon be entering the desperation phase of election season when certain office seekers crank up the outlandish promises, appeals to our base fears, and out-and-out lies to get our vote. So if candidates happen to claim that they can make the mosquitos go away, don’t believe them. The only real solution is winter, and that has its own issues.

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Improving Michigan School Literacy

Improving Michigan School Literacy

Michigan schools are back in session. Many started two weeks before Labor Day. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it has been oppressively hot and humid. Can you imagine what the learning environment has been like in classrooms with no air conditioning? I can almost hear the chorus of students and teachers reply, “It was miserable!”

Turns out miserable has consequences. NPR had a story not too long ago: “Heat Making You Lethargic? Research Shows It Can Slow Your Brain, Too.” It revolved around a new study from the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard, which found that high temperatures can muddle our thinking.

I was thinking about this as I listened to gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette answer questions about their plans to improve literacy rates among Michigan third-graders. Their answers are fine — general goals addressing the big picture. But I hope in the course of campaigning these next few months, they are curious enough to ask students and teachers what they need specifically. That way they’ll find out what’s really going to help.

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