One of our vocabulary words in my fifth grade class this week was principle: “a personal or specific basis of conduct or management.” Basically, I told my students, principles are your personal beliefs and values and they dictate how you act.
My sister in Silicon Valley emailed a news article to me. Santa Clara officials have “declared the teen suicide problem an urgent health care problem” due to the episodes of suicide clusters in that area. High school students (many from affluent homes of highly educated parents) are committing suicide in staggering numbers. They jump in front of trains, they jump off overpasses and buildings and they hang themselves. A Yale psychologist who has studied this phenomenon says that, “on average, rich offspring experience serious levels of depression and anxiety at twice the national rates.”
Why are children who seem to have so much promise taking their lives?
The experts have identified two factors: overwhelming pressure to succeed AND a broken or non-existent bond within their families. These youth are showing signs of mental illness and their parents are in denial. The principles, then, of these parents are simply high achievement, excellent education and then successful careers for their offspring. Absent is the principle of unconditional love and acceptance.
At this moment, our country is experiencing high tension: racial violence and racist rhetoric not seen since the civil rights movement is now a reality. The principles in our current federal administration seem to be tax cuts for the wealthy, protect the KKK and bully people into submission. Again, absent is the principle of unconditional love and freedom. Absent is the principle of peace and equal rights (for women, LGBTQ, immigrants, etc.)
With such principles, only disaster can result.
It is up to each of us to do our own part to right this wrong.
Vote hate out.
Join the NAACP.
Subscribe to the NY Times.
Volunteer at a community organization that serves people in need.
There’s a lot of political strife and fear going around. I keep hearing about people losing sleep over the recent events in Virginia with the supremacist groups and the death of an innocent protestor.
I offer this: Take a deep breath. Do not expect others to feel the way you do. Do not get frustrated and scared. Instead, think of one SMALL thing you can do to feel effective and do it. You’ll feel better. You might even sleep better.
Lead by example.
Show up. We need people to show up for what they believe in.
But fighting and arguing are only going to get defenses up.
And, for your insomnia, I offer this YouTube video of Byron Katie speaking with someone who feels the way you do. Trust me, you need to watch this. It’s magic.
This is not a call for passivity. You need to feel the inner peace before you can help create the peace outside of yourself.
Five years ago, I left a corporate job to go back to teaching. I missed the kids more than I wanted the money.
I was asked to teach the 4th quarter with sixth graders in a low socio-economic school. Their previous teacher abandoned the post. He never said goodbye, he just left. Of the 30 students I taught, more than half had fathers in prison. Every child qualified for free breakfast and lunch. One of the male students had very strange eyebrows. Someone told me that his older brother and a gang tied him down and shaved his eyebrows off. They never grew back quite right.
As I got to know the children, I realized most had been traumatized in a number of ways: neglect, verbal and physical abuse and (I suspected) sexual abuse. One of my students was a sweet, round-faced boy. He wore the same pants every day and they looked dirty, but he was always kind. He was always smiling and he walked and talked slowly. I’ll call him Francisco.
One of the teachers had over 12 years experience at the school. She was extremely strict with all of the kids. I know she cared about them and wanted them to be successful, but she acted as if each child had a bull’s eye on their back. She was constantly barking orders and yelling.
We were outside, lined up to go back inside from lunch. Francisco walked slowly to line. Apparently, too slowly. This teacher yelled at him, “Who do you think you are? What are you trying to prove? Too cool to care?” We all stood, stunned. “When you walk, walk with purpose and walk fast! And tuck your shirt in!”
I wanted to explain that this was the way he always walked.
I wanted to come to his defense and vouch for his character.
I wanted to stop her from attacking him wrongfully.
But I didn’t. I froze.
It haunts me to this day. I should have stood up for him.
But he was Mexican-American. She was Mexican-American. I am Korean-American, an outsider, only to be there for 9 weeks.
This was their school, not mine.
I see now, I was wrong. It was our school. Right is right and wrong is wrong.
Never just stand by silently. Speak your mind when you see a wrong.