Doug Wingeier • Columnist
Some years back I spent the Christmas season in the Land of the Holy One. (It is not the land that is holy, but the One who was born, lived, died, and rose there.) This was one of my several sojourns in Israel/Palestine over the years. My strongest impression at that time (and conditions have only gotten worse since) was of the oppression my Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters — along with their Muslim neighbors — were enduring under the Israeli occupation. I was struck with how similar this was to the Roman oppression of local inhabitants in the time of Jesus.
John Beckman • Columnist
The discussions and debates regarding health care on both the local and national levels have been going on for years as people everywhere have tried to come to grips with rapidly rising costs, a huge number of uninsured people and loss of benefits from providers. The volume of the discourse has risen to screaming new levels since the passing of the national Affordable Care Act and the botched launch of the website enrollment in recent weeks. The controversy has given rise to many instant geniuses on both sides with much of the opinion being offered short on fact, insight or applicability to the real world the rest of us inhabit.
What seems to be missing in all this is addressing the underlying question: How does our great nation get health services to those who need it in an affordable, efficient, ethical manner?
I was trying to sell myself to my prospective new boss, Scott McLeod. I may not know anyone in the Haywood County area yet, I told him, but don’t worry — I’m a horse person. We have a network.
So as soon as I knew I’d been hired, I got in touch with all the horse people I’d met with connections in this part of the world. My old friend Katherine, who grew up riding ponies in Asheville, put me in touch with Connie Moore, a fellow-rider who lives in Haywood County. Maybe you know Connie. I got on the phone with her and quickly got all sorts of great advice about boarding barns and other practicalities.
We are now — officially — barreling into the holidays. Thanksgiving is already a fading, drowsy memory of turkey carcasses and piles of dirty dishes. As we march onward toward Christmas and the new year, my mind always goes into the same pattern, one I can’t shake: I think of blessings and shortcomings, wondering why the things that aren’t right can’t be righted.
And so a couple of recent articles about opportunity in this country and how those who come from wealth are more likely than ever in recent history to remain in the upper income brackets hit home. In order to change this, we need to do more for children, especially those who haven’t reached what we have traditionally deemed “school age.”
By Doug Wingeier • Columnist
In early October we spent two weeks in our 150-year-old log cabin situated on a corner of our daughter Ruth and husband John’s 40 acres in central Minnesota, which has no electricity or running water.
While there we enjoy a simple life — reading by oil lamp and candlelight, outhouse comfort, vegetarian diet, sleeping sundown to sunup. Ruth is a licensed nurse midwife who has delivered more than 2,000 babies (many of them home births) in the 30 years she has lived there. John is recently retired after working as an Alaskan bush pilot, builder and cabinet maker, skilled factory worker, and a math and science teacher. They have raised three boys, the youngest now a college junior.
We had talked about going to Disney World for so long that it had become an abstraction, so distant and unreal that we might as well have been talking about taking a trip to Saturn. Still, the notion kept forcing itself upward though our cluttered and chaotic family life and back into our consciousness, like a dandelion that finds a way to grow through a crack in the sidewalk.
I’ve heard all the speeches and read all the legislative fantasies, and I’m still not satisfied with what I’ve heard about the state of the schools. The stories don’t match.
One question I cannot get the answer to is this: is the figure used by the state legislature for school budget before or after the reversion monies? When did the reversions start? Why?
By Dawn Gilchrist-Young • Guest Columnist
If I could create for you an apt metaphor for public education, it would be that of public schools as a sentient being. And, as such a being, it would have a body, much as we do, with a heart, with a brain, and with hands. The heart of public school, in my metaphor, is the loyalty, passion, and dedication of its teachers. The brain of public schools, the part that has foresight, is the knowledge of those teachers in pedagogy, in content, and in current thought. The hands of public schools, to complete the conceit, are the resources teachers have available to them, with time being the most important resource of all.
I am writing this in my classroom on a Friday evening in the hours of quiet before the kickoff for our homecoming ball game. My students are all gone for the weekend, but it is still early enough that my classroom remains lit by the clear autumn sunshine. I look out at 28 desks that hold the adult sized bodies of the 63 students I teach in senior English: 24 in first period, 25 in fourth period, and 14 in AP English Literature. In my first- and fourth-period classes, the place is pretty packed when everyone is present, so I am grateful I do not as of yet have the full allotment of 29 students that N.C. law allows. My county is fighting hard to keep class size within reason and to maintain teaching staff, although current legislation is telling us that staff reduction is only a matter of time.
By Sarah Kucharski • Columnist
The government shutdown went into effect on the first night I arrived in Yosemite National Park. There was no phone call at midnight, no note on the door in the morning. The birds still chirped, and the redwood trees still perfumed the air. Yet there was a great sense of angst. At the park hotel’s front desk, I was just one of many tourists asking what to do next — do we stay, or do we go? The road to Glacier Point already had been closed, making the day’s planned hikes impossible. The stables were shuttered too, which meant no mule rides. Restaurants and retail operations within the valley would be closing during the next 48 hours. And so we packed our bags, shoved everything back into our rental car, and left.