Anti-gay-marriage lawyers

Posted on July 9, 2014
Filed Under Commentary | Leave a Comment

The law society of New Brunswick is currently one of only four Canadian provincial societies that have decided to accredit applications for membership from graduates of Trinity Western University in British Columbia. TWU is an evangelical Christian school whose students sign a covenant to abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman. Sexual intimacy between same sex partners, even if legally married, therefore violates the covenant.
After the New Brunswick society agreed to accredit TWU graduates, a group of members started a petition to have the decision reconsidered. They may well be justified to have that done. There are differing opinions on how the issue was dealt with at the meeting.
That said, I cannot imagine how the society could refuse to accredit the TWU grads. I vehemently disagree with the idea the covenant represents. When Parliament debated including gays as groups to be protected from discrimination in the revision of the Charter of Rights, I wrote that it was one of those arguments that would seem silly in 10 years. Of course they deserved and needed that protection. And now the question does indeed seem silly.
People, including lawyers, are however entitled to hold different beliefs. Signing the covenant does not signify that TWU grads will try to flout the law. In practical, political terms, it would, I think, probably disqualify any of them from being appointed to be judges but not from practising law.
It is very probable that almost all lawyers and judges disagree with something that is law. Some would disagree with mandatory sentencing. Some may believe in capital punishment. Some undoubtedly think marijuana or prostitution laws should be different. Many must disagree with gun ownership laws.
There is and always has been a tendency among people to equate what they don’t like with what should be illegal or boycotted. People are often willing to punish a corporation for the bad behaviour of a single employee. We see examples every day.
I heard a Maritime Noon discussion of privacy rights recently in which callers were almost unanimous in what corporations or media should not be allowed to do without ever considering the effect such bans would have on what they personally would be allowed to do or banned from doing. If, for example, you don’t think a newspaper ought to be able to take and print a picture of you at a public gathering, do you agree that you should not be allowed to take a picture of your family at the beach if other people are also there? Should you be allowed to post them or circulate them to your friends?
There was a recent instance where a social media posting of a little girl whose face was badly scarred by a dog mauling, claimed she had been asked to leave a fast food outlet because her appearance was disturbing other customers. I’ve not seen any evidence or confirmation it even actually happened. If it did, the thousands of employees and the management of the firm would naturally be as upset about it as you would be. And yet, thousands of people were prepared to punish the entire company and everyone who works for it. The power of public boycott is as susceptible to abuse as any other power. It is also easy to mobilize for nefarious purposes.
When Americans were angry that France would not join them in the invasion of Iraq, which was itself the result of a cooked up story about weapons of mass destruction, someone cooked up the idea that the Target department store chain was a French company and was properly pronounced Tarjay. Total fiction but very damaging to the company even though it should not have been even if true.
We who live in democracies and treasure our freedom should be scrupulously diligent to ensure we extend and protect that same freedom of expression and thought and legal action to everyone else especially those with whom we disagree.
Voltaire biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, described his belief as, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
I think homosexuals, victims for so long of vicious discrimination, would and should be especially diligent in that regard. I wonder how long ago it was that law societies would not accept to their bar openly gay applicants?
On we go! DAC

Respect for dead protectors

Posted on June 20, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

When the three Mounties, Constables Fabrice Georges Gévaudan, Douglas James Larche and Dave Joseph Ross were assassinated in Moncton, I was already immersed in strong feelings about how precious life is and how many lives it cost for us to have the society we do. The 70th anniversary of D-Day was a horrifying reminder of the price paid by so many people who should have had the best years of their lives ahead.
Then I read a comment by Miramichier Gary Silliker, a man with an amazing history of Canadian military service in many of the world’s tragic trouble spots and still active. He told of arriving back in Canada from a posting and encountering an RCMP vehicle on the road. He said he was overcome with emotional gratitude to be Canadian in a country where the police serve and protect the citizens unlike in so many parts of the world.
To see Canada’s reaction to the deaths of the three Mounties and our grief for their wives, children and families and Const. Ross’s dog, Danny, demonstrated what a strong, loving family we Canadians are. To see the sea of RCMP, other police forces and emergency services at the funerals was overwhelming. If I had been asked how many RCMP members Canada had, I would have guessed far fewer than just the number of them who attended the funerals.
A teacher friend in Beijing, China posted a photo of the many Canadian teachers assembled in their red shirts to pay their respects. That seemed particularly apropos. Everywhere around the Miramichi yesterday people were wearing red shirts.
It would not be honest to pretend that all police and soldiers are heroes and saints. We know better. However, on average, they rank very high among the population and even the most callous among them put their lives on the line against those who would do us harm.
While I have no criticism whatever to levy of the national honour paid to and grief shown for Constables Ross, Larche and Gévaudan, I am trying to think why we paid so much more attention to them than to all our servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan. I wonder if their families think we valued them less than our Mounties. I am quite confident we do not and hope their families know that.
As so often happens when there is a serious national hurt, I am overwhelmed with the quality of commentary by civilians who are not professional commentators.
The fact remains, however, that today we go on with our feelings for our protectors and our Canadian identity and patriotism even stronger but Constables Larche, Ross and Gévaudan do not. Unlike in a movie, they are still dead. The show is over and their wives are widows. Their children, one not yet born, are orphans. Their families are without beloved sons and brothers forever.
I lost a close friend to a car accident when we were both young men. He was so enthusiastic about life and sports and ideas that I still think of him often when something like Canada winning Olympic hockey gold happens. He’s been dead over 50 years now. He missed so much.
Our protectors paid so much for us. They will miss so much. I hope we all pay them the true respect of vowing to always try to become better people and better citizens and to be vigilant to preserve the rights and freedoms they died for. DAC

Annie is four

Posted on April 12, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Giants | Leave a Comment

April 10, 2014

She continues to amaze us all with her loving, cheerful, enthusiastic, eager, determined, musical, richly imaginative, intelligent charming personality. Her default mode is to get outside.When she enters a home, the energy level picks up like the sun rising. When she leaves, it feels quieter, darker and emptier.

She has been the focus of so much attention from a large circle of extended family and friends her entire life that she obviously feels a responsibility to be entertaining whenever people are around. Her latest thing is knock knock jokes. I’ve been saying since she was born that she has had so many cameras pointed at her that she must think they are members of the family. She is so used to it she automatically poses like a star on the red carpet.

She very much relishes quiet times with her mother and father, cuddling on the couch and watching TV. They do too and so do her Nana and Supa.

She is also perfectly capable of going off into her own world with her stuffed animals and creating stories and adventures in those worlds. In one of them, she is an investigator exploring new vistas like the basement of her house which is in a state of change as it is gradually being finished.

She has a large vocabulary and speaks exceptionally well. She has begun to use language in her own way. When something really touched her this year, she said, “That makes my heart wiggle”. That expression spread like wildfire through her extended family.

She still has five great grand parents she knows, sees regularly and will, I am confident remember. In turn, she continues to add high definition vivid colour to the elders in the family. We look to the future more than we did. Our imaginations go kaleidoscope visualizing all the possibilities she may realize. Of one thing we are sure. She will be a renaissance woman. Prime minister and musical superstar at the same time while painting masterpieces in her spare time? Olympic sailing medallist in the summer games and hockey star in the winter games? Why not?

She makes us need to be more engaged again in making the world a better place for her.

We all seem to feel that a brother or sister would be blessing. She needs someone to share the job of entertaining her huge audience. She also needs to have someone to share the limelight and teach her she will not always be the only sun in the world.

She is very feminine and it is obvious she richly enjoys being a girl. I give credit to the brave feminists who have gone before for the fact that she has never had a hint that there is anything boys can do that women cannot. She fully expects to be captain of her ship and is encouraged in that belief. She lives in a world of books, travel, seashores, woods camps, sail boats, hunting, skating, snowmobiling, throwing balls, princesses and science. This year her grandpa McKendrick salvaged a large tree house which now sits in her back yard not far from the rink he makes every winter.

As I learned from my mother, an ardent early feminist, there is no conflict between feminism and being feminine. She is going to be wildly attractive to the right kind of intelligent, confident, considerate man. She will not be controlled by anyone.

Since Christmas, she has taken another growth spurt. She has always been strong and likes to roll her shoulders as she walks sometimes which makes her look husky and forceful. Then she shoots up another inch or two and suddenly looks all grown up and feminine the way little girls can.

We know she will have to learn about cruelty and hurt and loss although we dread that, but we know she has the strength of character to handle it and enough love in her life to overbalance it.

Her fourth year, like the other three have seen huge changes in her that are, for us, exciting and sad. She is growing up so fast. We loved the girl she was so much that we really miss her at the same time we are intoxicated by the girl she is.

Her Puppy’s 81st birthday was a week before her fourth. Nothing could have made Bud happier than her sitting in his lap, hugging him. Her thing with him is Tim Bits. During one of the winter’s storms, their usual stop to get them had run out. She immediately directed him to the next closest Tim’s.

Pat and Bud are obviously ecstatic seeing her, as we all do, as a type of immortality. Seeing her, they have to know they did their job brilliantly.

A game she and I have been playing for over two years now is that I pretend to be the Feather Fingered Tickle Monster who wants to eat her toe toes. She runs and screams and hides but eventually lets me grab them and growl and gnaw away at them while she laughs. I have, of course, wondered when the game would become boring and seem childish or foolish to her.

When we Skyped the night before her birthday, she began to duck down out of sight and then pop her head up in different places on the screen. After she did that about five times, she ducked down and then, after a few seconds, her toes slid up into view on the screen.I’m not sure if she still enjoys the game or is just humouring me but either way it shows we still have a thing that is just ours. Nathan says she doesn’t let anyone else do it.

You can imagine how that made her Supa’s heart wiggle. Supa loves Annie!

On we go! DAC

 

Money’s freedom of speech

Posted on April 3, 2014
Filed Under Commentary | Leave a Comment

April 3, 2014

I am wrestling with the issue of unrestrained contributions to political campaigns and action committees in the U.S. On the one hand, I think freedom of speech should apply to people, not money. People with money should not have larger freedom of speech.
On the other hand, I don’t have an easy response to Republican House Leader, John Boehner’s statement to reporters, “You all have the freedom to write what you want to write. Donors ought to have the freedom to give what they want to give.”
A.J. Liebling famously said, “Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one”. Obviously columnists and editorial writers have a larger freedom of speech than the ordinary citizen.
Some years ago, a Canadian was charged with violating election law for printing and hand-delivering a flyer telling voters not to support a candidate for Parliament. The citizen was angry about the lack of support he got in an employment issue when the candidate was the mayor of Toronto. It didn’t seem right that he should be silenced.
I am convinced that the Chretien government was on the right track when it limited the amount people could contribute to parties, banned contributions from corporations and unions, gave $1.25 per year per vote to parties that polled more than 5% of the vote in the last election, and gave tax credits, not deductions, on a declining scale up to the limit. The program made it obvious to candidates that they were responsible and accountable to their constituents.

The Harper government has done away with the $1.25 and is scaling back the tax credits.
The Chretien system doesn’t deal with the issue of why the media should have a larger voice in opinion pieces. There used to be a regulation for media using publicly-owned airwaves in the U.S. to provide equal time to opponents of their opinion pieces. That’s gone now as witness the performance of some of the networks.
However the current financial free-for-all is obviously toxic to democracy. Elected representatives cannot represent the people who elected them. They dare not oppose the huge pressure groups who virtually own them. It is also counter to all ideas of ethical, moral and fair human behaviour that the growing prevalence of negative, often largely untrue, campaign ads could become an accepted norm in our social interactions.

On we go. DAC

Apologizers and the proudly ignorant

Posted on April 1, 2014
Filed Under Commentary | Leave a Comment

There are two kinds of people who don’t use computers, the internet or social media.

The first kind is, I think, wrong but doesn’t bother me.

People in this group sound apologetic for not using computers or using email or social media. They are, for the most part, unfamiliar with the tools, search, email, photo sharing, music, research, news, connections to friends etc.

This group is continually diminishing in number. Seniors are among the most active users of computers and the internet.

For one thing, they have the time. For another, they are actively pursuing interests like travel, grandchildren activities, investments, medical conditions, and hobbies they had little or no time for when they were working.

People who don’t usually are too busy doing other things that are important or interesting to them.

I don’t see why these people should feel apologetic for not wanting to join our reindeer games. I think the cyber world has a lot to offer them but it is their choice.

There is another group that tends to sneer at all information technology users. What set this column off was another column in which the writer invokes the most  common, trite, banal and condescending comment on social media.

Commenting on Facebook friends, he wrote, “I am less than enthusiastic about knowing what they had for breakfast or every thought that popped into their minds this morning”.

A pompous ass like that irritates me. I really don’t like him insulting my friends, which is what he is doing. My friends share brilliant wit, wisdom, recipes, tips, commentaries on the issues of the day and calls to action. My circle of friends are like an international coffee club with members who have ideas, experiences and warnings to share.

Yes, the newbies share the same jokes and videos we all did when we were newbies, some that were around during the great wars. Yes, there are many of kittens and puppies. Some are compelled to relay everything they have seen or heard that day. Some of them do pass along many totally unfounded rumours or scandals or government policies that simply don’t exist.

However, so do people in coffee shops, bars, phone conversations and anywhere humans interact. A big difference with computer and social media is that you can opt in and out at your convenience and preference. You just skip over the ones that are, to you trivia or boring. You can also comment or not when you want to not when the other person finishes a message.

As a matter of fact, many people now practise the courtesy of using email or social media to make a date for a phone call or video conversation rather than intrude with an unscheduled call.

My friends are all over the world and doing and discovering  fascinating things. If there is a problem with this daily world-wide conversation, it is that they are too fascinating. I have to ration my time seeing what they are up to. A conversation with one of them, tends to turn into a marathon of music sharing.

I also talk too much. Every story or idea you relate reminds me of another someone else, often I, have had. I’ve had lifelong difficulty listening without talking. In a face-to-face group, this can be tiresome indeed for my victims. On social media they can just tune me out without my ever even knowing.

I also form strong connections with people I’ve never actually met on the internet. I believe the person you meet on the internet is at least as genuine and probably much more so, than the person you meet in a bar or many social situations where people may have motives beyond the exchange of ideas or interests.

Finally, the internet and social media open the world to many lonely or remote people. I think of kids in the backwoods of New Brunswick who can go to the websites of the great art galleries of the world and comment back and forth with others visiting the same site.

The internet also makes it harder to brainwash young people into one point of view. Just as travel broadens the mind so does communication. It is always a threat to the powerful.

Yes, many kids are talking about the most inconsequential things but now they have options. Even the ones who are just chatting as we used to do on the Post Office steps or library lawn are engaged in an essential process. I never owned a paper where someone didn’t write a letter about kids just hanging out.

“Don’t they have anything better to do  . . . . . ,” appeared in every such letter. Of course they don’t. Hanging around with your contemporaries and learning how to talk to members of the opposite sex is an essential part of growing up.

Yes, there are evil people preying on victims on the internet. They are everywhere. At the same time, I think young people today are smarter and better prepared to deal with danger than my generation was. All we knew about sex was don’t. Kids today face a far more complex world with far more knowledge.

When I dove into the internet in the early 1980s, when I was about 40, my technophobe mother thought it was evil. “There are pedophiles who lurk there looking for victims,” she said. She was a bit chagrined when I told the family she was afraid the pedophiles would get me.

Kids today are far smarter than I was. When I was 13, I didn’t know there were such things as pedophiles.

I must confess there is a group of mostly women who are dangerous to me on the internet. One of them is my own cousin, a devout Christian, perfectly charming, kind who wouldn’t appear capable of doing harm to anyone. You wouldn’t realize what a danger she is until you see her Facebook posts. I gain weight just seeing the pictures of her culinary triumphs.

Even with all the benefits of the cyber world, if you don’t want to participate that is fine.

Just don’t tell me that my friends and I are are just talking about what we had for breakfast. We talk about lunch and dinner too.

On we go! DAC

 

We could but we won’t

Posted on April 1, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy | Leave a Comment

I watched a PBS NOVA program on the design and construction of the new World Trade Center One at Ground Zero in New York. It is hard to comprehend the brilliance of the design work, the scientific innovation and invention and the steely courage and competence of the trades people who made it stand.

What punched me between the eyes was the contrast between the realization of this mind-bending mystical icon and the nightmarish ineffectiveness of government that has us thinking that nothing at all can be done.

Imagine if the genius, co-operation, dedication and energy that leaves me in awe of the people who built the tower was present and apparent in the design and building of our precious democracies.

I don’t know whether to be inspired by the obvious fact that humans can perform miracles or mentally and emotionally crushed by the abject impotence of governance.

Imagine if the type of thinking and problem solving and skills sharing that made that building was directed at health care, global warming, conservation, energy production and delivery, the design of an economic model that could produce prosperity without growth and the eradication of poverty and abuse.

Obviously we have the talent and the resources to do it. Why can’t we get out of our own way?

On we go. DAC

 

Losers

Posted on February 27, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Sports | Leave a Comment

With the northern parts of the world watching the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, there has been even more discussion of losers than usual.

Some years ago, Nike had a commercial saying you don’t win silver, you lose gold. It is a common refrain.

It might be a good time to have a discussion about that.

For one thing, who are the winners and how many of them are there?

Sometimes winners in one area of life are dismal failures in others. Several world champions in major league sports are in prison. Many Hollywood stars have a trail of broken relationships. Some business tycoons have power and money and yachts and private jets but no time to spend with their kids. Some politicians travel in the highest circles of power and are suddenly cast aside and shunned because of one kind of scandal or another.

Music industry super stars bask in riches and the adulation of their fans and are broken by the belief that the facts of life no longer apply to them.

Crime bosses wield the power of life and death and wallow in vaults of cash but live with the lonely knowledge that their closest associates are the ones most likely to effect their often brutal downfall.

Meanwhile, there are athletes like Gilmore Junio who gave up his spot on the Canadian Olympics skating team to a skater he thought could do better. Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian sailor in the Seoul Olympics was in second place when he turned back to aid two Korean sailors whose boat had capsized and was being blown out to sea.

Outside the big leagues of athletics, the arts, politics and business , there are thousands of men, women and children who never get close to qualifying on any local stage much less the world stage. They sacrifice for their families, help their neighbours, serve their communities, lobby for the environment, coach the kids, work in the back rooms of the projects and causes   and do what they can for humans and animals and any life form in need. They serve causes and people most others cannot bear to be near.

They put kindness, ethics, morality and the welfare of others ahead of their own immediate best interests. They don’t compete for medals or fortune or fame but even the most deserving, dedicated and talented could never achieve their great successes without these people.

If those who try are people critics want to label losers, I devoutly wish I could deserve to  be numbered among them.

The people I consider losers are the ones who are eager to apply the loser label to those play fair and don’t always wind up with a particular colour of medal.

On we go! DAC

US Women’s hockey team weep

Posted on February 21, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Sports | Leave a Comment

With four minutes left to play in the gold medal game at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the U.S. women’s team had a two to zero lead over Canada. Canada fought back, tied the game with seconds to go, and won it in overtime. As with all such games a different bounce in any of dozens of situations would have made the difference. One of Canada’s goals bounced in off an American. In the last minute, with Canada’s goaltender pulled, a rink-long U.S. shot hit the post of an empty Canadian net.

The Canadians were ecstatic at the miracle. The Americans were crushed as what seemed the high point of their lives suddenly evaporated. Many of them curled over in nausea. Many of them, in shock, were scarcely able to stand. Most of them wept. They were still weeping and struggling to keep it together during the lengthy medal ceremony.

Some amateur commentators have suggested the women weeping is a sign of weakness or, worse still, poor sportsmanship. May I humbly suggest both allegations are ridiculous.

If the best your country has ever done is fourth or bronze, silver is a victory. We see many athletes thrilled to win bronze.

It is different when you have defeated your gold medal opponent most of the time over the past couple of years. You have dedicated unbelievable time, effort, expense on your own part and your family’s since grade three. You have surpassed thousands of your contemporaries to make the national team, and formed a blood bond sisterhood with your team mates on a once-in-four-years quest. You have no Stanley Cup. You have your ultimate goal firmly in your grasp and the earth suddenly collapses beneath your feet.

How would you expect fiercely competitive women to react?

You can call them losers? You can call them poor sports?

I think only a loser could call them either of those.

I defy you to find a competitor in hockey or the entire Olympics who would.

In order to have a great victory, you have to have a great opponent. Canada’s gold has much extra lustre because the U.S. women scared us Canadian fans half to death.

I am not the least embarrassed to say my eyes moistened up seeing the US women’s pain at the end of the game and the interminable medal presentations ceremony.  At a time when they wanted and needed to curl up and hide their pain, they had to stand in front of the world and be dignified as they received their silver medals.

Mary Barra is the Chief Executive Officer of General Motors. As a champion who has smashed through the glass ceiling through which women peered for years, she has attracted a lot of attention focussed on her gender as much or more than her talent.

I read an account of an interview in which she was asked about being a woman managing men and women and women’s emotions that erupt in tears.

“Women weep,” she said with a shrug. “Men pound on tables and throw chairs.”

In my own little corner of the business world, I regularly saw both.

Yes, they are different. Is one superior? I don’t think so.

And in conclusion, Way to go Canada!!!

On we go! DAC

 

It takes a generation

Posted on January 31, 2014
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy | Leave a Comment

David Brooks is the type of conservative I could see liberals being able to work with to effect useful compromise and progress. In Canada’s Parliamentary system, the election of a conservative government led by a Prime Minister who thought like he does would not leave me in panic and despair as a leader like Paul Ryan on or Rand Paul would.

It would be so refreshing to see the members of the U.S. Congress and Senate discussing and negotiating legislation to carry out programs like the ones he recommends.

The column is, of course, copyright by the New York Times and, or, David Brooks. I think I’m okay sharing it because this site generates no economic benefit. I’m copying it because I don’t know how long the link will be on the copyright site. To see the original and the comments and discussions around it, follow the link below.

David Brooks, New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/opinion/brooks-it-takes-a-generation.html?ref=davidbrooks

Over the past decade we’ve had a rich debate on how to expand opportunity for underprivileged children. But we’ve probably made two mistakes.

First, we’ve probably placed too much emphasis on early education. Don’t get me wrong. What happens in the early years is crucial. But human capital development takes a generation. If you really want to make an impact, you’ve got to have a developmental strategy for all the learning stages, ages 0 to 25.

Second, we’ve probably put too much weight on school reform. Again, reforming education is important. But getting the academics right is not going to get you far if millions of students can’t control their impulses, can’t form attachments, don’t possess resilience and lack social and emotional skills.

So when President Obama talks about expanding opportunity in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, I’m hoping he’ll widen the debate. I’m hoping he’ll sketch out a stage-by-stage developmental agenda to help poor children move from birth to the middle class.

Such an agenda would start before birth. First, children need parents who are ready to care for them. But right now roughly half-a-million children are born each year as a result of unintended pregnancies, often to unmarried women who are not on contraception or are trying to use contraceptives like condoms or the pill. As the University of Pennsylvania’s Rebecca Maynard and Isabel Sawhill and Quentin Karpilow of the Brookings Institution have argued, if these women had free access to long-acting reversible contraceptives like I.U.D.’s, then the number of unintended births might decline and the number of children with unready parents might fall, too.

Once born, children are generally better off if they grow up within a loving two-parent marriage. It would be great if we knew how to boost marriage rates, but we don’t.

For the time being, we probably should spend less time thinking about marriage and more time thinking about parenting skills. As Richard Reeves, also of Brookings, points out, if we could teach the weakest parents to behave like average parents — by reading more to their kids, speaking more, using consistent, encouraging discipline — then millions of children might have more secure attachments, more structure and better shots at upwardly mobile careers. Programs like Nurse-Family Partnerships and the Baby College in the Harlem Children’s Zone seem to be able to teach these parenting skills.

Once they get to elementary school, children need to learn how to read and write. But that can’t happen in schools where 15 percent of the students are disruptive, where large numbers of students live with so much stress that it has stunted the development of the prefrontal cortexes, sent their cortisol levels surging, heightened their anxiety responses and generally made it hard for them to control themselves.

Therefore, we probably need more programs like Pamela Cantor’s Turnaround for Children, which works in schools to help teachers and administrators create “fortified environments,” in which overstressed children can receive counseling and treatment, in which the psychic traumas that go with poverty are recognized and addressed.

According to work done by Sawhill and others, a significant number of kids stay on track through the early years, but then fall off the rails as teenagers. Sawhill set a pretty low bar for having a successful adolescence: graduate from high school with a 2.5 G.P.A., don’t get convicted of a crime, don’t get pregnant. Yet only 57 percent of American 19-year-olds get over that bar. Only one-third of children in the bottom fifth of family income do so.

Over the next few years, we’ve got to spend a lot more time and money figuring out how to help people from poorer families chart a course through the teenage years. There’s evidence that Career Academies help adolescents navigate the teenage rapids. There’s some evidence that New York’s “small schools of choice” yield measurable results. We as a nation have made awesome progress in reducing teenage pregnancies, so it is possible to change teenage behavior, even in the face of raging hormones.

But it is harder to find successful programs geared toward teenagers than it is to find successful programs geared toward younger children. It feels like less money has been raised to help teenagers, fewer innovative programs have been initiated.

Robert Putnam of Harvard argues that when we design early education programs, they need to be “wrap-around.” They need to have formal and informal programs that bring parents in and instill communal skills. With teenagers, we need more guidance counselors to help them become savvy, so they know how to work the system, and to respond when their needs aren’t being met.

Putnam is emphasizing skills — for toddlers or teenagers — that are hard to see and measure. But that’s the next frontier of human capital development: Building lifelong social and emotional development strategies from age 0 to 25. I’m hoping President Obama goes there.

Prayer of thanks

Posted on January 30, 2014
Filed Under Commentary | Leave a Comment

In the past few days, I have seen horrifying reports of arrests in connection with child pornography rings, human sex trafficking and sexual predators on young women. One sting operation lured 200 men. The police said they could have caught many more if they had enough officers to keep up with the messages.

I am not a religious man but I thought of a feeling I had when Allan Legere was on his rampage in Miramichi in the late 1980s and earlier.

That feeling was codified for me in an episode of “West Wing”. Toby told of two Jews in an extermination camp. One sees the other praying and asks him what he was praying about.

The other says that he is offering his prayer of thanks. The first asks him what he can possibly be thankful for at such a time in such a place.

The other replies, “I thank God for not making me like them”.

I have that same feeling whenever I learn of new massacres, abuses and perversions visited upon children, women and the powerless around the world. I don’t feel superior. I feel fortunate.

While I had and have no regret whatsoever about eliminating Allan Leger and others like him from society forever and would not feel bad to learn of his death, I actually feel sorry for him that he is like that.

Imagine what it must be like to live in the mind of someone who is eager, willing and able to abuse, torture, maim and kill others.

It is such a blessing not to have such feelings and urges.

I know so many people who get their greatest enjoyment giving joy to others and working to make life better for everyone. They are a constant joy and inspiration to me and I know their philosophy and actions make living in their minds a truly joyful existence.

At the risk of jinxing my birthday, wishbone and New Year’s wishes and resolutions, my wish and hope always is to be a better person.

On we go! DAC

« go backkeep looking »