Betsy DeVos is Unqualified – Public Education is Worth Fighting For

15171116_10209753069575205_1088501174931198732_nFor the last several years, I have spent my fall supervising (consoling, supporting, commiserating, listening to, advising, crying with, laughing with, critiquing, boosting, hugging) student teachers. They have been an amazing, diverse, and skilled group. We need young people to want to become public school teachers. We need young people to be enthusiastic and determined and confident and humble in their desire to become public school teachers. The current New Jersey Governor has done a number on the hopeful enthusiasm new teachers have. And the push and pull between various advocates on all sides have also muddied and confused the education waters — with paperwork being the one true result to rely on. And still, people hear the call to teach in public schools.

With this in mind, the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education makes me angry and frightened and determined to resist. Keep in mind that the President-elect has said he’d like to eliminate the Department of Education, whether colossal and immediate neglect or by slow, starvation-induced attrition.

This is reprinted with permission from a Facebook post by Shannon Carey. I added resource links.

I have been obsessively reading about Betsy DeVos. So that you don’t have to sink into the disgusting morass of arrogant, white-supremacist, homophobic hate-filled profiteering in the guise of “philanthropy” that I encountered in this research, I will bullet point some important information about her and what she represents, here.

1. She is a billionaire by birth (her dad ran an auto parts empire in MI) and by marriage (her husband is Dick DeVos of the Amway empire. Yes, that Amway, of pyramid scheme fame).

2. Her father helped fund and found Family Research Council (classified as an anti-gay hate group by SPLC in 2010) and Focus on the Family. These organizations demonize LGBTQ people and women who take control of their reproductive and emotional health.

3. Her brother founded Blackwater, a “private military firm.” Remember them, my Bush-remembering friends? Cozy with GWB, ran unchecked “security” in Iraq, killed Iraqi citizens with impunity. Now known as Academi.

4. Her mother was instrumental in getting Proposition 8 passed in California. Proposition 8 outlawed gay marriage in 2008.

5. Her family is very chummy with the Kochs, and they are a very integral part of the republican establishment.

6. Her husband was instrumental in getting “right-to-work” (aka: right-to-work-for-less) passed in Michigan. In MICHIGAN. The family is known to be obsessively and vehemently anti-labor, and have supporting union-busting legislation all over the country.

7. She has devoted much of her adult life to advocating for an expansion of charter schools and introduction of vouchers. She’s been more successful with charters, and Michigan is awash in for-profit charters, especially in Detroit. Google the recent NYT article on Detroit charters — it’s a travesty.

8. It’s been widely reported that she has never gone to a public school, worked in a public school, or been a public school parent. This is not insignificant.

9. Tr__p has advocated for nationwide vouchers, and while he cannot pass this without Congressional approval, her financial resources will very likely play a large role in herding House and Senate cowards towards what would very likely be a complete travesty in public education.

Public education is the the last and only social service we offer to every young person in this country. One could argue that it is the only structure in place — inadequate as it is — to combat the vast inequalities in our country.

Parents, teachers, students,and anyone concerned with an educated and cared-for populace should watch this appointment with eagle eyes and a spirit of resistance. Call your reps to let them know we cannot appoint someone who fundamentally does not believe in the tenets of providing people with a free and excellent education. Work with your local unions, parent groups, and school boards.

Deep breath. Take care of yourselves.

Posted in Activism, education, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Complacency = Complicity; Don’t Stand Idly By


If you aren’t condemning what is happening, if you aren’t paying attention, if you are shrugging because you aren’t (yet) personally affected, you are complicit. No matter who you voted or didn’t vote for, don’t waste time with finger pointing — we need 30 fingers each to point in all directions. Including inward.

Please don’t stand idly by. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The President-elect has been showing us who he is for decades, and from whom he is willing to take guidance. His hiring of Steve Bannon, a passionate anti-semite, white supremacist and propagandist, should have been a non-starter when Bannon became the CEO of the Trump Campaign. But we were in denial.

With Bannon as  There is no more denial. Bannon will now have the most powerful position(s) in the President-elect’s administration. And that is just one highly-influential, has-the-ear-of-the-President-elect person. #NoNormalization

What can you do? One thing — Demand your elected officials condemn the hiring of a white nationalist to the President-elect’s senior staff. You can find Senate contact information here:, and US Representative information here: Call them, leave a message, write an email or an ACTUAL letter, message on FB, Twitter, etc. It will take all of ten minutes to do them all, once a day. Have more time? Visit their offices with a letter in hand.

Thank you to Kim for pointing me to Christy Moore’s “Yellow Triangle.”

Posted in Activism, education | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Guest Post: Georgette Gilmore on #NoNormalization of Donald Trump

cogbfdrusaut7lp-2My friend Georgette gave me permission to re-post this from her Facebook page. I am grateful to her, and I look forward to her passion and action in the days to come.

I also hope that those who don’t understand the visceral fear and sadness at the outcome of this election can, perhaps in private and with no one else watching, have the willingness in victory to read and listen to the causes and history of the pain. Georgette’s is but one perspective, and it comes from a place of relative privilege compared to so many. Please read with an open mind and an empathetic heart.

As you can probably tell, I’m angry, I’m hurt, but more importantly, I’m fired up to speak out and to be the good I want in the world.

I’ve always known about racism, sexism, and bigotry as a white woman. There are too many incidents to write down, but for most of my life, racism was a normal part of my life.
The time my dad picked me up from school in the 1st grade and saw me playing with a black girl and told me I should keep away from her because black people were dirty.
The tons of times I was in the company of white people, mostly men, who used the N word, or Hispanic slurs, or called women cunts and bitches.

The time my aunt told me she wasn’t racist, BUT she believed black people and white people needed to keep separate and shouldn’t mix.

The time a teacher I worked with said the same thing to me before I took out the photo of Greg to show her my fiance.

The time Greg and I were told we couldn’t enter a club in Hoboken because it was too crowded (it wasn’t) and 15 minutes later our friends (white friends) entered in a large group and called us asking where we were.

The time a preschool teacher I worked with said a 4 year old looked like a thug because her mom put her hair in cornrows that day.

The time a woman, when I asked about the town pools and how they worked, told me that she avoided Nishuane pool because the “undesirable” people went there.

Being married to a black man, I don’t hear the racism in my bubble anymore. White people know they can’t speak freely with me. Living in my town, with many like people, I fell into the denial that it’s a utopia of diversity and acceptance.

And that, my friends, is what I’ve realized I’m most upset about. I’ve allowed myself to get complacent. I still knew there was racism and hate out there, but I didn’t realize that so many people, people I know, could support it.

It’s the people who think they aren’t racist because they aren’t KKK members and even have black friends. It’s the people who said they don’t condone Trump’s words and actions, but voted for him anyway.

I will not stop talking about what’s going on in our world. I will not stop talking and showing people the students chanting White Power and holding a Trump sign through their hallways. I will not stop showing the photos of swastikas being drawn or the KKK parade to cerebrate Trump’s victory being planned.

If you are one of the people saying you’re sick of all the political messages on FB or think we should “just move on,” then you may want to unfriend me now.

But I challenge you to stay and face what’s going on. I challenge you to own the hate that’s going on. Not because I hate you, but because I know that one of our biggest problems as a nation is the want to turn away from the hate.

We don’t want to talk about slavery, we don’t want to talk about Jim Crow laws, we don’t want to talk about racism or sexism. We want to say things are so much better today. We don’t want to call racism because we fear we’re being over sensitive. “Hey, look, we’ve voted in a black president, how racist could America be?” We want to pretend that our support of a Trump doesn’t tell our children we support hate.

So I will never normalize Trump. I will not allow myself to start thinking he’s not so bad if he backs off of some of the things he said he was going to do. Whether he builds a wall or not, he is a vile person. Whether he repeals obamacare or not, he has alt-right white nationalists in his circle. Whether he says civil protests are bad or then says they’re good, he is the same man.

I owe it to my daughters, my husband, my family, my friends to speak out against hate and inequality. And I will never allow myself to get complacent. I will not stop.

Posted in Activism, Excellent Local People, Parenthood | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Makes Life Worth Living

Facebook “memories” is a pretty cool feature for those of us with less-than-perfect recall. And sometimes FB friends share posts that scroll onto your screen at the perfect time. With permission, I’m reposting this year old confession from a friend of whom I am perpetually in awe. Thank you, Rachel, for allowing me to share this story and the poem you paired with it.

12046811_1212076838807626_2888683741818525327_nThis morning, I came home crying and my eldest leaned on me and asked why. I held her on my lap and told her that on my drive home I was stopped at a stop light while a man with a sign saying “please help” walked down the line of cars. As he approached my car I looked down, but not fast enough to not make eye contact for a second. I had one of those despair-filled, “This life is too hard, I don’t know how to do it” moments.

Then, the man in the car next to me rolled down his window and held out some money. The man with the sign ran over to him, and the two men held hands out the window and talked until the light changed. The man with the sign went back to the side and didn’t stop waving at the man in the car until we were out of sight.

I cried watching them, and I cried all the way home because it was one of those moments that I’m pretty sure I’ll remember for the rest of my life and that will remind me that reaching out might not always make life less hard, but that it is what makes life worth living.

Posted in Memory, Parenthood, People are Good, random observation, Things I love, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Glad I Saw It: Back to School Night

Back-to-School Night is always a night of curiosity and perhaps a little anxiety for parents. Teachers, too. Looking around the classrooms and hallways, knowing what my kids are surrounded with all day is what I always like to pick out and notice. I like this hallway sign in particular. Let’s all try this for a few days, shall we?

Posted in Glad I Saw It, People are Good | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Can I Get a Witness? #BlackLivesMatter

MLK Black Lives MatterThose who know me, know I prefer amplifying other people’s actions and voices over my own. I just don’t like self-disclosure very much. But I just read this post from Luvvie Ajayi, and when I got to Be a witness, I remembered about Saturday morning. And I remembered the adrenalin and then the relief I felt. So, in the interest of encouraging more people to take an ACTIVE part in making our world better for ALL of us, I’m sharing this 15 minutes from last weekend.

Last Saturday morning, as I pulled into a Cedar Grove grocery store parking lot to buy vegetables and rice cakes, I saw the blue and red flashing lights of police cars at the parking lot entrance. The Black man in the front driver’s seat was calm. The police officers were calm. But I still chose a parking spot in the back, closer to the pulled over car.

For a second, I almost passed it by. My inner voice asked, “Who did I think I was? What kind of self-inflated hubris was driving my choice to Be A Witness to this more-than-likely-routine-but-maybe-not interaction?”

I hadn’t yet heard about Terence Crutcher’s murder in Tulsa. It was before the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Still, I felt a need to watch what turned out to be an arrest.

Sitting in my car, facing the interaction, I held my phone with the camera set to video and watched. And waited. I watched as the driver put his backpack into the trunk. I watched as he was handcuffed. All parties seemed amiable, if not friendly. Still, I watched as he was searched, pockets emptied, and helped into the back seat of one of the police SUVs. And I watched as one of the officers got into the Black man’s car and parked it carefully in the parking lot a few spaces away. The officer then locked the car, checked all four doors, and nodded to the man sitting, cuffed, in the backseat. Only after the Police SUV had pulled away, passenger and all, and driven off did I get out of the car and grab a shopping cart to continue on my suburban way.

Was watching the arrest a waste of time? Was my rushing through shopping to make it back in time to pick up my kid from art class worth it? No, and definitely yes. It wasn’t a waste of time because it kept me conscious. And, in this case, I was witness to an appropriate, respectful interaction between police and a Black man. It wasn’t a waste of time because we don’t always know that someone has our back, but it’s important that we all have someone else’s. It is worth it because acknowledging that Black Lives Matter is the first step to truly being able to claim that All Lives Matter. And I want that. I really, really want that.

It’s also important because I have an obligation in this society. Just like you do. And not being directly impacted by a particular injustice doesn’t excuse me from working to encourage and demand justice. Just like it doesn’t excuse you.

Here’s another chance to read Luvvie Ajayi’s post: Another Day, Another Hashtag. White People, You Gotta Get to Work NOW

And oh, yeah. If you’re still confused about the difference between Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter, read President Obama’s take, or maybe this gentle guide. Or if you like visuals, how about this nice cartoon?


Posted in Activism, People are Good, Suburban Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Glad I Saw It: Fairy Trail

Fragile Fairy House

Fragile. Let It Be.

The South Mountain Conservancy Fairy Trail is a lovely, fairly easy, loop of forested delight. Clever Fairy houses and swings and nap nooks are hidden (and not so hidden) along the way. Some are easy to find and others take a little bit of luck. We took our leashed dog, and we saw a couple of strollers. The strollers didn’t make it all the way around. More adventurous groups will go off the beaten path and find hidden delights — along with poison ivy and gorgeous, huge spider webs. Don’t disturb either!

We’re definitely going back, but next time we’ll bring bug spray.

For more information on the Fairy Trail and its origins, check out this Upworthy video! Find out more about the South Mountain Conservancy’s wonderful work here. See the location of the Locust Grove picnic area (where the Fairy Trail begins) here. If the lot at the entrance is full, parking is available across the street at the Millburn Public Library.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Posted in Favorite Houses, Glad I Saw It, Parenthood, People are Good, Suburban Life, Things I love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No such thing as “too feminist”

The video posted below was cut from the DNC’s Thursday night program. Whether it was because it was seen as “too soft or too feminist” or because of time doesn’t really matter, does it? Women have long been making the choice between emotion and expediency, and finally having a woman nominated for POTUS by a major political party isn’t going to change that. So this video directed by a woman, narrated by a woman, about a mother, highlighting barriers broken by women, and meant to introduce the first woman to break the first pane of the highest political glass ceiling in the world was cut from the celebration. Oh well.

Still, it’s a video worth seeing. It’s eleven minutes of celebrating Dorothy Rodham and sharing due credit for Hillary Clinton’s political achievement with scores of women who have come before. Watch.

And in case you think we’re beyond needing to emphasize what “qualified” means and giving credit for hard work and career accomplishments, check out this cartoon from The Boston Globe dated July 27th, 2016, titled “Measuring Women’s Progress.” Oh well.

Wasserman Progress

Posted in Activism, random observation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Glad I Saw It: Eastern View


This is our dog seeing the ocean for the first time.

Lately, finding moments to replenish the wells of empathy and strength and self-care have been few and far between. If you can’t get away, figure out how to see a familiar sight as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Breathe deeply, so you can get out there and get back to work.

PS: Our pup was adopted from the For the Love of Dogs Rescue.

Posted in Glad I Saw It | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Glad I Saw It: The Coming Tide

Just putting this out there as a reminder that not only does the sun rise again, but the tide continues to surround us with its rhythm.

Posted in Glad I Saw It | Leave a comment