Lessons from Nov. 2
Families Matter. Schools Matter. Don’t Fuck With Them.
Greetings from the Berkshires on the Western edge of Massachusetts! We came up here to check out an autism school for Ian and decided to turn the trip into a mini-vacation.
On today’s schedule is a tour of Edith Warton’s House, which should put me in literary geekery heaven. And a tour of a gilded age mansion — Ventford Hall Mansion, owned by J. P. Morgan’s sister — which should put me in history and art geekery heaven. In short, lots of geekery today, so let me put out a quick newsletter, while I’m waiting for the teenager to wake up.
So, last Tuesday had some surprises, no? I mean it wasn’t 2016 level of surprise, but the tight election in NJ and the huge sweep in VA‘s gubernatorial was certainly not called by the major media. The signs that pissed off parents were going to take out their anger on Democrats? That was missed, too.
Why did they miss all this? Partly, it’s because local news sources are on oxygen masks in hospice care. There’s nobody really going to the school board meetings. Nobody writing those stories that will get picked up by the bigger fish in the media ecosystem.
In Jersey, the problem is compounded, because not only do we have the same faltering local newspapers as the rest of the country, we also don’t have a proper state media source. We’re sandwiched in between the New York media system in the North, and the Philadelphia news media in the South. So, if you paid really close attention to the local news, which is really New York City news, at 5:00, you might have heard that the race was going to be razor tight, but CNN certainly didn’t pick that up.
And the major news sources failed to cover the exhaustion of parents and families, because it wasn’t part of the narrative. I sent in dozens of pitches to major news sources this past two years, describing the pain of raising boys — with one on the autistic spectrum — during school shutdowns. And nobody picked it up. My pitches could very well have sucked, but editors didn’t run anybody else’s pitches either.
Still, I’m seeing people trying to reframe this week’s election about race and Trump. “White women are racist, Trumpist, Karens who deserve to die” is definitely a theme running through certain circles on Twitter right now. Fun fact: If you call a person a racist, it rarely moves them to vote for your side. Who knew, right?
So, a few weeks ago, I read a ton of articles about racist parents screaming at school board elections about Critical Race Theory (CRT). And this made me confused. I go to our bimonthly school board meetings and haven’t seen anything like that. Our five member school board includes a Korean woman, a Hindu Indian man, who campaigned for new religious holidays on the school calendar, and a Jewish man who was concerned about anti-semitism. There was unanimous support for new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. I would regularly speak up about improving conditions for students with disabilities. My home is hardly a KKK hotspot.
Since I wasn’t seeing this racism stuff at our school board meetings and wasn’t hearing about it neighboring towns, I made some calls to various contacts who serve on school boards and asked them if they were getting CRT email or hearing low key things happening. And they said, NO. If they had said yes, then I would have put on my reporter hat and started working on an article. But they told me that there was no story.
This November was about pain. It was about parental pain. This shutdown was horrific on our children and our ability to work. We still have not recovered. Our local community college and county-run services for disabled people are still closed. We never felt like got a lot of sympathy from our leaders.
In New Jersey, the Democratic party was in charge of the pandemic and made draconian choices that were highly unpopular. Here’s another fun fact: If you make unpopular moves, then people won’t vote for you next time. Wow, I’m just filled with wisdom today.
On top of miserable kids, families have been bled with a million little cuts at the gas pump, at the diner, at the pub, at the supermarket. Everything costs more. And this has a major impact, not just on the bank book, but on a family’s quality of life. If they can’t go out for pizza night or grab some take out during the week, because they are tapped out, it hurts. It hurts a lot.
It’s not too late. Democrats have to take back the education issue. They have to take back parents and families. They have to listen to what reasonable parents have been telling them all year and help them out with extra tutoring, supplemental schooling, community-based support, and mental health support. They have to make sure that money that is being diverted to local sources is being spent on the right things. (This is going to be a huge problem. For example, I’m seeing more education money being spent on consultants and than on tutoring.)
They need to train parents to be effective participants in education governance and local government. And since it is mostly women who get involved with education issues, this is also an issue for feminism.
They need to respect parents — again, mostly women — and not ascribe to them them evil motives. This shouldn’t be so hard.
In order for the national government and media sources to understand the needs of families and parents, we need a well functioning local media. Please, Jeff Bezos, put your billions here.
This Tuesday was a wake up call, and for the most part, I’m seeing people ready and willing to think through some changes. I’m happy to be part of this process.
I’ve used up my hour for writing. My family is getting restless to get out of the room. So, please excuse typos and rushed thoughts. This is all the time that I have today. Be well, friends!
My rushed thoughts the day after the election and some nice discussion by commenters on the blog.