Who’s to Blame When Our Children Fail?

Williamson Children

“What did I do wrong?” my mom asked. “I parented your two brothers the same way I did the other three of you.”

It was a question Mom asked repeatedly in the waning years of her life, after one of my brothers died of a prescription drug overdose. When she died last fall, another of my brothers was incarcerated for the third time for crimes related to his heroin addiction. In the lowest point of his life so far, he forged one of my mother’s checks and used the money to buy heroin.

This week my brother finished serving his sentence for stealing from his dying mother. And I yearn for this to be the time when he finds what he needs to break free of his addiction and stay clean. Continue reading Who’s to Blame When Our Children Fail?

Who are They, That We Should Remember?

World Trade Center

I didn’t know a single one of the nearly 3000 victims personally. The closest I came to understanding the terror of September 11, 2001 was in trying to help students and staff at my school whose loved ones worked in Washington, D.C. that day. The assistant principal came to my door between classes to tell me about the attacks, and shortly afterwards, the towers came crashing down. I allowed student after student into my office to make frantic calls to parents, and when they couldn’t reach a mom or a dad, I reassured them, with more certainty that I felt, that their loved ones were safe. Continue reading Who are They, That We Should Remember?

Erase Religion from School Calendars?

Christmas Tree

I learned much of what I know about other religions by teaching children and working with colleagues of other faiths in Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland. Having spent much of my childhood in an all-white, all Protestant, mostly evangelical town—where we had not even a Catholic or an Episcopalian—I had not a single conversation with anyone of a non-Christian faith until I moved to the Maryland suburbs. This is the place where I learned to appreciate and understand the value of diversity of cultures and faiths.

Because of that, I watched with mixed emotions this week as the school system I work for made the national news when Board members voted to remove all references to religious observances from the school calendar. Continue reading Erase Religion from School Calendars?

Is the American Dream Just a Dream?

College Graduation

“You’ll git the education I didn’t git, so you can have a better life than I’ve had.” This was my father’s mantra. He quit school in fifth grade, and he began working in a coal mine when he was only fifteen. He was functionally illiterate, and my mother read every important document to him in the privacy of their bedroom. He went to such great lengths to hide his illiteracy that even his five children didn’t know for years that he couldn’t read. Continue reading Is the American Dream Just a Dream?

Does My Vote Matter?

I Voted

I have never felt that my vote counted less than this year—not because my party didn’t win (though it didn’t) but because no candidate on the ballot represented my views. I want candidates who say, “Here is what I believe. But…if I study this issue with people of diverse views and find a solution that we haven’t tried, I’m willing to be persuaded to change my mind in light of new information and new ideas.”

These are not the kind of candidates who could win their parties’ nominations in the current political climate, where lobbyists have largely forced both parties to the two extremes on every issue that faces us. But these are the kind of leaders we need to ensure the continued success of our democracy—leaders who will work together to find a third way when neither extreme works, leaders who will place the common good above party loyalty. Continue reading Does My Vote Matter?