Sawing Against The Stream

I listened to this excellent “Why Are American Teenagers So Sad and Anxious” podcast yesterday morning.

In one part, Derek Thompson discusses his “displacement” theory of childhood. Meaning as children and adolescents have spent more and more time on smart phones and other screens, there have been direct and indirect costs to their well-being. One indirect cost has been the “displacement” of play meaning much less outdoor activity with others. In the podcasters’ views, it’s difficult to underestimate the negative consequences of reduced play.

Then, in the afternoon, at mile 34 of my bike ride, I was rolling through the blueberry farms on Gull Harbor Rd. And right before hitting Boston Harbor Rd, there she was.

A 6-7 year old blonde girl who single-handedly is bucking the alone, indoor, screen life. I’ve seen her before in her backyard from Boston Harbor Rd. Her family’s compound is a chaotic mess of animals, hard panned dirt, junk including an abandoned bus, and more animals. Barefoot and dirty, if you only saw her in her backyard, you’d think it was Appalachia.

Yesterday, she was sitting on her driveway where it meets Gull Harbor Rd. Still barefoot, next to a chicken and a “Chicken Crossing” sign, she was sawing a piece of wood with a saw three-quarters her size.

The only thing that would’ve been better is if she was risking injury with a friend or two. I’m sure she has friends, but they were probably indoors on screens.

A Curriculum To Curb Sexual Violence

Designed for 14-15 year old boys.

Consisting of two parts. Part one, a 2019 Netflix film, “Unbelievable”. Part two, this lengthy essay by Tom Junod and Paula LaVigne that went live on ESPN’s website Monday morning. In ESPN’s words it is “the untold story of the most dangerous player in college football history”.

The film will stay with you. The essay is similarly unforgettable. The essay is the most difficult and disturbing piece of work I have ever recommended to you. And among the most important, especially for adolescent males. Not that it was their motivation, but Junod and LaVigne will win many awards for it.

This curriculum doesn’t assume that 14-15 year old boys will commit acts of sexual violence. It’s intended to sensitize them to the experience of female victims of sexual violence. To the point that they hold their male friends and acquaintances accountable for any acts of sexual violence and become allies with their female friends and acquaintances in myriad, related ways.

Some may protest it’s not the role of schools to do “character education”. Fine. Provide proof that you’ve watched the film and read the essay with your son(s) and discussed their reactions to both and you can be excused from the school-based version for students whose parents can’t or won’t teach the curriculum.

This curriculum will not eliminate sexual violence, but it has the potential to reduce it.

Why American Teens Are So Sad

Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.

Somber opening that won’t surprise anyone working closely with adolescents.

“The United States is experiencing an extreme teenage mental-health crisis. From 2009 to 2021, the share of American high-school students who say they feel “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” rose from 26 percent to 44 percent, according to a new CDC study. This is the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded.”

The rest is required reading for anyone seeking to understand teen mental health.

Tuesday Required Reading

  1. Girls flag rugby. Beautiful lead picture. Of course the red-head is kicking ass.
  2. UCLA reverses course and will pay the adjunct professor after all. HR clown show.
  3. How much do the best pro cyclists make? “. . . pocket-money compared to some of the world’s wealthiest sports.”
  4. Right on. My Covid guy gets the top job. Everyone has a Covid person or team that affirms their preconceived notions about all things ‘rona. Ashish Jha is mine.

Symbolism Over Substance?

I am fortunate to live in Olympia, Washington in the upper lefthand corner of the (dis)United States. This morning I did one of my fave runs. To Priest Point Park, a loop of the heavily wooded east-side trail, and back, 7.5 miles for those keeping score at home. Now I’m sitting at my desk looking alternatively at my computer monitor and Budd Inlet, the southernmost part of the Puget Sound, a series of saltwater inlets that are, in essence, a bucolic part of the Pacific Ocean.

But did I really run to Priest Point Park and am I really sitting above Budd Inlet? Indigenous groups are succeeding in renaming places based upon their history. Now, Budd Inlet is more appropriately called the Salish Sea and the Olympia City Council is in the process of renaming Priest Point Park, Squaxin Park, after the Squaxin island tribe, who lived here first.

I am down with the updating, but I wonder about a potentially subtle, unconscious even, unintended consequence. What if we think land acknowledgement in the form of updated place names is sufficient and stop short of more substantive changes that would both honor Indigenous people’s history and improve their life prospects?

Of course it doesn’t have to be either/or, it can and should be both/and, but we seem prone to superficial, fleeting acts that are often “virtue signaling“. We change our blog header to Ukraine’s flag, we put “Black Lives Matter” stickers on our cars, and otherwise advertise our politics in myriad ways, but we don’t always persevere. With others. Over time. To create meaningful change.

What is the state of the Black Lives Matter movement? How much attention will the media and public be paying to authoritarianism in Eastern Europe a year or five from now?

Admittedly, that’s a cynical perspective, but I prefer skeptical. I’m skeptical that substituting the Salish Sea for Budd Inlet and Squaxin Park for Priest Point Park will do anything to protect salmon, extend educational opportunities for Indigenous young people, educate people about our Indigenous roots, or improve Indigenous people’s lives in the Pacific Northwest more generally.

In fact, I wonder if it may, in an unfortunate paradoxical way confound those things. I hope not.