Of Apples, Trees and Teabags

Seeger's album Clearwater Classics. The title ...
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There was a health care rally in my town today. Lots of people gathered in the park by the river to hear speeches, rally with their neighbors, and to hear Pete Seeger sing.

Seeger, now 90, was doing his fourth concert of the day.

Things like that almost make me ashamed to be hobbling around with my bum knee.

Almost.

But this post isn’t about Pete Seeger, or about health care and only marginally about a nice day by the river.

This post is about my son.

I’m not one of those dads who goes around bragging about my son at every opportunity, so forgive me if I do it for a few moments here.

My son is 15, towers over me (and I’m 6’1”) and is articulate beyond his years. When I was his age I was working on political campaigns, marching in war protests, and helping to organize women who were being shafted by the city government.

Along with all the people at the park supporting healthcare legislation there was a small cadre of people who themselves tea-baggers and oppose government intervention in healthcare precisely up to the point where that lack of government intervention might affect their Medicare.

But this post is not about hypocrisy. Or socialism. Or healthcare. Or me.

It is about my son who spent his day engaging those teabag people in debate.

He talked and talked, not at the counter-protestors, but with them. He was polite, he was informed, he was forthright and he was relentless.

When one teabag man said that the current health care bill was aimed at having the government provide free health care to illegal immigrants, he told the man he was wrong and told him to read the page of the bill that specifically prohibits that.

The man’s friend read the page, admitted my son was right, and told his friend that too.

So many of today’s teens are disinterested, uninvolved, apathetic or too involved with their PSPs or Wiis to bother learning about their government, much less doing anything about it.

I just want you to know that I’m very proud of my activist son.

I’m sure he appreciates this.

But he appreciates getting Pete Seeger’s autograph even more.

I’m cool with that.

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12 Responses to Of Apples, Trees and Teabags

  1. Linda704 says:

    A wonderful post, Deven. Good job, Dad!

  2. Misty Mays says:

    You’ve done it again It’s a great post.

  3. Hadass Eviatar says:

    I’m not the least bit surprised. But brag away, you deserve it!

    I’m jealous of the Pete Seeger autograph ;-).

  4. Michael J says:

    As a grandfather, I think I know how you feel. Congrats! A little luck and a job well done.

    I want to point to one of lines in our post and argue that it shows how important print can be in changing minds and in education.

    “to read the page of the bill that specifically prohibits that.”

    The Print forces a closed mind to confront a new idea in words. Unlike talk, it’s hard to ignore, mis interpret or talk over. But, the real enabler is your son, the teacher. By his presence and attitude, he created the expectation of a response. No forcing, no threatening, just the mutual expectation.

    To me, it seems a perfect demonstration of creating the “teachable moment” It helps explain the failure of multi-media to change the daily classroom experience for the student.

    A trusted teacher can create the expectation of a response to new ideas represented by words in print. Education is about integrating new ideas to modify old ones. But, it means that a student or any person has to admit they are wrong.

    Given how ferociously people fight the experience of being wrong, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it happens so infrequently.

    The takeaway is that students in a classroom need more than anything an “expectation of creating a response.” Writing assigned and not returned with comments the next day are often worse than no assignment at all.

    Of course, it’s a daunting task. But I think that twitter can help make it manageable.

    Consider, a one pager handed out to students. It has two or three 140 chrcters assertions about whatever. The assignment is tweet what suprised you, or what you disagree with.

    Then after the conversation has evolved, putting it in print to distribute to the students in the class.

    When the student is forced to edit down blablabla into 140 characters, it creates a word object that can be responded to with manageable effort. The speed and appropriateness of the response can train the student to know that someone is listening.

    My experience is that as soon as students see that someone is listening, their behavior can change amazingly quickly.

    • Deven Black says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response and teaching idea, Michael. I wonder how much our not liking being told we’re wrong comes from the usually unpleasant meaning of that in schools.

  5. loren & willy says:

    your son sounds like the most amazing 15 year old in the world. if the entire generation of current 15 year olds had half of his smarts and diplomacy skills (and apparently fabulous family, including aunts and uncles) i would feel very confident about the future. congrats to a proud father and a great son.

  6. Lucia Meyerson says:

    May I rename your wonderful and inspiring post, “The Apple and the Tree”? So nice to know that young people such as your impressive son take the time to be well informed about things that matter and that will indeed affect their futures. Glad to see this leadership quality coming from someone so young! Kudos!

  7. jlewicky says:

    So fabulous. I hope we can raise our children half as well.

  8. Your story is one of the reasons part of me wants to be a parent someday—my parents always tell me how much I have taught them over the years.

    What a wonderful story. I hope your son reads it!

  9. Emily says:

    I was proud of your son and my 14 y.o. daughter who joined him in the quest to enlighten the misinformed.

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