Category Archives: raising children

Parenting during the Pandemic

With the closure of U.S. schools in March of the infamous year of 2020 and the desperation-driven reform of distance learning, Moms have become teacher-in-charge. The cartoon below offers a glimpse of a traditional and familiar style of parenting. Less than a decade ago, a Yale Law professor categorized the Mom in this cartoon as exhibiting one historical patterns in rearing children.

In 2011, Amy Chua wrote an international best seller about her tough-love parenting of daughters in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. She must have laughed all the way to the bank at the fuss she kicked up about her tough-love parenting of daughters.  Time magazine reported that her Wall Street Journal op-ed garnered over a million readers and 5000 comments.

For educated, financially comfortable non-Tiger Moms, however, the thought of giving up “Baby Mozarts,” chants of “well done” to build self- esteem, and, yes, even sleepovers–was too much.  In response to Tiger Moms, Ayelet Waldman says, developing empathy in children, nurturing them, and giving them room to decide things for themselves, while still achieving high grades and gathering awards, are traits that she and other non-Tiger Moms want to develop.

Competing ways of rearing children, of course is nothing new. Since the 17th century, ministers, mothers, and, later, physicians, and psychologists have written manuals to guide parents in raising children. Historians have analyzed these advice manuals. What they have found are basically two child rearing models that are similar to Tiger Moms and Guilty, Nurturing Moms.

I label them Strict Parent vs. Nurturing Parent. Of course, these models span a continuum and are not mutually exclusive. Many parents use hybrids of the two in their families.

Strict parent model teaches children right from wrong by setting clear rules for their behavior and enforcing them through punishments, typically mild to moderate but sufficiently painful to get attention. When rules are followed and children cooperate, parents show love and appreciation. Children are not coddled since a spoiled child seldom learns  proper behavior. Children become responsible, self-disciplined, and self-reliant by following the rules and listening to parents.

Nurturing parent model teaches children right from wrong through respect, empathy, and a positive relationship with parents. Children obey because they love their parents, not out of fear of punishment. Parents explain their decisions to children and encourage questioning and contributing ideas to family decisions. Children become responsible, self-disciplined, and self-reliant through being nurtured and caring for others.

No surprise that these competing models of child rearing have entered schools. Parents want their schools to be extensions of what is taught at home. Nor is it a surprise that the ideological and practical conflicts in schools today are anchored in these rival approaches to child-rearing.

In the early 19th century, for example, taxpayers, parents, and public officials saw public schools as proper places for the tenets of Protestant Christianity, steeped in Biblical views of parental authority, where teachers would teach that disobedience was a sin. Thus, raising children to respect authority, be self-disciplined, and know right from wrong–the Strict Parent model– was expected in one-room schoolhouses and, later, age-graded elementary schools. This dominant Strict Parent model of raising and schooling children was viewed as natural and, best for children and society before and after the Civil War.

In the late 19th century, another view  (history of progressivism schools PDF)  emerged challenging the religious-based popular model of child-rearing. The onslaught of industrialization, rapid urban growth, an emerging middle-class, and massive immigration spurred reformers to advocate a more “progressive” view of how best to raise and school children. Confined initially to manuals for middle-class parents, readers were urged to cultivate the innate goodness of children rather than dwell on their potential sinfulness. Parental love and example, not punishment, would produce respect for authority, self-discipline, and moral rigor in children.

For post-Civil War urban reformers who saw hard-working immigrant parents living in  slums, traditional schools were inadequate. They got schools to expand their usual duties and take on nurturing roles that families had once discharged. Schools offered medical care, meals, lessons to build moral character including respect for authority and job preparation. Teachers were expected to develop children’s intellectual, emotional, and social capacities to produce mature adults who acted responsibly. This rival ideology became the progressive model of schooling.

By World War I, then, these competing progressive and traditional ideologies constituted different faiths in the best way of raising and schooling children. These beliefs had become embedded in educators’ language and school programs thus creating a platform for subsequent struggles over what “good” schools were and should be. The “culture wars” since the 1960s over teaching reading, math, science, and other content in schools are variations of this century-long see-saw struggle of ideas over what ways are best to raise and school children.

The media hullabaloo over Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom a few years ago and angry rebuttals from many parents (and grandparents) are at the root of the traditional vs. progressive cyclical conflicts that have ebbed and flowed over what reforms work best in U.S. schools.

Now, in the midst of the pandemic when most schools have re-opened using remote instruction, more Moms than Dads home school their children.

I would guess that under the pressure of children underfoot all day long, there is a scrambling of Strict Parent and Nurturing Parent styles. And when it comes to remote instruction, the very nature of the medium reinforces from afar traditional rather than progressive teaching practices.

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3 Lessons From How Schools Responded to the 1918 Pandemic Worth Heeding Today (Mary Battenfeld)

Mary Battenfeld is a Clinical Professor of American and New England Studies at Boston University. This appeared in Pocket. Thanks to Hank Levin for sending it to me.

Much like what has happened in 2020, most U.S. schools closed during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Their doors were shut for up to four months, with some exceptions, to curb the spread of the disease.

As a professor who teaches and writes about children’s history, I have studied how schools responded to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Though wary of painting the past with the present’s favorite colors, I see three main lessons today’s educators and policymakers can draw from how schools and communities responded to the last century’s pandemic.

1. Invest in School Nurses

School nurses were transformative when they were first introduced in 1902.

Rather than simply send sick students home, where they would miss school while receiving no treatment, nurses cared for children’s illnesses and provided health information to their families.

After a study showed that nurses cut student absences in half, more and more cities funded them. Within 11 years of the first nurse being hired, nearly 500 U.S. cities employed school-based medical professionals.

In 1919, nurse S.M. Connor, while apologizing for not doing more “owing to the handicap of the influenza epidemic,” submitted a report to the Neenah, Wisconsin school board of her work. Connor made 1,216 home visits, took children to doctors and delivered community health talks, in addition to conducting school-based examinations and follow-up.

In November 1918, New York City Health Commissioner Royal Copeland underscored the role of school nurses. Being under “the constant observation of qualified persons” gave students “a degree of safety that would not have been possible otherwise” and “gave us the opportunity to educate both the children and their parents to the demands of health,” he said in a report titled “Epidemic Lessons Against Next Time.”

2. Partner With Other Authorities

In a version of the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” a study of schools in 43 cities during the 1918 pandemic identified “planning that brings public health, education officials, and political leaders together” as key to successful responses.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rochester, New York, school and health officials combined forces with organizations representing immigrant communities. In Los Angeles, the mayor, health commissioner, police chief and school superintendent collaborated to monitor infection rates, provide teachers additional training, and create and deliver homework for 90,000 schoolchildren.

Such cooperation also helped schools as they reopened.

In St. Louis, while schools were closed, police cars became ambulances, and teachers worked in health agencies. Students returned to school November 14, but by the month’s end the city saw a new influenza surge, leading to another school closure.

Political, health and education leaders designed a gradual reopening that saw high schools open first, followed a month later, once cases in younger children had dropped, by elementary schools. Thanks to these collaborative efforts, St. Louis had 358 deaths per 100,000 people, among the best outcomes in the country.

3. Tie Education to Other Priorities

In 1916 the U.S. Bureau of Education proclaimed that the “education of the schools is important, but life and health are more important.”

Reformers of the period, known as the Progressive Era, took that notion to heart. In addition to school nurses, they established school lunch programs, built playgrounds and promoted outdoor education.

They attacked societal barriers to child health and welfare by enacting child labor laws, making school attendance compulsory and improving the tenement housing where millions of children lived.

By the time the pandemic hit, President Woodrow Wilson had declared 1918 the “Children’s Year.” Schools stood ready to deliver not only lessons but food and health care.

When schools reopened, children could learn in what Copeland described as “large, clean, airy school buildings” with outdoor spaces.

Children playing on a Boston rooftop in 1909. Credit: Lewis Wickes Hine / Library of Congress.

Heeding Those Lessons in 2020

A century after Americans learned the importance of investing in school nurses, fewer and fewer schools employ them. Only 60% of schools have a full-time nurse, and about 25% have no nurse at all. A recent analysis concluded that reopening safely will cost an additional US$400,000 per district, on average, to hire more school nurses.

These figures are higher for urban schools that educate more students of color, poor students and immigrants, and come as the pandemic’s economic fallout is already causing districts to cut budgets.

Even so and despite the federal government’s sometimes divisive response, local communities, as in 1918, are fighting this devastating pandemic with teamwork. In Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Sacramento and elsewhere, city councils, school districts, nonprofits, and labor and business groups are working together to meet their communities’ needs.

And a movement, spurred by anger over the death of George Floyd, police brutality and widespread concerns about systemic racism, is demanding that all jurisdictions spend less on the police especially now, when the challenges brought about by the pandemic make funding for public schools more essential than ever.

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Graduating High School in Birmingham, Alabama during Covid-19 (Emma Goldberg)

This article appeared in the New York Times, June 23, 2020

Growing up, Ashley Reynolds grew accustomed to marking rites of passage in the shadow of her older brother’s ghost.  
Her brother, Jeff Jr., named for their father, was shot at a house party when he was 18 and Reynolds was 3. On every birthday and holiday since, Reynolds has felt a sense of grief mingling with her joy, because she knows her parents wish that Jeff Jr. could be there to celebrate too. (He would have now been 33.)
But high school graduation was supposed to be Reynolds’s day alone. She would be the first of her mother’s children to cross that stage. She imagined that her parents would be cheering, and she might start to cry. She started counting down the days at the start of her senior year. Then coronavirus came to Birmingham, Ala. — and just like that, her graduation ceremony was in jeopardy.  
“You ever just feel like giving up?” Reynolds, 18, said, in an interview in early May. “I feel like I’m letting my family down by not walking across the stage because my brother never got a chance to.”   Reynolds is one of the 3.7 million members of the class of Covid-19, America’s high school seniors who saw much of their season of festivities canceled because of the coronavirus. Throughout the early months of the pandemic, she was also one of the country’s 24 million front-line workers.

More than half of the essential work force is female, and more than a third is African-American, like Reynolds. While Reynolds’s senior year was upended, her daily shift as a fast food worker at McDonald’s, working 30 hours a week, remained.    

When the stay-at-home order took effect in Alabama, Reynolds watched with disappointment as events were taken off her calendar. School turned to remote learning. Prom was up in the air. The course she was taking to become a certified nursing assistant was suspended.   But because she was deemed an essential worker, she could not quarantine, like most of her friends and classmates. She commuted daily for her shift at McDonald’s, sanitizing her hands in the car and showering the minute she got home.

The McDonald’s was at a truck stop, primarily serving drivers making deliveries throughout the state — 300 customers a day during the height of the shutdown and 700 per day as businesses began to reopen.   The normal stresses of work — irritable customers, messy co-workers — were all amplified during the pandemic, she said. And many of Reynolds’s customers refused to follow social-distancing guidelines. They came close to Reynolds when ordering, and some of them entered without wearing masks. “They’re not understanding how serious this is,” she said. “Customers do not want to follow directions. They don’t believe in the six-feet rules.”    

She was paid $8.25 an hour and was not given hazard pay. “I felt we needed a raise working under the coronavirus,” Reynolds said. “But they didn’t give it to us.”     In April, one of Reynolds’s co-workers fell ill and left work early. The facility was closed for the day and sanitized. But Reynolds felt a pit in her stomach all day. She worried that she, too, could get sick and expose her mother, father or younger half sister, who is 7. Reynolds was relieved when she was told her co-worker did not have Covid-19.  

Reynolds worries for her parents, because their essential jobs also bring them out of their homes daily, risking their health. Her father is a car salesman, which is classified as essential work. Her mother works as a janitor at a day care system. As the virus was beginning to spread, one facility where Reynolds’s mom works her day job had to close because of a coronavirus case. “She puts her life on the line,” Reynolds said.    

Reynolds has closely followed the news on the spread of Covid-19 and its disproportionate impact on senior citizens and black people. Before her nursing course was canceled, she volunteered weekly at a local nursing home, helping the residents bathe and listening to their stories. She worries for them now as the coronavirus sweeps through the country’s nursing homes. In Alabama, 35 percent of the state’s death toll is made up of residents in long-term care facilities.    

In a happy twist, Reynolds is back to caring for the elderly: This week she began a new job, making $10.71 an hour as a nursing assistant at the home where she used to volunteer, providing comfort to the elderly who cannot receive family visits because of Covid-19.   “It’s horrible for the elders,” Reynolds said. “I can talk to my grandma tonight and if she steps outside tomorrow she can get sick.”    

And another unexpected twist: Reynolds did get a graduation after all. As Alabama began to reopen in late May, her school held a ceremony, smaller than originally planned. “It wasn’t the best thing but it was something,” she said. And she did get to celebrate with her family.     “Every child deserves a chance to be able to feel celebrated in their accomplishment,” she said.    

Now, Reynolds keeps her eyes trained on a post-pandemic future, hoping to tart classes on campus at Talladega College in the fall. She is hellbent on saving money so she can be financially independent, and buy new clothes and dorm furniture for her freshman year. She plans to study social work.   But the uncertainty still looms: whether her classes will be remote and whether that will make them tougher because she won’t be able to easily ask teachers questions about challenging material.                                              

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Schools Closed for Five Years: The Prince Edward County Story (Part 1)

Natural disasters have closed schools over the past century. Earthquakes and hurricanes destroyed Christchurch, New Zealand (2011) and New Orleans (2005). The Influenza pandemic in 1918-1919, polio epidemics in the 1940s, and currently the coronavirus-19 have achieved the same result in country after country across the globe.

In a nation were supreme faith in the power of schooling to produce individual success, where getting an “education” is the first item on the to-do list of native-born and immigrant families, sudden and sustained school closures carry huge psychic and social costs for both students and their families.

Short-term effects on children and youth range from “summer loss” in academic achievement to distaste for online instruction to angst and depression from prolonged lockdowns and absence of contact with friends. Effects on students and families are unrecorded for previous epidemics and are just now becoming apparent, particularly for single Moms and families with two working parents.

Long-term effects of these natural disasters remain unknown. And this is why the five year loss of public schooling for black students in Prince Edward County as a result of a man-made disaster–while far longer than school closures flowing from the pandemic–becomes relevant as a historical instance of learning what happens later to children and youth when they have lost five years of their schooling.

Background

In 1951, in rural Prince Edward County, Virginia, Robert Moton high school student Barbara Johns led a walkout of black students protesting the conditions in the overcrowded building (housing 450 students rather than less than the 200 it was built for). This neglected, racially segregated high school in Farmville–the County seat of about 8500 residents–was not only at double its capacity but also lacked a library, science labs, and cafeteria.

“We held two or three classes in the auditorium most of the time, one on the stage and two in the back,” former Moton principal M. Boyd Jones told journalist Bob Smith in 1961. “We even held some classes in a bus.” Some classes met in tar-paper shacks, which the school board funded rather then build a new school. When it rained those shacks leaked, and when it got cold the potbelly stoves failed to keep children warm.

Teacher Vanessa Venable recalled students searching the woods before class for kindling to use in the shacks’ stoves to heat the buildings. In an interview Venable said, “I remember asking the Superintendent for toilet tissues for the outdoor john. He looked at me as if I was crazy and said, ‘Mrs. Venable, they don’t know how to use it anyway. Get a Sears catalogue.'”

The high school was indeed separate but hardly equal to the all-white high school also located in Farmville.

After the walkout, civil rights lawyers convinced the black parents who had sued the all-white County school board to join black litigants in Topeka, Kansas and other jurisdictions in a case that was moving toward the U.S. Supreme Court called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Brown that state laws establishing separate schools on the basis of race were unconstitutional. While the Court urged states to desegregate schools “with all deliberate speed,” many Southern states (including Virginia) where de jure school segregation and Jim Crow laws had been in existence for over a half-century did little to nothing in the aftermath of the decision (see here and here).

Virginia’s response orchestrated by Democratic Senator Harry Byrd’s political machine, a long-time advocate of segregated schools, launched “massive resistance” to the court decision. The Virginia legislature, controlled by the Byrd machine, threatened to stop funding any county or city district in the state that desegregated its schools.

In 1959, federal and state courts declared “massive resistance” to the Brown decision unconstitutional. For the first time, a Democratic governor refused to support pro-segregation bills moving through the legislature. Then a federal district court judge ordered the Prince Edward County school board to move students from the all-black Robert Russa Moton high school to the nearby all-white high school. The all-white County school Board of Supervisors joining the state movement toward “massive resistance” refused to fund the public schools. The School Board then closed all of its schools and funded and built a private all-white academy. On the first day of the fall semester, yellow school buses took nearly 1500 white students to the private academy and left 1700 black students without a school to go to.

The public schools did not re-open until 1963.

Part 2 deals with the effects on black students of no public schooling for five years.

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The Disappearing Social Safety Net: Public Schools

Sondra Cuban and I jointly wrote this post.

Sondra Cuban is a Professor at Western Washington University and an educational sociologist studying the trajectories, aspirations, and struggles of women immigrants. She is the author of Deskilling Migrant Women in the Global Care Industry (2013) and Transnational Family Communication: Immigrants and ICTs (2017).”

One of our greatest social safety nets has vanished in the blink of an eye. Before the pandemic, schools were societal safeguards in having legal custody of children and youth six to 12 hours a day, granting credentials, and providing meals, social and medical services.  Now with schools closed, the importance of schools to not only parents but all citizens has become obvious.

This is the first time in a century since the flu pandemic of 1918 that government has decommissioned public schools. They are ghosts standing in our communities, unused, with yellow tape around playground bars and slides. Uncertainty over re-opening dates breeds anxiety as superintendents fumble to communicate with teachers, parents and families during the crisis.

Turn on the television to see the absence of leadership at the very top. The U.S. Department of Education website only has flow charts posted in March for whether  schools should close. No one in authority knows when they will reopen other than in the fall, creating a quiet storm in every community about what to do with children and their wellbeing as well as the health of families.

Early responses came from state governors. Because the virus spreads rapidly in crowds, gatherings of 10 or more people were prohibited. Schools, sporting and entertainment events, and businesses closed. The economy ground to a halt. By mid-March, 45 governors had acted shutting down businesses and schools for the rest of the academic year. Yet they’ve given little guidance to school systems or details about what is to happen in the interim. Furthermore, libraries, partners in literacy to schools, are also closed. Another loss.

By late-March, it has become clear that school districts were caught with their pants down.  In a recent American Enterprise Institute survey schools in the U.S., less than half (43 percent) of the districts had a plan for shifting from face-to-face instruction to online instruction and home teaching. Two weeks later the percentage had gone to 71.  But a PDF plan is far from what actually happens. Individual school (there are 13,000-plus districts with 100,000 schools in the U.S.) principals, teachers, and staff contacted parents and students through email and phone.

Schools in these districts with plans put some version of a remote education program into place. Often, however, no clear instructions were sent telling whether all students had to go online or whether participation was voluntary. For example 35 percent of the schools doing online instruction offered materials and expected students to participate. Nearly two-thirds did not.

With the shift to distance instruction, access to computers and the Internet revealed anew the digital inequities that mirror societal inequalities. Many big cities had to distribute laptops and tablets to students—they were either delivered or picked up at local schools. New York gave out 300,000; Chicago announced 100,000 computers; San Diego. 40,000.  But distributing computers does not guarantee teaching and learning in the home because many families lack adequate broadband and WiFi access.

Moreover, computers and distance learning is, at best, a pale substitute for in-person teaching and student learning. Many private schools including those that avoided leaning on electronic devices before the pandemic (e.g., Waldorf) have continued their curriculum delivery online but this doesn’t mean that the quality of education has remained the same or that learning is happening.

Also beyond computers, big city districts fed children and families. San Diego, for example, provided nearly 400,000 meals.

The AEI survey also showed that by the first week of April, 91 percent of the school had plans for feeding students. When the survey asked for specifics beyond plans, results showed that two-thirds of the schools had meals available for daily pick up at the schools. School delivery to students’ homes or at bus stops were occurring in 30 percent of the schools. Mostly in urban districts, these meals are crucial to families when parents have been laid of from their jobs.

As the crisis unfolds and national leadership staggers from one policy to another (forget the U.S. Department of Education providing any direction), governors of large states have filled the vacuum but so much remains to be done before the health of Americans can be securely protected and the economic engine revved up again. And what of schools?

One clear lesson about tax-supported schools that has emerged so far from the response to the pandemic is that public schools are an essential part of the nation’s social safety net for the poor and working and middle class Americans. Public schools, often taken for granted, have become crucial contributors to supporting Americans beyond teaching and learning.  

Even with social security, Medicare and the American Affordable Care Act of 2010, ragged holes in the safety net continue to let middle-age and younger working and middle-class Americans slip through. Now public schools, often unnoticed, have become crucial contributors to supporting Americans beyond textbooks, tests, and homework.

If there is one group of Americans who have seen this previously taken-for-granted role for public schools most clearly it is the children’s caregivers, especially working and single Moms. Working mothers do their jobs remotely while being required to organize daily schedules for children to use online lessons or packets sent by the teachers, or they create their own curriculum from the Internet. Ironically, many parents have previously tried to reduce screen time for their young children and now schools require even more screen time to complete lessons. 

Juggling their paid work assignments–for those not furloughed by their employers–while monitoring school tasks children are expected to complete easily slides into a three ring circus during the day. “Some days,” one single Mom said, “I feel like I’m melting.” Other parents have to leave children home alone in order to go to work and they worry about them all day.

In districts where schools expect parents, untrained to teach and not compensated by the government, to supervise lessons or figure out how to sustain their child’s attention while the dog yaps for his walk, well, those working parents have come to really appreciate–no, downright admire–what teachers do daily.  During this pandemic-caused lockdown, the crucial role of public schools as another part of the national social safety net has becomes all too apparent.

In the economic recession that surely will follow in the months after Covid-19 eases (and we hope disappears), district budgets will be further trimmed even as relieved parents bring their sons and daughters to re-opened schools.  Tax-supported public schools have shown how woven they are into the social safety net that is supposed to allow all Americans to not only survive natural and viral disasters but also protect them sufficiently to thrive in the aftermath of such calamities. 

We hope that heightened respect, even admiration, for tax-supported public schools, will result from what this 2020 pandemic has wrought.  And that added respect for school in this society will morph into political and financial support for a community institution that has too often been a public punching bag.

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When Teaching and Parenting Collide: As Schools Shift Online, Many Educators Manage Two Roles (Matt Barnum)

Matt Barnum is a journalist. This article appeared on Chalkbeat, March 31,2020

School buildings are closed, but it’s still been a busy couple of weeks for Noriko Nakada, a Los Angeles middle school teacher.

She’s been attending virtual faculty meetings, receiving district training for remote instruction, and grading student essays online. On Monday, she held a class via Zoom for about 45 minutes, in which she checked in on her students’ mental health and introduced National Poetry Month. About 100 of her 170 students logged in.

Nearby through it all are her own two children, who are out of school as well. Figuring out how to teach online while making sure they’re occupied has been its own challenge.

“At first we tried to make it clear if mom or dad have headphones and are staring at the computer, it means you can’t bug them,” Nakada said. “The 8-year-old can get that, but the 5-year-old has a hard time.”

“Everyone is doing their best, and none of it’s going to be pretty,” she said.

As many schools across the country transition to remote instruction — in the wake of widespread building closures caused by the new coronavirus — Nakada’s experience is the new normal.

A sizable share of America’s teachers have young children. Most teachers are women, who often bear disproportionate caregiving responsibilities for children and other family members. And although many of the country’s large districts say they’re attempting to be flexible with teachers as they move to remote instruction, few if any have policies that explicitly accommodate those juggling work and full-time caregiving.

That’s making for some complicated daily decisions about whose kids are getting attention at a given moment. It’s a challenge that schools will have to continue helping teachers navigate in order to make remote instruction work, especially as it extends for weeks and months.

“The history of teaching, since we’ve feminized the profession, there’s been this emphasis on teachers [as] ultimately altruistic — they love children,” said Judith Kafka, a professor of education policy at Baruch College. “For the vast majority of teachers, that’s true about them. But they’re not usually asked to sacrifice attention to their own children in the process.”

“If you are home alone with your kids, and you’re also trying to meet your students’ needs, something’s got to give,” she said.

About half — 48% — of all public school teachers have children living at home, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Michael Hansen and Diana Quintero. This includes young children, who need constant supervision, as well as teenagers, who might not.

Among those teachers is Brian Grimes who is now setting up his kids — ages 7, 9, and 13 — to work at the dining room table every morning instead of sending them off to school.

“It’s like the summer, but there’s no fun,” said Grimes, who lives in New Jersey.

Once they’re settled, he starts his own job as a high school history teacher — videotaping lessons, grading assignments, talking to students and their families — a few feet away.

It’s been a dizzying transition. “I put my shirt and tie on and I go to work, it’s ‘teacher Brian,’ and then when I come home, it’s ‘parent Brian,’” he said. “Now everything is merged together.”

Many children, after all, haven’t yet adjusted to the sudden shift. “It’s very difficult,” said Alexis Mann, a Minneapolis teacher. “They don’t understand when mom’s home, that I’m actually working.”

In one respect, though, the fact that teachers are still facing these challenges reflects good news. As millions of workers face layoffs, teachers still have jobs and a steady paycheck.

But the change presents unique challenges for teachers, and few districts appear to have offered specific accommodations for teachers who are also caregivers. “We haven’t seen a lot of policy or explicit guidance on that,” said Sean Gill, a research analyst with the Center on Reinventing Public Education, which has been compiling large districts’ coronavirus response policies. (Many districts are still developing, or have not fully instituted, a remote instruction plan.)

Gill said that most districts don’t seem to be requiring teachers to conduct live instruction at specific times. Miami-Dade County schools, for instance, says it expects teachers to be available for at least three hours every day to students, but gives teachers the freedom to decide on those hours themselves.

Philadelphia’s guidance to educators says that “daily work schedules should remain largely unchanged” but that “reasonable flexibility shall also be used to accommodate employees’ individual needs.”

Gill suggested that teachers collaborate to ease each other’s burdens — for instance, a teacher available during the day could focus on connecting with students, while another teacher videotapes lessons at night that students could watch on their own.

Grimes said his school district has told teachers to monitor their emails during the day and to grade student work promptly, but generally been flexible. “They understand that we’re dealing with a lot on our own,” he said.

Nakada said her school district, LAUSD, hasn’t communicated explicit policies for caregivers. A spokesperson for the district said that teachers are expected to work during the day and hold office hours at least three times a week at flexible times.

That sort of flexibility is essential, teachers say. Mercedes Liriano, who teaches fifth grade in the Bronx, says her principal expects teachers to attend two staff meetings a week but otherwise has been accommodating.

“He knows that we have family, he knows that we have other requirements that demand our time,” she said.

A spokesperson for New York City’s Department of Education reiterated this. “We understand that teachers and staff may be caring for others,” said Danielle Filson. “There are no expectations for specific time periods for teachers to be logged in and schools are not expected to replicate a regular school day schedule in a virtual environment.”

But there are challenges. Liriano has two computers at home, meaning she and her two children are one device short at all times. And then she is also trying to help her son, who sometimes struggles in school, get through his lessons.

“I’m having to navigate helping my parents and my students, who are constantly calling, while I’m trying to help my son at the same time,” she said. “But I can’t be on my computer while he’s trying to do his work.”

In any case, trying to get work done while children are at home is complicated — the new reality for millions of parents, teachers among them. For some, the fear and uncertainty associated with the global pandemic that precipitated all the disruption has made it even tougher.

“There’s so much time and mental space that’s being occupied by the coronavirus,” Alex Driver, a New York City teacher who is also the parent of twin six-year-olds. “So much head space is being taken up by that, and then we also have the back and forth of parenting and teaching. And then what’s left?”

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The Unknown Virus: A Personal Story

San Angelo is in West Texas. The county seat between Abilene and the Mexican border. Farms, oil wells, and cattle ranches fenced with barbed wire dot the county. Blessed with a warm climate and reputation as a healthy place to live, in one year San Angelo added to its reputation in ways that city leaders dreaded.*

In mid-spring, the newspaper reported that a local child had come down with a viral disease that had occurred in earlier springs like hailstorms and tornadoes. Previously, when this disease occurred, it had not spread. This one, however, did.

Parents began arriving at Shannon Memorial Hospital with “feverish, aching youngsters in their arms,” the local newspaper reported. Within days these children died: 10 month-old Esperanza Ramirez, seven year-old Billie Doyle Kleghorn, four year-old Susan Barr, and others. The city health officer said that an epidemic was occurring. Because the disease had no known cause or prevention or cure, he recommended that San Angelo children avoid crowds, wash their hands regularly, and get a lot of rest.

A month later, with known cases spiking to over 60, the city council voted to close all indoor meeting places, including theaters and churches. Tourists stopped coming to the city. The economy shrank. One local doctor said, “We got to the point … when people would not even shake hands.”

The year is 1949, not 2020. The disease is polio, not Covid-19.

I got polio in 1944, five years before the epidemic hits San Angelo. But I was lucky. I came out of the disease with only a limp from a destroyed calf muscle. Amid the fears of the coronavirus today, I can now appreciate in a way that I could not as a ten years-old, the dread of the unknown consequences for their son that my parents had after I came down with the “plague” as it was called at the time.

Like polio at that time, the coronavirus has no known cause, testing for the disease continues to be slow and hampered globally. There are no medications or vaccine. Even the death rate from the disease is uncertain because of flaws in testing and tardiness in evaluating large numbers of people in China and other countries as the epidemic becomes a pandemic. Political and medical officials advise Americans to wash their hands often and stay away from crowds. Anxieties and fears are as contagious as the disease’s spread from its origins in China to the rest of the world.

Now as an old man, the fear I have of the coronavirus striking my family, friends, and the nation must be close to what my parents must have felt when I got polio three-quarters of a century ago.

Polio virus

Known for centuries but isolated in the early 1900s, the virus had triggered epidemics across the world. What caused children and adults to sicken, become paralyzed and die–the disease was often called “infantile paralysis”–was unknown. Thus, prevention was useless. Fear of contagion was rampant wherever cases broke out. There were no medications. Treatment was a combination of muscle wrappings and massage of limbs to ease damage to the body that inevitably occurred.

In the U.S. it occurred periodically paralyzing children and adults, rich and poor alike. One epidemic in 1916 claimed 27,000 Americans. In New York alone there were 8400 cases and 2400 deaths. Five years later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt came down with the disease at the age of 39 and wore leg braces for the rest of his life including the years he served as President of the U.S. (1933-1945). Not until the early 1950s did a vaccine become available for children.**

The polio epidemic of 1944 swept across Pittsburgh. I caught it. I remember well the weeks I was in the hospital and the months that I was at home. I recall the anxiety and fears that my parents and brothers had–I was the youngest in the family–since the paralysis could cause loss of breathing (“iron lungs” were invented to keep children and adults alive) and destroy muscles. Both of my brothers had been drafted–it was the third year of World War II–and were serving in the U.S. Navy and Air Force. My parents worried about them and now I came down with polio. Friends and neighbors steered clear of our home.

Most vivid of all I remember my mother massaging my legs with cocoa butter in the hospital. I could not walk after I returned home. Daily she would rub my legs with it. I missed junior high school for a few months and when I returned I had a noticeable limp. The smell of cocoa butter has remained fixed in my head ever since.

So too have I remembered drinking raw eggs every morning before I went to junior high school. Because my leg muscles and body wasted during confinement for polio in the hospital and at home, doctors had told my parents that I needed proteins to rebuild muscle strength. So my father every morning before he would go to work would crack open two eggs and put them in a small glass, stir them into one yellow blob and watch as I drank it. I shivered at the taste. This went on for months until I regained weight and could walk and run, albeit slowly.

My guess is that the fears my parents had that I would die went away slowly as I began to walk and returned to school in 1945. With the end of World War II, my brothers came home. I was getting strong enough to bowl, play baseball, and basketball. As I think back to that time 75 years ago, I can imagine their fears for me as I and uncounted millions of families now face Covid-19.

Covid-19

Like many Americans of my generation, I stay at home a lot, talk on the phone, text, and stay away from crowds. I do fist bumps with family and friends, wash my hands often, watch as cancellations of schools, conferences, sporting events, and entertainment venues pile up. Am I fearful and anxious? Yes. Do I keep my fingers crossed that the virus runs its course and disappears? You can bet on that.

Just like my mother and father in 1944 and those parents in San Angelo in 1949 who faced the unknown when their children caught the polio virus, mothers and fathers today concerned about their children and elderly parents contracting the coronavirus, the past has become the present right before our eyes.

Today, I can still smell that cocoa butter. And I do not like eggs very much even when they are scrambled.

_____________________________

*For the description of San Angelo, Texas and the 1949 polio epidemic, I used David Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 1-4.

**Ibid., pp. 19-23.

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“We Are All Reformers” (Part 5)

This five part series ends with my leaving high school and going to a commuter college in Pittsburgh. These five parts are drafts of what may become my next book, part analysis of school reform and part memoir. The working title of that book is “Confessions of a School Reformer.”

In alternating chapters, the book will describe and analyze each of three reform movements during my lifetime and then trace my life in and out of school as a student, teacher, administrator and researcher who experienced directly continual reforms for over three-quarters of a century.

Since 1939 when I entered first grade until 2020, three major reform efforts have swept across American public schools: the Progressive movement (1890s-1940s); Civil Rights movement (1950s-1970s), and business-inspired standards, testing, and accountability movement (1970s-present).

As a student (1939-1951) I was the object of Progressive reforms. As a teacher and administrator (1950s-1980s) I designed and implemented classroom, school, and district reforms during the Civil Rights movement and then as a superintendent the first decades of the standards, testing, and accountability effort, and as a researcher since then I have described and analyzed U.S. school reforms.

The theme that runs through the five parts thus far is that my years as an elementary and secondary school student, while of great importance in awakening parts of me that I had not known, were overshadowed–in my view–by what happened to me and my family outside of the school albeit those same events helped shape my experiences as a student.

I have yet to draft sections on my becoming a teacher and the projects I initiated or was part of. Ditto for my tenure as a district superintendent and what I did as a researcher of school reforms since coming to Stanford University. Much remains to be done.

So for now I end this initial series “We Are All Reformers” with Part 5.

In the late-1940s, my father earned enough as a jobber, that is, selling deli products from a panel truck to Mom-and-Pop grocery stores in the Pittsburgh area, to meet the monthly mortgage payment on our small Squirrel Hill home and have enough food on the table. My mother rented out an attic room to a college student and my brothers, one married and the other unmarried and working at different jobs, also contributed monthly. Still money was short every month. I do not remember getting a weekly allowance so as a 12 year old recovering from a bout with polio and worried about being in a large secondary school with an empty wallet, I looked around for part-time jobs.

There was a nearby bowling alley on Murray Ave.  Not the popular ten-pins with large bowling balls with three holes in them. These were rubber-band duckpins with hole-less balls slightly larger than softballs.

The owner let me bowl free in exchange for setting pins for other bowlers. What that meant was to sit atop a pit at the end of the 60-foot alley and wait for the two balls that a bowler laid down for each of the 10 frames in a game. After both balls were thrown, I would drop down into the pit, step on a pedal and spikes would pop up upon which I set the pins that had been knocked down. When all ten pins were set, I would release the pedal, jump back up on the ledge and wait for the next bowler to send a ball down the highly waxed wooden lane. I became a quick and reliable pin-setter. 

The owner of the alley eventually asked me if I wanted to set pins in the afternoons and early evenings and during weekends. He would pay me one cent for every game (bowlers then paid a dime for every game). He let me set two alleys–one adjacent to the other–at a time so a few hours of work would earn me a half dollar or more.

After school and after dinner, I would bowl and then earn money. In time, I became quite skillful. I was cocky enough to gamble against older bowlers and won more than I lost.  

I also delivered the afternoon newspaper on my street. Sam, the previous newsboy, got a higher paying job and he asked me if I would take the route. I did. Between setting pins, betting on my bowling, and delivering newspapers, I had coins jingling in my pockets.

Although I still walked with a limp, I also played baseball and basketball and became a better-than-average athlete for a 14 year-old.  I sprouted to over six feet and while lean I could hit the ball well and play center in pickup basketball games. Yet I was a slow runner and as a center in basketball, I planted myself in the key.

That connection between Sam and bowling and being an athlete brought me into a boys club that imprinted the rest of my teenage years and whose influence has continued until the present day with the friendships I have maintained.

In the late 1940s, Sam belonged to a local chapter of B’nai Brith youth called Victory AZA. He asked me if I wanted to become a member. Passions for sports, growing interest in girls, driving cars, and being accepted by the “guys” stirred me. For some of us, practicing Judaism was also a crucial part; for others, less so. Victory was a full-service boys club. The boys voted and accepted me.

High school and Victory were intertwined in our daily lives.  While we spent more seat time in classrooms  and corridors of our nearby high school than in Tuesday night meetings in a basement room at a synagogue, few of us were members of the Allderdice popular in-groups. Much of our social and athletic life revolved around the club. As part of Victory’s activities we played each sport in its season, attended weekly meetings, and double-dated while gnawing nails over how to carry off a goodnight kiss. In the four years I belonged to Victory, what we probably did most was talk.

And did we talk! Over hot dogs at the local deli after club meetings or at one our homes after a pick-up football game or in cars late at night after dates were dropped off, we would talk about everything, rarely, however, about school. For some of us, this club served as family; for others it was just another activity in an already rich and busy life; and even for others it eased the stormy passage through difficult years. No matter which purpose Victory served in our lives, the club glued us together.

And we learned from one another. I remember one meeting vividly when Sam was president of Victory. On the agenda—we knew well Roberts’ Rules of Order—was an item to vote on new members. Because you aged out of the club at 18, there was constant turnover in this group of about 25. New members were recruited and sometimes teenagers simply wanted to join because of the full array of sports teams that we fielded over the course of a year, the B’nai Brith sports tournaments we went to in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia and many social activities over the course of a year. So we voted unanimously to accept the handful up for membership because they brought athletic and social skills from which we felt the club would benefit.  Except for one teenager whose nomination for membership triggered a vigorous discussion that I remember to this day.

There was a split in our group over whether Merle should become part of Victory. Those who argued for him saw his speaking skills—we also had a debate team that went to B’nai Brith regional and state tournaments—being useful to the club. Those who argued against him pointed out his argumentative skills went too far and he was constantly talking and trying to make his point. Moreover, he was too talkative and didn’t pick up what others were saying and feeling. There was a deadlock over admitting Merle, a highly unusual situation, one that in my experience had never occurred in my years in Victory.

Presiding over the discussion was Sam. He listened carefully to each point made by advocates and opponents of Merle’s entry into Victory. At one point, one of us—I don’t remember who—asked Sam what was his opinion of Merle. Sam answered by saying that he uses a principle when he considers each nominee for membership. He asks himself not only what the boy can do for Victory but also what Victory can do for him. He felt that Merle would surely help the club given his verbal skills but more important, Sam felt, who we could help Merle become a stronger and better person.

I, for one, had only asked one question whenever I voted on new candidates: how will the nominee contribute to our athletic, social, and religious activities? Sam said he not only asked that question but asked another one as well: what can the club contribute to the candidate? I had never thought about the club culture and activities having significant influence on how I think and what I do. Sam’s response brought the discussion to a close and we voted. Merle became a member of Victory.

Common to many teenagers, such intense club life was put behind after high school graduation.  Most of us went to the University of Pittsburgh, a short trolley ride from our homes in Squirrel Hill, and spent the next four years there. Those in our group who didn’t go to college, eventually drifted away into jobs. About a half-dozen former club members, however, continued to see each other off and on either in part-time jobs, before and after class, and occasional double-dates.  

Even after we graduated college, entered careers, married, had children and even moved away from Pittsburgh, at least four of us (Yus, Dave, Sam, and me) remained close friends for the rest of our lives.

Fast forward: over decades, the four of us stayed in touch with each other calling, writing, and visiting one another. Family vacations, monthly book club meetings, New Year’s Eve parties, phone calls, letters, audiotapes tied all of us and our families together year after year. Beginning in the 1980s, the four Victory buddies gathered in Pittsburgh and San Luis Obispo to play tennis.  As we aged to the point when we could no longer play, we scheduled reunions in Palo Alto and elsewhere. We are now in our mid-to-late 80s and continue to talk to each other weekly and see one another at family events from bar mitzvahs, marriages, and sadly, deaths.

Looking back, then, on those six years at Taylor Allderdice, I remember some of my teachers, subjects that motivated me, and snatches here and there of what occurred between 9:00AM and 3PM. I did pass all of my academic subjects and received a diploma. What I remember best, however, are the events that occurred outside of school and the boys I came to know and love in a club that I joined at the age of 14. 

After graduating Allderdice, I entered the University of Pittsburgh (called locally, Pitt) majored in history with a minor in biology, worked after classes for four years at various odd jobs to pay for tuition while living at home.  In my junior year, I decided to become a teacher, got admitted to the School of Education did my student-teaching, and in 1955 graduated with a major in history and a minor in biology.  I then became a teacher. No longer an object of Progressive era reforms as a student, I entered a career initially as a teacher, then administrator, and finally professor that turned me into a school reformer for the next six decades.

Looking back on my years in three Pittsburgh public schools between 1939-1951 when Progressive school reforms dominated the talk and policies of district educators, I learned that while these schools with their age-graded organization, academic curriculum, teacher-centered instruction, and cultural socializing surely shaped what I came to know and feel, the fact is what I recall most vividly and believe to have touched me more than what I took away from schooling are the events that occurred (e.g., Great Depression, World War II, moving into different racially- and religiously-divided neighborhoods, getting polio) and enduring relationships with family and friends.

Of course, it is possible that what remembrances that stick may not be the most significant in shaping who I am. Elementary and secondary schooling may have played a far larger role than I ascribe to it now as a octogenarian.  After all, as I cautioned readers, memory is fallible and endlessly plays tricks. Yet the inescapable fact remains that over 80 percent of a child and teenager’s waking time is spent outside of school in the family, neighborhood, religious settings, and the workplace. Too often, I believe, formal schooling in those 1100 hours a year, important as they are economically in accumulating diplomas and degrees for jobs and careers, is given far more weight than it deserve in assessing who and what a child and teen becomes as an adult.

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The Dilemma of the Xmas Tree in Mixed Marriages (Hannah Ingber)

Hannah Ingber works at the New York Times. This appeared December 24, 2019.

The first time I had a Christmas tree was 1987, the one year my father was married to Susan. I was 6 and remember my father having to climb a ladder to decorate it.

The second time was last year. This tree was much smaller and looked a bit sad. It tapered off at the end and didn’t stand straight. My husband bought it, loaded it into our Honda CRV and put it in the corner of the dining room when I wasn’t home because he knew I would object to it. I kept the room’s pocket doors closed as much as possible all that December, but he would come downstairs and open them. The smell of the tree would linger outside the room. I won’t lie — it was a really nice smell.

Growing up, I considered not having a Christmas tree (except in the Year of Susan), not wearing red and green in December, and not decorating our front lawn in lights as much a part of my Jewish identity as celebrating Passover and going to Hebrew school on Thursdays.

My husband and I began to fight regularly over having a tree after our children arrived. Though he was raised in California as a Hindu, he said that decorating a tree was among his happiest childhood memories, that it symbolized home and family. I countered that a tree in our living room felt so unsettling, so out of place, so unbearable.

Couldn’t we just have a shrine to Krishna instead?

You would think that such a disagreement would have been settled before we chose each other as life partners. I’m not sure why it wasn’t, or why we didn’t each see it as a big red flag. Perhaps we both thought the other would give in. Clearly neither of us realized how important the presence, or lack, of a tree was to the other.

He claims I once agreed to get a tree. I had no recollection of that. So I suggested a compromise: We could celebrate Christmas each year in California with his family. He said that wasn’t the same — he wanted the tree in our home.

By last December we had decided to divorce but were still living together (it wasn’t just the tree, but more on that another time). Shortly after, my husband sneaked the tree in.

Our boys, ages 2 and 4, were thrilled. They were too young to see any contradiction with being raised by a Jewish mother and Hindu father — and celebrating the birth of Jesus.

They got more than just the tree. They consumed Christmas-themed cartoons on the PBS Kids app with joy. When they spotted a beautifully decorated tree cookie at the local bakery, they chose it without hesitation. I didn’t even try suggesting, “How about that lovely silver star?” They had spent an evening decorating a tree at home. They might as well eat the cookie.

(I grumbled to the cashier, “My Jewish children are getting a Christmas tree cookie.” She didn’t share my unease.)

I moved out last February and now have a charming little home in the next town over. This year, my boys and I spent a weekend decorating it with menorahs and colorful dreidels. We even threw in a Hanukkah snow globe. We, too, can be festive.

I don’t get a ton of information out of my kids, but I’m pretty sure that they helped their father decorate a Christmas tree in his home. I can no longer fight them having a tree; I can only hope they make fond memories with their father. They’re so young that they’re unlikely to remember a winter without a tree.

Sometimes I tell myself that this is all O.K., that maybe it’s a blessing in disguise — my boys don’t need to grow up with the December angst that my sister and I had. When they attend elementary school and the teachers instruct them to write letters to Santa, they won’t feel left out. They won’t feel the need to educate their middle-school teachers the way I did. (Mr. H., if you’re reading, no, not everyone celebrates Christmas.)

My boys will have the dreidels and afikomen hunts and Purim carnivals, but not the December chip on their shoulder. That’s a good thing, right?

Possibly.

To me, being Jewish, not just lox-and-bagels Jewish, is about being different. It’s about being part of a tribe of people whose holidays include tales of ancient Egypt and Pharaoh. It’s about surviving pogroms and cattle cars, and learning that when others are being persecuted we have a moral obligation to speak up and interfere.

Being Jewish is about holding on dearly to one’s sense of self, even if it means secretly lighting Shabbat candles in the basement or having classmates throw pennies at your feet. Or just not getting to sit on Santa’s lap.

I wish I could say that my children will grow up with a Christmas tree (every other weekend) but still identify with being Jewish in the same way I do.

Maybe they can, maybe they can’t. Or maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it.

When our older son, Isaac, was 2 or 3, I wanted him to have a clear understanding of his cultural background and heritage, and I wanted him to be proud of who he is. I remember sitting at the kitchen table and telling him, “Mommy is Jewish, Daddy is Indian, and you and Aarav are both.” Isaac would light up.

And as he got a little older, he’d repeat it. He would stumble over the relatives and their correct identities. “Grandma B. is Indian,” he’d say about my Jewish mother.

But he always got the last part right: “Me and Aarav are both.”

When I chose to marry my husband, I saw bringing together two cultures as a positive. I knew challenges could show up, but I didn’t dwell on them.

It has shaken me to my core to know my boys may not end up being Jewish the way I am. But I also know I have to move on. Frankly, I need to get over the damn tree.

My boys are different from me, and that has a special beauty to it. They are “both.” And while I will do everything I can to instill in them the same love for Judaism that I have, who they are and what “both” looks like will ultimately be up to them.

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Learning Through Friendship: One Man’s Story (Part 5)

June 2017 Reunion

We had planned to have a reunion in October 2015 in Palo Alto but Yus took a bad fall and I had a pinched nerve and could not walk. We canceled. In mid-2016, Yus, Dave, Sam, and I began talking about setting another reunion date. I traveled to Pittsburgh in December and spent five days with Yus and Nancy, had dinner with Sam and Hannah, and attended a Sunday morning book club discussion of a new graphic novel. Yus and I talked a lot about a possible reunion in Palo Alto in the spring.

Those discussions continued after I returned home but became more than talk when Yus’s son Bruce volunteered to go with Yus and Sam on the trip to help his Dad negotiate the walking in airports and around my home. Had Bruce not decided to join his Dad, the reunion would not have occurred.

And that brings me to another AK reunion of octogenarians taking place in Palo Alto in June 2017.  

And what a four days and nights it was! The time we were together consisted of long conversations around meals at home and in restaurants (my daughter Janice joined us one evening), taking walks in the neighborhood and at a nearby park, sitting on the patio sunning ourselves as we conversed and in the living room in one-on-one discussions about family, friends, politics, and life in general as AKers. Bruce, the youngest of all of us, walked with us and joined in these discussions. Once a day, Yus, Sam , and I would use my phone to do FaceTime with Dave in LA to see one another and talk.

Talk about losses from both age and disease in what we can physically do—one of us is on a walker, another has a pacemaker, another uses a cane—and dealing with the emotions accompanying such losses wove in and out of our conversations.  Sometimes the talk veered into the bits of wisdom we had accrued over the decades. And, of course, there were the inevitable health reports. The latter, however, was minimal.

Yes, there were nostalgic moments about our Jewish youth group and that club’s enormous influence on our lives—nicely supplemented by photos and articles that Sam had brought. We looked at photos of Victory members in the late-1950s and saw those who had died, asked about what happened to so-and-so (usually answered by Sam who has an encyclopedic memory of the Pittsburgh Jewish community over the past three generations). The closeness that we felt with one another and the openness in conversing about family, friends, end of life issues, and what is important to each of us in our daily lives is what I mean by intimate friendships.

Intimate friendships, such as ours, are secondary to family ties. While family bonds often trump close pals, the glory of friendship is that it is not chosen for us as blood lines are; we choose who we want to be close to year after year.  And the four of us, two in Pittsburgh and two on the west coast, have remained together out of a group of about a dozen since our early teens. We are grateful to one another for the continuing friendship. I, especially so, for what I learned from my friends about life and living it fully.

This is that story as I remember it. These are the people I have learned from for nearly three-quarters of a century. What an education!*

Larry Cuban

July  2017

_________________________________

*For Joel “Yus” Merenstein.

Biography (2017):

Joel H. Merenstein, MD is Emeritus Fellowship Director for the University of Pittsburgh Faculty Development Fellowship Program. Dr. Merenstein does consults with residents, fellows and faculty on an as needed schedule.

Dr. Merenstein is the founding Chief of the Division of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and is presently Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Public Health. He has published reports on “Educating Residents for the Future” and was recognized by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine as the recipient of the 1994 Excellence in Education Award and the 2012 Marian Bishop Award honoring individuals who have significantly enhanced the academic credibility of family medicine by a sustained, long-term commitment of family medicine in the academic setting. In addition to over 50 published articles, he has recently co-authored a book, The Human Side of Medicine.

Dr. Merenstein is married, has four children, six grandsons and two granddaughters. He maintained a clinical practice in the same community for over 42 years.

Obituary (2019):

Dr. Joel H. Merenstein, on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. Beloved husband of Nancy (Weintraub) Merenstein. Caring father of Gary Merenstein, Bruce Merenstein (Karen Strand), Danny Merenstein (Traci Reisner) and Beth Merenstein. Brother of Sherree (Marc) Drezner, the late Hershey (late Zelda) Merenstein and the late Dr. Jerry (Bonnie) Merenstein. Brother-in-law of Reva (Stanley) Horn. Loving Zaydie of Alex, Carter, Zachary, Simon, Jordan, Levi, Maya and Caleb. Also survived by many loving nieces and nephews.

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