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#President

  • A Unique Election Wager

    (Note from Chuck Cascio: This piece was written by my son Marc, a teacher, coach, and writer. He poses an important question in a unique context.)

    AN ELECTION WAGER TO CONSIDER…

    By

    Marc Cascio

         Pascal's Wager is a philosophical aphorism that discusses whether God does or does not exist. The long and short of it is that if you bet on God, and you are correct, you gain all, whereas if you lose, you lose nothing because you are just dead. Let's put Pascal's Wager in COVID-19 terms, though it is a bit of a stretch since we know the virus exists in a tangible sense.

         If you throw in with Trump, who has already had the virus and was airlifted to a place where he could receive treatment from the world's top medical professionals, you are buying into the premise that the virus is "going away," which is contrary to statistical evidence. You are also subscribing to a man who is dismissing Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently said that the way the virus has been bungled has created a situation where the "stars are aligned " for a tragic scenario.

         Throwing in with Trump dismisses tangible evidence and relies on the fantasy that this is over and we can resume life as normal. If he is right, we gain everything. If he is wrong, we lose big.

     

    visuals-irhF3-MSiXk-unsplash.jpg 

     

          On the other hand, you could choose to throw in with medical science and Joe Biden, both of whom refuse to dismiss this virus as an arbitrary nuisance. They seem to recognize the fact that the virus is proliferating just as winter and the flu season hit and people are forced inside more and more. They warn of a potential doomsday scenario predicated on a knowledge of medical science. 

         So if you align with the Biden group, you accept the fact that our inconveniences will continue and perhaps even become greater, but the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term hassles.

         It is mind boggling to me that anyone would bet with their lives on the Trump camp. It is, simply, not logical. It is dangerous, it is irresponsible, and the consequences of doing so could be beyond imagination. 

         If you draw a Venn diagram of those who hold with Trump, I believe there would be a large intersection of those who also have faith (which means belief in the absence of evidence) in God. By choosing this route, they may force all of us to find out the answer to Pascal's Wager much sooner than we wish!

    Copyright Marc Cascio; all rights reserved.

  • Arming Teachers--A Lesson in Failure

    Arming Teachers--A Lesson in Failure by Chuck Cascio     

          I was a teacher for 27 years--four years in middle school and the rest in two different high schools in Fairfax County, VA, outside of

    Washington, DC. I have been retired for quite a few years now, but I have vivid memories--almost all extremely positive--of that

    workplace called "school." And the possibility of arming certain faculty members with guns and/or rifles, as President Trump recently

    advocated in a speech to the NRA, frightens and disgusts me for many reasons, but mostly because the dangers far outweigh any

    potential benefits…because doing so would teach the wrong lesson.

          Proponents of arming teachers seem to want to believe that the next time a shooter shows up to mow down our children, a teacher will whip out his/her rifle and shoot everyone to safety. Following are some realities that show what a misconception that concept is:

         Over the years, I, along with many other faculty members, occasionally had to break up fights between students. These fights always attracted an emotional crowd. Teachers would hear the noise, emerge from our classrooms, move through the crowd, and jump into the middle of two--or more--brawling students. We would separate them, talk as calmly to the combatants, wait for help, and then walk the fighters to the principal's office. The gathering of onlookers would usually disperse peacefully as teachers urged them to "move along now." 

         Sometimes the fights were brutal; other times, they were less intense. But there was always the potential for danger; after all, we were dealing with teenagers and the hormonal and emotional surges built into those years. 

         Now, add a faculty member with access to a gun or a rifle into those scenes. If that faculty member is in the classroom and hears ominous screams and thumps of students in the corridor, how does the teacher know for sure what is going on? Does the teacher proactively grab the weapon and race out of the classroom and into a hallway filled with emotionally charged youths? In an instant, how does the faculty member know it is a fight rather than the presence of someone about to be a shooter? If it turns out to be a fight, does the faculty member use the weapon to help stop it? If so, what message does this send to the gathered youths? How do we deal with the fear that the simple sight of a teacher displaying a weapon might cause in kids’ minds? 

         And what is the potential for danger by having the weapon present? Suppose it discharges accidentally? Suppose, in a fit of rage or panic, one of the fighters or one of the students in the crowd reaches for the weapon? How does the teacher react? Suppose the student succeeds in wrestling the weapon from the teacher? Where does that lead?

         Similar recipes for disaster exist even if, say, there is a lockdown because an active shooter has been identified in the school. Here is the reality teachers would face: 

         A teacher hears an announcement or an alarm or a code that signals "active shooter." The teacher must first ensure that the panicked students follow whatever safety protocol has been established. If the teacher is one of the faculty members who has supposedly been trained in how to use a rifle, that teacher would need to unlock whatever structure is storing the weapon, load it, leave his/her students alone, and wander into the unknown. In that unknown, and under those intense circumstances, is the teacher supposed to identify, without failure, the shooter...as opposed to some frantic student running around the halls? Or not just another teacher who speeds around the corner to try to help someone? Or not just the custodian who has slammed a closet door as he/she attempts to go into hiding? 

         There is another aspect of this "arm the teacher" movement that is extremely disturbing:

         These are schools we are talking about! These are institutions of learning! These are places meant to contribute to thoughtfulness, trial and error, youthful aspirations! These are places where the youth of our nation form their friendships, test their ideals, immerse themselves in community! Sure, the schools are by no means perfect. But they should not be turned into places where every look, every comment, every sound, every movement raises these questions in students’ minds: 

         Is that the teacher with the gun? If I laugh too loudly with my friends, will our laughter be mistaken for crying or calling for help and bring out a nervous teacher with a rifle? Is the only way to keep myself safe in life to arm myself?

        Arming teachers would be a lesson in failure destined to bring about more tragedies and to leave our already damaged schools, educators, and children with more scars.   

    Copyright Chuck Cascio. All rights reserved.

     

  • KIDS' THOUGHTS ON 2020

    WHAT SOME KIDS THINK ABOUT 2020:
     
    Youthful Words of Wisdom

       

          “Unprecedented” was once considered exceptional word usage. Now, it is part of our daily vernacular thanks to the strange, tragic year 2020. More than 340,000 Americans are dead of the corona virus. Most schools are closed. Happy gathering spots such as restaurants, theaters, and bars are desperately trying survive. Work places have shuttered or transitioned to acceptable “social distancing” accommodations. 

         

         Still, it is always good to search for hope, so I did one of the things I enjoy doing most when pondering life’s direction: I sought out my one niece and all six of my grandkids (including just-turned four-year old Catherine) and asked them to send me some brief thoughts on what they will remember most about this unprecedented year. On the surface, perhaps not a lot of what they have to say will surprise you. But look a little closer, and their thoughts might be quite revealing.

    year-2020-5761045_640.png

         

         So, going from oldest to youngest, here is what the kids in my family had to say:

    >>>Caroline (college sophomore)The first thing I learned about myself during 2020 was how much the community of orchestra/chamber groups, and my friendships mean to me. I have seen myself grow a lot as a violinist through my practice challenge, the Curtis Institute Summer Program, and as the American University Symphonic Orchestra’s concertmaster. I also loved how our family started doing weekly Zoom calls to catch up and to check on each other throughout these hard times. I think this was a great time for reflection and growth for our family, and I hope we keep doing our calls after the pandemic is over! 

    >>>Maddie (high school senior)Things I will remember most about 2020 are how close I have gotten with my family because of corona and how many things used to be taken for granted. I was also applying to colleges and having to attend school virtually. Covid forced me to find new hobbies and happiness in small things that before 2020 were normal activities, such as calls with friends and family or getting to eat at a restaurant!

    >>>Jack (high school sophomore):Covid was important to me because it pushed back all of my sports and canceled my lacrosse season last yar. The election was important because we got a new president who will do great things. And the death of Kobe Bryant was important to me because he was such an inspiring athlete. 

     

    >>>Ryan (high school sophomore)The coronavirus was so important for me because it changed the way we do everything. For starters, it just feels uncomfortable now to watch videos or movies from the past where people are in groups without masks. It also affected my school and sports life because I have to do classes from home, and sports were postponed for many months. Overall, it just has affected almost every aspect of everyone’s life.

     

    >>>Zoey (high school freshman):  One thing that I will remember about 2020 is the change of lifestyle that we all had to transition into. It was like a flash—one day we were able to walk around with no mask and were able to stand close to people, and the next day we had all new rules! Another thing I will remember is the way this virus was handled. Our president chose his own luxurious life over the millions of lives in the country he runs. He continued to say this deadly virus was a “hoax” even after he went to the hospital for covid. Lastly, I will remember school—school has been one of the largest learning curves for me and other people. 

     

    >>>Wyatt (sixth grader): I remember when Joe Biden won the 2020 election against Trump. It was important because now we will have a better president for the economy and for the people. I also remember when covid started in the United States—I thought that it would not impact us, but I was terribly wrong, with the U.S. being the most impacted country in the world by this terrible disease. And I will also remember that the Washington Football Team changed its name, which showed that (owner) Dan Snyder at least gives a crap about other people.

     

    >>>Catherine (preschool): I don’t like masks! They make me itchy. But my favorite masks are the rainbow one and the unicorn one. I want to go back to school because I am bored, but I would miss (big sister) Zoey. But I do miss Eloise (her friend) and want to see her.

                        

         Back to Me: I talk to the kids. I read their words. I think of what Pablo Picasso is credited as saying: “Youth has no age.” I hope he is correct.

    Here’s to a happy, healthy 2021!!!

    If you would like to send me your thoughts, and if you would like to share what kids in your family have to say about 2020, please email me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.While I can’t promise that I will print all comments, I will definitely read them and respond to as many as possible.

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

  • Time for a "National Staff Meeting For Educators"

    IT’S TIME FOR A “NATIONAL STAFF MEETING FOR EDUCATORS”
    by
    Chuck Cascio

    (Note: I taught secondary school for 27 years in Fairfax County, VA, the nation’s 10th largest school district.--Chuck Cascio)

          President Joseph Biden has correctly called the fact that millions of school children are still unable to attend school in person due to the novel coronavirus a "national emergency." He and his staff are outlining ways to make the return happen as soon--and as safely--as possible. The need for vaccination of all school personnel--teachers, administrators, and support staff--should be at the very top of the list. That is why I think something that might be labeled the "National Staff Meeting for Educators" should be instituted immediately.

         The National Staff Meeting for Educators would require that all in-school personnel report to a school or schools that would be identified as vaccination centers over the course of approximately 10 days. As staff members are vaccinated, they would then be required to return to school (except in cases where mitigating health issues might compromise the vaccine's effectiveness). Since studies indicate that even the first dose of vaccine can provide up to 80% protection against the coronavirus, if other precautions such as mask wearing, social distancing, thorough cleaning of lavatories, cafeterias, and classrooms throughout the school day and other precautions are mandated in schools, then it makes sense to phase back in-class instruction.  The National Staff Meeting for Educators would then be repeated four weeks later so school personnel could receive their second dose.

          What the dreadful coronavirus has "revealed" to many parents and politicians is that teachers are actually "essential workers."  Comments in editorials, opinion pieces, and general conversation use that term daily in reference to teachers, but most often in the context of demanding that they return to in-school classes. So if there can be a slight bit of good news in the context of coronavirus life, it is that the stereotypical image of teaching is disappearing: Teachers do not simply just roll into their classrooms each day, prop their feet up on their desks, tell a roomful of attentive and obedient kids what to do, and eventually a bell rings and life goes on for everyone. 

     Unknown.png

    Will school buildings and their parking lots fill up again soon?
       
        It seems that virtual learning spurred by the pandemic has created an awareness among the public that things are, in fact, more productive and healthier for everyone when teachers, administrators, and the many support personnel who contribute enormously to the daily job of educating students are actually back in the school building. Because of the individual experiences parents have dealt with and the studies documenting how student learning, socialization, and personal well-being are being negatively impacted by schools not being open, parents, politicians and educators want a return to in-school instruction. The question facing everyone is how to do it safely for all because it makes no sense to have teachers return to schools without being vaccinated; doing so, among other potential dangers, opens them to the possibility of being asymptomatic carriers to their own families and communities.

        Under the leadership of President Biden, the country is establishing realistic precautions as we move toward reopening. The CDC has outlined logical steps, including the wearing of masks in schools; regularly screening students for symptoms; providing cleaning, disinfection, and hand hygiene protocols; and a detailed list of "Strategies for Protecting K-12 School Staff from COVID-19." 

         In Chicago, the nation's third largest school district, a tentative agreement between the school system and the teachers union has been reached, which proposes to vaccinate 1,500 Chicago Public School staff members each week under a new program developed during the collective bargaining process. That is definitely commendable, and it shows that districts and unions can reach a logical, safe approach to the reopening, but with thousands of in-school personnel in Chicago, more needs to be done…and it needs to be done more quickly. But at least Chicago has a possible model in place to build upon.

         Approximately half the states in the country have already started vaccinating their teachers, but the process is slow and the other half of the country is not responding to this educational emergency. If President Biden would adopt the National Staff Meeting for Educators and find a way to roll out, say, National Guard trucks filled with vaccines to the specified schools where educational staff members are to meet, get vaccinated and then return to their school buildings, it would speed up the entire process. In addition, it would emphasize what people are finally starting to realize:

    TEACHERS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS!

    (Copyright Chuck Cascio; All rights reserved, including use of the label "National Staff Meeting for Educators.")

     

     

  • Turning the Corner

    TURNING THE CORNER
    by
    Chuck Cascio
     
     
     Over the past year, I have--
     
    >>>Seen the empty parking lots of shuttered businesses.

    >>>Heard a president say that a pandemic that has now killed as many Americans as were lost in World War II would "disappear."

    >>>Missed visits, hugs, laughter, and vacations with my kids, grandkids, other relatives, and friends.

    >>>Felt the disappointment of students unable to attend college, high school, or elementary school with their classmates, and the social interactions so critical to those brief years.
     

    >>>Missed the outings to concerts, theaters, movies, restaurants, and other simple social gatherings.

    >>>Seen a presidential election marred by anger, lies, and disgraceful comments and actions by the "leader" in power.
     

    >>>Witnessed with sadness, horror, and anger the assault fueled on our Capitol by a demagogue, an assault that included the hateful racist and anti-semitic signage and screams reminiscent of another era in another land along with chants to hang the vice president and kill some member of Congress.

    >>>Come to realize that this presidency and this pandemic have revealed tragic evidence of simmering anger, a desire for "privilege," and an incomprehensible fear of seeing others gain the fundamental elements that make life comfortable, enjoyable, and fulfilling for each individual. 
     

    Yet...there is now a corner to be turned, and I believe (or want to believe) that we are turning it because--

    >>>I have seen people determined to defeat the killer virus by adhering to rules of wearing masks, social distancing, and other steps to safeguard health even when threatened by those who felt their "privilege" was being compromised.
     

    >>>I have seen more kids outside playing and adults walking than had been the norm as they sought diversion from the suffocating events surrounding them.

    >>>I have learned to compensate for missed relationships by using other means of communication that are not as intimate but are still rewarding.
     

    >>>I have seen individuals treat employees with great respect and kindness in health care, grocery stores, education, and other professions that we finally realize are "essential."

    >>>I have come to value more than ever the passage of time, the simple joys of daily life, and the importance of understanding that reality extends beyond ourselves.
     
       Perhaps as the hate-filled presidency of the past four years and the nightmarish events of the past couple of months end, we will move toward a greater sense that we are all in this together. The virus--whether defined as corona or politics or both--has proven that.  
     
       So as we turn the corner, let's consider the value of health for all, employment for all, security for all, and opportunities for all.
     

       Let's turn it and not forget the raging hatred we have experienced, but let's not let that define our future. 

       Let's turn it and take new pleasure in seeing the parking lots fill, the schools reopen, the family and friends return to our lives, and the simple, personal ways we have learned to fill our lives. 
     

       Let's turn the corner...and take the new, open road ahead.

     

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.