Archives for the month of: October, 2013



Historian Lawrence Goodwyn taught and wrote for decades on the promise of Democracy.  Would the children described on this blog ever hear of a social arrangement called democracy?  Are they learning in a school system that subscribes to democratic values?  Of course not!  Entire districts across the USA are robbing young ones of their life potential, just as the 1903 child laborers pictured above were stripped of theirs.  This seems to be okay with us because the only protests we hear are from affluent parents in NY state or Montclair NJ or Douglas County, CO where the Robber Barons, in their greed, have mistakenly marched into neighborhoods that are not fully socialized into the complex power politics of deference, submission or passivity.  

Mother Jones used to say that “God made women and Rockefeller made the ladies.”  Mary Jones was no lady and she was smart enough to recognize in the faces of mill and mine children the absence of progress.  For them, the present was not better than the past and the future bore no signs of betterment.  So Mrs. Jones marched onto the public stage with kids in tow, an impoverished spectacle, banners aloft, trekking from PA to NY in the hopes of gaining Teddy Roosevelt’s attention and the Guilded Age’s cooperation.  Do we stand with her today?  Shall we walk a mile in her shoes?




If I Had Five Bucks did not have two plug nickels to her name.  But her financial fantasy displayed both age-advanced computation and an endearing generosity toward her equally impoverished peers.  She reminded me of a destitute Michael who once liberated fifteen dollars and then immediately met up with his classmates in the lunchroom where he bought them all a round of ice cream bars, fancy pencils and decorative erasers. 

Money and Morality go hand in hand.


So do Hull House and Honest Abe, it seems.

Naturally, the locked closet concealed a basket of freedom fighters.

Jane Addams, Abraham Lincoln, Crispus Attucks, Betsy Ross and Harriet Tubman were historical strangers to these children but that was about to change. 


Before a round of courteous introductions could be completed, Jane and Abe were snatched up and born into brothels. A helplessly, wide-open-to-the world seven year old, being raised in what 1909 Addams described as “The Wrecked Foundations of Domesticity,” seized an opportunity to cry for help by staging an intimate revue in which Jane and Abraham engaged in vivid dramatizations, complete with grunts, groans, exclamations and anatomically-correct contortions. 


I immediately reclaimed the puppets and returned this enthusiastic audience to a chapter out of Twenty Years At Hull-House in which Ms. Addams described the influence of Lincoln upon her childhood.  She was four and a half years old when, for the first time, she stumbled upon her father sobbing grown-up tears.  He told her he was crying because the greatest man in the world had died.  She was stunned, never forgot the moment and developed a life-long admiration for this martyred president. 


After that, she made a practice of standing out in the family apple orchard, scanning the skies and hoping for a glimpse of the famous Eighth Wisconsin Regiment war eagle known as Old Abe. When the aging bird failed to appear, and after many appeals, her father drove her to the state capital where she finally met the feathered veteran of thirty-six Civil War battles and skirmishes.  It was there that John Addams turned to his daughter and said, “You must never forget that Mr. Lincoln believed in the American form of government.  He thought that it could make a better world.  He believed that every man should be equal under the law.  Mr. Lincoln held that ideal before the nation, as the soldiers held the great eagle before the regiment.  We must make this ideal come true.”


And who will preserve that ideal for our seven year old playwright?  When questioned about the circumstances of his home life, grade level team leader, guidance counselor and assistant principal all admitted to full knowledge of the horrific circumstances.  As to why none took action to protect this acting-out vulnerable one from his abusive over-exposure to adult life, the answer was simple.  They had marching orders to focus on a test score bottom line that had nothing to do with the birth of a new world.
This morally-neutral accountability movement they’ve embarked upon provides them the absolution and abdication necessary for not acting in behalf of significantly human lives. Finally, lest we believe that our born into brothel 7 year old holds no significance or promise, we conclude with an excerpt from his homework journal in which he describes an after school adventure connecting nature science and neighborhood.
A moth is different from a butterfly. How? Because a moth has hair on it and a butterfly doesn’t have hair on it. Cause when me and Glenn found a light green caterpillar at our apartments, it was hanging upside down from a spider web.
And Glenn said, “Look, a light green caterpillar.” And then Glenn said, “Hurry up and take it off the spider web.” And then I took it off of the spider web and gave Glenn the caterpillar.
And me and Glenn ran around the corner to my house and I went up the stairs and digged out a box. But the caterpillar couldn’t fit up in there because we really had big leaves. Then I had a problem with my sister’s bike because it rained over their in town and I stayed over their trying to fix it. Then Glenn had went to a lady’s house that he had showed the caterpillar to and she gave him a jar. It worked like a magnifying glass and it had the top on it and had some air holes around the top.



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