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The 24/7 education channel – Thoughts on the Theme – September 2021

Back-to-school—the comforting seasonal phrase that conjures images of kids with backpacks, pencils and lunchboxes. We trot it out every year as a reminder that some things can be relied on to help us maintain a sense of continuity. Like so many other things, going back to school has taken on new meaning.

Being in the second year of a pandemic and witnessing the social upheaval of our sacred beliefs and institutions has us all rethinking what we’ve been taught, questioning the curriculum and even the educators, be it in government, law enforcement, environment or empire building. Oh yeah, and kids.

The lessons we learn vary with our experience. For some, old notions about law and order have been exposed as tools of separation and harm. These folks long for new, more inclusive pathways to learning, with fresh conclusions. For others the takeaway is to stay the course and follow established rules that might be unfair but which offer no surprises. For yet others, the notion of school is no longer useful. They pursue pathways to education without walls or outer authority. What looks like anarchy to some is for them a complete re-evaluation of the three Rs, where self-governing is as fundamental as reading, writing and arithmetic.

In this issue WIP asks readers to review the curriculum. If some stories seem redundant it may be because our City and County officials seem reluctant to familiarize themselves with the syllabus, let alone pick a major. Some can’t even audit a free course offered by their constituents, as Dan Leahy shows in his analysis of the platforms of candidates advancing in the primary. The level of disregard for the student body begs for fresh interpretation and new faces.

Helen Wheatley’s account of the City’s shift in what defines affordable housing for Olympians is revealing. Will those who decide on the final development off Boulevard Road honor their originally stated goal of providing low and middle-income housing? Or will they be successful in substituting a new definition of what’s affordable while we are still busy transcribing our notes?

On page four, new contributor Charlotte Persons records how attempts to halt construction of a warehouse in pristine farmland near Maytown Road have led the County to table the project until next year (until we forget about it, perhaps). This is why a new coalition of environmental advocacy groups has become necessary: to fight for the rights of our land, water, air and the humans and wildlife dependent upon them.

On page five, regular correspondent Esther Kronenberg documents a demand for the elimination of a Board whose actions serve boat owners while permanently damaging the lives—aquatic, air and land-based—that Black Lake supports. Check the Community Spotlight on page 15 for more events and advocacy groups offering workshops and special events..

The article on page six is like a back-to-school statistics class that looks at how loss of employment and housing in our area has contributed to record numbers of children classified as homeless. And while special agencies and laws have been created to count and serve them, parsing the actual numbers has proven difficult. A new program in Thurston County may help them find shelter and education within stable home situations they choose themselves. It can’t come soon enough, since the moratorium on evictions will have expired by the time you read this.

For those in need of a refresher course, new writer Mindy Stokes reminds us that while we are all rightly protesting the hazards of being black in the United States, the ongoing horror of domestic abuse has taken a back seat in public awareness. Hard but required reading.

Even Lost in Space, the poem on the back cover of this issue, is part of the core curriculum: questioning private wealth, how it’s acquired and how it’s (laughably) spent. Our thanks to former Tacoma resident Leah Mueller for allowing us to reprint it.

Finally, there’s the eye-opening history article that reminds us of a beloved teacher, the one who demanded our attention and forced us to think but rewarded our effort with deeper understanding. Excerpts from Richard Behan’s article, originally appearing in Common Dreams, proves our government had a chance to accept the Taliban’s surrender way back in 2001. Except then we wouldn’t have been able to fight for control of the Unocal pipeline that runs through Afghanistan. Historical footnote: 20 years and $2.6 trillion later, we never achieved that goal. May future history books break with tradition and record the real reasons we invaded Afghanistan and the terrible price so many paid for so little in return.

If you’ll allow us to torture the metaphor one last time, consider this: we can skip class and play hooky. We can make fun of the kids who study hard. We can take an incomplete or flunk out altogether. But the lesson remains: we can’t escape getting schooled.

—LL

Upcoming themes

October. Reap what you sow. How does this metaphor apply to the upcoming elections? Your garden? Your actions in the community? Deadline: September 15

November-December. Gimme shelter. Ever listened to the lyrics of this old Rolling Stones song? How does ‘shelter’ relate to the coming wet months, for you and for your housed and unhoused neighbors? What’s “just a shot away” for you? Deadline: October 10

January. Where do we find light? Can you see it yet? What helped you navigate the dark time? Deadline: December 17

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