Category: Commentary

The Solar Eclipse was Magnificent

I did not know what to expect.  I joked that the “Path of Totality” sounded like a good name for a band.  I laughed when I heard that Bonnie Tyler was going to sing “Total eclipse of the heart” during the total eclipse.  I observed that at least the Chiquita banana company (the Chiquita Banana Eclipse since the sun would look like a Chiquita banana) and the makers of Slim Jim (the path of totality reminds us of their favorite snack) used the moment in the way of capitalism.  

I understood the significance of seeing a total solar eclipse, but my mind was occupied about whether or not the students viewing the eclipse would keep their eclipse glasses on during the time when it was not safe to look directly at the sun.  But soon it became clear they were as caught up in the eclipse as everyone else here.  Our path where I teach provided 79 seconds of totality, or the period of time when the moon fully covered the sun.  It was spectacular.  (Be sure to check out coverage and pictures provided by the Saint Louis Review, the Archdiocesan paper of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.)

Blaming “all sides” for Charlottesville violence is wrong

It is hard to imagine there is anyone in the United States that is not aware of the events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday.  It has been a topic of conversation for many since last Saturday.  As with most significant events, there have been comments from many since the events in Charlottesville unfolded.  The conversation continues in large part because of the statements, tweets, and answers to questions by President Donald Trump.

How an unqualified Betsy DeVos might actually set school choice back

In general, I believe a president should be able to surround himself with people that support the agenda he was elected on by the citizens who voted. It seems to me the appropriate place for disagreement and discussion about policy best occur when it is done by elected officials, where every 2, 4, 6 or 8 years voters have the opportunity to weigh in on their evaluation of their elected officials’ performance.

But on the confirmation, yesterday of Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education, 2, 4, 6 or 8 years of her being in this job are 2, 4, 6 or 8 years too many. It is not because I disagree with some of the policies that she might support. In general, I do wish there were mechanisms to allow students in failing schools to leave the school and choose to go somewhere else. I do wish that those for whom paying private school tuition is a significant economic burden could get some tax relief. My problems are not about policy.

My problems are about an absolutely unqualified person to be the Secretary of Education. Ms. Devos did not know even rudimentary educational terms, concepts or laws. If you are going to advise states and help them, you need to understand whether or not the type of measurement you are going to use is standards (proficiency) or by the level of improvement by each individual student (growth).

Some thoughts on the election

This was probably one of the most brutal elections many people remember. Often it seemed to be characterized by anger, and a constant demonizing of the other. It was not pretty. Many simply hoped that it would come to an end. In one way, it has. The election occurred and Donald Trump is the president-elect. But in a completely different way, the election exposed deep and ugly chasms between the way we see and think about each other. For some, it is not so much that racism was exposed, for example, but rather that it was more extensive than previously believed.

Giving Up Something or Doing Something: The Wisdom of Pope Francis

It is a common question for Catholics to ask each other during Lent, “What are you giving up?” But is Lent simply a question of willpower, or is there something more? Perhaps the question is better put in the way Pope Francis frames it: What are you going to do for Lent? For whatever practice of penance we undertake, it should lead us to accept God’s love and mercy and to become ever more charitable.

It’s not about Freddie Gray

Remember James Carville, the strategist for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, was known for the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Meant for the internal team, it became known outside and is often cited as a reason Bill Clinton won the 1992 Presidential election. His point was that in a difficult economic situation, people would vote for that candidate who offered a plan to make things better.

The Butterfly Effect and Baltimore: It is all on us

Edward Lorenz. You may not know who he is, but chances are you have heard of his contribution: The Butterfly Effect. In popular understanding, it is the notion that the flapping of butterfly wings in a distant place, say India, can cause a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. But like many popular understandings, the actual theory of the Butterfly Effect is not nearly as simple. I have thought of it a lot in these past few weeks of unarmed black men being shot by white police officers. And both in discussions with friends, commentaries on the news, the situation seems to be reduced to simply standing with the police or against the police, as if those were the only two options.

The Passing of a Cardinal

On Friday morning, April 17, Francis Cardinal George, o.m.i., went to his eternal reward. Much will be said about his life in the days ahead, as the Church in Chicago provides the rich services that surround death, and the hope of eternal life. With the death of such a prominent figure of Church life in America, many will write about what they remember and recall. News stories will discuss his successes and failures as a leader. There will be statements made by Church leaders, political leaders and others.

But the passing of any person usually leads to the telling of stories, and I would like to take this occasion to tell of my experiences with Cardinal George, as limited as they were.I will leave the details somewhat vague, since they are really not very important. Suffice to say that I found myself, during my time as president of Fenwick High School in a situation that required a conversation with Cardinal George.

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