Thursday, June 7, 2018

Day 501 – Letter to Middle Class America: Have You Ever Been Truly Hungry?

Middle Class America: Have you ever been truly hungry?

Dear Middle Class America:

Last Friday, as our president prematurely exuberated over his jobs numbers, were you eating a solid breakfast? Did you have a roof over your head? Were your lights on? Was your A/C running? Did you then drive in your reliable car out of your middle class suburb to your middle class job? Did you curse at the traffic? Did you stop for coffee? Did you think about what it was like to work one of those minimum-wage jobs, trying to somehow make ends meet, keep the lights on, and feed your kids?

Did it occur to you that those employment numbers the president tweeted about don’t actually mean that the people working those jobs can afford to pay rent? Or go to the doctor when they’re sick? Or eat?

According to the United Way ALICE project:
Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

Nearly 51 million households [43% of American Households] don't earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone.”

16.1 Million households in our country live in poverty. Another 34.7 million families are “ALICE”: Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed.” They are gainfully employed, playing by the rules, trying to live the American Dream...and yet they don’t earn enough to support a bare-bones household budget.

The growth of our economy shouldn’t be measured by the rise and fall of the stock market. It should be measured by the ability of working Americans to afford their homes, feed their families, and keep them healthy and safe.

So, Middle Class America: as you eat your dinner tonight, flip on the lights, turn up the A/C, and ask your kids about their day...think about what it means to be hungry—really and truly hungry. Think about what it feels like to not be able to feed your kids. Think about what we need to do, as a country, to take care of our working poor.

Because our economy? It’s not working. And it won’t be working until we, as a nation, can afford to feed our families. All of them.


Sharon Murchie

(Originally posted at Letters2Trump.)

Friday, June 1, 2018

The scream becomes a yawn...

(when we are not inspired)

I have a discussion board synthesis essay (and two meaningful comments) due in Blackboard by midnight tonight for my doctoral program.

I am not inspired.

The topic doesn’t inspire me.

The other students’ discussions don’t inspire me.

I have to write this essay.

I am looking around the room at my own students, as they write their practice timed SAT literary analysis essay.

I have my favorite Facebook teacher group (2ndaryELA) pulled up on my phone.

We teachers are all noticing the same thing: our students’ writing is not inspired. They are just phoning it in, day after day. They are passively writing mundane pieces with no voice, no passion, and very little thought. The Facebook group is lamenting the soul-crushing student essay—the one that crushes our teacher souls—the one that we read thousands of every single year.

Why don’t our students care about Paul Bogard’s “Let There Be Dark” essay enough to write passionately (in 50 minutes) about the rhetorical moves he makes?

Why must they crush our souls with their soulless discussion (written in 50 minutes) of the former US President Jimmy Carter’s Foreword to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, A Photographic Journey by Subhankar Banerjee?
They are not inspired.

The topic doesn’t inspire them.

The other students’ discussions don’t inspire them.

They have to write this essay.

Somewhere, in the maelstrom of all of this SAT and AP testing, we have lost our souls and jeopardized theirs.

The Metric lyric echoes in my head.

I desperately want to solve this problem. Find the solution. Touch the souls of my students. Get my own soul back.

But I can’t fix it tonight.

I have a discussion board synthesis essay (and two meaningful comments) due in Blackboard by midnight.

I yawn. I’ll carry on.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Day 474 – Letter to Melania: Please, Let’s Just “Be Better.”

Dear Melania,
Yesterday, speaking as a mother and as First Lady, you unveiled your “Be Best” campaign “to educate children about the many issues they are facing today.” Your speech focused on the “social, emotional, and physical health” of children, and promoted “well-being, social media use, and opioid abuse.” A grammar quick rule (for future reference) is that items in a series should use parallel construction: each item in the series should follow the same pattern. As you can see, your campaign statement promoting well-being is coherent, but promoting social media use is somewhat confusing, and promoting opioid abuse is perhaps counterintuitive. Also, “be best” isn’t an actual sentence in English.
Image from Independent
However, I know what you meant even if it isn’t what you said. So I’ll let the grammar lesson go and focus on your intentions. (And your intentions are good.) But Melania, here’s the thing: we are not ready to be [the] best quite yet. Right now, we need to simply be better.
You spoke of “social and self-awareness, positive relationship skills, and responsible decision-making” and the need to teach our children to “communicate openly with one another and instill positive feelings of mutual respect, compassion, and self-esteem.”
Melania, this is an area where we can truly be better. I might suggest that the White House is an excellent place to start. We can teach our leaders—even our President—how to build positive relationships and communicate with mutual respect and compassion. Instead of belittling, name-calling, mocking, and insulting, let’s be better. Let’s build relationships, not walls. Let’s build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Imagine how much better we could be.
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Day 446 – Letter to Betsy DeVos: We Need to Talk About Standardized Testing

Dear Betsy,
Can I call you Betsy? I feel like I know you. After all, we’re from the same state. I’ve been in buildings with your name on it hundreds of times. I’ve used Amway products; I’ve taught in a charter school. Even though my entire house could fit inside your first floor bathroom, I feel like we should be able to talk woman-to-woman. After all, we want what is best for kids, right? I’m a teacher; you’re the United States Secretary of Education. We are both in it for our students, not for corporate profit. Right?
So, here’s what we need to talk about: the way I just spent my day. You see, I just spent 4 ½ hours proctoring the SAT to my students. After that, they went home. Tomorrow I will spend another 3 hours proctoring the ACT WorkKeys to my students. Then they will go home. And Thursday, I will proctor the rest of the M-Step to my students. And then they will go home.
Image from Mental Floss
Three full days. Three full days where “teaching” means reading an instruction manual on how to successfully fill in bubbles with no stray marks. Three full days where “teaching” means hoping the kids remember to eliminate the wrong answers before they choose the answer that is left so they get a high enough score that our district isn’t in danger of state takeover. Three full days where “learning” means reading incredibly boring passages, answering meaningless and out-of-context multiple choice questions, and writing an essay that serves no academic or career purpose whatsoever. Three full days where “learning” means high levels of anxiety about a gateway test that is used to keep our students out of colleges. Three full days where my students know and I know (and you’d know if you did some research) that the only thing being measured is their own socioeconomic status and the educational level of their moms.
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Today, I was proud to be a teacher. I was proud to watch 3000+ schools participate in a National School Walkout to protest gun violence and to commemorate the victims of school shootings.
Today, I was incredibly proud of our Bath High School students as over 200 of them walked in a silent vigil to remember lives lost from gun violence in our schools. They weren't chatting. They weren't on their phones. They weren't horsing around. Some of them were holding hands. Some of them were carrying signs. And all of them were silent. Reflective. Respectful.
There were tears, including mine.
There is fear, including mine.
These kids don't deserve to be afraid.
These kids don't deserve to be belittled for their desire to go to school in safety.
These kids don't deserve the implication that if they simply "walk up," gun violence will go away, as if these kids somehow deserve school shootings. As if being nice will eliminate school shootings.
These kids deserve to be heard. They are asking for the adults to do something.
Perhaps we could stop telling them what to do and stop talking over them for a minute and simply listen.
Perhaps we could be silent.


Day 417 – Letter to Americans Who Believe that Video Games Cause Mass Shootings

Dear Americans who think video games cause mass shootings,

I know that our country doesn’t always like to believe in science, but it’s time we stop debating this ridiculous myth and start dealing with the actual causal issues instead.
Video games do cause a lot of things. They often cause us to be more isolated; they may make us more aggressive in the short-term. They definitely cause us to waste a lot of time. They sometimes cause us to eat too much and live in our moms’ basements. They may have indirectly caused my divorce. But they do not cause teenage white males to go out and shoot up their local schools.
Let’s conduct a thought experiment.
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Day 388 - Letter to Those Who Have Recently Learned that Someone They Respect Has Been Accused of Terrible Things

At some point in our lives, we will all have to deal with the unfortunate and uncomfortable situation of learning that someone we love and admire or respect has been accused of doing terrible things. For many of us, this moment occurred when someone we admired fell from grace, whether it was Bill Cosby or Louis CK or Al Franken. For others, we’ve had to deal with learning that a parent or loved one has done terrible things. For all of us, it would be timely to learn what to do and what not to do.

As has been his M.O. throughout the last year (and throughout his entire life), President Trump has shown us exactly what NOT to do or say. When discussing disgraced top aide Rob Porter, who is credibly accused of having physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend, President Trump made the following statement:

We wish him well; he worked very hard. We found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well, and it's a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he's also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he's innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent, so you have to talk to him about that, but we absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job when he was at the White House.”
The President then tweeted:
Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

So, as a Public Service Announcement of what NOT to say, we offer the following tutorial...
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.

Monday, February 5, 2018

We Need our Heroes to be Leaders

The rollercoaster of doublethink that MSU students, fans, and alumni are on is extreme, a millenium force of anger and rage and disgust and relief...and we have lost our equilibrium. We are filled with disgust as the details of Larry Nassar’s perversions and assaults fill our newsfeed and airwaves. We celebrate and excuse the loss of control of one of our own fathers, as we sit in full agreement with his actions, although we acknowledge that he was in contempt of court. We withhold judgment, knowing that he represents the horror we can’t even imagine, forgiving him the momentary indiscretion, and raising $32,000.00 in gofundme donations to pay for his non-existent legal fees. These girls are our girls, and we are right there with you, dad. When the judge said, “There is no way that this court is going to issue any type of punishment given the circumstances of this case," we raised our fists in solidarity.

We demanded and celebrated the resignations of Lou Anna Simon and Mark Hollis, and we now recoil in horror at the new appointees and their lack of any experience or ability to help MSU not just rise from the ashes but actually do better and be better. We demand that the trustees, especially tone-deaf Joel Ferguson, step down. We shake our heads as leader after leader just doesn’t get it. We put our MSU gear on the hanger in the back of the closet, hoping that someday we can bring it out again and wear it with pride. We miss our MSU nation; we grieve the glorious illusion that it was truly great.

Our University has let us down. Our leadership did not lead. Our coaches looked the other way. Our doctors supported their own, instead of listening to the young women, who told the truth over and over and over again. Larry Nassar could have been stopped 20 years ago, but the people we trusted to keep our athletes safe instead put our young people in danger. Our adults gave Larry Nassar the benefit of the doubt over and over again. He got his due process so many times, that it was no longer a fact-finding process; it was simply a stamp of approval and support so that he could continue his perversion and continue to assault and abuse those who he vowed to help.

But when our revered coaches are put in the spotlight? We recoil. We demand due process. We doubt the allegations. We point out that the accused deny any wrongdoing. We point out the amazing feats that our coaches have accomplished, the pride and acclaim they have brought, the good, the absolute good that they have done for so many of our young people for so many years. After all, our coaches didn’t abuse anyone. They are not Larry Nassar. The names Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio should never be uttered in the same breath as that monster Larry Nassar.

We don’t even see the cognitive dissonance. We can’t stomach the idea that these men deserve the same scrutiny as those who allowed Larry Nassar to exist and persist.

Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio have earned their positions because they are heroes. They take boys from across the country, and they train them to be highly skilled, intuitive, authentic, conscientious sports stars. They are both parent and idol, disciplinarian and cheerleader, the benevolent warriors that are iconic of our MSU nation.

But if we demand that our leaders lead or step down, we must also demand that our heroes do the same. I have no doubt that Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio are quality men, perhaps even great men. But quality leaders stand up for what is right. They speak out when there is wrongdoing, and then admit when they have done wrong. If MSU is to heal and move forward, Izzo and Dantonio are in the unique position to show us how. They cannot hide. There are thousands, even millions of eyes watching them. We want them to succeed; we want them to be the heroes we believe they are. We want them to be the heroes that we need. But we cannot excuse the fact that there may have been bad things happening on their watch. We cannot pretend that young men on basketball teams and football teams deserve more credibility and support than their alleged victims. We cannot recoil in horror at the fate that befell so many of our young female gymnasts and then shake our finger at ESPN for pointing out that MSU has a sexual assault problem and a credibility problem.

We need our heroes. But more than that, we need our heroes to be credible. We can have empathy for the frustration, distraction, self-doubt, and sadness that our heroes are currently facing. But we also must demand that they step up and face the media...and us. The media is simply doing their job. MSU leaders simply and repeatedly did not do their jobs. Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, what will you do? We need you to be our heroes. We need you to be transparent and honest. We need you to admit to any mistakes or missteps, and we need you to help us navigate this disaster and begin to heal. You may not have signed up for this particular part of your job, but it is the role that you now have been given.

We have to hold our heroes to the same fire that we hold those who we despise. We can only hope that this fire will forge stronger heroes, ones who will authentically and honestly help MSU become the university it should have been and might someday actually be.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Day 358 – Letter to Border Wallers: Let’s Talk About Some Other Great Ways to Spend 18 Billion Dollars!

Dear Border Wallers,
We need to talk.
Because I am a bit concerned. I mean, are you really sure you want to build a border wall? 18.5 billion dollar border wall? Frankly, between you and me, building a giant, ineffective symbol (with windows!) doesn’t seem like the best use of our money. The experts will tell you that “walls did not work in the past and today only work to divert, not prevent, migrant flows—while simultaneously having a grave human cost.” And we have given you all sorts of advice about better ways to spend our money. But, I get it. You’re not really interested in advice or expert or facts. A border wall would look superfly and menacing, and would create the illusion of “security” (or perhaps exclusivity) that you want. You want a wall, and you won’t settle for less.
Photograph from Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
Really? An 
But, listen! I have a better idea! 
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 328 - Letter to Fellow Americans: Alabama Did It!!! Now Get Back to Work.

Dear Fellow Americans,
Roll Tide!
Alabama did it! They turned up in the special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat, and they voted against the alleged child molester and for Democrat Doug Jones. It is okay to take a moment and celebrate; after the hard losses we’ve suffered over the last year, this feels like a chance to catch our breath and smile once again at the sun.
But don’t bask in that Alabama sunshine for too long. Alabama should have been a slam dunk, not a nail biter. No Alabamian in their right mind should have the urge to vote for a grown man who believes that dating a child is okay as long as you have her mother’s permission, a man who believes that getting rid of the constitutional amendments after the 10th Amendment would “eliminate many problems,” a  man who was removed not once but twice from his position as chief justice on the state supreme court because of ethics violations, a man who clearly has no idea how to ride a horse.
And yet, this man somehow earned 68% of the white vote, according to CNN exit polls; he earned 91% of the Republican vote. If it weren’t for the huge turnout by African Americans(who turned out with even more force than they did for the presidential election in 2012), we’d be once again pulling out our hair and rending our garments in rage and disbelief.
So don’t you dare sit back, America...
Read the rest of this post at Letters2Trump.