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A Letter to My Children on Marriage

A Letter to My Children on Marriage
By William W. Doyle, Ph.D.

Dear Children,

You are growing up in a society which treats marriage contemptuously. You will find that most people are cynical about marriage. Margaret Mead said everyone should marry three times:  once to leave home, once to have children, and once for companionship. Mae West cracked that marriage was a great institution but she wasn’t ready for an institution yet. H.D. Mencken opined that a man could be a fool and not know it – unless he was married. Cher complained that some women get all excited about nothing – and then marry him. Micky Rooney advised that you should always marry in the morning; that way, if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted the whole day. People will refer to marriage as Holy Acrimony. A 34 year-old actress, about to marry for the fourth time, professed, “I’m going to keep doing it until I get it right.” At the present time, one out of every two couples who get married will get divorced. Many people don’t even like the gender of the mate they marry: Men fear that women are out to constrain, confine, control them, and rob them of their masculinity. Women view men as unexpressive, brutish, overgrown babies (“I feel like I have an extra child to take care”). Divorce has been easy enough to obtain for enough years now, that there are many children growing up skeptical and wary, that since their parents’ marriage failed, perhaps marriage is a fragile, unworkable concept. It is difficult to find people who have marriages they enjoy. If you subscribe to these “normal” perceptions of marriage you will probably have “normal” marriages….and maybe divorces of your own. As your father, I hope I can impart a different legacy of abnormal ideas about marriage.

Pay heed to the advice, “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” The quality of the relationship you have with yourself will determine the quality of your relationship with your spouse. You must develop these capacities – to soothe yourself in the face of life’s paradoxes and in the face of your own or your partner’s anxieties, to nurture yourself because you know you deserve to be treated well; to validate yourself rather than expecting others to make you feel worthy. Do not turn your self or your esteem over to anyone else to define. Then it wouldn’t be self-esteem. We all select mates who affirm what we already believe about ourselves so it behooves you to learn to “Love thy-self.”

When you can soothe, nurture, validate, and love yourself, you will be standing on your own two feet emotionally. When you have the balance like this you can lean into your partner and know that you will never give up your stability; and you will be confident that no partner could lean so excessively on you as to push you off balance. Do not think of yourself as a half in search of a “better half” or yin in quest of yang. Never enter marriage looking for a mate to prop you up or make you complete. Marriage is not a Siamese twin relationship. You are not joined at the brain so you will not think alike. You are not joined at the heart, so you will not feel the same way. Nor are you joined at the hip: thus you will not behave similarly. When it comes to marriage, two halves do not make a whole. Two wholes comprise a marriage.

Please do not let anyone who needs you marry you. Need arises out of weakness and emptiness. These traits will not be tolerated well, or for long. Feeling desired is glorious, but we can not know we are desired when we know a partner needs us. Nor can you feel desirous toward a mate you need. Indeed, you would be likely to feel resentful because of the helplessness and dependency you feel in relation to a needed mate.

Develop a hearty disrespect for clichés like “Love conquers all”, and “With love, all things are possible.” Loving is easy. It is a mysterious and passive emotion. Nobody can teach you how to do it, how to kill it off, or how to regain it if you cease to feel it. But you can, and you had better, teach yourself the skills of marriage like maintaining (liking, soothing, nurturing, validating) yourself in physical and emotional proximity to your partner; changing the person you can change (yourself, and only yourself) instead of laboring to change your mate; getting along with in-laws; solving problems; developing a good sexual-affectionate relationship.

Know that the common wisdom, that sex is a natural function, is a shallow and unhelpful truth. Only the drive to reproduce is a natural function. If you expect the kind of eroticism that packs a wallop, the kind that few people attain, then accept that good sex is an acquired taste and a developed habit. Read about it, think about it, discuss it, and experiment with it throughout your lives. Do not wait until you experience no anxiety to introduce novelty into lovemaking. Non-anxious sex will grow boring.

If you have children you will obviously become a family. Do not stop being a couple. Your marriage will be the foundation for the family and, as such, will determine the strength or weakness of your family. Your children will learn their three most important roles – gender role, spousal role, parent role – from observing your interactions as married people. Nurture the marriage within the family and preserve boundaries around your couple.

From people you know and all the media that barrage you, you will be told that marriage is a problem to be solved, some kind of ordeal to be endured; that it is fragile; that is brings out the worst in people; that it is, at best, tolerable. Even the standard wedding ceremony refers to marriage “for better or for worse.” This overlooks the incredible potential of marriage. How about marriage “for the best?”  Though I feel like a voice in the wilderness, I want you to know that marriage is a fine people-growing machine – fun, vital, surprising, exhilarating. It appreciates in value and return as it ages.

And if you craft it well you will know a powerful ache in your heart at the thought of death – yours or your spouse’s. This is the kind of exquisite and enriching pain I wish for you, for it will mean you will have succeeded elegantly at marriage.

Lovingly,

Dad

Found on tpsvp.com

What is Finlands education system doing right?

What is Finlands education system doing right?

Inspiring article by Jodi Grant on After School Alliance about Finlands world leading education system. It goes against the standard idea of what education should be. They focus on the importance of play, choicem there are no private schools, tough teacher selection process and little testing. And they have one of the best education systems in the world. Amazing!

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What is Finland Really Doing Right?

By Jodi Grant

This post was co-written by our Excutive Director Jodi Grant and STEM Policy Director Anita Krishnamurthi.

Last month we were delighted to be invited to attend a breakfast at the Finnish Embassy featuring Dr. Pali Sahlberg, the director of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation in Helsinki; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president on education.  Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss moderated the panel.

Finland has been receiving a flurry of attention from education stakeholders and reformers for consistently standing out as one of the strongest school systems in the world.   We were eager to hear what the Finns thought was the key to their success.

Dr. Sahlberg began by saying that Finland never set out to be the best, they just wanted to improve and do better by their children.  This benchmark comes from a philosophically different place than the international competition that drives most of our debate on this issue.  He proceeded to describe the other social issues Finland has worked on to ensure children and youth have a fair shot: their child poverty rate is 4 percent, compared to 22 percent in the United States; they are ranked first in child health and well-being while the United States is ranked 29th; and, their income inequality is also much lower.  He also stressed that equity played a major role in their re-think—they determined that the notion of private schools where people can opt out of the system and private funding of education is not compatible with an equitable system.  Consequently, there are no privately funded schools in Finland.  Finland also boasts an incredibly selective teacher recruitment and training process.  Only 5 percent of applicants are selected for a master’s program in education, which is required to become a teacher.

As the U.S. debates how long our school days should be, Finland offers a sobering example of why that cannot be the only solution.  Children in Finland do not start school until they are 7 because the Finns believe that learning to play is extremely important—it teaches children how to get along with each other, to pay attention and focus, and to be imaginative—all qualities they think are essential to child and youth development.  The country has one of the shortest school days around, teachers give minimal homework and testing is rare. They strongly believe that you test a small sample of schools to see how well a model is working and you ask the teachers to assess how the students are doing.  One of the points Dr. Sahlberg made that really resonated was “Accountability is what is left when responsibility is taken away.”

The Finns strongly believe that children need to have opportunities outside of school and academics to develop into healthy, well-adjusted adults.  Seventy percent of their students participate in activities run by NGOs that offer sports, music, art and other enrichment activities (and he expressed grave concern that this number was not higher!).  They fully believe that these activities have merit on their own and should be separate from the school day—he actually mentioned the words “youth development” several times!  Sadly, in the United States less than 20 percent of our children are in afterschool programs, and youth development is not valued as highly as it is in Finland.  Afterschool programs are under constant pressure to demonstrate how they impact academic success of students.

Dr. Sahlberg spoke at length about the difference between Finland’s approach and that of the Global Education Reform Movement, which he abbreviates to “GERM.”

Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) FINLAND
Competition Collaboration
Standardization Individualization
School Choice Equity—all schools receive public funding and legislation forces them to collaborate. They don’t compete against one another
Test-Based Accountability Trust-Based Professionalism
Dr. Sahlberg stressed that the U.S. and many other countries are “infected” by the GERM model while Finland has moved to eradicate the GERMs.  He gave us five lessons that he thought the United States could learn from Finland:
  1. More collaboration, less competition
  2. More trust-based responsibility—less test-based accountability
  3. More pedagogy, less technology
  4. More equity, less privatization
  5. More professionalism, less social experimentation
The description of the Department of Education’s signature reform, Race to the Top, that followed Dr. Sahlberg’s presentation strikingly illustrated how GERM-ridden we are, with a focus on high-stakes testing and steep penalties for schools and teachers whose students do not perform well on these tests.  Afterschool programs are not immune, as they are often only considered valid if they can improve test scorers rather than being evaluated on a host of measures that show growth of the whole child.  Sadly there was no real dialogue about the presentations and how we might incorporate the best practices of the holistic Finnish model into our education reform efforts.

We left the breakfast feeling both elated and depressed.  Finland shows what is possible—they set out to improve a failing system and have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  There are clearly lessons from Finland that support all the great things our afterschool programs are providing to American students in the hours after school.  There are clearly lessons learned from Finland that can help us demonstrate the value of the informal nature of the afterschool space.  There are clearly multiple ways to measure our students’ success that do not rely on test scores.  But there are also clearly some big barriers and challenges ahead and for now none of the real lessons from Finland are in policy maker’s textbooks.