I am not meant to be an ideologue. I make a poor leader, too, I think. Criticism gets to me. It sits in my pores and hangs on my shoulders, and people around me notice. I am plagued with the ability to see the reason in even the most ignorant of arguments. And the worst part is that most arguments aren’t ignorant. Most arguments are made by reasonable, intelligent people.

It’s not that I don’t think my arguments aren’t valid. I know they are. I know they are important. But I am one kid. I am 21-years-old. Most of the issues I think are important, I’ve only been thinking about for five years tops. And for the first two or three years of that, I thought Atlas Shrugged was the fifth Gospel. So, obviously, I’ve been misguided before.

I tend to ignore absolutes. If someone says they are “for charter schools,” I usually take that to mean that they have seen charter schools do good things, not that they think that charter schools are good 100% of the time. The latter would be an indefensible position.

There is too much truth in both sides of any argument that we should never completely write-off an opposing side.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been dragged firmly into the ed reform debate. Not the childish one that goes on at most college campuses where people honestly don’t know that there is an achievement gap, but the real one. The one where people have opposing ideas about how to close that gap.

Mostly this has made me want to tear my hair out. I’m not a debater. It’s not in my blood.

Because here’s the thing: both sides have legitimate truths. The typical TFA/SFER/DFER/Students First angle is that advocating for student and parent choice is the quickest way of ensuring that a lot of students (much more than are being served now) can receive excellent educations. The typical Ravitch/teacher union/anti-reform angle is that choice isn’t the best way long-term of ensuring an equal education for all. Both of these ideas are probably right. Charter schools aren’t going to solve the problems of classism and racism in this country unless we pair them with intense laws concerning integration and maybe also outlaw private schools altogether. And if we are going to go the charter route, we should probably also start thinking seriously about if we want for-profit schools. Admittedly, that does sound a little scary.

The design of neighborhood schools, though, is probably outdated. The middle class isn’t staying in one place anymore. The lower class is stuck in cities and rural areas. So while the middle class can move to good school districts and make choice that way, the lower class doesn’t have that benefit. In Ohio, the way we fund schools has been ruled unconstitutional on several separate occasions. Funding by income tax DOES NOT provide an equal education for everyone.

I would love to see a completely socialized education system that works in the US. But that’s probably a long ways from happening. We don’t like socialism in this country for various reasons. And even if we got rid of charters and parochial schools, we would still have to deal with the fact that our upper class parents were sending their children to private schools.

Mostly, I feel defeated. I feel like I’m up against a rock and a hard place. I’m not a politician or a millionaire. I can’t walk into my Statehouse and say, “Hey, instead of worrying about charter schools today, let’s start thinking up ways that we can free teachers and administrators in traditional public schools to replicate some of the things that have made some charters so successful.”

I feel defeated because I know that there are bad teachers, and I know there needs to be an objective way to identify them, but I also know that standardized testing is problematic.

I feel defeated because I suspect that there are many Republicans who support ed reform because it might mean union busting, and I don’t want union busting.

I feel defeated because while we argue about what’s the best way to fix the education system, even more students drop out, get a bad education, and are incarcerated.

My Fisher King Wound

There is a Chinese story about fish. It begins with fish overhearing two fishermen talking about water. The fish decides to quest in order to find this mysterious substance. After many years he comes back to his fish friends who ask him if he found it. And he says “Yes, but you wouldn’t believe what I found.”

I found a version of this story in a book called He by the psychologist Robert Johnson. Johnson is a Jungian psychologist and his book is all about how the myth of the Holy Grail can be used to explain male psychology. He theorizes that every man is like the Fisher King. The Fisher King, according to Arthurian legend, suffers from a wound that cannot be healed except by drinking from the Grail. He is unable to drink from it, though. In such a condition, he must wait for an “idiot fool” to come and ask the question that will save him – “Whom does the Grail serve?” For Johnson, every man has a Fisher King wound. We all have something that is broken that we are seeking to fix.

I know that I have a Fisher King wound. Mine is a sense of inadequacy. I seek others’ approval. I want to feel loved and needed. And because I cling to this wound so hard, I make it impossible for others to love and need me.

A lot of traditions have a name for this wound. Christianity has the concept of original sin or of sin, more generally. Most of my struggles with sin come out of this wound, I think. For example, I struggle with pride because I think if I put on enough of a confident show, people will like me better.

I am often convinced that if I just searched harder for love, happiness, or God that I will find what I seek. But there is no searching. The fish does not need to search for water. He is in water. The answer comes when we approach it from the perspective of the idiot fool. If we ask, more than likely, we will see that the answer has been before us all along. We do not need to search for love/happiness/God; we are in it.

A Story About a Bagel from Which You Can Draw Your Own Moral

The other day, I burnt my morning bagel.

When I moved into my apartment a couple of months ago, I brought along this pretty janky toaster. It’s old school. Back then, when I had just moved in, I burnt things regularly. There was a learning curve. I had to learn the proper settings and techniques to make my bagels, Pop-tarts and English muffins the perfect golden brown.

Back then, I didn’t mind burning things so much. It meant that I was learning. I was getting better at the whole toasting business. I was on my way to a post-burnt society.

The other day, I burnt my morning bagel.

I was devastated. This burnt bagel served no purpose! I knew the mistake I had made. I couldn’t really learn from it. It was a lesson I had already learned. My biggest regret was not taking a picture of it before I threw it away so I could post it here.

I begrudgingly put another bagel in the toaster. And I watched over it diligently, not wanting to make the same useless mistake twice.

The other day, I made the most perfect bagel ever.