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The holiday that scares adults
by Lenore Skenazy
Oct 21, 2017 | 155 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

"Trick or treat! Trick or treat! Give us something lethal to eat!"

That's not the actual rhyme, but from all the warnings about Halloween, you just might think it was. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics is still insisting that "a responsible adult should closely examine all treats."

But why? Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, first put a stake through the poison-candy rumor all the way back in 1985, when he did a study of newspapers dating back to 1958, looking for "child poisoned by Halloween candy" news stories.

He found none -- because there was none. One time, a boy in Texas did die because of poisoned Pixy Stix, but cops quickly discovered that his own dad, $100,000 in debt, had just taken out a life insurance policy on him. Dad was dispatched to that haunted house in the sky (or down below). Yet we still use this fear of neighbors as psychopaths as an excuse to curtail our kids' Halloween fun.

We trot out plenty of other threadbare fears, too. Last week, Patch reminded its readers of a girl murdered in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, by a man later referred to as the Halloween Killer. That crime was in 1973 -- 44 years ago. Yet that single sad story is the excuse Patch gives for publishing maps of the homes of men, women and children on the sex offender registry.

That may sound like a public service. But it's actually like telling people never to go to Manhattan because once there was a terrorist attack there. When Johns Hopkins University professor Elizabeth Letourneau did a study of sex crimes on Halloween, she was shocked to find that not only is there no bump in the numbers on Halloween but also the day is actually remarkably low in crimes against kids. In fact, she said, "we thought about calling it 'Halloween: The Safest Day of the Year.'"

And then there are the fears spread simply by the way Halloween is morphing from child holiday into supervision on steroids. Kids trooping door to door seems less and less normal as communities, churches and schools sponsor chaperoned parties and "trunk-or-treating" events. That's when parents park their cars in a circle and open up the trunks, which are decorated and filled with candy. Nothing wrong with that new tradition, except that it is edging out the far older one of kids walking around their neighborhood.

Trunk-or-treating is a perfect example of modern-day childhood. We have taken away all the independence of the most liberating holiday of the year and replaced it with something that grown-ups may feel is just as good -- plenty of candy -- even though so many thrilling elements are gone: the bravery kids get when they knock at the cobwebbed house, the confidence they get from being trusted to go out at night, the triumph they feel returning home with the fruits of their labor, and the memories they make the way most of us did, goofing around without a parent always watching.

That's a lot to trade for a trunk of easily accessed candy.

Holidays always evolve, of course. Sleighs evolve into SUVs; taffy apples evolve into fun-size Snickers. (Aren't all Snickers fun?) But trick-or-treating did not just evolve into a riot of overprotection. That is a decision adults have made, fueled by the forces insisting that our very safe kids are not safe enough to have the kind of fun and freedom we did.

Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog "Free-Range Kids" and a hilarious keynote speaker at conferences, companies and schools. Run out and get her book "Has the World Gone Skenazy?"

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The cognitive dissonance presidency
by Rich Lowry
Oct 21, 2017 | 46 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, President Donald Trump has a position on the Lamar Alexander/Patty Murray health care deal, and if you don't like it, he has another one.

Within hours, Trump veered wildly on the bipartisan compromise on Obamacare that the Tennessee Republican and the Washington Democrat forged at his personal urging. At times supportive, noncommittal and opposed, Trump finally came out against, his final answer until further notice.

It isn't unusual for a politician to wobble when confronted with a nettlesome issue or a shifting political environment. "To live is to maneuver," said the great 20th-century conservative Whittaker Chambers. It's downright weird, though, for a president to rapidly switch sides on something he gave every indication that he wanted.

The Trump administration has formidable obstacles in the way of substantive success -- a slender Senate majority, lack of staffing, an unrelenting opposition -- but none looms quite as large as the fact that Trump himself has no idea how he wants to govern.

Trump's decision to end Obamacare's cost-sharing reduction payments made sense as a political strategy only if he wanted to pressure congressional Republicans into a bipartisan deal. The termination of the payments wasn't going to discomfit the Democrats, who could scream "sabotage" and blame Trump and Republicans for every failing of Obamacare going forward. It was nervous Republicans who were going to feel compelled to remove the political heat by propping up Obamacare.

It seemed that this is precisely what Trump wanted. The president initially took credit for forcing Republicans and Democrats to talk about a health care deal. Yet he turned around and opposed the deal, saying he couldn't support "bailing out" insurance companies.

Trump can't decide who he wants to be. As a matter of substance (malleable and nonideological) and self-image (the ultimate deal-maker), he should be with Republican moderates. This is the Trump who encourages Lamar Alexander to get together with Patty Murray, and talks a DACA deal with Chuck and Nancy.

As a matter of affect (unapologetically outrageous) and sensibility (thoroughly anti-establishment), he should be with the House Freedom Caucus. This is the Trump who pulls the plug on CSR payments over the advice of more cautious advisers and releases immigration principles that will never be realized in any bipartisan agreement.

Which of these Trumps predominates depends on which meeting the president happens to be in.

At the moment, pro-Trump operatives want to go out and kill elected Republicans who don't support the Trump agenda, even though it's vague what exactly that is and it's subject to constant change. Alexander is as sensibly establishment as GOP senators come, and thought he was not just supporting the Trump agenda, but doing the president's bidding. Is he a friend, or an enemy, or a befuddled would-be ally?

In terms of internal Republican politics, if nothing else, it suits Trump to be up for grabs. Both major factions within the party are vying for his affections. Steve Bannon wants to persuade the president to support a crusade on behalf of True Trumpism(TM); Mitch McConnell wants the president to steer clear of dubious candidates and show a little discipline.

Trump is happy to keep a foot in each camp. He can say nice things about Bannon but suggest he's not on board with everything he's doing, while at the same time touting his great relationship with McConnell, yet prodding him on Twitter whenever he feels like it.

Trump's approach keeps everyone guessing and keeps him from getting pinned down, but it is no way to lead a party. This is why Trump's strong suit is things he can do on his own, namely culture-war battles, fights with the news media and other critics, and executive actions. These don't involve many moving parts and don't require much constancy.

For Trump, very little is ever truly ruled out or ruled in, and before long, a bipartisan health care deal will surely again strike his fancy.

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Please, don’t deny the children
by Ray Mosby
Oct 21, 2017 | 63 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print

“I’m not understanding really, what the big controversy is.”—Biloxi School District Supt. Arthur McMillan.

ROLLING FORK — Well, let me educate a superintendent of education.

In 1960, a very nice, quintessentially Southern lady named Harper Lee published what I believe to be one of the finest novels ever written about anything, and the finest novel ever written about the early 20th Century South. After her editor nixed two other would be titles, they both settled upon “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

It is a masterpiece. I have read it more than 20 times.

It won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

Two years later, it was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck.

It won the Academy Award for “Best Motion Picture.” I have seen it more times than I can count.

Last week some knuckleheads within the administration of the Biloxi School District pulled it from the 8th grade curriculum.

This, they did, according to a spokesman for the school district’s board, because, “There were complaints about it. There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable, and we can teach the same lesson with other books.”

And that, Mr. School Board Spokesman, is unadulterated nonsense.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was written to make people feel uncomfortable, you twit. And you cannot “teach the same lesson with other books,” because there is no other book that teaches the lessons to be learned from “To Kill a Mockingbird” with the same eloquence and power and painfully compelling honesty as does it.

That’s why it is universally recognized as the work of literary treasure that it is.

Yes, the book has “the N word” in it. And guess what? The “N word,” unfortunate as we might now consider it to be, was used just a whole lot in the 1930’s South and thereafter, both in the fictional Alabama town where it is set and in the real Biloxi, Mississippi.

The “N word” was emblematic of the injustice, racial inequity, social ills and ignorance that Harper Lee forced all the rest of America to look at, up close and personal, through the eyes of her childhood and the voice of her child narrator. And the rest of America winced, and wanted to look away but could not because of the righteousness of this classic work’s prose.

Yes, “To Kill a Mockingbird” makes you feel uncomfortable. It made this entire nation feel uncomfortable, and thank God, for it.

“Atticus was right,” the semi-autobiographical Miss Lee wrote of her semi-autobiographical father. “One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.”

Do we suddenly think that the 8th grade students in Biloxi no longer need to learn that lesson? Every kid in every school district in every state in this union of ours needs to learn that lesson, and as is made more painfully obvious every day, so do one whole hell of a lot of their parents and grandparents.

A black man wrongfully charged with raping a white woman and the subsequent miscarriage of justice vested upon him for no other reason than his race? Do you think that message might have just a little bit of relevance today?

That makes us “uncomfortable,” I will grant you, but as much as we would like to think of such in terms of “another time,” we cannot with any semblance of honesty when we read the headlines of today.

And what about courage? What about simply doing the right thing even when you know there is nothing in it for you? Think that might be something our children need to read about? Is that a life lesson we would want them to learn?

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus Finch (consistently voted in polls as peoples’ most admired fictional character) tells his little girl: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

Atticus Finch tells his children that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, because that mockingbird exists solely to bring us beauty and joy in our lives. And through the words of its author, woven into the pages of this most marvelous book, that mockingbird becomes metaphor for other things, other people in the lives of its characters and hopefully in the lives of those who read about them.

All of this, then to say to Mr. McMillan and his staff: Don’t stop teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Don’t deny the lessons to be found within it for a generation of school children. Because that is educational malpractice.

And as Atticus Finch’s very perceptive daughter says to him, “Well, It’d be sort of like shooting a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.

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Kossuth's Zack Mitchell (10) breaks free from the Belmont defense during last night's 42-21 Aggie win at Larry B Mitchell Stadium. Mitchell scored three times and Matthew Bobo accounted for three touchdowns as Kossuth moves to 7-3 heading into next Friday's regular season finale at Alcorn Central. The Aggies will finish second in Division 1-3A and will host a first-round playoff game in two weeks.
Kossuth's Zack Mitchell (10) breaks free from the Belmont defense during last night's 42-21 Aggie win at Larry B Mitchell Stadium. Mitchell scored three times and Matthew Bobo accounted for three touchdowns as Kossuth moves to 7-3 heading into next Friday's regular season finale at Alcorn Central. The Aggies will finish second in Division 1-3A and will host a first-round playoff game in two weeks.
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Kossuth holds off Belmont for Senior Night victory
Oct 21, 2017 | 127 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kossuth's Zack Mitchell (10) breaks free from the Belmont defense during last night's 42-21 Aggie win at Larry B Mitchell Stadium. Mitchell scored three times and Matthew Bobo accounted for three touchdowns as Kossuth moves to 7-3 heading into next Friday's regular season finale at Alcorn Central. The Aggies will finish second in Division 1-3A and will host a first-round playoff game in two weeks.
Kossuth's Zack Mitchell (10) breaks free from the Belmont defense during last night's 42-21 Aggie win at Larry B Mitchell Stadium. Mitchell scored three times and Matthew Bobo accounted for three touchdowns as Kossuth moves to 7-3 heading into next Friday's regular season finale at Alcorn Central. The Aggies will finish second in Division 1-3A and will host a first-round playoff game in two weeks.
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