Maisie the Writer

Just a girl blogging about her life…


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The American Education System

Lately, I have been thinking critically about many things, but one thing that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is school and how it functions. I have mostly been questioning if sticking a group of children around the same age in a small building for six and a half hours every weekday and sending them home with two to three hours of additional work to be completed by the next day is the most effective way to teach children. Why is there such an emphasis on this particular model of education in this society? How do people think it’s healthy to stick children in an unnatural environment to learn skills they will likely never use in their adult lives?

To answer those questions, one must first investigate the origins of the American education system. It emerged about 150 years ago during the Industrial Revolution. The initial goal of schools was to educate children to become effective factory workers. The skill set required of a typical factory worker was simple: the ability to do something when someone tells you to do it without questioning what you have to do. To be an effective factory worker, you had to mold yourself into whatever your boss needed you to be at that moment in time. The best way to reinforce that skill is to transform entire generations from creatively-thinking individuals into a homogenized mass of human bodies, and the forefathers of modern education devised a plan for this transformation that took the form of a school. The fascinating thing is that even though the Industrial Revolution has been over for more than a century, schools have fundamentally remained the same. Everything else in our society, from technology to the arts, has changed except for schools.

The most fascinating thing about school is that many children do not effectively function in it as it functions today. Most children are able to adapt to the groupthink expected of them pretty easily, but there are several children who simply do not have that ability. These children often possess far more creative, bright minds than their average peers. Many of the world’s most prominent scientists and artists were placed in this category of “different” as schoolchildren. Nonetheless, schools view children who are different as somehow broken, rather than uniquely gifted. In reality, it is these “different” children who will change the world for the better simply by continuing to be themselves and refusing to accept the status quo.

A significant problem that stems from schools labeling certain children as “less than” their peers is bullying. If adults tell children that they all need to be the same and that people who are different are somehow less worthy, children will follow that message and act accordingly. The “normal” children will antagonize those that do not follow “the rules” of being the same as everyone else, and the “different” children will feel ashamed of their incredible strengths and talents.

The notion that everyone in the world must know all of the same information and function in the exact same way is detrimental to society because it is simply not true. Not everyone is meant to do the same thing in life. If children with different minds continue to be suppressed by the American education system, the cure to cancer, next great masterpiece or revolutionary invention might never materialize. Every person is born into the world with unique talents and gifts, and if schools continue to deny children who cannot mold themselves into carbon copies of their peers the opportunity to explore their unique gifts, the world will suffer.


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Losing My Grandpa

I was so unbelievably tired on Wednesday morning. I slept in for a few minutes, and then my dad came into my room to turn off my alarm clock.

That’s strange, I thought. Dad never comes into my room to wake me up.

“Sweetie, Grandpa died earlier this morning.”

I had been expecting to hear this news at some point this week. Grandpa had been slowly getting weaker every day for the past few months, and on Monday, the doctors told my dad that Grandpa would probably die at some point within this week. Nevertheless, the news hit me like a pile of bricks. My mind became fuzzy. I couldn’t understand. I had just seen Grandpa two weeks ago. He was too weak to engage in conversation, but I didn’t realize that it would be the last time I ever saw him.

The visit had been uneventful. My brother and I hadn’t seen Grandpa since winter break, so we were excited to see him. Dad had gone to New Jersey alone almost every weekend since Grandpa was first admitted to the hospital. He was diagnosed with cancer, but had a variety of other health problems that kept him bouncing between the assisted-living facility where he normally lived, the local hospital, and the rehab facility for a long time.

My brother and I entered the communal dining hall at the rehab facility Grandpa was currently staying in. He was wearing a brown T-shirt that said “My favorite people call me Grandpa,” faded blue pajama pants, and brown slippers. He smiled when he saw us coming over to him.

“Hi, sweetie pies,” Grandpa said. “How are you?”

“Good,” my brother and I answered.

“How are you?” I asked Grandpa.

“Eh, a little better,” Grandpa responded.

“Do you want me to take your food to your room so you can spend time with your family?” A nurse who was standing nearby asked Grandpa.

“Sure,” Grandpa said.

“Why don’t you wheel Grandpa to his room?” Dad asked me. My mom had taken my brother off to use the bathroom. I was surprised at how easily Grandpa’s wheelchair glided along the crimson-carpeted hallway of the rehab facility without much effort on my part. When we got to his room, I wheeled him next to a table so that he could eat his lunch. However, he showed no desire to eat anything.

“Grandpa, you have to eat,” I said.

“I’m not hungry,” he answered.

“Dad, do you want me to cut up the chicken for you?” My dad asked.

“Sure,” Grandpa answered. After my dad finished slicing the meat, Grandpa still ate nothing. I recalled my dad saying that he was refusing to eat or drink anything other than the protein shakes that Grandpa’s wife had told the nurses to give him. My family had gotten him some coffee and pastries from a bakery with a sign in their window that read, “Voted Best Bakery in Bergen County,” both of which he consumed eagerly. After about 30 minutes of my family and me chatting with Grandpa, his eyelids started to droop closed and he said that he was tired, so I told the nurse who passed by to get someone to put Grandpa into bed.

Fifteen minutes had elapsed, and still nobody came. I went to the nurses’ station at the end of the hallway.

“Hi, can you please send a nurse to room 212 to put my grandfather into his bed?” I asked one of the nurses.

“Really? Marty just woke up less than an hour ago, but okay,” the nurse said. “It’ll be a few minutes.”

“I will stay right here until someone comes,” I said. As much as I wanted to spend time with Grandpa, he looked miserably exhausted. I was kind of mad at the nurses for not coming right away.

We sat with Grandpa in his room for about an hour after two nurses came into his room and placed him gingerly into his bed. When it was time to leave, I walked over to Grandpa’s bedside to say goodbye. His nightstand was covered with “get well soon” cards from all of his grandchildren.

“Be good to yourself,” Grandpa whispered to me.

“I will, Grandpa,” I answered. “I love you.”

***

I decided to take the day off from school. Luckily, my teachers understood and said that I needn’t worry about schoolwork until I returned. I spent the entire morning and early afternoon scouring my house for pictures of Grandpa and used an unopened scrapbooking kit I had received for my birthday a few years ago to compile all of the pictures. We drove down to New Jersey at 3 p.m. that afternoon with my other grandparents trailing behind us in their car. We all got to my Grandma’s house at around 9 p.m. and had some tea and snacks (Grandma and Grandpa got divorced when my father was a kid and only kept in contact because they had joint custody over my father and uncle. I had only ever seen them in the same room at my cousin Max’s bris and my bat mitzvah). I then took a shower and went to bed.

The next morning was Grandpa’s funeral. Gramps, my mom’s father and a retired rabbi, would be officiating the ceremony. I wore a black dress, a black sweater, black tights, black socks, and black shoes. The only reason I wore a pink headband was that I couldn’t find my black one. I felt so guilty for wearing something that wasn’t the color of my soul at that moment.

The grief didn’t hit me until I walked into the main building of the cemetery and saw my Aunt Marilyn, who was Grandpa’s older sister. As I gave her a hug, tears started pouring out of my eyes. I then hugged some of my other relatives. The funeral took place on a cold, rainy Thursday morning.

All of my relatives drove their cars in a line behind the hearse through the winding roads of the cemetery. We couldn’t have been driving at more than 5 miles per hour. When we arrived at my family’s plot of land, there was a pile of earth with four shovels in it. At Jewish funerals, the mourners actually dig the grave of the deceased. Shoveling dirt into a loved one’s grave is considered one of the greatest acts of lovingkindness one can do.

Gramps said a few prayers in English and Hebrew before opening up the floor for people to share memories. The rain started pouring down even more heavily. As I listened to my relatives speak about my grandfather, I couldn’t help but cry harder than I ever had in my life.

Mom tapped my shoulder. “Maisie, do you have anything to say about Grandpa?”

“Just that I loved him, I miss him, and I can’t believe he’s gone,” I choked out between sobs. I began to feel the torrential downpour soak through my socks. I shoveled a few scoops of earth into Grandpa’s grave, but I was crying so hard that I had to stop. The thud of each mound of dirt hitting Grandpa’s wooden coffin emphasized the finality of his death. He’s really gone now. He was here, and now he’s in the ground.

My relatives and family friends tried to console me, but my mom sensed that it was getting to be too much and told me that I could sit in the car with my brother. I was shivering and sopping wet. A few minutes later, my parents came into the car and we drove to my aunt and uncle’s house in New York (the state, not the city) for the meal of condolence.

When we got to my aunt and uncle’s house, I greeted my relatives and immediately took off my wet shoes and socks. I was cold, so my cousin Hana lent me her sweater. I sat with my cousins for a while and ate and talked about school. Throughout the afternoon and evening, so many people poured in and out of the house to offer their condolences, including some of my mother’s closest friends and their kids.

Although it will be a long time until I can truly be okay again, the fact that so many people came to the meal of condolence made me feel a lot better about the whole situation. Grandpa’s death may be an awful situation, but at least I don’t have to suffer through it alone. My family and friends will be right there beside me the whole time.


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Maisie’s Adventures in Winter Wonderland

This weekend was one of the craziest weekends of my life. After having Thursday and Friday off from school due to a blizzard, we drove down to New York (the state, not the city) on Saturday because my dad had planned my grandpa’s birthday party for Sunday.

Before hitting the road on Saturday morning, Mom read the news report and told Dad that it was a bad idea to drive to New York this weekend because there was a winter storm warning in place for all of New England. One thing you should know about Dad is that he is one of the most stubborn people you will ever meet in your life, second only to Grandpa. Dad is a lawyer by training, and although he doesn’t argue in court, he can get his way in any situation you throw at him. From the beginning, Mom did not stand a chance against Dad. It was his way or the highway, except in this case, his way actually involved a highway, so that metaphor did not make sense there.

After an hour of arguing, Mom finally gave into Dad and we had a rather uneventful drive until we reached central Connecticut. While we were in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot getting ready to go back on the road after a pit stop, Dad’s stepmother called and told him that Grandpa was sick. Although that meant that Grandpa’s birthday party was probably off, Dad decided to keep going because we were already halfway to my aunt and uncle’s house in New York and he thought that we could still have Grandpa’s birthday party.

We got to my aunt and uncle’s house in New York after about 2 more hours of driving. At this point, Dad still did not want to call off Grandpa’s party, but my Auntie Michelle said that there was no way that our relatives from Philadelphia would drive up to New Jersey in a snowstorm and said that we had to cancel the party. Just then, Dad got another call from his stepmom and found out that Grandpa had to go to the hospital. Dad decided that we would stay overnight and leave the next morning.

As if the events of Saturday weren’t outrageous enough, Sunday’s forecast included another winter storm warning, and I woke up to see more intense snowfall than I had seen when school was cancelled on Thursday.

“Brad, we are not driving home in this weather!” Mom said.

“You probably shouldn’t drive back to Massachusetts in this weather,” Auntie Michelle said. Nonetheless, we packed our bags and got in the car. Dad promised that he would drive slowly and exercise caution. Mom had me put on the Hamilton soundtrack to ease her fear of a potential accident.

When we crossed over the Connecticut border, the windshield was getting too cloudy to see out of. Dad made out the faint outline of an exit sign, and we pulled over to wipe off the windshield. At this point, Mom was absolutely terrified. The snow was so heavy and the windshield so cloudy that we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of us. I knew it was time to call in the reinforcements, my grandmothers. I texted Granny and Grandma and told them that my father was insisting upon driving in the middle of a freak snowstorm. Granny called me and asked where we were.

“We’re in Connecticut,” I answered.

“You’ll be fine, just keep going,” Granny said.

“That was no help whatsoever. Love you!” I said and hung up the phone.

I knew that I had to seek out other reinforcements. We were inside a Panera, so I told the people behind the counter about our current predicament. They said it wasn’t safe to drive back to Massachusetts. Mom asked a random guy his opinion. The guy, whose name was Josh, turned out to be a professional snowplow driver.

“What kind of car do you guys drive?” Josh asked.

“Subaru,” I answered.

“You’ll be fine. The roads tend to get clearer outside of Hartford,” Josh said.

Mom was still apprehensive, but at this point, Dad was getting the car ready to go. We had no choice but to follow Dad’s lead. Lo and behold, keeping a steady pace of 35 miles per hour, about half our normal highway driving speed, we got back to Massachusetts safely.

My favorite moment from the drive home was when we stopped at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant to use the bathroom. My family, being snobby Northerners, took the opportunity to mock everything in the restaurant. There was a jukebox-like machine that let you select songs to play in the restaurant, and my little brother selected about 10 or 15 Blake Shelton songs, so for the next half an hour, the only music playing in the restaurant would be a continuous stream of Blake’s hits. The poor patrons and waitstaff will never know what hit them!


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Trump Presidency–it hasn’t even been a month and I need it to end!

DISCLAIMER: This article is extremely unpolished as I a) am very angry about the current political climate and b) desperately needed to throw something together to post for you guys.

First off, let me just say this: Oy. Oy vey.

Secondly, I can’t believe this is happening. We went from one of the most classy, experienced, fantastic, and amazing presidents this country has ever seen to an orange blob who is destroying everything in his wake.

I felt a little bit better after going to the Women’s March in Boston with my mom and her friend. It was so empowering to be surrounded by 200,000 beautiful people who stood for equality, justice, and freedom for all, including the incomparable Elizabeth Warren. I missed the memo on the pussy hat, but I wore the pink beanie I always wear, so I didn’t feel too out of place.

However, within a week, Trump reinstated DAPL and Keystone XL, barred federal funding for overseas groups performing abortions, actually promised to build the infamous wall, abolished Obamacare, preventing government funding to sanctuary cities, and, in my opinion, worst of all, suspended Syrian refugees from entering the country indefinitely and blocked people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including those with visas and green cards.

I honestly don’t know what to do or say at this point. Trump’s actions have me at a complete loss for words. Not only is religious intolerance extremely wrong, it scares me as a Jewish person for obvious reasons. Religious freedom is not only a Constitutional right, but a basic human right, and the proposed “Muslim registry” and this arbitrary ban completely violate those rights for thousands of people.

Trump claims that he wants to “make America great again” by barring immigrants and refugees. America is, and has always been, a nation of immigrants. Native Americans are the only people who are, well, native Americans. Even the Pilgrims came from England, and if I recall correctly, Trump’s grandfather was an immigrant. In fact, without immigration, Trump wouldn’t have any wives!

The Syrian civil war is a humanitarian crisis, and if we’re not doing everything we can as a country to help the civilians needlessly targeted by the bloodshed, we’re doing something wrong. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it states that all people have the right to seek asylum in another country if they are not safe in their home countries. The US signed the Declaration, so by not upholding every part of it, this country is violating it. If we do not adhere to the Declaration, humanity will suffer, and too many people have already encountered hardship. America needs to step it up as the leader of the free world. This is not the country that my great-grandparents risked their lives to come to, and this is not the country that the international community once looked upon as a shining example of democracy. So Donald, if you really want to make America great again, either get with the program or get out of the way.


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Maybe 2016 Didn’t Totally 100% Suck?

via Daily Prompt: Year

A lot of people around the Internet believe that 2016 was the year of universal suckage, which can definitely be justified. Many influential people, such as David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michael, Gene Wilder, and Christina Grimmie (I still can’t accept that one), died. Countless people of color were needlessly terrorized, attacked, and murdered. Heinous war crimes were committed during the war in Syria. Protesters at Standing Rock were tear-gassed by police officers for exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. 50 LGBTQ+ Americans were killed and 53 more were injured in the biggest mass shooting in US history. Terrorist attacks have become part of the ordinary evening news cycle. One of the most disgusting people to ever exist was elected President of the United States, and his cabinet is made up of the whole basket of deplorables, from executives who use porn in their advertisements to proud Neonazis.

However, my friend (@/the.nerdy.queer.feminist on Instagram) posted a list of positive things that happened in 2016 (WHAT? NOT POSSIBLE!), and the things on this list make it pretty hard to claim that 2016 was 100% terrible.

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This just goes to show that although horrendous things happen in the world, nothing is ever completely one way or the other. Yes, one of my favorite singers died and a giant orange monster is going to be President, but at the same time, medical breakthroughs were made, the environment got a little better, and more people are supporting everyone’s basic human rights .


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Thanksgiving Poem 2016

Ever since my mother was a young girl, my family has had a Thanksgiving tradition where each child has to write a poem about what they are thankful for. This year, I wrote a couplet (a poem where each set of two lines rhymes) that encapsulates what I am thankful for, and at the request of my family, I am posting it here. (NOTE: Due to the spacing on WordPress, I have to put each rhyming couplet in one line).

Thanksgiving Poem 2016

I am thankful for:

My family’s constant support and love, which is truly a gift from up above.

Each and every one of my friends, on whom I always can depend.

My teachers, who have always believed that whatever I want, I can achieve.

My parents, who are always able to put a roof over my head and food on the table.

Living in America, with everything I need; already the best country in the world, indeed!

Now, I’d like to take this moment to pray for those without a family or place to stay.

For the people in desperate need who don’t know how to write or read.

For the people who, no matter how hard they try, are barely even scraping by.

For the people who wish on stars, begging to be accepted for who they are.

For the people told they can never win because of the color of their skin.

For the people living through a war, who don’t have anything worth fighting for.

Today, we thank God for giving us all we need, and ask God to help others succeed.

Because even though things may seem tough, we must always remember those with less than us.


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Hot on the Trail

Over the past few months, I have been to New Hampshire three times to canvass for Hillary Clinton. Since I’m too young to vote, I felt like I needed to do absolutely everything in my power to get a decent human being to win this election season. With the election being this Tuesday, I thought I’d take some time to share my experiences from the campaign trail.

The first time I went up, it was August, and Hillary had just accepted the nomination for President. I was with my dad, my brother, and a friend of mine. I was pretty nervous because it was my first time canvassing, but I knew it was imperative for me to do my part. That time, we knocked on over thirty doors, and only a few people answered the door. One guy refused to talk to us, and a few elderly ladies were convinced that Hillary was a psychopathic liar (NOT TRUE). The most rewarding interaction of the day was when my friend and I convinced an undecided voter to vote for Hillary, even though the voter’s husband was so dead set against voting for Hillary that he refused to talk to us. As I have learned, every single vote counts, especially in this election. And who knows? Maybe the undecided voter talked to some other undecided voters and convinced them to vote for Hillary, and 1 voter turned into 5, then 5 turned into 10, and so on. You never know. The worst part of that first day was that our car broke down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, I was able to pick up a non-password-protected WiFi signal from a neighbor, so I was occupied until the AAA guy came to our rescue.

My dad and I went up a second time a couple of weeks ago. We went to the same place as last time, but this time, the doors we had to knock were all in walking distance from HQ, so car wreckage wouldn’t be a problem. We knocked on the same number of doors as last time, but we had even less success. A total of four people answered the door. One was a burly, middle-aged man who slammed the door in our face, and one was a timid, elderly lady who was still in her PJ’s and refused to speak to us. The other two interactions were much more successful. We met an elderly lady who was a vocal supporter of Hillary and had voted in every single election since the early 1960s, and at another house, we informed the 18-year-old daughter of a registered Hillary voter that she could register to vote and vote on Election Day, and the expression on the girl’s face completely negated every single rejection we experienced on the campaign trail.

Today was the last time my dad and I canvassed for Hillary. This time, we took a middle-aged woman up to New Hampshire with us because she did not have a car. We got our assignments at someone’s house and ended up teaming up with a middle-aged guy who was there by himself. We decided to take two packets of addresses and divide and conquer. My dad and I did half of the addresses, the other two people we were with did the other half, and we all carpooled with the guy we met at the launching site. It took us about two hours, but this time was the easiest and most fun because everyone on our list was a Hillary supporter, so it was essentially reminding people to get out the vote, or, as we say on the trail, #GOTV. However, it was also really scary because most of the houses and businesses we passed by had Trump signs on their lawns, and Trump supporters aren’t exactly known for their civility. My dad and I ended up escaping New Hampshire unscathed and with two new friends that we would never forget.

Even though a lot of parts of campaigning were enjoyable, I’m not going to lie: it is scary, sometimes disappointing, and absolutely EXHAUSTING. But this election season, the stakes were too high just to sit at home and hope for the best. Trump is a showman, and he has a Klan…I MEAN horde of supporters who will believe anything that comes out of his mouth and forgive his many wrongdoings. He is a racist pig who brags about sexually assaulting women, vows to ban an entire religion from this country, and believes that women who decide to get an abortion should be punished, and that’s not even the beginning of the damage he could do to the world. He could declare himself dictator, for all we know! Even if Trump wasn’t an awful human being, he has absolutely zero qualifications for being Commander-in-Chief. It seems like he just woke up one day and decided to run for President. Despite the propaganda that FOX News is spewing at everyone, there is only one option for this election season, and it is Hillary Clinton. She has always prioritized helping children and families in need, and she is one of the most experienced presidential candidates we’ve had in decades. Even though I can’t vote, I have a voice, and I will use it to speak up for what is right. On Tuesday, November 8th, you need to POKEMON GO TO THE POLLS and secure this country’s future.

I will end this with a quote from President Obama on this election:

“Civility is on the ballot.

Equality is on the ballot.

Justice is on the ballot.

Democracy is on the ballot.”