Asking Children Questions


For as long as most of us can remember, young children have been asked the mind-numbing question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Since they are creative and resilient, children learn to deal with this intrusive query with such culturally approved responses as “a doctor” (why not go for the number one prestige and money), “the president or a TV star” (interchangeable in some young heads these days), “gourmet chef” (now, there’s a sophisticate) and “computer geek”(a pragmatic choice).

A range of occupations from the adventurous “astronaut” to the prosaic “lawyer”, flows without hesitation from the lips of the youngest tots.  Have they been primed, coached, influenced by their parents, relatives, friends and television shows and games?  Of course. Will their designated choice last? Perhaps. One thing is sure. The good old days of answers like “fireman” (now firefighter), “farmer”, “teacher”, “policeman” (police officer today) and “nurse” are long gone. These kids have moved ahead with the times. They know how to operate Ipods, Ipads and Iphones by the time they are three or four. (But that’s another subject for a future blog.)

What about us, the adults who keep asking the same nagging question? Each time we pose it, we are making four assumptions:

* Children already know the answer. Management experts might label this “very early goal setting.”

* They should know the answer.

* When one is grown up, there will be one position for each of us in the work world.

*One’s being is defined by one’s occupation.

If the questions we ask determine the answers we get — as philosophers have been telling us for centuries —then, we need to stop asking children what they want to be when they grow up. We need to break the cycle and ask ourselves what we want to matter most to our children when they grow up.  If the answer is the best paying job, then we can go back to the original question and refine it a bit. However, if the answer includes occupations related to clean air and water, beauty, human compassion, health, freedom, mature love, world peace, a sense of accomplishment, and the pursuit of truth and wisdom, then we need a very different set of questions for our children.

Here are some possible open end questions for young children:

What makes you very happy?

What makes you very sad?

Who is the kindest person you know?

What is the most beautiful thing you ever saw?

How do you make other people happy?

How do you make other people sad?

Who should take care of the trees and flowers?

For older children, possible questions to pose:

Why should we be honest and tell the truth?

What makes you laugh or cry?

How do you feel when you help someone else?

What does love mean to you?

What does it mean to be free?

What does peace mean to you?

Or, if you must stay with the vocational bent,

What do you like to do most of all?

These lists, of course, are tentative and personal. We each need to create our own lists for our own children and those we know and care about. Our questions reflect our values; they emphasize and pass on to the next generation those values that matter most to us. This should not be a casual or habitual transference. Young minds are open to questions. They pose them constantly to us. They tell us with their questions what concerns them. We need to do the same. To develop meaningful conversations from the answers they give.

If we want them to become adults who care about other people as human beings with feelings, the environment of air and water around them, the ideals of truth, beauty, wisdom, compassion and peace, then we have to stop outlining their futures in terms of jobs, careers, money and prestige.  What they want to be when they grow up should be a reflection of the values and goals we are striving to teach them now.

…………………………………………………………………………… Joyce S. Anderson

Op Ed in The New York Times

Race: “Man’s Most Dangerous Myth”

Prologue: When I began to teach at Atlantic Community College, the country had witnessed the Watts riots in Los Angeles in l965, inner city riots in Detroit and Newark in l967, and prolonged riots in cities nationwide after the assassination of Martin Luther King in l968.  The pattern was the same; burning buildings and looted stores while most of the victims were the black residents of the neighborhoods that were destroyed. Police strategy was to contain the violence and destruction to the inner city area. The Kerner Commission that investigated the riots gave a comprehensive analysis of the underlying causes of the riots as well as the precipitating incidents. At the heart of their report was the deep anger and frustration of the black population within the inner cities who faced discrimination and prejudice in all areas of their daily lives — work, education, housing and police intimidation.

It is now 2017 and the issue of race and racism is emblazoned in the headlines once more. When thousands of white supremacists invaded Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday night, August 11, they brought racist bigotry and deadly violence with them. Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis and Skinheads were met by counter-protestors the following day. President Trump at a press conference the following Tuesday blamed “both sides” for the mob violence that ensued.

Today’s events brought back what happened in l968 when race exploded across the country. I approached the Dean at Atlantic Community College to see if I could prepare a course syllabus on Race, Ethnicity, Prejudice and Discrimination.  The country was exploding and I wanted to do something constructive in my new position.  He asked me to give him a book to read before he made his decision. I gave him “Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth” by the anthropologist Ashley Montague. After he read the book, Dean Young gave me the go-ahead and I began teaching “The Individual and The Group” in the Spring semester of l969. It was offered until 1983 when I took a leave of absence.

Twenty seven students signed up for the course offering, a night class once a week. I will never forget that first class. The average age of community college students was 28 and most of the class members were mature working people. There were also two Atlantic City High School seniors who were taking part in Project WILL, inter-racial learning and living.  She was black and he was white. The future black mayor of Pleasantville and his wife were in the class.  There were Vietnam veterans as well as a fire fighter and a couple who were attendants at the state hospital, Ancora.  There was almost an even number of black and white students. I learned as much that semester as the students.

History: The heart of the course, presented in both lecture and discussion was the night for “Race: Man’s Most Dangerous Myth”. I began by asking the class , “ Please jot down in a phrase or sentence what the word ‘race’ means to you.” Their answers included: “ Different groups of people.”  “Skin color.” “Different religions.” “Different backgrounds.”  “Black, white, red, yellow.” and “Different nationalities”.  Two people wrote There’s no such thing as race.”

The lecture that evening took the students back to the l8th century when the concept of race as we know it began. Before that time — for thousands of years —  discrimination and group hostilities grew from religion, class, caste, political and cultural differences. The man who inadvertently created the modern concept of race was a Swedish research botanist, Carl Linnaeus. In his passionate study of plant life, he developed a system of order — a way to classify according to kind and type — genus and specie.  After he classified all plant life in The System of Nature (l735), he went on to classify every known animal as well. Finally, he came to humans whom he named in Latin: Homo sapiens – man the wise.

Linnaeus then took the next step and divided Homo sapiens into four sub groups.  Europaeus albus, Asiaticus luridus, Afer niger, and Americanus rufus.  He linked geographical location with skin color: white, yellow, black and red. (The latter described only native Americans.)  He then added, from his ethnocentric point of view what he thought were characteristics of each group.  Europaeus albus — superior, creative and lively. Asiaticus —haughty, stern and opinionated.  Afer niger – slow, negligent and cunning. Americanus rufus – easily contented, free and tenacious.

Linnaeus had used objective evidence when he classified plant and animal life. However, when he reached Homo sapiens, he became completely subjective and drew upon hearsay, random anecdotes and his imagination. He had never traveled to Asia, Africa or America.  Nevertheless, the stereotypes were formed and the classification was picked up by other scientists who were intrigued with measuring physical differences among human beings.  A veritable frenzy ensued, measuring cranial indices, ears, noses, hair texture and other permanent features of adult humans.

Linnaeus did state that his categories were arbitrary groupings and he never used the word race. The term was coined by George Buffon, a French naturalist, for the first time in l749 when he decided there were six groups of human beings.   It is supremely ironic that skin color was chosen as the prime measure of difference …since skin color is NOT a permanent trait. It is an adaptable trait, affected by such factors as sun, disease, emotion and pregnancy. It is also clear that true colors — white, black, yellow and red of a painter’s palette never appear in actual skin pigmentation, Complete lack of color in an albino is the closest to white. The genes that transmit skin color are very complex in contrast to the genes for eye color. And most significant, there is a range of skin color within every human group that is far greater than the differences between the groups. These are scientific facts based on deep research studies.

Ashley Montague called race the “witchcraft of our times.”  He knew that people believe in myths.  And if something is defined as real, it is real in its consequences.  The two skeptical students in my class who wrote, “There is no such thing as race.” sensed what was correct.

Now, in 2017, we need to separate reality from the myth of race. Human qualities are the result of genetic endowment and nurturing as we grow from infants to maturity, often called “Nature and Nurture”. Racism — the result of centuries of defining people by their skin color — permeates our society and our lives. It is linked inextricably to our country’s history with slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction as an aftermath. We need to separate reality from the myth of race. . Our democratic society has many levels of class and economic conditions. Where one is born and to whom, has an enormous effect upon the level of education, opportunity and success one will achieve in one’s lifetime.

…………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson


















































Thousands of White Supremacists Invade Charlottesville, Virginia with Racist Bigotry and Deadly Violence!


Prologue: White Supremacist Groups planned ‘Unite The Right’ a huge rally to take place in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, Racist Skinheads and other hate groups would bring thousands to prevent the removal of the statue of  the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.  The event began Friday night, August 11, when a torchlit parade of hundreds of Neo Nazis marched across the green lawns of the University of Virginia campus and circled a statue of  the founder, President Thomas Jefferson.  That was their arrival statement.  By morning, the White Supremacist groups were gathering in the city park near Robert E. Lee’s statue.  They waved Confederate flags, chanted Nazi slogans, wore helmets and carried shields. Some wore fake military fatigues with U.S. Marine logos and chanted, “Jews will never replace us; You will never replace us…”

Earlier in the day, hundreds of counter protesters – religious leaders, Black Lives Matter, anti-fascist groups – had surrounded the park, singing spirituals, chanting and carrying their own signs. By eleven a.m. both sides made their way to Emancipation Park where racial taunts, shoving and brawling began. Barricades separating the two sides came down. Police were unable to quell the increasing turmoil and mayhem, captured live by TV cameras for the nation and world to witness.  Using pepper spray, the police cleared the area before noon as the Virginia National Guard arrived. After the rally was dispersed,  a car crashed into a crowd of counter-protesters near a downtown mall, killing one woman and injuring 19 others. Witnesses said the white male driver appeared to accelerate directly into the people.  He sped away but was apprehended by the police and charged with second degree murder.

Across the South, statues of Confederate generals and the Confederate flag have been removed during recent years in major cities.  In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley defused possible mob violence when she ordered the peaceful removal of the Confederate flag from atop the capitol in Richmond.  In Charlottesville,  Governor Terry McAuliffe,  Democrat, declared a state of emergency and spoke forcefully within the hour, saying “The Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis have no place in Charlottesville.  They have no place in America!”

Leaders of the White Supremacists included David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and Richard Spencer, head of the Alt-right movement where Nazi salutes and haircuts are sported by white male members. On Saturday, before the rally, David Duke said their marchers “would fulfill the promises of Donald Trump”to “take our country back.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, the leading organization that tracks and reports upon active hate groups in the United States, has documented the increased numbers in hate group members since the campaign and election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency.  They publish Intelligence Reports four times a year. There are over 900  hate groups in the United States; they are clustered in the East and South of the country.  The Ku Klux Klan is by far the largest, followed by Neo Nazi, White Nationalist and Racist Skinhead.   It is important to note that all active hate group memberships shot up dramatically with the election of Barack Obama, our first black president in 2008.  They stayed high during both of his terms in office.  Now, it appears they are continuing, as the high percent of white voters for Donald Trump feel empowered once more.

Aftermath: Who spoke out and who did not.  The first public response from the White House came from Melania Trump who wrote on Twitter,  “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”  President Donald J.Trump made a brief statement later in the day from the porch of  his golf resort in Bedminster New Jersey to reporters who had gathered.  He called for an end to the “hatred, bigotry and violence” , but spread the blame to this in country to “ many sides”…. “many sides”.

Immediate criticism erupted from Republicans,  Democrats and media & TV commentators who were shocked that the president did not identify the groups who had brought “hatred, bigotry and violence” to Charlottesville.  Senator Cory Gardner, Republican leader of the National Republican Campaign, tweeted, “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”  Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House, wrote on Twitter at noon on August 11. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this vile bigotry.”

Meanwhile,  David Duke was among the few Trump critics who thought the president had gone too far. He wrote on Twitter, “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”   Richard Spencer, head of Alt-right, created an online video, “A message to Charlottesville”. Spencer vowed to return to the college town. “You think we’re going to back down to this kind of behavior, to you and your little provincial town. No. We’re going to make Charlottesville the center of the universe.”

On Sunday,  the president remained strangely silent, sending no tweets.  The White House sent an unsigned email to reporters in the traveling press pool. “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred.  Of course, that includes white supremacists, neo-Nazis, K.K.K.  and all extremists groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”   Most critics remained unimpressed with this attempt to bolster the president’s original remarks.

Epilogue: The Daily Stormer, a leading white supremacist website, excitedly reacted to Trump’s second statement: “He didn’t attack us. Refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really , really good. God bless him.”

David Duke was quoted as saying, We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for him.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson









Hey Donald, Did Your Grandfather Speak English When He Immigrated From Germany?

On August 2, President Trump introduced a policy to slash legal immigration in half in the next decade. The plan will cut back American citizens bringing family members into the country,  while emphasizing skills to build our economic competiveness in the world market.  The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, would set up a merit-based system to decide who is admitted to the United States and granted legal residency green cards.  It favors applicants based on skills, education and language ability rather than family already here. There is a requirement that applicants must speak English.

As soon as the new policy was announced, there was criticism  on cable TV shows that built during the day.  When the press briefing took place at 2:00 p.m.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the podium to White House senior adviser Stephen Miller who dealt with multiple concerned questions about the new immigration policy.  He and CNN reporter James Acosta engaged in a prolonged heated discussion focused on the requirement that immigrants must “speak English” when they apply for entry.  Acosta cited Emma Lazarus who wrote the poem, “The New Colossus”,  inscribed on the pedestal of The Statue of Liberty.  He quoted famous words that have offered promise to millions of immigrants since 1903. He questioned the English requirement. Miller interrupted him and tried to stop Acosta from continuing.  Throughout the rest of the day and evening, their interchange was carried on CNN and MSNBC.  Panels discussed the new merit-based policy for legal immigration and the requirement of speaking English.

The following morning,  The New York Times  lead story was “President Backs A Plan To Curtail Legal Immigration” .  CNN at six a.m. headlined  “Firestorm erupts on English as a requirement for Legal Immigrants. “  Senators from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and New York with large agricultural areas and constant need for farm workers year round also raised objections to the entire proposed bill.  Family ties bring additional farm workers to the United States to plant and harvest the crops necessary to our economy.

The requirement of “speaking English” brought a part of my family history back to my mind.  My mother, Miriam Marcus Sloan was born in New York City in 1900.  She lived with her widowed mother and two sisters in the lower East Side of New York City. She graduated from Hunter College which was free at that time, and enrolled in Columbia University to earn a Master’s Degree.  To pay tuition, she taught English to adult immigrants at a school on the lower East Side.  She told us stories of how intent they were to master the language.  “The desks were small, especially for the large men, building the roads and streets during the day.   The women worked in the mills, or clothing “sweat shops”.  She stressed that “They would come after long hours of hard work to learn English. They were all determined to learn the language and they did. “

At the Jewish Museum in Philadelpha, there is a room with several actual desks that were used to teach immigrants in that city. Small, wooden desks with tops  that lifted. When that happens,  a recording gives the name of a  woman who sat at the desk.  What country she had come from and where she was living and working now.  It is an amazing experience to sit at one of the desks and imagine being there a hundred years ago. After working all day, the man or woman now had to listen  and follow the teacher’s words in English …. to master the lesson. My  mother spoke of the admiration she felt for the students.  “Seeing a big man with knarled hands… or a young girl from the factories…. sitting at one of the student desks, trying very hard at the end of a long work day to concentrate was truly inspiring.  They worked hard and did learn to speak English.”

Immigrants also learned from their children who attended the public schools daily and came home speaking English to their parents.  Generations of immigrants became naturalized citizens after they fulfilled the necessary steps.  . Finally, we can note that most Americans speak only one language –English while people all over the world are bi-lingual or multi-lingual.

The president changed the subject from the F.B.I. investigation into possible Russian collusion with his presidential campaign with his introduction of the plan to cut legal immigration.  Senator Lindsay Graham , Republican of South Carolina,  said that agriculture and tourism are his state’s top two industries.  He said, “If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to our state’s economy which relies on this immigrant work force.”  Trump found out that the Senate would not support him on his Trumpcare Health bill.  He may find out that they will do the same with his Legal Immigration Bill.

……………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson