New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Children Matter

December 11, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Diane Lefer, Family

Coping with the Trauma of Incarcerated Parents

by Diane Lefer

Imagine that as you read these words, someone bursts into the room and holds a gun to your head. Your body and brain react instantly to the threat in ways that can be measured scientifically as cortisol floods your system.

Children with Incarcerated ParentsThe same level of cortisol is found in young children when separated from a primary caregiver. That absence feels as life-threatening as a loaded gun, explained Ann Adalist Estrin, currently the Director of National Resource Center on Children of Incarcerated Parents.

The adult calms down, she continued, when the threat is ended. Dopamine floods the system with relief. But in a young child, the dopamine response comes from contact with the caregiver. So what happens if the caregiver is gone? Toxic stress can change the chemistry and actual architecture of the developing brain, potentially with lifelong consequences.

Today, approximately 2.7 million American children are separated from a parent because of arrest and lockup in prison or jail. Do we simply accept that these kids will be collateral damage in our culture of mass incarceration? (more…)

Will We Ever Learn?

April 07, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

High-Stakes Testing Undermines the Essence of Teaching

by Robert C. Koehler

A mind is a terrible thing to test, especially a child’s mind — if, in so doing, you reduce it to a number and proceed to worship that number, ignoring the extraordinary complexity and near-infinite potential of what you have just tested.

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” What if?

What if the American education bureaucracy understood these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson and honored the latent genius of every student? What if it funded teachers and schools with as much enthusiasm as it did corporate vendors? What if, in some official way, we loved kids and their potential more than the job slots we envisioned for them and judged them only in relationship to their realization of that potential? What if standardized testing, especially the obsessive, punitive form that has evolved in this country, went the way of the dunce cap and the stool in the corner? (more…)

Homage to Mother-Work

March 06, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Jennifer Browdy

Bringing Home the ‘Bacon’ and Frying It Up in the Pan…

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

The theme of last Saturday’s opening night event at the Berkshire Festival of Women WritersOut of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others, was “What do mothers make?”

The answers provided by the evening’s presenters — all women at various stages of their lives — were various, but there was a common theme: mothers make families, mothers make relationships, mothers make community.

Historically, in most societies this has been the primary role given to women — to serve as the emotional heart of families, to make the meals and make the homes that lead to strong, centered communities.

These days, in American society at least, women are expected to do all this and also be successful in their professional lives.  Only the wealthiest American families can afford to have a stay-at-home parent.

In most households I know, especially among people at mid-life or younger, both parents are working hard at their jobs and also trying to sustain a healthy home life.  And in most families I know, it still falls disproportionately to women to keep those home fires banked and burning bright. (more…)

Who’s Responsible?

February 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Pat LaMarche

‘Step Up’ Program Could Lessen Youth Incarceration

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche is on a journey to explore homelessness and poverty in the U.S. NCV will post updates from her travels…}

Photo: be careful my loved ones.  do not read my upcoming stories unless you have a rebar reinforced heart and a stupid filter on your brain.According to the Equal Justice Initiative, more than 70,000 children are doing time in either juvenile or adult facilities. During our EPIC Journey, the Babes of Wrath tour of the places poor people live, we stopped into the Coconino Juvenile detention facility in Flagstaff, Arizona.

First of all, I can’t say enough good about the staff that work with the inmates in that county kids’ jail. Everyone — from Bryon Matsuda, the Director of Juvenile Services, to the guards who escorted the kids from their classes to their cells — treated these kids with dignity and respect. Secondly, they’ve got a whole different way of incarcerating children there. They use a model invented by Matsuda — who willingly shares credit with his best friend and his “higher power” — that helps kids to “Step Up” and out of the situation that landed them in jail in the first place. (more…)

Not in Vain

December 23, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Family, Jennifer Browdy

American Mothers Must Unite Against the Culture of Violence

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

A couple of weeks ago, when I heard that my 14-year-old son and his friend had been playing with the other boy’s air-soft pistols by shooting each other at close range, I saw red.

“But it just stings like a bee-sting, Mom,” my son protested.  “It just leaves a welt.  Why are you getting so upset?”

At the time, I wasn’t sure why I was getting so upset — after all, these were only toy guns.

My answer to my son was that a “bullet” could ricochet and end up hitting him in the eye, which is true and a rational explanation for why I flatly forbid him to engage in that kind of behavior any more with those guns. (more…)

Life After Facebook

September 21, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Mary Sojourner

Real Connection Takes Work, and It’s Worth It

by Mary Sojourner

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — Hunter S. Thompson

Writer Hunter S. Thompson was a pro at weird. But he would find Facebook beyond weird. Even as tiny green tree frogs scampered around the edge of his tequila and there seemed to be an aardvark climbing up his leg, he would consider it surreal that contact with dozens of “friends” can morph into two at the click of Delete. That’s the rate of attrition in the five days since I left Facebook — and that’s just the people I shared messages and comments with. Yeah, I knew. Yeah, I’m not surprised. The more time goes by since I last logged into Facebook, the even weirder the few months I spent on it seem. (more…)

Constructive Conflict

September 18, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Robert C. Koehler

‘Just Get a Rock and Talk’ 

by Robert C. Koehler 

The thing is, he’d won his case. He got custody of his daughter.

This is the limit of conventional justice: “victory,” which of course means defeat for the other person, in this case, the mother of his daughter. Why not celebrate? His lawyer was satisfied. I mean, come on, you won, man!

But Bill Heenan, a Chicago fireman, had the nagging feeling that his daughter was also one of the losers in the decision. The case had been dragging through Parentage and Child Support Court, one of the busiest in the Cook County Circuit Court system, for a year. The court hears child custody and other child-related cases in which the parents were never married, a situation that may cover nearly half the kids in Chicago.

“The court system is the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bill told me. “You sit there, you don’t say a word. The lawyer does all the talking. Then you go out in the hallway and the lawyer explains what the judge said.” (more…)