News to Me
"Does anyone have any news to share? Lilian?”
“Tomorrow’s my sister’s birthday.”
“Yesterday I got a job in the Homework Room. I got to sharpen all the pencils.”
“Yesterday the dentist came to the Boys and Girls Club and put a pasta on my teeth.”
“Yeah, a special pasta, and now my teeth are going to be healthy for ten years.”
As others are reading their Inquirers, Posts, and Journals,
I get the daily news sitting “crisscross-applesauce” in a circle on the
rug. Untainted by political leanings or obligations to financial
supporters, every second grader may report on one item they deem
newsworthy. Here, in my opinion, are five minutes well-spent, offering
in various cases entertainment or a chance to offer a clarification for
a Spanish-speaking student (“I think you meant paste, Briana”); but in all cases a glimpse of the lives and values of seventeen children.
I was that age, I opened the newspaper only as often as it featured
coloring or writing contests for kids. It wasn’t until middle school
that I recall a heightened sense of urgency to follow the news.
“Current events” was the term used; “You’ve got to read ‘current events’ articles!”
was the clarion call of the teachers. For science it was five articles
read and five responses written each quarter. Gone as into a black hole
are the memories of the scientific breakthroughs I read of; what
remains is that here is where I first really felt that the news—for
whatever reason—must be important.
school, appeals to students to read or watch the news escalated. Bonus
questions on un-news-related quizzes awarded extra points to those who
kept up with the week’s top news stories in addition to homework and
studies. Teachers referred to news stories of the past and were
mortified to find we didn’t know about the Challenger space shuttle disaster and more.
occasional pangs of guilt on behalf of my uninformed generation, I
dabbled in the evening news on TV and tried reading the newspaper. The
bleakness on TV and blackness on my fingers post-paper reading were
just a couple deterrents to any anticipated success I hoped to garner
from these efforts.
Through high school,
college, and beyond, the pattern of feeling guilty for not showing
enough care for current events and then trying to care and then failing
to keep up with news-reading went on.
one point, in desperation to Do the Right Thing, I registered to vote
and determined that I was going to follow the presidential election
campaign and become a socially responsible citizen by being an informed
voter. I read articles, watched TV, researched the validity of
forwarded emails, and let casual conversations turn into debate with
others on political hot buttons. I felt genuinely passionate emotions
towards injustice and uninformed
I never had before.
But after I voted, I looked back on my efforts and realized I still hated politics and still didn’t really
care to know anything about any of it, mostly because, as the book
reviewed by Daniel Hertzler in this issue states, all governments lie,
and I find that overwhelming. A cringe accompanies this confession,
because I know many would consider this outlook irresponsible and
perhaps rightly so.
I continue to wrestle with
questions of keeping up with news and current events—should I try
harder again? Ought I to read a newspaper every day (or at least every
week)? Should I take upon myself more social responsibility when it
comes to news of injustice around the world? What’s a realistic amount
of effort and care? Is it enough, when there are people who have
trouble even finding clean drinking water, that I mostly just concern
myself with the news of my students, who have a water fountain in the
classroom and sometimes throw away whole cartons of apple juice and
milk at lunch?
Are we called to “the
news” on different levels? Some seem to be great with politics, some
with huge issues like religious persecution or corrupt governments or
Some can remember
who’s who in national and global politics. I recall an Australian woman
with a particularly strong character who once voiced to me her disgust
at the fact that so few Americans seemed able to name the prime
minister of Australia! I nodded and listened empathetically, all the
while sending her telepathic extortions to not ask me if I knew, and thank goodness she did not!
the way, it was John Howard at the time, and then Kevin Rudd, and now
Julia Gillard. I only know any of that because I just searched the
Right now (and this may
change) I’m feeling at peace with a smaller scale of news—news from the
kids at my school who qualify for free lunches or who don’t know
English very well, or who go home to babysitters every night because
moms or dads work the night shift, or who have easy, happy-go-lucky
lives. Crisscross-applesauce on the rug in a circle. That is news to me.
—Renee Gehman, Souderton, Pa., is assistant editor, Dreamseeker Magazine, and ESL teacher. She has enjoyed the Dreamseeker Magazine print
version, which has never left her with blackened fingers, and looks
forward to keeping up with the news and reflections to be offered in Dreamseeker online.