In Detritus Do We Trust

I live in a small college town that cycles with the currents of student life. This means that Fall is a busy time, with football games and the return of students to campus, and that Summer is a quiet time where the locals of our town enjoy pedestrian-friendly streets rather than the ones populated by texting undergraduates during the academic year. It also imbues August as a month of special significance:

Move-Out/In Month

Moving through the neighborhoods of my town during the month of August, you will be met with piles upon piles of furniture, carpeting, and various other home furnishings (not to mention the seemingly requisite mattresses) which have been deemed unusable by the oldest and/or newest tenants of a student rental.

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If we zoom in a little closer. . .
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Yes, an amateur nude. Yesterday’s semi-erotica is tomorrow’s dumpster dive.

The exchange of goods is staggering. Lined up curbside are numerous pieces of furniture, still fully functional if not fully modern, appliances, student artwork, and yes, as I already mentioned, lots and lots of mattresses.  Buried deep in the rubble are other offerings to the landfill. Items of clothing no longer preferred, decorative pillows, and boxes and boxes of student life de rigeur: air purifiers and dehumidifiers.

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If there’s one lesson I am confident to have taught my children, it’s to never pick up a mattress on the side of the road. Never.

I often wonder at the process of this material overflow. What are students thinking when they cast a pillow they more than likely spent at least $20 on into a curb-side pile to be ruined by the elements? Why stack towers of books and line up upholstered furniture indefinitely until our beleaguered garbage carriers have enough room in their normal routine to pick up the overflow? Why are bundles of seemingly clean t-shirts cast off into the street? Better yet, I have to question the logic that requires every piece of furniture be discarded and replaced by a newer version when moving.

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Can you spot the decorative pillow? It’s next to the Brita Filter box.

Overall, the abundance of discarded objects littering my town right now saddens me. It seems so clear that simply a touch of care, an extra few seconds of packing, or a single trip to the Good Will drop-off only minutes away, could have found another use for much of this supposed ‘trash.’It begs the question:

Must a clean slate always come with a rejection of the old?

If our next generation finds gently used pieces so distasteful, I can’t help but wonder what they will do with us, those older and wiser than them, when we lose our shine. Will those past the point of modernity be deemed disposable?

Moving through the streets of my small town, past guitar cases and dusty milk crates, next to formica tables and computer desks,

I cannot help but hope we will learn one day to treasure the imperfect for the past it holds.

4 Best Things Online This Week

In this next edition of “What thrilled, engrossed, and overwhelmed Sarah during her web-browsing this week?” there is a distinct mixture of the frothy and the bitter. We don’t live in a world of pure confection, but at the same time sweetness remains for us to enjoy despite the cruelty. So, here goes:

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  1. Operation Mason Dixon has only just begun and already it deserves a bookmark for you to track Elise’s experiences as she pummels through her final year of Ph.D. studies as a Developmental Scientist. Being a Developmental Psychologist myself, I was thrilled to come across this blossoming blog via Christina & Kamille’s Twitter account. Being a suburban white woman charged with teaching courses that deal with risk, resilience, and intervention, I find myself in a constant struggle to provide my students with a whole and authentic perspective on these issues (including Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Ethnicity) given the fact that I am a privileged White woman. I am lucky to encounter students from diverse backgrounds and to have the opportunity to learn from them every day that I am in the classroom–teachers are indeed meant to be taught–but Elise’s most recent post observing how academia is at odds with the racial turmoil in our country and that our field of Developmental Science is failing people of color zeros in on the discomfort I regularly feel in my own classroom: our field is not doing justice to the scientific pursuit of eradicating injustice. And so teachers like myself are left to teach our students how to make the world better with fistfuls of studies offering caveats like “all upper middle class sample” or “only 20% of participants were African American, or Latino/a, or Asian” and only a few pieces of research that begin to approach a real representation of the developmental experiences of American infants, children, adolescents, and adults. When the teacher is privileged and White, like myself (for me to look at the trajectory of my life and say otherwise is to ignore the imbalance along racial and socioeconomic lines in our country), the inadequacy in addressing this injustice is only multiplied. I look forward to reading more of Elise’s work and about her path to earning her doctorate, which is a journey that I hope proves expeditious: Our field needs her.

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2. Sweet goodness, have you seen NPR’s 100 Things You Might Also Like? The media experts at our National Public Radio have offered their own recommendation flow charts to help you locate your next novel, film, or TV show based on media you’ve already determined you love.  It’s a rabbit hole worth your time–dive in!

Bellwether Friends

3. My love for librarians offering their views on popular media only continues to grow. Two Bossy Dames is like a gateway drug to an entire Twitterverse of fabulous, professionally trained connoisseurs of literature, film, and everything in between. Enter Bellwether Friends. Their weekly podcast offers four libraries from across the country discussing topics from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to classic films, X-men, and book covers of yore. It is a veritable smorgasbord of pointed critical commentary, genuine fandom, and recommendations to add to your To-Be-Read and To-Be-Watched piles.  Follow them on Twitter to keep up with it all.

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by Barry Deutsch c/o Jon Greenberg

4.  Speaking of Two Bossy Dames, thank you for their link to Jon Greenberg’s blog and his Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism–from Ferguson to Charleston.  Referring back to the first item in this post, myself and other (White) academics in the social sciences need to actively educate ourselves about the issues our country, and as a result our students, face. Greenberg offers a compendium of sources informing and energizing White Americans to take responsibility for the prejudices roiling under and above the surface of our country’s daily existence and, even more importantly, to become involved in putting an end to them. Many of us educators have time off in the summer–what better time to activate our own learning than now? #BeforeFallSemester