Category: writing Page 1 of 21

We Came for Salvation

Who would have thought watching a concert on top of a minivan in a speedway infield would be so cathartic?


I didn’t see a professional concert—as in a big, touring band—until I was in high school. We saw Billy Joel in Greenville, South Carolina. Kelly and I, who were high school sweethearts at that point, made the hour-and-a-half trip to city neither of us had ever been to. We had lucked into seats in the fourteenth row (still the best seats at a show I’ve ever gotten), so close Billy Joel could spit on us if he wanted to. It was amazing.

My kids, on the other hand, got to experience their first big concert in the midst of a pandemic that has cancelled almost every major touring schedule nationwide.

Nothing about a concert, either indoors or out, seems like a wise thing to do as we grapple with a virus that’s best spread through close contact. But when the Avett Brothers, as local of a big-time band as we probably have, decided they needed to play in front of actual, live people, they figured out a creative way to do it.

The kiddos check out the pre-show film from the back hatch.

For the Historians

The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942
The USS Fletcher at sea in July 1942.

What would the Greatest Generation think of us?


I had to write a paper for a doc class this summer that examined the history of community colleges in a national, state, and local context, an assignment that gave me the opportunity to revisit Bill Moose’s very good history of Mitchell Community College. The college’s narrative is one of institutional persistence, of the gut-borne determination to survive.

In the fall of 1918, as the first World War was drawing to a close, the flu pandemic forced Mitchell to close its doors and send its students home. The town mostly shuttered and folks stayed put. The college’s women returned in December; they attended classes six days a week to make up for lost time, taking only Sundays and Christmas Day off.

In the spring of 1919, the flu returned, but this time the college stayed open. Women’s colleges of the day were unapologetically strict about letting their fragile charges wander outside the buildings anyway, so this version of a “stay-at-home” order fit in naturally with the college’s normal operations.

Five Thoughts on Returning to School

Philadelphia Inquirer photo

Sending students back to school in the midst of a pandemic presents an unparalleled challenge to educators, but it’s not impossible to overcome.


What happens every fall under normal circumstances–that is, the beginning of a new academic year in public schools across our country–has suddenly turned into one of the most challenging logistical feats educators have ever encountered.

Making matters worse, the ground keeps shifting under the schoolteachers, administrators, and local and state leaders who grapple with how to safely educate the millions of students normally under their care. COVID-19 is in a full rampage: multiple states are setting record-high infection rates, and national healthcare advisors warn of the consequences yet to come.

How, then, do we begin to explore the idea of teaching kids in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible? Here are five things to keep in mind.

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