Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Age of Innocence

This morning I've been hunting down a phrase on Google: the dread argument of the individual case. I thought it was "a thing". I thought I would find plenty of entries, possibly even a Wikipedia article explain its meaning and origins. No such luck.

It turns out that the reason this phrase stuck in my head is that it's from my favorite book in the whole world: The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton.

"But to love Ellen Olenska was not to become a man like Lefferts: for the first time Archer found himself face to face with the dread argument of the individual case." Book II, Chapter XXXI

Yesterday I was surprised and concerned by the school system decision to have school as usual in the face of extreme cold. There was plenty of discussion online about this, on both sides of the argument. There are plenty of things to consider, either way:

Children waiting for buses

Children walking to school

Children inadequately dressed

And on the other hand--

The importance of education

A hot meal for those who might not get it otherwise.

A warm building for those whose homes might be cold.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I am familiar with snow, ice, slush, and cold temperatures. I also grew up in a time when girls had to wear dresses to school. Only later did they allow us to wear pants under our skirts for walking and recess. Were we tougher? Maybe.

When you live in Cleveland Ohio, you expect that kind of cold. Our bodies, and our children's bodies, are not used to it. There are plenty of things we can do to help--dress them warmly, feed them a hot breakfast, drive them to school, or wait with them in a warm car at the bus stop. But what about the children whose parents cannot do that for them?

Apparently yesterday, because of reduced ridership, buses were arriving at stops too early and some children missed their rides. That seems like something that thinking people might have foreseen and prevented, doesn't it? A simple directive to bus drivers would have sufficed.

In the end the decision was made for me when my daughter woke up with a sore throat and a cold. I cancelled my classes to stay home with her. I am lucky to have the freedom to do that.

Oh, about the dread argument of the individual case? While weighing the pros and cons of the situation yesterday, I came across a tweet from a concerned citizen noting cold, miserable children waiting for a schoolbus. It struck right to my heart, not because I am an overprotective parent, but because I have been that cold, miserable child. When you are little, it is frightening to be that cold. So, it's not just painful, it is scary.

I know that the decision is bigger than that. I know that there are many factors to consider. Yet that one tweet was enough for me.


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