Sunday, October 28, 2012

What Matters Most - Part 2

Then the assignment was:  Write about before or after those five minutes — any time before or after.
It’s been three years since I first walked into that office and started work.  I’d quickly moved out and rearranged the furniture, set-up my files, and hung sixteen framed pieces of artwork that made me happy to look at every day. I’d made the space my own, fulfilled the job requirements, and for the most part, satisfied the people I was working for.

Our kids are just about to graduate from college having successfully completed their studies at their fine academic institutions and are moving on to the next phase of their lives debt-free. I hadn't realized how unhappy and frustrated I was feeling, hadn't focused on the simmering rage at the daily bombardment of academic jargon meant to exclude and not welcome in the “other.” For all their talk and research and investigation into acknowledging, naming and decrying the plight of the “other” how did they not see the “other” they’d made me?  Relegated to being “staff” my existence, my worth had diminished in their eyes  and mine.

Why had I spent all these months and years catering to a group of cloistered beings who lived privileged lives talking and writing about the less-privileged?  What stock was there in this universe of PhDs, JDs, EdDs and others whose only purpose was to create more of their kind?

Now that the college bills are paid, all of a sudden the office doesn't seem so grand anymore.                                                                    
----------------------------------------------------------I wrote how I felt in 2003-------------------------------------------------------

The Hidden -ism

No D.Phil, Ph.D,
J.D, Ed.D,
M.D or even M.S.W.

No way to document
street smarts,
business savvy, or
New York City public-school
classroom-teacher bravado
with a series of alpha entries after my name.

Always feeling that my best
just won’t be good enough
to the man in charge
to the powers that be  
merely a résumé and never a CV.

Not in my office
but in spaces across the campus manner
my presence (Casper-the-Ghost at some tables)
frequently dismissed,
sometimes discounted,
even disdained.

Forever relegated
to be a second-class citizen,
third-class citizen,
fourth-class citizen
in the hallowed halls of academe.

When did higher education
equate to better than
you and you  and me?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What Matters Most - Part 1

The assignment:  Pick five minutes in your life  any five minutes of importance and write about them.  Most in the class wrote about a proposal, a birth, a death. Not me.
I had been out of work for ten months.  There was a great deal of pressure to get a job at this particular institution as without one I would lose what I had been working toward for over ten years  tax-free college tuition grants for our twins who were about to start their college lives at private liberal arts institutions up north.  I had two months left to be rehired or lose it all  the clock was ticking.

The past ten months had been a time of worry and sheer emotional paralysis. It wasn't so much the day-to-day finances — we’d actually been managing fine. Even after the unemployment ran out I’d managed to get a short-term work assignment that kept the checks coming and I’d always been extremely thrifty.  Then, just as the assignment ran out I landed a job!  Thank you God.  True, it was four levels below my previous job and a 20% cut in pay but it would guarantee that over four years each of the kids would get approximately $100,000 toward tuition.  Even if the job was vacuuming offices at night (it wasn't), I’d do it.

Still I had my trepidations.  I’d be doing the work that others had done for me for more than a decade. Instead of conceiving and developing programs, I’d be implementing the ideas of others.  Instead of focusing on my area of expertise, K-12 education, I’d be multi-tasking for a small group of faculty immersed in theoretical academia.

Ridiculously enough, the thing that seemed to bother me most was going to be the space — my physical space at the new place.  In my former position I’d had a really nice large office where every last thing had been hand-selected by me — the carpeting, furniture, artwork, even the lighting — all were my taste and my choices.   Even better, the space had two huge side-by-side windows (each measuring 66” h x 36”w) looking out over trees and shrubs and lawns with chirping birds flying by to rest on the windowsills.   I was going to miss my office, those windows and the view.

After ten months unemployed and two months away from losing that tuition benefit for my kids, I was so anxious for a job, I’d never asked to see where I’d be working.  Now that the day was approaching I was dreading what I thought would be my office for the next few years.  I’d remembered seeing this workplace years and years ago.  It was a large room subdivided into lots of little cubicles with those half-partition walls covered in synthetic gray fabric where you could pushpin up your work.  I was steeling myself — for the loss of privacy and for the fact that those “walls” weren't going to hold my kind of artwork.

When they showed me in, it was a small office with a glass-inset door and the same two windows that were in my old office, facing the same direction, with the same view, except now I was on the second floor instead of the first and that meant these windows had the addition of a six-foot wide Palladian window crowning the view and filling the space with light. I could see I was going to like this space.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

To All You Politicians Out There: My Wish

As I listen to the debates by the presidential candidates, I am frustrated by their ping-pong squabbling about energy. Yes, the tide has swung and we are recognizing that we've often contaminated and squandered our resources and yet we still haven’t learned that we MUST, MUST, MUST change the ways we use and create energy (me too).  But here in the USA, given the state of the politicized world we live in,  we seem unable and unwilling to work together to solve what is an over-arching and possibly catastrophic dilemma — how we produce and consume energy.

Why can’t we harness the best of the public and private sectors to focus on developing the overall, cohesive, connected, all-encompassing energy plan the nation should have?  A plan for energy that would be safe, efficient, cost-effective, and mutually beneficial to most, if not all parties.  Isn't that what makes sense? A national policy created by a diverse group of committed and expert citizens (not politicians), working short-term to collaboratively conceive a plan for moving forward in a concerted manner that would be best for everyone?   Shouldn't we put differences aside, grab hold of the mess-of-a-non-energy-policy world we’re living in and wrassle the thing to the ground?  I know it’s tough and would be gutsy but we need tough love on energy to implement change.    

I wish we had a panel of committed and expert citizens to weigh the options and THEN tell us what they've found and what they can recommend.  And believe me every time I think I know what the solution is (wind) I see a documentary (Windfallor a news program, or read an article that shakes me to the core and tells me there’s a REAL problem with the solution I thought would work.  What I now know is there's not a one-stop simple solution and to find a solution the choices are going to be HARD.   But I wish we'd work together (party-affiliations aside) to find and make an intelligent and democratic choice about energy policy — but that’s not how we live.  That’s not how we operate as a society in America.  

We Americans allow those with power and/or money to have control of what’s being done instead of seeing those folks as working for us. But to have that kind of democracy, it means spending time really looking at the issues and getting other points of view and not just accepting what someone else says, however reliable and respected they are as a source.  It takes knowing the candidates and working (however you can) to get them elected and re-elected.   It means voting.  It takes doing our part. We (meaning me) need to be educated about the choices but we also need to hold those we elect accountable. Accountable to working together.  That's what I wish.

Here’s what I've been wishing for years.

By popular vote (get rid of the electoral collegewe should elect a six-year, one-term President with no re-election. One term that’s all you get. BUT — that’s a lot.  You need three years to implement the policies you hope to implement.  Then you need three more years to see if they work.  As president you can focus your entire time in office on improving the country and the quality of life for all its citizens.  If your policies work and people are benefiting from them fairly, then the next occupant of the White House will keep them in place (helped by popular demand).  If your policies are NOT working for the country, then the next president gets to revise or get rid of them and try it another way.  Six years is a reasonable amount of time to get something done if you’re the Commander in Chief.  Now that’s not taking into account the curve balls or tsunamis of life that can happen that derail the best of plans, but still, I think it’s a better way.

We must help our legislators focus.  Here's how: six legislative bills a year only, that’s all you get and they can’t be about the same issue unless the House and the Senate come to agreement that each will focus on a different area of the issue. Those limitations should get our politicians focused, make cooperation a standard behavior among our elected officials, and get us results.  And if our elected and appointed officials couldn't find a way to work cooperatively, then we should replace them the next round.  Why not?

And here’s the only other thing about those 12 bills every year.  They each can’t be more than 20 pages, double-sided 1.5 line space.  If you doubt why I'm being so specific, here's a three-year-old headline from 

November 18, 2009

Senate bill weighs in at 2,074 pages

In the Battle of the Health Bills, the Senate wins out, bulk-wise – weighing in at 2,074 pages.
The House health reform bill was a mere 1,990 pages when introduced.
That means the Senate bill -- like the one in the House -- runs more pages than War and Peace, and has nearly five times as many words as the Torah.
 The table of contents alone is 14 pages. 

And things haven't changed.  At those unbelievable lengths, how many officials are actually reading those bills?  It's ridiculous that things have gotten this out of whack.

We can’t keep things the way they are.  I realize my wish for changing the political landscape seems radical but it’s clean and straightforward and it would certainly level the playing field.  Even if we can’t agree on how to change the way we do business as a country, we can start by finding common ground, as a country, and building on that.  And I know that not everyone agrees that the fix should be at the national level.  In some ways I understand because the feds have f#*!ed it up. But we’re smart, we’re a nation of great ingenuity, we can fix it.   I don’t think it’s impossible — in fact I think my plan is pretty simple.  It would shake things up. It would impact change.   

I support President Obama.  I believe he’s an extraordinary human being who is very smart and skilled and came into a mess — a real unimaginable (in our time) domestic financial mess.  I mostly agree with his actions and certainly (one hundred percent) value his character, but there have been choices that I felt were missteps. (Perhaps he should have focused on energy first, then healthcare.)  But missteps would be true with anyone who would become president.  But I think government’s too big, I think some things would be better left to the states — but not all and certainly not the big stuff — energy, civil rights, education.   I wish our elected officials would give up all their baggage and positions and ego and focus on finding what might be best for us all and then sort through what’s federal and what is best served by states.  But the members of Congress have got to stop this ridiculous, over-blown, competitive, combative, oppositional mentality or we'll end up drowning in their partisan political and falling far behind on the global stage.  

Still, I too have pride of country — just as my Republican cousins and friends do.  It’s time to really stop in our tracks and choose a better way for the health and security of ourselves and our children and our chidren’s children and for everybody else on this earth.  I wish. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

From the Catacombs

Just a short trip back to Rome...
We are on a tour descending into the Catacombs of St.Callixtus, the official cemetery of the Church of Rome since the second and third centuries, built along the Appian Way.  Our tour guide Floriana turns us over to our Vatican guide Arcadia — "an Indian studying in Rome to become a priest in Jerusalem," he informs us.  Very quickly it's clear: Arcadia is knowledgeable, committed to his work as a guide, and eagerly welcomes questions.  After our preliminary education we start the descent and the intense heat of that broiling sun soon slips away as we are enveloped by a 50-degree chill.  The passages are narrow and high, the walls, clammy and crumbling, as our group carefully walks forward one or two abreast. 

All of a sudden in front of me a father starts throwing something at his young teen daughter — and I can’t figure out what is going on. But I see her arms struggling to hold about six bottles of water as the Dad takes the now-empty paper bag in his hand and throws it to a huddled group on the edge of the wall.  Finally I see a woman leaning toward a bent-over boy that is throwing up.  We are down in the maze of the catacombs surrounded by stacks of tombs and in that damp darkness, her teenage son is throwing up. 

Everyone is scurrying past; you know how it is, when your kid is sick and gagging — it takes everything for you NOT to gag and throw up. But the mom in me is panicking for them and wants to help.  I have a pack of tissues in my bag and I turn back to give them to the young girl.  “Oh THANK you.” she says, worry all over her face.  As I head forward again another women turns and says "I have some napkins do you think they need them?”

“Can’t hurt” I say and head back to pass them along.

I walk on hoping that they figure out how to get out or that the son will feel better.  I see the young girl with what I suspect is another brother and I realize that I have a plastic grocery bag in my purse so I empty it and think she can use it for all those water bottles she’s cradling.

“OH thank YOU!” she says again and then turns to her brother saying, “We should give this to Mom, we should go back” because she’s thinking of that paper bag and that it won’t hold up. I did not think of that.

It is hard to imagine how these tombs were successfully created without the benefit of modern-day engineering but by God they are a marvel.  It is five levels deep and contains an estimated 500,000 tombs!  You are amazed that the walls are not caving in on you and that  despite the way the tombs were desecrated by robbers over the centuries  it still is an amazing sight to behold. We are seeing the tombs of popes and as we gather in a room where the Christians hid to worship their God away from the prying eyes of the Romans,  I see the tall teen, now recovered but still hanging back abit.  I’m happy he’s feeling better and that they've been able to continue on with the tour. I dig in my purse and find my small tin of Altoid “Smalls” and offer them to the Dad thinking the son may need a taste of freshness in his mouth.

We end our tour with Arcadia’s best wishes and head out along the passageway to the stairs that will lead us back to the brightness and heat of the day.  There at the end of the corridor is the young girl, standing and whispering to her mom.  They are waiting for me.

“Thank you so much,” the mother says to me in what sounds like a British accent, “You were so kind to help us.”

“How is he feeling?”

“Much better,” she says looking relieved.

We smile and pass on, climbing up the stairs from dark to light.  Christopher turns to me and says, “I’m sorry. I just couldn't help.  It took all I had not to get sick.”

I exhale. I understand. It’s a Mom-thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Among the Ruins in Rome

While I'm away on a little mini-vacation, I'm taking you back to our BIG vaaction.  Back to Italy for a quick visit to Rome.
In spite of what everyone has advised, we are here in the Roman Forum at 1:30 pm on a hot, hot,hot day in the extreme sun — midday in the peak of the heat.  We have spent the morning at the Coliseum, luckily a 15-minute walk from our hotel because there is a transit strike today.  You really don't comprehend its magnificence until you are right smack up against in, in it, and see the size of you and the enormity of it.  How could it ever be built in those times and still standing?

My husband Chris is the historian of the family.  The one who immerses himself in the past and enjoys every bit of minutia he can find on just about any subject.  The Romans ?  Absolutely.  I feel awful because the Rick Steves audio tour of the Forum and the Coliseum I now cannot find on my still-new-to-me iPhone.  Fortunately we got the studio guide to the Coliseum though coordinating the guide, the map and the buttons was a challenge to we Luddites.  I ask a teenager from Canada who tries to find them but has no luck.  I feel better. It’s not just me.

All those Hollywood films Spartacus, Barabbas, Ben-Hur, Gladiator — they come to life here as you see the crumbling monument of what was the real spectacle — the Coliseum, this massive structure of spectacular proportions.

Having circled high and low for hours, we've made our way to what remains of the Forum, but I cannot take another hour of rocky remains in the blistering sun. While Christopher trudges toward the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the Rostrum and the Arch of Septimius, I sit in the shade on a millennia-old block of marble while the breeze blows soothingly on me and all around people are starting and stopping, checking their maps and guide books, babbling in Russian, German, Italian, and Japanese.  Across the expanse of ruins, testament to the glory that was and is Rome, I see my husband, a speck in the distance — another tourist soaking up the history, archaeology and topography of the ancient city.  Then I lose sight of him in the sea of specks and after five minutes begin worrying that he's collapsed behind a pile of Roman rubble with sunstroke.  

This feeling of panic reminds me of another vacation long ago when we took the kids to see the Grand Canyon. 

They all wanted to climb down into the canyon.  We started out at 8:30 am but I know my limits — it looked scary.  People on mules went skittering by.  It was brutally hot but the three of them wanted to start down a ways, so I said I would wait.  We found a small rock niche where I could sit in a bit of shade, and off they went. Two hours went by.  They didn’t come back.  I screwed up my courage and slowly walked down, keeping as far from the edge as I could, hugging the canyon wall without scraping my skin against the rock.  I went through a big arch and rounded a bend and didn't see them anywhere.  I turned and headed back to my little rock perch.  Three hours had gone by and I was panicking.  People who had walked down the canyon well after they did were coming back. I began asking people, “Did you see a guy with a bandanna and two teenagers down there?”  No one had.  My panic was rising. I stopped a ranger told him that he needed to get help, that I was sure something had happened to my husband and the my kids.  They had no hats, no water, nothing.

The ranger wiped the sweat from his brow and said patiently, “M'am, if they left before 8:30 this morning and haven’t come back, then they’ve gone down to the three-mile point and won’t be back for at least another hour. Get out of the sun. Get something to eat.  They’ll be back by then.”

So I trudged back to the room at the lodge took a shower and laid down to wait.  And sometime around 2:30 that afternoon (actually 2:20 pm, almost six hours after they left) my son burst into the room, dripping sweat, covered in red dust and dirt, yelling, “MOM! MOM! MOM! We’re OK!  I ran ahead, because I knew you’d be worried but they’re coming — and we’re all okay!!!”

This time the wait was not six hours but more like forty-five minutes. Chris emerged wiping the sweat from his brow — eager to tell me about all he'd seen — here among the ruins in Rome.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What It Costs To Be Free
The other night on the PBS NewsHour (I love that show) there was an interview with Salman Rushdie who has written a book explaining how he survived being the object of a fatwa — something he readily admits he never would've bet he could do. 

Rushdie’s book Joseph Anton: A Memoir is probably a fascinating read and Rushdie deserves a chance to explain his side of what transpired because the life-changing events triggered by his novel The Satanic Verses, came as a complete surprise to him.  

Unlike some of those practicing free speech, whose intention is to hurt, destroy, discredit — Rushdie did not have that intention and yet he was ascribed this and that assumption changed his life; and perhaps his view of what it really meant to be free (or not, as was his case for nearly a decade).

To accompany the publication of this book, Salman Rushdie wrote a letter to Independent Booksellers.   Here is an excerpt of his homage:

"The bravery of independent booksellers influenced

other stores to follow their lead, and in the end a

key battle for free expression was won—not by

politicians who, as usual, arrived cautiously and

tardily at the battlefield, but by the determination

of ordinary people that it not be lost. I have never

ceased to be grateful for what the independent

booksellers of America did in 1989 and, now that

I have finally been able to tell the full story of that

battle, I’m glad to be able to honor your courage

and give you all your due, both in the pages of

my book and in what I will say about it when it

is published. This is just to thank you personally.

It was a privilege to be defended by you, and I

have been trying, and will continue to try, to be

worthy of that defense."

We were fortunate to hear Rushdie speak three months before the publication of this book and he was intelligent, thoughtful, and quietly entertaining — not a revolutionary.  He was plain-spoken and elegant as he discussed the role of literature in our world.  

"We are the only animals that tell stories to help us understand things (and ourselves). The greater our freedom to do that determines the freedom of the society in which we live in. If we can change, discard and renew the story in which we live, the one way to describe that is freedom. Whoever the tyrant is, they always will say 'we tell the story and we determine who else tells the story and how the story will flow.”

From his lecture and from his interview on the NewsHour, my takeaway of Rushdie's bottom-line message — 

Freedom of speech is freedom of speech.  You don’t get to choose only the speech you like (OR agree with).  You get the good with the great with the bad and sometimes the abhorrent.  And in the United States, we do get the abhorrent — but it’s the price we pay to get to say what we want to say.  Salman Rushdie knows that because he's lived it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Valuing Teachers

I've written about teaching but I haven’t written about how disappointing it is that our society, this great American society, this culture of opportunities and riches, has failed for the past 50 years to truly value the work of K-12 teachers. I don’t know when things changed from being a society that reveres its teachers to one that treats teachers as if they were the lowest white-collar workers on the totem pole. 

Are there awful teachers? Yes.  Is being kept in your job when you're not doing it well acceptable?  No.  Should teachers be unaccountable for results?  Not completely. But are teachers the reason kids don’t learn?  Com’on.  You know better.  And when people are successful and receive awards for their accomplishments in those heartfelt speeches, whom do they recognize?  Their accountant?  Their lawyer?  Their doctor or banker?  They acknowledge the difference in their lives that a TEACHER made.  It only takes one great teacher to turn a life around.

Every now and then, films do a good job of recognizing and celebrating the life and sacrifice and commitment of an extraordinary teacher — Mr. Holland’s Opus, Lean On Me, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, The Ron Clark Story, Children of a Lesser God.

I recently saw a film on television that made me remember how hard it is to go in to a classroom when you’re a newbie.

Beyond the Blackboard is a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV-movie (2011) based on the book Nobody Don't Love Nobody by Stacey Bess, a first-time teacher who went into the dismal-est of situations to teach a group of homeless children in a shelter.  There is no classroom — just a crumbling, deteriorating room in a warehouse that is a mess.  With zero resources and little experience to draw on, Stacey (sincerely played by Emily Van Camp) is upset, overwhelmed and sinking. But she puts aside her personal expectations (like Shackleton) and perseveres to engage the children, and even tougher   she manages to engage their troubled parents.  It is a story of grit, sacrifice and commitment  traits of character every good teacher has  and Stacy has all those qualities plus integrity, because she continues to do what's right, even at great personal cost.

But beyond the dozen or so movies that celebrate these heroes in our lives and those of our children, how often do we honor and acknowledge what hard-working, gifted teachers do?  In fact, the better question is: How often do we denigrate the profession?  "Teachers.  They sure have it easy."  "Out at three every day?  Wish I had a job with summers off."  And the absolute worst insult: "Those who can do.  Those who can't teach."  

One way to value a teacher is that holiday or end-of-year gift. Those gifts could be a great way to thank teachers for all their hard work, but  as one teacher wrote (almost in a plea) all those mugs and trinkets (times 25, 30 or more students) are NOT appreciated  it would be FAR more valuable and appreciated "if everyone just chipped in a dollar or two for a gift certificate" that would allow teachers to get something they actually want and could use. I don't think that's too much to ask and it IS a better way to repay all the times a teacher has dug into her (or his) pocket for OUR kids. 

Yes, I've gotten my share of mugs (and regifted so many) but I must say, at times, I've been pretty lucky in the gift department. Some great Christmas ornaments that I've still got in my collection and when I see them on my tree, fondly remind me of that student and that class of kids.  But the best present I ever received was made by Marcus Deardorf's (?) mom.  Amazingly she hand-painted a stool  one for my team-teacher Nicole (with a cat wearing glasses just like hers) and this one for me 
with this quotation:

"A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account is, or the the sort of house I live in, or the kind of car I drive, but the world may be a better place because........I am important in the life of a child."

And what is the name of the teacher who made a difference in your life?  
Go on. Write below.  Thank that someone who understood you, made you feel special  and made all the difference in your world.

UPDATE: I happily reconnected with my team-teacher Nicole who sent me a picture of her stool which says something equally admiring of teachers...

A Teacher takes a hand,
                                            opens a mind,
    touches a heart.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Reality of Reality TV

It might be hard to understand, but I am starting to see Married To Jonas as educational.   
Hear me out.  I admit it  I watch reality TV.  Not all of it, but enough of it and definitely more than is good.  And while I don't watch certain genres or even some of the more popular ones, I have watched most shows and I do still watch some of The HousewivesThe Kardashians (I'm Armenian) and just a few episodes of the new series Married To Jonas.   Two young people, Kevin (one-third of the Disney pop/rock musical group the Jonas Brothers) and Dani are starting out, completely in love but like any newly married couple, now coping with in-laws, a home, siblings, friends and  in the best-possible-still-new-struggling way  each other.  

Dani is sweet and lovely but falling in love and marrying Kevin has (gently) ripped her from the life she knew and from the close cocoon of her family's love.  As if just being married wasn't difficult enough  add on that your partner is famous.  Famous is a lot of things.  Some of them great (money and access to a lot) and some of them not (ever-present paparazzi and fans).  It makes everything so much harder and she's not come from show business and has lived pretty shelteredThrown into a world where looks are ridiculously important and scrutinized, she's got the normal insecurities everyone has, plus she's got to contend with the media's message that she's not good enough, not pretty enough to have married this teen heartthrob.  From the little I've seen, Kevin is loving and protective and trying to make this transition go as smoothly as possible for Dani but hey, you can't control the universe and you can't control anyone else.   It's an inside look at the romance and angst of early love and the absolute challenges of beginning a new life with a partner there for the long haul, fame, baggage and all.  I'm worried.

When we first got married (26 years ago), I knew something wasn't in sync but I couldn't figure out what, so I suggested we go for help to a place that specialized in marriage counseling.  Chris was in agreement, but I cautioned, "Let's not tell anyone."  I knew that if anyone heard we were going to counseling they'd think our marriage was already falling apart  four months in!  Therapy turned out to be enormously helpful and simple.  I'd come from a family where fighting was a daily ritual.  I mean fighting with voices raised, glasses hurled against the wall shattering to the floor, doors slamming. (I used to joke there wasn't a door in our house that didn't have a fist or a foot through it.  Ha-Ha.)  Chris came from a family where he never, NEVER heard his parents have an argument.   Seriously.  

Like the steam valve on a pressure cooker, in my family people exploded, vented their anger, eventually the air cleared and things moved on.  To me, arguing was cathartic. To Chris, fighting meant his world was disintegrating  shattering, like those glasses.  Neither situation was ideal, but through therapy we had a better understanding of this foundational difference.  We couldn't undo what was past, but it was a very helpful thing to recognize and know moving forward. 

In our society we make it so easy to get married and so difficult to get divorced.  (I think it should be the other way around.) Today I doubt that most young people (products of the ME generation) think through the consequences of bonding to another human being for life.  And it isn't often that shows come along that present these realities in a way that's engaging and informative  HBO's In Treatment was certainly one, but I wouldn't consider it mainstream.  

If Married To Jonas (with nearly 1.8 million viewers during its premiere broadcast) does a good job of exploring the inevitable consequences of married life and shows Dani and Kevin working through them to make their relationship stronger and happier, then I say this show is doing public service.