We haven’t posted here in a long time, but the interest of children is what matters to The Interested Child.

I have written elsewhere about the horrific ways in which children have been treated in the world and about my own connection with the Newtown Massacre. But the world seems to have gone even crazier in the past couple of years, and the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week was just one episode of madness too much. And I’m not talking just about the shooter, but about the studied way in which politicians keep sidestepping the issue of gun violence and gun control.

If you’re reading this you care about kids. You are likely a parent or a guardian or an educator. You watch kids every day. You have probably been watching the Olympics and marveling at the teenagers on skis and snowboards, for example, hurling themselves into the air, spinning crazily, and landing in the medal zone. You know that these are passionately interested children, and you pray that the sports systems that have brought them to PyeongChang are healthier and less exploitative than what we have been hearing about in women’s gymnastics. But I suppose we all wonder.

What we know about mass shootings is that nothing will happen, or at least that nothing has happened yet. Politicians bray about “thoughts and prayers,” mumble something about “mental health,” and then go back and curl up at the feet of their gun-lobby masters, apparently content that the cycle of violence is now as American as apple pie and that re-election is in their money-filled bag.

Some kids have even learned to capitalize on the sick pointlessness of all this, and the cycle now includes copy-cat threats to schools, replacing false fire alarms as an effective way to get attention, have some lulz, and maybe even delay that algebra test for a day. Someone, somewhere is keeping a tally, but Thursday and Friday’s toll of these was well into the dozens, nationally, by my quick review of local news sites across the country. And apparently a few of the thwarted threats were for real. Jesus wept.

But the children are speaking up in positive ways, too, and the media, at least, are suddenly beginning to listen. I read in my local paper today a story about a rally held by Parkland, Florida, students in which they spoke out—loud and proud and passionate and angry—on the issue of guns. “We call B–S!” was their cry. Bravo! Is ours.

And we have calls to action from other places: Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, Everytown, and the Network for Public Education have proposed days (March 14, March 24, and April 20, respectively) for student and teacher walk-outs and teach-ins. The idea is to spark enough positive action to capture enough of the attention of the voting public to, in turn, capture the attention of politicians at all levels—hopefully enough attention to drown out the gun lobby’s mandate for inaction.

The Interested Child supports these and other efforts to curb the United States’s appalling rate of gun violence: on an average day, 96 people die by the gun, including 7 children and teens. This is unacceptable.

And if children’s voices can help in this effort, we urge our readers to engage themselves and their own interested children in this work. This is not about exploiting children for political gain but about somehow finding the right combination of voices and messages to change the world, or at least our little part of it.

I don’t even understand why this is about politics at all. Who can disagree that kids’ lives should be protected by the adults who write and enforce the laws of the land?

More Than a Good Idea—Watch the Olympics!

For the next couple of weeks the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are likely to live near the top of both news and sports broadcasts; the Olympics, with their subtext of international competition (as important to some news media and many spectators as the competition between athletes) are always news. It’s worth remembering, though, that the Olympic Charter specifies that “The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries”—a concept that many jingoistic commentators would do well to remember.

(The role of the nation versus the individual or team might make for a great topic of discussion for interested Olympics-watchers. As well, we await the first time a thoughtful newsreader explains the daily medal count as, “Twelve of today’s medal winners were from Norway” instead of the more usual, “Norway won twelve medals today.”)

The Winter Games can have a special appeal to the interested child. Replete with unusual sports, complex scoring methods, and athletes from nations—think Liechtenstein—that tend not to be in the news very much, there’s a great deal to pique a young person’s curiosity. Plus, of course, the sports are just fun to watch, from the grace of figure skating to the anxious precision of curling to the sheer speed of alpine skiing, not to mention the seemingly impossible geometries of snowboarding and freestyle skiing. (NBC Learn has a great educational site, “Science of the Winter Olympic Games,” for interested children and adults who want to know, for example, how figure skaters can control the speed of their spins and turning jumps.)

The Olympics always provide lessons in geography and culture as well as the human interest of tight competition among athletes at the peak of performance. The opening ceremonies are artistic extravaganzas, and the pride and excitement of the athletes entering in their team uniforms behind their national flags is palpable. Equally palpable is the joy and unbridled relief of the athletes at the closing ceremonies; watching medal winners taking pictures of the crowd on their phones as they grin and dance their way into the stadium is a reminder that this is a deeply human event, a coming together that fulfills the wildest dreams of the idealists who began the modern Olympic movement in 1894—truly, what founder Pierre de Coubertin called “a program of moral beauty.”

This year’s Winter Olympics will receive massive coverage on live TV, streaming video, and wrap-ups and highlight shows. Just following the main Games will be record-level broadcast coverage of the Paralympics, in which disabled athletes compete in many Olympic sports in one of the most extraordinary affirmations of the human spirit and human possibility anyone is ever likely to witness.

We are obliged to note that these Olympics have sparked more than the usual amount of controversy owing to both the threats of terrorism and Russia’s Draconian laws pertaining to homosexuality. For some, viewing the Games this time around may be more disturbing than enjoyable; adults will have to make their own decisions on these matters.

Nevertheless, we at The Interested Child remain big fans of the Olympics and the spirit in which they were established and continue, at their best, to portray. We urge parents, guardians, and educators to give consideration to the upsides of offering children plenty of opportunities to watch, learn from, and reflect on the spectacle that is the Winter Olympics.

Here’s a brief overview of the Games prepared for elementary-age students (compliments of Mimi Harrington of Dedham Country Day School, Massachusetts–who notes that there have been a couple of changes since the show was created earlier this week; the world of sport is a world of change!):

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