The Yang Gang and John Page

By Reade Brower | Sep 26, 2019

Andrew Yang is 44 years old, a U.S. citizen born in New York to parents of Taiwanese descent. Although a long-shot Democratic presidential candidate, he’s ahead of where Bill Clinton was at this same stage. Yang wants to compete in November 2020 with another former long shot, Donald Trump.

While Trump used rallies, backed up by outrageous tweets, to create a committed base that would carry him past 16 Republicans into the presidency, Yang is popular online; The New York Times wrote Yang was “The Internet’s Favorite Candidate.”

His signature stance, “universal basic income,” gives him a talking point. He guarantees all citizens $1,000 a month after the age of 18 and believes it will help fight the challenge that automation will decimate the work force and economy. He also believes in Medicare-for-all and something he calls “human-centered capitalism.”

“Humanity First” is a Yang campaign slogan, with the “Freedom Dividend,” or UBI, of $12,000 his igniter. Paying for this “dividend,” and other programs, will be expensive but Yang’s idea is a value added tax (VAT) of 10% — basically an added consumption tax, similar to state sales tax.

What’s interesting about Yang and his “gang” is that it’s powered by love and hope, quite the opposite of Trump’s long-shot message of hate and fear in 2016. While both emotions are powerful, time will tell if Yang’s message can push him over the top and give him a chance to compete against President Trump in 2020.

Yang talks about being bullied by classmates, and racial slurs hurled at him during public school years, shaping who he is, and why his message is built on tolerance and positivity.

He describes his campaign message: “It’s not left, it’s not right, it’s forward.”

Hmmm, is there something in that message worth thinking about?

***

John Page was a teacher, coach and administrator during his career; he recently passed away in his early 80s.

I didn’t remember John, but in reading a Hyde School blog by Hyde President Malcolm Gauld, I wished I'd had some “Johnny P” moments because he was a mentor to model after.

Malcolm shared experiences that, while watching Johnny P in action, made him realize, “I am not doing that … maybe I should.”

His first reminiscence was John challenging a “classic Angry Young Man” with an “attitude that could choke a horse (old Hyde saying)” about an attitude or ethical violation. Malcolm writes: “The kid was totally going off in disrespectful mode on the absurdity of all things Hyde: the rules, the parents who sent him against his will, the kids who were ‘narcs,’ and all that good stuff. Although mesmerized by the kid’s harangue, I broke away long enough to read John’s reactions. He never deviated from staring into the kid’s eyes with an expression of warm understanding. He never took the bait of the kid’s attitude. Before long, the ‘conversation’ turned into respectful … well … conversation. I remember thinking: ‘That is not what I do (I tended to argue). Maybe I need to do that.’ After that teaching moment, I consciously tried following John’s example. Today I call it “venting the spleen” and find myself passing John’s approach on to young Hyde faculty.”

The other noteworthy story was about John volunteering to coach a very under-talented JV girls’ basketball team. None of the players had experience and most didn’t know the rules. Malcolm writes: “When the ref would blow the whistle for double-dribble or traveling, the good news was our girls would stop and politely hand over the ball. The bad news was they had no idea why the whistle was blown.”

While Malcolm felt sorry for Coach John, John had a plan.

Recognizing the challenge, he focused on one task; “OK ladies, we’re going to play a game called stay between ‘Your Girl and the Basket.’ Can’t do a lay-up, I don’t care. Don’t understand traveling, I don’t care. I only care about one thing: When the other team has the ball, you MUST stay between your girl and the basket. That is the ONLY thing I will yell at you for.”

Malcolm remembers them getting demolished early in the season, and during timeouts, John critiquing only how they were doing at keeping between their opponents and the basket; it was like they were playing another sport within a sport, Malcolm recalls.

Only after John was satisfied they had mastered this primary task, did he begin to teach lay-ups. They now had two things to work on. Then he taught shooting, before introducing them to an “offensive set.”

Malcolm explains how this made Malcolm a better coach himself: “At season’s end, no one would confuse them for a masterful basketball team, but they had become a 'legitimate' team where each player felt a genuine sense of accomplishment.

“John taught me it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. He also taught me you don’t force players into a system, you create a system that fits them.”

***

“Every student needs someone who says, simply, ‘You mean something. You count.’”

— Tony Kushner, playwright (b. 1956)

 

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