Relationships are courses in which
You should not enroll,
If changing other people is your
Pre-existing goal.



When One Overrides Twenty-Six

It started in first grade as I recall.
Our son told us strange tales about some kid,
Who yelled and sang, and sometimes smacked a wall,
With no apparent cause for what he did.

Such stories kept on coming more and more,
Since he was in our son’s class every grade.
But soon our boy’s amusement at that lore,
Became frustration for disruptions made.

Our son would tell us on most days the teachers,
Spent hours just trying to keep that kid quiet,
And then they could not reach some subject’s features,
With interruptions by this boy’s next riot.

At parent-teacher conferences we asked,
Was this unruly kid invincible?
Two teachers told us that’s how they’d been tasked,
And begged us to speak with the principal.

The principal said nothing could be done,
But it was clear that really was her choice,
When she called public schools “for everyone,”
And zero sympathy was in her voice.

This boy was merely “different” she declared,
And thus “the other kids could learn from that.”
Well, silly me for wanting them all spared,
From learning no 3Rs throughout each spat.

Then lastly she professed his legal rights,
And said that mainstream classes thus behooved.
But experts told me since that kid incites
Routine disturbances he could be moved.

Yet with her need to show inapt compassion,
She wanted that wild kid kept in the mix,
While my main aim, which she deemed out of fashion,
Was schooling for the other twenty-six.



Poor Little Soccer Player

The little boy could barely move,
__So un-robust was he.
His feet got nowhere near the ball
__Nor its vicinity.

There were abundant other things
__At which this boy excelled,
But during children’s soccer games
__His father often yelled:

“I’ll buy a new computer for you,”
__“If you score a goal!”
That made the other parents want to
__Crawl into a hole.

No doubt like any other Dad
__His love was very real.
But did he ever stop to think
__How that made his son feel?



Russel Winick recently started writing poetry at nearly age 65, after ending a long legal career. He resides in Naperville, Illinois.

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24 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    Three thought-provoking pieces.

    That unhelpful dad who expects his kid to excel in sport and misbehaves on the sideline seems to be a common trope in the US. You can’t help but feel sorry for the kid.

    The inclusion of special needs children is a difficult one. I suppose it depends on the extent of the disruption, if any.

    Thanks for the reads, Russel.

    • Russel Winick

      Thanks Paul. In my own elementary school classes, there was one boy who was noticeably behind everyone else intellectually. Fifty years later, I organized a reunion of the people from those classes. That guy refused to attend, stating that those were horrible years for him, and he always felt dumb. Mainstreaming is well-intended, but as these stories indicate, it also can sometimes hurt everyone.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        I would make the case that all children have “special needs” of their own whether or not they have any kind of disability, and so all schooling is “mainstreaming.” Today’s schools were based on a 19th century Prussian model designed to mold children by force into obedient cogs in the industrial machine.

        That’s why homeschooled children do so much better in life than their schooled peers.

  2. Cheryl Corey

    Once again, Russel, you impart common sense messages through your poetry.

  3. Sally Cook

    Your poems are excellent. They show how children are so often left with no friends, no guidance and help because the adults around them choose to ignore a problem, or assume all people want to play a certain game. The other little boy will grow up hating sports and missing the fun of teamwork.

    Thanks for these.

    • Russel Winick

      You’re most welcome Sally. In my view, it was arguably child abuse for that soccer dad to even sign his son up for an activity where the boy almost certainly would not enjoy the experience. Then to add his public comments, as if the boy just needed more motivation, was parental blindness at a remarkable level.

  4. Joshua C. Frank

    Russel, I love these! I assume these are true stories?

    In fact, I always enjoy seeing your poetry.

    • Russel Winick

      Thanks Joshua. Yes, they are true stories, both from twenty years ago.

  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    When I was in grade school, no student was compelled to take part in athletics if he chose not to. Along with some other bookish types, I would sit on the sidelines of the gym or playground and just watch the game. It was a sane and sensible policy.

    In traditional English public schools, however, every single student was forced to take part in the games and the practice sessions for them, even if he were physically unsuited for such exercise, and hated it. This policy was a torment for many boys.

    Unfortunately, here in America, too many parents are following the practice of the English public schools, and compelling their children to take part in sports — solely out of parental vanity and pride. Little League baseball has become a nasty hotbed of parental competition.

    • Russel Winick

      And that’s a shame, because youth sports should be about teamwork, sportsmanship, setting and working towards goals, time management, making friends, following instructions, physical fitness, etc. But you’re right – the parental competition is often shamefully excessive.

  6. Brian A Yapko

    Russel, all of these poems are marvelous. I want to single out “When One Overrides Twenty-Six” because it presents a scenario which has great relevance to our culture wars. This is not just about a disruptive child ruining the education of his classmates. It’s about the balance between the needs of someone with unusual challenges and the rest of society being pulled down by that person. It is about changing the English language and all of our social-political institutions to accommodate transgenders even though they are a tiny fraction of the population and their wounded feelings are their subjective issue, not ours. It is about forcing decent people to accept the homeless pooping on their sidewalks because we must respect their dignity. It is about discouraging normal non-evangelical people from simply saying “Merry Christmas” because someone who is not Christian might get offended. In an effort to leave no one behind, the Left either dumbs down everything or else forces a majority of people to stoop and bend in a hundred different ways.

    I wrote a poem which had to be revised to be accepted for publication, In my original version of “Social Justice Warrior” I proposed that we close all beaches because albinos might feel bad if others enjoyed the sun; that elevators in skyscrapers should be banned because some people have claustrophobia; that we should eliminate red and green traffic signals to accommodate the color-blind; that bread should be outlawed because so many people are gluten intolerant. Obviously these are examples of reductio ad absurdum, but in a way that’s the whole point: when did we as a culture decide that the needs of the one or the few outweigh the needs of the many? Why does every single person’s unusual or atypical needs have to be met by everyone else? Imagine getting through the Great Depression or fighting World War II while being saddled with this type of cultural baggage.

    What would happen if we held people to a higher standard? What if we didn’t codependently offer accommodations and lowered standards for the unreasonable? What if the homeless were legally required to clean up after themselves? What if drug addicts who leave needles lying around were actually fined? And what if we kept the English language as-is and let those who do not fully “see themselves” in the language deal with it? And what if the child you describe had been placed in special education so that the rest of the class didn’t have its progress stymied?

    • Russel Winick

      Thanks Brian. In court one day long ago, I saw a legal aid lawyer fighting to keep a subsidized housing tenant from getting evicted, despite the fact that her gangbanger son had been terrorizing residents throughout the building. I was appalled at the concern for her “rights” over those of literally a hundred other people. That mindset played a major role in my transition from left to right, and yes, it also accounts for the story in that poem. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I’ve been a teacher since 1968, teaching at all levels from junior high school to the university. In all those years I noticed that “mainstreaming” was only a problem in the lower grades and high schools, but not at the college level, where the assumption was that students were self-controlled adults.

        Guess what — things have changed. Many colleges now allow dangerous and mentally disturbed students to enroll, and the presence of such a student can mean utter disaster for a class. The Admissions Office no longer feels comfortable prejudging anyone as incapable of college work, and is terrified of lawsuits.

        Five years ago I had a deranged female student in one section of Classical Mythology. Her idiocy and surreal questions and sheer lunacy made the class a total loss for all the other enrollees. I had to call security on her twice, and yet she remained in the school for another semester, until she so disrupted a colleague’s class that the university finally relented and expelled her. This had to be done in the teeth of furious opposition from the school’s Student Liaison Committee of left-liberal buffoons.

        In the old days, this crackpot broad wouldn’t have been let near a school. But that’s what the worship of “diversity” and “inclusion” get you.

  7. Margaret Coats

    Russel, a wise and perceptive group of poems, especially “When One Overrides Twenty-Six.” It is a sadly needed objection to mainstreaming. The most horrific example of it is the young man who killed 17 persons, and injured 17 more, in Parkland, Florida, five years ago. Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow who was shot dead at age 18, found out the whole truth–and he then told it in his book, “Why Meadow Died.” The gunman had been a troubled child from the time he entered school at age 5. He grew worse and worse as he was not only mainstreamed but coddled and protected despite behavior that included slugfests with other students and bringing weapons to school. Judging from actions witnessed by many, he could have been arrested for assault more than once, but he was careful to avoid violence off school grounds, and police could do nothing about complaints made to them concerning offenses in school. For a six-minute shooting spree, he is now spending life in prison with no possibility of parole, but 14 students and 3 teachers are dead.
    Mainstreaming can kill.

  8. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Russel, you have an admirable knack of tapping into the dilemmas in society with a keen eye born from personal experience, thus strengthening messages that impart wisdom in spades – wisdom it would do well for those causing the problems to learn from… but, I’m certain that won’t happen. Your poems do, however, have the great benefit of making those who don’t agree with the direction society is traveling in feel they’re not alone, and in today’s hostile environment, your poetry is a gift for many. Russel, thank you!

    • Russel Winick

      Thank you Susan. I feel quite blessed if I’m really playing that role.

  9. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Your first poem on acceptance is like a stake driven to the heart of the matter. As to the others, I have always been in favor of telling my children about expectations, goals, and rewards, but that is best done privately.

  10. Mark Stellinga

    Russel, you’ve picked such an important issue to address with your 2nd & 3rd pieces, and done so with great compassion. This is what poetry is for. Great job, and thanks for sharing…


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