As we push further into this era of ultra-divisiveness, where any given topic—Brett Kavanaugh’s newly won Supreme Court seat, “zero tolerance” immigration law, gun control, President Trump’s latest tweet—threatens to burst us all asunder, I find myself haunted by high school—the logical result, I suppose, of living in a world deranged by ego, idiocy, bigotry, and fear.

As far as metaphorical wellsprings go, there’s basically high school or Nazi Germany.


Okay so, here goes.

In tenth grade, I signed up to argue pro-life for Social Studies debate.

I had just transferred to a new school—the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts—in the middle of the school year. Somehow, it failed to occur to me that publicly defending an emblematic conservative cause during my first week at a free-wheeling arts school was a bad idea. I assumed everyone would just know—by virtue of what? My Urban Outfitters cardigan?— I wasn’t pro-life in real life.

Further complicating matters, I had partnered with Ashley Rook. At any other school, Ashley—a lifelong Girl Scout and devout Mormon who modeled her fashion choices after Cher in Clueless—might have flown under the radar. At LACHSA, she was a full-blown pariah.

But I had no clue about her social status. I was new, scared, and Ashley—a warm face in a sea of cool kids—was a balm to my goose-pimpled soul. When she asked if I’d like to be her debate partner, I said yes.

For the next two weeks, we immersed ourselves in research. We collected data about heartbeats, conception, and consciousness, and compiled quotes from philosophers, priests, and women with regrets. We carefully cut out photos of bloody embryos and pasted them to foam core with "Disappearing Purple" glue sticks. By the time debate day rolled around, we felt prepared and confident—not bad for a couple kids who in no way bought what they were selling.  

Facing a class of 20 to 25 students, with our facts and fetuses propped behind us like a shield, we presented our case. Halfway through our first notecard the jeering began. Heckles, scoffs, gasps of dismay.

One girl climbed into the lap of a friend, needing to be stroked and held. Other students perched on chair-backs like gargoyles poised to spit. It’s worth noting I have zero memory of the kids we actually “debated”—only our audience, a gang of glaring faces seared into my brain. It was disorienting.

Despite harboring the exact same political views as my class, I found myself transformed into a living effigy—a dummy in a baby tee.

I watched their faces—inflated by righteousness, puffed with power—and thought: you’re not upset. You’re enjoying this. (With their get-out-of-jail-free card to gang up on a dork and the new girl—who wouldn’t?)

For the next 40 minutes, I entered a sort of fugue state, during which I stopped defending pro-life as an intellectual exercise, and began defending it in earnest. My voice trembled. I pointed to Xeroxed fetuses with actual tears in my eyes. I was a believer. Because this wasn’t about pro-life versus pro-choice. Not anymore.

This was about me versus them.

We have crossed a similar threshold in this country. We have exited the realm of debate, in which ideas are pitted against ideas, into an amygdala delirium.

Here, people and ideas are fused, and citizens pitted against citizens. It’s a phenomenon dramatically stoked by our President: Trump doesn’t attack a point of view—his ignorance precludes him—he attacks the person. When, for example, he calls the media, “horrible, horrendous people,” he’s not critiquing an institution. He’s dehumanizing individuals.

We must, as much as possible, resist the urge to follow suit—to conflate people with their politics and reject them wholesale. When a video of Kavanaugh’s uncomfortable-looking wife flies around—why speculate whether or not she’s abused? Not only do we abandon the real crisis—the legitimacy of his post—we risk alienating complete strangers, people who may, for better or worse, see themselves in the Kavanaughs.

When we mock the Kavanaugh’s marriage, and mercilessly interpret their “body language,” we unknowingly disparage couples who may express themselves similarly—couples we don’t know. And nothing alienates more swiftly than ridicule—I experienced it first hand. Ridicule led me to earnestly defend—however briefly—a position I’d formally rejected. Imagine the effect if I’d started out taking that position?

If I’d been undecided?

I’m not saying I practice what I preach. I am the caustic Queen. The jester of jibes. I speak not of the pompitous of love. But maybe that’s why this high school debate episode haunts me. Maybe I know, on some level, for every cup of water I splash on this fire, I’m adding another two buckets of fuel.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani wows audiences with his amazing musical talents.

Mozart was known for his musical talent at a young age, playing the harpsichord at age 4 and writing original compositions at age 5. So perhaps it's fitting that a video of 5-year-old piano prodigy Alberto Cartuccia Cingolani playing Mozart has gone viral as people marvel at his musical abilities.

Alberto's legs can't even reach the pedals, but that doesn't stop his little hands from flying expertly over the keys as incredible music pours out of the piano at the 10th International Musical Competition "Città di Penne" in Italy. Even if you've seen young musicians play impressively, it's hard not to have your jaw drop at this one. Sometimes a kid comes along who just clearly has a gift.

Of course, that gift has been helped along by two professional musician parents. But no amount of teaching can create an ability like this.

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