Saturday, January 21, 2017

Inaugural speech and education, II


"But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. ... An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge."     Donald Trump

In light of our POTUS's history, this comes off a tad creepy.
How soon we forget.


"I am going to be dating her in ten years. Can you believe it?"      Donald Trump

Inaugural speech and education, I

"But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. ... An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge."       Donald Trump, January 20, 2017

"All knowledge" is an odd phrase, perhaps accidental, but likely not. These were prepared words spoken at an inauguration speech.

To be fair, I start off every year telling my students that they will know less by June than they think they know in September. And, mostly, they do--trying to get a handle on how the natural world works will do that to a person.

Part of me fervently wishes this was a reference to Socrates' paradox:

"I know that I know nothing."

Unlikely.

Mr. Trump has made it clear that he made a break from the natural world a long time ago. It's an illusion, of course, entropy conquers all of us eventually, but for the moment, ignorance trumps science. And many of us are going to pay for his ignorance.


I am trying to parse the sentence, but I keep getting lost.

Is "all knowledge" a reference to the tree in the Garden of Eden? Is "all knowledge" some code understood by the extreme right?

Does he believe schools act like giant brain leeches, sucking out gray matter through our children's eyeballs?
Poster lifted from The Hannibal 8

Monday, January 16, 2017

I am a racist--if you're white, chances are you are, too

If you're white and celebrating Dr. King's life today, may be a good time for a self-examination.


I come from an unusual school in an unusual school district. We are not a mostly white or a black or a Latino school. We are Muslim and Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Sikh. We hear Bengali, Spanish, Greek, English, Patois, and maybe another couple dozen languages and dialects in our hallways.

Crispus Attucks, first death in American Revolution
via Crispus Attucks Museum website
I'm not going to ruin all this by claiming a Kumbaya moment, but what makes this building work maybe better than most others is the constant infusion of immigrants into our town, an infusion of confusion, that keeps us all wondering who we are.

I've heard several times a different version of that discussion, as a small group of kids will discuss just which banner they fall under.

And that's a good place to start.
***

The other race conversation is the one acknowledging the price of color in this fine land of ours. The problem is not starting "the conversation" about race. Most kind, nice folks I know are eager, too eager, to start the conversation.

The problem is getting past the niceties, the politeness, the veneer of civility that subtly reflects our standing with each other.

The problem with the hard conversation is that most white folks I know truly believe two things:
  • They're not racist.
  • If they're not racist, then this does not involve them.
This skirts the whole issue of privilege, neatly tidied up in a universal statement of our humanity, and who could possibly argue with the idea that an unbiased, nice person who just wants everybody to get along had nothing to do with, well, John Crawford? 


Here's a place to start. You're not going to get off the bottle until you acknowledge you're a racist. Not a John Birch Society heavy drinking racist, just the social two-glasses-of-chardonnay kind. The kind who sits on the sidelines tsk tsking away a world that does not concern you.

But it should.
Make the declaration, then let's try having the talk. 



And if it does not, you are in deeper than you think.
This was originally posted a tear or so ago--seemed like a good day to post it again.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dr. Martin Luther King, reduced by Kidzworld

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (not "MLK") had had his teeth extracted by the dominant culture, an abominable snowman reduced to a toothless grinning cartoon fit for white folk. I've said as much before. And he supported the poor white folk who voted for Mr. FortySixPercent far more than Trump ever will.

The "I Have a Dream" speech is wonderful, but only in context of everything else he did. If you know him only by that, it's like pretending to know Jesus because he once took a stroll on water.

So once again, I will print out several dozen copies of the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," leave them by the door, and encourage students to read it

Meanwhile, folks will continue to abuse the idea of the man with things like this:


Do the work that matters, and you will sleep better. You're going to die anyway.

May as well make your life one worth living.


As good a lesson as any for our lambs.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The price of today's words

Truth as written by some young folk in B362,

I keep a manual typewriter in the back of our classroom. Kids enjoy banging on it when they discover it, mostly, I think, from its novelty, but it runs deeper than that.

Not all words are meant to be permanent, Most of our day to day words are meant to be fleeting, as ephemeral as the chatter of the squirrels and pigeons that share our neighborhood, and with about as much meaning. When we send off emails and texts and tweets, they feel as ephemeral as the spoken word, but they're not.

Casual words spoken tentatively, spoken in anger, spoken in love, spoken as casual chit chat, all used to hang in the air between the few that heard them, as quickly gone as the next breath few breaths.

The printed word changed that, but it took effort and time to put words to paper. It took effort and time to get that paper to the person who was meant to see them. And in that time, before permanent words had a permanent effect, the chain could be broken. And it often was.

Kids throw out kid words with kid impulses and pay adult prices.

The price is far too high.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dear White Men of America

From my other blog, but with the impending coronation, figured I'd share it here.


Dear White Men of America,

I’ve broken noses, both mine and others, shoveled shit off ships in Port Newark, and worked in the projects; I know the thrill of flying off a bike then feeling the heat of asphalt build up under the leather as you tumble next to your bike down the road; I’ve been knocked out several times, smoked cigars while pissing into the Atlantic, had a man die under my hands after being shot, and yes, I play fantasy football, too.

I drink too much beer, take too few vitamins, have plenty of physical scars with too little faith in the metaphorical ones, stick by my teams, love my whiskey, and slaughtered animals. I’m a white man in America.

We know each other. Or at least I thought we did.

Mr. Trump has done none of these things, has never worked a day in his life, and I doubt he could fix anything more complicated than a burned out light bulb, and even then he’d likely injure himself.


He’s the smarmy kid in class with too much money and too little sense with his crew of buddies ready to beat up the weaker among us. I know a few of you ran with that kind of crew, but I always believed most of us stood our ground when his henchmen came round.

And I was wrong.

What the fuck is wrong with you?

Yours,
Your fellow white American male




"'Dock stevedore at the Fulton Fish Market holding giant lobster claws.'
Photo by Gordon Parks for the Office of War Information" via Shorpy







Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Perihelion


We're a few hours away from our closest brush with the sun for the year. We are also a few hours away from the darkest 4 weeks of the year. Coincidental, true, but both are good news.

Because the perihelion happens in winter, we're blessed with a longer summer in these parts, and we're blessed with a larger sun when we need it most. (Yes, this is illusory, but so is pretty much everything else we pretend matters.)

As the days lengthen, again, I am reminded, again, of our ties to the light, to the ground, to the air and water. To say as much these days gets you labeled as some kind of Luddite or squirrel-kissing tree-hugger.

And maybe that's my gift to the students--standing in front of them, an old soul still more connected (if tenuously) to the world that sustains us than the one that merely entertains us.