Learning as a Political Act

“First, education is a political act, whether at the university, high school, primary school or adult literacy classroom.  Why?  Because the very nature of education has the inherent qualities to be political, as indeed politics has educational aspects.  In other words, an educational act has a political nature and a political act has an educational nature.  . . . Education worldwide is political by nature.”

– Paulo Freire, The Politics of Education

 

What is Freire saying here?

Angry Mobs

I’ve been angry.  I’ve been vocal.  I’ve been many things.  But I have never been part of a mob.  I have been part of the Women’s March.  That wasn’t a mob, it was a HUGE gathering of people, voicing their viewpoints against the racism, misogyny, and denigration of the United States of America by the current political party in power.  And there’s another one coming up in January 2019.  Everyone should be there.

I am trying to figure out the political rallies that our current President is having.  He talks about the country as if we are on the verge of collapse.  We have illegal immigrants streaming over our borders as if it’s a sale at Macy’s.  Democrats are lurking in the shadows with metal detectors to steal your guns.  Democrats are going to shut down Medicare and Social Security.  OH, MY HEAVENS, THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!!  And people believe this malarkey.

Let’s look at this a little closer.  If any of you believe that our economy “magically” turned around because we elected Donald J. Trump, then I have some “land” in Florida I would like to sell you.  No one seems to remember what state the economy was in when the previous President was elected.  It was almost the second Great Depression!  The ONLY reason it wasn’t was BECAUSE of the safety nets that were put into place AFTER that Great Depression.  And trust me, if you have lived through the 1930s, you would remember how really terrible it was.

I did not live through it and those who are old enough will tell you of the issues for working and middle class people.  Because there was no safety nets, no welfare, no FDIC, no help except through religious organizations and private charities.  My Mother was 15 years old in 1930.  She had to QUIT high school because she was the oldest of the five children.  She had to go out and find a job to help keep the family together and fed.  My Father came to the US in 1933 from Sweden for more opportunities.  Think about that?! They both taught me that the USA was a place where anything was possible.  But you had to strive for it.  It was not a given just because of who you were, where you lived, what gender you were, what ethnicity you were, or anything else.  You made your way as best you could.

I know the playing field in this country is not equal and level for all.  And that is an issue.  But to believe that you are entitled to anything because of your social standing, economic privilege, color of your skin, or your gender, it ludicrous.

Let me state that I am a white lesbian.  I know that doesn’t make a whit of difference to anyone but I thought I would be transparent.

Those of you who support our current President – How many illegal immigrants live within a 5 mile radius of your house?  Are criminals breaking into your house weekly or monthly?  Do you have food to eat, clothes to wear?  Can you tell me that these things are frequent occurrences for you?  If not, why do you listen to a man that could really care less whether you live or die?  If you believe he truly cares about you, then how does he show it?  Supreme Court Justices?  Okay, you’ve got them now.  I would remind you to be careful what you wish for.  I understand that you do care for some of the rulings of the Court for the past 20 years.  But you cannot turn back time.  It doesn’t work that way.  Do you want to give up the advances that have been made technologically?  The advancements in industry are what have made this country great.

The 1963 World’s Fair occurred at a time of great optimism in this country.  It was held in New York City.  It had a plethora of new and exciting things that could happen such as jet packs and color televisions.  There were exhibits about the future of work, the future of living and the future of leisure time.  I remember reading that as work became more mechanized, the number of hours that people worked would decrease and as more things around the house were done by machines, robots and technology, people would have more free time.  We looked forward to it.  Well, maybe not me personally at the time, I was only 5 years old.

Do any of you work less than 40 hours per week?  I don’t.  We do have more technology and mechanization but I bet no one would want to return to the past with that.

I just watched an ad that said the Democrats would bring tax increases, open borders, and socialism to our country.  Hmmmm…….  Really?  That’s what you think?

Tax increases?  How big was your tax cut?  Mine was about $40 a paycheck, about $80 per month.  That means I have a little more money to buy food, which has increased in price about $50- 100 per month.

Open borders?  We need to reform the immigration system, create a guest worker program that fair and equitable for all businesses and figure out how to allow people into this country.  That’s what Democrats AND Republicans want.  But they don’t have the chutzpah to work on it because it’s hard and requires compromise from BOTH sides.  You see if they compromise, either side, they cannot blame the other side when it’s not perfect.  Both parties are to blame for our immigration issues.  For those of you who say, “We want the RIGHT kind of people coming here.”  What are the “right” kind of people?  I bet if each and every one of your went back to the time your ancestors came here, they were considered the “WRONG” type of people.  Even if you can trace your heritage back to the FIRST European colonists.  You see there were more people here in North America that were on the ENTIRE CONTINENT OF EUROPE AT THE TIME.  The millions of people who were already here were doing pretty darn good without European influence.  Who knows what would have happened if the Europeans hadn’t interfered?

Socialism?  Well we have that already for those of your over 65.  It’s called Medicare and Social Security.  Do you not want that?  We had that in the 1960s and 1970s as well through retirement funds through our employers and unions.  Those of you who work for governments today, probably still have some form of retirement, don’t you?  And the rest of you, who have IRAs, 401k’s and other types of retirement accounts outside of personal savings accounts, you are playing the the stock market.  And that a cycle that goes UP and DOWN.  It’s how economics works, like the tides….  So what happens with the NEXT economic downturn, because that will happen.  We can go back to how it was in the 1920s and 1930s if you want.  You see if you want more money and to pay less taxes, then you have to pay attention to what the government spends the money on.  Most the money goes to those “entitlements” that you like.  And even now the Republican Party is talking about cutting back on Social Security and Medicare because they are too costly.

Those are benefits for the people of the United States.  So what the Republican Party is REALLY saying is that YOU ARE ALL EXPENDABLE.  Those who have enough money will survive and those who don’t WON’T.

Meritocracy at its “best?”  You see if someone wins then someone loses.  Is that why we are here on this planet?  To get to the top of the heap, no matter what the consequences? Last time I looked, we all will die.  It’s not an option, it’s mandatory.  Doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, what color you are…..  Do you want to have to explain to YOUR creator, if you believe, why you made the choices you did?  I suggest you re-read your religious tenets and examine your beliefs.  From what I have read, all religions talk about taking care of those less fortunate (those without fortune), welcoming those who are different than you as well as honoring the deity and your family.

But maybe I’ve been reading the incorrect material.

I believe in the United States of America.  I believe we are the Great Experiment that has done great things.  I am an optimist and a hopeful individual.  I believe we can be better than our current administration.  Let’s do this TOGETHER!

We’ve already fought one Civil War.  That cost us over ½ million U.S. citizens and it was over 100 years ago.  I do not think we can afford to fight another one.  Nor can the world.

It’s time to wake up.  It’s time to grow up.  It’s time to unite.  It’s time to be an American.

I’ve been thinking about….

Guns.

I remember being in a college history class and we were discussing wars.  We talked about why people went to war, what was gained and what was lost.  Wars are fought for a variety of reasons, politics, land, revenge, lust, survival.

Then we talked about modern wars.  Modern wars were fought for the same reasons as above. But we have always created better ways to kill people in wars.  Every generation and every society has always attempted to gain leverage to win by improving weapons.  But some of those who created better weapons say they did so to STOP wars.  By creating more deadly weapons, strong bombs, they believed that humankind would be LESS likely to go to war to kill each other.  Bows and arrows, machine guns, chemical weapons, nuclear bombs, submarines – these was all created to make war more deadly.  Some felt that when we saw the heinous results of these weapons, our societies would turn away from war and look to resolve our disputes differently.

We haven’t had a WORLD WAR since 1945 but have we learned how NOT to kill each other?  We have continued to kill each other in a myriad of ways.  In fact, we’ve become more efficient at it.  We have learned to kill others with less loss of lives to our side.  We kill by robot now.  It’s very sanitary isn’t it?  We don’t have to deal with the messiness of being up close and personal.  We sit in front of screens and basically direct traffic.  Nice. Neat.  Sanitary.  We don’t see the results, the horror on faces, the blood, the destruction.  No consequences for the killer.  Eventually, those who control the weapons may become desensitized to the act of killing, the enemy ceases to human.

I’ve been listening to the debates we have here in the U.S. about gun control.  Those who support it, believe it will end, or at least, slow down deaths in this country.  I don’t know about that.  There are already more guns in this country than people.  If we institute stricter gun laws, we will not take away guns from those who already own them.  That’s not usually how our laws work, we draw a line and say from now forward.

We are a country where more is always better.  We have school shootings, let’s have more guns on campuses.  Let’s allow people to open carry their weapons.  Because those who shoot and kill people will worry about being killed themselves.  IS THAT TRUE?  Most of those who have committed mass shootings, have then taken their own lives afterward.  Maybe it’s like ancient cultures, they don’t want to die and be alone in the afterlife, so they take others with them.  Our country is also one where we kill people for killing other people.  “I’m going to teach you not to kill, I’m going to kill you.”  I do not understand the logic.

I believe that more guns are not the answer.  The answer is to look into ourselves, our government, our politicians and each other.  WHY DO PEOPLE KILL OTHER PEOPLE, outside of wars?

For those who believe this is a supporting essay about allowing more guns in our society, it is not.  For those who want our society to have more guns so they can have a bigger profit (gun manufacturers), be careful what you wish for.

 

I am an enemy of the people.

I am an enemy of the people.  I am not a journalist. I am not a member of the press.  I am not a member of news media.  However, I am an enemy of the people.

I am a teacher.  A teacher who attempts to have her students think critically.  A person who tries to make sense of the complicated country we live in.  A person who was taught to respect all people.  To be proud of who I am, where I am from and my country.  I am a United States citizen.  I know all the words to our national anthem.  I say the pledge of allegiance as it was originally written.

I teach U.S. history and critical thinking skills.  I read.  I read a lot.  Growing up I read everything I could on the Civil War.  It intrigued me that we could fight against each other.  WHY?   Where we fought EACH OTHER over differing ideas of how our country would move forward.  Would we attempt to live up the ideals set forth in the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence?  What would citizenship mean in the United States afterward?  What ideals would we strive for?

Lincoln could have said, sure, okay, the Southern states want to leave the Union, let them.  They had meager resources, very little industry.  How long would they last?  Remember there is no reverse in history.  You cannot go back and “fix” what you think went badly.

I have listened to arguments from those who supported our current President’s election and platform.  Mr. Bannon can sound very convincing.  Mr McConnell can persuade some.  Mr. Ryan doesn’t say much.  I remember the first time I heard Ronald Reagan speak, he had some interesting ideas as well.  Some I even agreed with.  Mr. Bannon, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Ryan, not so much.

I do not agree with Mr. Sanders a lot either.  Ms. Warren has some good ideas.  Ms. Clinton also.  Mr. Obama did the best he could. I did not agree with some of his platform either.  I did appreciate that he was human and willing to learn and grow as a President.

Our current President is not willing to learn, does not read much that I can tell, and seemingly has no desire to grow into the office he now holds.  Some may say he’s old, he’s not going to change.  I beg to differ, I am only 11 years younger than he is, and I am still growing, still learning, still reading and still changing.

Our country is divided.  That much is true.  But WHY is it so divided?  We’ve lost jobs due to changing industries, cheaper goods coming from overseas, multinational corporations, etc.  Do we WANT to reverse time?  See what I said above, that’s not going to happen.  Unless someone has a TARDIS (shameless Dr. Who reference here!).  For those not Whovians, the TARDIS is a vehicle that can move through space AND time.  While maybe some future beings might figure it out, we haven’t.  SO IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN ANY TIME SOON.

What I can say it that we are in this altogether.  Whether we want to be or not.

We are all guilty of taking in our news from sources that usually agree with us.  Newspapers, magazines, news networks, blogs.  We gravitate toward what’s close to what we believe.  We want to be validated.  To be “right.”  It’s “those people” who are “wrong.”  How many of you check the source material that people quote from.  Read the original information, check the background of the writers.

Part of the originality of our United States, is that it is through consensus that we have a government.  It’s a BIG bureaucracy because we need the checks and balances so that nothing happens too quickly.  You see, we, human beings, are fallible.  We make mistakes.  None of us are perfect.  It’s time for us to think long and hard about what unites us, not what divides us.  We are stronger together, ALL of us, even those immigrants.  Why do you think people still struggle and sacrifice to come here?  Why did your ancestors come here?  You cannot say they were always here, NOT ONE was ALWAYS here.  Even the ancestors of Native Americans came from elsewhere.  Think about it.  Why would they come to a place that they knew very little about?  For the opportunity to be better, to experience a different life, to be fulfilled AND to challenge themselves.

It’s time to challenge ourselves again.  Argue, agree, disagree.  But be a United States citizen who is proud, and willing to learn, grow and change.

I dare you.

 

IMG_0137

Comic In Chief

POTUS is becoming our #ComicInChief He wants the crowd reaction the applause, the adoration. Some are beginning to think about what his words actually mean. He leads by criticism, disdain and belittlement. He has little capacity for learning, feeling he knows enough. He feels no compassion for others, even those who voted for him.
Are you proud to be a U.S. citizen? Are you okay with us losing our status in the world? Remember we have fought wars for our freedom and to be an example to others, that even WITH our shortcomings and failures, we continue to strive for a better country, more equality and above all, freedom. Those of you who profess these ideals but turn and say, “you can’t come here, what we have here is not for you,” might want to research your own “family tree” to see how many of them would not be here today with what this administration wants to enact as law. How many of your ancestors would pass the vetting process today? And would you have even been born if they hadn’t? And if you are saying you are “better” than they are, then you have chutzpah.

POTUS is portraying himself as the “best, brightest, and toughest” president we have ever had. Comparing himself as greater than any president before him. Really? Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, T. Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan, Obama……. Even those we considered failures during their time in office….. None of them had the audacity to belittle and demean their predecessors AND the American people the way the current POTUS does. WE ARE ALL CITIZENS OF THIS NATION! We deserve and demand respect, truth and above all dignity.

I know many of you agree with the policies that are being enacted by this current administration. I can agree to disagree with your policies. I cannot condone this debasement of our government and our citizens.
That is all.

 img_0232

Racism Part Two -1st draft

I finished reading Brene Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness, The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.  Here is a quote that got to me:

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are. (40)

She calls this the Quest and the Paradox.  It sounds crazy.  She explains that paradox has its origins in Greek and Latin. The Greek combines two words, para – meaning contrary to – and – token – opinion.  The Latin word, paradox, means, “seemingly absurd but really true.”  Doesn’t that seem like most of our lives when we think about them?

How many of us show the world our authentic selves? We learn or we are taught not to do that.  We will get hurt, emotionally or physically.  People won’t like us.  They will take advantage of us.

Since 2009, people in the United States have been “sorting ourselves” into tribal factions, political, social, gender, and other orientations.  By 2016, we had become polarized into our respective camps.  

At the same time sorting is on the rise, so is loneliness.” (51)

On the outside looking in – you are in a group of people but still feel lonely.  As social beings, we want to belong, but when we don’t, we go into self-preservation mode.” (54). We go into protective custody of ourselves.  We became fearful of being vulnerable, getting hurt, being disconnected, criticism, failing, conflict, not measuring up to others’ standards or even our own.  Fear of not knowing what was happening or why it was happening. We also felt we couldn’t speak to our fear or of our fear.  

Our biggest issues are racism, sexism and classism.  We have never faced our racism, our gender inequality, or our neglect of our poor people.  

We now have a leader who is a bullshitter.  A bullshitter ignores the concept of truth. He pays it no heed. It is not an issue for him because it doesn’t apply to him. This makes him more dangerous than a liar or a truth-teller.
“. . .lying as a defiance of the truth and bullshitting as a wholesale dismissal of the truth.” Harry G. Frankfurt defines this in his book, Bullshit.  This leader is more dangerous than someone who lies.  I watch how we are numbed to outrageous acts, to farce, and to the lack of compassion and decency.

I am also reading up on my teaching.  I am looking at dealing with controversial issues.  Working with students to develop critical thinking skills.  Let’s define critical thinking:  “a dedicated search for meaning and understanding.” “In the public domain, to consider and evaluate the arguments made on controversial issues.” ( Teaching Controversial Issues, Nel Noddings & Laurie Brooks, p. 1).  Is an argument based on BS, really an argument?  Let’s think about that.

We must have a moral commitment to our society, to our community and for the common good.  Well, we have to define all these terms.  Our society – where we live, who we are and what we believe.  Our community – those we choose to associate with, to live with and care about.  The common good – this one is harder, isn’t it?  What is best for our society, community and our nation.  We must have a moral commitment to what we have in common.  In the United States, WHAT DO WE HAVE IN COMMON?  Good question.  We were founded by a group of white men that had the financial ability to devote themselves to government. They had common influence in their lives.  They were influences by their classical education.  A connection between character and reason.  A person innately knows what is good and will act in a moral fashion because of this knowledge and understanding.  Most religions rely on this type of understanding.  The Puritans believed that.  Knowledge and virtue.

“True knowledge is virtue, and perfect knowledge describes the mind of God.” (Noddings, p. 6). Reason, moral decision making, development of character.  Socrates, Plato.  An examined life.  Started with having a ruling class, monarchies, lords, and others.  Those who worked for money were not part of these groups.  Our country was founded during this age.  That is why we have a republic, that was to be run by our “best and brightest,” those who could devote time and energy to governing for the common good.  Those that would put “the welfare of the republic and its citizens above their own private concerns.” (Noddings, p.7). Do we have that today?  Do we want that today?

This is a rambling piece now…  but it all ties together eventually.  I see our country as looking for its authentic self.  I see the people wandering in their wildernesses.  I see our leaders struggling with their roles.  I pray for guidance, for clarity, for understanding.

I am taking on this journey if you wish to travel with me.

I hope that you will.

 

Racism, Part One

It’s funny.  I am white, very white, a pale woman of Swedish descent.  I am proud of my heritage.  Almost three years ago, I moved from Tampa, Florida to Bowie, Maryland.  I now teach at Prince George’s Community College.  Prince George’s county is a majority minority county, the most affluent one in the United States.  Quite a change from Tampa.  I had lived in Florida all my adult life prior to my move to Maryland. I took the job because I wanted a change.  The racial makeup of the county and the college did not even factor into my decision.  It sounded like the ideal position for me.  I could teach full-time at a community college.  I admit to being a little naive about the whole thing.  I had worked with African-Americans in Florida, in fact, my previous supervisor had been African-American.  I have friends who are African-American, Latino/a and Asian.

I did notice the difference on my first day teaching and it has continued.  There are many times that I am the only white person in my classrooms.  I did not think about it at all.  I figured I had a lot in common with these students.  I am a first generation in college student, the daughter of an immigrant to the United States.  But my students did not see that in me.  They saw a white woman.  Being white means having privilege.  I understood the concept of privilege but I believed that being from a working class background would negate the privilege.

I was incorrect.  Even being working class, the white part gave me privilege over people of color.  My childhood was different and not only because I grew up in the 1960s.  My parents moved out of the south side of Chicago in 1963 because “those people” moved onto our block.  I did not understand who those people were until I was in high school.  I was a kid.  Race was not on my radar at that point.  Later, it would.  I made friends with different kinds of kids.  They just had to be willing to play with the rest of us.  Usually with the boys.  I was a tomboy.  I still am, in some ways.  That was the second thing that I thought would negate the privilege thing.  I identify as lesbian.  But again, the privilege was still there.

I did not walk into an obvious battlefield.  At least it did not appear as one.  The faculty was a mix of people.  The students were also a mix.  Most of them are first-generation in college students.  Many of them are non-traditional age students.  Most of them are at the community college to learn a group of skills for entering the workforce.  Some of them are planning to transfer to four-year institutions for a baccalaureate degree.  Some of them are like me, not sure of what they want to do yet.

Most of the students were accepting of my differences.  They questioned my decision to move FROM Florida to Maryland.  To them, the norm was the opposite.

TO BE CONTINUED……

img_0246

It’s time for a change

From the opening paragraphs of bell hooks’ Understanding Patriarchy: Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word “patriarchy” in everyday life. Most men never think about patriarchy—what it means, how it is created and sustained. Many men in […]

via It is a Word I Use Daily — Radical Discipleship

WHY ARE WE SO TRIBAL?

On the Media – from WNYC Radio today!!  FACE THE RACIST NATION 

I would like you to listen to this podcast in its entirety. But I want you to then look at Nell Irvin Painter’s book, The History of White People, here’s a review from the NY Times.   After you have absorbed the podcast and the book review, then look at Jody M. Roy’s book Love to Hate, America’s Obsession with Hatred and Violence. I couldn’t find a decent review of this book but Roy looks at how hatred is prevalent and idolized in our society.  It was published in 2002.

I would love if everyone would read the books but I understand that’s not realistic for some of you.

Then think about what has been happening in our society for the past 18-20 years. Please respond if you like. I would like each of you to be honest in your viewpoints, and if you choose to respond to each other, I would like you to be civil and measured in your responses. Think of it as a looking at information for a research paper (I know, it sounds like work!). BUT this research paper will hopefully add to your body of knowledge about how you view the world. It’s important. Vitally important.

 

International pic

 

 

 

Daily Prompt: Present

via Daily Prompt: Present

All of us lead complicated lives.  We juggle multiple priorities everyday.  Even in our “down” time, we are constantly pulled into what we have done, what we should be doing and what we will be doing in the future.  I know I am guilty of it.

We hear the platitudes, “it’s called the present for a reason. We only get it once and it’s gone.”  For some, this causes anxiety, for others, total shutdown.  Some see so much too be done and others are overwhelmed at trying to find the “great” thing to do.

We live in the present but do not think about that very often.  We are too busy to notice the present.  The present is 86,400 seconds. (yes, I looked that up.)  We are told to “live in the present” which is a tall order.  And I bet we don’t even know what it means.

I’ve thought about it. A lot lately.  I love history, just so you know.  I constantly read everything.  I even try to get into the heads of those discussed in the books I read.  What were they thinking?  Why were they thinking that?  Didn’t they know better?  Or are we on the inappropriate track now?  Intellectually, I understand that if you weren’t there, it’s hard to understand why certain decisions were made but I believe we have to try so we can “live in the present.”

It is hard to slow your thinking when you are in the present.  As a teacher, I try to be “in the present” with my students.  To listen, to hear, to understand where they are and how to reach them.  Sometimes it works, sometimes its doesn’t.  I keep trying.

Since I teach the same thing to all my classes (15 of them by the end of a semester), I have a tendency to get bored with the curriculum.  So I constantly look for different ways to present it.  The students do not always understand that part of my teaching.  But I try to keep things relevant and interesting.

It’s all I can do.  BE PRESENT for everyone I encounter.

Still a work in progress.

I must go now and grade stuff.

Thanks for reading this!!The Long Climb

Inner Reality

The power of inner life.

We have create a world of external realities.  We worship them and neglect our inner lights.

We can change this reality of our outer world by projecting our true inner reality outward.  We have allowed our institutions to become rigid because we fear change and the unknown.  We have become slaves to victory above all els.  Our institutions disregard humans’ well being because something in us is heartless.

We choose what we project to the world and through these choices the world grows from us.  We must be conscious of what we form, deform and reform within our world, internal and external.

“Our complicity in world making is a source of awesome and sometimes painful responsibility – and a source of profound hope for change.  It is the ground of our common call to leadership, the truth that makes leaders of us all.”  – Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, Leading from Within.