Saturday, April 25, 2009

Some Older Rants and Ramblings on Education


Sucking the Life

out of every American child.  That is the job of school as far as I can tell. Useless, for the most part, except to class students and teach them the parameters of their boxes.  Why do I do this?  Who knows?  I thought it was to serve, but I can't serve the Man, and I'm not violent enough to overthrow him, and I'm not tenured so I don't stand a chance in an head-on collision.

Of course, to make tenure, I'd have to become more apathetic than I am.  And probably become a better teacher than I am, too.

At any rate, I can't leave because I can't sacrifice the youth of my neighborhood and the world to the corporate takeover and racist monopoly that is public school, but I can't stay and remain sane or happy or even angry enough to keep up the good fight.


We the People

My anger and indignation does nothing to change the status quo or to move my students to action.  They acquiesce in their passivity at their lot, accepting of the piped and patented dreams of Hip Hop Star, Super Ball player, super model.  Even their more realistic aspirations of daycare provider, pediatrician, or barber do nothing to change their embargoed neighborhoods, the slanted news of their fragile grip on social acceptance outside their Southside hoods.

Test prep and "good" scores, even if – on the off chance – they improve the students' ability to read, do not manage to make the students read politically.  And "right" answers don't improve job ability, don't change policies, don't stop kids from having kids and sucking tainted sustenance out of the government bottle.  Rather than promoting the breast and providing for the community within the community by the community, our schools ship out the most promising and break the rest.  Assimilation of black pop culture into the mainstream allows for an amount of marginalized existence by the upcoming generation, a false promise and empty hope of participation in a country and politic whose "people" still use rhetoric to exclude with plural pronouns.


Lack Lustre

I can raise my expectations and offer AP courses, but I find the lack of discipline still a thorn in my side.  We have to demand respect to give respect, and as with all teenagers, one misstep and our integrity as adults and white and people in power is questioned.  

            As it ought to be, possibly.

            But that does not make the ensuing chaos any easier to teach in, or the noise and quieter, or the playfulness any less violent.  Introducing excerpts from King or Ghandi, Baker, Souljah, El-Shabazz, Baraka, Common, Kenye, Nas, Jackson, Obama…  All lack luster speeches and ancient happenings in the stop action, never-ending ad that is the excitement of drive-bys and juke parties, new Nikes every few months to stay up with the Joneses.  Teachers don't change the world here, and our students may make pop culture on a daily basis, but they don't make much of a world worth passing on to their kids.


We Are Jaded

We come and complain there are no bagels in the breakfast spread.  Coffee and 100% juice, fresh fruit and pastries is not enough for us.  There is indignant disbelief where there are no meals provided.  We do not enter the school cafeterias regularly or decry the food pyramid slop that our kids and students are offered twice a day for their duration in our institution, though.  Nor do we do more than shake our heads in distanced pity when snow days go unused because "too many kids get fed at school."  Is this because we are paid employees and want our fringe benefits?  Or is it because our students do not complain loudly enough and why should we do it for them?  Or because we have no more time to devote, the most basic of Maslow's hierarchy overlooked for drill and kill on Bloom's?  Or is it because we pick battles we face daily, and our absence in the cafeteria necessarily precludes us from joining in the fight to feed our students well enough that we would eat with them?

            We clap apathetically, lackluster at the young students performance.  Their vignette of Ceasar Chavez touching, but old hat for us.  We collectively sigh, whisper amongst each other for the next interesting bang, too many biding their time and checking their watchers, waiting for the moment when the CPDU forms come out and we can leave.  How many are counting down days to summer?  Freedom…paid days of vacation…No students…Quiet…  The politics and intrigue of school left behind for twelve short weeks.  Are we something different than our students, the way we hold ourselves aloof and above our young charges?  Or are we but an older model of the same mold?  Our disinterest because we see our own younger, hopeful selves continually quashed by our own hand each day we enter the classroom and perpetuate this institution of school?


Oh!  And we are jaded!  There is nothing new to us.  Pay it forward has become a Hollywood hit with big blue eyes and a ten-year-olds plaintive voice, the dying hero.  It is tragic to teach the same program day in, year out, to lose the newness of an idea and forget that every child has an intense yearning to ask original questions and be answered as though she is the first, unique one to ask.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Child Soldiers

In Chicago, between September 2007 and December 2008, 508 students were shot. That's more than 1 per day for those who don't want to do the math.
Violence is a rampant disease in the urban centers of this country, and all we get are new assault rifles for the police. Weapons that can shoot precisely up to 2 miles, through walls and cars. Because the police are pulling these same weapons off the streets at the rate of more than 1 per day. 1 assault rifle, 1 injured or dead child. How many more children will be injured or killed with the police now legally carrying these weapons?

Violence is not something that humans tend toward naturally. Not in a killing kind of way. Of all the moms I know who mother boys, they say hands down that their boys figure out how to make guns or weapons out of anything, even in pacifist homes. But they all say that this violence is not the same as the numbness and deliberate killing done by and to the children on the streets of Chicago. That type of violence has to be deliberately inculcated in children so that they might be used as soldiers on the streets.

Yes, violence is something that is taught. And it is not an easy lesson to swallow, as our natural instinct is to survive unscathed -- flight first.

While the media and the police feed the population the idea that bigger weapons and more protections are needed on the streets of the urban landscape, I can't help but see footage from our own nightly news sources, as well as various African and South Asian countries when this is brought up. Children hand-cuffed and led by the dozens into paddy wagons. Children scattering into the night as one in their midst holds a hand gun. Children holding guns aimed at tanks. Children planting hand made mines as the finely outfitted soldiers bear down. Children starving and surviving as they have been taught in order to outsmart and outlive the government whose guns and numbers are bigger.

No, bigger guns are not what we need. Might does not make right, and right cannot be enforced through the use of might.

What we face is patriarchal and hierarchal society, in which those on top get to the top by standing on those on the bottom. In order to rise, then, those on the bottom have to learn and use the tactics they see used by the oppressors. And while the US may have a pretty vision and a value system upon which we claim our moral high ground, it has been proven repeatedly that our words are just words, that we don't walk the talk, and that our citizenship will never be all inclusive in an egalitarian way. As long as we prefer to let might make right, to let our education system stigmatize and label us into classes, to perpetuate a caste system based not only on money but on the color of skin and the straightness of hair and the use of certain dialect, we cannot possibly expect that our children will be anything but soldiers in this war we wage against ourselves. It doesn't take a degree and statistics to see that our wars "on Poverty" and "on Drugs" are just economic fictions, created to boost some while keeping others in their place at the foot of the pyramid.

Our children are soldiers, fighting to get a pair of boots. Boots with which they can pull themselves up with, with which they can get a good grip on the heads and backs of those they will have to climb up and over in order to reach the top.