0158: Not Myself: A Critique of My Schizoid* Practice
#education #SOSchat #teaching
I anticipate this post being rough for me. I have some personal criticisms of my own practice as of late. I espouse a democratic classroom. I expect my students to participate in the decision making process, engage in discussion, disagree, agree, and so forth. The class should have a dialogic motor so to speak. I’ve run my classes this way as a choral and music history teacher, I did the same when I taught algebra. It is notable, that the classroom do not always function in a democratic fashion. There have always been times when I’ve limited freedoms and resembled a despot more than a facilitator of learning. In all cases the despot comes out when I feel pressure, external or internal, or when I just get stressed out.
The year is nearing an end. Spring concerts are fast approaching. There’s one more round of standardized tests with which I will undoubtedly be involved. The school has benchmarks to meet to prevent a state takeover. I’m a part of those efforts too. The kids are tired, thus a little unruly. Personally, money’s tight. I’m busy. Blah, blah. The life of a teacher. And, it seems I’ve uncovered some of my problem.
Allowing a class to run democratically requires trust. It requires me to relinquish power and collaborate, rather, than me enforcing my authority. With the risk of straying from my topic I’ll pose a thought. It seems that teaching in some settings/situations/etc. requires or forces a sort of schizoid nature. I’m required to do one thing while believing the opposite. As of late my classroom practice has been the opposite of what I prefer and believe is best. Am I to excuse it with “I’m just doing what I have to do?” Is it the nature of the “system” that is forcing me into a crushing state of doublethink? Am I just being lazy? Am I caught between conflicting sets of expectations?
I’ve arrived at questions. I know things will lighten up soon. But, in the meantime I hate to do harm.
* I struggled between the word schizoid and duplicitous for the title. The informal definition better reflect my sentiment here, as I want to reflect on a the conflicting and disparate elements of my actions as a teacher. Duplicitous reflected a more deliberate and malicious state of being.
0133: Standards-Based #Revolution, I mean #Education
#occupyedu #SOSchat #edreform
Yes, education should have standards, and yes, those standards should be tested with corporations in mind. The STANDARD should be that all learners are equipped with the critical skills to participate in an open society; that is, learners should be literate, connected, and aware. The test will be if power shifts, or not. If not, then we should rethink our standard. For this standard to be met, there will be steps to take. We will have to extend education beyond the first 18 years of life, and encourage learning and growth for all. Standards based learning, of course. But we just need one loose standard—that the People be allowed to acquire education that will benefit them.
We will bang out the how’s and why’s together.
0122: Surely I’m Confused. Which ‘People’ are the “People”?
#government #democracy #occupy #p2 #ctl
How can anyone call this a democracy? Sure. People can participate. But, participation is limited. Very limited. People are detached from the government. It is not the people’s government. It is ‘certain’ people’s government. It is a government that belongs to ‘certain’ organizations. The candidates and current politicians rarely have any true connection to
the people, and vice-versa. A politician is nothing more than a distant celebrity who has power reaching far beyond entertainment. We, the people, vote, or not, for someone who has the funds to advertise and sustain a campaign— and they have staffs who are quite savvy in the fundraising department. These people, if they remain to be that, are distant entities from what what the common folk would know as people. Their station in life has endowed them with myriad opportunities and freedoms that only money and connections can buy. We are run by a ‘them’ that wants to be known as ‘us’.
Has this separation from the ruling spawned great apathy? Of course. But, apathy may not suffice. Apathy indicates the absence of what once was. Have we, all the people, ever really been involved? Or, has participation been limited to the wealthy, and upper middle class? All participation from the lower and working classes have seemed to require some form of public struggle. Demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience, and so forth, seem to have been the only means of persuasion for the lower socio-economic majority of our people. Much of the change that has come about through demonstration has been a result of public response to the excessive force used by authorities. Change does not seem to come through any sort of benevolence, but only for the sake of public opinion. Change comes for the sake of keeping a name squeaky clean to those who can see. This does not seem like democracy. It closely resembles the behavior of colonialized societies, where the oppressed classes have to fight tooth and nail for every smidgen of dignity they receive, or have to turn to alternative economies and protection structures. Societies like this have huge underclass systems that operate completely separate from “mainstream” society.
Surely, I’m confused. Please explain. Am I allowed to ask these questions? Do I have any rights? Why do I feel uneasy putting this into print? Paranoia is perhaps creeping in.
0116: Who the Hell is #Democracy? If you know, help me know.
#education #revolution #occupy
(Please note, dear reader, that this is my attempt to process a complex notion for my own benefit. If the following string of words is beneficial to you, then I have accomplished something. If it is not, please skip to the end section— it is marked with an asterisk (*). I value your time and would never seek to waste it. Here’s your warning.)
We are disconnected from the decisions that affect us. We are permitted limited control in our governments. We are allowed to vote for our representatives. Our decisions are based on limited information that we receive through televised debates and advertisements and any other information we can dig up on our own. The same goes for national, state, and many municipal elections. We are given a bit of factual information, a lot of misinformation, and then are allowed to scavenge for any other info we can find. Once said representatives are elected we are in their hands. We have entrusted our future to them. Some say they are accountable to us. That’s a hard sale. We have the power to threaten not to reelect them. We can write letters, but our participation is minimal. Our access to them is restricted. This form of democracy is labeled representative democracy. We,the people, elect people to represent us. We, the people, have very limited power.
So why bother teaching/writing/talking about participating in democracy? Why not embrace apathy? The answer is neither simple, nor solitary. Democracy is a confusing term. There are many forms of democracy proper, and the word has been is used and misused in many other ways. I think it would be beneficial for the purpose of my writing to operationally define democracy within the context of my writing, educational, and social practice. I acknowledge that this task will undoubtedly need revision and may, in fact, not completely align with the ways I’ve used the term in the past. I think the term is used too loosely and often in an idealistic manner. It might be of use to determine what democracy is not.
The term democracy is often used politically to establish an air of rightness. The word alone evokes varying emotional responses depending on ones experience with “democracy”. In American schools and churches democracy is equated directly with “freedom” and the “best form of government”. “What is democracy?” “It means it’s a free country.” The argument is designed to be cyclical. To speak against democracy or even question it is to go against all that is “right”. If properly conditioned it is to go against one’s self. This understanding of democracy is naïve and incomplete. The mere repetition of phrases, and cyclical rhetoric do not equate with democracy.
Someone who has seen their country occupied by the troops of another country in the name of “democracy” will most certainly have a different understanding. In many places “democracy” has become synonymous with imperialistic interventionism. “Democracy” in this sense is a mere slogan to hide obfuscate imperialistic behaviors. Even if some sort of democratic process is put in place it will not be sustainable because it did not emerge from the people.
*So what (who) the Hell is democracy?
I shall not even attempt to define institutional democracy. Democratic governments are beyond my knowledge, but the concept seems a little far fetched, as the concept seems to require people relinquish their power for the sake of being ruled by some distant wealthy ruler. I’m sure I have missed the boat somewhere or I simply cannot comprehend it. I’ll continue.
The word democracy is made up of the word parts that combine mean “rule of the people”, the power is with the people. That’s simple enough. That immediately raises the question: “which people?” That question has been debated heartily for centuries. But, let’s stick with an operational definition for my own writing.
I attempting to use the term “democracy” in regard to individual participation in the shaping of their own worlds. Again, for my own sake, people can transform their own worlds/communities/cultures/etc. through democratic participation. Borrowing from Freire, as people become more interconnected it becomes more impossible for them not to participate in their own realities (Teaching for Critical Consciousness). The idea is to eliminate passivity. For power to be in the hands of the people, they must first participate with one another. They must care. They must be active. We are seeing people becoming more active through the use of social media and technology. Suddenly, communication and dissemination of information is possible on a grand scale. Surveillance is now a two way street. People have information. That is necessary for an open society. It’s necessary for people to rule. So, the goal of teaching, writing/talking about it is not necessarily to persuade a doubter or even to teach in an echo changer. The goal is to participate. By writing/talking/teaching I am engaging in the creation and distribution of thought/information. It may not be correct, but I am releasing. I am opening myself to debate, disagreement, maybe dialectic. I am taking a step. I am learning. By learning, I can start to teach. I suppose my idealistic goal is to learn to participate and help others learn to do the same. As “we” grows eventually we’ll happen upon a tipping point. It takes the people to be a democracy.
If you managed to read this far, I thank you. I ask that you help me understand what I am trying to understand better. I ask that you join me in thinking about this. I ask that you do your best to awaken your neighbors. We occupy this world together. We must participate.
Thanks for reading and responding. Cheers.
The important thing is to help men (and nations) help themselves, to place them in consciously critical confrontation with their problems, to make them the agents of their own recuperation. Paulo Freire from Education for Critical Consciousness
0107: That which renders us powerless, and what to do about it*
#education #revolution #SOSchat #occupy
I am an educator, and a staunch supporter of public education and teachers. However, I find it increasingly difficult to support a system(s) that, from the moment it accepts a child, seeks to disable any critical spirit of humanity and replace it with an eternal need that can only be sated by some an institution. Our systems do not create participatory individuals. They create passive recipients of services needed. This does not seem to be a new phenomenon. Schools along with other social services have supplied the needs and thoughts of America’s underclass for quite sometime now. The middle class has equally been rendered just as passive, only having been allowed the illusion that they work for their own benefit, when in actuality, the middle class is no more free to participate than the poor. The poor are assistance and/or wage-slaves. The middle class are slaves to their debts and ideologies of security. Neither class works to benefit or affect themselves.
The poor have been rendered silent by being made dependent. They schools work to tame their spirits and limit their thoughts. They are allowed only basic literacy skills and never allowed to create. Testing has helped to narrow the curriculum and keep teachers and students focused on curriculum rather than problems. This strata is kept entertained and barely comfortable. If they step out of line they are beaten into submission, ushered into prisons, or other institutions. Individuals who escape the grasp of poverty are encouraged to continue the upward climb, abandoning the problems from which they were delivered. The version of success given them was that of the oppressor, and by eliminating critical consciousness there is no need to stop an reflect on one’s actions.
The rapidly diminishing middle class has been ushered through existence with a focus on maintenance of that which has been acquired. Their social structure has allowed for an illusion of social mobility through petty promotions and similar reinforcements. Some have been able to attain varying degrees of power through higher education and business, but the middle class, with a few exceptions has remained just as powerless as the poor, they’ve just had more choices of distraction. The institutions of the middle class very much allow the illusion of participation in democracy, but their choices are often small, and predetermined, for many, by sectarian or party affiliation. Churches and other similar social institutions among the middle class help dictate beliefs of the middle class.
Many people escape into the realms of academia which equally has its own fixed ideologies and requirements for advancement.
The ruling elite are incomprehensible beyond the fact that they have no choice but to fight to maintain their own power at any cost. For the ruling body to remain the ruling body it must either forcefully or insidiously keep the masses occupied with internal conflict and struggle, along with copious distraction. The people are divided by class, race, political affiliation, misinformation, prejudice, and so forth. I do not intend to say that these are completely manufactured, but the structures in which we survive allow for the development of such fears and divisions. People who fear one another can be easily controlled.
All that said, the problem is a lack of critical consciousness among the people. People do not participate, because their participation has been meaningless in the past. We learn as school children that we are incapable of really making any decision. We are nurtured to be consumers. Information is deposited in us by teachers. Teachers simply deliver the curriculum. We are passive within our communities. We wait for things to be changed. Some of us call our congressmen and speak with their aides, but we are only one vote. Everything is provided for us. If it isn’t, we don’t know what to do.
How is this solved?
We begin by eliminating the distance between ourselves and our neighbors. Nothing will change as long as we are a nation of others. As long as I am on the side of right and everyone else is wrong, I am nothing more than a puppet of my chosen or ‘chosen for me’ ideology. We cannot continue as a divided people. As we grow closer we must become more involved. We will become more open. As we become more open, our society must, as a direct result, become more open.
The answer to this debacle is not simple or solitary. Just as the problem itself can not be isolated, neither can the solution. However, entering into dialogue, or the dialectic sort, can only serve to bring us closer together as human beings. By becoming more interconnected we must become more involved. As be become more involved we are no longer just a mass of sheep, but a force. We will become an open or a more open society.
*I must acknowledge that my ideas could never be called entirely my own. They are a culmination of my experiences with my own world, and my readings of the experience of others. I write this to acknowledge my understanding of my development as a part of a collective consciousness that is not entirely my own. My experiences have served to force me to open certain books at certain times that have either shaped me, or more likely, shaped my understanding of my own experience.
The radical…[has] the duty, imposed by love itself, to react against the violence of those who try to silence him—of those who, in the name of freedom, kill his freedom and their own. Paulo Freire from Education for Critical Consciousness
0105: It’s getting a little 1984 up in here
#education #revolution #totalitarianism #occupy #anonymous
As I watch and listen to the news, scroll through twitter feeds, read blogs, look at laws being passed, and noticing bits of education reform I can’t help noticing that it’s beginning to look a little like 1984, with a sprinkle of Huxley’s Brave New World. I don’t like to be an alarmist, but it seems as though alarms are being sounded, and then muted. I’m struggling to remain rational and calm. Reality is rather quickly morphing into dystopian fiction. Schools are massive training institutions that manage to insidiously undereducate the growing lower class. Teachers are kept busy and overwhelmed by testing and the fear of losing their jobs. Teachers have no choice but to numb their students with useless, disconnected knowledge. The middle class, what’s left of it anyway, has been kept entertained, comfortable, and apathetic for years. Just enough pay to get by and stay distracted. If that doesn’t work, the Doc can prescribe some pills. Kids are drugged too. If they won’t get in line, give ‘em a pill. Books are being banned in schools in AZ. This is at least overt. Texts and concepts are overlooked by textbook companies, curriculum makers, and overwhelmed teachers. Omission is useful to avoid alarm. Arizona is just getting ballsy. There’s a move there to censor teacher’s language in and out of school I hear. Beyond the classroom, censorship, surveillance, and indefinite detention are popping up in the laws and the public. The world is abuzz with revolution and the powers at be trying to squash them before a tipping point is reached. I wrote with an awareness that there may be Hell to pay for my words an criticisms at some point. Of course, there’s no turning back now. Surely I’ve gone mad. I’ve read too much dystopian fiction. I’ve read too much about totalitarian regimes. Perhaps I’m becoming a real life Dale Gribble. But, I’m not confident in my perceived madness. I’m more doubtful everyday.
I’ve been told many a time: “If it looks like shit. Smells like shit. Then…”
With that in mind looks and smells are quite telling, and it seems that we’re all knee deep in shit.
0101: #Education Should Build Democratic Participants Not Helpless Serfs
#community #revolution #occupy
Maybe education would be better if it was designed to enable people to to learn how to participate in an open society. People would have to be stakeholders in their education, not just passive recipients, if this were true. Schools would not just be a building in a community; rather, it would be a part of the community. The school would work to empower community members aka students of any age to work for the betterment of their own community. The democratic experience gained there would better enable the citizenry to participate in larger democratic institutions like a democratic national government. In such a system the school wouldn’t be the shame of the community, but the center of the community. There would be no way to separate the school from the community because they would be one in the same, each working to embrace and improve the other. The goal of school here would not be to colonize the mind or the spirit, but to set it free. It would enable thinkers and innovators and creators and so forth. Freire said that it becomes more difficult to keep a group of people ignorant as they become more active in democracies. If we had a democracy people would be active. They would have to be. Further, they would want to be because they would see that their participation mattered. Apathy is a result of powerlessness, real or perceived. Schools breed powerlessness in students, teachers, administrators, and so forth. Bureaucracies harbor the power elite. They are distant demigods to the people. They are untouchable. An existential god is not a god for mankind, but for some other lot that we will never know. Power belongs in the hands of the people. The governed should be the government. Schools should teach for democracy; rather, they are oppressive arms of the power elite. Teachers, teach for democracy. Students demand it. Communities take back the schools. This is our world. Our future. Our lives.