Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Waiting for Scabby (Schools in Crisis III)

I know unions are often vilified as the unjust protector of the lazy, incompetent, shiftless worker. Especially when it comes to public sector unions. And it's particularly fashionable to blame teachers unions such as the Chicago Teachers Union for poor performance of schools and students, especially thanks to liberal movies like Waiting for "Superman." There are times when it is true that unions protect bloating, ineffeciency, or bad workers, but those few cases are stymied out of proportion. The enemy isn't the unions. No, in fact, they protect against growing inequity, and in the case of education unions, against the corporatization and privatization of education. They protect against the current tides that would turn our students into commodities - a tide that we see is unrelenting in the post-secondary world with overwhelming debt to an increasingly costly higher education.

Rather, the enemy is a mindset that says most of our children are not welcome to the education that the wealthy kids in the wealthy regions have. The enemy is a mindset that places high "accountability" on teachers to bring test scores of students with high stress levels, with malnourished stomachs, in overcrowded and underresourced schools up to par with wealthy, well-fed, well-regulated students with private tutors and classes no larger than fifteen a piece. Our children are taught to the test. Wealthy children are taught to succeed. I'm not hating, it's just that we need that as well.

The enemy is a system that takes what little money goes to working class and black/brown students and sucks it out through the Industrial Testing Machine to "assess" what students are learning through worthless and disenfranchising bubblesheets - bubblesheets that teachers spend the better part of the year teaching their kids how to fill correctly so they'd have a chance to allow the school to not be drastically defunded.

No, the union member who is teaching my daughter how to read and add in English and Spanish is doing a fantastic job. Because she has some protections. And she is being compensated decently for it as well - not as high as should be. But decently. As should be.

I worry about the next few years, as my daughter will have to - in order to meet national "standards" that unions are trying to fight against even as the administrators shout "Do not resist!" - conform more and more to testing apparatuses that stifle intellectual curiosity.

The main problem isn't the unions or their pensions. The main problem is that teachers are not encouraged to educate in a cooperative and meaningful fashion - but compelled to conform to normalizing and competitive corporate powers.

That's what propaganda like Waiting for Superman is about. Diane Ravitch:

It bears mentioning that nations with high-performing school systems—whether Korea, Singapore, Finland, or Japan—have succeeded not by privatizing their schools or closing those with low scores, but by strengthening the education profession. They also have less poverty than we do. Fewer than 5 percent of children in Finland live in poverty, as compared to 20 percent in the United States. Those who insist that poverty doesn’t matter, that only teachers matter, prefer to ignore such contrasts. 
If we are serious about improving our schools, we will take steps to improve our teacher force, as Finland and other nations have done. That would mean better screening to select the best candidates, higher salaries, better support and mentoring systems, and better working conditions.

Teachers unions are among the only forces fighting for education of our youth in the US. So-called liberal education reformers, whether their names be Duncan, Pritzker, Guggenheim, or Byrd-Bennett, fight for educational funds, using the the people's investment money to make a few people rich. This is the price we pay for not wanting to adequately fund our future.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thinking of the Children, Will Not Anyone?

Recently, a cavalcade of aldermen and pastors have come out saying, while they support the aims of the teachers that went on strike in Chicago, or that while they are not siding with the Rahm Emanuel administration, they are with and for the kids (you know, like Helen Lovejoy) and, ergo, against the strike. They argue that striking now is just not the right move. That if the teachers were just a bit more patient and went through the proper channels, they would see the changes they need in due time. That now is not the time for protests, rallies, marches, unrest...

These arguments sound oddly familiar to me.

I find it ridiculous and somewhat telling that many of the same civic and religious leaders in Chicago that ostensibly support the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960's (or at least say they do), who hold them up as models of participating in civic democracy and empowerment, currently begrudge workers of what little non-violent tools they have for their own empowerment.

As parents, educators, and citizens, we must realize that educational power has been wrestled from the classrooms by millionaires, allowing those millionaires - untrained in and oblivious to the ways of education - to set the agenda, aims, and measurements of the classrooms, teachers and students. Despite the claims of "educational reform", however, the objectives have been the same since the halcyon days of the anti-Dewey "educational reformers" of the industrial age: Continuing to line the pockets of millionaires and keeping the lineage within their families.

And the rest of us are supposed to believe that we stand a chance to also be millionaires.

Are we supposed to expect to get that educational and economic power back to the educators through, what, a political system that is stacked up against them? Through, what, the good-hearted nature of Chicago's bosses? Because employers always desire the best for their employees? Because the rich are fair and good people by nature (is it because the influx of money has given them moral character or did they deserve their wealth because they are such good, moral folks)?


Liberals and progressives have decried teachers and social staff for desiring change. My daughter's entire elementary school has one nurse, who comes in once a week. In a school system filled to the brim with children with allergies, asthma, chronic health problems, trauma, diet-based obesity and related health problems - and they share nurses! What is that, one medically-trained nurse per thousand students? Counselors and therapists help, but the counselors are mostly academic/collegiate (though they, like the teachers themselves, stretch way beyond their designated, official roles and become de facto therapists and care-givers for the students). Teachers have the odds stacked up against them because the students have the odds stacked up against them. In this scenario, students lose - no matter how Superman you think the teachers can ever be, they can never be the extra necessary mother/father figures and grief counselors and therapists to thirty students at a time. Let alone do that plus their academic and basic social jobs they're expected to do. They sure aren't paid for that.

I know many Chicago Public School teachers - none of them are fat cats.

Not a singular one.

So why do progressives and civil servants begrudge hard-working professionals from getting a decent living wage? Do teachers really make too much? I thought, being good capitalists, progressives believed in a strong middle class? And this being a period when the middle class is dwindling and the economy and tax base is struggling as a result - I'd much rather that we have ten well-paid, professional teachers than one more executive pocketing another $760,000 (base salary for average teachers plus benefits allotted in monetary value times ten) and bemoaning the lazy poor. Because at least I know the teachers will spend their money and pay their taxes - rather than hiding it like a moocher.

But, secondly, teachers know that things have changed for the worse since the Testing Industrial Complex got a great foothold through the exasperatingly misguided (if not plain evil) No Child Left Behind and, in Chicago, the Renaissance 2010 Project - which is tied to our former school head (and Never Educator) Arne Duncan's Race to the Top initiative.

They are being forced to teach to the tests, while the tests are geared for a limited scope of the educational imagination. As a result of the high-stakes of these exams, nearly two months of each school year are spent teaching poor and underserved* students how to take tests better and more efficiently. They do not need to worry about such things in wealthier districts. Partly because the students do not have so much trauma and hunger to concern themselves with as high-poverty students do. They can concentrate much more easily on their academic studies.

But not being able to concentrate on studies, not being as focused, being diagnosed with learning disabilities are real, live, frustratingly detrimental problems among students in poverty and particularly students of color.

There were a million reasons to strike. There are a million reasons to shut down our work and demand what belongs to us and our children. Do not tell us that the time is not right for direct action or democracy, cowards.
*The word "underserved" has a strange connotation. As if somehow, through no fault of anyone, passively some children just happen to land into this strange netherworld where they can receive adequate benefits, but they won't

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Teachers Are Bad, M'kay?

There's a new PR battle going on in town (really, across the nation). It involves spoiled teachers and their thuggish unions and how lazy and selfish they are.

Or at least these are the facts as we're presented them via administrators who are in charge of education but don't have to deal with anything actually related to education - classrooms, learning, small wages for incredible amounts of work, students, parents, or first-hand appreciation for the adverse effects of poverty on the charges.

Rather, this group tries to remember what didn't work when they were in school (or really, what worked well for them, specifically, but left others marginalized and labeled 'special' and "stupid") and then amp that to eleven.

Finding out that they could put the onus of the responsibility of failing poor and minority students on the teachers while neglecting fundamental structural cracks and necessary changes, leaders and admins also found that they could score political points by portraying teachers as layabouts who are afraid of accountability. After all, if there's nothing to hide, then there's nothing to fear, amirite?

President Bush gave the best soundbite, of course. "If you're teaching to the test, at least you're teaching something, right?"

It's a shame very few really questioned the intents and inferred meaning of that phrase. While seeming to be helpful and concerned about the state of underserved st's, the teaching-to-the-test rhetoric proves the priority of the standardized test as both a means of production (something to profit from) and as an end- product itself. It further demonstrates how out of touch admins and pols are with how learning actually works.

Finally, it's an incendiary accusation against teachers: Teaching poorly is better than not teaching at all.

Which may not be a true assessment even if it were a true accusation. Teaching poorly has a poor reputation of discouraging further learning. Kids demand education. If they were to learn that it only added up to meaningless bubbles about some worthless and irrelevant questions that were drilled into them through most of the school year, then of course they'd find it all ridiculous and worthless.

Wouldn't you?

And that's exactly what's happening. Rather than find and apply meaningful and relevant curriculum, inner city grade schools are under enormous pressure to succeed according to the rubrics of test-makers and their arbitrary questions. Ironically, the more time spent trying to prepare students for these standardized tests, the less time is left to teach the students critical (and critical-thinking) skills.

Image from Off K Street blog
So, while the proposed idea is "no child (especially poor and minority) left behind", the reality is that the education gap is widening. Instead of equipping young black Americans to succeed in the business world,
we are only preparing them for a life of meaningless and humiliating bubble-filling and questions.

Meanwhile, politicians and their education 'czars' (who usually have no actual experience in education or the classroom) are leveraging the widening gap as a means of reigning in teachers and destroying whatever power they've been able to amass these last few decades.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in Chicago. Mayors Daley and now Emanuel have been gutting the public schools for over a decade now, flying against the face of research and the frontline workers to make some quick bucks for friends while looking good, tough, challenging, and moral in the process.

But, as Ben Joravski notes at the Chicago Reader, it's largely an image battle. And that is one that the teachers - shockingly - are losing. As long as teachers remain shocked at the shift of public opinion against them, however, they'll continue to lose this front.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Tea Partyin', Partyin', Something...

Social Media & Memesphoto © 2011 Gwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones | more info (via: Wylio)
I think we should just get one thing straight: the part of the universe that we are not parts of are not necessarily monoliths. The "Black Community" is not of one voice about anything, let alone everything. I can't tell you how many of my more-conservative friends I've had to correct about us progressives (that, for example, we don't necessarily believe in bigger government or more taxes), and how they've shown me that not all conservatives hate or blame immigrants (documented or not), the poor, homosexuals, etc.

I'm almost daily trying to convince fellow progressives to explore the option of voting third party, and they're wondering why some of us are practically handing the keys to the H-bomb button to Sarah Palin.

Today's lesson is brought to us by the letter T. As in "Tea Parties." Notice the deliberation with which I painfully point out the plurality here*. Not, "Tea PartY", but the plural version. Because it's not one single movement, or ideology, or people group. Just as Evangelicals shouldn't be known simply as followers of James Dobson, Jim Wallis, or (Lord, please no!) Franklin Graham, nor does every Tea Partier belong to the racist and arrogant class of the Mark Williamses or the arrogant and racist class of the Andrew Breitbarts or the pro-bullying, anti-gay, blame-deflecting class of Rich Swier. None of which, ironically, have any class. Or morals.

These butt-hats don't represent all of the Tea Party. Just parts of it (apparently, the parts that call itself Tea Party Nation and the Tea Party Express). Tea Partiers don't agree on racism, bullying, or theocracy, or even owning guns. They ostensibly say that taxes are too high and that government spending is out-of-control. Among this crowd are some black and Latino conservatives.

We may not agree with them much of what they espouse - and even if I did, I would completely distance myself from the likes of Bachmann, Breitbart, Palin, and Swier, that guy with the sign of President Obama in an "African witchdoctor" get-up, or that California douchebag who distributed emails of watermelon outside the White House lawn - but we can find points of interest and agreement with most of those on "the other side".

Conservatives, moderates, libertarians, progressives, liberals, anarchists, and lefties can agree on any number of issues - as long as we're not all tied down to the definitions given us by the lazy media. The leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention and I may disagree about any number of matters, but when it comes to giving migrants a fair chance in this country, we're on the same page. Many L&O types are as well, including this lovely conservative Republican mayor of a small town in Georgia, Paul Bridges.

Many TP'ers are against wars, as are many of the conservative and liberal libertarians and anarchists. That is an area that progressives (and like-minded liberals and moderates, etc.) can join together and will NEED to join together in order to challenge the Military-Industrial Complex that has taken control of both parties in the United States.

My friends, I ask only of you what Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young asked:

We can change the world!

*Bad, pseudo-intellectual self joke...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Destruction of Potted Plants (pt. III)

But anyone should be aware that growing, maturing people need fresh air, sunlight, water, nutrients. A little bit of fertilizer, perhaps. Maybe some worms to aerate the soil. Maybe occasionally we can throw some coffee beans and dirt in their direction. Whether or not they receive it at home, they should receive it in the classroom.

Or somewhere.

There are those that argue that teachers have too much responsibility, wear too many hats. That it is the teacher's job to merely instruct. That it is the parent's job to parent. That it is the community's job to safeguard. And I agree, for the most part. But our society is deeply broken: parents often work two to three jobs just to keep from being kicked out of their apartments; gangs often run streets and predators the alleys; houses are run-down; rats are frequent; neighborhoods are red-lined based on economic and racial factors, which means that the poorer, more disenfranchised have less and less access to essential resources; true communities are often a hard-fought rarity when families are shuttled in and out on a regular basis; the poor are often criminalized when they cannot find decent-paying jobs and feel a need to resort to other means of money-making; and when the wealthy do come to the 'hood, it is often with the sad attachment of displacing current residents. Reality in America is different now then it used to be. For starters, we are more self-serving and self-interested (and improbably shorter-sighted) than we used to be. While we have made tremendous progress in human rights, those of us with a progressive bent realize that we have to constantly remind ourselves and our neighbors that we have yet to arrive, that there is immense disparity and inequality between the haves and the have-nots, that basic human rights like life and shelter and sustenance - let alone qualitative education - are viewed as privileges for the elect few who can afford them. Children of the poor specifically suffer as a result of our collective selfishness.

Timken Roller Bearing Co., calendar, September 1950, teacher at deskphoto © 2009 George Eastman House | more info (via: Wylio)I realize that I cannot be all things to all people. No person can. Most of those mythological teachers, the superheroes who get books and movies glorifying and simplifying their beautiful careers, grow tired soon and do not last long in this treacherous game. And who can blame them? They are overworked and undernourished, pushed on all sides even when given full support from staff, administrators, community leaders and parents*. No real success happens as the result of one person against all other odds. I know it makes for good Hollywood, but teaching isn't friggin' Indiana Jones. It's more like gardening.

A true horticulturist weens, shelters, feeds, develops, supports, prunes, staves off predators and disease, and gives proper and timely amounts of light, heat, and water to an immense amount of plants at any given time. And although he may recognize patterns and adapt better to them, he cannot account for every species of fawn in the same manner.

I advocate for a broader base to support the under-served urban and rural students. I advocate, necessitate that each child and student should be raised with plenty of sunshine and nourishment. The teachers often are left to grow kids on their own. This is a sad state, even for a broken neighborhood. Any organization that has a place in the neighborhood needs to function as a support system for the schools around it. This includes the synagogues, mosques, store-front churches, food and liquor stores, the companies that sell products in those stores, certainly the lottery companies that do so much business in impoverished neighborhoods, local and chain restaurants, office buildings, police officers, fire fighters, postal carriers, aldermen. It behooves us all to act in the best interests of the present as well as the future health of our economy and humanity.

It not only behooves us, it will also beheeve us. We have been behoven.


*Of course these elements are overlooked in the Hollywood remakes. It is always presented as Super-Teacher Vs The World. And you wouldn't want some pesky involved parent getting in the way of a good narrative device.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Destruction of Potted Plants (II)

pt. 1 here, pt. 3 coming

There were some fights in that classroom. One fight occurred in the passing period, between two hot-headed students who each would be involved in several other verbal and physical fights the next two years. It started in a flash (although I suppose the warning signs were there if I had known how to search for them) and effectively ended when I was able to wrangle the struggle to the other side of the room to waiting security. I don't remember much else about that confrontation. I don't recall if there was further action directly related to that fight - though I should, by any rights, know. And I don't remember if other students were trying to get involved with the fight (though I doubt it), were trying to stop it or were merely passively awe-struck by it.

But I do remember the toll that the wildly swinging appendages took on the nearby plants. Because that was all I could bring myself to focus on. I remember looking at the floor and being angry at the destruction of my potted plants. And yet I missed the big, easy picture - the metaphorical writing on the wall, if you may: the destruction of the idea of the classroom as a safe place. The two students (as volatile as they proved to be) exploded primarily not over property rights or religious views. I don't think they were arguing over who makes the best frozen yogurt.

They were both at the precipice of fear and danger and one nasty or innocuous interaction led to another, escalating to the boiling point. At this point their own sharp-edged, protective words and body language were not enough to make them feel guarded from the dangers that they represented to each other. They would reconcile their apprehension at each other with many moving fists and pointy appendages.

Struggle to Survivephoto © 2009 Adrian Gonzales | more info (via: Wylio)

The students' social interactions were not cultivated properly. And for this, I sit here, at the center of the blame. I am responsible.

I cannot release myself. I cannot excuse nor recuse. The fact is, as much as it is needed in my environment, I do not know how to greenhouse my students.

I was not taught that in Rhetoric 401 or Pedagogy 315.

pt. 1, pt. 3 coming

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Destruction of Potted Plants (I)

My primary plant is ivy. Partially because ivy reminds me of my old home on the north side of Chicago. It covered the brownstone like an exoskeleton in the winter, an old, leafy friend in the summer. And the ivy also represents, in Chicago at least, Wrigley Field. Wrigley Field itself (not to be confused with the home team that happens to occupy Wrigley) is the last bastion of hope for baseball as it was meant to be played - as the ultimate beer garden; a deliberately rural-esque past-time in the midst of an urban and rushed setting. Which is how I envision my plants to function and exist.

ivyphoto © 2005 stephen jones | more info (via: Wylio)

Not as an image of beer gardens, so much – but as a pastoral icon – a reminder to slow down and enjoy your days while you can. The ivy (at home and in the classroom) reminds me that life and growth happen all around us, even in inept and regrettable situations. Like the Cubs organization and the overgrown frat boys who infest the spot like so much used hygienic products. No disrespect mean to used hygienic products...

My first classroom came pre-fitted with potted plants. To this day, I don't know what type they were, only that they - like cockroaches - could theoretically outlast a nuclear Armageddon. They were nearly indestructible, which they needed to be at the time because they were under my care. I think they were a variant of purple cacti, with leaves that dry up under the hot summer sun. I soon realized that these thingymabobs are so hard-to-kill that all I needed to do was water them on a regular basis and they were fine. And when I say, "regular basis", I mean, "once or twice a month if I remembered." Or course, they never lived up to their full potential. Which reminds me of too many report-card conferences.

Second grade Teacher: Jason is a very smart and capable young man.
Mom: Why, thank you. (Pregnant pause) But, what else can you say about his progress?
Teacher: He doesn't live up to his potential.
Father: That's what we figured.
Jason: (Scratching the back of his pants.) This doesn't sound good.
Father: You're right. And it won't sound good on your behind either.
Jason: Oh, drats! (Pulling up underwear from the back.)

This scene repeated twice a year for most of the rest of my formative education.with slightly altered language as I was further removed from my "Leave It to Beaver" years.College was different primarily because I was not in a mood to squander perfectly good money that I either earned or borrowed and would pay back through several years of incremental payments. These loans would, I knew even then, come back to haunt me like Kathy Lee Gifford haunts Regis. Cryptic envelopes, monthly payoffs, promises of eternity, ill-timed phone calls.

The odd purple plants managed to survive through the year. But not intact. And, like any group of war combatants, they lost some brothers (or is it sisters - or rather, brosters, being that plants don't really have a gender, only gender-parts. "Sothers"?).


*You know, wearing the knickers, and the little bow-tie. I was a cute little kid. Unfortunately, I was still scratching my nellies to the very end

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Children Learn Nasty Stuff from Us

Dan Savage (the NorthWest-based Sex Columnist known for being particularly crass in a field of crass-ness) had a particularly strong column last week on Christians' relationships with anti-gay bullying. Some of his points for those of us who need to listen the most may have been missed in his offensive efforts of calling the writer out, but they are poignant and for those of us who can stomach such insults, they need to be listened to. Slightly edited version is at the end of this blog.

However, I want to take some time to re-envision what this may mean for us Christians.

Imagine that your children are in school in a land where Christians are openly mocked and persecuted. Not the persecution-lite that some radio pundits and mass-mail fliers try to convince us is increasing in this country. (They were saying the same thing when I was a child, about basically the same situations. But I was a Christian then just as now and I can honestly say, I was never truly persecuted. However, as a teacher, I did see real, malignant persecution for sexually ambiguous young men. It broke my heart). Occasionally being teased for being a virgin in the locker room is hardly the same as the verbal, emotional, physical, sexual onslaught that, say, homosexual children receive on a daily, hourly basis. Let's put aside the concerns that homosexuality is learned or biological, because as Christians, we choose. So we know that choice shouldn't be a justification for persecution.

Now, imagine living in an area where Christians are outcasts, blamed for all sorts of things that we can't possibly be responsible for: polluting the minds of young children, if not doing worse; promoting a secret, clandestine agenda;looking to convert innocents and drag them from their family and traditions. In fact, it seems entirely plausible to me that WE are actually doing the things we are accusing the LGBT community as a whole of doing, even as they're mostly just trying to get a hold on the confusion-matrix that is school, life, hormones, family...

And your children go to school. And they're bumped into lockers for being at the least moderately associated with Christianity. They're called all sorts of names, the sorts of names that I just promised a friend I'd try not to repeat. Constant barrage, constant butt of highly embarrassing jokes. Being roughed up in the halls regularly; being sexually assaulted constantly. Derision. Mockery.

And you're talking with your next door neighbors about these problems. And they're basically decent folks. Keep to themselves, keep a clean manor, music is down low; they're not shout-y people like some of the other guys. But you know that their kids are roughing up your kids. Even leaders amongst the anti-Christian bullies.

And they respond, "Now, you guys can live over there and pray your little prayers to your Magical Sky Fairy in peace, and we can do something worthwhile and valuable in peace and we should be all okay. It's really too bad that's happening to your children. But we don't tell our kids to bully your kids. That wouldn't be very nice or neighborly. It's against our moral code to do so.

"I'm actually a bit offended," they continue, adding injury to insult by their mock pain, "that you'd suggest that we would possibly persuade our children to aggravate your children. Maybe if you people didn't try to be all Christian, what with your going to church and stuff, and wanting to be married and hang out at the ice cream shop like normal people... Maybe they wouldn't be targeted. But that's not our fault."

That's the same sort of semi-human/back-handed disregard that we're feeding in our Christian community about Gay/Lesbian/Bi-sexual/Transgendered people. How do our children internalize such talk? Seriously??

Q: I was listening to the radio yesterday morning, and I heard an interview with you about your It Gets Better campaign. I was saddened by and frustrated with your comments regarding people of faith and their perpetuation of bullying. As someone who loves the Lord and does not support gay marriage, I can honestly say I was heartbroken to hear about the young man who took his own life.

If your message is that we shouldn't judge people based on their sexual preference, how do you justify judging entire groups of people for any other reason (including their faith)? There is no part of me that took any pleasure in what happened to that young man, and I know for a fact that's true of many other people who disagree with your viewpoint.

To that end, to imply that I would somehow encourage my children to mock, hurt, or intimidate another person for any reason is completely unfounded and offensive. Being a follower of Christ is, above all things, a recognition that we are all imperfect, fallible, and in desperate need of a savior. We cannot believe that we are better or more worthy than other people....

A: I'm sorry your feelings were hurt by my comments.

No, wait. I'm not.
Gay kids are dying. So let's try to keep things in perspective: fuck your feelings.

A question: Do you "support" atheist marriage? Interfaith marriage? Divorce and remarriage? All are legal, all go against Christian and/or traditional ideas about marriage, and yet there's no "Christian" movement to deny marriage rights to atheists or people marrying outside their respective faiths or people divorcing and remarrying...

Sorry, L.R., but so long as you support the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples, it's clear that you do believe that some people—straight people—are "better or more worthy" than others.

And—sorry—but you are partly responsible for the bullying and physical violence being visited on vulnerable LGBT children. The kids of people who see gay people as sinful or damaged or disordered and unworthy of full civil equality—even if those people strive to express their bigotry in the politest possible way (at least when they happen to be addressing a gay person)—learn to see gay people as sinful, damaged, disordered, and unworthy. And while there may not be any gay adults or couples where you live, or at your church, or in your workplace, I promise you that there are gay and lesbian children in your schools. And while you can only attack gays and lesbians at the ballot box, nice and impersonally, your children have the option of attacking actual gays and lesbians, in person, in real time.

Real gay and lesbian children. Not political abstractions, not "sinners." Gay and lesbian children.

The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from the lips of "faithful Christians" and the lies about us vomited out from the pulpits of churches that "faithful Christians" drag their kids to on Sundays give your children license to verbally abuse, humiliate, and condemn the gay children they encounter at school. And many of your children—having listened to mom and dad talk about how gay marriage is a threat to family and how gay sex makes their magic sky friend Jesus cry—feel justified in physically abusing the LGBT children they encounter in their schools. You don't have to explicitly "encourage [your] children to mock, hurt, or intimidate" queer kids. Your encouragement—along with your hatred and fear—is implicit. It's here, it's clear, and we're seeing the fruits of it: dead children.

Oh, and those same dehumanizing bigotries that fill your straight children with hate? They fill your gay children with suicidal despair. And you have the nerve to ask me to be more careful with my words?

Did that hurt to hear? Good. But it couldn't have hurt nearly as much as what was said and done to Asher Brown and Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas and Cody Barker and Seth Walsh and others—day in, day out for years—at
schools filled with bigoted little monsters created not in the image of a loving God but in the image of the hateful and false "followers of Christ" they call mom and dad.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'd rather be sheep

I've been trying to write this final post on Love for some time now. But then, I keep getting The Angry. My most recent The Angry is in response to the Tea Party Faithful. I'm actually trying to turn over a new leaf, to activate people who are on the fence to fight for the poor and afflicted and those in the margins of society - to fight for equality for all.

But then I see and hear people who take the name of Jesus in vain as a means of attacking those we're supposed to be protecting, welcoming, visiting, and giving good news to. And that stirs something in me. Something baaaaad. But I just want to use this as an opportunity to show my faithful readers the kind of deluded thinking* that we're up against. This is my response to one such spewer after reading this article.

My wife is switching jobs and we're losing insurance for three months. I have many friends who cannot find full-time work (myself included) and therefore go without. It's not right. But to hear fellow Christians go around saying that we don't have health insurance either b/c we're lazy or we really don't deserve it is about as infuriating a thing to ever listen to. That makes me fundamentally aware that Christians in America do not serve Christ's emerging Kingdom, nor his values, but the values of the wealthy and the rich. It's hatred, and I want nothing to do with it. If you take it personally, well, sorry. I seriously think you should reconsider your viewpoints.

"Is taxation not stealing?"

Nope. Who gave you that idea? I know it wasn't Jesus. Or anywhere in the Bible. "Render unto Caesar." And you think OUR tax laws are stifling? Seriously, these guys were under the imperial reach of Rome. They were taxed from Jerusalem to Rome with hands reaching in at every point along the way...

"Did the government earn that money, or did we?"

Oh, now I see... Ok. I got a pretty little place for you called Somalia.

See, government protects our ways of life. That's what it does. It makes it possible for us to go to work, to have jobs, to eat, move around. Literally. Without it, the only way for you to survive, to have a decent life where you can sit down on your computer and spew your utter nonsense

"Should the taxpayers provide all families with a car, home, a 1/4 acre, a full pantry, health care, college for their kids, a livable retirement account, a cruise in the Caribbean, sports for their kids, new clothes every school year, a flat screen TV, a PS3, a laz-e-boy, two cats and a dog?"

See, that's the point, isn't it? I'm talking about basic life rights. You're concerned about overriding consumeristic materialism, the god of America. It's not a sliding scale. You can keep your pretty little teevee, Jake. I would just like to prevent deaths and work drop-offs.

"Ben Franklin said it best..."

I don't care what our Founding Fathers said. I don't worship them. I don't follow them. You can quote, misquote, rip them out of context, falsely attribute all you want to. But I follow Jesus. And Jesus said give to all who have need.

"Jesus has given us every opportunity to accept salvation and more forward in our faith. We must show that we have faith through the fruit of our deeds. Our deeds do not save us, but they do show the world who it is we follow."
Let your light so shine before all men. Yes, Jake, I know. I know the Bible pretty darn well. What I alluded to earlier about the goats, that's Jesus' litmus test, you may say. The life of following Jesus is the life of looking out for the least of these. If we do not do that, if we do not guard, protect, share, visit, aid, then Jesus says that we are no good. Trash-eaters.

I'd rather be sheep.

"It is not the responsibility of the government to meet your needs, it is the Lord's"

I don't think that you're suggesting that I sit at home and pray and then Jesus will appear with several loaves of bread and fish as well as my rent check, Jake? The Lord works through his body, and through various means. You allude to this, but seriously, what? Are you kidding me? That's your whole plan? 30 million uninsured Americans and this is your plan? Will you chip in towards this need? Will you and your church come down to inner city Chicago and make sure that we're all taken care of in all of our needs? Because we're pretty much all in the same boat here. My church is very generous, but we don't have the means for this.

No, don't worry about me, though. I'd spend more time checking your own heart. Because unless you're actually fighting the good fight amongst the least of these, your words are hollow and weak and meaningless. Again, you don't know me.

and finally,
"your feeble attempts to explain why government is the solution to all of societies problems."

The reason you may see them as feeble is b/c I'm not arguing what you think I'm arguing. I'm saying one thing, while you're sure that I'm saying another because you BELIEVE that's what everybody who disagrees with you is saying.
Government is not the solution, Jake. I never said that. I don't know anybody who ever said that. But government is not the problem either. Government secures our rights. And chief among them is the right to life.

What we tend to believe, though, Jake, is that we need to fight for our neighbor's survival in every arena. That includes personal, family, social, community, church (local and universal), business, and governmental. They're all walls of protection and all of them need to be supportive.

*I have to make this clear: I don't hate those who spout these views. I do feel attacked and hurt, though. And I do tend to call them out on their views as those views are dangerous, demeaning and hurtful. But I believe that they are slaves to a system that seeks to enslave us all. Much as poor whites in the Antebellum South were turned against blacks, there are other forces at work. Oddly enough, many of those enslaving forces work under titles like "Freedom" and "Liberty."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to: Big Ideas (??)

  • I think I figured out what I was created to do: become a career student. When I get some free time in between the more "practical" classes, I'd like to stop over to Auburn and be this guy's "apprentice". (NYT, reg. req.)
[H]e sees philosophy less as a profession than as a way of looking at, of being in, the world. “I am convinced that philosophy is not just about theory,” he told me. “It’s about a life well lived and thoughts truly thought.”

Which is sorta how I look at theology. It shouldn't just be for the theologians and pastors and seminary students and whatnot, but for all of life to look and reflect on the things of God.
h/t to Scot McKnight

  • Were you as disenchanted with the constant back-and-forth spattering of information between the candidates on Friday night? It reminded me of 2nd grade taunts. To help us sift through the distortions (yes, my man Obama laid some out too sadly...) here's our friends at Factcheck with an extensive list. Very. Extensive. List.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bonus News of the Weird - Teachers in the Rubber Room

Because of the sensitivity of this post, I'm just gonna let this one speak for itself:

Several New York papers reported this year on the more than 700 public-school teachers being paid full salary to sit idly in [one of thirteen] facilities known informally as "rubber rooms" and do nothing until an arbitration board can review accusations of misconduct against them. The board of education won't permit the teachers to interact with students while charges are pending (even for offenses as trivial as buying a potted plant for the classroom without the principal's approval), but union contracts prevent them from doing administrative work, and the overloaded arbitrators convene at most once a week, so accused teachers wind up spending months or even years reading, writing, watching TV, knitting, practicing their putting, etc., at an estimated cost of up to $40 million.

Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, November 15, 2007.

I will say that this NYTimes article, by education writer and journalism professor Samuel G. Freedman, is worth reading. Some excerpts:

The room in question was about 1,100 square feet and on blueprints submitted to the Fire Department was designed to hold 26 people. On this day, it contained upward of 75. It had no windows, no land phone, no Internet access, no wall decorations, not even a clock. Any personal belongings left overnight were removed by custodians.

Some of the occupants faced criminal charges like assault, while others had been brought up by city education officials for termination due to incompetence or other causes. Still more, including Mr. Valtchev, had not yet received a formal letter specifying any allegation. Until their cases are resolved, which can take years, all are required to spend the 181 days of the school year in the rubber room.

And although the teachers there receive their full salaries, the stale, spartan conditions and the absence of any physical or intellectual stimulation provide a ceaseless reminder that in some respects they are guilty until proved innocent.

“There is a spirit of the K.G.B. about it,” Mr. Valtchev said in an interview on Monday. “Their main strategy is to destabilize the person, reduce his self-respect...

“Even in the penal system,” said Ms. Cohen, a veteran of more than 240 days in the rubber room, “they permit rehabilitation.”

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Resurrection life

Easter would hardly have been, for two thousand years, the spring and center of Christian life and prayer, would hardly have provided the focus of Christian worship and the form of Christian hope, if the word Easter were simply the name of something that once happened in the past.

Nicholas Lash, Easter in Ordinary

I'm going to do a little teaching on Thursday night to my old youth group. I miss teaching in the Church context. But at the same time, I feel like this time right now, God is teaching me so much and that my vocation is only beginning to be illuminated. And I feel a bit shaken. Like there's so little I know, even though I've been a Christian for some 26 years. I feel a bit of trembling and shaking.

I'm going to be drawing largely on N. T. Wright (largely The Challenge of Jesus) and Eugene Peterson (in this case, almost exclusively Living the Resurrection) to talk about the resurrection of Jesus (spiritual, intellectual and physical new life-after-death) and his followers and what that means in day-to-day life (hint: it has nothing to do with the Left Behind books or why we should fight for or against anybody in the Middle East [militaristically, that is]).

Please stay tuned for further ruminations throughout the week. Both of you.