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

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who Teaches Math to the Red Eye?

According to a lead story in Tuesday's print Chicago Red Eye (the baby sister of the Old Man Anti-Union McCormick's anti-union Tribune), the Chicago Board of Education offered Chicago Teacher's Union members pay raises in increments of 3% the first year and 2% for the following three years. According the the Red Eye, this amounts to a total of 16% for all teachers.

Now, I was taught by those same CTU teachers, and I'm more of a humanities person myself, but I don't think that math adds up...

Chicago Teachers Union Rally 50

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Don't Need Truthers

I don't need Truthers to tell me our rememberences of 9/11/01 are irresponsible. Are deadly. Are poisonous. Are selfish. Are ego-centric. Are violent. Are unnecessary.

I don't need conspiracy theorists to tell me that we have raced into bludgeoning violence. Rushed into a schoolyard fight with spiked bats and automatic weapons and tanks.

That we have killed seventy-times-seventy of "theirs" than they have killed of "ours."

Nor that there is no "they" or "us." Unless we are speaking of those on top of the  capital, economic, cultural, industrial, and political orders against those of us here. On the ground. Running around and playing their games just in order that we may eek out an existence. Risking our lives in the efforts to take the lives of others. Because the American God is a God of Vengeance and Retribution.

And oil. And contracts.

And racist nationalism.

And this God demands sacrifices. It demands money. Trillions. It demands lives. Millions.

The American God of Vengeance and Retribution demands toddlers and mothers and fathers and sisters and cousins and wives and husbands and infants and teenagers and the recently deployed and college students and taxi drivers and bakers and nurses and teachers and "the help" and... the list goes on.

These are not the people we remember. We remember An Attack By Them.

Bomb The People
The Attack By Them is justification - an eternal loop of crashing, inflated justification - to blow holes through children and send kids to do things that kids should never have to witness. The adults, the American adults continue to say that we Will Never Forget The Attack By Them. On Our Soil.

But we seem to have little problem forgetting our capital, economic, cultural, industrial, political violence upon on Them predating the Attack By Them.

And a thousand times over since then.

I don't need a Truther to tell me that this is a horrible, violent, monstrous sham. A con game, where we all, Christians and Muslims, Euro-Americans, Mid-Asians, and Middle-Easterners, poor and working class, veterans and their victims, lose. The house of cards is stacked against us. And when it falls, we lose it all.

If you remember, remember us all.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Capitalism and Charity

Socialism is about the worker being paid justly for his or her work. That’s the gist of socialism.

Why do American Christians have such a hard time with this notion? We tend to revel in capitalism as if it were not intrinsically sinful - paying into and glorifying a system that is energized by, fueled by, and kept in motion by greed and avarice.

How capitalism works is essentially taking “surplus” (the gains gotten from reducing wages given to workers) and storing it towards upper management (that being a generous term) and investors. This process creates a need to go back and give charity towards those who are not paid properly in the first place.

And that charity comes with strings and conditions. And the charity is extremely limited, rather arbitrary, and only supplies little of the need created by the lack of power and access to resources created by the injustice of the capitalist system in the first place.

MN: Coleman "No Bandage Solutions!" to Health Care Crisis
1000s of signatures from MN residents urging Coleman to stop offering bandage solutions to the health care crisis 

We don’t need more charity. Charity is a band aid for a crisis of the bludgeoning. We need to stop the bleeding at the source. We need to end the cycles of violence. 

We need justice.

Reposted from CommiePinkosWroteMyBible

Saturday, September 01, 2012

More About That Big Ol' Table with All the Homeless and the Homosexuals

Continuation of this post.

The third critique I want to get into here goes beyond Chick-fil-A or gay people or churches or conservatives or liberals or where we find ourselves in these divides: It is the fundamental fact that our own reliance on consumerism as a way of life, as a culture, and as an economic system is fundamentally destructive - literally, figuratively, physically, socially, spiritually destructive. It is consumerism, rather than creativity combined with sustenance, that is not just killing us in terms of health problems (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, strokes), not just in terms of the ecology (which indirectly but even presently affects all of our health in tremendous ways - from ice caps to greenhouse to toxins in the air, land and water), but in terms of actual starvation - specifically of third world children, women and men.

While we argue over whether or not we should support or boycott one fast food franchise, our habits of eating meats and processed foods are actively stealing necessary resources from the majority of the world, just to feed us more (and yet less) than what we need to remain healthy. If American Christians really cared about the starving of the world, we'd eat out a lot less, we'd drastically consume less meat, we would support community farms and gardening so as not to steal grains from overseas. Because when we have such an over-reliance on a small stock of grains (and specifically genetically modified ones), we erode topsoil and limit precious farming land - allocating what property and work third world farmers have towards the propulsion of our already full tummies.

But if we cared for the poor of the world and the US, we wouldn't just stop there. We'd not only not shop at Wal-Mart (which I've made a pretty good habit of boycotting over the last decade ever since I saw what they did to the small stores in my parents' town in Oklahoma. All the stores. Every last one), we'd cease shopping at any ridiculously low-priced store, any big-box, any retail location that doesn't pay living wages to its employees and doesn't pay its vendors enough to maintain a living wage for their employees. We'd shop locally, at little shops, at local machinists, at bakers' shops, getting ingredients from local millers and nearby organic farms, because that money tends to stay in the community - rather than going to some corporate office somewhere where it then goes into hiding. Our money should be circulated to afford more higher-paying jobs.

Space Junk

But then, the majority of poor and lower-middle class people who shop at Wal-Mart do so because it's exactly what they can afford with what little they have. I stock up on highly-processed foods from Aldi because it's 20-60% cheaper than buying from a major grocery chain, let alone a corner grocer, and a lot easier than making food from scratch - which is something that I'd like to do, but, like a lot of this country's poor, I run low on energy and/or time and/or resources when it comes to this. Generally speaking, the working poor cannot afford to shop at the farmer's markets, even when we're well aware how much better they are for us, even when they allow for TANF credits (though I just found out that TANF will match, dollar for dollar up to ten dollars, what is bought each visit to a city-sponsored farmer's market in Chicago - and these are in poor neighborhoods in Chicago such as Austin and West Humboldt Park), even when everybody tells us we should and why we should.

How do we allow for a place to address social-class, poverty, sexuality, racial, gender issues, though? Especially when some of those issues are self-perpetuating, or seemingly at odds with each other - when homosexuals feel that black men and women are working against their interests and black families feel slighted by non-black LGBTQ, or when African Americans are slighted by the service industry - whether they be police or waitstaff or banks - or when Black, Latino or indigenous students become distrustful of the very same educational systems that they are told are supposed to deliver them from poverty. These things do not happen without reason. They are not imagined problems.

I pledge a round table. No kings, no positions above or below. No servants, nobody is slighted nor unwelcome. A table of shared humanity and talents and skills where the learning and the restoring can begin.

We must discover this fact together. We must find out why they are not imagined. We must discover anew the fine art of friendship - extended beyond our borders and the limits we have manufactured to protect ourselves and our ways of life..

And when I say "we" here, I mean "we privileged." Whites, males, heteros, English-speaking, middle and upper class, educated, professional class, Christian, with able bodies and minds and all that stuff that many of us take for granted and in whatever area that we have privileges. Once we recognize our privileges - those bonuses in life that give us a distinct (though rarely recognized) advantage over others who do not share those identity traits - then maybe we are ready to sit at the table. But perhaps we should go over some ground rules before we shed our shoes, elbow up, and grub on down.

We'll touch on those ground rules in the next installment. Let's just say that those who've spoken will need to shut, and the currently shut down will open. Oh, and lots of work, and lots of sharing, and lots of good stuff. I promise. Soon.

But I'd like your ideas. What would be some good ground rules for a great gathering? For a place of learning and sharing? A place of equilibrium, of justice, of feeding.