“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
― Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their
own.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis
Oh, the contradictions or counter-intuitive nature of being a taxpaying USA citizen, one who has always been a socialist, one who has since age 14 knew the two-party system is a killer Continuing Criminal Enterprise – both internally, to our own people, and to the rest of the world. This decay of America was the decay set upon this beautiful land from the first colonies, those superstitious and money-grubbing first-LLC pigs of capital. It just got worse everyday from way back then, that Plymouth Rock illegal alien moment, up until this very second!
I can blame those other white people – Spanish and French for also impregnating this continent with the syphilis of greed, religion, rape, subjugating and decay.
Killing, raping first nations people, and stealing land and pushing them into open prisons, that’s the kernel of the decay that now, at 350 million, we are witnessing. What’s the saying, the chickens have come to roost.
You can’t be on the right side of history because in this country, history is white-washed, twisted, tweaked, missing, thrown away and retrofitted to fit the narrative of the white ruling classes.
And, the arc of a moral universe, as MLK quoted another clergyman, is not toward justice:
Martin Luther King cites, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This metaphor was originally devised by Theodore Parker, a Unitarian Minister, in an 1853 collection of sermons.
The universe, being amoral, and the rich and new gilded class and their sycophants and Little Eichmann’s not being about morality, but immorality. Trump is just a speck of dust on that arc of chemtrails from shot-out missiles of his administration and of all the other administrations of mass murderers and despotic rulers/leaders and racists and sociopaths-as-politicians/generals/CEOs/presidents/prime ministers.
Contradictions. I recently worked in the Salvation Army’s homeless veterans’ program in Beaverton, as a social worker, but not FOR the Starvation Army. That outfit is a punishment-centered place, where the values of being a band of brothers/sisters are thrown out the window in a mean-spirited attitude that the homeless center is/will be a dumping ground for veterans and their families whose butts in beds make the non-profit money from us US Taxpayer.
I sent in a raft of grievances to the powers that be at the VA and Salvation Army, and that has been to no avail. Whistleblower Treated Like Ted Bundy! should be the headline of my tenure there!
In so many ways, I have worked in but not for various organizations throughout my life. Working as a journalist, print, along the US-Mexico border, I was working in newsrooms owned by rich people but not FOR these rich men. In community colleges and universities, I was working for the benefit of the students, for creating spaces of giving and offering students tools to think outside the boxes that have hobbled hope and good potential, versus working FOR the presidents and provosts and institutional leadership wonks and other Admin class and so-called Dean-let who hobble thinking, hate anti-authoritarian mettle and have allowed for public our colleges to be gutted by the corporations and parsed away, support wise, by the state who is mandated to fund the education of our future doers, thinkers, leaders.
This counter-intuitiveness is that I should have been monkeywrenching hard at any of the places I ended up in. Everywhere I have worked as an employee has been chock-full of ameliorating, careerist, credentialist and counter-productive folk. They are the warped and power-hungry professional managerial class, and even if they are mandated in their PR-drenched mission statements to work to help homeless adults, substance abuse clients, students in PK12, what have you, they are some of the worst people on the planet because they do hateful, mean and dictatorial things to not just the staff and front-line workers, but to the clients.
I should be scared shitless, at 62, with little prospect of getting even a moldy crumb from the rancid crust of the American dream pie. I never fit in, and here I am, living a precarious life with a significant other who works her fingers to the bone to provide for a college-going daughter and just survival.
What follows is emblematic of the big picture covered up by the culture wars idiots running the media, Madison Avenue, Mansions of Madness we call State Capitals. Here, also, an example of floundering local news, from Lincoln City, but telling in terms of this couple’s story:
LINCOLN CITY — The elderly couple has no idea what is next. They’re broke, in poor health, and out time.
Driven by poverty into a gypsy existence, Ralph and Diane Simon have ghosted from one coastal campground to the next for more than a decade, haunting the very cheapest places they can rest their bones, all the while eating, sleeping and carrying on their lives in a 16-foot fifth-wheel trailer.
For a while, it worked. But time and decay have caught up with the Simons.
On Feb. 6, the couple was headed north to a campground in Pacific City. Right around the Taft area, the goose-neck hitch on the trailer folded, came loose and began to destroy the bed of their pickup. Trickling out their last dollars to a tow truck driver and a discounted room at Chinook Winds Casino, they have spent the last two weeks in limbo, waiting for repairs to be finished.
Ralph Simon is 82. His wife is 76.
Of course, the writer and the editors get the rest of the story wrong, very wrong, because this is the face of this Central Oregon Coast – the real face. This is not some isolated incident. This is not a minority report. The fact that the USA has tens and tens of millions of citizens shackled by the capitalist system of no public transportation, no cross country trains, no rent control laws, no public gardens, no low impact and low cost intentional communities, no checks and balances put on the political trash and their paymasters — Fortune 2000 companies one and all — no public health and free clinics at every end of any town east-west-south-north out of town on any main drag, this is just part of the story any local rag should be delving into constantly, daily.
This couple, 82 and 76, is the by-product of capitalism and all its systems of penury. Both husband and wife victims of bad legislation, victims of profit-for-the-highest-bidder health insurance agencies, victim of fractured communities, victims of privatized everything, victims of bad food bad air, bad soil. The story in this Lincoln City rag should be pounding each issue with headline marques sounding the alarm to the reality many of us live: of the one-paycheck away from . . . one-bad legal situation from . . . one-medical issue/procedure away from . . . one-termination away from . . . one-eviction away from . . . one-dementia diagnosis away from . . . one-mental health breakdown away from . . . one chronic illness away from HOMELESSNESS. This is the society we have allowed ourselves to be snookered into accepting.
Central Coast Oregon, and the streets are filled with revelers from Portland, Eugene, Bend, when the sun hits our whale-espied shores. Business is boom and bust/boom or bust. The homes are either gorgeous (sic) examples of opulence, or for the most part, dilapidated and rafter-heavy/roof-swaying beat down hovels.
We’re talking about trashed-out single-wide manufactured homes (AKA trailers) selling for $160,000 on one-quarter acre lots three or five miles away from any beach view. Neighbors living in various states of struggle and substance abuse challenges. Pot holes and pot smokers.
This obsession with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, with remodeling shows, with roadside diner TV series, or iron chef specials, that is the great American disease of consumption-itis: a woeful journey into the nether chambers of fantasy, delusion, and see-hear-speak no evil against the perpetrators of this gilded age, this rich-for-themselves-at-any-cost elite (sic) group, against the majority of us who, for the most part, are looking to stay simple, raise a family, count on some ray of hope that work will benefit one getting the other American Dreamscape – some retirement, some protection from eviction, tons of protections from being thrown into the poorhouse, and, unfortunately, some guarantee 18 million empty homes and a few million empty commercial buildings might be put to some good use.
Contradictions. Sure, I have fought against standardized testing. I have fought against the normalization of consumption and abiding by the rulers’ rules in PK12 education, and into the four-year schools of higher education.
I know it’s counter-intuitive to work as an educator, and now, back as a substitute teacher, and attempting to believe any a modicum of the systems set in place that are education’s foundation. Children are being short-shafted many ways.
I get that schools are dumb-downed, and that much of the time is spent on “discipline” issues and getting set up and having children follow rules like little brown-shirts. I know that curricula are wasted or empty or silly. I know that sitting in the chair and being corralled by repetition and inane classroom projects isn’t going to set the stage for a new generation of leaders as revolutionaries.
Everyone is a critic, though, when it comes to my professions –journalism, education (college and PK12), and working as a social worker for homeless and substance abused challenged individuals.
Most of these people who chaff on their wooden high horses are full of shit, to be sure. Again, it’s like having to defend all-American and fully-capitalist Bernie Sanders from the idiotic Democrats who support folks like Biden or Beto or Hillary.
Children I work with as a PK12 teacher are struggling, big time. More and more nervous ticks, more and more learning disabilities, more and more food allergies, more and more significant life survival disabilities, both physical and intellectual. More and more children are products of Disney, McDonald’s and Walmart; and the stuff that they have to do in school is idiotic and pedagogically bizarre.
That being said, though, imagine both parents working (some two jobs each), and imagine the cost of day-care, and imagine the types of jobs parents have, and imagine the struggles to even think outside their adult parental boxes, dealing with children who are voracious for mentoring and leadership, but who instead get remote controls, iPads, celebrity cult training, and parents who are not readers, writers, artists, thinkers, and really not deeply committed to raising children. Parents know nothing about teaching children because they too are products of consumerism and capitalist Criminal Continuing Enterprises.
Elementary school kids are beautiful, for sure, but they are in need of gigantic paradigm shifts and multiple flippings of the script. I am many times the only male teaching adult in the schools where I substitute. I am many times the only teacher who speaks Spanish, here in a county that has 25 percent of its total population as Spanish speakers.
Get my point now: we can only stop the theft of our tax coffers, the destruction of our environment, the denuding of our futures, the rejiggering of power for the few, the rich, against the majority, us, with strong education. It takes a town and community, up and down the economic spectrum and demographic profile, to raise a child, teach a teen, and grow leaders who will do the right thing.
Instead, much more time by instructional staff is devoted to working with children with behavioral improvement plans, with IEPs (educational plans set up specifically for youth with some significant impediments to learning through books, paper and pencil), and with youth that are on the autism spectrum and have significant intellectual/development disabilities.
We need MORE schools, MORE teachers, MORE creative ways to reach the young while they are ripe for deeply embedding into themselves the codes of the anarchist, the anti-authoritarian, the critical thinking and critically creative youth that will be the ones leading the charge to put the Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos types in jail, leading the charge to begin breaking up utilities and monopolies, in designing the new ecosocialism and intentional communities to allow them to survive with some forms of dignity this unfolding climate chaos. And to stop perpetual war.
We do this with hands-on schools, not schools that look like prisons. The one elementary school I taught at yesterday was like a broken down Piggly Wiggly from 1960 than a hallowed hall of learning for the young. An embarrassment. Kids in drafty, ugly, plain, chipping, molding schools (sic).
Imagine community schools, where students spend time with elders, with the soil, with the rivers and sea. Daily. Imagine knowing how to build a solar panel out of junk. Imagine growing real gardens and canning those products. Imagine learning how to make films and how to connect to the globe in distant education projects with kids from other countries.
Imagine teepees, talking circles around fires, and imagine parents supported and encouraged to learn with the children, alongside.
The system now is broken, but these children have little at home, in many cases. Emotionally-distant, or over-worked fathers and mothers. Mothers and fathers depressed, one pay check away from emotional suicide.
Imagine real food, real restaurants coming in, real field trips, real music classes, real people teaching alongside the traditional (sic) teacher. Imagine, really doing something for all our futures by investing in the next and the next and the next generation.
Contradictions. Yes, I did bus duty, hall monitoring, reading classes, even time in the cafeteria with K through 6 graders. Yesterday. Yes, I am working off the books so to speak. No contract, no tenure track, no state retirement plan. Imagine the precarity in my own situation, yet I get off my ass, and I teach. It may be ugly and all counter to my way of amassing a best practices PK12 system, but I am there learning and giving, while I hear the bombast, stupidity, ignorance of citizen x and politician y and business owner z when they try and weigh in on what’s broken-wrong-bad about Education.
Bullshit. It’s the bullshit of the do-nothings, the people who are all shitting on this, shitting on that. And some would think I am one of the negative Nellie’s, but, come on, I show the fuck up. I end up as social worker for adults just out of prison, for foster youth in the system, for drug-abusers, for veterans and families on the lam, homeless. I am there for severely developmental disabled adults. For people in memory care facilities.
I remember three years ago teaching a class of fourth graders in the Battle Ground School district east of Vancouver, Washington. In a rural setting, with that hodgepodge of rich parents and then mostly working-class parents and some really down and out parents sending their children to this new school.
We talked about the current holiday season, since that is a staple of public schools – Consumer Christmas. I asked them to try a five-line poem. Twenty-five kids, fourth graders. The idea was to write a poem about what a true Christmas would mean to them, that is for someone they were close to.
I had children writing poems about giving brothers and sisters a new coat or blanket for the bed, for helping mother fix up the 15-year-old Ford Taurus so she could go to her two jobs; or getting grandmother a new set of dentures or grandpa a new wheelchair. Children who wrote poems about having one wish to get their old dog taken to the vet to take care of a two-year limp on Fido’s hind leg.
Really. Children in the class, from that side of the railroad tracks, and then other children, from the other side wanting to have a ski trip to Mount Hood, or in Colorado. Wanting a Humvee for dad. Wanting the newest computer or video game console. Wanting mom to have some designer $1,000 purse.
Imagine a school system with outdoor education, schools with dorms for college students to reside in for true community health and social work training. Imagine business owners encouraged with tax deferments to be teachers in the towns and cities they reside in. Opening up their facilities and businesses for hands-on education.
Imagine a world where the insurance companies were all regulated, for our benefit; imagine a world where all the tax-dodging CEOs of Fortune 2000 companies are sent to Devil’s Island with a lifetime supply of SPF 50 sunscreen and weekly Velveeta nacho confabs and a daily feed of Harvey Weinstein movies and videotaped Jeffrey Epstein parties piped into their 18-inch old tube Zeniths. Imagine having all those millionaires and billionaires and extended families treated to plywood tiny homes and FEMA trailers designed, built and decorated with the hands of pk12 students.
“Why can’t you be our teacher, mister? Why can’t you come to school more often, Mister Paul? Why can’t you take us to the forests you talk about, Mister Head-dur? Why can’t we come to the beach with you and learn how to spot whales and to make a fire and cook salmon, sir?”
Or some variation on a theme. Why is the question? Why not?