Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

Miseducation and the Trail of Tears Daily Exacted

beware of the child who is taught the ways of the brown shirts and Hitler Youth — lie, steal, snitch, plot against, unlearn Golden Rule

by Paul Haeder / January 16th, 2020

Writing a Book in the Trenches

I am marking this blog post with an unusual challenge to myself — writer it from beginning to finish, one sitting, with the objective to get under the skin of  why and how and what is so messed up in our PK12 system. Extrapolate to the messed up muck home schoolers in general get. Forget about those so-called charter schools. And, as we move into this polemic, we might as keep in check the mis-education of entire generations in the post secondary realm, AKA, college and university.

It’s 1411 PST, and I am of course licking my wounds: I have mentioned a hundred times that I am working on this book — not your typical book — on the good bad and ugly of PK12 education in the USA. Part of that research — mostly — is ground truthing: going into the schools and substitute teaching. I’ve done it in five states, and now, alas, after more than two dozen schools, I have a global view and typical view of what is, is not, will never work in the realm of US public education.

Think of this as prefatory material for the book — not a deeply footnoted thing, not super long, not scholarly (that’s a good thing), and not steeped in the billion books, papers, speeches and policies around pedagogy and curriculum; around organizing public education in the urban centers, suburbs and rural locals; and all the rules and regulations and outcomes and data fields collected and parsed by the so-called policy wonks, educational lobbies, the think tanks, the politico, and the like.

Listening to Band of Horses and other groups (light fare, man), while cranking this out in record time (not for me). Is this stream of consciousness, magic realism, diatribe, polemic, reactive, angry steeped, precipitated rant?


Crazed Method to the Madness

And here is the precipitating event horizon that got me on my laptop here in Waldport in Lincoln County in Oregon in the Pacific Northwest west of the 100th meridian, and drawn by so many cultural, geographic, geologic, ecosystems influences that, hands down, no student in K12 or beyond really has any surface understanding why they are here in someone’s else’s territory, homeland, spirit land, creation place.

Substitute teacher, and today, halfway through third period as substitute for a high school language arts class, the burly, idiotic, uninitiated, reactionary, dense, illogical, broken, un-teacher of a vice principal stood out that door at Waldport High School and summarily told me to “grab your belonging and we want you to leave.”

Okay, Joe from Merced, I know you will and should retort soon and tell me,

Paul, you of all people know how rotten the capitalist society is, so why would warehousing and propagandizing and dumb-downing and spiritually drawing and quartering young people be so far from the goal of American education? Why would you believe that administrators and deans and provosts and principals and their vice petty officers have anything in mind tied to real educating? You of all people want the classroom walls torn down and want the ceilings smashed. You of all people want community gardens, want students outside in long-houses, and want students to learn crafts, micro-home building, ways to make organic cheese with their own goats on campus. You of all people want students to go into the communities and work their youth magic in foster homes, retirement homes, and the like. You of all people want to see young people do that drive-by-shoot — with digital cameras: 48 hours; shoot your community; come back and talk about what you shot; edit; research your community; write songs, poems and blurbs so this photo montage of the community through the eyes of, say 6th graders, or high schoolers, can be presented to the communities, to parents, grandparents, other students, city council. You of all people want elders in the community to come in around a fire circle and talk about life, about struggle, about success, about careers loved, lost and reviled. You want peace studies with people like Veterans for Peace to come to school and give the alternative to the lies of US MIC and US DoD and the red-white-and-blue lies of invented history. You of all people want youth to intermingle with other youth, from other countries, via Skype, and to have cross disciplines emerge as the leading edge. You of all people want professionals, both ex and current, to describe what went right and wrong with their own aspirations. You, again, Paul, are asking for revolutionary politics, sciences, social studies, arts, history, political sciences to be introduced at a young age. You of all people want outside the box teaching and learning opportunities. You of all people want alternative classes, alternative design, a reimagining of what oppression is. You of all people, man, you saw this writing on the wall.” — Make Believe Comment from Joe from Merced (the farmer)**

He’s right, for sure — I have been frog marched out of jobs, social work situations, other schools, protests, and community events. Is it that chip(s) on the shoulder? Is it that ODD — oppositional defiance disorder? Is it that disregard for authority? Is it the entire life cycle I have flowed through and created that has turned me into a defiant one, a Cool Hand Luke, a revolutionary thinker?

Language arts. This teacher had no lesson plans. Typical. He called on the school phone. He wondered who I was, and after I told him college English-writing-journalism-literature-poetry teacher, and that, yes, I know Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm and Ethan Frome  like the back of my liver-spotted hand, he took a big breath. He wanted me to leave my home phone. That was 8:15 am.

This gig was to be a 7-hour assignment. What, $23 an hour, so around $175 for the day? I had just taught the day before at Waldport High, in a math class, half a day, 8, 9, 10 graders. The teacher came back at noon and asked how they were.  That’s why I am doing this, besides making money I need in my coffers to survive this messed up predatory capitalism land. Living on the coast, EVERYTHING, costs more, yet pay is less. That’s capitalism 101.

So, yes, the half day reaffirmed much of what I have learned in five states: managed chaos; one or two really disruptive students killing learning; distracted students; off task students; students who do not respect teachers or the thought of school; students who don’t connect the dots why reading and writing and history and science and math and arts connect. This is not news to most DV readers, for sure. But when you ground truth in the places we are researching and writing about, the echo chamber is large, the complaints are looming, and the reality is the same old tune is being played by student and teacher alike.

The level of disrespect for teacher and themselves is certainly something folk like me predicted 40 decades ago when I first started teaching English at the University of Texas-El Paso. OF course, things were not as bad then as now. The book I am writing is going to be human-based, not research based. It will be about the bright lights that shine through the miasma of stupid public education delivery systems, and it will look at what is bad and ugly. The good is strained, and much much work must be done — the entire system must be dismantled. Maybe dismantling it would be one generation’s teachable moment. Maybe we need the schools designed as Joe the Farmer from Merced has reminded me (in my brain).  Design schools based on the circumstance, the prevailing future dynamics, based on what youth need, want, dream of.

I get how broken the administrators are, how harried the teachers are, how disconnected the support staff are, how unrealistic the city fathers and mothers and state politicos are in the entire mess that is public education.

Today, this morning, Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm, well, we talked about bullying, about the themes — man v man; man v god; man v society; man v self; man v nature. We talked about man v AI as the newest dynamic for story telling. We talked about man being replaced by man/woman. Talked about Lennie in Of Mice and Men having special ways of seeing the world, about his unique nature, developmental disabilities. We talked about bullying and how bullying is cyclical, and how bullying can be anything — groups of religious people not liking those un-Christians, et al. We talked about the bullying they themselves had gone through. We talked a lot, and the books were drawn into the conversation.

Second period, at the end, this burly dude in his fifties came in, sat down, while the student raised their brows. For me, that meant some teacher counselor,, but I suspected Vice Principal, even though we had never met.

Student leave, he asked third period to hold off coming in, and then he tells me several students came into the office crying and others said I was talking bad about religion (I wasn’t –that is stupid in a redneck community and redneck high school). This punk said there was talk about communism (as if that’s bad). I talked about how the world is not on lock step –capitalism and communism; Muslim or Christian or non-religious. We talked about what trigger warning meant, and we talked about the value of fiction and poetry to be transformational.

Yes, I said I was a diver, a traveler, journalism, photographer, novelist and social worker, and much much more. We talked about prison and homelessness. This all related to the literature they are supposedly exposed to (though these school districts take out tons of books from the library ont he whim of a parent or community member).

We talked about Sapphire the poet who wrote Push which ended up as a movie, Precious.

Yes, thin ice is the purview of every teacher who has a dynamic instructor. More so for a substitute coming into literally a battle zone without the tools of the head captain, the teacher.

I tried to tell this punk VP that, no, there wasn’t any anti-religion talked about, or pro-communism rant. I am sorry, but certain youth — 15, 16, 17, 18 — are not fully formed, are malformed, are misdirected by shitty parents, are wrapped in their world of, yes, snow flake-ville.

Several students went to the office crying? Oh my god. I had to get the third period going so trying to extract something smart out of the vice principal was impossible (he thinks disrupting a class and taking class time away is the appropriate thing to do).

Befuddled? Shaken? Not really, but pissed off. I can’t hate upon the poor sop children who are brought up this way to have no ability to see the light, to understand the holism of a teacher like me.

Third period, small class, mellow, and yes I stuck to the themes of fiction and getting the students to relate that to what they had learned in Of Mice and Men.

Then this piece of pablum outside the door before class was over, telling me to gather my stuff and leave.

He thought he was taking me to the office, but I quickly gave the idiot the badge and keys, and he intimated he was going to talk with me, but I said — “You speaking, mister. There is no dignity here. This is how you run your school.? This is how you expect visitors to be treated?” Before that, he said a child of an administrator came into his office  crying. That tells me that that parent demanded I be tossed.

Ironically, students from the day before recognized me in the hallway and gave me high fives. My final words — “This is not how you run a school. And, mister, you have just begun to hear from me.”

Nah, singling out Waldport High School, is too easy. The fact that we are in a monkey muck mentality, and this proven guilty on the word of one, two or several students, without a hearing or public airing, well, you get it. Kangaroo court mentality.

Why boys and girls are expelled for challenging teachers. Why SWAT teams come to school weekly. Why students have no respect for teachers and administrators. An idiot like this VP has no clue.

And, the way this broke public school system runs is that they have idiots in these fake levels of authority. And, they rely on substitute teachers, because, one, a lot of teachers I have talked to can only teach four out of five days. The level of chaos and mayhem and behavioral issues and acting out and youth with home-grown trauma, well, they are not wired as adults to last long. Two, they get sick and, three, they have in-service and continuing education to attend to.

And, a rural county has no big pool of substitute teachers. The drive to and from a school back home is expensive. Add to that winter weather.

You get the broken picture. 50 minutes in and I have only 2140 words. I expected twice as many.

Emoting, catharsis, dump, purge. Call this what you may.

The reality is I have been teaching writing almost my entire 62 years. I believe in stream of consciousness, in free writing, in free association, in purge, catharsis, fugue states.

Mixed media — drawing, poem, song, three-d image, and essay, as well as spoken word.

Invisible Mists Holding Children Like Ghosts

empty vessel
ready for words and worlds
to flow into their hands
children of a lesser god
the child inside
finger painting and murals
real syncopation with eagle
king tide

children captured in retail
space yet blocks away
crashing waves, Seal Rock
Devil’s Churn, black eye
of gray whale
eagle couple over football
field, children held in gulag
four walls like moat
tables chairs lined up
DMV driver’s license test

unholy is imprisonment
unworldly is bumbling
teacher as police officer
dead time half the day
bells and announcements
medium security
old men at 39
women heavy with bulging
hips, hunched over at 50

you are what you eat
what you read
what you say
what you do
what you watch
what you hope
what you dream
what you think
what you don’t do
don’t eat don’t read
don’t say don’t dream of
don’t hope for
don’t watch don’t believe

you are that

the truncheon evil
enforcers of codes
rules regulations grades
assignments deadlines
do’s and don’ts

will they rise above
riptide of stupid
adults stale concepts
misanthropic ideas
mean patriotism
lunatic nationalism
fanatical Christianity?

Is this survival of
fittest dog eat
dog small fish
big pond follow
the crowd don’t
make waves stay
in box?



This is more than snowflake, more than entitled child, more than pedagogy of the oppressed. More than unintended consequences. This is more than a few hysterical children engaging in tattletale. We talked about frontal cortex, executive function, decisions not made from the bright light of recognition but through the lives of the the oppressed, the beaten and raped and discarded.

Maybe the administrator’s child didn’t get the connection to epigenetics I was talking about and explaining how decisions are made based on a whole lot of backstory, context, baggage and family and nature. George kills Lennie. Why? Those sad weak children of the parents that allow for snow flake behavior are products of that nature-nurture. Why did George kill Lennie?

In the novella, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck , George killing Lennie is a merciful kill to save others from Lennie’s unintentional acts of aggression, to spare Lennie from suffering a cruel death, and instead ensuring a peaceful and quick departure one that will cause George the least regrets.

That’s one take, uh? Merciful killing? And there we go. A real high school class allows for those words to be parsed and diced and cogitated and facilitated into real conversations. Waldport High School, is not the place. Maybe almost all schools in the USA are not the places to talk about themes, hidden agendas, reading between the lines, and interpretations. Or bringing real life to the classroom.

I talked about teaching in prisons, teaching gang-influenced youth who were actively taking inhalants. I talked about former soldiers of our immoral wars coming home and attempting to navigate a “real world.” I attempted to discuss what is merciful to one is a sin to another.

This is it, though, I believe, for my teaching gig. I’ll see if I get a phone call, not from Lincoln County School District, but from the education service for-profit outfit that just took over hiring, paying out, managing, assigning and I guess canning substitute teachers.

Yep, in less than half a year of teaching I went from being an employee of the district to being an employee of some redneck for-profit staffing agency stated in Tennessee. They make their shekels  hiring all school staff, bus drivers, para-educators, even administrators, classified staff, janitorial, food servers, and, yes, vice principals and principals. Not full time teachers — yet (something about a union).

This is the system of oppression and inefficiency, the system of the Peter Principle in Full Force. This is the corrosive belief system, ideas based on opinion and a world of unbelief, of banning books, and, me, banning substitute teachers. This is the time of extrajudicial murder and now the world of fear and loathing.

I know I am Hunter S. Thomson-like,  and radical, and way outside the coloring book lines. But I have enough common sense to know where to draw the line teaching K12. Now, the line is moving, and the field of possibilities for everyone in Capitalism is shrinking. The dictates of the oppressors and middle managers, and thug vice principals, yes, are insane, coming from their colonized minds.

These middle managers are collecting time, doing time, collecting retirement points, and in that process, they are making sure the children do not get out of line or cross the line. They have the power of the police, of the suspension,of the expulsion. Yet, they are just paper tigers, held by the short hairs from community members who are lunatics of religion, Trumpism, foolish liberalism. These days are the end time days in the minds of many Americans. This country’s schools are on the chopping block, and the teachers are leaving, and the substitutes are in more demand, and the sick adults are pushing their diseases onto children. And, the snow flakes win, while common sense and realism and creative cohesion dies like the weeds the idiots spray with Round-Up.

Kill kill kill collectivism. Push push push individualism. Drain the heart with hyper-competitiveness and competition at all costs. Get a gold star for putting name and date at the top of the blank and undone assignment.

Children of a lesser god!

I remember working around Mark Medoff at NMSU in Las Cruces.

Yes, I’m a terrific teacher : Grow, Sarah, but not too much.
Understand yourself, but not better than I understand you. Be
brave, but not so brave you don’t need me any more. Your silence
frightens me. When I’m in that silence, I hear nothing, I feel like
nothing. I can never pull you into my world of sound any more
than you can open some magic door and bring me into your
silence. I can say that now.

― Mark Medoff, Children of a Lesser God

This is about a deaf student, Sarah, and her former teacher James Leeds. But oh so relevant to my teaching experiences — I am not so big to think I am a super super-terrific teacher or know it all or embodied in perfection incarnate. It’s about mentoring and about learning and adapting to each group. But also expecting the genius of youth to be regarded, and to celebrate and coax  out creativity.

This realm is now codified in my brain — the good and bad and ugly of public education.k The book will flow as easy as this short essay did.

You betcha the good will be highlighted in this screed — and so many others before me and contemporaries know how to get the best out of students, even the not so neuro-normal or behavior-compliant or mainstream-learning kind of student.

We have to hear when there is silence. We have to teach them to understand themselves better than anyone in their lives might think they understand them. We want them to grow very much, beyond our own limited growth. We want them to be braver than any of us are brave.

This punk VP and whatever prescripts in his demented toolbox he goes by, and whatever this pressure the board member’s and administrator’s children put on him, and whatever the asinine phone calls that transpired from redneck parent occurred,  this is not a dignified way to treat a fellow human being.

The punk VP, well, he was another washed out white guy, so I might not recognize him in the very very small community we both live in. He is what we call a meaningless bloke, but he has enough control over youth, and the power to quell their natural rebellion.

As many students in Lincoln County, Oregon, or in Seattle, or in El Paso or Spokane or Vancouver said to me, “We just can’t wait to be done with this school . . . we aren’t learning anything, nothing much that will do us any good in real life.”

They are of course are wrong, but the system of oppression and broken pedagogy and the powers that be are certainly happy to accommodate that belief system.

Fear and self-loathing and disconnection and lack of creativity rule the public school systems in many cases. The one bad apple, they think, can be removed to save the bushel. They are wrong, or so wrong, because that “bad apple” is in reality the only hope these youth have in self-discovery and meaningful learning and rebelliousness. Everything else is just going through the motions, and busy work, and disconnected information, and nothing deep, no deep deep meaning.

Bye — 1600 PST.

Quoting myself and Cornel West as a kicker!

Cornel West praises Occupy Seattle movement at Green River Community College

by Paul K. Haeder | November 23rd, 2011

Princeton professor, author and activist Cornel West urged the 300 people who gathered for his Nov. 16 talk at Green River Community College to go beyond getting credentialed and pursue a “deep education.”

It would not be easy, he warned his audience, about half of them students: “In the process of being educated you have to learn how to die in order to live.”

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education — paideia — a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities — fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost — yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Note: I was also summarily dismissed from this college gig, Green River College, at the winter break, during their Christmastime joy to the world time, by the powers that be, for speaking out for students, for unionizing part-timers, for breaking the locks and unholy walls of the oppressors. Another dollar, another gig gone south!!


**I got this one from Joe the Farmer after submitting this: 

Paul– I can’t improve on what you wrote in your imaginary comment from me. I’m not going to try. I wish I had some wisdom to give regarding your circumstance but I’m wise enough to know I don’t have any. What you have penned is what Chris Hedges referred to as the wages of rebellion. I too have been paid those wages. Anyone who stands up and fights will sooner or later get paid in that currency.

For me it was a wife taking the kids and leaving, which in itself wasn’t that bad had she not turned my daughters against me. Most of who I thought were friends,(most of them teachers), turned against me in the same way. My crime! I challenged the placement of the University of California in Merced. I participated in five lawsuits to try to stop the UC and the environmental carnage that went along with it. Damned near everyone I started the fight with to stop the UC fled like rats from a sinking ship and most won’t even talk to me now. 

That is the price I paid and I don’t regret it what soever. We are living the collapse. I don’t know where it’s going to end up but apart of me is very excited about it. As I’ve told you before I was always drawn towards older people rather than the peers of my own age. The older people knew things I wanted. I respected their knowledge and creativity. I gave up on the people you describe as snowflakes and the vice principal long ago. I worked to stay away from them. It’s funny because I’m not even certain I have a high school diploma because of one of those assholes.

Yet when I was fighting the UC several times I was asked by University officials where I went to college. I never told them. I got jobs in professions where most had degrees in engineering or were MBA’s and found I’d be asked for my input to situations I guess because I ran a contracting business successfully for twelve years. I locked horns with attorney’s for an environmental non profit that was representing us in one lawsuit who wanted to settle for a ridiculous figure. I and the others demanded a meeting with the opposing lawyers in a settlement hearing. The environmental  lawyer representing us knew I was the one demanding the meeting. He chewed on my ass for an hour before the meeting with a high priced attorney the other side had hired and let me as well as the others with me know that we were on our own, that he wasn’t going to help us. Immediately after the meeting started I got into it  with the other sides attorney.

Their side called for a recess and went into another room to discuss the situation.At the end of the day we were well north of 15 million in a settlement agreement. Far from the paltry figure our environmental nonprofit lawyer wanted us to settle for. I really don’t know why life took me into those circumstances and even though damn near everything I’ve done and fought for in life would be considered a failure by societal measurements I don’t regret them. I took the shot for the things I valued. At this point of my life I find myself going back to my roots.

Reconnecting with earlier life. I find solace and comfort doing the things needed to be done to live a simple life. I listen better to the nature around me. I’m taking time to learn things that I passed by before. My only regret is I don’t have the body I had twenty years ago. I know you’re going to land on your feet Paul, You might not be facing the direction you thought your were going in when you land but I’m not sure that’s important. You have the gift of being able to write and have a hell of a background. I’m sure at some point some gangly kid is going to approach you because…well…you know stuff. Keep up the trudge.


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