Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

It is always funny and sad reading reports from the Chronicle of Higher Education, and now, drum roll, a 26-page report:

A ‘Stunning’ Level of Student Disconnection Professors are reporting record numbers of students checked out, stressed out, and unsure of their future.

In 20 years of teaching at Doane University, Kate Marley has never seen anything like it. Twenty to 30 percent of her students do not show up for class or complete any of the assignments. The moment she begins to speak, she says, their brains seem to shut off. If she asks questions on what she’s been talking about, they don’t have any idea. On tests they struggle to recall basic information.

“Stunning” is the word she uses to describe the level of disengagement she and her colleagues have witnessed across the Nebraska campus. “I don’t seem to be capable of motivating them to read textbooks or complete assignments,” she says of that portion of her students. “They are kind kids. They are really nice to know and talk with. I enjoy them as people.” But, she says, “I can’t figure out how to help them learn.”

Marley, a biology professor, hesitates to talk to her students about the issue, for fear of making them self-conscious, but she has a pretty good idea of what is happening. In addition to two years of shifting among online, hybrid, and in-person classes, many students have suffered deaths in their families, financial insecurity, or other pandemic-related trauma. That adds up to a lot of stress and exhaustion. In a first-year seminar last fall, Marley says, she provided mental-health counseling referrals to seven out of her 17 students.

Oh, so much to unpack just in these paragraphs, let alone from the report. Hmm, so, since 1983 I have been teaching at colleges and universities, both community colleges and state universities, and even a private high end (sic) college. Seattle, Auburn, Spokane, El Paso, Las Cruces, and, other places, including Portland and Vancouver. I have also been a graduate student twice, with two hard-earned master’s degrees, while teaching at the same time.

Disengaged is another term for dead-end capitalism. Or, go follow the money. Or, the rich get richer and the poor get nothing. Amazing how quickly the baseline has shifted: When I was an underegraduate, I could fill up the car for $9 bucks, drive to Mexico, do a diving trip, get on a train and hit up Chihuahua and Copper Canyon and end up spending $50 with some good tequila and food thrown in. That was a trip that enabled culture, man, cross cultural learning, and using a language other than my primary one, and interacting with people, sea, land, and getting life to the fullest.

Not really possible today without a big wad of Benjamins, and, yes, there are no sleepy little calm fishing villages in Mexico or Central America anymore. It is a war zone for most traveling on the cheap.

This world, now especially, is part of the quickening, as youth are seeing the collapse of so much around them. Parents are on meds, and so much work is needed to patch up communities. Disengagement is also seeded throughout the public. Stay at home and slutp up terrible flicks on Netflix and see your life flittered away. The backyard is the playground. Go out to eat through the drive thru, or do take in. The fabric of a community has always been frayed. Columbine, you know, suburbs of ennui and sick video games.

The K12 schools are rotting to the core, and that includes so much politicalization, so much mediocracy, so much empty heads, rah-rah, political incorrectness, so much cancel, litigation, and the end of history, so to speak: right wing nuts are always right wing nuts, and the liberal class is ugly in shutting down debate, so ugly on the PC and cultural vapidity. It costs money to do basketball or baseball since summer leagues are what it’s all about. Sick capitalism.

Main Street is rolling up, thanks to on-line hell shopping, and meds are the way for 50 percent of the peeps, and, the oppressive politics of dementia at the top, war mongering in the middle, and even the metro sexuals and the middle of the road “liberals” have created splattered thinking. No one wants to be involved, and TikTok is Jerry Springer on steroids. Sick, painful, hurtful, prat fall, bridge jumper fun for all. That also has created a toxic background noise.

What to know, what to learn, how to move one step ahead? So, this is a racist country, but the new and next gilded age and classism are also on steroids.

It is one giant psychological experiment, swarm fear thinking, hive bandwagoning. Just one big event — Ukraine’s racism, attacks on civlians, the American Coup of Maidan, all of that, while this creep and smoke and mirrors criminal, Zelensky, gets more and more bucks, propaganda kudos and a complete psychological training on how to manipulate his own people, the gentiles, the Nazis — it is emblematic of the entire grift. And then what is happening in Europe, and in Canada, and in the USA, how this dialing for war lord bucks game never ends, nary a protest launched, and then the absolute corruption in that country, the new Jerusalem, and then the 24-hour news covering it, as in lies and bigger lies 24-7; and then China, and then COP26, and then the economy, stupid, and the celebrity venereal disease that is marketing and info-tainment and coverage of the most meaningless stuff. How can youth get a handle on anything, and so why is poetry important or learning what photosynthesis is? Where is the job and money in that?

How to bring a classroom into the community, and how to engage across all disciplines, and how to respect faculty, how to downgrade the institutional learning-management departments, and how to defund the Admin Class? Sports and campuses that are going hybrid? This must end before learning can begin.

Yep, being a true blue radical faculty is tough because careerism and the death of the true liberal class have created a campus and set of cohorts who are in many cases checked out and co-opted by capitalism.

As I’ve said many times — we need education that is cooperative teaching and mentoring across curriculums, and we need the business schools to go the way of the dodo, and why in hell are their ROTC programs in these schools, and what the hell are the drone degrees doing in schools? How much influence do those private and government grants have on the ethos and philosophy of a school?

K12? A complete overhaul, and then again, end Capitalism. You see, the people in a representative democracy need their own lobby, i.e. the poor people’s lobby, and the getting poorer lobby. End the tax abatements, the tax dodging, and alas, really, end shit jobs. Bring together the many generations, and of course, this is about dental-health-mental health-nutrition clinics in all neighborhoods, and then flip the curriculum and have those places as incubators of youth helping their communities. End this for-profit-everything/anything mentality.

Engaging youth in college? What the hell, man? So many chronic illneses, GAD (general anxiety disorder) and so much collective Stockholm Syndrome. The people in the Yale-Harvard-Elite Schools camp are running roughshod over us, the people, over the youth, with all of this techno hell, all of this tracking and Chromebook-soon-to-be-at-home-miseducation. Imagine a world without art classes, music, hiking, botany, learning city zoning by walking the hoods. Imagine a world that is 3D manipulated, thrown onto a digital dashboard, VR and AI and AR, where digital tokens are there for crumbs of incentives while the digital master metaverse mind and AI gatherers work out more ways to put youth into a digital gulag?

There should be a million boats, safari jeeps, teepees, tents, community school gardens, K12 and intergenerational stage plays, poetry slams, bio-blitzes, and so much more. We are atomized, and snookered by the pigs of Capital, all of them, telling us we need to work for them more, to devote 60 or 80 hours or a 100 hours a week to them. Musk, Bezos, Buffett, Walton, et al.

On shifting responsibilities —


“Our administration has shifted responsibility onto faculty more and more. I am now expected to be an instructor, career counselor, mentalhealth adviser, and personal coach.” —Biology instructor at a California community college


“Who is caring for the faculty who are supposed to be doing all this extra stuff for students without extra (or even adequate) compensation?” —Literature professor at a public university in North Carolina

“I fear it will take some time to bring us all back mentally and emotionally to the campus life we experienced before the pandemic. Administrations can speed this up by devoting time and resources to support all of us. They can also be creative about incorporating what we’ve learned about learning and mental health in the pandemic into a “new normal” campuscommunity life. Are there campuswide actions that could be taken to support the grown-ups on campus in their efforts to reach and support students? It feels like so many things are siloed when it’s becoming apparent we’re dealing with a systemic concern that very likely would benefit from some systemic interventions that support everyone.” — Beth McMurtrie, senior writer at The Chronicle.

Disengaged means stripped of the ability to put sweat equity in your neighborhood, town, zip code, public spaces. In fact, public spaces are stripped away, public transportation is a living hell of a joke, and the silos in society — those who dictate to us — have become more drachonian with computing technololgy. The planned pandemic and shut downs and sickening measures to social distance, to pull the Covid19 lie wool over our eyes, were just trial balloons in the capturing of more people into this world of fear-anxiety-selfdoubt and bowing to the masters. We are in a constant airport line, shoes off, bodies scanned, eyes captured, treated like cattle, manure, and we have accepted this as the price of being Homo Retailpithecus, Homo Erectus Consumopithecus.

This is not a Larson haha:

We have broken pipes and leaky roofs and dams about to burst and rivers drying up and toxins by the dozens in fetuses and unimaginable brewing chronic illnesses because of food, air, water, drugs, vaccines, and more. Yet, we have that time to spend trillions on war, and then, the cultural wars, while people die or freeze and get amputations or, well, the anxiety is the gift that keeps on giving in Capitalism as Inflammatory Disease:

Sign up for this one coming Jan. 2023:

Join our SAND Community Conversation with guests Raj Patel & Dr. Rupa Marya as they illuminate the hidden connections between our biological systems and the profound injustices of our political and economic systems. What is deep medicine?  How can re-establishing our relationships with the Earth and one another help us to heal? We will combine Patel’s latest scientific research and scholarship on globalization with stories of Marya’s work with patients living in marginalized communities to begin to grasp the deep medicine that has the potential to heal not only our bodies, but the world. (SAND — and, you can put 0[zero] into the $ for a ticket and still get the Zoom Link, if you are financially struggling!)

Like a said in a past piece, A Bird of a Feather — Unexpected Africa — there were 60 people at this amazing photo-slide show/talk, on a Thursday, 6:30 pm. and no one under age 55 showed up. Imagine that, a perfect opportunity to talk to an artist, photographer, bird guy who grew up in Oregon and became an illustrator. No kiddos, no college students.

There is a crisis in the home, inside the family, and throughout extended families which are spread like knapweed seeds all across the land. There is no cohesion and no multigenerational connectivity. Having kiddos play the K12 idiota game is yet another way to strip away any interest they might have or what might be developed to go outside the boxes we have set for them to, well, fail, or become great consumers.

Engaged means dynamic, loud, sometimes over the top faculty like me being supported to be that, and to do some PT Barnum teach-ins, and have people from outside the education system come on campus.

SFCC presents tree seminars

Spokane Falls Community College presents a demonstration by Northwest Plant Health Care, a local tree service, on growing healthy ponderosa pines at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the cluster of ponderosa pines, southeast of the athletic field, adjacent to parking lot 9P, 3410 W. Fort George Wright Drive.

Participants will learn how to remove dead limbs from their trees. Arborists use ropes and no spikes to scale the tree and the dead limbs are cut to the trunk of a limb or the tree itself.

The event is free, and refreshments will be served.

On Wednesday, a panel discussion on the significance of trees takes place at 11:30 a.m. in SFCC’s SUB Lounges A and B, Building 17.

The panel members include: Rich Baker, working arborist; Carrie Anderson, Urban Forestry Council; Jim Flott, private tree consultant and former Spokane City forester; and Joe Zubaly, owner of Northwest Plant Health Care Inc.

For more information, contact Paul Haeder, Paulha@spokanefalls.edu.

This series of food-related columns by Haeder continues with: Jobs Not Jails – Riverfront Farms is About Digging the Soil; Urban Gardens Make Community – Pat Munts, mini-farm advocate; Flat Out Community Partnership – Vinegar Flats and East-Perry Market Are Value Added; Unmasking the Food Sleuth – Melinda Hemmelgarn on Food Media and the Balance of Power

Grain of Truth

by Paul H. Haeder

You probably remember Winona LaDuke as the two-time Green Party vice presidential candidate, running with Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004. You probably didn’t know that she’s an enrolled member of the Anishinaabeg Tribe from the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, where she’s locked in another tough battle — this time against huge multinational corporations that want to change her tribe’s traditional way of life.

At three engagements in Spokane last week, and in some private interviews, LaDuke talked about the need to defend native peoples’ rights to the Earth. And this epic debate can fit into a single grain of wild rice — the Manoominike-Giizis strain, or the “wild rice moon” grown by her people for many generations.

This small grain of plant life serves as a microcosm of the entire sustainability challenge we all face: making sure future generations — all peoples and all species — will have a planet worth living on with ecosystems and resources to achieve spiritual and material prosperity.

LaDuke has proven to be so much more than a media darling — she’s a spiritual guide for her tribe and for the thousands she’s come across along her journey. Mixing humor with a shaman’s intensity, LaDuke has written books like All Our Relations and Recovering the Sacred.

LaDuke sees the Minnesota reservations’ practice of harvesting wild rice as vital: “The wild rice harvest of the Anishinaabeg not only feeds the body, it feeds the soul, continuing a tradition which is generations old for these people of the lakes and rivers of the north.”

It struck me last week while spending time with LaDuke that her tribe’s battle to keep their wild rice wild, free from genetic manipulation, is a much more far-reaching illustration of what sustainability activists consider the struggle of our times: How to create an America that respects the land.

Many of us think along systemic lines, attempting to understand the steps the globe probably has to take to solve the collapsing systems, both environmental and societal. Yet we need reminding that this struggle to work with a burgeoning global human population — 9 billion by 2050 at the current 1.2 percent growth rate — needs nudging from storytellers like LaDuke.

Her struggle — our struggle — is tied to the biodiversity of wild rice, a sacred food. There are more than 60,000 acres of natural wild rice growing throughout the lakes and rivers of her tribal lands. But there are troubling parallels drawn to what’s happened to the sacred corn of Mesoamerica at the hands of the agri-business multinationals, where corn has been patented, controlled and even turned into what some call Frankenfood.

Domestication and genetic modification of wild rice threatens the genetic integrity of this plant. For more than 30 years, plant breeders have developed wild rice for commercial paddies. So today, most of the wild rice on the market comes from these paddies, almost 70 percent of it from California. “Millions of pounds of California wild rice comes into [Minnesota] to be processed,” says LaDuke, “some of that rice, if genetically engineered, would irreversibly contaminate our manoomin.”

LaDuke’s tenacity in understanding the sacred and reclaiming the wholeness of her people’s food is a valuable lesson for our times. She’s up against the juggernaut of Monsanto and Dupont, the largest seed companies in the world. Monsanto has spent $8 billion in the last few years buying up United States seed companies, while Dupont purchased Pioneer, the second largest seed company in the world.

“This concentration of control over world seed stocks is alarming to farmers on a worldwide scale, especially considering that the closer seeds seem to be held, the fewer there are.”

LaDuke puts all of our struggles into a feedback loop, connecting wild rice in Minnesota to sustainability in Spokane with the goal of creating a more independent, safe and stable food supply. “However you cut the statistics,” LaDuke says, “from the villages of India to the villages of northern Minnesota, there is a marked loss in worldwide biodiversity, and a closer hold on who controls the remaining seeds of the world.”

This issue of control took me back 32 years, to the time I was a newspaper reporter in the middle of a struggle for the soul of a mountain.

Environmentalists were trying to stop my school, the University of Arizona, from building roads and locating a large mirror telescope on Mount Graham, a 10,000-foot sky island sticking out of the Sonora Desert. Mount Graham was named after a white man who rode through the area many years ago, a Colonel James Graham, but for generations the San Carlos Apaches had referred to the entire range as “Pinaleno,” meaning “many deer.” It’s the holiest place for the Apaches, who acquire the power to become medicine men and women through singing and collecting herbs and water on that mountain.

Despite the importance and traditional use of the place, roads were cut and the telescope went up. LaDuke and I talked about that struggle, and she shared many similar struggles currently unfolding in Indian Country and elsewhere.

LaDuke’s power is in her ability to unearth the history of Native people’s struggles — and how that history is relevant today. There has been a lost connection between how the land should be used and how it actually is used — from wild rice in Minnesota to telescopes in Arizona. Reconnecting with the land is another step in the process, as her book puts it, of reclaiming the sacred.

**Paul Haeder is the sustainability liaison at Spokane Falls Community College, where he also teaches English. His KYRS radio show, Tipping Points: Voices on the Edge, covers sustainability issues.

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Or, this one, “80-year activist continues to spread passion — Encourages young people to get more active

For years I worked my ass off creating special events, and bringing people from outside whichever college I was working at to engage with ideas, with students and faculty. It was an uphill battle, and being in the English Departments at respective institutions, I was not dealing with people who had a full deck upstairs, if you know what I mean. I did radio weekly shows, interviewed so many people I helped to bring to town. I helped create a Vietnam 20 Years After the Fall event, with dozens of venues and speakers and events and films.

The entire mess of USA is bleeding into everything, really, until we are at 2022-2023 with a world about to implode here there everywhere, and our youth are bogged down with commercialism, dead end education, foggy brains, endless lies and Orwellian Big Brother moves, until we have generations in the main fagged and ready to throw in the proverbial towel.

That’s not to say those rich kids, those kids in bigger cities, with government or academic or big player parents guiding them into special trips, programs, coaching, are not getting to the top of the Predatory and Insane Capitalism that is always vaunted, no matter which criminal billionaire or multimillionaire is put ont he pedestal. Imagine all the Eichmann Faustian Bargains, and these valued children of the upper economic class, the rich, will then in turn be the master blasters of the majority of good, decent youth who must follow the Dystopian Blues.

Yeah, Master Blaster a la Road Warrior:

Almost everything I did above and beyond just teaching would be disallowed today, and much of what and how I taught would be trigger warning material, stopped, and then, here we are, 2023 on the solstice horizon. Hell, most k12 kiddos don’t even know what a solstice is. Sad, destructive, anti-human.

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