Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Solidarity: UNIDOS Take Over Tucson United School District Meeting

"Our education is under attack. What do we do? Fight back!"

Watch these amazing students stand up for their rights.

Write to the Tucson Unified School District :: You can watch the video and learn about the concerns students have. Maybe you can let the TUSD know what you think about it. Perfect time to email all politicians and superintendents and schools and board members. Much of their info is going to be online. Force them to respond to the kids' demands.

UNIDOS 10-point resolution on ethnic studies:
  1. We want our ethnic studies classes to continue to meeting core social science requirement;
  2. We want the repeal of HB 2281;
  3. We want ethnic studies programs to expand everywhere, from K-12 to university;
  4. We want no school turn-arounds, no school closures and full support for Rincon and Palo Verde high school communities;
  5. We want a TUSD governing board that is accountable and will stand up for all students;
  6. We want an equitable education for all;
  7. We want an immediate end to all racist, anti-immigrant, anti-indigenous policies;
  8. We want full compliance with our civil and human rights;
  9. We want Attorney General Tom Horne, state Superintendent John Huppenthal and Governor Jan Brewer immediately removed from power;
  10. We want local control of our education.
Vote on Future of TUSD Ethnic Studies Rescheduled for May 5th.

The kids united will never be divided.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Teaching and Teachering (repost)

I wrote this almost a year ago.  In my last post, I use the word "teachering". I thought I'd repost a portion of the blog when I first used the word.

From June 15, 2010:

***Judging from the bulk of lesson plans I see circulated and the general discourse about teaching (in Korea,) the less-experienced teachers seem to make the wrong decisions for what may seem like very practical (read, good) reasons. Teachers tend to decide that the requirements of the lessons and demands of the culture are so significant that they must insist students accept a classroom environment the teacher thinks will work best for them to meet curricula-determined goals. I disavow this practice. I guess this could be my reaction to useless lesson planning practices. After all, how long have teachers been composing plans based upon concrete goals that are met only after imposing a strict outline of timed classroom activities? It's stale; it ignores students.

A good lesson plan illustrates a teacher understands how to define an attainable goal. A good plan never addresses how and what students think about it. Moreover, detailed plans always determine how students should approach a lesson. Therefore, plans limit creative and critical discourse. Nowhere in these lesson plans are students visible. Students are unnecessary to its implementation, and they will be present when a lesson is discussed and assigned. They will be given a lesson. I know many teachers who can compose wonderful lesson plans who cannot teach, aren't interested in teaching. They are good plan implementers. And the students' grades are merely numeric representations of the quality of implementation. In fact, that's how both the US and Korean Republic see education. This is the prevailing theory of education: if students receive high test scores, then they are learning.

My Korean colleagues often sadly approach me and apologize because I have had to "lower my expectations" since coming to Samsung High School. When I first arrived, I thought this was because my Principal had read my CV to the teachers in a faculty meeting before introducing me. It was embarrassing. I'm proud of my work but I don't brag. And some teachers were intimidated. What was I doing here? They asked it; I asked it. But I have learned that they're thanking me for working hard and trying to be respectful. I'm not good with gratitude. I have a real problem seeing myself as good. And it's even harder for me to figure out how to return gratitude. I'm terrified of obligation and never quite get it right.  . . . When I first arrived, were it not for my experience, I would have been shocked to discover that it's close to impossible for me to properly complete my contracted tasks--that much of my work, in the traditional sense of teaching lessons, is pointless.

But I have learned to stay focused on the students. To love my students and not necessarily their work. And so, when I'm reminded how sad it is that I have to lower my expectations, I respond with a smile and say "No problem." What's the point of explaining that I find such apologies demeaning to the student body? It's not worth it. I know how my colleagues think about my most recent approach to developing lessons: they see my newest take on teaching students here as a lowering of expectations. It is decidedly not that at all.

The level of English in my working-class district is lower than you might expect. I have 2 or 3 out of 35 to 45 students, in 20 classes, who can listen to a question in English and answer using complete sentences or meaningful clauses and phrases. That's about 60 out of 600-700 students I regularly see. As a result, the first thing I ditched was the English-Only Classroom. For me, that was the easiest part of the environment to change.

Even before arriving in Korea, I wholeheartedly disagreed that enforcing English-only in classrooms encourages and supports the students. Now I can say without a doubt that it's merely wishful thinking to suggest a classroom can be English-Only. It's a ridiculously limiting conception of language as well, as if language were only spoken. The students are not thinking in English. No matter what they say or think, the English language is always already in context with Korean language and culture. We might as well use that to our benefit. English-Only classrooms in Korea are much more about making English teachers more comfortable. I hate classroom power trips. Thus, my classrooms are proudly bilingual.

I would suggest that newer teachers in Korea think about ways to assert themselves in the classroom. Co-teachers will attempt to dominate younger and inexperienced teachers. They'll attempt to police your classrooms. If you need help and are a brand new teacher in search of guidance, this might be a happy coincidence. On the other hand, many teachers have practical experience and will find that Korea's classroom culture is odd, possibly alienating. One of the first things to learn while teaching here is how to fairly and positively manage a Korean English classroom. It takes some work. But the conflicts that will arise and headaches that follow are worth the stress. If you're a good teacher, they will respect your different style. If the students dislike you and you can't teach, they're going to get rid of you as quickly as possible anyway. And I agree with them. Korean students shouldn't be the lab rats for Western teacher wannabes. (I don't mean to be overly cynical or rude to younger teachers, but using another culture's student population as a tool to explore your options back home is unethical to say the least. It's something a teacher wouldn't do.)

The second thing I have learned is how to see the classroom as my students do: a boring, uninspired series of lessons about how to properly answer multiple choice questions based on reading, listening and thinking about ideas in English. Korean English teachers handle this aspect of the job. It's a teacher-stands-in-front-of-the-class-and-tells-you-what-things-mean kind of situation. And Korean students are often much more accepting of receiving such lessons from a Korean than a foreigner. Korean education culture mandates this approach as necessary to teach the students how to prepare for their standardized tests. The advanced students take notes and passively listen and the students who are slightly behind sleep or daydream. The issue for me, as an NSET (Native Speaking English Teacher), is a matter of role: What is my role in the Korean high school classroom?

I've decided my role is to be the one consistent English-speaking presence necessary to acclimate students to the sounds and logic of the English language. By using English with them, I'm performing what it sounds like, how it acts, what it means, and when to use it. In addition, I am what it looks like. This role is in opposition to how most foreign teachers work. This is not to say that they aren't well-meaning teachers with strong lessons. But who are they kidding? I have seen videos of lessons about idioms that drive students mad with laughter. But a PowerPoint presentation with videos and an active classroom is still a lesson about an idiom that relies on a stupid comparison between Konglish and English usage of English language words. It's simply not teaching language. It's teaching jokes. At best, it could be referred to as "reaching an understanding" about a routine. And, in many cases, a teacher risks reinforcing bad habits and lazy routines.

Many NSETs attempt to improve on the Korean English teacher's work and talk about teaching as a competition between co-teachers. At times, they wish to correct the mistakes and to encourage more contemporary usage. Many of the lessons online are based on improving the language the students already know. I think this approach almost gets it right but the flaw is in the pedagogy. NSETs like to be The Expert English Person on Campus. They like to own the language. They complain about the mistakes Koreans permit in their lessons and textbooks. They like to correct cultural errors. They like to transmit Western cultural lessons via language lessons. And as a result of playing the leader, they often find themselves very much an outsider in their schools. They become English Language Informers--the tool in their schools to illustrate who knows English well and who doesn't: somebody who is approached only when the locals can't answer a language question without an expert's help. I want nothing to do with this role. It's a means to alienate myself from my students. In addition, I may be an English teacher, but I do not own the language.

All NSETs should meditate on this mantra: I know I am not in Korea to change Korea.

On the other hand, I love Korea. So, why is it not enough for me to simply be myself using the language and being a teacher being myself using the language? It really does boil down to being a teacher or being like a teacher. Am I teaching or teachering?

I do everything I can to work with students on improving classroom discourse to permit as much student participation as possible yet insist that we maintain a useful direction. After all, we must succeed at focused study with a purpose. In my classrooms, even when I'm evaluating the students, I try to encourage them to use the language they have already learned in order to practice it and become more familiar with it. I insist they attempt to speak in coherent sentences when possible.

You may think I have set the bar rather low. I'd disagree. I have renovated the English classroom. Once a week the students feel at ease when an English teacher walks into the room. At ease because I am the Native Speaker, not in spite of it. (Although my co-teachers often feel alienated in my classroom. Yet again, that's for another post.) This serves an important purpose. I'm the guy you can speak your lousy English with because I'm patient and kind and want you to succeed. I'm not here to inform you that you're incorrect. Quite the opposite, I'm the one who will tell you, "I understand." I'm not concerned with your ranking nor your grade. I'll insist you use English, but I'll support your attempt. In addition, I'll not cater to you nor insult your intelligence. I'm the teacher who knows you know the answer but can't figure out how to say it. We'll figure out a way to say it together. Consequently, I'm the teacher who will insist that English is only possible in conversation with others no matter how much the government and anal Westerners insist it's about correctness.

I'll give you an example. This month we're working on illustrating six themes from the film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. While some of my students are preparing to find jobs and begin a life of hard work, many students are working towards university life. So, it's important that they begin thinking critically about ideas they encounter in texts. They need to be able to generate reasonable statements about those ideas. They need to know how to use examples from texts to support their statements. And they need to improve their English speaking skills.

I don't have enough time with them to work on reading and discussing texts. I do have time to screen films. We watch a film; I hand out vocabulary. We discuss the language in the film and homework is to familiarize themselves with words and phrases that are new to them. I encourage them to use dictionaries but require their answers in class be in their own words. They aren't permitted to speak in dictionary-ese. The following week, groups have to stand and answer questions about the new words and phrases. We spend one week writing sentences about the meaning of familiar words from the narrative. I assign homework to group leaders who must organize their groups and get them to present a discussion about one of six themes. In their presentations the following week, they must use the language from our earlier vocabulary work. Again, I assign homework asking the students to draw an illustration of their group work about a theme. Their illustration must contain a slogan that captures the spirit of their chosen theme. I sneak a little practice on writing a summary into an art project. The following week, group leaders present their work and the class evaluates the presentations.

It sounds like difficult work, doesn't it? It is and it isn't. These are smart lessons that permit duplication. In other words, in any given school year, I can help the students develop comfort with new vocabulary and English language culture using a format that entertains them. The material in each lesson is new, yet it recalls prior work. The students can become comfortable with my teaching style and a classroom routine without me having to give up the complexity I think is necessary to actually promote learning. I have a lesson ideal and a general direction that maintains a focused and accurate purpose.

The most time-consuming part of the preparation is putting students into groups because I make sure the groups contain high-performers and low-performers, students who both know and don't know English. The students teach one another by listening to their group members discuss how to complete the work and other groups present their work. They become the experts. Students learn who to trust and ask one another for help. I encourage the groups to routinely give others the answers. I encourage students who know the answer that a person standing doesn't know to share their answer. Students know there is nothing wrong with hearing an answer and then repeating it. Of course, they must learn to hear the most correct answer. As a result, I have discovered a way to permit a noisy classroom.

It's much more complex and demanding than anything they're accustomed to as students of English, yet they enjoy it. The difference is that we work in groups and share our results and discuss our problems understanding the meaning of the English language in both Korean and English. The classroom becomes less about the assignment and a teacher's evaluation than it does about the discourse needed to address the questions at issue within each stage of the assignment. Moreover, the students are involved with evaluating their performance as the final lesson requires classes to discuss group performance.

Ultimately, I'm satisfied because this is a practice I'd use with Seoul's most privileged students. It's not something developed with my students in mind; it's something that works regardless of social class. The lessons permit useful participation from all kinds of students, and their participation is required to be in concert with their classmates' work. I'm engaging with them on what can be thought of as their terms. In other words, I'm not reinforcing the stupid ranking system where the best and brightest are rewarded as they shame their classmates who haven't scored as high on their tests. (This is a problem in US classrooms, too, where teachers use the smart kids to motivate the kids who aren't doing as well. It's demeaning. As far as I'm concerned, it's a kind of training for corporate life that should be banned from the classroom.)

I've been using a word lately to distinguish between useful and useless teaching practices. Teaching is always useful teaching. Teachering is when what you do in the classroom fulfills your obligations but does not necessarily have anything to do with your students. Teachering is always useless.

Testing, Testing (Part Two)

This is a continuation of "Testing, Testing" posted last week, April 13. In that post, I wrote:
I’m working on two posts that I’ll soon publish. Maybe I can complete them this evening. The first will explain the work I planned for my classes and illustrate the expectations I had looking ahead to the tests. The second post will illustrate the test and discuss the results, student reception, and their apparent study habits. I’ll try to offer an honest evaluation about the success of the lessons and exam.
I've been sidetracked because the work on my critique of progressive libertarianism and meritocracy has been rather fun. Sidetracked isn't the best term, I guess. I've been reading and haven't taken the time to write about the last month at school. Here goes.

First, I'll discuss the work we completed over a four-week period leading up to the conversation exams. I teach 20 classes each week, each class has 35-42 students. Korean high schools have three grade levels, first through third. I teach the first and second grades. For three weeks, we watched three short-films and worked in groups to discuss and write sentences answering questions about settings, themes, characters, moods, and genres. In the fourth week, we reviewed the three shorts in detail, trying to focus on how to speak about the more interesting scenes in each story and to reinforce new vocabulary. The fifth and sixth weeks have been for the speaking tests. Next week, the students will take their regular, midterm exams. As you can see, I've developed a method for teaching my high school English conversation class that builds a conversation over a four week period. I do this to reinforce new vocabulary, to promote acquisition and to build confidence through familiarity with the chosen subject.

I like this method for two reasons. As I mentioned in my first post, my students' English language skills are lower than expected and desired for university-bound 16-19 year olds. Rather than focus on rudimentary language games that entertain as much as teach, that they've played since early childhood, and rather than focus on building confidence through staging scenarios for conversation via cheesey conversation-starter exercises, I believe my lessons reinforce the kinds of English my students will be required to use as students over the next five years. The lessons are designed to be accessible to almost all my students while being practical for those who will attend university. In addition, my approach doesn't insist that I teach only to the smartest students who are likely going to be competing with many thousands of students, many from higher ranked schools, for positions at the most respected Korean universities. And I simply refuse to teach to the middle, which is always teaching in opposition to critical thinking. My lessons produce space for all students regardless of their English proficiency to practice English and build skills, vocabulary, understanding and confidence.

As teachers we ought to help create a potential for learning to occur rather than work on teaching learning. We help make it possible to produce spaces of learning. We don't create the space and then permit students entrance to it nor  do we enter a space already created and then direct students how to use it. We produce space with the students and work in it together. In Korea and United States, the dominant mode of teaching is what I like to call teacher-ing. Teachers perform for the students. If you want to see heinous examples of this, go to You Tube and search for English Conversation Classes in Korea. You'll find many examples of teachers as clowns. Entertaining, maybe. Hard work, maybe. Not teaching. But the kids and colleagues think it looks like what good teaching should be. In a future post, I'll offer a further critique of this kind of teaching.

Teacher-ing contains things: information, data, language, personality, ethos (both habit and character), intention and equipment. Students are offered an opportunity by teachers to learn what is provided within the well-rehearsed performances. Students who figure out how to score well on exams are rewarded. In addition, students who behave well are rewarded. Some teachers are great performers, but the learning that occurs is never related to the performance. We're all too aware of this; some teachers and administrators love the performance so much that they are unwilling to actually give up and teach. They're dedicated teachers, for sure. They're just not good teachers. They're good performers; good at being the center of attention; they're good graders. In fact, we're learning, much to the chagrine of the education business and its biggest supporters and benefactors, that scoring well on exams and good behavior are not only inaccurate indicators of learning, they may measure something other than learning altogether.

Teacher-ing is the performance of the material in a lesson combined with a sincere hope that students will model the performance and through modeling learn the lesson. I use the word teacher-ing because I believe the performance is actually one step removed from teaching: it's a teacher doing teaching. Good teachers look like good teachers because they're doing things teachers are thought to do and thought ought to do and their students react well to the performance. Teaching, on the other hand, is about working within the public discourse community to produce a space in cooperation with students, school administration and others in the community in which learning occurs through purposeful discourse about different subjects. The objective is that students learn to actively participate in the subjects in a manner that can benefit themselves, the teacher, the school, the community. They learn how to do, to think and to create in cooperation and work with others. Teaching is something one does in a discourse community. It's a role, certainly, but not performed as if on a stage. A teacher's work is performed in media res.

I could continue to make this issue more complicated. In the US, for example, individualism is tied up with the idea that we are sovereign unto ourselves though we are citizens of a state and as such participate in the maintenance of a social contract, whether or not we are conscious of what that means. In Korea, this sense of sovereignty may in fact exist but is not much permitted in school. It's just not encouraged. Here, school is a place of highly structured collectivist culture. And not in the way Americans often think of it: school spirit, clubs, fraternities, sororities, etc.  At any rate, I'm not addressing this significant aspect of teaching in this post. I'm trying to articulate I believe we ought to create lessons that promote teaching rather than resort to teacher-ing.

My classes are 50 minutes in length. I like to have 15 minutes of group work each week, and I usually explain/lecture for about 10 minutes. Half of each of my classes is spent either speaking with the students and them speaking with me, so in some sort of conversation, and/or listening and observing something that is presented in English. This year I'm using short films with little to no dialogue. The films tend to be around 2-3 minutes in length. My rule is that they never be more than 10 minutes. I want at least 15 minutes of conversation in each class.

I can't assign reading in my classes for two reasons. We have few materials and little money for materials and I have no way to insure the students will complete homework. Basically, I get 50 minutes a week with 20 classes. It's very difficult to cultivate a productive and useful space for English language learning and acquisition to occur in a meaningful and consistent manner.

I must bring all materials to class and leave with them and must be able to set-up the classroom in a matter of minutes or else I lose valuable time with my students. I decided that bringing a laptop and necessary cables was the best solution. I can start a class in the time it takes for a projector to warm up. While I get the computer, screen and projector set up, my students form groups and distribute my weekly handout.  I'm going to focus on one lesson rather than all three, but describe to you the procession of lessons in summary. Though I've created a routine for my classes, the lessons build on each other. In my classes, we really do work together to approach a useful, meaningful and somewhat interesting English conversation about our subject.
Over the last month, my students have practiced speaking first about setting and characters, second about themes and kinds of stories, and third about how stories make us feel. The fourth week, we sat back and watched all three short films, one after the other, with the volume down low, and we spoke about each scene using the vocabulary I provided them on the handouts.

My next post will present, in detail, one of the three lessons. The following will discuss the speaking test. The third will offer a critique of what I think about the kind of teaching I have witnessed in classrooms here. Needless to say, I am not impressed and happy about it. I have to attend a teacher training session next week, and I'll pan my third post so I write about it as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Concerning Left-Libertarianism, Edited

Readable version. I finally found time to edit it. The past ten days at school I have tested 500 students. I'm tired. Pardon the repost, but this really is much more readable than before.

Most left-libertarian principles are hard to disagree with when you look at them as statements, say on a flier about why you should join the libertarian cause. On Anti-Statism: Who doesn't want to embrace anti-statist principles? It's a wonderful idea to be free from oppressive state ideological and legislative structures. On Labor: Who doesn't want to support labor? Not many people out there like the idea of sweatshops. On Corporate Corruption: Who doesn't want a society free from corporate corruption? I have yet to find someone who believes corporations are free to be as corrupt as they want to be. On Pluralism: Who believes in freedom and liberty who doesn't see the need for pluralism? Only the fundamentalist religious communities argue against pluralism. I could go on.

Again, there isn't a left-libertarian principle with which most of us would disagree.  It's ideological and political theories like these that we should distrust the most. In other words, I say, what is it then with this fabulous idea that is being hidden? And, Why aren't we doing that? Where's the weakness?

To accomplish left-libertarian goals insists that we maintain an in-the-free-market approach to thinking about and living in Nature. This is troubling because the free market is a capitalist and Capitalist's machine. More on that in a moment. The goal of left-libertarianism sounds great: to achieve socialist ideals within the framework of a free market. I don't think it's possible. It's only effective in service of a greater cause: for example, libertarianism or capitalism. Socialism doesn't really work that way. So, the use of it is suspicious. The idealism in it is the fuel to power cooperation within the capitalist free market.

Left-libertarian philosophy never rises above common sense. Common sense philosophies encounter problems handling paradoxes and complex mechanisms; actually, common sense tends to deny paradox altogether. It's practice is often antithetical to philosophical study. I think the common sense mindset helps shelter left-libertarians from exploring serious problems with their reasons for being libertarians.

A free market cannot exist, in the way we conceptualize it, without a capitalist state to regulate it. Freeing the market from government coercion (regulatory action in libertarianese) is not necessarily going to produce a truly free market. The apathetic adjective "free" to mean the things we mean when we say the noun "freedom" is awfully lazy. Moreover, anti-statist principles within a capitalist framework require a state. It's as if libertarians believe they can accomplish principles developed for a free state outside of that state.

This is ontological, I suppose. Very complicated stuff. And I don't want to oversimplify because I disagree. I've not got the time to write a chapter on this technical point. (I could do a better job than Hayek in his first chapter to The Constitution of Liberty where he frames the definitions for freedom and liberty to fit his ideological cause.) I have yet to see anything describing how to achieve anti-statist principles within a free market. However, we can allow our friends to have their ideals. I don't have a problem with ideals.

There's a bigger problem with left-libertarianism and its rather practical. They simply have no clue what to do with accumulated wealth and corporate power.  You'll hear a lot about rejecting wealth and rejecting corporations. You'll hear a lot about instilling the free market with a moral spirit.  Ok, good.  Reject immorality and corruption. Then what?

Left-libertarianism is not quite up to the task of coping with the social order in the free market. This is the linguistic and philosophical pretzel libertarian theorists developed for their anti-regulatory, anti-socialist beliefs. It's the main reason I'd argue that left-libertarians should give up libertarianism. It's untenable. For libertarians, a free market as such is proof that the natural order is a liberal social order in the free market and capitalism is that order as it functions. Freedom within a free market means being bound to do nothing on behalf of others. This is, in itself, a regulation and in a community would only function to form a state. You don't decide to form this state, it's there. And to wrangle its attitudes, directions, and machinations, you must regulate the state with rules. I sometimes think that libertarians believe The State has an address, one location, that can be smashed, trashed, done away with and that'd be that as long as we agreed not to build another one. But the state is actually bound up with culture, the spirit of place, not an actual place. (And we can read Ludwig von Mises whine about the failure of people to realize this important fact. Of course, his theory goes on to claim that consumers can steer the ship. So, he scolds people for thinking the market is a place and then asks them to think of it in the form of a ship at sea.)

The libertarian theorists and acolytes of Capitalism remind me of the characters in a scene in Wim Wenders' film Falsche Bewegung (Wrong Move) from 1975. The characters, none of whom are satisfied with their lives and are suffering from an inability to realize their desires, try to run from the camera itself. It's a valiant attempt, I suppose, to try to escape the social order. But they aren't permitted to escape and they simply cannot seem to want to do much to actually transform their social space. They merely want to escape. I'm taking the scene out of context to make a point, but it's worth thinking about. Are we willing to work to transform our lives, to produce a new social space, or are we simply looking for an easy escape?

Left-libertarians will say, Hey guys, morality matters. What good does that claim do when you've liberated us from our social contract? What interest exists in self-interest for morality based in a social contract that binds us to the welfare of others? The common sense in progressive libertarianism is not capable of answering these questions. What do libertarians believe morality is? I don't think they know. And I'd venture to claim that in the general scheme of libertarianism it actually doesn't matter.

Self-interest is not complex, not paradoxical. It's at work now. Capitalists understand self-interest. And I mean Capitalist in the Marxian sense: A Capitalist is a rich guy who own the means of production and has accumulated enough wealth to exploit labor. A Capitalist can cooperate with workers, pay them, to produce the means for him to make a profit. Workers understand self-interest, as well, in that it's in their self-interest to cooperate with Capitalists. This is not in itself moral nor an accurate description of the way self-interest should work according to libertarian idealism.

This is another place where left-libertarianism is on shaky ground. They say they support organized labor but only without state interference. It's in the self-interest of Capitalists to resist negotiating with organized labor. An insidious nature to left-libertarian discourse here: They insist that we shall agree to recognize that certain bad results of wealth accumulation and exploitation of labor are the results of state intervention. This is not the same as asserting that no state would lead to better negotiations and less exploitation. The entire "As we begin, let's agree to believe X" formula for their most important concepts is not philosophical nor scientific. It is, on other hand, what we could refer to as coercive regulation.

Left-libertarians created a category that is meant to assuage my concern. They created a category for the wrongly oppressed that strips individual oppressed constituents of difference and then refers to them as "the innocents". Left-libertarians say they oppose "aggression against the innocents". That's fine, but do realize that with that promise, we now have the initial formation of an involuntary social contract within a state.

To return to self-interest for a moment, more significantly, we do not live in a world where self-interest can be equated in any way to freedom and liberty as such. In other words, being able to be self-interested individuals without interference from, say, the state does not seem to me to guarantee more access to freedom and liberty. We do not have a definition for self-interest without capitalism. The word itself is tied up in the enfranchisement of the middle class and self-help literature. We have shaped the literary canon regarding self-interest in service of history as a process justifying capitalism and its conceptualization of the free market. See the pinnacle of this in Samuel Smiles' work on Character and Habit (self-interest as self-help) and Hayek's work on the principles defining the liberal social order of the free market. Both are disingenuous theories, by which we could say they are both self-interested.  Funny how that works, isn't it.

Libertarians, left or not, appear to reject any philosophical framework that moves beyond the free market, in other words capitalism. In my opinion, this makes their critiques of socialism, for example, completely inauthentic and hypocritical. Left-libertarians use the crutch of volunteerism and the crutch of opposition to crude, cold war, anti-socialist libertarianism to make an argument for reassessing libertarian principles.  It's like polishing a turd, in my opinion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty (Part One)

This is the first in a series of notes from my reading of Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty. I'm working on something about the culture of meritocracy.  And so I'm dwelling in some theory I haven't read in a while.

1. Hayek would be outraged at the Tea Party and its constituents.
  • One of his chief critiques of liberalism is that progressives fostered a transition of defining liberty as individual liberty to liberty as power. In other words, infringements on liberty became more about people being prevented from doing things rather than being made to do things. Hayek wants to focus on coercion and constraints and thinks liberalism caused us to focus on restraints. Hayek would need look no further than the contemporary conservative movement for proof of a movement that is super-focused on restraint over constraint. The Tea Party was initially about being "taxed enough already," supposedly about the constraints the current tax code places upon citizens. But look at the language of most Tea Party protests and we can easily see that taxes are viewed not as a constraint but a restraint.
  • I don't think it's too difficult to recognize that Tea Party members are more than willing to accept specific constraints, being made to do things, in order to receive fewer restraints. White conservatives, in particular, are power obsessed. It's an old bargain they make with Capitalists.
2. I'm not at all comfortable with Hayek's introduction to the book, which reads like he set-up the discussion to prove liberalism flawed rather than to honestly explore liberty and freedom. But we'll see. I'll reserve judgment until the conclusion.

3. In particular, I don't like the transition between points 4 and 5 in Chapter One, "Liberty and Liberties". He writes:
4.  (. . .)Such recognized intellectual leaders of the "progressives" as J.R. Commons and John Dewey have spread an ideology in which "liberty is power, effective power to do specific things" and the "demand of liberty is the demand for power," while the absence of coercion is merely "the negative side of freedom" and "is to be prized only as a means to Freedom which is power."
5. This confusion of liberty as power with liberty in its original meaning inevitably leads to the identification of liberty with wealth; and this makes it possible to exploit all the appeal which the word "liberty" carries in the support for a demand for the redistribution of wealth.
This transition permits him to assign left wing association of liberty and power a desire to accumulate wealth. In my opinion, this is Hayek at his least self-critical, least self-aware. His desire to denigrate the left wing (often hidden as a critique of liberalism and/or progressives) is apparent as he implements insipid anti-progressive propaganda in the important foundations of his argument. Built-in to his definitions is the implicature that liberalism is wealth-obsessed, that what the left actually wants is the wealth, that what progressives do is radically redistribute wealth, that what liberals will do, if liberalism is heeded, is to come for your money.

When I go on about how libertarianism is horseshit, this is what I'm talking about. I find Hayek to be utterly insincere here. His arguments are so well-composed, I cannot think that this was a mistake. It's one thing to criticize liberalism. Indeed his observations about the way we think about and use the words free, freedom and liberty are instructive and useful. But this uncritical transition from liberty as power to the identification of liberty with wealth is problematic. Not because it hasn't ever been the case, but because of how it permits him to suggest that it leads to a call for redistribution of wealth. Never mind the use of a very old trope about radicalized poor people organizing to come for your money, what we can say of the left wing is that any calls to redistribute wealth result from a poorly defined sense of liberty. It seems wrong to me. And I think he knew it.

Legend of the Persecuted White Guy

David Sirota's new essay in Salon is good reading.  Here's the article from Newsweek asking whether or not white masculinity can survive the recession.  With a straight face.

We all know the truth about white male privilege. Even now, white men are statistically the most insulated group in society.

The legend of the persecuted white guy (and his girlfriends) exists even in Korea, where white guys love to write I Hate Korea blogs because Koreans don't privilege white people by default. The white power structure is in full effect here and the privileges white skin with good English with good education affords translates into a standard of living that is, in fact, more comfortable stable than for the majority of Korean citizens. Koreans know it and some--not all mind you and nowhere near close to all--resent it. White people are massively privileged in Korea.

Imagine what would happen in the US if our government used tax revenue to bring native-speaking Spanish speakers from Mexico into public elementary, junior and high school classrooms--and paid those native speakers with graduate degrees more than many of the citizens who teach at those schools get paid, paid for their flights to and from the US each year, paid for much of their housing, paid for their medical care, paid for their pleasure, paid for their pensions, and when they left paid them nice bonuses. Imagine what would happen then.

White people, especially white men, hate unpackaging privilege and thinking about it. Talk to a libertarian about privilege and you'll see where I'm coming from. Bring up white power structure with many liberals and you'll get a fight.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The many are one and are increased by the one.

In my last post I wrote:
The longer I teach, I began in 1999, the more I become a student advocate, the more I see my role in the school and classroom as vertically integrated with role my students perform. The more I see our role in direct opposition, in a healthy and productive manner rather than destructive, to the administration and state. Being a student advocate permits me to be an advocate for teachers.
(Updated on April 16: Beginnings of an essay I'm writing about producing space in classrooms. I'm trying to figure out how to address my concern with space and horizontal and vertical just don't cut it. The two words are shitty training wheels for me to get my thoughts straight as i try to find a better vocabulary. One-dimensional v. multi-dimensional and horizontal v. vertical aren't the best way to put it, but it'll do for now. Maybe i need to think about words like transversal. Your suggestions, input are always welcome. Love dialogue. Also want to note i'm using a Whiteheadean concept, the many become one and are increased by that one. I didn't write that. I'm citing it, implementing it.)

I'm going to go with the flow of thought here and see what I can get out of it, so I can see what I think about the ideas implicit in my statement. I'm not sure vertically integrated is the best way to put it. I'm trying to argue that classrooms are spaces typically, uncritically and horizontally constructed to reinforce and passively instruct traditional power structures. Most of us would likely agree with this. Only an authoritarian would take issue so soon.

I believe teachers have the ability to dis-include--in this case, I like dis-include more than exclude--and disrupt traditional, passively accepted power structures by teaching in media res so to speak. Simply describing a teacher stepping from the front of the classroom into the middle of it may seem trite but to accomplish such a small step first requires many more complex rhetorical moves than may not be apparent. Many theorists have discussed what it means to teach in media res. It's not a new idea. So, I'll leave the groundwork alone at the moment.

Rejecting traditional, horizontal hierarchies in the classroom in favor of a vertical framework permits active critical thinking, promotes a tolerance for social difference, insists that conflict can be resolved peacefully, and instructs students and teachers that there is more to cooperation in our society than the future cooperation between employee and employer, boss and worker, master and slave. In addition, it allows for the cultivation of a multi-dimensional classroom.

The traditional classroom is one-dimensional. It occupies a particular space in time and insists that it stays put statically reinforcing an important power structure for future members of the workforce, of consumer culture. It becomes a voice in the unconscious, dogmatically instructing citizens how to behave. Students can look back to their notes only to point to what they learned because the traditional, horizontal structure is not dynamic. It's remembered, stored away, celebrated on anniversaries, nostalgic, lifeless.
I'm trying to get at intention. The horizontally-constructed space of traditional classrooms promotes the worst aspects of rugged individualism in our culture. Traditional classrooms are populated with students and teachers who are permitted to possess their own intentions, goals, objectives, and points-of-view only in so far as their claims are articulated within their appropriate positions within the hierarchy. For example, a student can disagree with her teacher as long as she agrees to obey the teacher. (Two things about this need to be developed further: the agreement to obey is silent and conversation about it is generally not permitted; students are taught that they are free to participate (see freedom of contract and employment at will) and that they can have opinions, but they must decide to choose the authorized correct answers exams. Both of these things are considered good cooperation.)

Traditional classrooms construct and model social space that prohibits critical thinking from successfully working. Traditional classrooms conduct discourse that insists dynamic rhetoric exist in static positions. We really do dis-empower the radical potential for public discourse and habituate participants to embrace self-interest as an interest that knows its proper place. Moreover, a student who competes for the highest position must also be willing to dispossess classmates. Self-interest as an interest that knows its proper place is a grotesque representation of the democratic ideal that the many become one and are increased by that one.

This is why selfish and static ideological and political positions represented by libertarianism are so popular with young people. Libertarianism is the unapologetic acceptance of self-interest for benefit of an individual in competition with everyone else and companion to none. For no rational reason, we teach students that this is in everyone's best interest. We instruct students to become individuals in spite of their communities rather than individuals that produce their communities. Community is represented as a burden. We teach that John Galt is a heroic individual rather than the reality about his static, lifeless, dreadful existence as a sycophant to the wealthy elite.

In traditional classrooms, teachers insist that a community is only as strong as its weakest link. Teachers and students together work to create value for their classroom, as the best communities can make more money, can learn more, can enrich themselves. (See Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and Race to the Top.) The traditional classroom passively models the market in such a way that knowledge and experience become much less important than a good work ethic no matter what the task. In this way, the traditional classroom produces a society of slaves to the authority of an elite class.

If we reject, even silently reject, the traditional classroom and produce a vertically integrated space in which to conduct lessons, we can provide classrooms wherein multiple intentions can conflict and daily discourse permits original social difference yet requires grand attempts to reach a healthier consensus. This is the fulfillment of the many become one and are increased by that one.

I suppose the key to what I'm thinking about here is that by teaching in media res--refusing to (re)produce a horizontal space that promotes status-seeking behavior and refusing to play master to a student's slave--we can actively destroy the worst aspects of capitalist culture, combat Empire without aggressively politicizing the classroom, encourage students to understand that thinking for themselves doesn't mean competing with other self-interests, fully recognize a healthy consensus in a society that embraces original social difference, and empower students to be strong, confident, critically-minded individuals because they're confident that we're all working together for different ends with similar means towards a common cause.

My Students and I will kick your ass. Have a nice day!

The longer I teach, I began in 1999, the more I become a student advocate, the more I see my role in the school and classroom as vertically integrated with role my students perform. The more I see our role in direct opposition, in a healthy and productive manner rather than destructive, to the administration and state. Being a student advocate permits me to be an advocate for teachers.

This manner of approaching pedagogy and labor permits me to extend my beliefs about open and democratic discourse based in original social difference from the classroom to the school to the community to the state. It transforms the site for learning into a site for radical social work. It resists compartmentalizing experience in the way capitalism encourages us to do. And it does so in a manner that is much more inclusive than any contemporary debates about speech in the classroom permit.

The students need not be aware of this for it to work.

This is a fact and it's what irritates conservative theorists and politicians about the nature of the classroom. By definition, it's a radically transformative space. Without regulation of discourse, there's no telling what might happen.

My vocation is a consistent "Fuck you!" to the white power structure in the United States, and in Korea for that matter. And it's a reminder to Conservative Culture that it will lose every time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Free Market & Market Discipline

A cultural term, "Free Market" has a specific use in contemporary capitalist societies.

Free Market is used to remind people of the principles of freedom and liberty that are supposed to be a significant foundation for our most free and ideally-open democratic societies.

Free Market is used to comfort people, intends to allay the anxiety and dread citizens commonly experience as they encounter very precise and accurate market actions. The oppression citizens experience as a result of the real results of technical market actions is often referred to as "market discipline". A free market cannot/has not exist/existed without market discipline.

Market discipline oppresses because it disciplines a specific part of the citizenry: the poor and defenseless. Market discipline disrupts attempts to achieve equality, disrupts attempts to achieve civil rights. Market discipline promotes the sense that the wealthy have a basic right to their wealth. Market discipline is consistently oppressive.

Market discipline is oppressive because its disciplinary action directed against the poor and defenseless provides, nae produces, space for the protection of freedom and liberty for the wealthiest and most privileged to conduct business, make profits in the short term, and guard wealth and property over the long term regardless of the results of their business practices. In other words, for the wealthy to maintain and (re)produce wealth, the poorest and most defenseless citizens must be oppressed.

Market discipline is a sine qua non of free-market capitalism.

A quick comment on my recent engagement with Tumblr Libertarians and Neoliberals:
When libertarians address the ideals of a free market--how beneficial it could be for all of us should we actually embrace free market capitalism--we should remind them that we disagree and know how to address why we disagree.

The Why is that the word free in free market does not correspond to the free in freedom and liberty. It  refers to those who can afford to be free from the oppressive effects of market discipline; it refers to those who are more free from care, more free from the dread and anxiety that is a result of market discipline.

Libertarians are, in a very meaningful way, not class conscious. Many appear to be privileged and educated enough to be able to afford to be free from the results of market discipline. In this way, they are disingenuous at best.

On the other hand, many libertarians and neoliberals are victims of market discipline. And all I can say about that is some citizens are willing to accept a bargain with the Capitalists. The bargain struck results in a promise: "You promise to fight for our cause, our Privilege, then we will give you a shot at one day becoming one of us." I feel that these libertarians and neoliberals ignore the well-established foundations of modern thought regarding markets, capitalism and economics in order to embrace a highly suspicious structure/framework for an ideal society that simply cannot ever exist for them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Testing, Testing

It's tricky. My students' English is below average for high school students in Seoul. The standard lies about their potential to use English. Many have as much English education as the high-performing students, but are not as good accessing it, using it. Their confidence, as a result, is rather low--lower than it should be.

In Korea, the poor kids at the lowest-ranked high schools do not feel smart, are not comfortable being treated as intelligent, are in no way what an American teacher would call entitled. In fact, their teachers talk about them as if they aren't capable of anything better. Their lack of confidence creates a difficult environment for English conversation in the classroom. I know at least 40-50% of the students in each class, around 300 students at my school, simply see no reason to try any longer. A good portion of those kids will not attend university.

I'm a teacher who respects a students' choice to not participate. I'm not happy about it, but I know it doesn't create a better classroom community, better discourse when ten of the thirty to forty students aren't interested and, quite frankly, need not be interested. The kids know more than anybody else that high school is not mandatory, university is for privileged Koreans, and they'd likely be better off doing something more productive with their time. The difference between conversation with and about students is strikingly different here. There's a pragmatism about the future in Korea that, though it may have been useful in the past, serves to paint a rather thick line of boundary between the privileged upper-class and everyone else. And my students are woefully attuned to it without protest.

This week and next, I'm conducting 750 or so two-minute conversation exams. I'm halfway through the first week and have seen almost a quarter of my students. It's tiring, a little boring, yet I find these tests an interesting commentary on the value of the work I plan and complete with the students leading up to our tests.
I'm working on two posts that I'll soon publish. Maybe I can complete them this evening. The first will explain the work I planned for my classes and illustrate  the expectations I had looking ahead to the tests. The second post will illustrate the test and discuss the results, student reception, and their apparent study habits. I'll try to offer an honest evaluation about the success of the lessons and exam. I try to be as self-critical as possible. It's too easy as the only English-speaking teacher on a campus of 1200 students, teachers and staff to become over critical to the point of pointless dwelling in shit.

I often feel unfocused, un-implemented, if you will, here. And it's natural to blame my colleagues, the rather rigid dogma of Korean culture, even the idealism in my pedagogical perspectives. Fact is, my presence here is an imposition on everyone, me too. I've had to come to terms that I'm over-qualified for this job and improperly placed. I was put at this school by request from a principal who wanted an experienced teacher for the school's first appointed Native Speaking English Teacher. I'd likely be much better used at one of the top-ranked schools where the kids could get much more out of me and my skills.

Yet, and it's a strong yet, I am over-joyed to be working at a school with kids Korea has more or less written off. I hate the rich with a passion, and since arriving in Korea, have grown more peaceful with my basic opposition to the upper classes. In the US, entitlement and privilege are often hidden because the middle classes delude themselves into believing they can one day gain elite status, and the poorest believe that hope is not futile. In Korea, the wealthiest people are assholes who flaunt their status as if they were born righteously privileged and any challenge to it is and will always be immoral and rude.  I hate wealthy Koreans; they are disgusting, mean, irritating, arrogant pricks.

In other words, I love my school and look forward to seeing the students each day.

And speaking of tests, here are my students.

DagSound: Kill a K-Pop Fan For Rock and Roll

I love Korea. Love calling Seoul my home. Love my Korean family. But boy do I hate K-Pop. I made this to sum up my feelings about mindless, corporate Korean Pop and its fans as it and they destroy music one unimaginative, stupid single at a time.

Korea actually has a very cool Rock and Roll history. (There are posts about it in the DagSeoul and DagSound archives. You can find good stuff on the good links left on this old post about Korean Psych and Acid Folk. Some of the links are dead, unfortunately. If I had my turntables in Korea, I'd upload everything I've found.)  Some amazing artists. Even the old 노래 style is great compared to contemporary pop, which is actually little more than repackaged pop music from other places, sometimes simply plagiarized, accompanied by awfully boring lyrics, and mostly intended to sell junk Samsung, LG, Doosan, Kia and other corporations produce.

Manipulated Image produced from the wonderful Marty Perez "kill a punk for rock and roll" photo that was eventually used on the great Oblivians album, Popular Favorites. Love this photo. Perez took it at a Black Sabbath concert in Seattle, 1982. Sabbath was opening for Dio.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

my tumblr

hey readers! just a reminder that when you stop by you should check out the link above for my dagseoul Tumblr feed. I post much more often on Tumblr. Shorter posts on everything from politics to korea, music to literature.  thanks for stopping by.

if you have a tumblr account, look dagseoul up while your at it and follow me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Tumblr Gay Republican Thinks We're All Stupid. Joke's on Him, I Guess.

Here's what "thegayrepublican" (tumblr blog) had to say about the above image:
This is the most stupid thing i have ever seen.

NO NO NO Gay Republican NO.

The GOP is using women, images of women, women's health, reproductive health, and other nasty feminist things as tools to cause a stir amongst its vocal minority the socially conservative far-right wing motivating them to picket, protest, hand out images of aborted fetuses, and scream and yell about the immoral left and feminism gone awry. This pisses off the activist left. Much social debate occurs, the media picks the story up and runs with it.

Meanwhile the GOP writes bills, riders, amendments, and lengthy, complex legislative proposals meant to cut the heart out of social welfare programs to cover its tax and regulatory reform for the wealthiest Americans and their corporations.

You're correct: it isn't a war on women. It's a war against the hardest working, most oppressed, most needy, youngest, oldest, and most deserving Americans using the images of women on behalf of the wealthiest, least needy Americans. It's a war on most of us, not women, making it a hateful and sexist culture war because it focuses on one aspect of women's rights when so much more is at stake. You'd have to be a crazy anti-woman zealot to believe the GOP is really out to get women; I mean, really want the GOP to defund something awesome like Planned Parenthood that helps so many for so little and to believe that is something good for the GOP to do, among other social reforms it's pushing.  But, you know, the GOP doesn't give a shit about women's rights, women's health, women's issues, and how these issues affect all of us.

In other words, the GOP uses women and specific health issues in a horrible and misleading fashion. Just like the Republican Party uses homosexuals. And I'm not just talking on holidays and airport restrooms, honk honk.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

행복한 비가 오면

It's springtime in Seoul. And Spring offers respite from the dry cold of Korean Winter. The dry, cold, gray, dirty winters in this city can be downright depressing. The wind and rain of early spring bring budding trees and bulbs, thawing feral cats. I get to ride my bike to school, hike on the weekends, play soccer.

My favorite part of spring is the rain. I love walking to work on drizzling mornings sans umbrella in my raincoat. It become a routine--my rainy morning routine.This city is filthy. The rain cleans, smells good, refreshes the skin. Or, so I thought.

I was scolded this morning by my colleagues for walking without an umbrella. On any rainy morning in Korea, you'll get a scolding for not carrying and using an umbrella. Scolding is consistent in Korea, with or without the rain--a scold for everything, a nag for anything. It's the national pastime. Today's scold was unique because this year's spring rain is unique.  It's "Japanese Rain," which I take to mean: it's more toxic than usual because of the post-tsunami nuclear reactor tragedy, so watch out because if that rain touches your skin it will make you sick.

I have been scolded at least twenty-four times in three years for walking in the rain without an umbrella.  Now, I've been scolded at least twice about "Japanese Rain".

I like all kinds of rain.

(cross-posting on dagseoul.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A (Rich Man's Utopian) Wish + Some (Libertarian) Bullshit = The Path to Prosperity

Hire the Heritage Foundation to make up numbers about what might, nae, WILL happen once tax cuts are extended into infinity and you know what House Republicans get? The Best Economy Ever!* And a budget with a title straight out of an Ayn Rand fan's wet dream.** 

*According to projections. Reading actual theory helps. You know what I mean? Going to the source and reading that rather than reading the utter nonsense politicians, their researchers, Reason, propagandists, and their fans tell you about the sources.  --Now I'm scolding. My wife calls me a nag, but I promise I mean well.  Anyway, ever play Telephone?  The lesson is Always go to The Source.

When we read the sources, study the theory and its history, we need not be geniuses to recognize that American libertarian economic theory is not much more than a grandiose expression of a capitalist wish. It's nothing based in reality and history, as in a scientific study of the market, like Marx's scientific study of Capital in his three volume classic of the same name.

Americans, borrowing from the Austrian School of We Don't Like Socialism, confuse ideological representations of How We Should Think About Markets & The Way Markets Function with The Market Itself & The Way It Works. Republican hired "theorists" are ideologues and propagandists; they are more accurately researchers. They take the idealism in American cultural notions about individuals and liberty and apply it to basic supply-side economic theory and rather complex utopian bullshit from guys like Hayek. (See the Laffer Curve for a legendary example of a "thought experiment" gone wrong.)

Democrats aren't much better. Of course, Democrats aren't attempting to give our wealth and resources to the wealthiest while cutting every social welfare program in health and education.  Republicans are batshit crazy and their far right "libertarian" friends are even nuttier.  (See, The Pauls.)

**Objectivists actually disagree with Libertarianism for some important reasons that I can care less about because they are both full of crap, but that always seems to get lost in popular culture and its representation of white people's fantasies of world domination.

Your Homework: Where does much of the conservative mindset about Our Destiny come from?  It's rather complex. Nevertheless, Kant did a good job of distilling a conservatives vision of Man & His Destiny. We all know how the story goes. Read how it was written. Kant's not the first to attempt to describe this vision of our destiny, but his argument about an Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View is one of the most concise and easy to read.

The goal is to try to understand, to see, how we look at what Kant does in this study differently than what the Republican researchers and their libertarian friends have been trying to do for the last 40 years.  Why are we willing to look at the philosopher's work as something worth criticizing, revising, working on, changing, interpreting, and so on, yet willing to take something like the Heritage Foundation's weak and tweaked research as fact?  We can take it further: What is it about philosophical study and research that we find worth debunking as fiction and political propaganda worth supporting as fact

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why No Strikes in the United States?

Political campaigns do not unify us and our interests; a strike does.

You might wonder why a general strike hasn’t occurred.  And as my last post’s author describes, there are several reasons.

One way of thinking about the politics of the decision not to strike, to continue protest in several states and to work looking forward to the next elections is that the union protesters, their non-union allies and their political leaders have made a rather strange decision regarding a general strike.  They have chosen not to make a choice.  They haven’t said, “We will not strike.”  They have said, “Let’s wait and see.” They have rather passively decided, in the midst of a lot of action, to not act.  We must ask, Why?

I suppose there are several methods we can use to solve the problems caused by the Republican-led attack on public workers across the United States.  Listing all the methods and the reasons for supporting the most useful is not necessarily helpful. Such a task is always secondary to a much more subtle process that disrupts the collective, concentrated, useful power in our organized labor.  In other words, before we can decide to strike, something else is already happening.  My argument is that this something that is happening is political and aimed at directing the power in our unions, the public unions in this case, into an effort to support a political party that cannot (because of its role in society) protect our unions’ interests.

Never mind that much of American labor functions under the notion that it does not have the freedoms its employers have to make contracts, set standards and function in the market.  Employees seem to feel obligated to cooperate under almost every condition for the benefit of Employers’ self-interest. Let’s apply this sense of cooperation to unions. The unions seem to have a similar problem with their political parties.  The unions feel obligated to support/cooperate under almost ever condition for the benefit of Politicians’ self-interest. It’s rare that unions get much from their politicians other than press.

We have tied our ability to organize labor to the success or failure of politicians and their political campaigns, much in the same way that most American employees tie their self-interest to the success or failure of Employers and Employer interest. One thing we know for sure.  The Employers and Employees do not have the same self-interest.

A general strike would put everybody’s interests at stake. A political campaign does not.  And that’s the power in a strike.  Where is this concern, right now?  All tied up in politics.  In ideology.  And ideology is imaginary representation.  And a strike is very, very real.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

John Boehner, Resentment, White Power

Young people and Unions are destroying America with their Xboxes and Facebooks and 40-hour work weeks and a living wage. It’s the typical old guy rant, right? Wrong. This is repressed resentment bubbling to the surface from a guy who believes he’s in a safe position of power from which to speak about his real beliefs.

Can any of you tell me what a typical white conservative man’s rant about youth culture and privilege has to do with our President?  Because John Boehner’s rant to Matt Taibbi begins about those lazy good for nothing kids and ends with a shot at our President.

John Boehner would be funny if he wasn’t such a typical representation of smug white power.  Reading the selections Matt Taibbi has released ahead of his upcoming story, you’re likely to feel Leader Boehner feels pretty secure in his job and his status in his community.  That is, until you read what he says about President Obama: “Don’t get me started on health care- doctors study their entire lives and they barely make enough to live and yet Obama, who had his entire life handed to him on a silver plate wants to cut their pay.”  You might well wonder what about Obama’s life Boehner is talking about?

Boehner is a once-poor white guy who is not ever going to be secure in his wealth and status.  He has, like many successful white conservatives, tied his success to his whiteness, what many of these guys refer to as “the way I was raised,” and guys like Obama, who are more successful and more progressive than he is, and importantly, not white like he is, have had life handed to them because they cannot possibly have worked as hard as his folks did and he has to find success in life.

And I’m going to be frank here. Boehner is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and was born in Reading. He is from blue collar roots in southwestern Ohio. I can tell you from experience, that part of the country is rife with white resentment of progressive culture and with  black Americans in particular. It’s a very racist place to this day. For some reason, even liberal whites from that region have a weird desire to stand up for the white culture there, often claiming they’re misunderstood. (See, Mississippi and South Carolina.)

I’m not calling Boehner a racist—just that his rant is typical white-people-talk in that part of the country.

In addition, we should be wary of Boehner’s poor personal opinion of places like Community Colleges.  As we all know, community colleges are where many non-traditional higher ed. students find access to mainstream success.  Community colleges have helped more than I can express in a blog post.  For Boehner to choose the community colleges to slight shows just how invested he is in the white power line.  He sees them as places that basically reward lazy poor people and illiterates with degrees so they can make more money than they deserve, so they can work above their station.
It’s vile stuff this white resentment. It serves nobody to ignore it.

Writing to our leaders works.  If what Boehner says pisses you off, you should let him and other politicians know about it.  Send him a note.  Send your Rep a note.  Encourage them to speak out on behalf of students and unions.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Michelle Rhee's Celeb Status in Jeopardy. FINALLY

I wrote about how the corporate education reform movement is actually part of a wider tax reform movement the other day.

I thought I should share some links about Michelle Rhee and her growing scandal:

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real? (USA Today)
Michelle Rhee is a liar … (The Reality Based Community)
Michelle Rhee's Cheating Scandal (The Daily Beast)
Shame on Michelle Rhee (By Diane Ravitch @ The Daily Beast)

Read and share.