First, thanks for posting this great article.
I went to public schools, and U.S. Army schools in Europe (public, not private), and some of them were ugly, and some of the teachers were inept. But, by golly, I learned to read and do my sums from the many devoted teachers who were in my life as I was growing up. My first grade teacher used the old Dick and Jane and "Run, Spot, Run" methodology to teach reading. I later learned phonics, and once I learned to read well, my life was my own. I could learn anything I wanted because I could read words on a page, and understand what they meant.
A third-grade teacher showed me that I could write poetry (it was deathless third-grade poetry), and that I could get a laugh from others by clowning around in a penguin suit. When I left that classroom in New York to return to New Mexico, I looked up and saw her at the window, waving and wiping away tears as my father pulled the car away.
In 11th grade, a chemistry teacher would not give up on me until I finally got the concept of valences. She was the soul of patience and kindness, and she helped me believe in myself.
I was a top student through high school, but was given to understand by my mother that a college education was not for me -- I would "just get married, anyway." It took a lot of years to develop the Chutzpah to start taking classes at a community college in California.
But, California: It was another issue when, in the 1970s, I began dealing with the LA school system. I remember some little boys in my neighborhood talking about their private school with pride and privately thinking "What snobbery." The day came when I put my daughter in that same private school. I always believed in the principle of public education but I wanted my daughter to learn to read and do *her* sums, just as I had learned those things.
Over time, I had my daughter in several schools, some public, some private. It was a mixed bag in all cases. My daughter's second-grade teacher in the first private school did not spell well, and did not appreciate a parent pointing it out. And she accused me of writing a short essay assigned to my daughter. The essay was perfect. I did look it over, but not one change was made.
Over time, I encountered several teachers, some of them my daughter's teachers, two of them neighbors/friends who were teachers. I had occasion to help one with her resume, and to see something written by the other, and I was appalled. There were glaring spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, and these were the people who were teaching English to our young people.
I work as an editor in the legal field, and I train people to do what I do. I have seen many writing samples from trained teachers, both for the lower grades, and at college level, which are just pathetic.
So, please, do not look at this as an attack on teachers. In every profession, there are those who do not excel, and do not even meet minimum standards. But teachers who lack basic skills need to be weeded out so that the many, many talented, devoted, and loving teachers who have much to offer can be the ones who educate our people.
I can't speak to the politics of all this. I just know that it isn't "rocket science" to take a small piece of a large subject and break it down so that children can grasp it. That is ... if those children are not dealing with problems at home, violence on their campuses, poor nutrition, and dedicated but exhausted teachers who are serving more as wardens, trying to keep peace, than teachers.
For only two years, I had my daughter in a Waldorf school. She credits that experience with making her the artist she is today. That system is very like the Finnish scenario described in your article. The children line up at the door and shake the teacher's hand and say "Good morning," before they enter the classroom. There are always flowers in the room, and there is a routine of taking a few quiet minutes to settle before the teacher begins her lessons.
The children play at recess on grassy fields, rather than asphalt. They learn to knit; they carve wooden spoons; they participate in working in their class garden. There are art lessons and music lessons.
Are these little darlings in private school perfect angels? Not by a long shot. But they know they are valued, and they know that they are expected to respect teachers and other students. And if they fail in that, they are called on the carpet and given appropriate discipline.
For financial reasons, I had to take my daughter out of the Waldorf school and put her back in public school. She at least got to be there for preschool, and third and fourth grades.
Going back to public school was not easy for my daughter. Class size was was double, the kids were much more rowdy, the classrooms were lacking the flowers and cushions and other little comforts she was used to. And the teachers were hassled, and not always able to give attention that my daughter had grown used to in the small haven of her Waldorf school.
But, she soldiered on, left high school early because she could not stand the inhospitable atmosphere and the dumbed-down learning environment. She went to a community college for a time, then to a private art school in Laguna Beach (for which she will be paying for the rest of her days). The art school was highly reminiscent of her days in the Waldorf school, and she did well.
Looking back at all of this, I remember how often I would drive by a public school in Los Angeles, see the children playing out on an asphalt playground in the heat of summer, and think, It doesn't have to be this way. Why not plow up the asphalt and plant grass? Okay, so it will get traumatized by little pounding feet. But it's a live thing.
And why could not each school have a garden area, and why could not children be taught knitting along with reading and music?
And why could they not remove candy and Coke machines, and see that nutritional meals are served. And why not ban bringing candy to school in lunch boxes?
It has always seemed ludicrous to me that to achieve those very simple, ordinary things which used to be a part of public education in America, and especially in Europe, it boils down to money. In order to have soul, you have to pay. And those who can't pay have to make it in a too hostile world, all too often. Teachers who want to help are just spread too thin.
But coming back to my concerns above, it is simply a fact that our teacher training programs are turning out "teachers" who lack basic English and math skills. They are taught to teach, but they lack the necessary knowledge to do so in too many cases. I am not an educational expert. I don't know what all the problems are. And I am not bashing teachers in a general way at all. I have felt that a good teacher is "a thing of beauty, and a joy forever." I still remember my teacher waving and crying at the window because we had formed a bond, and she taught me some stuff: The three R's, but also that there are caring people in the world. Her lessons go on forever. I've told this story to my daughter many times.
I think the important issue in the article about Finland is that their teachers are *highly educated*! I don't know what goes into the mix of hiring a teacher in this country who lacks English skills or math skills, and then letting them stay on for the duration -- whatever that is -- and thereby having an adverse effect on a generation of young people. With kindness, such teachers need to be removed. But I want to end this on a happy note: For those teachers who do possess the requisite skills and the proper sentiments about their profession -- let them be elevated, in their numbers, to a position of respect in this country that they do not currently enjoy. And let them be saved from corporate "sausage making" that is spreading across our land in the guise of "education."
Every school should be a Finnish school, a Waldorf school -- in spirit.
‘Twas Fundie, and the Factophobes
Did hymn and amen in the pews.
All pious were the Five in robes,
With truth and Habeus askew.
Beware the Collaborwock, my friend,
The lies that grow, the wars that match.
Beware the Yesterbird, and shun,
The doddering Persiasnatch.
They took the faithful horde in hand,
Long time the gullible they sought,
Then rested they by the Jesus Tree,
And savored Fish they’d caught.
And as a secret oath they swore,
The Collaborwock, with eyes aflame,
Came praying down the corridor,
And vote grabbed as it came.
"One, two! One, two. Your Constitution will not do.
For faithless folk, repent your lack,
The pride you hold will give no clue,
The world you knew will not come back."
And who will slay the Collaborwock,
And take away their schemish toys?
"Oh, glorious day, our God's at play,"
They witness in their joy.
‘Twas Fundie, and the Factophobes,
Did hymn and amen in the pews.
All pious were the Five in robes,
With truth and Habeus askew.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
August 19, 2008; Revised November 14, 2010
Copyright 2008-2010, Judy Barrett, All Rights Reserved
With a nod to Peter Jones, Brussels, Belgium, who sent me a copy of "Grabberwocky" years ago! That parody of "Jabberwocky" was written by Michael Barsley in 1939 – another time of political peril for America, and the world.
'Twas Danzig, and the Swastikoves
Did Heil and Hittle in the Reich
All Nazi were the Lindengroves
And the Neurat Jewstreich.
Beware the Grabberwock, my Son
The Plans that spawn, the Plots that hatch,
Beware the JewJew Bird, and shun
The fuhrious Bundesnatch.
He took his Aryan Horde in Hand
Long Time the Gestapo He taught
Then rested He by the Baltic Sea
And stood awhile in Thought.
And as a Polish Oath they swore
The Grabberwock, with Lies aflame
Came Goering down the Corridor
and Goebbled as it came.
Ein, Zwei! Ein, Zwei! One in the Eye
For Polska Folk. Alas, alack!
He left them dread and as their Head
He came Meinkampfing back.
And hast thou ta'en thy Lebensraum?
Come to my Arms, my schemish Boy
Oh grabjous Day, Sieg Heil, be Gay
He strengthened through his Joy.
Twas Danzig, and the Swastikoves
Did Heil and Hittle in the Reich
All Nazi were the Lindengroves
And the Neurat Jewstreich.
... is a little rebellion!
Now, they're saying that the tax cuts for the "rich," (over $250,000 a year, I presume) are very important because many/most of those folks run businesses and will create more jobs for those lower on the totem pole if only they are not just basically crippled with too-high taxes.
Spin, spin, spin.
Thanks for another good article, Teach!
... my mind went to my little five-year-old daughter, in days of yore, who danced in a pink polka-dotted tutu, along with all her little girl classmates -- all of whom still had the pink, not-yet-healed scars of chicken pox.
I'm not belittling your concern here, and I felt Mr. Moore might have chosen a better way to express his frustration (at least he didn't use the term "man up"), but I saw that metaphor as a reference to "dancing around the issues," being too namby-pamby and hesitant to get the job done.
It never entered my head that that term was directed at gay people. And though MM has faults, just like the rest of us, I cannot imagine his stooping to sub rosa criticisms of gays. He just comes out and says what he thinks, with very little subterfuge. If he intended to demean gays, he would have done it very concisely.
I'm a Texan by birth, an army brat who has seen a lot of the world. I'm not gay, but some of my best friends in California are! I once took my sixteen-year-old daughter to a GLBT party where we were the only straight women in the crowd. People were looking at us like, "Yeah, so you say. When are you going to come out???? " We didn't catch any viruses at the many parties we attended at that same residence. We're still straight!
"... it takes courage to be us." So true. It also takes courage to say "Wait, you're misinterpreting what I meant."
I live in Santa Fe now, and I've learned to appreciate the idea of the "talking stick." It dictates that you have to use great deliberation in conversation by waiting until the other guy is finished before it's your turn to talk, and to approach the whole thing with a default position of trusting the other party until he/she has shown evidence of not being ethical and compassionate.
I know there's plenty of difficulty and even impossibility for people who are gay. No denying that. But don't kill the messenger until you're sure what the message is! (Please?) And I fully acknowledge that with all the delays in killing off DADT, and the tragic suicides that have recently taken place, being a little (or a lot) sensitive is fully understandable.
Just know that some of us appreciate and respect your artistic/musical/literary/intuitive ways. It would be a sterile world without such!
Santa Fe, NM
I have just finished reading" C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy", by Jeff Sharlet, the author of the National Bestseller "The Family."
On Page 89 of C Street, the author contrasts Evangelicalism --with an eye to "saving" individuals -- to its less-well-known plan to engage in "benevolent subversion" as a means of achieving political transformation (read that “takeover”) without conflict.
Addressing those of us who are outside the realm of "Family/Fellowship" influence (and this includes far too few of our politicians in both major parties), Sharlet says: “Inasmuch as the rest of us accede to that seductive idea, inasmuch as we cling to the myth of harmony at the cost of democracy, we become collaborators. Not in the rise of fundamentalism, but in the exchange of democracy for stability."
On Page 284 of C Street, Sharlett describes meeting a veteran turned street preacher, who describes the plight of the poor:
“Compassionate Conservatism,” he scoffed! Poor people need something for this!” He rubbed his belly as though he were a good-luck Buddha. “You sit there and listen for decades, or centuries, while some rich guy says, “Hold on awhile.” Well, after a while you get fed up, you know?”
The politics of that year are old now, but the problem remains the same, the real culture clash of American life. It’s between the essence of fundamentalism – paternalism, authority, and charity – and the messy imperatives of democracy, “the din of the vox populi, “once derided by Abram Vereide.**
It’s the difference between false unity, preached from above, and real solidarity, pledged between brothers and sisters – the kinds who are always bickering. It’s the difference between the harmony of a politics with few options and less imagination, and the cacophony of believers and unbelievers gathered together. Gathered, that is, not by the narrow borders of “common ground” -- a euphemism for the stronger faction’s conventional wisdom – but by a commitment, grudging or willing, to disagreement: “the noise of democracy” as President James Buchanan (1857-1861) called the American sacrament of arguing, his failures myriad but for the high regard in which he held dissonance.
**Founder of The Family
In spite of their many delusions, the Teabaggers have a point in terms of their impatience with being told to “hold on awhile” while all around them they see personal/financial/political disaster. Uneducated and religiously indoctrinated, they lack any capacity to understand nuance. They are hungry now, in a variety of ways.
We, the Democrats, have our own hunger. The call to “hold on awhile,” to find “common ground” among the Democrats as a way of defining one quiet road to victory is laden with similar delusions. This country’s government was born out of spirited exchanges. Censoring the individual voice, on a message board or in the public square, is decidedly undemocratic. And need it be said – unDemocratic.
Justice delayed is justice denied. We the People, of many philosophical/political persuasions, are tired of waiting – tired of waiting for the storied changes we voted for and which remain on hold. The Democrats have had the kitchen for almost two years now. It's time they got cooking!
You're running for public office when?
Well, maybe you're more valuable as a thinker, writer, and motivator.
"If the current Congress and President had come in two years ago and ended the wars, exposed the war crimes, the lawless imprisonment, the torture, and the warrantless spying, and prosecuted the criminals, if they had tossed out the filibuster rule and given us Medicare for All, the right to organize in the workplace, and a massive jobs program in green energy, while taxing pollution, taxing estates, taxing investment income, taxing billionaires, and taxing corporations, but cutting taxes on working people even while guaranteeing them employment, halting foreclosures, and putting the banksters behind bars, which side of the aisle do you think the enthusiasm would have been on?"
I have been yelling this same sentiment at the television for years. (That's not all I've done).
There's an old story about Pancho Villa and some rival he met with, and they both insisted that the other guy "Viva" first. The problem with the Dems over the last two years (and counting backward) is they've got no "Viva." They're afraid to take a stand, and we see where it has led.
Except in the case of extreme religious zealots (and we've got plenty of that), people are more likely to put aside party loyalty for common sense, if they see, clearly demonstrated, issues which will take away their very real fear of survival and their worry over their children's future.
It doesn't take a towering intellect to see that spending too much on wars is making life for the common man more and more untenable.
Santa Fe, NM
... of an alien species, who was black on the right side and white on the left side, all down his body, was chasing a refuge from "justice" who was white on the right side and black on the left side, all down his body.
Some of us political heathens are like that. We can see value in more than one choice between black and white. And we're growing more and more scared of the purists among us who want to intimidate us into group think that may not resonate with our long-thought-out and very deeply felt Democratic principles.
The original idea behind health insurance (the first Blue Cross policies) was SHARED RISK!!!. We all pay a little so we can help the statistically few in our group who will become ill. And since *I* might eventually fall into that statistical group, I'm happy to pay!
Then came health insurance for profit, and "Why should I pay for that guy's bad health (owing, of course, to bad habits and sinful ways) since I'm perfectly healthy, and morally superior?"
Now we have "We'll insure your children (unless we can wiggle out of it) but we won't insure you. So when you're sick, the children can suck it up and take care of themselves -- and you, 'cause we're not gonna"!
Lastly, we have simply fallen into a black hole of deceit and greed and there has never been a greater need in the life of this country for the kind of *righteous* anger you put into your writing. You stop at our peril!
And I use the word "righteous" not as a religious term bereft of all compassion for others, but as an illustration of speaking out in support of what is right and intelligent and just and heartfelt with regard to the way we treat our own.
You've written a word or two on the subject of silence. Don't discard the gloves. Mr. Obama could well benefit from the gift of a pair of such, along with instructions about how to use them! The velvet glove approach he adopted from Breath One in his administration is clearly not effective. Suffering fools gladly is bringing down the country!
(I tried to post this at Truthout.com as a comment under your article. It either didn't post at all, or I posted it numerous times, not realizing the delay there, and it got zapped.)
Santa Fe, NM
... in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” ~~Marcus Tullius Cicero
Before I go on, I'm not voting for any Republicans, period!
But I find a lot of extremism in this new OP (which does not speak to individual liberty but calls for group think again)and I hear, again, the old refrain which you've been singing for as long as *I've* been reading your posts at DU. "With us or against us" (the Dems)? How about less moderation in the pursuit of justice for the Bush era crimes? I know, that's old stuff, and we should just march on, over the graves, metaphorically speaking, of the little guys who got in the way and were trampled. We need to point our noses to the future, like some of those Marxist sculptures that extoll the virtues of the common man in service to the state! We can take up thinking again after we've won this next election, after which we'll finally get down to change we can all believe in. We've been too busy kowtowing to corporate interests, but everybody takes on too much at times, so let's forget the "mistakes" of the past and just move on.
One voice? That reference sends me hurtling back to the past again: Nuremberg rallies; French and Boshevik Revolutions, The Inquisition, etc. There is never one voice; there is only tyrannical control that is made to look like total acquisence on the part of the people.
You tell me exactly what high principles the Democratic party of today represents, and I will use my functioning brain to decide which ones (if any) are worthy of my support.
We are all over a barrel, and I, for one, will vote for some Democrats again out of a sense of ironic inevitability, not with any feeling that it is likely to make a damn bit of difference -- even if they happen to count my vote. But I'm sounding negative here, aren't I? There's a new religion abroad in the land and it's called "Positivity." Its evil opposite is thinking for oneself, and those who engage in such heresy are highly suspect.
"We are – and always have been, forever and ever, amen – the party of the Big Tent." Is this one of Aesop's fables? "Forever and forever????" Is this where we cross ourselves with holy water, and genuflect before the cross? I don't think the Democratic Party is that old, is it? Democratic ideas, yes, from ancient Greece, but even the Greeks have been around for less than "forever."
Sorry, I am not required, under the Constitution of the United States of America, to hold my "piece"(sic). (It's "peace," Nance!)
I'm not interested in marrying the Democratic Party, but I can imagine that someone reading this may be inclined to shout the reasons I should not be so joined, anyway, and if they don't do it, they'll need to forever hold their peace. I'd rather live in sin with the Democrats, taking what is good (there is a lot of good), and shutting the door to that which does not meet my standards.
You mean well, but you're preaching and finger-wagging again. And, as usual, you have the ardent support of a group of passionate lane-pickers! In my opinion, of course.
... an idealilzed human society on the Earth. But I think the writer is alluding to the kind of thing that is strong in my memory as a teenaged "army brat," living in Germany after WWII, and seeing people who were living in gardening shacks bothering to go out and attend concerts in still-damaged music halls, and walking arm-in-arm in the countryside on Sunday afternoons, as their only, but very valuable, means of feeling connected to others.
In every generation, there has been a need to find the seed of our common humanity in spite of what political/religious/industrial and technological controlling forces try to do to us. Our humanity just keeps raising its bruised little noggin. Let it continue to be so.
I'm aware that I am using a modern technological "miracle" which allows me to discuss the merits of a simpler way of being in the world. "Conundrum" comes to mind! In addition, a line from "Sophie's Choice" has arrived: "She could talk about it, but she could not do it." We who want a better world can talk about it, but finding a way to do it is the challenge. But I maintain that talking is a starting point.
... to find since home schooling and religious indoctrination, as well as corporate meddling in our public schools, have produced a population that looks askance at the "elitist" habit of reading books. Attention spans, if any, are reduced to what can be taken in, in less than a minute.
My own act of resistance against the tide of mediocrity and despair that threatens to engulf us is a book/knitting club that meets periodically to discuss a book that requires a little concentration to read and comprehend, along with the tactile joys of knitting and sharing "scratch" food items. No Cliff Notes, no canned/packaged foods are allowed. Spitting in the ocean, I know, but personally satisfying.
I am an older woman (they say, but they are somewhat mistaken), and about ten years ago I was looking into the display window, from the street, of an antique shop in Santa Fe. There I saw an *icebox* and a Singer treadle sewing machine, along with various kitchen implements displayed as "antiques," but which I remembered seeing my grandmother using when I was a very small child (during WWII). I was swept with nostalgia, as well as almost a longing for that simpler way of life, and an intuitive sense that it may all come to that in time -- a reversion to a simpler way of being on the planet.
I admire many of the inventions of modern times. I simply do not admire the use to which they are too often put. I live just down the road from Los Alamos. I am a soldier's daughter. I have spent a lot of time in my life mulling over the events which produced the bomb, the role of our military in stopping Hitler (before importing Wehrner Von Braun to our shores to continue his projects on our peaceful white sands).
Can it be said that eschewing modern technology for a dreamy, more bucolic and thefore presumably more enligtened time is the answer to our problems? I wish it were so, but the ignorance we see now is simply the great-grandchild of generations of those who were suspicious of "book learning" and got their "knowledge" from what came out of the preacher's/priest's mouth every Sunday, down through time. How do you sell/give depth to those who think it is the Devil's work? The reception you've had here is a good example of that. Don't get too intellectually and/or poetically "uppity" because you'll make other people feel inferior, and there's nothing for it but to shun you for your effort.
Cheers, I think!
Santa Fe, NM
... of clear, elegant writing."
"A difference of opinion is what makes horse races." ~~ Mark Twain
Signed, appreciative old editor
... and I must spend much of it before a glowing computer monitor.
Krishnamurti said this: "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Yet he, too, was lost and alone in his own "pathless land," I think.
You are wary of Facebook. Perhaps I am a bit older than you because I have long berated the garage door opener as a destroyer of communal embrace of others -- and eight people breaking bread around a dining room table as the antidote to the isolation that results from being able to garage our cars and take ourselves into our own space without having to so much as say "Hello" to any quixotic creature who might be standing outside in open space, ready to greet us.
Thinking again, however, few of us can live where we do not hear the fall of our neighbor's axe, and walls and doors and fences, and the garage door closer give us the closest thing to solitude we can manage when living in the midst of the Madding Crowd.
And "intentional communities" are the oxymoron passing as the organic coming together of people who share various excitements such as reading and gardening and music which were the genuine stuff of community in the past. Not that some are not based on that premise, but too much closeness makes one begin to despair of finding those lurking somewhere in the Six Degrees who are really ours, who really want the same world we want.
I think it is a question of balance. The instant communication of electronic media may stand in as temporary salvation for someone in despair, who finds a friendly "voice" out there in Internet Land. As a substitute for the human voice, the personal touch, electronic love is ersatz love -- and the theme of your OP today, I think.
I live by this literary quote, and long to see our country adapt its theme as our way of being in the world now: "It is never too late to be what you might have been." ~~ George Eliot
A votre sante!
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Logic like yours is surely "noticed" in the halls of illegitimate power.
Take care. The country, the world needs you and your journalistic impertinence.
Santa Fe, NM
I heard Jeremy Rifkin speaking about his new book on C-SPAN about a week ago, and just bought it.
On the first page, there is a recalling of the famous incident during WWI (the war to end all wars) in which, on Christmas Eve, German soldiers began singing Christmas songs, and then Allied troops began singing their own versions, and 'ere long they crossed the terrible space between them in which, the day before, they had been killing each other. They exchanged cigarettes and chocolate, showed pictures of their loved ones, reverted to their common humanity for a short time.
And then the high command in each instance put a stop to such heresy.
Rifkin's books speaks in large part (although I've just started it, and it's *long*) about shared resources, energy solutions, better ways of living on the Earth. At the core of it all is the kind of empathy which appears to have driven these two young men to write and publish this call for reconciliation.
My father was a WWII soldier. I have had my lifetime to ponder the "Good War" he was involved in (and I believe it was a war with a major difference from all the ones that have followed). I lived in Korea just before the war broke out there, and later in Post-War Germany, and saw from an early age that it takes a lot of effort to find the evil in the groups of people we saw as enemies in our wars. As ever, it is the power interests who send the common man (and now woman) to war, and whatever "benefit" there might be does not accrue to those who fight the battles. Their reward is a lifetime of quiet suffering and self-questioning.
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