Archive for February, 2011

19
Feb
11

Education

People travel the world to study the artwork and music of great men and women because of what it teaches them about themselves and history.  They climb mountains and trudge through jungles to seek out the knowledge of one philosopher or another.  They will pay thousands of dollars to hear a lecture by a great  professor.   There are beautiful minds untapped worldwide, and though they may be sparked by the law, by the microscope, or by the Word, they become flames by the work of the teacher.  If society chooses to build stadiums instead of schools and cases instead of classrooms, it has already passed judgement on the importance of what I choose to do.

Without knowledge of law there is chaos.  Without knowledge of medicine disease reigns.  Some teachers sacrifice time and money and energy to teach people to read, but others sacrifice EVERYTHING to teach people to live.  Education has built nations and lack of it has destroyed them.  Knowledge is so revered that many civilizations believed that only the gods possesed it, yet society places so little value on those who seek to distribute it.  If every last being on Earth were destroyed save two, they could recreate the world using our books.  I am human, I am fallible, and all I have ever wanted to do from the depth of my soul is to be good enough to inspire someone else to be great.  I would do it for free and unappreciated every day for the rest of my life.  I believe in education like you believe in God.  Judge me as you please.

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12
Feb
11

A Hard Win

I work in alternative education, which means I teach “urban youth” who are coming out of jail, about to go into jail, are on probation, or have been permanently removed from their neighborhood school for fighting, drugs, carrying weapons, etc…  Often I find myself frustrated my a system that doesn’t care enough to provide sufficient supplies and teachers to children they’ve decided to throw away.  As a result, the students aren’t really encouraged to take pride in their education or themselves, let alone show respect for their school, their teachers, or their community.

I started in a new school this week and was appalled at the extreme lack of respect students showed for teachers, and even more so at the administration’s lack of follow-through on rules and procedures, but I digress.  In alternative education, anything you can do to get the students to follow societal norms is considered a “win”.  One of my focuses is to get students to refer to me by name.  In case you are unaware, urban youth show their disdain for “white society” by refusing to call teachers by their name or their title.  For example, if your name is Ms. Smith, the students will refer to you as “Miss” or “Smith” , but will not put them together.  Most teachers chalk this up as unimportant and don’t address it, but I see this a critical issue.  I feel that students should respect me and their education enough to at least learn and use my name.

So here’s how I did in 4 days what the other teachers haven’t managed to do in 5 months:  On Day 1 I introduced myself as Ms. Smith.  When students refered to me as Miss, I add the “Smith” before answering them or granting their request.  When students refered to me as “Miss” on day 2, I reminded them that my name is “Ms. Smith” and required that they say it before answering their question or granting their request.  On day 3, I pretended not to hear students until they say, “Ms. Smith”, which inevitably pissed someone off given the population I work with.  When that happened, I simply said, “I’m sorry ______ (insert name), but I’ve already given you enough respect to learn and use your name and I expect you to learn and use mine.  If you’re not going to do that, we have nothing more to say to each other.”  Then I continued with my lesson.  By day 4, most of my students were using my name.  At some point during that day, one of the “hold-outs” tried to get my attention and I ignored him.  Then he said, “I’m going to call you Ms. S…..Okay?’, and I say, “Fine.”  I have just won.  While it’s true, the student is not referring to me by my full name, I have forced them to see me as a person rather than a nameless authority figure just like every other authority figure they’ve come into contact with.   Our teacher/student relationship has finally begun.

02
Feb
11

Change the Label, Change the Law

I have decided that I will no longer refer to the man I married as my husband.  From now on, he will be referred to as my life partner.  I have made this decision in support of my gay and lesbian friends who cannot legally call their partners their husbands or wives, yet those people deserve no lesser title.

We are so hung up on titles and labels and the definitions of one thing or another.  We want to be able to categorize each other into neat little boxes.  We forget that people are complicated.  Life is complicated.  Let’s just decide to make this one thing less complicated.  What is a husband or a wife but a partner in all things?  If we have made a committment to someone and invited them in to every part of our lives, does their gender truly matter? 

Maybe if we change the label we can change the law.  If we allow the words “life partner” to mean the same thing as “husband” or “wife”, we take the power away from the words, lessening their meaning, and enabling people to feel less defensive toward them.

01
Feb
11

Walk Like an Egyptian

I marvel at the courage of the Egyptian people.  Granted, their courage is spurned by 30 years of oppressive rule, but it is more than a little impressive.  Mumbarak has no hope for continued rule, and I can’t imagine he’s doing more now than trying to find a way to save face while stepping down and trying to maintain order, but the political repercussions are not what this post is about.  I am awed by the power of people, any people, to stand up to something much greater than themselves and refuse to back down.

So many times as people we have a “can’t-win-don’t-try” mentality that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We bend over and take all kinds of crap from invasions of our privacy by advertisers to the most corrupt of politicians and continue to do nothing about it.  Even when our nation’s government is completely deadlocked due to the inability of a few “men” to reach any type of compromise we sit back and simply chalk it up to “the-way-of-the-world”.  It’s ridiculous!  The Egyptians and Tunisians demand change in oppression that did not come overnight, but crept up on them slowly over a number of years as they watched their freedom erode and their government grow more corrupt.  Sound familiar?




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Disclaimer

I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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