It’s Wild What Teachers Wield Whether or Not They’re Unionized

Next month will mark the 128th year since my paternal great grandfather first met Oscar Wilde on his lecture tour in America at the Comstock Opera House in Columbus, Ohio. It was May 3, 1882. Six days later he sat in Oscar’s audience again in Newark, New Jersey. It was at that time he heard Oscar say to his listeners, “You give the criminal calendar of Europe to your children under the name of history.”

That line got passed down in the family, so that when it came time for me to attend school… I had a real attitude. Certainly, when it came to History.

I wonder how many school teachers feel the way Oscar did about the curriculum… which remains essentially the same today with regard to History. Attitudinally.

I wonder how many teachers would even understand the line.

I wonder how many teachers know who Oscar was. How many know more than the sound bites which have been sanctioned. And among those who do know a bit about him, I wonder how what percentage think that he was too wild.

I also can’t help wondering how many on our Great Collective National Faculty have ever had a real belly laugh courtesy of Oscar. How many have cried uncontrollably from reading his serious stuff. How many know about his socialist schtick. (I don’t remember any of that being in Gilbert’s Wilde (1997) movie. Certainly there wasn’t a trace of it in Ratoff’s 1959 biopic.)

But why belabor anything about Oscar? He’s not important here. What he said to my great grandfather’s audience is the issue at hand. Its message.

Let’s ask, rather, if any school teachers know what Raoul Vaneigem is talking about below.

Most of the great men we were brought up to worship were nothing more than cynical or sly murderers. History as taught in schools and peddled by an overflowing and hagiographic literature is a model of falsehood; to borrow a fashionable term, it is negationist. It might not deny the reality of gas chambers, it might no longer erect monuments to the glory of Stalin, Mao or Hitler, but it persists in celebrating the brutish conqueror: Alexander, called the Great whose mentor was Aristotle, it is proudly intoned — Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Napoleon, the throngs of generals, slaughterers of peoples, petty tyrants of the city or the state, torturer — judges, Javerts of every ilk, conniving diplomats, rapists and killers contracted by religions and ideologies; so much high renown carved from baseness, wickedness, and abjection. I am not suggesting we should unpave the avenues of official history and pave the side alleys instead. We are not in need of a purged history, but of a knowledge that scoops out into broad daylight facts that have been obscured, generation after generation, by the unceasing stratification of prejudice. I am not calling for a tribunal of the mind to begin condemning a bunch of undesirables who have been bizarrely put up on pedestals and celebrated in the motley pantheons of official memory. I just want to see the list of their crimes, the mention of their victims, the recollection of those who confronted them added to the inventory of their unsavory eulogies. I am not suggesting that the name of Francisco Ferrer wipe out that of his murderer, Alfonso XIII, but that at the very least everything be known of both. How dare textbooks still cultivate any respect for Bonaparte, responsible for the death of millions, for Louis XIV, slaughterer of peasants and persecutor of Protestants and freethinkers? For Calvin, murderer of Jacques Gruet and Michel Servet and dictator of Geneva, whose citizens, in tribute to Sébastien Castellion, would one day resolve to destroy the emblems and signs of such an unworthy worship? While Spain has now toppled the effigies of Francoism and rescinded the street names imposed by fascism, we somehow tolerate, towering in the sky of Paris, that Sacré-Coeur whose execrable architecture glorifies the crushing of the Commune. In Belgium there are still avenues and monuments honoring King Leopold II, one of the most cynical criminals of the nineteenth century, whose “red rubber” policy — denounced by Mark Twain, by Roger Casement (who paid for this with his life), by Edward Dene Morel, and more recently by Adam Hochschild — has so far bothered nary a conscience. This is a not a call to blow up his statues or to chisel away the inscriptions that celebrate him. This is a call to Belgian and Congolese citizens to cleanse and disinfect public places of this stain, the stain of one of the worst sponsors of colonial savagery. Paradoxically, I do tend to believe that forgetting can be productive, when it comes to the perpetrators of inhumanity. A forgetting that does not eradicate remembering, that does not blue-pencil memory, that is not an enforceable judgment, but that proceeds rather from a spontaneous feeling of revulsion, like a last-minute pivot to avoid dog droppings on the sidewalk. Once they have been exposed for their inhumanity, I wish for the instigators of past brutalities to be buried in the shroud of their wrongs. Let the memory of the crime obliterate the memory of the criminal.

Raoul is talking about the same thing Oscar was talking about

I wonder how many unionized teachers know that what Raoul is underscoring is true. How many who do know think it’s important. And what percentage of those put any of that into practice. Meaning, what number of them discuss it with students, pupils.

Oh yes, I wonder the same about teachers who are not members of a union. Of course. I’m just inserting the union schtick to make a point… which I hope you get. Which I do not want to spell out.
(But which I will upon request.)

For now, let’s just think about whether or not teachers generally know a thing about, say, Raoul. He was quite an important figure in history. Oh yes, I know, we can’t include everyone in our classes. (See the P.S. below.)

Well, on that point, I can’t help but wonder how many teachers have a clue about who decides (and with what criteria) WHO gets included. And, of those, how many care. And, of those, how many say anything to anyone in positions of influence about it. Or say anything to anyone at all.

I can’t help but wonder too how many readers think this is important. And, of those, how many think it’s important enough to DO something about it. This problem.

Teachers, unionized or not, wield lots of power, don’t they? And they’re making a mess of things, aren’t they? I mean, they’re contributing to compounding ignorance with ignorance, yes?

Well, my final question has to do with why citizens, parents are primarily (or exclusively) concerned with whether or not teachers get a fair shake financially, in terms of benefits. Whether or not they’re taken care of in terms of job security. Certainly that latter issue was what was spotlighted in the recent campus protests, not any discussion about what Oscar and Raoul touch upon above.

It really is absolutely wild what teachers wield, what power. Wild what indifference and/or ignorance is floating around in their realm. While lots of energy is expended to expand personal profit.

What happens to our children? Do we applaud them if they decide to become teachers? Should we?

Oops. I said that I was asking my last question awhile ago.

P.S. The author’s great grandfather, just before he died, asked him why The Cynics, Spartacus, The Bagaudi, The Norman Peasant War, The English Peasants’ Revolt, Los Rmensas, The Haudenosaunee, the Levellers, Diggers and Ranters, The Ormee, The Cempuis Orphanage, La Ruche, The Makhnovschchina, Spartakus, The Rio Gallegos Workers’ Association, The Durruti Column and so many others were relegated to footnotes in schools, if mentioned at all.

Arnold Pepper can be contacted in his studio at Read other articles by Arnold.

20 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. Ox said on April 5th, 2010 at 9:24am #

    I thank Kim for correcting me respecting The Haudenosaunee. Until he did so I had used (innocently) the pejorative The Iroquois League. That’s a good editor at work.
    Author Arnold

  2. bozh said on April 5th, 2010 at 10:34am #

    As i have said a few times, nearly everything that i say on DV had been already said by s’mone over the last 10kyrs.
    And i extrapolate this, knowing i finished last in my class 3 times and thinking of self as nonhuman.

    I do not recall a particular book that started me on different thinking. It was probably many books that started my own awakening. Mind u, i’m still often a basket case. But a basket case who sees reality much differently than 30 yrs ago. tnx

  3. lichen said on April 5th, 2010 at 3:02pm #

    It is disgusting; I remember being in school, and for perhaps first and second and third grade, we had hammered into our heads the conventional, dull, whitewashed nationalistic history of the united states, and then for 8th, 9th, and 10th, 11th grade, we had to study it all again; the same repetitive trash. Meanwhile there is a whole wide world out there, and the student should be allowed to study and explore what interests him in his own time (which should be the entire school day, week, year.) The dull, unimaginative, self-aggrandized, sometimes emotionally abusive hum of those teachers doesn’t contribute a thing to real learning.

  4. Ox said on April 5th, 2010 at 4:14pm #

    And so… using the Ox’s computer… bouncing off of Lichen’s comment… permit me to put out a call for all those who would like to explore alternatives to your children, nieces, nephews, cousins et al. attending school. Particularly if the young ones reside in California. Best, Arnold

  5. jcrit said on April 5th, 2010 at 6:23pm #

    If only the curricula had as rich an oral history as many indigenous people still do.

  6. Don Hawkins said on April 6th, 2010 at 4:02am #

    The proper channels,

    The [r]evolution won’t be televised.

    What do you do when patient petitioning, protest marches and court orders fail? What do you do when all the protocols and cheat codes of democracy fail? This is what you do: you reclaim the language of democracy from the twisted bunch that have hijacked, cannibalized and subverted it.

    Pressuring politicians on climate change is not working. We saw that in Copenhagen. Three months later, we also know why. Which is why the global climate movement now must do course-correction. We need to shift targets and go after the real termites that hollowed out and imploded Copenhagen.
    Not Barosso, Obama or Wen Jiabao, but the real obstacles to the climate deal this planet deserves and demands. The oil and gas mafia running loose in New Delhi. The coal magnates that have Canberra by the short and curlies. The petrochemical giants that have placed a firm jackboot on the EU’s throat. The fossil fools and nuclear lobbyists that have Washington DC on speed-dial.
    We need to hit them where it hurts most, by any means necessary: through the power of our votes, our taxes, our wallets, and more.

    We need to be inclusive. We need to join forces with those within the climate movement that are taking direct action to disrupt the CO2 supply chain. We need to embrace the conservatives too, the ones that choose scientific rigour and court injunctions as their weapons.
    And we need to inspire, engage and empower everyone in between… from the AirPlotters stopping the expansion of Heathrow by purchasing bits of the proposed runway to the volunteer activists that have been making life hell for fossil fuel lobbyists in the US.

    Finally, we need to prove repeatedly, consistently, doggedly, that our alternative vision of a world that runs on clean energy isn’t just a prototype, it’s already in production.
    Emerging battle-bruised from the disaster zone of Copenhagen, but ever-hopeful, a rider on horseback brought news of darkness and light: “The politicians have failed. Now it’s up to us. We must break the law to make the laws we need: laws that are supposed to protect society, and protect our future. Until our laws do that, screw being climate lobbyists. Screw being climate activists. It’s not working. We need an army of climate outlaws.”

    The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism.
    If you’re one of those who believe that this is not just necessary but also possible, speak to us. Let’s talk about what that mass civil disobedience is going to look like.
    If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:
    We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.
    And we be many, but you be few. Gene Hashmi India Greenpeace

    Then Greenpeace put this out.

    Greenpeace has almost 40 years of history as a peaceful organization. Two of our core values are:
    We ‘bear witness’ to environmental destruction in a peaceful, non-violent manner.
    We use non-violent confrontation to raise the level and quality of public debate.
    This blog entry is about encouraging civil disobedience and non-violent direct action – the kind of peaceful methods that liberated Gene’s country (India) from imperialism.
    I know Gene, and he’s a genuinely peaceful guy who believes in the power of peaceful protest to change the world. Some people are trying to portray him as otherwise. Just read what he had to say in context. He is very specific about what he thinks people should do.
    While we encourage and appreciate discussion in the comments, do stay polite and don’t make death threats or incite violence. (Not towards our staff, not towards people we disagree with, not towards anyone. Please be nice people. Thanks.)
    — Andrew (Greenpeace web producer)

    Update: Where you live
    A lot of folks commenting are sizing on the words, “we know where you live”.
    Gene has a tendency towards the dramatic. So at first I didn’t think anything much about them. After all, I know he’s a peaceful kind of guy, I know Greenpeace is a peaceful organization and I know what he’s got on his mind.
    It’s no coincidence that Gene’s blog post came out just two days after we published a report about how one giant corporation, Koch Industries, is secretly funding the climate denial machine.
    In that report, we name names (specifically David and Charles Koch). We’re going to hold powerful people like them accountable for their actions – through protest, civil disobedience and other forms of peaceful direct action.
    That’s all Gene is saying we should do.
    But then I got to thinking: Would we ever protest at someones house? And would that be OK? Of course it would be a peaceful protest. But would it be ethical?
    There are only two cases I can think of where Greenpeace protesters actually showed up at someone’s home:

    Union Carbide chairman – arrest warrant served
    Warren Anderson was the chairman of Union Carbide at the time of the Bhopal plant explosion, which killed thousands. He was charged with culpable homicide, but fled India and has refused to return to face justice. When asked to turn him over, the US government’s position was that they could not find Anderson.
    We found him, went to his house and served an arrest warrant.

    Solar panels for Australia’s Prime Minister
    In 1997, Greenpeace activists showed up at the Prime Minister’s house with a gift – solar panels, which they installed on the roof. The activists were arrested for trespass. I’m not sure if the solar panels stayed on the roof (I somehow doubt it), but a lot of attention was brought to the potential of solar power in Australia. (Read more)

    Personally, I think both of these protests were pretty cool. I’ve heard they were very controversial at the time though, and there was a lot of debate about whether we’d crossed a line.
    What do you think about cases like these?

    — Andrew Davies, Greenpeace web producer

    What do you think about cases like these? Well Gene made a few very good point’s. The [r]evolution won’t be televised man you can say that again as MSM even Fox New’s and the wise one Glenn Beck it looks like stayed away from what Gene wrote. It’s just better that way I guess. “The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism”. The proper channels have failed well yes you can certainly say that and last night here in the States a leader from the Tea Party on CNBC said 71% when polled don’t want cap and trade. The proper channels have failed oh no they are still working just fine and the Tea Party is just the tip of the iceberg on these proper channels. Of course there is a much better way to make a try at this little problem as cap and trade is kind of a band aid but the proper channels don’t seem to like the idea of taxing carbon and returning that tax back to the people to kind of help with the bills. The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism. I think James Hansen had a few words on mass civil disobedience but as we know from the proper channels Hansen is a wing nut doesn’t know how the World work’s and of course what we see with our own eye’s now is just illusion like the rain in the Northeast United States and that little water problem in the Mid east and a few minor problems in China due to the climate/weather. Yes just illusion the whole thing has been made up by wing nut’s and are they the best minds we have today on the third planet from the Sun well maybe but they need to go though the proper channels and watch your data. Yes boring this will not be. A trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which we will have done in 20 years’ time, could have some nasty effects key word here is could as what we now see with our own eye’s is just illusion again these wing nut’s just make this stuff up and don’t use the proper channels here’s an idea tune into a proper channel Fox New’s is one fair and balanced they are out front on the truth the knowledge drill baby drill. Gene calm at peace the truth the knowledge there worst enemy loud and clear.

    This is an amazing read in old twenty ten third planet from the Sun and the truth marches on read this and get schooled in the way’s of the world the proper channels, men.

  7. Don Hawkins said on April 6th, 2010 at 7:21am #

    Check out that logo Orwell comes to mind. Coal 101 always’ done though the proper channels.

  8. Ox said on April 6th, 2010 at 8:03am #

    To pull things together on Ox’s computer, let me say that TOSCA would potentially enable the public to be self-educated enough to take effective action along the lines of what’s recommended above, BY HAVING “LEADERSHIP” IN SACRAMENTO (for starters) HELP CITIZENS TO KNOW HOW TO GO ABOUT FORCING CHANGE. The usual petitions and marches, obviously, would not be recommended.

    I wrote to Bill McKibben and other such high profile figures, including people at Greenpeace, but typically there’s NO RESPONSE. Most NGO activity is all about TOP/DOWN communication. They seem not to be interested in fresh input, discussion from the BOTTOM. On that note, please consider putting me and Ox et al. on our end in touch with Gene or someone in a position to comment on how TOSCA might blend others’ priorities with its agenda.

    Thanks, Arnold Pepper

  9. Don Hawkins said on April 7th, 2010 at 2:38am #

    To the point and check out the video.

  10. Don Hawkins said on April 7th, 2010 at 3:51am #


    Just had on Fox New’s Fox and friends. At about 6:20 just a few minutes ago real TV. Ask somebody what just happened that saw it yes I think it’s starting to happen. Calm at peace I think not. Living a lie as the wall’s come tumbling down who you going to call? Somebody is in trouble over there at Fox and it look’s like the crew tried a little free speech out and somebody is on the phone right now with the penguin. You tube maybe will have it. The crew the man that trying the free speech out might have said to himself enough is enough.

  11. Don Hawkins said on April 7th, 2010 at 4:54am #

    Over 200 years ago human beings began burning large quantities of the coal, oil and natural gas that had been buried under the Earth’s surface for hundreds of millions of years. This may eventually come to be seen as the most fatal misstep in the history of humankind. Robert Manne

    Yes there are a few other missteps. Go to your left your right your left, foolishness.

  12. Ox said on April 7th, 2010 at 1:19pm #

    I don’t get what the value is of watching the Greenpeace tape at this particular point. Greenpeace does much that’s of great value. But what’s fresh that’s brought to the table with that video. Doesn’t it “repeat” what we’ve already got under our collective belt? Lots is inspirational of course, but where’s the action on our part?

    There’s also the issue of Greenpeace being primarily into a top/down mode. I believe I made this point earlier above. They’re not open to dialogue from below. I’ve tried for a very long time with them, repeatedly.

    Unless I missed something, I see people being jailed for following their conscience. To say that something else must supplement such activity isn’ t too devalue the worth of those activists. But why spotlight them for DVoice readers when what’s lacking in our quarter is movement in solidarity along fresh lines? Supplemental lines.

    best, ox

  13. Don Hawkins said on April 7th, 2010 at 1:37pm #

    Every little bit help’s. Who knows maybe greenpeace with a little help from there friends can get two million in front of the Capital one voice calm at peace loud and clear. Seem like a tuff bunch and they do use the truth and knowledge that a few don’t seem to agree with and Ox so far who is winning change we can believe in so to speak, nobody not yet.

  14. Don Hawkins said on April 7th, 2010 at 1:52pm #

    The irony of course is that Greenpeace is the REAL tea party here. They are working against the corporate invasion of civil discourse and politics. They other, self-proclaimed “tea party” is of course funded by those same corporations who are attempting to disguise themselves in the sheep’s garb of “grass roots” activism.

    Similarly, the REAL climategate is not about scientists attempting to cover up data (a claim which now 6 months later has been completely disproved) but about corporations funding disinformation about climate science.

    In this topsy turvy world we know find ourselves we should be thankful that organizations like Greenpeace are here to keep it real. Here’s there latest video which debuts a cool and appropriately edgy look for one organization that will never stop rocking the boat, no matter how hot it gets: Burkart

    That’s called the truth and the other side of that is called a lie with money and power, arrogance the darkside I like to call it. Did you see that video of Blankenship the head of Massey it’s right there before your eye’s. Did you see the temperatures in New York today hello it’s April and we will hear up’s and down’s all around the town. The people in California are they a tuff bunch because not to many years away and tuff is what it will be even more than now much more.

  15. Ox said on April 7th, 2010 at 6:07pm #

    Oxz here.

    I’m missing what’s special about the Greenpeace video. If one of the things that stirs you up about it is the feeling that it might lead — to use your idea, Don — to something like 2 million at the Capital… then I don’t feel so good about your enthusiasm. I’d like to know what else you think the film’s seeds will produce, what will blossom from the good energy depicted. It’s counterproductive to praise such efforts in lieu of taking part in a fresh model for action. For, clearly, nothing remotely close to a million will gather at the Capital any longer on behalf of such efforts. And even if I were to be wrong about that — which I am not — two million headed for the Capital in broad daylight… announced ahead of time… would either be cut off at the knees at the nearest pass, or dealt with as other large gatherings have been dealt with by law enforcement and the media.

    I’m sure I don’t have to elaborate on that last point. What we are trying to do in California with “you know what” embraces a new model for action. We are thankful to Greenpeace for all the good they’re doing, and for the inspiration they’ve provided over a long period. However, they do almost as much damage as good by refusing to enter into dialogue with people on the bottom. And recent associations of Greenpeace leadership with “undesirables” doesn’t help much either.

    loving regards, your oxie

  16. Don Hawkins said on April 7th, 2010 at 7:13pm #

    What we all face is a tuff one and to face it will start to solve a few other minor problems. A new way of thinking focus one page working together and I still feel the working together will be the hardest part. We are out of time it needs to start yesterday.

  17. Ox said on April 7th, 2010 at 7:39pm #

    I’d like to see the editors at DVoice get behind — very proactively — creating solidarity on something in unison… with other leftist editors… and with… others. Very doable. It doesn’t have to be TOSCA… to jump start things… but that’s the bottom line for TOSCA… to get “everyone” working on ONE THING in addition to whatever they’re generally doing with their daily heartbeats. If it’s not TOSCA then let’s hear what else is possible. I trust that the editors can see how they could get the ball rolling… so that it would snowball potentially into something huge. If it’s not clear, please let me know… and I’ll elaborate. One point is that at present there’s not even an attempt to unifying under a single activity umbrella. And if you look at past attempts at anything that’s remotely along such lines… it’s always been stuff that follows obsolete models for action… like marches in circles, petitions and the like. TOSCA is about “taking over” the reins in one important corner that holds the promise of creating historic ripples elsewhere. Hopefully, Oxully P.S. Readers could contact the editors if they feel these sentiments hold merit.

  18. Ox said on April 8th, 2010 at 9:03pm #

    How utterly sad it is, how very much talk there is… followed by so little action, usually none. Looking forward to a fresh contact at moc.oohaynull@0102.acsot. In solidarity, Richard Martin Oxman

  19. Melissa said on April 9th, 2010 at 7:05am #

    An idea for people anywhere and everywhere, as I launch off Ox’s point above . . . whatever we do, do it at home, and in our communities. Like Ox said, and Lewis Carroll too, marching in circles according to the protocol set up to channel motivated people and energy into a pre-determined ends according to top-down plans is a waste of heartbeats.

    What are the real needs right where you are? Food, education, shelter, empowerment, sense of community safety. Address those manufactured shortages where you are . . . get the garden plots going and FEED and TEACH about local agriculture. Fold in the rain catchment systems and easy to design and implement irrigation systems.

    For those with access to moderate financial resources, do teach-ins and demos on how to employ the technologies of solar power; building solar panels from cells is not that difficult, nor expensive if you can use the energy DC (to run irrigation, pumps, charge batteries) without the complication and expense of an invertor to mate with AC wiring that is the norm in USA.

    Form groups to address education for your kids, family, neighbors, to re-learn the art of learning, autodidactic style.

    All of these things cannot be done individually, they require that you knock on doors, communicate, and cooperate. They require the skills of human to human connections. That is where organizations and government programs have gone awry. Those real connections are what will bring long term unity and empowerment, as opposed to dependence and calloused knees before indifferent politicians and high-profile “professional” activists.

    There are many other things each of us can do, use your skills and ask friends to help you build more skills, then grab onto more warm bodies and minds and do some more . . . people are hungry right now for connection and the security of functioning community, you won’t be disappointed by pursuing this.

    Just some thoughts, and please, keep listening to Ox. But don’t just talk and listen, MOVE YOUR FEET. You are the people we have been waiting for . . .

    As always,
    Peace, Resistance, Hope,

  20. Ox said on April 9th, 2010 at 8:14am #

    On my knees in thankfulness to Melissa. Truly. I want to add something important. Like Noam Chomsky has said, repeatedly, there’s something “additional” to address if you are driving as per “the rules” and a lot of others are not observing those parameters. The point being that working locally is immensely important — as per Melissa’s advice — and so is doing “something” on the macroscopic scale. On that note, I urge those who’d like to contribute to the Big Picture (in addition to what they’re doing locally) to contact me at moc.oohaynull@0102.acsot. If a handful of readers at DVoice reach me… I can give out a few “assignments” which will take very few heartbeats… which could contribute to transforming much. NO MONEY. NO MEETINGS. NO ONGOING BLAH BLAH. Just something I’ll run by you that you can do in your spare time THAT’S NEW. That might make a huge difference. NOT ANOTHER PETITION. NOT TAKING PART IN ANYTHING THAT’S BEEN TRIED BEFORE. I should think that would appeal — at least — to the sense of fun and adventure in people. I can deliver on my promise… I promise. Blessings in solidarity, Ricardo The Ox