Threading the Needle with Our Camels

when you believe that there are no teachers anymore, that’s  when you have no idea how dumb your culture really is

It’s what most of us called precarious college faculty want to say, or have deep within, cultured like intellectual bacterium waiting to take over all synaptic functioning –

Henry Giroux —

Corporate school reform is not simply obsessed with measurements that degrade any viable understanding of the connection between schooling and educating critically engaged citizens. The reform movement is also determined to underfund and disinvest resources for public schooling so that public education can be completely divorced from any democratic notion of governance, teaching and learning. In the eyes of billionaire un-reformers and titans of finance such as Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family and Michael Bloomberg, public schools should be transformed, when not privatized, into adjuncts of shopping centers and prisons.

As Michelle Alexander points out, these are children “who have a parent or loved one, a relative, who has either spent time behind bars or who has acquired a criminal record and thus is part of the under-caste – the group of people who can be legally discriminated against for the rest of their lives.”  And the effect of such daily struggle is deadly. She writes:

“. . . For these children, their life chances are greatly diminished. They are more likely to be raised in severe poverty; their parents are unlikely to be able to find work or housing and are often ineligible even for food stamps. For children, the era of mass incarceration has meant a tremendous amount of family separation, broken homes, poverty, and a far, far greater level of hopelessness as they see so many of their loved ones cycling in and out of prison. Children who have incarcerated parents are far more likely themselves to be incarcerated.”  **

Chris Hedges:

“The left has been destroyed, especially the radical left, quite consciously in the whole name of anti-communism, and the ‘Death of the Liberal Class’ really explains the destruction of those movements,” Hedges says.

“I’m saying that we have to hold—you have to hold fast to that moral imperative. So if you keep conceding—I mean, let’s look at what the liberal class has conceded to the Democratic Party,” he later adds. “The Democratic Party in Europe would be a far-right party. It’s pro-war, it’s anti-union, it’s anti-civil liberties. I mean, Obama’s assault on civil liberties is worse than Bush. It’s an enemy of the press. It’s used the Espionage Act to shut down whistle-blowers, which are the lifeblood of a free press. It has assassinated American citizens. I mean, and, you know, at what point do you say enough?”

Amusing Ourselves into the Grave

We are at the point of not only amusing ourselves to death, but deluding ourselves into accepting the many-headed snakes of ecocide and genocide and education evisceration. Can we really imagine a people and political body and press that attack the retirement systems in states where you put in your time, you put in your contracted time, and find that retirement funds are slipping more and more into oblivion?  We have newspaper editors on the op-ed page supporting initiatives in states like Oregon allowing workers represented by unions the “right” to stop paying dues even though that union representation means a hell of a lot more than anything any boss or media musher can say the miracle of markets and capitalism give us. Opt out after you get a group of your own peers in the workforce working hard to keep the bosses from more daily ripoffs? Bull. A gap in education, and the infamous shifting baseline syndrome now a disease. Why would reporters — journalists — be anti-union? Hmm? Delusional for sure.

Imagine if we decided, all and one, to go ahead and filter through some meta-socially responsible investing sieve those tax dollars we can track from the big pie of taxes we pay every day, every year. Don’t want to pay for war, for drones, for generals’ perks, the welfare state of military-energy-Big Ag and the prison pipeline and Keystone one too? Imagine that day? Yet, op-eds that have zilch logical allusions, zilch when it comes to understanding how the market place, how the corporations, how the CEOs, are not in the business of making lives better but they are dedicated like thieves to never help those who are at the very core of their profits – workers and buyers – make their existences better than precarious worker and part-time laborer and one-paycheck-away-from-living-Hell.

The social contract, public good, and the social state have been pushed to the margins of society, and ridiculed and seen as a drag on democracy, profits and the market. It’s sickening and ramified by the junk on TV, all the reality dog-eat-dog shows, all that powerful doped up, steroid stanched, money mongering crap that shows Americans are willing to kill their competitors, work 100 hours a week to make more money than they possibly can use, and to bilk the system – the very fabric of life – CITIES and TOWNS – of their corpuscles.

Imagine how many sewage treatment plants need expanding, how many storm-water systems need rebuilding, how many bridges need fixing, how many multi-modal imagined things need realization, how many schools need teachers and technology, and how many places need functionality through the right political leadership and the right sticks and hurling carrots to be smashed in the faces of Capitalists, Corporatists, and Colluders.

Zombie Zorros for a Piece of the Pie — Cutting Education Out of the Dessert

David Graeber calls our culture, our Gates-Walton-teach-to-the-stupid-test system of education, the “Dead Zones of the Imagination” (from the Journal of Ethnographic Theory).

Philly has to do what to get this school year up and running? A $50 million dollar loan to get the school year going?

Aug 15 (Reuters) – The city of Philadelphia will borrow $50 million in the capital market for its cash-strapped public schools so they can rehire about 1,000 furloughed employees and open on time on Sept. 9, Mayor Michael Nutter said on Thursday.

The pledge for stopgap funding for the school district, which has about 140,000 students, came a day before a deadline laid out by Superintendent William Hite. He warned last week that without the additional money from the city, the district’s ongoing financial crisis would threaten his ability to open schools on time and safely.

Nutter said he would direct city financial officers to immediately lay the groundwork to borrow $50 million on behalf of the school district.

The city plans to sell municipal bonds, borrowing money from investors for the four-year loan. The structure of the bond deal and other details had not yet been worked out, according to Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald.

Philadelphia’s school system handed out 3,800 pink slips earlier this year as part of an effort to close what had been a $304 million budget gap. The district operates 218 schools.

Here’s a rundown on Alternet’s Education feed, and this is just a sampling of the headlines that make contextual sense without having to dig deeper to see the other crap coming out in America’s high and low minded circles who think education is a joke for a majority of folk and that teachers are in need of permanent pink slips.

Depleting Headlines

  • “8 Things You Should Know About Corporations Like Pearson that Make Huge Profits from Standardized Tests” by   Alyssa Figueroa / AlterNet
  • “Education “Reformers” Defend School Chief Caught Giving “A” to Charter School Initially Graded “C” ” by  Alex Seitz-Wald /
  • “Illinois High School Will Now Not Only Randomly Test Students for Drugs, But for Alcohol—Using Hair Samples” by  Rod Bastanmehr / AlterNet
  • “School District Backs Down on Its Plan to Chip Student IDs” by Mark Anderson / Progressive Populist
  • “If You’re Raped at USC, They Call It “Personal Injury” or “Domestic Dispute” ” by Laura Clawson / Daily Kos
  • “The Media is Failing to Acknowledge that Student Loans are Actually Rising” by Peter Hart / FAIR
  • “Rogue North Carolina Targets Student Voting” by By Steven Rosenfeld /
  • “Jeff Bezos’s Other Endeavor: Charter Schools, Neoliberal Education Reforms” by  Lee Fang / The Nation
  • “A Scandal That’s Exposing Ugly Truths About the School Privatization Agenda” by By David Sirota / AlterNet

And these headlines barely scratch the surface of the heavier education issues, those tied to more and more part-time positions, more and more schools of higher learning dropping adjuncts’ hours (courses, which translates into less-less money, poverty lifestyles, albeit, but still . . .) so they can opt out of so-called Obama Care (ACA), and the continuing stripping of agency, academic freedom, academic rigor, and the unsettling of a generation long in the tooth on the outs, and the current one and Millennials who have accepted ALL the shifted baselines, have never been taught the fair playing field rules, and have an uncanny DNA-warped ability to veg out on outlandish, stupid, broken toys and Tech Junk that leads us nowhere but into the frying pan of corporations dictating what junk we have to scroll down with and what apps and general coding mess we have to learn to survive in a world of producerists and lowly paid and ready-to-sell-self-for-a-song young people wanting something of that American pie or dream or scheme.

Fast-Food Junk-Food Disposable-Goods Education by the One Quarter

The might of the masses now in my group – part-time, adjunct, at-will, Non-Tenure Track PT-ers and FT-ers– still is vacant of the larger critique against Capital, Capitalism, Corporate Control of our Constitution Community Culture Classes. Here, to reiterate from Counterpunch:

Whether we speak of business inceptively fascistic, or capitalism integrally so (because the systemic concerns take precedence of those of the individual firm), there is in both a structural and ideological predisposition to fascism, based on hierarchical organization, the political environment of business-government interpenetration, economic purpose and direction, as in the trend toward monopolism, and the psychological introjection common to business and society of the leadership principle, a pecking order of command and obedience running through and unifying the class system. By capitalism’s own assessment (i.e., its leadership-structure, not an impersonal or deterministic process) the State performs a crucial role in the system’s development, even when Laissez-Faire and the Open Door were put forth as legitimating myths. This dependence–actually a mutual dependence, in which a consolidated base of monopoly capital translates into greater, more effective military prowess and creates the need to show and employ it–becomes increasingly clear with capitalism’s further advancement, as remedies have to be sought for the volatile nature of the business cycle and the prevention of the severe consequences and subsequent disruptions earlier experienced in the Great Depression, avoidance of which fuels the drive for Executive Power and the free hand (although the opposite should be true) accorded business.

The driving force for me is higher wages, and not unions fighting for incremental wages for workers working in companies that are rotten to the core, like Walmart or McDonald’s. Forget about the rotten to the near core companies that dominate the world of our economic systems. But in the end, as a part-timer – writer, teacher of adults with DD, journalist, college instructor, editor, photographer, etc. – I need health care and public transportation and affordable housing, the three-pronged way toward a healthy society, turned into a three-headed monster by the elite, the Media, the Moguls, the Companies, the PR Machine, Hollywood, and Politicians. Here is my friend several months ago advocating for WA state increases to adjunct college faculty loads and salaries. See below:

June 22, 2013 — Guest opinion

“It’s time to fix higher ed pay imbalance”

By  Keith Heller

It has always been assumed that students should get into the best college they can, then borrow to attend. Study after study has shown that the higher the degree attained, the more money earned over a lifetime.

The cost of a college degree has now become the focus of much debate. Student loans now exceed credit card debt at $1 trillion. And states have been slashing their higher education budgets and increasing tuition.

Since 2008, state support for our research universities (Washington State University and University of Washington) has dropped by at least 40 percent, and tuition has increased by at least 60 percent. State funds for our two-year colleges have decreased by 23 percent, with tuition going up 48 percent.

There is now much talk of limiting the growth in tuition. Campaigning last year, Vice President Joe Biden blamed tuition increases on the high salaries of college professors. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus in Olympia has proposed a budget with a 3 percent decrease in college tuition.

Vice President Biden, and our own state politicians, may share some illusions about the cost of today’s colleges, where only one-fourth of professors teach on the tenure track with decent salaries, good benefits, sabbaticals, summers off and lifetime job security in the form of tenure. Since the mid-1970s, colleges and universities have expanded their use of non-tenure-track, or contingent, faculty members, who now number 1 million.

Our state has long prided itself on its two-year college system, focusing on keeping costs down and expanding access for our citizens. Yet as in Robert Greenwald’s documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, cheap tuition has come at a high price for the 8,000 part-time (or adjunct) college professors who comprise two-thirds of the two-year faculty and who teach half of all the classes statewide.

Unlike Vice President Biden’s wife, Jill, who earns $82,000 a year as a tenured community college professor in Virginia, most adjunct instructors are lucky to earn $20,000 a year teaching half time. (In Washington, full-time community college instructors average about $60,000 a year, with the chance to earn more by teaching “overloads.”) While tenure-track instructors are paid for every dollar they work, adjunct professors’ contracts pay them only for the hours they spend in class, as if college teaching could be done on a piecemeal basis.

This dual track is not a merit system; it is a caste system whereby instructors are given preference by their status on or off the tenure track. At every step, the full-timers are automatically given preference over the adjuncts, even when the adjuncts may have better credentials or more experience.

From 1996-2007, the state Legislature appropriated nearly $60 million to improve adjunct salaries, but stopped in 2008, leaving the adjuncts still earning only 60 cents on the dollar compared to their full-time counterparts, and underpaid by more than $130 million per biennium.

If it is time for the state to add more money to higher education, as the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus has proposed, then the Legislature should begin again to appropriate money to eliminate the disparity in the pay rate between part-time and full-time faculty members.

And legislators are poised to make matters worse since the disparate budgets passed by the Senate and the House contain language allowing the colleges to use “turnover savings” to fund faculty increments. Two-thirds of the colleges, including the Community Colleges of Spokane, don’t have incremental step raises for part-timers. And none of the unions has bargained any turnover money at all for adjuncts.

The Legislature needs to ensure equal increments for the adjuncts, or the disparity will continue to grow.

The National Labor Relations Act forbids placing employees into the same unions as their supervisors, and most state public employment laws follow suit. But Washington state law forces adjunct instructors, who have no job security, into the same unions as the full-time instructors who have tenure and serve as their supervisors.
To prevent these conflicts of interest, Senate Bill 5844 would mandate separate bargaining units for part-time and full-time faculty members.

Our state should not be proud that we have built a two-year college system designed to create better job opportunities for our graduates while at the same time denying those opportunities to those graduates who enter college teaching.

Cheap tuition should not come at the expense of the lives of our adjunct instructors, many of whom have taught for decades under substandard working conditions.

Keith Heller is the co-founder (with Teresa Knudsen) of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association. He has taught philosophy in Washington community colleges for nearly 25 years. He received the 2012 John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College.

If You Don’t Teach the Kids to Stop Buy-Buy-Buying, They Will Eat You for Lunch

Here is, of course, a deeply focused and repeated thesis or two on what is broken, why it got broken and how it might be repaired. Keith has been in the trenches for more than 30 years, teaching and fighting the good fight, sometimes a fight against a few administrators and many fat-cat or wannabe faculty who cannot understand a single thread of what the unionist, collectivist, social safety proponent and engaged citizen is trying to weave in these overpopulation times, the age of anthropocene, and the new Adam and New Eve as Consumpithecus and Retailopithecus Erectus.

But, there needs to be a new band of brothers and sisters launching into why school and education and the Shop Class as Soul Craft and research-based community learning and strategic, ethical, bio-cultural-regional consciousness and sensitivity ARE vital to our survival. We need teachers encouraging youth to be those  engaged people who will one day  write a bill of global community rights, from the smallest ‘burb having schools and hospitals, to entire tribal continents having the animals and plants and ecosystems that provide us with everything we need at the center of all negotiations.

This is a large struggle to win the minds and hearts of NPR-loving, war-mongering, retail-seeking, supply-side pushing pigs who have allowed for society to crumble into anarchy caused by the markets, the moguls, the laws, and the Little Eichmann’s living off pain, degradation, isolation, disease, poverty, isolation, desperation, fear, sadness, schizophrenic survival.

Every moment of the day is filled with sickness, small and grand. Again, how the poor pay for the rich, and the Little Eichmann’s chewing the cud the fat cows of corporate welfare-cheating-manipulation-bribery-genocide spit into their tumblers of mojito mush: From the New Yorker. **

But civil-forfeiture statutes continued to proliferate, and at the state and local level controls have often been lax. Many states, facing fiscal crises, have expanded the reach of their forfeiture statutes, and made it easier for law enforcement to use the revenue however they see fit. In some Texas counties, nearly forty per cent of police budgets comes from forfeiture. (Only one state, North Carolina, bans the practice, requiring a criminal conviction before a person’s property can be seized.) Often, it’s hard for people to fight back. They are too poor; their immigration status is in question; they just can’t sustain the logistical burden of taking on unyielding bureaucracies.

The rise of civil forfeiture has, in some areas, proved of great value. It allows the government to extract swift penalties from white-collar criminals and offer restitution to victims of fraud; since 2012, the Department of Justice has turned over more than $1.5 billion in forfeited assets to four hundred thousand crime victims, often in cases of corporate criminality. Federal agents have also used forfeiture to go after ruthless migrant smugglers, organized-crime tycoons, and endangered-species poachers, stripping them of their illicit gains. Global Witness, the anti-corruption group, recently cheered the Justice Department’s civil-forfeiture action targeting the son of Equatorial Guinea’s dictator, which sought his Malibu mansion, Gulfstream jet, and some two million dollars’ worth of Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a bejewelled white glove.

Yet only a small portion of state and local forfeiture cases target powerful entities. “There’s this myth that they’re cracking down on drug cartels and kingpins,” Lee McGrath, of the Institute for Justice, who recently co-wrote a paper on Georgia’s aggressive use of forfeiture, says. “In reality, it’s small amounts, where people aren’t entitled to a public defender, and can’t afford a lawyer, and the only rational response is to walk away from your property, because of the infeasibility of getting your money back.” In 2011, he reports, fifty-eight local, county, and statewide police forces in Georgia brought in $2.76 million in forfeitures; more than half the items taken were worth less than six hundred and fifty dollars. With minimal oversight, police can then spend nearly all those proceeds, often without reporting where the money has gone.

I see this story right smack where Henry Giroux and Chris Hedges and Naomi Klein and Barbara  Ehrenreich all end to detail as the “giant slid of American virtues or hope,” whether that’s in the workplace, internationally, in the education arena or when we are dealing with how we rip off the poor: as teachers, and parents who are all teachers, as citizens and community members, we need to start fighting stupidity, meanness, the violence of the rich and the lower economic class. We have to be the ones that help inculcate and indoctrinate – I use this in-doc-trin-ate as loosely as anyone might even consider a new form of the process – young and families to change.

It all boils down to Little Eichmann’s and Gestapo’s and Stasi’s and the manipulators and exploiters, takers that is, as Daniel Quinn writes:

The Question:  It seems to be that there is only choice between the Takers and the Leavers and is that choice really possible? But what would it mean if we base our assumptions on the choice between Takers and Leavers-mentality and a value-system based on Givers and Receivers-attitude? So that we become more aware of Nature as a Giver and that receiving is included. Instead of trying to get more or less of it.

…and the response:

Quinn: I didn’t write Ishmael to present people with a choice between being Leavers or Takers but to show them why Leavers had (and have) a sustainable way to live while we do not. It’s not just a matter of choice, like deciding whether to be a Republican or a Democrat. Being a Leaver is not a matter of attitude. The speech “The New Renaissance” on this website presents (in as concise a form as I’ve been able to achieve) the future we have to be reaching for.

Leavers, Givers v. Takers, Thieves of All Stripes

Part of that large phalanx of takers, exploiters, comes to me daily, in my daily interactions with students, friends, people on the street. Sometimes, like Saturday, it comes in the form of the Gestapo, the police-judicial-legal juggernaut of injustice and dehumanization.

Absolutely true of my early days as a police reporter that a ride-along once a week or month does the newspaper reporter’s soul good, giving him or her perspective, and, well, not always empathy for the cops, to be sure.

Absolutely true, it is important to be in jail for a time to understand how bastardy and powers that be that are the scum who think WE are the scum, and they skim off the top our economic hearts and our spiritual souls by their very existence, which is whole dependent on a broken, corrupt, wrong system of injustice. Cops, DA’s, judges, defense attorneys, the entire mess of them make money off of pain.

I spent hours with arrested men in the county lock-up in Portland, and, heck, just before posting this, I spent 30 minutes with a homeless guy, 39 from Vietnam, but here in the US of Assholes for 27 years. A guy from Texas who got sea sick being a shrimper, and, hell, I didn’t get his entire story, but here is was, at the Police Evidence warehouse waiting to pick up his belongings after being scarfed up by Portland’s finest Friday.

His charge? Well, he was homeless in Salem, OR, but it’s against the law to be homeless, so, he was arrested and cited for vagrancy. He hitched to Portland, and, a month later, scarfed up by these cops, and lo and behold, a warrant was out for his arrest. For not appearing in Salem to defend the injustice perpetrated against him, AGAINST us!

This is the revolving door of gigantic exploitation that a massive number of Americans make money at, and believe me, I’ve been around the block too many times to wax empathy to all those poor folk who had no choice but to end up in the “takers” position.

So, my good friend I met for 30 minutes, his face the face of the Vietnamese I worked with in Hanoi and elsewhere almost 20 years ago, well, he is human. Yet, the white woman who nicely dealt with me and returned my property looked at this man, yelled at him when he couldn’t understand why after being arrested Friday his belongings were not in the police evidence room.

Scorn is nice compared to what the majority of the white ghosts that call themselves brothers and sisters to me, well, they are, either in Portlandia or San Francisco, racists, all of them. Hateful, prejudiced, and broken human beings.

That’s why we need educators, among us all everywhere, and, yes, PK12 and higher education. We need a new philosophy and ethos and people!

I’ll let the poem on DV take it from here. **  Night shift in Portland’s County Lock-up

And, a final word from Daniel Quinn:

Nevertheless, I can tell you with complete confidence that something extraordinary is going to happen in the next two or three decades. The people of our culture are going to figure out how to live sustainably–or they’re not. And either way, it’s certainly going to be extraordinary.

The fact that I’m unable to give you a prescription for the future doesn’t mean you’re just helpless bits of cork bobbing in the tide of history. Each of you is about where Galileo was when he was told in no uncertain terms to shut up about the earth moving around the sun. As far as the gentlemen of the Roman Inquisition were concerned, the earth’s movement around the sun was a wicked lie they had to suppress–and could suppress. But as he left his trial, Galileo was heard to mutter, “All the same, it moves!”

Surprisingly little hung on the matter. The future of humanity didn’t depend on destroying the medieval picture of the solar system. But the future of humanity does depend on our destroying the medieval picture of humanity’s relationship to the living community of this planet.

Galileo didn’t know that people would someday take space travel for granted, but he did know that they would someday recognize that the earth revolves around the sun. We don’t know how people will live here in 200 years, but we do know that if people still are living here in 200 years, they will recognize that we are as much a part of the living community–and as thoroughly dependent on it–as lizards or butterflies or sharks or earthworms or badgers or banana trees.

People don’t want more of the same. Yet, oddly enough, when they ask me what will save the world, they want to hear more of the same–something familiar, something recognizable. They want to hear about uprisings or anarchy or tougher laws. But none of those things is going to save us–I wish they could. What we must have (and nothing less) is a whole world full of people with changed minds. Scientists with changed minds, industrialists with changed minds, school teachers with changed minds, politicians with changed minds–though they’ll be the last of course. Which is why we can’t wait for them or expect them to lead us into a new era. Their minds won’t change until the minds of their constituents change. Gorbachev didn’t create changed minds; changed minds created Gorbachev.

Changing people’s minds is something each one of us can do, wherever we are, whoever we are, whatever kind of work we’re doing. Changing minds may not seem like a very dramatic or exciting challenge, but it’s the challenge that the human future depends on.

It’s the challenge your future depends on.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.