Educating because Our Lives and Futures Are in the Balance

There is no afterlife so one life to give is our only option: educate, agitate, infiltrate, regenerate!

Yes. I think that what is more important in Mexico is education. It’s for the children to be able to go to school. Of course, hunger is also a very big problem. But the one that really, really, really for me is very painful is education. And there’s very little money spent on education, on good teachers, on schools, on even rooms where children can go and work. And I think this is the worst problem in Mexico that has to be taken care of. And it has not been taken care of. I remember when I came to Mexico as a little girl, I loved my teacher, La Seño Velázquez. I loved her, and she was a very good teacher. And now I don’t know what happens with the teachers, because I haven’t been in school, but I think that children need education, especially in the country, in el campo, I mean, in wherever. They need to eat, and they need to be educated.
Elena Poniatowska, Mexican writer

Yes, indeed. We all could be Zapatistas … we all should be. Harmony in communities – poverty of the shiny stuff, poverty of the newest junk, but a wealth above all else: a right to housing, food, health, recreation, life, cultural attribution, the right to grow, the tools to do, and, of course, EDUCATION, from cradle to cradle! Justice and freedom prevail under that parcel of anti-capitalism because it is a project of building up and seeking harmony with environment and peace gathering.

I have been substitute teaching, subbing to use the vernacular, the past few years, ramping it up the past few months (to have current work under my belt why I compete in this Portland-Vancouver hell-hole job market looking for FT work), PK through 12 grade, in Washington, the state, where Gates and Bezos and Paul Allen live, and all those Zionists and criminals seeking to lobotomize sentient beings who might be a few dozen degrees left of their neoliberal project of total subjugation of soul and sanity for their economic chess game that has led to this carved up world, this PR-spinning fascism – the state with a billionaire class, akin to the uninitiated sorts like MD Ben Carson, or cold and calculating like a Chelsea Goldman Sachs Clinton, or just downright mean like a Tra-la-la bunch of near-millionaire libertarian coders and app creators and felonious biotech sorts all sipping boutique moonshine and flailing in their polyamorous beds.

A state that is shorting community college matching funds, big time, forcing tuition hike after tuition hike on near poverty students, and paying state university and community college faculty in the precarious class pennies on anyone else’s dollar, and where public schools are overcrowded, under inspiring, vacant of special and enrichment programs, all to the song of more and more Wall Street pukes and hedge fund hellions wanting more and more of the public goods at the cost of privatizing and bastardizing anything good.

Oh, yes, they get to privatize the profits after using the public coffers for their parasitic ventures. The software packages and tech junk these poor schools are overloaded with make me want to puke. Google and their Chrome tablets, and all the silly video syncing and strange pedagogy of the omnipresent marketers and capitalists, it’s sickening.

Yes-yes, my students love me and want me to be their permanent teacher (and that’s an entire story there, one where I have attempted to contact the state superintendent to hire on master teachers, like me, with a million experiences teaching a hundred different types of demographics in a few dozen disciplines . . . to no avail . . . another story, really, another story, how the admin class are all but checked out, mean as cusses when it comes to looking at independent teachers, and purely aggrandizing in their careerism and commercial addiction to the big dumb think tanks run by the bigger and dumber Gates and Lumina Foundation types).

Of course, all that substitute teacher love isn’t about me sliding/slacking or the young ones sliding/slacking, that is, and is chalked up to the uniqueness factor, the “newness of me there in their domain substitute thing”, and, frankly, others have said the kids’ zeal is because I am one of the few men they will encounter in 12 years of education, possibly few men in higher ed, but that percentage falls each day. It’s a combination of things, but surely my ability to teach with flair, outside the dictum of and envelope by the powers that be who continually create (implode the good, destroy the tested, explode the critical thinking portions) more and more bizarre curriculum created by the likes of profiteers and their henchmen and henchwomen in Pearson Publishing, LLC, Harcourt Brace and the like, who are complete mind numbing facilitators of intellectual and curiosity suicide – making youth jump through core curriculum and teach and learn to the test hoops.

Well, I am hard to replicate: a man who plays the piano, harmonica, drums and dances in their music class. Knows all the K12 Jeopardy stuff, and the history, the math, the biology, even art. I’m a clean-up guy, with one hell of a zeal and zest to engage both them and myself in the duty of taking a village to raise-feed-educate-protect-inspire a child, in this case, a whole classroom of children. The guy who teaches juniors/seniors about the beauty of Sapphire’s poetry, you know, the woman who wrote the book Push that was turned into a movie, Precious. These 17 and 18 year olds have not been given their due respect, and the prevailing attitude of other substitutes is stay 100 feet away from subbing any freshman to senior class: “pure monsters, un-teachable, incorrigible, ballistic.”

A little bit of Sapphire gives the high school crowd a little respect, for sure:

The level of abuse I suffered is not nearly as extreme as in the book, and there is no character in the story, not even the teacher, who is based on me.” Rather, Precious is a composite character, Sapphire says, created from the real-life stories she encountered while teaching for seven years, from 1987 to 1993, in an adult-literacy program in Harlem.

I had a 32-year-old student who one day announced that she had to leave class early to pick up her 20-year-old Down’s syndrome daughter. I sort of reeled, thinking I’d heard wrong, and when I asked again how old her daughter was, she told the class: ‘I had a baby by my father when I was 12.’

I’d never heard anything like it. This woman was black, slim and HIV-positive. But to create my character, Precious [who also has a Down’s syndrome baby at 12 and is also HIV-positive], I mixed her with my other students, including a teenager who was profoundly obese and illiterate, and who more physically embodies the character Precious you see on the screen.

How come our other teachers never teach us about these people, these things, these ideas, this stuff, these struggles, these controversies, they ask me? These people? Labor activists, civil rights leaders, Malcolm X, the real MLK, Jr., Vietnam-the people and country, not America’s war, about the lies piled upon more lies in their history books, the covering up of ideas, the censoring and self-censoring by and for and because of adults fearful of losing a career, the new SUV coming out in 2017, the trip to the orthodontist, and all those prizes overworked and sometimes under-inspired teachers seek in the big trip to the mall, Target, Costco and Macy’s. Home Depot, anyone?

The schools are teaching the wrong stuff, and the kids can’t tell me where Edinburgh is, with all their white male and female bards and playwrights and novelists plastered on the wall on posters. Really, twelve different high school classes, and not a one got the question right. Edinburgh or Tibet or Timbuktu, it doesn’t matter, because it’s the project of the billionaires to turn their young citizens’ minds into the mush of a Trump or all the other wanna be pimps and prostitutes sucking up to mass mauling media, but with the spin of making sure they are indentured to the insanity of capitalism, punishment, taxation-levying-fining-billing, our debt society, plagued by the thieves of every epic. These kids, most of them, will never have their blinders pulled off their eyes, and they will be seeing the world not from rose tinted glasses, but from the terabyte glare of Google glass. They never will learn the real heroes, the real anybody, for that matter, or the real history, the real politics, the real science, the real literature, the real humanity of struggle.

No matter who I insert into the lesson plans, be it Mark Twain or Orwell, these kids will be told and taught to not make time for anything but that treadmill of bill-bill-pay-pay, working bones and brains to a bloody pulp. As long as they have their Doritos and Red Bull.


Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals… The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them.
Notebook, 1898

…the citizen who thinks he sees that the commonwealth’s political clothes are worn out, and yet holds his peace and does not agitate for a new suit, is disloyal; he is a traitor.
—  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

We talked a little about Orwell, and that POTUS state of disunion speech yesterday, and they want to know how I think about it, what a radical and not-afraid-to-speak-with-as-opposed-to-speaking-AT- the-students teacher is doing for this year’s insane presidential follies, etc. We look at counterintuitive thinking, and why we need to develop it as badly as we as a Western Elite Culture need to develop gut bacteria. We talk about what double think and double speak mean to them, to the overall Elite Western Culture. We talk about why it is we are so much a culture tied to cults – celebrity cults, how the media cults portray those white idiot terrorists in Burns, Oregon, for instance, holding the big bad jack-booted G-man at bay; our the cult of the money hoarders, the app engineers from hell; or the cult buying; cult of pop consumption; cult of braying over how dumb we really are even though we sit smartly in the driver’s seat to global ruination.

It’s a heavy lift, for sure, in one day with the sub, but just enough exposure to a new tune, to new ideas (to them) and to me is powerfully effective, like a short-term blast of radiation. Again, I throw those Orwellian doozies from his book, 1984, at my charges:

Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.

Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.

This is one huge project, education, fighting against the system of oppression from parents who are checked out or zoned into their own PTSD of the flailing economies of consumption and retail culture – an economy based on 70 percent of our contributions to work, country, community directly tied to selling and buying. And what is it that this purchase, low wage, quadruple bread earner frayed knit families do to help pull it together so their kids can get some of that gut bacteria back so they can even think and concentrate on how to rebel?

We are distracting them with pollutants as soon as they turn into fetuses and then early after birth more toxicity through  the limiting and lingering vapid sell-sell-buy-buy of a broken country that is all Carnival Cruise Photoshopped into self-flagellation.

The high school students asked why it is they are clueless, or talked down to, or thought of as monsters. They want truths, want some radical mental enema, and look to me to be that viaduct toward some new way to finish out school and move into what they think might be a brighter set of horizons in college, though some already hate the idea of cloistering their minds and bodies in some intellectual gymnastics when there’s greenbacks to make and more of them to spend a la credit.

I sent them to Zapata to read, to so many other revolutionaries, radical writers, outside the ordinary thinkers, letting them know to never think of these gifts as weird or abnormal or, radical. They had no idea what a subcomandante was, but they listened:

The rich multimillionaires of a few countries continue with their objective to loot the natural riches of the entire world, everything that gives us life like water, land, forests, mountains, rivers, air; and everything that is below the ground: gold, oil, uranium, amber, sulfur, carbon, and other minerals.

They don’t consider the land as a source of life, but as a business where they can turn everything into a commodity, and commodities they turn into money, and in doing this they will destroy us completely.

The bad and those who carry it out have a name, history, origin, calendar, geography: the capitalist system.

It doesn’t matter what color they paint it, what name they give it, what religion they dress it up as, what flag they raise; it is the capitalist system.

It is the exploitation of humanity and the world we inhabit.

It is disrespect and contempt for everything that is different and that doesn’t sell out, doesn’t give up, and doesn’t give in.

It is the system that persecutes, incarcerates, murders.

It steals.
— Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés – Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano. Mexico, January 1, 2016.

The students are blown away with these new shapes, reborn words, reconstructed ideas, a revitalized system that is alternative to the prevailing rot of capitalism, where that black global trench of stinking flesh pummels our collective hope, where the open pits of the millionaires off-gas more shame and despair, these monster billionaire showmen who come to our children in the night like Pharaohs, sucking the babies’ lungs clear of air and impregnating our mothers with cancers and dealing our fathers dope for a life of addiction.

These kids still know truths, have some innate skepticism, but they have no village anymore, in this gilded age, this post tribal hunter-gatherer age, where we have so-called leaders who  watch the sink or swim formula daily, nary lifting a gaze, let alone a finger to help a few billion of our fellow humans.

They will continue to gather the seeds of a new vision from me, some penny-ante substitute, with all these “war stories” of a better time, a traveling and vibrant time, decades in struggle, but in it. We have to organize and arm our generations yet to be educated with the tools of struggle, to adopt new thinking even among the kaleidoscope that is inside this propped up Vegas shit called North America — to work with young and old to think differently, to create new ways of living and an entire new way of governing.

I’m up to it, but I am a parody, alone, in these rural schools — kids having a hell of a day or week, wanting more-more-more, because they sense that the big picture is one of an empty road to losing their only roots to humanity: understanding, knowing, celebrating, caring and sustaining all communities, starting with earth, mother seeder, and then to the vast life-churning vat of the sea; and they are trying to know their own poetry which is yet to be written, or tapped; and they know that a place under sky in forest learning ancient ways, knowing the building of their own shelters, knowing their own ways to entertain, to see constellations or the tracks of brother grizzly, all of that they don’t even read in books anymore, they know all of that is the way toward rebirth, and they know struggle as they see it in their families’ eyes, and yet these children, 7 years old, or 17, they are already old and weary, eaten up and broken down by what has been the most criminal and dirty idea dreamed up and system enacted: CAPITALISM.

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.