Archive for the ‘education’ Category

It’s long been out there amongst my friends that I’m an ally and supporter of the LGBT crowd. However, I want to a chance to come out as a different kind of ally. I want to say that I support drug legalization and an end to the war on  citizens. I have three major points I feel strongly about making.

1. Medical cannabis is a matter of compassion for me. There are things good people can disagree on, this is not one of them. I believe those who are facing the most dire of diseases and situations ought to have access to whatever makes their quality of life better. This is not negotiable to me. I find it utterly and unforgivably shameful that our leadership gives these patients a hard time.

2. My moral code has nothing against feeling good. America’s protestant heritage seems to want to make anything that makes people happy seem sinful and bad. If you resist the things you like whether they be drugs or coffee or sex that is your decision and I can’t and won’t make you do any different but I do not share that ethos. I am a proud, self- indulgent individual and there is nothing wrong with someone who works a long hard day coming in and smoking or drinking or otherwise fulfilling whatever impulse makes their day brighter. As long as you are an adult and you like it and you aren’t putting another earthling in danger do as you will. Enjoy that toke, enjoy that cocktail, enjoy that experience that makes you human. I refuse to see the recreational use of any drug as bad so long as it is not interfering with a person’s ability to live what we would consider a normal, productive life. At no point in time do I confuse the legalities of my present day country with my morals. Just because something is legal does not make it right and just because it is illegal does not mean it is wrong. I refuse to see otherwise decent people as criminals just because the state wants me to.

3. Drugs are illegal because of racism and greed. That’s it. It’s not about keeping people safe. It’s about racism and greed. Please by all means read up on it. Read about Hearst and DuPont and the fear mongering they did in their day. Read about the attitudes toward the Chinese and Mexicans. Read about what the government is doing to present day South Americans.

And then when you’re done reading that go to the November Coalition and see what you too can do to help those caught up in this disastrous failure we call a drug war. It’s a war whose only winners are the cartels and the government, the rest of us lose. We lose safety, we lose freedom, we lose whole generations to the school-prison pipeline. I think it’s time it stopped. You do not have to be a user of drugs to know this has gone too far. I think it’s even more important in a way for us non-users to be known as allies. As long as the group in question is “the other” it’s easy to demonize them.

So there you go. The chips will fall where they may.

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I just saw a friend of a friend’s post on Facebook about his astrological sign. I always chuckle at stuff like that. I was an astrologer for a long time. I enjoyed it for most of those years. One thing I do not enjoy is lies and deception. That’s exactly what I believe the astrological community has begun to engage in. I’m not talking about their belief in it. You can believe in something I don’t think is real and as long as you truly believe it I’m not going to say you are liar, misguided maybe but not a liar- I think there is a difference. But astrologers are using the zodiac in a way that it no longer exists.

Precession is a word used to describe the change in the orientation of the rotation of a rotating body. Axial precession, the kind we are referring to when we discuss astronomy, is the movement of the rotational axis of an astronomical body, whereby the axis slowly traces out a cone. In the case of Earth, this type of precession is also known as the precession of the equinoxes. Earth goes through one of these cycles about every 26,000 years, during which the positions of stars as measured in the equatorial coordinate system will slowly change. Over this cycle, Earth’s north axial pole moves from where it is now, within 1° of Polaris, in a circle around the ecliptic pole, with an angular radius of about 23.5 degrees. The shift is 1 degree in 72 years. Hipparchus is the earliest known astronomer to recognize and assess the precession of the equinoxes at almost 1º per century, so it’s not like the current crop of astrologers doesn’t know.

The effect this ends up having is that the millions of people who buy or read astrological products are being told about a sign which is actually not their own. The sun moves about a degree per day. The current number is off about 24 degrees. So unless you were born at the very tail end of your sign, you belong to the sign that precedes it. If you were born the first week of September you are not a Virgo, you are a Leo. If you were born December 10th you are not a Sagittarius, you are a Scorpio. How much money have astrologers made selling people the wrong goods? Yet, they keep just plowing along. Vedic astrologers take this change into account, but most Western astrologers don’t. The newspapers you are reading sure don’t. Lots of astrologers employed by magazines and newspapers giving a lot of false information. If you are going to bother believing in something shouldn’t you trouble yourself to get it right? Or have we all just gotten to the point we don’t give a damn and just want to collect our money?

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There has been quite a bit going on lately that has caused me to think about what we consider education in this country right now. Mississippi’s school system has recently been outed for the racist, homophobic set up that it is. As if the treatment of Constance McMillen wasn’t enough it has come to light that a Nettleton school has race requirements for who can run for class officers. I am embarrassed at my state’s behavior in these cases. Yet, we are not alone in our disregard for the needs of students. A recent report has shown that fewer than half of all black males graduate from high school.

“…the rate at which Black males are being pushed out of school and into the pipeline to prison far exceeds the rate at which they are graduating…”

The findings are in the 2010 Schott Foundation Report and although they do mention some individual successes in New Jersey and Maryland the reality is dismal. How did we get here? Substandard curriculum, bullies, drugs, overcrowded schools, poorly trained and inexperienced teachers, how did it all go down the tubes so fast? It seems like we had an education system the world could envy not too long ago. Yet, today I look around and we are truly failing these children. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, all have predictably low graduation rates for black males but even states like Colorado and Washington are falling down on the job. Overall drop-out rates have risen for the second year in a row. In the midst of this failure we are cutting education. The economic meltdown America has experienced has caused state revenues to drop by astounding proportions. School districts long ago stopped trimming fat and started cutting into the real meat of our system.

If ever there was a time ripe for reform this is it. We need it. We won’t be able to compete in the new world economy without it. With that in mind I would like to introduce my readers (all four of you:) ) to John Taylor Gatto.

John Taylor Gatto

Gatto is the New York Teacher of the Year who quit on the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal back in ’91 and went to work trying to reform our education system. In his Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling he says, “I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time, I became an expert in boredom.” His body of work presents some very good ideas about how we got here. There is plenty of blame to go around, too. Students are bored, teachers are bored, why wouldn’t they be? Teachers themselves are products of the same sucky schools that are failing our children now. As Gatto says, “By the time I finally retired in 1991, 1 had more than enough reason to think of our schools-with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers-as virtual factories of childishness.” I couldn’t agree more. The remarkable thing is it was all set up like this. Gatto offers evidence that “From the beginning, there was purpose behind forced schooling, purpose which had nothing to do with what parents, kids, or communities wanted. Instead, it was forged out of what a highly centralized corporate economy and system of finance bent on internationalizing itself was thought to need; that, and what a strong, centralized political State needed, too. School was looked upon from the first decade of the twentieth century as a branch of industry and a tool of governance.” You can read his essay Some Lessons From the Underground History of American Education for some great quotes on this. Quotes like Woodrow Wilson:

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

The bottom line seems to be that we have arrived at the current state of affairs by no accident and it is only by intense effort at change that we will lift ourselves from this slippery slope of systemic failure. We have to accept that this is not just about parental failings, nor about money, nor about teacher training and salaries. It’s an entire way of life we have to rethink. We do not need schools to prepare children for manual labor jobs anymore. We do not need childhood unnaturally lengthened. We do need real education, not just compulsory prison for those under 18. Gatto has described the system as a “diseased empire.” All empires crumble, this one’s time is at hand if we care about our future. Do what you can. Read, learn, promote change, release your children from the bonds of school, but make no mistake, the people who set this system up had no problem jamming your children into their scheme- one size fits all- No child Left Alone. Their lofty visions are not humane ones. I like how Gatto puts it,

“only the fresh air from millions upon millions of freely made choices will create the educational climate we need to realize a better destiny…..But here is a warning: should we ever agree to honor the singularity of children which forced schooling contravenes, if we ever agree to set the minds of children free, we should understand they would make a world that would create and re-create itself exponentially, a world complex beyond the power of any group of managers to manage. Such free beings would have to be self-managing. And the future would never again be easily predictable.”

We must deconstruct forced schooling, minimize indoctrination, free universal libraries, sponsored apprenticeships for the young that want them, maximize access to tools, labs, mentors. “Reform” is not enough to save us, the entire notion of schooling must be changed.

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