Archive for November 2007

A Wandering, Disjointed Post on Professionalism and Some Other Stuff

November 29, 2007

I am discovering that my definition of professionalism might not be the same one used by other people I work with.

To wit:

Professional = Soulless and Objectifying


Don’t get me wrong – I understand where the perception of a need for professionalism, professional behavior, professional ethics, etc., comes from, and by and large I don’t disagree. Certainly there needs to be some set of standards loosely governing student-teacher interactions.

However, I am also of the opinion that the best teaching requires the formation of genuine, honest personal relationships between individuals. For me, that means taking students seriously as people, and not blowing them off. [See Martin Buber’s ideas regarding I-Thou and I-It for more of what this means coming from me; I think it’s particularly fitting in a high school setting, as many students are just discovering how to consistently use the I-It mode.]

Do I see students get blown off that often? Not in such a direct way, but I do see what happens when they are taken seriously, how their eyes light up and how they don’t want to stop talking, how they can’t stop talking, how I can’t get them to stop talking – and sometimes, how I don’t want them to stop talking, because the things they say are incredibly interesting and insightful and intelligent, and for the moment, who cares if it’s not about the geopolitical history of Europe or graphing inequalities or the narrative of Animal Farm? They are engaged (the back of my mind, of course, is wondering how to change the focus of that engagement into something that will help the student generate knowledge about something other than, say, YouTube or Dragonforce).

From this I have concluded that they don’t have many opportunities to talk about things that matter to them with someone who will listen, take them seriously, and provide good feedback – ideally, a teacher or other adult. Instead, I see evidence that students are, by and large, learning about a whole host of major life concepts – love (romantic or otherwise), equality/fairness, justice – from their peers and the media (and their peers are learning from the media, so…)

Frankly, I don’t think that’s a good idea, though I do understand the value of peer-to-peer teaching. I understand that all those big, scary, supposedly non-academic concepts used to be the purview of parents, or at least that’s how it was understood, and I don’t want to imply that parents are failing; rather, I think the power of the media can be overwhelming.

Regardless, I think that taking students seriously means answering questions that are generally considered to inappropriate for school – which means creating space to have those conversations with students. I attempt to do that as best I can, but my interactions with students are fleeting and transitory at best, as is my job status. Even so, I consider it evidence of some kind of success when I enter a room and watch the faces of a dozen or more students collapse when they realize I’m not there in place of their teacher (note: I still abide by the rules of punitive discipline provided by the school, so that’s not it).


Feedback on this mess post would be appreciated.


Speechless…. and Highly Amused

November 28, 2007

The Air Sex Championships.

1. Semi-surprisingly, the link is work-safe, and as far as I can tell, the event itself is pretty clean.

2. YATTA! (A reference to the heads of the six men on the right side of the screen)

Search for Yatta on Youtube or Google Video and watch it in all its glory.

Author Courtney Martin on Feminism

November 28, 2007

While this is an otherwise straightforward column, I really liked this bit:

Educated choice: Both men and women need to have access to choices and, even more, they need to have the tools necessary to make good choices. It is not enough to just say that women should have access to abortions, for example. They also need to know all of their options and feel like they have a full understanding of the health risks and quality of life issues that each entails; they also need to have the economic provisions to make whichever choice fits their lives and values best.


The whole thing is a quick read, so check it out.

The triumph of appearance

November 27, 2007

Interesting news:

WASHINGTON (AFP) — A new poll Monday showed Democrat Hillary Clinton losing a general election to all top Republican White House hopefuls, in a new sign that biting political attacks may be harming her 2008 campaign.

The Zogby International hypothetical 2008 matchup, reversing months of Clinton dominance over the Republican field, came as her camp battled in an ugly new spat with her top Democratic rival Barack Obama.

Funny thing is, it’s the primary season, in which the candidates are – theoretically – running against other candidates from their own party. I don’t understand how that shifts D vs. R match-ups so much.

Aravosis at Americablog has a thought:

Then again, the GOP candidates have all been beating up on Hillary the past few weeks, whereas the Democrats are still focused on beating each other.

Get that? The Republicans, even in their primary, are running against the specter of a Democrat – which is akin to softening a target by mortar before invading on foot. One might also call it working the refs by complaining in a practice scrimmage about the other team. The Dems, of course, have no clue about what’s going on.

It’s a brilliant strategy, really, and it only works if the public and the media let them get away with it – and we are.

It’s also a tremendous showing of what happens when party/partisan loyalty becomes paramount; it’s almost like all Republicans are operating on the belief that any Republican is better than any Democrat, no matter what other qualifiers are present. Forget about governance or issues – we’ve got the letter after their name to consider!

Society of the spectacle, indeed.

Hering’s Sense of Self-Preservation and/or Common Sense

November 27, 2007

Apparently it kicked it just long enough for him to write this editorial.

Funny, though – he omits any discussion of why a nonpartisan SecState is good, or why the job has party affiliation attached to it in the first place. He also omits, well, anything else – including his usual attitude that almost always makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

Poor guy – he can’t quite come out and say it, but it’s obvious that he’s disappointed with the state of affairs re: the secretary of state, and so is – and this is why I’m confused – begging that the person who wins be as nonpartisan as possible.

I wonder if he’d say the same thing if the party affiliations were reversed? I think he’d be pretty happy and likely to have a whole new position on the situation.

Who needs consistency, anyway?

John Howard: Australia :: Dick Cheney : United States

November 26, 2007

The big difference is that Howard was willing to put himself in public, at least a bit.

Heck, they even look the same – short, old, balding, pudgy white dudes. (Of course, it’s not hard when the pool of elites to draw from is almost exclusively overweight old white dudes, but hey – sometimes they have hair).

On the other hand, Howard seemed to display the same single-mindedness that has made Cheney so effective at trying to end the world achieving peace, prosperity and democracy for rich white hetero men everybody.

Anyway, Australian novelist Richard Flanagan has this great column in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section that does a fantastic job eviscerating Howard and his legacy. I wish he’d added more to the end about Australia’s future, but so it goes.


John Howard famously said the times were his, and for more than a decade it seemed they were. Australia experienced the greatest and most sustained boom in its history. Yet at its end Australia’s indigenous population was in a ruinous state, its extraordinary environment was threatened on numerous fronts, and its people were beginning to ask where the wealth had gone: public schools and public health were in crisis, social welfare was straitened, housing was unaffordable for many, and wages and conditions were being cut under Howard’s industrial reforms.

Look, kids! It’s Neoliberalism! It looks pretty but kills everything!

Please do read the rest; it’s not that long and it helps illustrate one of the reasons Howard got along so well with the Bush Administration: If one didn’t know better, one might think Bush had been responsible for all the things Howard did in the last decade.

It’s also a great primer for what happens when neoliberalism works, which is about the only thing worse than when it fails.

And while Australia is finally free of John Howard, I’m guessing a religious conservative isn’t going to be that much better…

300 dead by taser in the U.S. this year alone

November 24, 2007

…this is the last one, I promise. But I felt a need to at least post the link.

This is why I despise tasers and police-state tactics.

This needs to stop.