Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Response to Freire for Curriculum Studies Class

“Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world” (Freire, 1970/1993/2013).

For my Curriculum Issues class, I had to respond to one of the chapters we weren’t covering in class. I chose the excerpt Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressesd because I recognized the title. The rest of this post is what I submitted for my assignment.
How have I never read any of his work before? I added several of his books to my Goodreads “To Read” list and hope to find time over winter break to delve into more of his writing. Freire spoke to my intellect and my heart. His words resonated, based on my experiences as a teacher and (never ending) student. I hope you do not mind me not being completely formal. I could, but I think this response would be better if I am a little less formal because this excerpt “blew my mind.” I highlighted so much of the piece, but I will try to stick to the major parts.

The more I write on my own and teach students about writing, the more I think about effective communication. I blogged about communication and shared it with students: http://www.jennwillteach.com/2016/03/needing-connection.html. Within the last couple of years, I have also taught students the burden of communication (when writing) falls on the author. Every choice the author makes (diction, paragraphing, grammar, punctuation) should help him/her communicate the message. Then, it is up to the reader to pick up the clues and interpret the message.

What Freire posits resounds with me. “Men are not built in silence, but in word, in work, an action-reflection” (1970/1993/2013). His use of “men” throughout does bother me, especially since this is a more current piece, and he was writing about the “oppressed,” but that aside, Freire speaks true: we build people (specifically our students) with our words, our work, and our actions. As teachers and members of a society, we must reflect on everything we do because just as we can build, we can also destroy with our words, works, actions.

“But while to say the true word…is not the privilege of some few men, but the right of every man…nor can he say it for another, in a prescriptive act which robs others of their words” (1970/1993/2013). I began my career doing more of the speaking as a “sage on the stage” than my students. I robbed too many of them of their stories. My intentions were good—I mean, am I not the teacher? Luckily, it did not take me long to become much more humble, to realize the more I know, the less I know. I began my journey encouraging students to believe in their own voices and to speak out. Even with small aspects, like when students would ask, “J Dub, should I start a new paragraph here?” I discuss the two major times to start a new paragraph, then ask, “What do you think?” As I have paradoxically become more confident in my teaching abilities and in my students’ abilities, I have even let them informally blog. This gives them a chance to work on finding their unique style and a chance to freely express their opinions. By using their voices, my students can name the world, transform it, and “achieve significance as men” (1970/1993/2013).

Freire’s thoughts on dialogue also fascinate me: “It must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one man by another,” and “Dialogue cannot exist…in the absence of a profound love for the world and for men” (1970/1993/2013). Bear with me as I pull one more quote: “Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to other men. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause—the cause of liberation” (1970/1993/2013). This is why I stress to all teachers the importance of loving ALL students—not as a warm, fuzzy emotion, but as Freire stated it an act of “liberation.” I hear so many teachers say they love their students, but their actions and “well-intentioned” words speak louder than the emotion they casually toss around. Teachers/people cover their ignorance with “love” so they never have to make themselves uncomfortable and change. They never have to stand in front of a metaphorical mirror, examine themselves, find all the ugliness, and fix it. Instead they “love” students, so how can their words/actions possibly be construed as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc.? They never meant that. It was just a joke! But, I agree with Freire: love is courageous. Love will admit it is wrong, horribly wrong, and seek to rectify that wrong. Then, love will seek to right those wrongs—and seek liberation for those our “love” has oppressed.

I have many other quotes, but I will skip ahead in the interest of saving space. I have a presentation this weekend at Oklahoma Council of the Teachers of English. My premise focuses on changing what we teach in ELA. I think I will include this quote: “It is not our role to speak to the people about our own view of the world, not to attempt to impose that view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their view and ours” (1970/1993/2013). I am fed up with teaching the “dead, White men.” It is 2017, and we still act as if those are the most important (or only) stories we should share. We spout platitudes of a “common” or “shared” culture, but why must that culture be White? White is not even a race—it is an ideology. By continuing to center those DWM and marginalizing the others, we continue to push a White-centric belief system. We perpetuate systemic injustices with our choices: whom we choose to feature, and whom we choose to silence. That silence does not encourage dialogue as Freire sees it. That silence encourages oppression. Oh, but we can again hide the silence under a veil of love or compromise or kindness or getting along or kumbaya or whatever word we choose to erase others. “To glorify democracy and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on humanism and to negate man is a lie” (1970/1993/2013). As an educator, I can no longer shadow my ignorance with bright words; I can no longer silence students by pretending my worldview is the only one; I can no longer continue a curriculum of oppression by only including DWM or those few authors deemed “acceptable” by DWM; I can no longer be part of the problem. I must be part of the solution and use love to seek liberation for all my students. Thus, I hope “to speak a true word…to transform the world” (1970/1993/2013).

Excerpts from Paulo Freire (1970, 1993). Pedagogy of the Oppressed In David J. Flinders and
Stephen J. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader: Fourth Edition (pp. 75-86,
95-100). New York, New York: Routledge. 

Shaking up ELA

I recently did a short presentation for Oklahoma Council of the Teachers of English. I submitted a proposal with a sketchy idea and a terrible title: “Shaking up ELA.” But, I knew I wanted to talk about seriously changing what we teach in ELA.

About a month before the presentation, my husband and I were talking. I wrote my thoughts so I wouldn’t lose them. I did little revision because it actually turned out well.

Basically, I envision huge curriculum changes in ELA—otherwise, how will we change the system? Yes, the system needs changing because all we’re doing is upholding the status quo.

Mostly, I ad libbed and spoke from the heart (I really wish I’d recorded it so I could reflect), but I’ll include the tangible pieces.

Ultimately, I stressed how what we say AND our silence speaks volumes to our students. And, we can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Teaching is a political act—whether we like it or not.

Here’s the quick Prezi I shared: https://prezi.com/p/ivfoptpik4an/

At the end, I read the note I’d written:

I'm tired of perpetuating the system. Every time I choose a white author over any other author. Every time I choose male over other genders. Every time I choose hetero over other sexualities. Every time I chose the same works/authors rather than even entertain something outside the Holy Canon. Every time I consciously, or subconsciously, choose the status quo, I reaffirm the systemic inequities.

I think it's wonderful we had several sessions about "introducing" different authors into our curriculum, but the time for introduction is over. We're not looking at groups of people that suddenly sprang up overnight. We've had decades to "introduce" Black authors, Muslim authors, Gay authors, Transgender authors, Latino authors, Cherokee authors, Choctaw authors (yep, there's more than one group of Native Americans).

These marginalized groups have fought, bled, died for their right to be off the margins. Why does the status quo insist on pushing back or trotting out palatable works by accepted "representatives" of certain groups at certain times of the year?

It's time (really, it's past time) for us, ELA teachers--especially Whites--to lead the charge. It's time for us to stop introducing and to get out of our own way. It's time to let other voices be heard. Those voices already exist; we have to stop actively and passively suppressing them. It's 2017: you can no longer claim ignorance or laziness or comfortableness. Our comfort hurts our students. How? By denying them a right to see themselves in books and movies. By not showing them authors just like them who see and understand them. By only showing them the plight of those "poor people" instead of also sharing the triumphs. By showing them that status quo is the only acceptable path.

Now is the time to shake up ELA. If not us, then who?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

For the Out of Work Teacher...I'm Struggling Too

I’m struggling right now, so indulge me while I wallow and work through this with writing. Plus, maybe my story will at least let other teachers know they aren’t alone. Otherwise I’d keep my whining to myself.

In April my principal let me know they were “opening up my position”—a nice way of kicking me to the curb. As it was only my second year at the school, I was still on “probation,” and it was much easier to get rid of me. I have so many issues with this.

1. This was actually my twelfth year of full-time teaching. Why do districts treat teachers like first-year rookies each time you start a new place? Just because I’m new to your building doesn’t mean I have amnesia of the last 12 years. I didn’t just wake up and start fresh, with no wisdom or experience or lesson plans. Why do schools need to make it so easy to get rid of teachers? Oh wait, I know the answer to this: teaching isn’t treated like a real profession and teachers aren’t afforded any trust. There are all those BAD teachers running around! Lock your doors and protect your innocent children.

2. If you can’t trust me, why the f*ck did you hire me? Or, why ask me back for a second year (which is also probationary)? If I’m such a sh*tty teacher, why give me another year? Oh that’s right, I’m actually not a bad teacher, which brings me to #3.
3. I’ve been in trouble several times this past year for stupid stuff

(Seriously, it is stupid: not giving detentions for phones [we are zero tolerance—you even see a phone, it’s detention—like I have time for that], making adults uncomfortable during PD [still have no idea how big old meanie me managed that], “inciting rebellion” in my classes by letting them talk about the school rules, tweeting something construed as negative about the school [even though I never mentioned the school—and the tweet wasn’t about it], etc.).

Not once, lemme say it again, not once have I been in trouble for my teaching. Well, I guess you could say the “inciting rebellion” was my teaching. ;-) Yet, I’m not being asked back. I’m at the mercy and whims of an administrator’s feelings. I wasn’t even given a reason because no reason is needed those first two years.

4. The funny part (I have a gallows’ sense of humor): I’ve received my best evaluations these last two years from two different administrators. I’ve had constructive feedback, healthy dialogue when we disagree, and a feeling of mutual respect…of course neither of those admins have a voice in my future employment.

5. Honestly, I felt this was coming, and while it shouldn’t hurt, it does. It really does. It hurts to think I can push myself, risk my health, work like a dog, see remarkable (really incredible) student growth and improvement and realize it’s still not enough. That I’m not enough.

No, I’m not fishing for compliments or accolades or pats on the head or even stickers. That’s not my style. I’m simply expressing what I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling: no matter what we do as teachers, it’s never going to be good enough for those in power.

Please don’t tell me I shouldn’t care about admins because I’m doing it for the kids. That cliché will not help me keep my job, find a new job, or pay my bills.

But, I do have so much student support. I’ve even heard from parents about how upset their child is and how they are also upset. Other teachers are shaken and pissed off. I have built a pretty good reputation for being an effective teacher, so if I’m not being asked back, is anyone else safe? People who know me, really know me, as a teacher, are shocked. The general reaction from other teachers and friends has been, “Are you f*cking serious?” Yep, as a heart attack.

Meanwhile, I’m figuratively curled in a corner, not blindsided but still stunned.

6. However, I am a big girl. I’m applying for other jobs, which I’ve been doing since about February (told you I felt this coming). I’ve applied to five different schools so far. I’ve had one interview and crickets. I know it’s still early—that doesn’t help my anxiety over my ambiguous future. Two jobs have been filled. The one I interviewed for will be handed to someone who can coach two sports…oh, and teach English.

My inner figure shrinks further into the corner. Those ridiculing voices suddenly seem to be voices of truth: I’m really not good enough. Because, honestly, it shouldn’t be this hard for someone with my resume, in a state desperate for warm bodies, to find another position. Even with ELA teachers being a dime a dozen and ELA not being as important as STEM or athletics.

And, I’m looking around at the average or below average teachers who get to keep their jobs because they aren’t troublemakers like I am.

They don’t get the results I do, but results are nothing compared to compliance.

7. Plus, the thought of starting over in another district exhausts me. To move my books and belongings to another room—again. (The last three times I’ve done that, I’ve had to clean out the previous teacher’s crap before I could even move my possessions in.) To make new friends, which is hell to an introvert—again. To learn the ropes and students in a new district—again. To learn to navigate all the unspoken—again. To be treated like a rookie—again. To worry I won’t be asked back—again.

Is it really worth it? The pay sucks. The hours are ludicrous. The lack of respect and autonomy is stifling. I swear to god if you say anything about “the kids,” I will punch you in the face. If the kids were the only aspect of my job, then I could simply think about them. However, the kids end up being the least of anyone’s concerns.

8. Now I’ve reached a point where I don’t want to bother anymore. My heart is broken and my spirit is tattered. Maybe I shouldn’t be in education. Thus, I’m looking for jobs outside of education…which has turned up a whole set of thoughts I thought I’d laid to rest: I’m not qualified for anything but teaching. I’m just a teacher.

Yes, yes, I am an effective communicator, a virtuoso at multitasking, adept with technology, blah blah blah. Yes, I’m definitely trainable. But, why do I want to start over again in another field? My degree is in education. I don’t want to educate adults. I’m really not fond of adults. At least with teens I believe they still have a chance, still have potential.

I never thought I’d have to worry about qualifying for anything else. I was going to teach, get a master’s, move on to something else in education, maybe get a doctorate (dreams!), and again move on to something education-related. I have no desire to do anything else. Unfortunately, it looks like I’ve overstayed my welcome and education doesn’t want me.

So, if you hear of any jobs for an out-of-work, washed-up, unwanted former English teacher, let me know. Hmmm, wonder if I could stage a real life Breaking Bad. He was a former teacher, right?

**6-10-17 Update, I’ve applied for every ELA job in the area, which was really not many. Because of the stupid lupus, I really can’t commute a long way. I know I’m a masochist for trying to stick with education. At one school that had two openings, I applied on a Tuesday and by Thursday I received an automated email telling me the positions were filled/closed.

I may have a job (I’m waiting to hear back), but it’s really difficult knowing I’m not a district’s first choice nor is the position really what I would like. I’ll admit it’s pride, but, dammit, so what? Other careers are allowed to take pride in their accomplishments. Why can’t teachers? It doesn’t mean I have or will become complacent—that’s not my style. I’ve worked hard to become an “expert” in my field, but I also know I will never stop learning and improving.

I’ve made teaching my life, so, yes, it sucks when my hard work hasn’t paid off…

When I’m not a first choice…

When I have glowing recommendations and have built an impressive resume…

It hurts.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Experimenting with Revision

I’m finishing up my 12th+ year of teaching. But, I still am learning…and I still make mistakes.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with teaching writing, specifically research papers. I’ll admit during my first 5(ish) years of teaching, I appreciated the format of five paragraph essays and the Schaffer Method because it was something known—something concrete I could teach.

Writing is so subjective and amorphous…how the hell do you teach what you can’t exactly explain?

My first AP summer conference was an eye opener. I had an amazing, dynamic woman who had been teaching more than 20 years—and still loved it! She had an overwhelming amount of energy and handouts and tips and tricks and advice and wisdom. I could have listened to her for longer than the week we had. She helped me begin breaking the mold I’d encased myself in. Unfortunately, AP, and college writing, still needs quite a bit of format. And, I’ve taught AP longer than any other level.

I further evolved as a writing teaching when I began writing more myself. I’ll admit I started with writing AP essays with my students. But, I at least dropped one of the “required” body paragraphs. Haha! As I wrote, I actually began thinking about my writing and how best to communicate an idea. It wasn’t simply topic sentence, example, commentary, rinse, and repeat. I thought about punctuation. About the rules. I didn’t make all my changes that year, but the journey has continued since those first steps in 2007.

Each year, I get better, more confident in teaching writing.

I’ve also become better and more adept at discussing writing with students rather than “dictating.” I love looking in a student’s eyes and saying, “Hmmm, that’s a good question. What do you think?” or “Let’s look at your sentence. You could use this and achieve this effect. Or, you could do this and achieve this effect. What do you like better?” It’s amazing how empowering it is for them to make the decisions about their communication. That kind of freedom can also be terrifying for many of them, especially if tied to a grade (don’t make that mistake, teacher).

This year and last pushed me even more. I work with juniors who have barely written anything since middle school. Hell, I would’ve even taken a formulaic essay. I can work with that. I’ve almost started at ground zero: basic essay structure (they needed training wheels), grammar/mechanics IN CONTEXT (not drill and kill), annotation, analysis, blah, blah, blah. I even pulled out some of my 8th/9th grade assignments to introduce skills to them.

I do have to say I’m incredibly proud of my students’ growth last year and this.

Now that I’ve prefaced enough…on to the actual post. Sorry, folks, I’m big on context!

Grading research papers has always been the bane of my existence. They take me so long! I try to read them twice: once for content and once for format/grammar/mechanics. In years past, I’ve been the copy editor, slashing and correcting until the paper lies bleeding on my desk (partly why I switched to pink/purple pens from red).

Each year, I try to find loopholes and more efficient ways to grade and actually help students instead of them glancing at their grade, ignoring my corrections, and trashing the paper. Last year, I only butchered the first two pages and focused on content for the rest. That saved me some time, but still didn’t teach students much, even though I had them do another revision.

This past weekend, I think I had a brilliant idea. I handed back the “final” drafts on Monday. Students grabbed a highlighter and a red pen (which I keep in my class for other assignments).

My directions:
1. Grab a highlighter.
2. Look at the 1st source on your Works Cited.
3. Find it in your paper.
4. Once you find it, highlight the citation and the source. You only have to do this once for each source.
5. Now, do this for all your sources.
6. Compare the Works Cited and your citations. Are there any in your paper not on the WC? Are there any on the WC not in your paper? Circle those.
7. You cannot list it on the WC unless you used it in your paper. Period. If you use it in your paper, you have to list it on your WC.

Part II: To earn your grammar/mechanics research paper grade:
1. You must find and correct 15 mistakes.
2. You can use capitalization, any punctuation, spelling mistakes. There must be a variety--not just 15 capitalization mistakes.
3. Highlight the sentence you are correcting. Make the correction in RED INK.
4. If you actually used the revision checklist for your rough draft and are having problems finding mistakes, feel free to play around with punctuation: use a colon, semicolon, and/or dash.

I had some of the most productive discussions with students during this process. They weren’t afraid of failing, so many of them really did play with punctuation. They also felt free to not use my suggestions. Seeing their confidence gave me a high.

Today, Tuesday, I asked for feedback: 1. Was yesterday helpful? 2. What is one thing you learned/remembered?

Overall (like over 90%), students said this was helpful. Many of them said they learned their papers are never finished. Just when they think they’re done, they should re-read and make more corrections. It’s only been 2 months since they submitted these, but the majority couldn’t believe how “bad” the papers were. That’s growth, readers.

So much of AP writing is rushed and “bad” writing. I try to stress the process whenever I can. I will definitely do this assignment again. I think I’ll only wait 2 weeks-1 month next time—kind of depends on whether I need to review that fancy punctuation (as the kids call it). Putting some of the work back in their hands saved me and actually taught them something.

Why didn’t I have this epiphany sooner?!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Whites Will Never Find Greatness (by Themselves)

I knew Trump was going to win as soon as I knew he was a Republican candidate. Why? Because I know how base humans can be.

That sounds pessimistic, bordering on nihilistic, but humor me while I work through some of my thoughts (and emotions) after the election.

This will not be a white guilt or white woman’s tears post.

I hope I never detract from those voices more silenced than my woman’s voice. After all, I am still white and still enjoy privilege. Instead, I want mostly to address my thoughts toward that white woman audience.

People of color (especially those women who continue to lead the charge even though white women do everything in their power to cripple them) know how white people screwed them—continue to screw them. Hell, they know their history. White people are the deliberately blind, ignorant, deaf, tunnel-visioned voters. This post is for them.

I have maintained a constant state of dread and nausea since I first heard Trump connected to the Republican Party. Sure, I did my share of laughing early on. Come on, he’s a buffoon. He’s going to deport Muslims? Force Mexico to pay for a wall? Tiny baby Jesus. How asinine are those two ideas?! How could intelligent people vote for someone so clearly unqualified, so clearly wrong? Yes, that last rhetorical question is stupid because even then I knew the answer to that: People hate losing their power, whether they earned it for real or “earned” it by being born with white skin.

I took my Latinx students seriously when they asked me what would happen to them. All I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I would try to be optimistic for them, “Nothing will happen. There’s no way he will get elected.” Ahhhh, if only that were true.

I spent the next several months watching in horror (but not surprise) as the Facebook “friends” showed their true colors and refused to listen to reason. I’m not going to pretend I’ve always been “woke.” However, I’m a personality type (INTJ) that will listen to other sides, ponder them, dig for any truth, and then can change my mind with relative ease—if presented with truth/facts/logic. When I realize something is right/wrong, I make that appropriate change. While I’ve squirmed in embarrassment, discomfort, and guilt over the last five-ish years, I’ve also come to see how wrong I’ve been about being colorblind, about respectability politics, about objectification of women and ownership of their lives, about LGBT+ issues, and so many other issues.

I thought I was out of the cave before. The last few years have shown me I was still enjoying the shadows, chained to the floor. I thank so many people on Twitter for their patience, their brutal honesty, their anger, their emotion, and their bravery in sharing their lives with stupid people like me. I believe in educating myself, but I thank them for sharing their stories so I have material to use in my education. The pain of the blinding sun as they shone the truth of their experiences…wow. I admit I unfollowed people like Melinda Anderson (@mdawriter) because she pissed me off for so much. Then I realized why I was angry—she was right. I had been doing the “not all white people” crap instead of acknowledging hers (and others’) experiences.

Although I teach literary theory to students and the importance of looking at more than one side, I had developed a blind spot about my own egocentricity. I’ve learned the danger of only “reading” one narrative. So, I found @mdawriter and many other important voices, followed them, shut my mouth, listened and amplified them, and reflected on myself whenever those voices upset my precious little white fragility. Actually, it’s been awhile since I was offended by anyone other than white people. So, let’s discuss that now…

To reiterate, I’m angry, disgusted, saddened, but not surprised by the election. I know people can be better; I know they can work to improve themselves and their world; however, people are generally such selfish assholes that they rarely surprise me. Sadly, acts of generosity and kindness surprise me more than violence and hate.

Mostly, I’m so incensed by white women I could actually do harm. White women, here’s the message we’ve sent to the world:

1. We’re okay with the patriarchy as long as they take care of us and buy us pretty things. More candidly, men just need to buy us red hats and Trump T-shirts to make us happy. Or, gold-plated rooms. Okay, I can’t prove this point with empirical evidence—well, I could, but I don’t have the time/energy—so this point is simply emotional.

2. We would rather elect a man who brags about “grabbing [us] by the pussy” then elect someone who actually has a vagina. Good job, White women. Way to be leaders of the “free” world. Way to send a message of equality. No, I definitely don’t advocate voting for Hillary simply because she has the same anatomy, but I do advocate thinking for yourself and what’s actually best for society. This time, it was Hillary.

3. We will do anything to make sure our white men retain their power. Why? Because it benefits us. Makes me think of that scene in Gone With the Wind, with the thinly veiled reference to the KKK: The men created their “political society” to protect their women. Sure people died, but by god, those White women’s reputations went unbesmirched. For all our f*ing platitudes, we really want men to protect our “purity,” maintain our social status, keep us on those mythological pillars. Fools. We’re fine with White men catcalling, disparaging, discriminating against, harassing, sexually assaulting us as long as they continue to place us on pedestals to show we’re better than other women. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Jesus, White women. If you're really wanting equality, it ain't comin' from your White men. Why do we need to completely sh*t on women of other races? Do you realize how stupid you are? Those women could be our allies, our sisters in the fight for equality. Instead, we are such competitive and power-grubbing bitches, we can’t acknowledge help from women of color. Honestly, women of color are doing more for equal rights than we are, especially before and after this election. They were those prophets in the wilderness, calling out our doom if Trump were elected. Being stupid and perverse, we White women heard those messages and blithely said, “Who cares? Men will still take care of us.” And we flipped off those marginalized groups, those groups who wisely voted against Trump because they know the ugly side of America. Dear god we are deliberately dumb and hateful.  That takes me to my next area of contention…

5. Allow me to wax idealistic on this point…Why couldn’t Whites vote for humanity instead of their own selfish desires? Why can’t White men release their death grip on their power and the government and the nation? Why can’t White women realize a vote for marginalized groups would also (selfishly) serve their own equality? Any positive step toward equity for one group is potentially a step for all groups…if we would only realize this. You know the cliché, “We are only as strong as our weakest link,” so why do Whites deliberately create those weak links? Whites continually beat down and beat down and beat down anyone who isn’t White (or cis or hetero or “Christian” or binary or whatever the hell makes one acceptable to the Whites in power). Whites should be afraid of other races gaining power and staging an “uprising.” Those groups are rightfully pissed at us. We’ve earned their ire—and continually stoke that fire; then we castigate them for their anger.

Why couldn’t Whites (especially women) realize a vote against Trump was a vote for all of the society? Why can’t Whites realize strengthening the groups we’ve deliberately weakened would, in fact, improve our entire society? When will Whites realize this incestuous exchange and sharing of power is not a healthy symbiotic relationship, but is parasitic? Whites are sucking the life from America, denying our country any possible chance at greatness. No one and nothing can ever be great if you’ve stolen, murdered, pillaged, and raped to achieve power. Power does not equal greatness—it’s simply a show of strength. If your pathway to “greatness” is littered with the torn, bloody, broken bodies of others, you are not great. You are a bloodthirsty tyrant, only great in your own bloated, egotistical, warped mind.

Greatness is not a quality one achieves by hurting others. Greatness is a higher quality: something one aspires to by throwing off the baser qualities. One becomes great by realizing one is nothing without others. Those “others” are not simply people who look and believe like you. Those “others” are people who challenge you and push you and expect you to be a better human being.

If we really want America to be great, we need to finally admit we have royally screwed everything up since the first White landed on the continent. We need to finally admit Whites do not have all the answers, nor should Whites hold all the power.

To truly (and finally) make America great, we need to stop finding scapegoats and admit the reason America is screwed up is because Whites have tried so hard to keep those “others” under our heels—and they’re sick of it.

Whites need to finally admit we, by ourselves, will never find greatness.

Those “others” will be America’s salvation…if Whites will stop screwing up that real search for greatness.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Guest Blog: Music

Below is a blog from one of my students. I let them write about any topic they wanted so I could assess their content. This student gave me permission to repost. I did not make any corrections because I'm not worried about sharing a "perfect" piece (although it's already gorgeous). I meant to share this awhile ago, but I kept forgetting to ask her.

Reprinted with permission from my student. The student retains all rights to this work. 

      Music is dangerous. It can lead people to tears, bring back harsh memories, and it can make them smile. You are the master of your decisions when you are the master of your emotions. Society today relies mostly on emotions, not facts. That is what makes it so perilous. If you control the music, you control the people. Think about it. When you listen to a song in a soft minor key, you tend to calm down. Your heart rate slows to keep time. You might close your eyes. You breathe deeply. You submit to the melody, and are no longer entirely in control.

      The musician has an important job. A common misconception about music is that it moves people. It is not an active being. It’s more like potential energy. It sits, vibrating, buzzing with life, but not alive. Musicians have to move it. They have to contort the sound and manipulate the instrument to get their personal propaganda to your ears. What you feel is not the music prodding your heart. It is what someone is trying to communicate to you. You feel sadness because they fashioned the song to make you feel that way. Ninety percent of music is not emotion, it is more a calculation of human tendency. Crescendo increases tension. Rubato increases drama because you don’t know exactly what comes next. It is a difficult thing to do because your tone and intonation must remain impeccable at all times, as well as keeping a steady pulse, so that your listeners will give their full attention. You have to express the emotion without getting too wrapped up in it yourself.

      Picture it like this: the musician is speaking, and the melody is a megaphone. If he or she speaks too loudly, the words become jumbled, and indecipherable. It grates on one’s ears.  If that person speaks too softly, the megaphone will not pick up on the voice. It is like the device is not being used at all. Instead, a perfect balance between sound and silence must be achieved so that the audience clearly understands the message.

       The virtuoso takes a breath, and tells his or her story to you. They pour out their hearts to the crowds because they have to. They have no other way to say what they need to tell you. As the curtain closes, and the audience stands, the performer smiles. He has just disclosed to the people a lifetime of secrets, yet the world is none the wiser.