Time to tear down this program – a compelling call from someone inside Teach For America to others in it or considering working for it to collapse this ill conceived program. Thanks Molly.
Originally posted on Oye Mundo:
Can you think of any skilled professions in which it would be safe to employ individuals with only a handful of weeks of training? Would you want a nurse who had been hastily trained to be caring for your health and well being? Would you want a lawyer with such little experience to defend you? Would you want a poorly trained mechanic working on your car? Even if any of these people had been college-educated? So why do so many people think it is okay to entrust the education of our nation’s children to college graduates with so little training and experience? Do we believe fundamentally that teaching requires very little skill and commitment? I do not care where you received your degree, if you don’t have any real training in the realm of teaching, and no commitment to sticking around in order to become a good teacher, you simply do not belong in a classroom. It is not safe.
McDonogh Prep Assembly Speech Feb 19, 2014
There are nicer words for what I am trying to do here, it can be called spokesperson or representative. Perhaps more precisely you would call me an evangelist or a salesperson. But my preferred term for this job is propagandist. My work is telling stories and making sermons. And propagandists like salespeople are trying to get you to change your mind, to get you to buy what they are selling. I use this reviled label, to put you on your guard, I want you listening with your sharpest critical thinking engaged.
I want to talk about models of success. McDonogh represents a classical model of success. You study hard, you get into a good school, then you work hard to get a good job, you build your resume, you marry, you have kids, you buy a nice house, and you live comfortably ever after.
This is a success model which is focused on you and largely on the future. I come from a different place. There is still hard work. But it is work without bosses. It is work that changes as your desires and interest change. You might work in the dairy or the kitchen in the morning and in the afternoon you might manage one of our businesses or work on the computer or do child care.
We are doing some advanced experiments in sharing things: clothes and cars and buildings and bicycles and musical instruments. By sharing things we don’t have to buy as many things, which means we can work much less for money. The key to this sharing system is trust. To make these systems work and for the place to feel fair we need to trust each other. This success model is focused on us rather to me and unlike the conventional forward looking model, our success is quite often about right now.
If you get nothing else from these minutes of me speaking I would ask you to start thinking about sharing in a new light. Sharing is not the quaint notion that you learned in kindergarten and have mostly forgotten about. Sharing is one of the few long lever tools that can get us out of this jam that we are in.
The average group of 100 US Americans have 77 cars. Twin Oaks is a bit more than 100 people sharing only 17 cars. This means we don’t have to buy and insure and maintain 60 vehicles. That is a chunk of change.
It also means we need to design systems to satisfy the needs that those vehicles provide. In this and in most of our sharing systems, we have largely succeeded. And this is the key – when you look at the energy consumed, the carbon released, the solid waste produced, the per person water use. By any metric you can imagine we have dramatically less impact and are considerably more sustainable than our mainstream counterparts.
Most guidance counselors don’t include intentional communities like Twin Oaks and Acorn on their lists of possible job opportunities for the prep school grads.
But if you are bothered by the ambient level of fear and crime, if you don’t want to get bills or deal with money, if you want to live more sustainably and model a world which is not in decline, if you want to live in the now and want to foster something that is bigger than yourself, but is not a faceless corporation. Then perhaps you can do your senior project or spend part of your summer at these rural Virginia communes.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
There are several metaphors for community design and outreach. If you believe there are serious problems with industrial capitalist civilization and that anyone who decodes this should have a place in community outside of this system, then you see community as a lifeboat. If you believe that a specific community has a specific mission to complete and there only so many seats to be filled selectively (the number of which are often determined by the number of bedrooms in the community) then you see community as a spaceship.
We (GPaul, Amy. Belladonna Took and myself) just came back from a roller coaster tour of NYC in which we were hustling the Point A ideas. When we arrived i felt compressed by the double crush of shark-like real estate developers on one side and the nearly unavoidable problem of gentrification on the other (blog post to come). It felt like the city was too difficult and there was so much struggle for space, in a way that i had not felt in the Washington DC discussions.
And in the case of the Washington Point A group, it felt like we were building a spaceship. Not everyone in the group was going to be on the ship, but many were actively considering it. And that there was some recognized risk associated with being on this exploratory journey and there were people willing to take that risk.
In NYC we seem to be building out this metaphor and now we are building mission control. What this means as organizers is we are not looking for the select few people who will be next to us in the limited spaceship seats (rooms), but rather we are entering into conversation with anyone who is interested in the project and figuring out how they can help. But “the project” is much larger than just Point A chapter/building. The project is making highly resource sharing and potentially income sharing communities come into being in the NYC greater metropolitan area. Mission control can launch many spaceships and we had a bit of success with this in Brooklyn.
We discovered the need to recognize and support the other spaceships when we went to visit Teagan and Arrow just west of Manhattan. Teagan is a networking titan who has been pitching the need for ecovillage expansion for years. Arrow is a socially responsible industrialist who has a vertically integrate bio-diesel company. Together they are starting the Catalyst Community eco-village project outside in NYC. We also met Jon that evening from the Eastern Light Project, who is trying to save some beautiful land from development. We spoke about there projects and we ended up spending so much time on them, that we never made it to discussing Point A.
This made us realize we have more of a mission control mandate. There are lots of highly useful workshops and skill shares at the annual Twin Oaks communities conference and the vast majority of the people from the NYC area are never going to make it to this event. If most NYC folks can’t make it to events on Staten Island, there is no chance they are going to find themselves in central Virginia. So we should be doing at least parts of this multi-community introducing format in NYC. So we did a miniture version of “Meet the Communities” where each of the perhaps a dozen communities present gave a 90 second self descriptions and then went to different tables in the room to invite more direct communication. This seemed to work well and some important alliances seemed to form.
“I have a Shal request for you” my oldest commune friend and full moon buddy said nearly as soon as i walked back on campus.
He did not have to be more explicit, on the heals of Winter Storm Pax, there was only one thing he could want from me: Sledding. And while Shal is polite and frames his request as optional – our agreement is clear. There is no meeting so important that i can’t walk out of it to go sledding – turns out, there are always more meetings, but sledding is increasingly scarce in central Virginia.
And unlike me, Shal is careful, meticulous and prepared. ”We need to go in the early morning,” he explains. “We want the ice from the cold night air to freeze the slopes solid for the best sliding runs.” After checking the weather we decided we would go at 8 AM the morning after the validation day party.
We tried a couple of different positions on the sleds where were made by Trout out of 55 gallon plastic barrels, hammocks rope and spreader bars [photo below]. What went farthest was me on the bottom laying stomach down and Shal on top. This meant Shal could steer and keep us from hitting trees or the barb wire fence at the bottom. We did a couple hours worth of runs, screaming and hugging every time we broke our own record. Our jubilation mimicked the preteens who took to the slopes the night before, we were certainly not acting our age.
Turns out Shal was right, the meeting was missable.
Shal’s addendum: Something Paxus did not mention that made this such fast sledding is that there was a hard crust on top of the snow that the homemade toboggan slid on top of, which only happens once in a few years. So we were sliding down hills that were effectively sheer ice – that was why it was an opportunity too good to miss, whatever else would just have to happen another time.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
“The issue is not gay soldiers, it is dead soldiers,” read the t-shirt at a rally i attended some years ago and echoed my feelings on this long fought civil rights issue. Of course i want gays to have access to the same rights as non-gays. But this does not eliminate my critique of the military and deep reservations about this dangerous, exploitative and crazy expensive institution.
Similarly with gay marriage, i am thrilled to see such rapid progress on this issue, but i still struggle with the institution of marriage. Specifically, the states sanctioning of personal relationships and the determination of how failed marriages are settled.
Recently, college football star, Michael Sam, announced that he was gay. Predictably, homophobic sports writers and bureaucrats got very upset and started saying all manner of asinine things. I would have ignored this story completely, because i pay almost no attention to sports, except this video kept being posted on Facebook by people who i think have good analysis generally.
Hansen is apparently a big deal in sports news, having twice been named by Associated Press the sportscaster of the year. His main point here is that the ethics of sports culture regarding romantic relationships is seriously messed up. Men can beat, rape and even kill women they are intimately involved with and they are still considered manly enough to be great athletes. And most fans and sports industry insiders are happy to ignore these transgressions. Love another man and we have a serious problem here.
Michael Sam’s daring announcement is part of the cultural shift in this. But i fear the way he is treated (absurdly low draft pick, ridicule and worse by teammates and others inside the industry) may well make him regret his choice to go public. Veteran basketball player Jason Collins all but lost his ability to play the game when he announced he was gay in an interview with Sports Illustrated last April, no team has been willing to sign this talented free agent.
This story compelling 2 minutes of commentary by Hansen reminds us that there is work needed on both sides of this issue: acceptable (or private) intimate behavior of athletes and behaviors that are unacceptable. What really needs to happen to change things culturally and politically is for fans to start writing letter to and boycotting teams and sponsors where players are abusive to women.
Addendum: And as bad as things are, i should confess that as i researched this issue i found that professional football teams are increasingly discriminating against players who break the law or are even known to be abusive to their partners. My hope is this shifts unexpectedly rapidly as some aspects of the gay marriage debate has.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
I took my current name (without all the crazy additions) back in 1984. I did not know it at the time, but it would turn out that it was fairly important that i chose a name which had fairly unique first and last components. This would prove important years later when internet search engines would check to see if there were things more famous than me which had the same words in it (nothing really has for a decade – Paxus was the name of some programming environment which is now largely out of use, best i can tell). My friend Will Forest has a much more difficult time finding the work he does using search tools.
So i was unsurprised when yesterday i started getting emails and texts about Winter Storm Pax. One of the first things i learned about this deadly storm was that it’s name was not chosen by the National Weather Service which is usually responsible for naming storms. Instead this storm was named by the Weather Channel, which decided to name winter storms despite criticism, because the national service does not do this.
Perhaps ironically, i will be dodging this storm by flying over it. As it approaches the NE now, i am going to Sarasota, Florida quite briefly to see my mother’s new residence. And then i will head back to Twin Oaks in time for our lovely validation day party, after (hopefully) the storm blows by.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
Comic update 2/13/14- Winter storm Pax just canceled the flight of the human named Pax.
Missing from this otherwise fine opinion piece is that Dominion just closed the Kewaunee reactor – which had no problems other than a poor performance record. See http://funologist.org/2013/05/13/may-is-kewaunee-closes/
Originally posted on Power for the People VA:
Mother Earth to Tom Farrell: The correct answer is “renewable energy.”
Most of the rest of the country gets this. Wind supplied more new electric generation than natural gas did in 2012. More people work in solar energy than in coal mining. Renewable energy has overtaken nuclear worldwide. Almost no one is building nuclear plants, partly because—here’s an inconvenient truth for you, Tom—they cost too much. Almost three years ago a Duke University study found that power from new nuclear plants is more expensive than solar energy, and the cost of solar has only gone down since then.
Back in 2010, I had just finished defending myself in a court case for trespassing at the information center for the North Anna Nuclear Power plant. The county prosecutor had suggested I be sentenced to as long as half a year in prison for this misdemeanor offense. I had requested a much shorter sentence. We did not disagree on the facts of the case. We did have a disagreement about whether MLK broke laws to make political change. The county prosecutor was quite sure King had not been involved in breaking the law.
Almost two years before my trial, a dozen activists (including myself) had taken over the public tours which were being given at the Nuclear Information Center and started giving our own tours. The center management had called the police from the moment we arrived. The police were very polite and gentle with us, perhaps because there was lots of media around. Perhaps because it was clear we were not a real danger to the safety of the plant. Likely some of both was at play.
At the suggestion i spend half a year in jail, i started to think about Willow and how he had come to rescue me the night I got arrested last time. I worried about missing my time with him, i was fearful of wasting time while in jail. And i had known that it might go terribly wrong when i decided to do this action.
Ultimately, i would be sentenced to only 5 days in jail. Having already served one of them when we were arrested the sentence was really only 4 additional days. With time off for good behavior for a misdemeanor i would be out after just two days and three nights.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]