Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cleaning up the daily dumpster fire


Donald Trump has done a great job in making my job a whole lot harder.  His election mixed with the intensely politicized vibe of a Mendocino County public school staff creates a fifteen minute daily briefing that works towards putting out fires created by the new idiot in charge and the troll-easy opposition that’s ready to overthrow the government (albeit with no guns). 

The informational fires have been nicely put into four categories of Trump/Resistance stories by Nate Silver; founder of

Level 4:  Regular Presidential stuff that’s been exaggerated.  The Executive hiring freeze was a great example of something that happens all the time in Presidential hand-overs (especially party switches) and was treated by many parents and staff as the beginning of total information break down.  Also at this level are the typical “elections-have-consequences” clause like signing off on the reinstatement of the Keystone XL pipeline.  You don’t have to like some of the policies but they are neither abnormal from an institutional standpoint, nor abnormal from a Republican policy standpoint.

Level 3:  Premature or misreported rumors that are either false or have already happened.  The removal of abortion funding from international organizations was portrayed in some places as the end of abortion rights for the United States.  Seriously, I really had students coming in saying that the Executive Order was ending Roe v. Wade and that X teacher had read up extensively on the presidential decree.  The problem is that A) It was not unprecedented, B) It had nothing to do domestic policy,  and C) Executive Orders don’t override SCOTUS cases.  So I explained the history and exactly what the policy says.  The kids can develop their Frame of Reference from what’s real, not emotional logic.

Level 2:  Sensational but inconsequential stuff that Donald Trump does to troll and distract.  The nonsense over the crowd size and the commentary over the illegals voting in California and New York would fit here.  It’s also safe to say that some things at this level could drift into Level 1 but at this point you simply keep presenting an overwhelming amount of information to push back the idiocy of the comments. 

Level 1:  Genuinely unprecedented and troubling actions.  The 20% Import Tax has some serious economic ramifications that those need to be economically investigated.  Trump’s refugee ban with a religious exemption mixed with his unprecedented lack of organizational preparation is much more disturbing.  I need to research the hell out of this thing and come to class with realistic possible outcomes, a history of this kind of action, and the overall context of the policy angle in relation to everything else. 

People talk about the Resistance to the President.  Everybody has their own way of resistance and mine is to educate people using reality and evidence, not emotional logic and hyperbole.  But the teaching days are getting more and more difficult and as the Social Science classes at Ukiah High School become the neutral zones for political discourse, it’s our job to step it up and be ready. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Burger absence

About 10 kids were absent from my fifth period class today.

I wonder why.



Monday, January 23, 2017

A memorable and historical march. Except…

Angela Peoples and her lollipop made that image with a purpose.

“(The photo) tells the story of white women in this moment wanting to just show up in a very superficial way and not wanting to do the hard work of making change, of challenging their own privilege. You’re here protesting, but don’t forget: the folks that you live with every single day—and, probably some of the women that decided to come to the march—voted for Trump, made the decision to vote against self-interests to maintain their white supremacist way of life.”

I’m still trying to figure out how a political movement succeeds by leveraging guilt and racial discrimination against the very people you want to convince to join your struggle.  It’s fairly nonsensical and any person that thinks that the privilege-as-pejorative narrative along with casually throwing around white supremacy will enhance changes in gender and racial equality are talking into really narrow echo chamber.  It will instead empower people like President Trump.

“Without an effort by white women especially to make sure those spaces (marches and rallies) are reflecting the diversity of women and femme people, we’re not going to make the progress we need to….. I need them to recognize they are implicit or complicit benefactors of systems like white supremacy and patriarchy—and that’s a problem.”

No, you really need to work on your skills of empowerment because telling people to listen to you and then shaming them into first guilt, then victimization, probably doesn’t really fit the mold of an successfully organized movement towards equality. 

And I’m way in before:

-You’re white.

-You’re male.

-You’re cis.

-You’re privileged.

-You’re a misogynist.

What I really am is a person that truly believes in equality, that has worked much of my life for that equality, and that’s willing call out something that I think is damaging to that goal. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Trump Anxiety is Real

I live in Mendocino County in Northern California; aka Bernie Sanders’ Country.  In June, Sanders’ garnered 66% of the vote in the California primaries and there is still a significant “Feel the Bern” impact that is felt around Ukiah. 

This means that the Trump Presidency is basically the end of the world. 

The day after the election was not fun from many different angles.  As a government teacher my job is to remain neutral while teaching the inner workings of the American democratic system.  I had to do this while actively loathing the idiot that managed to win the 2016 presidential election.  I managed to do it pretty well.  Not all teachers did.  Apparently some teachers broke down in class, made passionate pleas for resistance, criticized Trump supporters, and created a very detailed picture of the impending American Holocaust.  Besides being wildly unethical it was incredibly unhelpful.  I spent much of November 9th talking students off the narrative that tomorrow all Latinos were going to be deported, all gays/lesbians/transgendered students were going to lose their civil liberties, and that Christian NAZIs were going to roam the streets hunting people that weren’t ideology pure.  Trump’s rhetoric was primary driver of the fear but the opposition to Trump has done a masterful job of manipulating that rhetoric into sheer terror. 

Fast forward to Inauguration Day.  The anxiety is still there but the response to issues has changed a bit.  Yesterday some students were protesting in San Francisco but most were in class where I did my duty as a government teacher and showed every class the swearing in of the President of the United States and his inauguration speech, something I’ve done since 2005.  While it seems that the Inauguration has been something of a controversy in other schools around the country, it didn’t create any administrative pressure in Ukiah.  One of the vice-principals even sat in the live version of the speech.  We had a conversation about the speech while witnessing the reaction from students within my classroom, which was fairly muted for the most part.  Classes engaged in writing and reflection and the students responses were fairly standard from a generation that hasn’t witnessed many inauguration speeches; most thought it was focused on the people, most saw the speech as aggressive, and most hoped that Donald Trump would actually make the perceived economic conditions better in the future.  Many students that didn’t like him before weren’t at all swayed by the speech and some students were so angry at the new President that they actually left the classroom and returned when the speech had ended. 

All in all it was a rather exhausting day. 

Apparently I also gave up my political opinion during the morning because a colleague told me that a student witnessed me holding the bridge of my nose while shaking my head during the live speech.  This is likely because I felt the speech was terrible.  It was a nationalistic diatribe that detailed “American Carnage” and a dystopian vision of a country that has been bought into by both Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters.  While Sanders troops see a country full of misogynistic, racist, white supremacists; Trump troops see a country full of drugs, gangs, and blighted inner cities that are one step away from Escape from L.A.  The speech was nowhere close to unifying, instead it was laser focused on Red states while slowly drawing in the margin by mentioning factory jobs that people in their 50s will never see again.  There was no sense of hope from my sphere at all.

But the education continues.  I will continue to educate that 300 years of democratic political culture doesn’t end with one man.  I will continue to educate that much of the hysteria perpetrated by Trump’s opposition is almost as false as many of Trump’s own misrepresented narratives.  I will continue to educated that most politics is local and that change occurs when differing opinions stop talking, listen to each other, and take the time to compromise.