Tag Archives: First World Problems

The American Public Education Factory: what is it producing?….Volume 1

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The American Public Education Factory: what is it producing?….Volume 1

I have been really trying to get some sort of an outline in my head about this topic for a while; I have decided to just start blogging it as it comes because every time I think I have it concretely fleshed out in my head, some new thought comes in about the social injustices associated with public school systems. From epistemology to NCLB, to “common core” to booster clubs, regurgitation vs. creative thought AKA actually thinking, ingenuity to different types of intelligence, to the perpetuation of rape culture and #Iammorethanadistraction, ugh the list can go on.

I am going to start with socioeconomic inequality in schools. Studies have shown that the more engaged in school a child is, the better they do. It isn’t rocket surgery. If a child is involved in sports, music, drama, whatever their choice of extracurricular activities are, the busier they are (no time for other naughtiness), the more invested they are in better grades, the more involved their parents might be in their world, “the more” everything. Things like teamwork, hard work, friendship, conflict negotiation, community, working for success AFTER failure, etc. are learned without the child knowing that they are learning it. But when these things are made to be so expensive that only the middle class and up can participate, well then, now we have yet another layer of oppression adding to the intersectionality of what it is to be a middle or high school student.

To over-share with a little self disclosure, I make what I assume to be a pretty “comfortable” wage, although it is definitely not the magical salary I was led to believe a masters degree would grant me. I make a little more than 50% of the “average median income” in America this year. I believe this probably makes me considered “middle class” but just barely. We still qualify for free lunch, thank sweet ancient baby alien space monkey Jebus, but it is not easy. I am still living paycheck to paycheck. I have come to terms most days with living one paycheck away from homelessness, mostly because as a housing case manager, I know what resources are available in the area.

I digress.

Anyhow, my point was that my child is involved in the school sponsored dance team, the fine arts credit required orchestra, and the foreign language credit required Spanish. We receive a discounted “activity fee” for the “sport” but the uniforms ($135 to start, with additional costumes throughout the year), “required contribution to the booster club” of $100 (which my child/myself get to harass friends, co-workers, family, and social media with in order to raise by selling coupon books or car wash tickets, not to mention the $1,200 dollar “Spring Break trip to Disney World” that all the “rich kids” get to go to, but sadly, probably not my child. This causes lateral oppression within the team of the haves vs the have nots; because the kids KNOW who will be able to go and who will not from the beginning. It is not fair. And yes, I know, “Life isn’t fair, Princess.” One+ more kiddo(s) financed OUT.

But come on! What is the booster club for anyway? Isn’t it there to support the kids who WANT to participate and work their asses off to participate? The answer sadly is, “No.” It is there to make up the difference between public support/donations from the school’s budget for sports. That is a shame. But go ahead, buy some more computers. Make the teachers learn a different way to teach because they aren’t churning out productive enough regurgitaters at the rate the country wants. That is a much better use of funds……And tell me again why kids here are obese and live online?

Ah, speaking of obesity….the school lunch. It is not what it could be. I recently read about France’s model and how lovely it is. What a pipe dream for good ol’ Merikah. Instead we have corporate sponsors, such as Subway and energy drinks in the schools. Which always look better than god knows what is really in the instant processed mashed potatoes and goo.

Spanish class requires fees. For what? I have no freaking clue. Is there a lab associated with Spanish? One+ more kiddo(s) financed OUT.

Orchestra requires not only a $100 fee per year to “pay for music” but also a rental of an instrument if you cannot afford to buy one. The schools do not even loan instruments anymore. How many kids love music but cannot participate in band or orchestra because of the cost?  I was told that because the school was making photo copies of music for the students they were fined $4000. Isn’t there some sort of fair use for schools to use copyrighted music?

“Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

Yeah, I thought so.

So tell me again why I have to pay for music for my child to continue playing in the school orchestra? And why must they also have “orchestral uniforms” which include for the gender binary, long black dresses for the females, penguin suits for the males. Could we not just wear black pants and shirts or skirts? We must buy these clothes for a high school class? Good grief. One+ more kiddo(s) financed OUT.

Did I mention all these fees are due either at registration or during the first MONTH of school (save the spring break trip, luckily “they understand what a hardship it might be for some families so they give them until late winter to confirm these amounts.” Cause between you and me, as a single FT working parent that gets minimal child support, registration, extras, school supplies, school fees, school clothes, and anything else needed at the end of summer/beginning of Fall, is freaking HARD to figure out.

These examples and many others show it is unaffordable for many if not most kids to participate in the activities that studies show teach resilience and community. It is unreasonably expensive for ALL kids to get the protective effects of participation in these activities. So they must find other outlets and no one seems to like those outcomes, and yet…..

I contacted the school to find out what options are available as a low income parent. You know, because despite being on whatever magical list they keep us free lunch families on, they do not send home any information on these sorts of options. There are some “scholarships” available the first week of October, I was told. But it doesn’t cover everything. It’s a first come, first serve sort of deal where a committee decides who gets it. Based on what? I don’t know. But you better believe it is not a blind decision. Someone is making judgments either internally or perhaps even out loud. I imagine fucked up words like “deserve” and “worth” and “investment” are tossed around in that conversation.

So back to the original point and not my own personal struggle…The socioeconomic injustices of a public school system…. You want a college scholarship? You want to take classes you might *GASP* be interested in? You want to do sports? Music? Drama? Prepare to pay my friend cause this is college. Public High School.

If your parents can’t afford it, screw you.

If your parents feel shame asking for help, screw you.

If your parents don’t speak English as a first language and aren’t sure how to advocate for you/your family, screw you.

If your parents are too busy because they work 8,327,498,374 hours a week and don’t have the time to contact the school, screw you.

If your parents have nothing but time because they are unemployed, depressed, worried, stressed, whatever, screw you.

Welcome to Public High School.

To be continued.

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Dear Universe:

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Dear Universe:

Jani

123 Main St.

Somewhere, WA 12345

September 18, 2013

RE: Hoops

Dear Universe:

It has come to my attention that while I have jumped through all of your stupid damn hoops from birth through today, apparently I am still missing something… I understand adversity develops character; yet it also breeds contempt. I’ve done all the things I am “supposed” to do (married baby daddy, divorced baby daddy when he done me wrong, went to school, went back to school, got a stupid masters degree, I don’t beat my children, I’m kind and generous, stay conscientious of being positive and helping others, and so on and so on) and I still find I am constantly freaking struggling. Could you maybe back the f**k off for a second?

Now don’t get me wrong, while I am incredibly grateful for the things I have going RIGHT in my world, ie: my love, my kids, my health, my friends, my first world problems, etc.; I do not find it incredibly selfish of me to simply want enough money to make it less hard. I do not like worrying about whether I can pay for my child’s instrument rental or their school supplies or whether I will be able to wash my clothes without having to go to a laundry mat in the event that my W/D break because my landlord is raising my rent yet not continuing to provide maintenance on the appliances. I do not want to worry about if I am going to get child support to pay my car payment so I can go to said laundry mat or my invisible job or my child’s cross country meets.

Can’t I just have a break? One whole annual quarter where EVERYTHING goes RIGHT? Some breathing room would be nice.

Or maybe just a heads up or a clue to what it is I am supposed to be learning that I apparently keep missing?

K thanks.

Respectfully,

Grateful, yet over it.

The terms in which I think of reality….

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The terms in which I think of reality….

by Allen Ginsburg has to be one of my favorite poems. It comes back to me at different stages in my life as I ponder what is real and what is perception, what is emotion and what is chemical and whether they are all the same anyway…

This week has been a roller coaster and I am left contemplating such deep things that it makes my chest heave and my breath seize.

I have many things to be grateful for, so many in fact I cannot even fathom a guess to how long that list would be. Yet I still find myself worrying about things that I cannot control or affect anymore than I am so I must just let go.

Is there a 12 step program for control?

I have a friend who just found out their partner has a pretty progressed brain cancer that may or may not be treatable at this point; they have no insurance. All they can do is hope and wait and cope in ways less than healthy. Some social worker I am, all I can do is say I am sorry and that sucks. Try to offer band-aid solutions. I know they appreciate it, but I feel so helpless and then I feel bad that I feel anything. This is about them, not me. Their reality and mine in this situation are so different. I can’t join theirs but I can be there as a shoulder. That’s all. I have to let go of thinking I can do anything else at this point.

And that isn’t me seeking to feel apathetic.

I have friends that are only now starting the process of long term relationships and maybe marriage and careers and buying houses and thinking about children and I kind of resent that they are there now, with all this preparation and education and money to make it work. But I KNOW that all of those things don’t make it easier, just different so why am I jealous?

Been there done that and it never suits for me long…I have wanderlust. I never want anything for long. I’ve come to the conclusion that traditional life trajectories never will work for me because it isn’t what I want, it’s what I have been conditioned to think I want…Perhaps that is a rationalization…I don’t know.

Sour grapes.

Then I think about it being Memorial Day weekend and all the people who won’t be bbq’ing and all the people who are away from their families because they chose to serve and it makes me feel pretty fucking selfish for feeling sorry for myself being away from my family because I chose to move away for a man and all the other ridiculous reasons I told myself it was for.

Then I think about my baby brother going to Afghanistan. And my other friends going to Korea and Cambodia. And my uncle is probably going to end up somewhere because that is just what the 116th does, they go somewhere always. And then I think about my son wanting to enlist in a year and just

WHOA

Shit gets heavy.

My life is good. I have fat white American first world problems.

Those are the comparative terms in which I think of my reality.

Hug your peoples.

Gees I am such a slacker….

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Gees I am such a slacker….

but…….only when it comes to my blog.

Seriously…Sorry friends…been doing the job-search-grad-school-hippy-hippy-shake (no really, its a thing) and then this week I’ve been in trainings….next week I am going to the ocean for a conference…it’s rough I tell ya, rough.

BUT every time I think the Universe is done throwing me curve balls, I get another one….this time it was an ok one though.

Facebook has this magical effed up skill of knowing who I have thought about or talked about recently and then WHAMO…they pop up on my radar.

Some people I am like:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I had almost forgot they existed!

And then others, I have a real soft spot for….

…sometimes I have “known” these people for 25 years…Oh my dear sweet ancient alien baby space monkey Jebus….25 years? Really?

I don’t always know anything about them except what has trickled through the rumor mill over the years….

What I remember from childhood is often very different from the people they have become…and yet, they are still those same people in my head.

Memory is a bittersweet thing.

But still, I wish them so much happiness it makes my chest hurt. Huh.

It really is all about love and energy. Even if you don’t know it.

I’ve been through some emotional roller coasters lately and the one concrete thing I have realized is that loving others makes me feel good, but they don’t have to love me back for me to get that benefit.

 

 

Woe is me.

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Woe is me.

I just finally got around to watching the finale of Spartacus.

 

It wasn’t the finale of Spartacus.

 

I already turned off my Starz.

 

Alas. Woe. #firstworldproblems

 

Damn.

Easy button, anyone?

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Easy button, anyone?

I sure wish I had one.

Now I know I live a charmed life. I have first world problems. I have many blessings, it is true.

But sometimes, I wish things were easier. I know that difficult things have magical pay offs in the end and all that BS but I really wish that things weren’t all so contrary in my world.

It feels like no matter what choices I make nothing is ever easy.

I know my world would be lame if everything was always easy, I am not asking for that; but just a moment or two of grace.

Of utter perfection.

I want the spin to stop just for a minute.

Is that too much to ask?

 

Halle-fuckin-lujah

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Halle-fuckin-lujah

So I have accomplished a lot in my few years on this planet and lots of things to be proud of, actually. But I am about to share a minor victory with you that is HUGE for me on the scale of personal triumphs and rather small on the scale of first world problems:

As a “bigger than she would like to be albeit still within the realm of healthy-ish” gal, I bought a pair of jeans online going from my knowledge of the brand and sizes that I usually buy there (ahem, old navy). To my sad, sad realization over about 6 months ago when my joy turned to disgust and self-loathing, I realized I was no longer an old navy 14. I went to the store to try on pants and see if it was something different about the online clothes. Maybe it was stretchy vas nonstretchy…maybe it was trousers vs jeans…..maybe it was anything except I got fucking FAT. Now I am all for curvy girls and fat power and fat acceptance and this is not any sort of judgment on anyone but myself. As someone who has prided herself probably too much on her looks and not nearly as much on her insane intelligence as she should have over the years, to say it was a blow to my ego is an understatement.

I digress.

The point being, rather than exchanging these pants, they became another pair of “throw them in the closet because SOMEDAY they will fit” nonsense. Don’t lie, you know you have a pair too.

Only today, out of sheer curiosity, I tried them on and they fit. Infact, they are kinda baggy on my ass.

Needless to say, I had a Flo moment.

JUSTICE!

It’s the little things that get me…

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It’s the little things that get me…

*if you are a mamby pamby that gets grossed out, don’t read this*

 

I went to Fred Meyers to get some stuff in preparation for the return of the girlchild. As I was going in there was a girl who had a sign that said “Homeless, just need a hotel for a couple days.”

Now normally, as I am pretty freaking poor, I can’t give them money or anything more than a kind word or a smile. But something about the shame on this girl made me look twice. She couldn’t have been more than 19, 20; but her eyes looked so rueful, it reminded me of my own broken childmother. The girl had blood on her pants but being a woman, I knew she hadn’t murdered anyone and she wasn’t hurt (if you catch my drift.) Now, it was at that point that I realized I had never even thought about that aspect of homelessness. I immediately thought, I wonder if homeless girls ever get pregnant to avoid this? I realize this is a ludicrous thought to you now, but the one time that I was truly homeless, I was pregnant and did not have to worry about such things. Now before you get all “Awww that’s awful!” It was the perfect time to be homeless really, given what this girl was dealing with. Any other time that I was “homeless” it was more of a youthful choice, a rebellion and I knew plenty of places I could go for a week or shower or clean clothes or freaking tampons. It broke my heart. I didn’t have the money for a hotel room, but I did get the girl a pair of clearance pants and a big box of the tampons she wanted. A temporary comfort. It’s the little things we in our first world problem world of cable bills and cell phone overages that we don’t think about often enough. Things like tampons. Clean clothes. A place to wash.

And next month, hopefully she will either have somewhere to be, money to buy tampons or be able to steal some before she is too embarrassed to go in the store.

 

Yes. I am a white girl. Why does that mean I can’t speak freely?

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Yes. I am a white girl. Why does that mean I can’t speak freely?

Ok, so while I am aware of the constantly evolving me that is a student of social work, I also have a few things about myself that I hold to be convictions, which will really never change. One of them, I feel I need to defend so freaking often these days. Consider the following real life practically verbatim vignette:

A guy and a gal are smoking outside school. Me and another gal, talking to them. Conversation ensues regarding graduation blah blah. Me and smoking gal begin talking about the opportunities in Alaska which can result in getting most of your student loan debt forgiven. I ask, “Are you Native at all?” because she looks like she could be  (obviously my first mistake, assuming she looks potentially Native and asking, gasp).

She says “No, why?” 

Me: “Well, they give Native preference up there. I remember it being really frustrating when I lived up there that often I didn’t get a job because I was “too white.”

We laughed. I started to explain and then….

The other girl, non-smoker starts in about “Yeah, how hard it must be as  a white girl,” (mind you she is white too) and “how white people have it so bad”, while rolling her eyes and going on about privilege. Then she gives some example about some dumb chick that said something similar, which really wasn’t even remotely similar to what I was saying. I didn’t get to finish talking. I was humiliated and pissed. 

Now, had she given me half a second, I would have further validated that statement with how it was 15 years ago, when I was 18 and naive. I then would have explained how I BELIEVE AND ALWAYS WILL that as long as we continue to make distinctions between people, we are perpetuating hate and separateness,  nothing will ever be equal. It creates infighting. And as long as we are fighting each other, we will never make any headway with the powers that be that REALLY need us to work against them. Yes, I know that reparations must be made for previous and present oppressions and that I currently experience privilege because I am white, really I KNOW THIS. I’m on a fucking computer bitching about how I let someone make me feel while I was at GRADUATE school. I mean come on. I get it. My first world problems are really lame in the big picture. But they are mine. I am experiencing them.

But I also know that as long as we give anyone an advantage over another person based upon their race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, sex, religion or culture, rather than their qualifications that there will always be anger, strife and hate. I remember very clearly my ex-husband going OFF about not getting a promotion at his job, when we lived in Barrow, Alaska. A Native had been promoted ahead of him. Not once did he even entertain the idea that the Native had been better qualified, had more seniority, or had been waiting for the promotion. He assumed it was a Native preference situation and hated the Natives after that. Now, this was most undoubtedly a multifaceted issue, because he was slightly racist to begin with, had been privy to white privilege his entire life, etc. But the fact of the matter was, he began to hate a specific person based upon an assumption created by a man-made difference created in trying to help end differences.

But she didn’t let me say that. She didn’t even let me explain. She immediately made an assumption based on the beginning of my statement, jumped in and changed the entire tone of the conversation, made me feel like crap and embarrassed. Her DHS skills are coming in handy. I can see it already.

Boo.

Now I am doing what I want to stop: I’m talking about it! GOD*(&*^%*^%!

Woosaw.

I have three things I would like to share:

The first is a partial transcript of a 60 Minutes interview of Morgan Freeman by Mike Wallace:

Wallace: Black History Month you find…

Freeman: Ridiculous.

Wallace: Why?

Freeman: You’re going to relegate my history to a month?

Wallace: Oh, come on…

Freeman: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month?

Wallace: Well…

Freeman: Come on, tell me.

Wallace: I’m Jewish.

Freeman: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?

Wallace: There isn’t one.

Freeman: Oh. Oh. Why not? Do you want one?

Wallace: No. No.

Freeman: Alright. I don’t either. I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.

Wallace: How are we going to get rid of racism…?

Freeman: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.

The second is classic MLK:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

And finally:

2 from Malcolm X:

“I am not a racist…. In the past I permitted myself to be used…to make sweeping indictments of all white people, the entire white race and these generalizations have caused injuries to some whites who perhaps did not deserve to be hurt. Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as a result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true…Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenants of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”

“Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy. We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society.”

I said good day!

To be fair, I will give you this as it still makes #Kony famous:

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To be fair, I will give you this as it still makes #Kony famous:

http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com.nyud.net/post/18890947431/we-got-trouble

This fellow believes we are doing the cause a disservice because of the amount of money that invisible children makes in relation to what they do. I know. I also know that NO effort is ever completely unselfish or without some sort of mutual benefit. I think the good outweighs the bad in this case and believe if nothing else, the fact that the web can be used to do such good and so quickly is inherent purpose enough. I mean this has gone BEYOND VIRAL.

And knowing this, I still bought schwag. It’s just as good a cause as any, plus it resonated with me on a level that few things do. That is all. Make your own choices.

I’m still going KONY2012.

As for the allegations he makes regarding not currently committing crimes in Uganda, perhaps. But that doesn’t mean crimes are not happening. Check it out:

http://www.lracrisistracker.com/