Sunday, November 2, 2014

I've Been Across the River

It has been almost 6 weeks since I've been here.  Even for me that's a surprising absence.  This time I can't blame it on mathematics -- I'm in school, yes, but taking an educational foundations course, not a come-to-Jesus math course.  So, that's not it.  But what is, is that I am now working for somebody else (part-time) and I haven't figured out the line between impolitic and sometimes profane discourse (this blog) and my job responsibilities.  This will be the first of many attempts in real time to do so.

As I said before, I turned 60 this year.  It's been glorious and I may well celebrate it for the entire 365 days I'll be this age.  Husband, son-in-law and daughter conspired to throw a party in Brooklyn that was Absolutely Fabulous™ what with friends long- and short-term, great food, dancing, my own personal 60 crown with feathers and glittery pipecleaners, and a kick-ass pair of false eyelashes which I'm conspiring to wear again.

I returned to Planet New Haven to resume a life of studying American education, and enjoying a wonderful job that is both a continuation and an extension of some of the public health work I've done here as a citizen-activist.  Both in school and at work I am overwhelmed (in the best sense) by what I'm learning.  I feel myself to be fortunate indeed.

Of course, in times like these, I barely write.  So, once again I'me struggling with the paradox of being stimulated by so much that is new and being energy- and time-delimited from trying to turn it into fiction.  At best, and as far as I'm concerned it's a nourishing best, I will write some for my course, "The Child in the American Culture".  The title seems innocuous, and godknows, American education courses get dinged all the time for being content-lite, but I'm getting a lot out of this one.  The professor is a kooky pro and students, as they will, mistake her kookiness for a tolerance of mediocrity.  But she's sly:  she'll let a student get as much or as little out of the class as they want.  She asked us after a few classes how we wanted to conduct the remainder of the course.  Currently, we have a dense chapter a week to read and then a student has to present on the assigned chapter; and we've been given a few independent research assignments.  She wanted to know what else we wanted to do, and as she polled I kept hearing:  I find the textbook (American Education by Joel Spring) hard to understand so I'd like to discuss it in class ...

Now.  I gotta tell you that 1) even state school tuition's expensive and I am always conscious of paying for this 3 hours, once per week course that starts at 7:30 in the evening and  2) the textbook is hard to get through because in a typical chapter the author can cover decades of  Supreme Court decisions that altered American education, educational theory and contemporary movements in education, and an analysis of the impact of No Child Left Behind on say, bilingual education.  In all fairness to the other students, a majority of whom are in their early to mid-20's, the book's not easy and the hour is late.  But, goddamn.  The people in this room are, for better or worse, going to shape generations of American minds, and if there's one thing I know about learning it is if you can't demonstrate that you've learned something, you can't teach it.

So, when she rolled around to me, I was bloody, but I was quick.  I simply said that I was about 25 - 30 years older than most of the other students in this class and frankly, I don't know how much value I'll get out of classroom discussion (although I did say that I could be surprised), and that some of what Spring writes about I've lived, that many of the Court's decisions I read as contemporaneous accounts, I've raised kids, I'm a writer and I'm used to writing and so, in addition to in-class discussion, I vote for having to do a research paper.  Or, as I put it to friends:  Oh hell no I'm not paying to show up for 3 hours at night to hear some 20 year old talk about their feelings (largely because they're so incurious and ahistorical that although they are probably going to teach in public school they've never heard about Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, or Dred Scott, or how Loudon County Virginia closed it's public schools for years as opposed to desegregate, or the genesis of charter schools and magnet schools in Connecticut).

And so the course is a hybrid of class discussion as before, and a research paper where the first draft is to be shared with a partner to critique (a suggestion of yours truly) before the final version is written.  People, a little rigor here, please?

One friend said to me that the others will appreciate what I did later.  Don't know; don't care.  This is the minimum I demand of myself.

Tomorrow I leave for New Orleans (pronounced Nawlins) for a national meeting.  I haven't been there in 35 years since I graduated from college.  Loathed the place back then -- much of what I learned about the enduring trauma of racial oppression I learned in Louisiana -- and will probably see very little of it this time what with being consumed by presentations and meetings.  Didn't gloat when Katrina happened, it made a profoundly unjust culture exponentially worse, but am not sentimental about the place or its cultural roots or its food.  But, as in the case of my 20 something classmates, I may be surprised.  One can hope.

So, until the next intermittent dispatch, au revoir.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Poetry: Upon Seeing Fred in Bronze

It was the spring of year four
By then Fred was out of the luxury digs of Mt. Sinai.
We were back on Lorimer St.
He reclining
Me, as I was often during those years
Leaning in leaning over listening for news
From his body.

Aah, Fred, I said, as I counted the stitches down his torso
And brushed the medallion of skin made by his port.
Aah Fred, look at what the surgeons have gifted you
A way out, a way forward.
But not for his soul
for his waste.
Aah Fred and I leaned in closer
because now it was my turn to come to terms
with the positive and negative space of him.
Fred I said
You got you one hell of a crater.
And we laughed as we crossed that bridge.

Years later Bronze Fred stood before me:
I know you I said, how I know you.
Of course it made all the sense in the world to me that
Fred was decked out in saxophone keys
With good luck where the port used to be
Only partially clothed in splendor
Which was true during the days when wounds needed air.
The professorial specs
The eyes joined by his troublemaking grin.
I looked at Bronze Fred.
He looked at me.

We laughed.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I'm 60 this month.

It is fall and I have the house to myself for a few weeks because Cuthbert is in Ireland.  And judging from the reports of aches and pains he's experiencing, I think he's just realized he's not the Strapping Young Lad he used to be.  (I tried ta tell 'em, but do he lissen to me?)

I am not taking a math class this semester so I will not be having my bi-annual Nervous Breakdown.

I have started a new job (part-time) which I will enjoy enormously.  I now consider myself the poster child for 2nd chances. I work with people who have a sense of mission and are (com)passionate.

Instead of math this semester, I'm enrolled in a course called, "The Child in American Culture," which until I attended my first session I feared would be an egregious waste of my hard-earned tuition dollars.  (When you're obtaining teaching credentials you have to take education courses.  Derp.)  Boy, was I wrong:  We will look at the aforementioned child through the lenses of history, gender studies, political science, economics, psychology, sociology, education.  (Have I left any discipline out?)  I'm pretty sure I will have to have a zipper surgically embedded in my mouth; but try as I might I always wind up scaring the horses and children.

I'm 60, y'all.  I.  Don't.  Care.


Those who know me know I don't do Facebook.  And they know the reasons why.  So, it's no surprise to you that I don't tweet either.  It seems the nouvelle cheap and easy way to express one's outrage or ardor.  Like bumper stickers.  And t-shirts.  Advertisements that show I CARE™ and then we can move on having established our bona fides.  Wrong and injustice take a long time, sometimes a lifetime or two, to remedy.  They require courage, sacrifice, a tolerance for failure and being shunned, perservance, and the capacity to imagine a change you may not live to see.

Voicing online indignation about the precipitating event(s) that brings a wrong to our attention -- whether the murder of a black boy, the beheading of a journalist by fanatics, the war in Gaza or the humiliation and degradation of a wife -- and slapping a pound sign in front of it demands none of that.