Wednesday, July 18, 2018

High drama in NM-02

I can't really be quiet on this much longer. As a teacher, I try to keep my politics out of the classroom, and avoid antagonizing conservatives, parents, or whoever. They have a right to their views, so I teach only the facts, things they can't argue with. I teach what I'm supposed to, and avoid saying things like "Trump is a crook" or "Trump has sold out the country."

But, Trump is a crook, and Trump is busy selling out the country as fast as he can, before the law catches up to him. His corruption is blatant, as if he knows his time is limited. And, though he will be gone soon, the wreckage will last for years, and those who have allowed for him for so long will have to pay.

That's where NM02 becomes an interesting part of the picture. It has been represented by S.P., a very aggressive old-school conservative. I can guess that S.P. is quite uncomfortable that Trump sold out to the Russians, follows Putin's orders, etc. He doesn't seem to mind that Trump sells out the public lands, or dismantles the public schools, or various other things. Some conservatives are ok with much of Trump's agenda and they always start with the Supreme Court as if violating the law to get conservatives up there is something to be proud of. But, Pearce has his eye on the New Mexico governorship and is vacating his seat; it is being contested by Yvette Herrell, Republican, and Xochitl Torres-Small, Democrat.

NM-02 is a traditionally conservative district. It covers more than half of the state, going all the way up as far north as Albuquerque, to the east, west and central, and most of that is ranch country. The ranchers vote at a high rate and generally vote conservative. In the bootheel (far southwestern NM) they voted for Obama but this time around voted for Trump, possibly because of concerns about the porous border. The cities in the district are all small: Las Cruces (now over 100,000, by far the most liberal), Roswell, Alamogordo, Socorro, Carlsbad. It doesn't take long before you're talking really small towns, places nobody's ever heard of. These towns would be overwhelmingly Democrat if everyone voted, but they don't. My town, Alamogordo, whites are a distinct minority in the schools, and most of the kids' parents are residents, citizens. I doubt they vote, or that most of them vote. They're busy making a living.

NM-02 is considered by some "leaning R" but by one "likely R." People at the national level are analyzing this stuff, and possibly allocating resources where it could make a difference. If so, this is one place where it could. I would say that any Hispanic who would still vote Republican, or vote to continue to approve and allow the kind of things Trump is pushing, is definitely not paying attention. And if the rest of the Hispanic vote would simply register and vote, it could swing this thing.

I started a Facebook page and a twitter account to target the legions of young New Mexicans who have so far not been mad enough to vote. These are non-partisan: if you are telling everyone to vote, you are not blatantly on one side or the other. I think, in this part of New Mexico, it's a pretty-much Democrat thing to do, since there are thousands of young Democrats out there, whereas there are what, a few young ranchers who are probably already registered. Nevertheless I ought to be able to go just about anywhere with these two sites, and say, vote vote vote (or vota vota vota) in any crowd, and not feel like I'm making people mad in this partisan world.

My problem is that I'm finding it hard to keep quiet about the other stuff. It feels so good to release my anger, to actually do something about the situation, that, once started, I can't very well stop. My message really is, this clown is crooked, evil and temporary, but the shame of those who have allowed it to continue must be dealt with. And it must be dealt with on a local level. We need to get these clowns out of there. Sure, they were in a tough position. They felt like they had to support him because that's what their constituents wanted. So now what, they have to stand by while he sells out all the nation's resources, follows Putin's wishes, sells out the free press? They can stand by, but I won't stand by.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

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thirty short stories a thousand words or less

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

e pluribus haiku 2018

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1000 original haiku from fifty states and the District of Columbia - written in an original 5-7-5 style. Haiku are colorful and physical and include a season word or hint. Because the USA is geographically spread out, geography clues are necessary too.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

screens part I

Jhai, D.N. (2018, April 11). Delhi: One in every 5 school students a ‘problematic’ internet user. The Times of India.

The above article shows a little of what I'm dealing with; I don't think the US is that much better or worse than Delhi. It would be interesting, for comparison's sake, to compare huge cities like Delhi and New York, or LA, even to much smaller towns, like Alamogordo, where I teach, or Cloudcroft. But, numbers are probably similar in major ways. Almost 20% self-report that it's problematic; over a third admit that they use the internet to regulate their moods; they rely on it to feel better, in other words, or to calm down. Almost all have phones; almost all go online; almost all are going online almost constantly.

One thing I've noticed, as both an overloaded parent and an educator, is that parents tend to rely on the schools to balance out what they can see is an overload at home. In the schools, we can't afford to do that; school is for learning, so we try to keep the phones out of sight and get down to business (though I admit, I'm a sub, and their total addiction comes right back in, the minute anyone turns their back or allows it. I am with the school in their absolute prohibition of them, yet I give up fighting them very easily, as they are so squirrely without their phones that they're almost impossible to live with, and I just sometimes want them to zone out and leave me alone. As a parent, it's worse. You work all day, your kids have way too much energy, and if the phone will allow them to leave you alone (this goes for a movie, say, or even an online game), ok, go ahead. You didn't reckon with being faced with addiction.

Yet I'll agree with the above article. Addiction is what we're looking at. It's overwhelming, and it's pervasive.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Public School Crisis

I got the chance to sub in an art class today, and it reminded me of my own youth; how, when an art teacher allowed kids to play music, they played horrible music (our version of metal), as loudly as they could; about how he wouldn't allow talking in class, but I thought that was ridiculous, and needed to talk to keep my mind off the music; how he made me write a 500-word essay on why I shouldn't talk in art class; and how I wrote it all in one sentence, as mad as I was. I'm sure he noticed and graded me accordingly, and, in fact, I wasn't all that great an artist, but, I never took another art class; my career in art was effectively over, my junior year in high school.

Nowadays we're wondering if any high school students will walk out in protest of the fact that we actually aren't safe in these schools anymore. I work in three different ones in a small town in New Mexico, two middle schools and the high school, and I can assure you, we aren't safe anymore. Arming the teachers is not the solution. Paying them just a little bit more to carry guns is an even worse solution. I wouldn't even call them solutions.

So I'm subbing in this art class, and I told them to draw the space station uplink, which was an event that we had in our town yesterday, where students went to the high school, packed into the gym, got to talk by wireless to this astronaut, and basically learned a little about what it was like in space. I encouraged them to draw space, or the space station, or the guy, or whatever they wanted, or, I gave them the option of drawing a physical drawing of the middle school itself. Instead some drew tigers, which is the mascot. I said, why not put the tigers in space? I tried to encourage them to think creatively. Some, on the wild side, were more interested in being Jackson Pollock, and throwing the brush at the picture in order to splatter it with stars. They had the excuse to go a little over the edge, and I was, after all, a sub.

So I got through that experience ok, and went immediately out to the streets of this neighborhood, where I had duty as a crossing guard. This is an interesting experience because you suddenly relate to the whole neighborhood in a quite practical way, although everyone is on our side, and nobody is really trying to run the kids over. We're talking 11-13 year olds, though, and anything can happen.

This is actually a very nice neighborhood, not nice in the sense of rich, but nice in the sense that it has a lot of New-Mexico-type character, and these huge dramatic mountains look down upon the entire scene; it's very pretty. At one point a truck stopped to pick up a kid, and he had an enormous dog, which jumped out of the truck and kind of terrorized some middle-school girl. The owner came running after the dog, sure enough, but it was a little uncomfortable.

As a sub I get so sick of resistance, refusal to learn or do anything, bad attitude, disrespect, and just general badness, that sometimes I don't have a whole lot of sympathy. Trouble is, the victims are not the same as what I experience as the perpetrators in any given class of sub-breaking young punks. They're all just kids, and they don't really know from anything. I don't know if these particular ones really feel that they aren't safe, as I feel. I know that, further up in the high school, there are lots of malcontents. And many, if not most of them, have access to far worse weapons than just apathy, or whatever they're using on a daily basis.

Oh but here's what I was going to tell you. In my "prep" hour (an ironic term, since subs have nothing to "prep"), I do research on my ancestors, and I do this partly because I'm grieving my dad, who died recently, but I also do this because reading old puritan accounts of life in Boston in the 1600's is fascinating. I had this one, whom I'm named after, who actually wrote the document starting the first public school in the US. This would be Boston Latin School, and I can't say it was his idea; he was merely the notetaker, but nevertheless, he was right there when it all started. And I can't prove absolutely that I'm related to him; that's a story of infinite intrigue involving slippery characters in late-1600's Boston, who kept mistaking Mary for Sarah, and couldn't spell Phoebe, not to mention Leverett. Leverett itself is often spelled Leverit, Leveret, Leveritt or even Leuerett; thus making googling kind of infinite as well as intense. But there's a remarkable explosion of things on the internet these days which means basically that I can find a lot of stuff without even moving from my chair. And that's what I do with my art class "prep" hour.

Back to my point: the public schools are worth saving. My sub experience, I can take it or leave it, but public schools are the main thing we have. Some folks are out there, ready to trash the whole thing, but I'm not. I still kind of like the place. I tell them to turn off the music, but talking's ok. They can talk all they want.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

thoughts & prayers

Enough with the thoughts and prayers, already. What's the world come to, that "thoughts and prayers" just make everyone angry?

I work at various high schools and middle schools in a small town in New Mexico. Traditionally, guns have always been everywhere, but people knew how to use them, and the kids in the picture weren't really at risk for this kind of thing. Nowadays, I don't feel safe. I feel like every school is a target, and every kid has access to as many guns as they want, and lots of them are mentally unstable. We could not put armed guards or metal detectors at every door. Even the kids, who generally spend as much time on their phones as they can, are a little nervous about this; it could happen to them too.

The question really is whether your right to have a gun includes the right to bring an arsenal or an assault weapon into any elementary school or venue. To me it doesn't. You can't bring a bomb either. If you are carrying something around to "protect yourself" why does it have to be something that kills so many people?

There is an undercurrent of arming for race war in this country. Trump and the shrill arm-yourself lobby have ensured that most folks are armed to the teeth, and they are hostile and suspicious of each other. For the mentally unstable, it's a minefield, and they, too, are armed to the teeth. Schools are as likely as any place. If you're angry at the world, it might have started in the school.

But the problem is, most of us had to go to school. The private "option" is only available to the people who can spare time off work, or who have the time to figure out what they're doing. Most of us still rely on the public schools and resent Trump's undercutting of the system and taking money away from people who need it most. But if we put armed guards and metal detectors at every door, that will really undercut the system. Nothing like a five-billion-dollar security project to ensure that we fight over who gets fed, who gets educated, and who gets health care for decades to come.

And all because we're unwilling to keep track of assault weapons? Or arsenals? We want to prevent our police from knowing who's got one, or who's taking it into the elementary school? I think the gun control lobby has eased up on the right to have a gun in one's home. I'm wondering how that translates into the right to bring an arsenal into any school.

OK I get it. Somebody's making big money from every shooting. More guns are sold, more members of the NRA, more dollars floating around. It's actually in people's interest that random violence makes everyone afraid. Somebody's very rich, and very happy, and not especially upset about random deaths.

In this case, making the good guys win means making it safe to go to school.