08 November, 2016

Notes from the bunker, #9: tandem teaching and election 2016 ruminations

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit. - John Steinbeck

Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work - that goes on, it adds up. - Barbara Kingsolver 


Tandem Teaching




This past weekend I had the opportunity to tandem teach with Amanda. We facilitated a workshop about creating 5 minute Moth-style slam stories at the Kentucky Storytelling Association's annual convention. This workshop was the first time I've done anything like teaching since separating from the University of Louisville this past April. We had a great time with some really great people. The KSA is a great organization I am proud to be a part of, and I Amanda is a great teaching partner.

 I was excited at the prospect of teaching again. But I was a little sad, too. Don't get me wrong. I like the work I'm doing now and I definitely feel grateful to have a job that pays me enough to help make ends meet. But I miss teaching. I don't miss the bullshit that is strangling the art and the craft of teaching; but I miss being in a classroom setting.

The nice thing about teaching is that, for the most part, it's easy to pick up the feel again when you've been away for a bit. I wasn't nervous at all about what we were presenting, to whom. But I realized as I was preparing for the workshop that it would be the last time for the foreseeable future that I would have the opportunity to be back in the saddle. Amanda had her own reservations, but she did an amazing job. We work well together. We always work well together. I knew she'd be great.

When I think about how many times I've revised myself, sometimes I get a little dizzy. I recently recounted most of the jobs I've had to a coworker. Most of the time I refer to them collectively as My 10,000 Useless Jobs. As a bigger, generally hairy guy, I ended up doing a lot of factory and warehouse work. These days, when people meet me an hear that I used to be a "professor", they assume I've never held any kind of physically demanding job. As I was going down the list of different jobs, it occurred to me just how odd it is, even in a day and age when people change careers an average of four times in their lives, for a guy like me to have done all of the random things I've done since the age of 18.

The other thing that's odd about all of it is that even when I was teaching, every other job I've ever had was somewhere in the back of my mind. When  I tell people that all work is noble and deserves respect, I mean it. The color of your collar makes no difference. And while I derived a lot of satisfaction from teaching -- I think it's one of those things I was hardwired to do -- the fact is I never felt like I was better than anyone, except maybe the exploitative administrators and political hacks that have sucked all that's worthwhile out of higher education. But hey, no one's perfect.

Election 2016 ruminations



After tomorrow, the future unfolds. I can't bring myself to be optimistic about our chances if either major party wins. A win for Donald Trump will embolden the fascists, the xenophobes, and bigots, and the sexists who have decided they need a megalomaniac on the scale of Franco and Mussolini to make their displeasure known. If Trump loses, there is no putting all of the focused anger and discontentment -- which has real life roots in spite of how the far right has hijacked it -- back in the bottle.


No matter how much Hillary fans crow about history being made and feeling good about keeping The Donald out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue if she wins, we will not rewind back to early June 2015, before he first declared his intention to run. Trump did not create the anger or the conditions that caused it's growth. To be fair, Hillary didn't, either. Neither did Obama. The conditions that have created the sense of disfranchisement are rooted deeper in late stage capitalism, stagnant wages, an economy that favor investors over workers, and organized capital's long time strategy of getting half the of the working class to take their anger out on the rest of the working class and poor.

But anger feels good. There is power in it. There is focus in it. That's not what we need to move forward. But it's what we have.

By the time this post goes live, the polls will have been open a few hours. If there's any power left in the democratic experiment, the polls will show what direction that power leans to and whether we slide headlong into fascism or take a long slow slide through a Neoliberal nightmare into fascism.



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