Category Archives: Education

Psychopathology of Not Teaching, Not Feeding, Not Embracing Our Youth

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.

We only think when confronted with a problem.

John Dewey, 1938, Experience and Education (Vol. no. 10). New York: The Macmillan Company &  1933, How We Think. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Co

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There’s a lot of magical thinking going on in the world, largely laid at the feet of the marketers, arbiters of propaganda, the flim-flam of Capitalism and Consumerism.

Finding solace in the next President’s Day sale or Black Friday.

Except every day in America is a Black Friday. Fire sale for the social services, for all the safety nets, for the bedrock of a democracy – education, power of the people to hold the commons and to control the benefits of the community’s needs over some punk like Musk or Sir Richard or Zuckerberg or Trump-Clinton-Obama, all same sides of the one-sided coin.

More and more people I engage with are lost, really, pushing their little broom and lifting their little dustbin to attempt to clean up the smashed walls and halls and schoolhouses and hallowed things of the people.

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Feudalism is back in style, and for each community – city block or city border or urban growth boundary – the endless brooming and dust-binning will never make a dent in what must be done: the cancer must be removed.

Oh, I know, the pacifists want the arc of social justice to come catapulting back and somehow laying bare and rendering impotent the millions of bad hombres who control the purse strings, who control the black ditches of polluting industries, who control the daily trillion loads of toxins and carcinogens and structural violence bombs put upon the majority.

The chaos and fluency of their penetration of pain on all levels of society and in all societies is amazing those rotten-to-the-core billionaires and multinational thugs who have the sociopath’s luxury of being extremely effective, especially in predatory-parasitic-extractive-casino Capitalism, where the burdens of externalities and the millions upon millions of negative and costly outgrowths of Capitalism are the burden of the masses while the extreme comforts/power bases/economic controls are privatized to a very small swath of humankind.

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These traits are the characterizations of the typical CEO, typical of the boardroom winners, so typical of the so-called powerful:

  • Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
  • Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
  • Authoritarian
  • Secretive
  • Paranoid
  • Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
  • Conventional appearance
  • Goal of enslavement of their victim (s)
  • Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
  • Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
  • Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
  • Incapable of real human attachment to another
  • Unable to feel remorse or guilt
  • Extreme narcissism and grandiose
  • May state readily that their goal is to rule the world

Variations on a theme. Just put in a powerful and famous/infamous person’s name, and the fifteen traits above get checked off pretty easily and readily.

Erik Prince or Betsy Devos, or the Democratic Party honchos or the boot-licking Republican reprobates. Now, we are in a world where the sociopath and psychopath and self-aggrandizing are foisted upon the stage and klieg lights pointed at them so all of us in this barbarous spectacle have to be exposed to not only their felonious and pathological deeds and beliefs daily, but we now have to subvert our own humanness and life by their rules . . . all the while paying to follow their rules.

Unfortunately, most people are not crippled with a malignant personality disorder, yet the young and the disposed/dispossessed and the struggling and the downtrodden in a capitalist society have very few shields or antibodies to avert from these pathological souls who have infected all levels of the corporation, the legal system, the education system, the military industrial complex, government, national politics, religion:

These people are mentally ill and extremely dangerous! We can take many precautions to protect us from the destructive acts of which they are capable.

First, to recognize them, keep the following guidelines in mind.

(1) They are habitual liars. They seem incapable of either knowing or telling the truth about anything.
(2) They are egotistical to the point of narcissism. They really believe they are set apart from the rest of humanity by some special grace.
(3) They scapegoat; they are incapable of either having the insight or willingness to accept responsibility for anything they do. Whatever the problem, it is always someone else’s fault.
(4) They are remorselessly vindictive when thwarted or exposed.
(5) Genuine religious, moral, or other values play no part in their lives.

They have no empathy for others and are capable of violence. Under older psychological terminology, they fall into the category of psychopath or sociopath, but unlike the typical psychopath, their behavior is masked by a superficial social facade.

The psychopath’s world is one where the communal and cooperative laws of human interaction and also the more lofty laws of human emotion and interaction do not apply. It’s been said that psychopathy serves as a “reality” for a good portion of humanity. The hypothesis that one man in every 100 and one woman in every 300 are born a clinical psychopath is troubling, to be sure.

Some of the literature states that psychopathy is so common that each person reading this article knows one and then a significant proportion of readers are most likely psychopaths themselves.

Interesting, the age old battle of nature versus nurture, and vice versa!

I know this is beating a dead horse, but feminist and writer Susan Sontag, in a fit of lucidity, stated the obvious:

If America is the culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far…. The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al, don’t redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

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So, who the hell knows about that 1 in 100/300 psychopathy in any given population. I might say, sure, for the white race, seems correct. Africa Source:

The pineal gland is responsible for the production of melatonin, a hormone that is secreted in response to darkness, and is also the site in the brain where the highest levels of Serotonin can be found (Sun et al, 2001). In the pineal, 5-HT (Serotonin) concentration displays a remarkable diurnal pattern, with day levels much higher than night levels. Serotonin plays an important role in sleep, perception, memory, cardiovascular activity, respiratory activity, motor output, sensory and neuroendocrine function.

Racial differences have been noted in the rate of pineal calcification as seen in plain skull radiographs. In Caucasians, calcified pineal is visualized in about 50% of adult skull radiographs after the age of 40 years (Wurtman et al, 1964); other scholars argue that Caucasians, in general, may have rates of pineal gland calcification as high as ­60-80% (King, 2001). Murphy (1968) reported a radiological pineal calcification rate of 2% from Uganda, while Daramola and Olowu (1972) in Lagos, Nigeria found a rate of 5%. Adeloye and Felson (1974) found that calcified pineal was twice as common in White Americans as in Blacks in the same city, strengthening a suspicion that there may be a true racial difference with respect to this apparatus. In India a frequency of 13.6% was found (Pande et al, 1984). Calcified pineal gland is a common finding in plain skull radiographs and its value in identifying the midline is still complementary to modern neuroradiological imaging.

Scholars believe the reduction in melatonin with age may be contributory to aging and the onset of age-related diseases. This theory is based on the observation that melatonin is the most potent hydroxyl radical scavenger thus far discovered (Reiter, 1995). Prominent theories of aging attributes the rate of aging to accumulated free radical damage (Proctor, 1989; Reiter, 1995), and as Caucasians have higher rates of pineal calcification, which produces melatonin which is a vital free radical scavenger, some suspect that people of European descent may actually age faster than those from other continents.

Pineal gland calcification has also been implicated in the onset of Multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS consists of the brain, spinal cord, and the optic nerves. Neuroradiological research has shown the pineal gland to be involved in the pathophysiology of Multiple Sclerosis. In a 1991 study by Sandyk R, and Awerbuch G.I published in the “International Journal of Neuroscience”, it was shown that Pineal Calcification was found in 100 % of MS patients. The strikingly high prevalence of pineal calcification in Multiple sclerosis provides indirect support for an association between MS and abnormalities of the pineal gland (Sandyk and Awerbuch, 1991). Multiple Sclerosis tends to affect Caucasians disproportionately, and is nearly unheard of in Africa and is rare among African Americans. A high prevalence of pineal calcification has also been linked to bipolar disorder.

Now my article will boomerang back to my world directly – writing and teaching, this go-round inside the K12 arena; alas, the world of a teacher is a road strewn with broken-down trucks and scattered tailpipe assemblies and transmissions and oil slicks and sheared-off wheels.

The height of America now is the constant chatter and recriminations against the education system, against teachers, against students, against the entire project of working with the young to assist them in developing critical thinking skills.

Believe you me, I should be where Betsy DeVos is, but billionaires have no expertise, no 10,000 hours of practice to give them some level of mastery, whether it’s tennis, general scholarship, educating youth, doing anything worthy of a worthwhile society. Hence, the ones leading the so-called education debate, Gates or DeVos, have zilch experience in the classroom, zero experience working. You’ll never see a fellow like me at any table.

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The idea of my time on earth has always been being on the ground, and some people liken it to ground truthing, the realities of intellectual thought sewn in the fields of those areas where we as a people consider disciplines. What better way to understand what needs to be done to fix (sic) the US education than being in it, albeit like a hired gun going from school to school grade as a substitute teacher.

Hands down, after doing this educational ground truthing a large part of my life, since 1983 when I first started a teaching assistanceship at the University of Texas-El Paso, through to today, this society will never put me at the table, so to speak, of the policy wonks and political operatives. Do they want the real minds there, those of us who just might be able to inject reality and true systems thinking in how to solve the so-called “education problem.”

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I know it’s easy to see that anything associated with neoliberalism, libertarianism, the assault of communities large and small by the elite, the super-super minority, is part of the failings of education, and all parts of society, the so-called intellectual, spiritual, built environment, natural, community commons.

The reality is capitalism IS the failure, and CAPITALISM is the education PROBLEM, and my years parachuting into schools and into school districts have shown me there are many deficits, many shortcomings and many hurdles around our public schools.

A raft of problems can be rattled off and highlighted in white paper after special NPR report. The brain trust is the children, however, not Mark Cuban and his ilk. Certainly, the systems of oppression and structural violence and mob rule of the late stage consumer culture and forced acquiescence as a pound of flesh carved out for the elites, the marketers, the flimflam artists who have wrested control of all branches of government, the Fourth estate, the Shadow Government, the corporate heads with their sycophants and armies for hire HAVE done their deep-deep damage.

As if the cultural DNA has been stripped of any normalcy, these citizens — elementary, junior and high schoolers — they already have three strikes against them, yet somehow in the chaos and poorly delivered education there are standouts.

The problem is we need education for the children and for the adults, cooperative education and co-ops of learning, for all generations. How stupid is it to continue feeding mush to children? How stupid is it to have them penned up in classrooms? How ridiculous is it to have a few disruptive youth and inattentive students run wild in a classroom? How is it that the major industries and the business roundtable folk and the movers and shakers and the parents aren’t held to task for not getting truly involved in their futures? These young people’s futures?

Experiential learning, outside the box, far-far away from standardized teaching, common core, rote memorization.

Even in this onslaught of crass, creepy psychologically-damaging crap youth have to step through daily – a land mine field every day – we can still get back the narrative, and flip the script, so to speak.

I have been in 1st grade classes, and been teaching music to elementary aged students and science and math to high school students, and everything in between. The vast majority of youth feel and know and sense they have been sold a bill of goods, and lies, and they want leaders and mentors, people who can bring to them a sense of destiny, a sense of rebellion for the good of humankind, and a real set of educational tools to help them educate themselves for life.

It is not some hippie or alternative new age spasm to say that students need hands on reality – how to grow food, how to paint murals, how to build tables, how to construct solar panels for their homes, how to chart the stars, how to speak several languages, how to wire a short wave radio, how to set up and nurture a catfish pond, how to cut flowers and how to talk to old people and the disabled in situ.

We could be using our smarts and collective action and solving our rural communities’ issues and those of our cities; problem solved by having youth brigades with their mentors and their parents working daily to make the changes necessary for resiliency. The youth want to know why they can’t give me hugs or display hugs in the school yard, so we talk about the newer research on the skin and on touching people, daily, as a way of healing, of pushing melatonin in the body, as a way to heal inflamed arteries.

On the surface or to a passerby, the children might be lost causes, already colonized by Big Mac, Disneyland, Marvel Comics, glittery inept millionaire performers and fancy falling pixels in their next orgasmic video game.

They may already be too far gone to weather climate disruption, economic wars, the battlefields coming soon, because of their multiple issues tied to chronic diseases and mental disturbances.

Ah-ha, so wrong, so wrong!

I guarantee if a school house and school grounds were set up like great rendezvous points for artists, acrobats, farmers, trades people, international visitors, under the direction of First Nations elders; I guarantee if students were there with their parents part of the week learning about history, untold stories, about how to tell a story and film a documentary; I guarantee if we shifted ground by enforcing the philosophy that we are what we eat, what we read, what we do, what we think, what we believe, what we hope for, what we want, what we imagine, and that there are direct repercussions (negative) to the individual’s mental, intellectual and physical well being with the wrong stuff in, which leads to the wrong stuff out. . . . I guarantee the conversations will change, the enlightenments will spark, the involvement on every level of the community will increase, and the individual and collective narratives will move toward that arc of not only social justice, but humanity living within our means, and understanding the value of simplicity, small ecological footprints and smelling the roses and watching the stars through the flight patterns of owls, fireflies and moths.

What a silly set of idealistic ideas on how to re-form the education system.

The fact is that students are hungry for honesty, and hungry to see how it all connects, how one piece of the puzzle is actually the link to the whole, and how all things are related. They get it, and many times there are 10-year-old skeptics, grizzled in their thinking, scabbed over in their imaginations.

Everything in school, now, under the current models of suppression, then, is to learn 9 to 5, Monday through Friday enslavement.

Children and juveniles and late age teens want nothing of that enslavement, but they have no choice in a hobbling system of people like the Gates duo or the Betsy-Donald duo, coming up with insane and self-fulfilling concepts to keep kids so down that they will abide by anything the levelers and capitalists demand of them – demands (pistols to the heads, rather) in their communities, in their purchases, in their indebtedness, in their reading and eating material, in their subservience to the company or corporation or organization.

We need legions of nurses, social workers, teachers, solutions-driven people with their heads screwed on tight and their hearts alight in the shine of innocence lost and new innocence gained. We need a world of STEAM – daftly blended Sciences Technology Engineering Arts Math for more than capitalist survival, but rather for the impending systems of collapse we have wreaked havoc on the planet, on our own souls, and now on young souls not even given a chance to push out of chrysalis.

We know what must be done: rework all public schools. Add greenhouse, ponds, rows of corn, second and third floor ropes courses, commercial kitchens, husbandry stalls, more. Rip up the pavement, get the kids to use rickshaws, learn how to be entrepreneurial geniuses with coffee stands and juice stands run by parents and students. Outdoor education on our beaches, in our city parks, inside empty warehouses.

We know what to do! And we can do it. Again, cut away the cancer — destroy capitalism!

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Schools, Scams, and Scoundrels

This is wonderful news… maybe the best news of the decade. Finally the truth about college admission scams has been exposed. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Corruption extends from K – 12 through Graduate School.

I have waited since 1942 for this. In 1942 I was five years old living with my parents in Philadelphia. My Father was employed by Bendix Aviation. Every night at the supper table my Dad would talk about how he had been called on to train and instruct the graduate engineers. The engineers were paid much more than my Dad. They had degrees but were sometimes clueless.  My father had to quit school in the second grade to go to work. He is the most brilliant man I have ever known. He became self-educated. He never went to high school. He never received any diplomas. He never had an opportunity to go to college. He never was awarded any degrees.

After the war ended, we moved back to upstate Pennsylvania and my Father re-opened his business. He often received phone calls from the large auto manufacturers in Detroit. When they had a problem that their engineers could not solve, they called my Dad. One evening over the supper table, Dad announced that he was getting a lathe. That way he could make the parts that they didn’t know how to make in Detroit and he would send them to the car companies.

As years passed, I learned that the corruption in the education business was even worse than I had imagined. In 1957, I was in my first year of teaching in a school in New Jersey. I was assigned a sixth grade class. Within the first few days, I noticed that all of my students were making the same mistake when working with fractions. I knew they were not copying from each other. After a few days I went to the fifth grade teacher and asked her opinion. She had a Masters Degree in Education and many years of experience. I was the new, young, fresh teacher – still doubting my own abilities. I showed her the students’ papers. She looked at them, and said they were fine. I then realized that she did not know how to do fractions.  I wondered about how many years students were not taught the correct formula for fractions.

Bennington, Vermont had a major school scandal back in the 1980’s. Ghost classes were being held for teachers who wanted to renew their certification.  That is a common nationwide practice.  You pay your money and you get your credits.  Why bother to attend classes.  Many Education Courses tend to be useless anyway.

For decades, many of us have known that the educational system is largely a scam operation. It exists to perpetuate the social order and economic class system. It is used to support the unethical “Paper Prejudice” which denies employment to some of the most talented workers.  It is an institutionalized prejudice which should be illegal. Now everyone knows what my Father knew way back in 1942.

Musings on a Monday After Teaching High School Get You Down? Nope!

Hold those things that tell your history and protect them… The ability to have somebody to tell your story is so important. It says: ‘I was here’.

— Maya Angelou

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One of those splattering days — called to teach special education at one of the high schools in Lincoln City. Wonderful students, wonderful para-educators, wonderful teachers.

But not according to the powers that be in the world! How many students are thrown to the floor/ground and handcuffed by armed cops? How many schools are like prisons, with armed school personnel and local cops there to intimidate?

We are priming youth with these strip searches and forced drug tests and grillings about their allegiances outside the capitalist frame to be compliant adults, scared of their own shadows, frightened to death to take too many breathes of air.

No one can dispute a federal appellate court’s characterization of a strip-search as “demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant, embarrassing, [and] repulsive, signifying degradation and submission.” Even the Supreme Court has said that a search that intrusive “demand[s] its own specific suspicions.” The shock and humiliation suffered by persons subjected to such arrests and searches is aggravated by the fact that they are almost always ordinary citizens who have never been in jail before. In one case a Chicago woman doctor who had been strip searched afterward suffered paranoia, suicidal feelings and depression and would not undress anywhere but in a closet.

The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The Framers would be appalled.

Source: “How the Supreme Court Came to embrace Strip Searches for Trivial Offenses.”

So, how many students are put through this fascist ringer, forced into this series of illegal, unethical, inhumane, insane demands that speak to deeply dehumanizing actions by the so-called powers?

Teaching students in public schools is like pulling the blinders and the blindfolds off of captives who have been shuttered away in some dark and cold cave in Pakistan. They think they sort of have these freedoms outlined in the Constitution, or Bill of Rights, but in reality, they know the jig is up. They know you can’t cross the street while being black without a police confrontation. They know that if they skip rope the wrong way or if they wrestle with their buddies in the cafeteria, then they are subject to the resources officer (thug, wannabe cop) coming in and escalating the situation.

You can’t wear caps, and you can’t hug in public. If you raise your voice in school as a Latino or some teen who is Asian and expressively dressed, well, we have the entire thug force of America come at you full-force.

The Fourth Amendment is dead, and the new government bureaucrats and Gestapo chieftains have taken away unlawful and overreaching search and seizure laws and have normalized their complete “right” to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

In any given day, thousands of Americans undergo forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases.

I have worked for the Starvation Army, through the auspices of the VA, and that corrupt religious outfit — brown shirts one and all — not only forces veterans to pee in a cup for an illegal UA test, but twice daily everyone in a transition housing center has to blow in a straw and prove sobriety with an alcohol monitor.

It’s not for the benefit of the individual, mind you. Getting caught with a hot pee or positive for booze blow, for the homeless vet, the powers that be come down like orchestrated hammers to remind you that you are broken, that you need fixing, that your three hots and a cot are jeopardized and that you might be on the streets, with your four bags of belongings, your emotional support dog, your wife and three kids in tow.

The same treatment is in store for our first through 12th graders.

Typical of the public schools is a North Carolina case of administrators strip-searching a 10-year-old boy in hopes of finding a $20 bill lost by another student, even though the accused boy protested twice that he did not have the missing money. Get this — these little and big brown-shirts, like this ass. principal, ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him “to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear.”

The so-deemed ripped-off $20 bill was later found in the school cafeteria. Did the parents come in with bats and get retribution? Was anything done?

The children of the world want real answers, real stories, real heroes and real tools to navigate a world of fascists, climate change, huge class divides, no economic futures for at least 40 percent of the students as they matriculate out and meander in the wasteland of the 21st century’s second decade in. We have talking sessions and the youth want to ask why people my age and younger have allowed the corporations and government to seize the most intimate details of who we are. Why this is a police state, and a policed school system.

They get it and don’t think all of this talk is some movie script for a Minority Report Two. They already know all their testing scores and performance reports are held captive somewhere. They also know that their vaccination and health records are easily accessed by school officials.

I try and tamp down the urge to tell it like it is early in a class: in the United States we are now guilty until proven innocent.

Students want to know why there are so many fellow classmates with Epipens, why so many are on Individualized Employment Plans, why so many have para-educators assigned to them, what so many are pulled out of classes for special ed or special diets.

We can’t share snacks at breaks because so many are allergic to gluten or sugar or corn or coconut or peanuts of eggs or soy. They are these nervous assist objects and gizmos for many youth on the spectrum to handle, and some are allowed to bring in their own beanbags or to stand up away from the class or pace the room.

We talk about the consequences of unintended fallout from all the junk and plastic products and chemicals laced in the foods and emanating from every corner of a community.

Background checks, parents’ credit checks, health records, records on what they eat and purchase and what their parents plop down on credit cards. What we think, believe, hope for, covet, adhere to spiritually, all of it is recorded, put out in the cloud, held by the IRS, Medical-Pharma-Finance-Debt Complex.

On one hand, we talk about climate change, plastics in their feces, why they get sick with cheese or white bread or with peanut butter. These are smart kids, probing, wanting to know more and more.

They want people in their lives that take them over to the edge of the cliff, and strap them into the hang-glider and take off. They want teachers and mentors taking them to the edge of the boat and plopping backwards to the great blue sea in their snorkel and scuba gear.

They want to go into the forest, not the edge of it. They want to spend time with beavers and watch the process of dam building and the amazing species of aquatic animals thriving.

These children are tired of the Tupperware brand of education and the countless coloring projects and poster projects. They want teachers to help them build catfish ponds, to build gardens, to learn in tepees, to learn how to make children’s puzzles out of wood to sell to the public. They want zip lines around their school, and they want more and more hands-on work. They want to know how to make clay pots, and they want to learn how to arrange flowers, and grow them. They want to learn how to grow food and prep it and cook it. They want to build solar powered pedicabs, and they want to go to all the nursing homes and care facilities with their homemade drums and pianos and accordions and voices and sing and dance and perform for their elders.

It all can be done, and they ask why not, and we talk about every dollar put into a system like decent and real life education getting many dollars matched in return for each dollar invested in children and youth.

Then, we talk about what it means to give up everything for the job, that getting a low paid service job means not having health insurance and being forced to not take vacations, ever, if the job is below a certain amount of hours. They know they won’t be high paid $2000-an-hour lawyers, and they know that very few of the graduates from all the schools in this county will get to be brain surgeons.

We talk about the power in numbers, like bee hives, or ants, and then relate it to people — how many people would it take to get some land, build gardens, do some home-cottage industry work, and sustain a healthy lifestyle. I name this as intentional communities and cooperative living.

Unfortunately, these children are going to be the products of parents who are downtrodden, negative about their own futures, and denigrating against any or all new ideas to get out of this hamster wheel America.

Most of the ideals the youth I teach possess come from Hollywood or thereabouts. They have not met real farmers who are also experts in cheese making and cooking and preserving. They are not meeting the people who are the survivors and the ones who can help us get through this climate and economic chaos.

We talk about the very concept of making sure not to degrade or toxify one self of any of the vital keys to self and community preservation — you are what you eat, you are what you read, you are what you dream, you are what you hope, you are what you think, you are what you say, you are what you believe, you are what you imagine, you are what you do.

There is a lot of pressure on youth, but mainly because the education system as such and the economic horizon we have gifted them are imperiled and off the rails. They want to know what Genetic Engineering is, why all the food items in grocery stores that are not in the green grocery section are contaminated with Roundup, or glyphosate.

They want to know what a Franken-fish is. We talk about that, the mighty salmon, since they reside in Salmon Nation.

Twenty million people share our home in this place we call Salmon Nation.

It spans 100 million acres between San Francisco and Anchorage and generates over $500 billion in economic activity each year, yet is only a sliver of the range that Pacific salmon once ran.

The historic salmon runs remind us of our heritage—what is, was, and, maybe, could be again. Salmon Nation offers a framework for our thinking—a nature state, not a nation state—based on interconnection and the broad distribution of wealth between marine and terrestrial, freshwater and saltwater, urban and rural. Our work is to figure out how to organize our communities and economies to sustain, or even restore, that wealth into the future. Salmon Nation is about the connection between people and place—loving where you live and leaving it better than you found it.

I talk about the power of young people occupying buildings, occupying parks, occupying grocery stores, and occupying the world. They want to know how to protest, how to sing, how to develop the tools that will one day be used by them collectively to do more in the world than to work for the man and bleed their souls for the debts incurred in this capitalist nation.

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We parse the following press release just pushed out by environmental groups:

FDA Lifts Import Ban on Genetically Engineered Salmon

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth and Quinault Indian Nation, and Feed Seven Generations today decried the FDA’s decision to lift the 2016 import alert that banned genetically engineered salmon from entering the U.S.

“USDA’s new guidelines don’t require adequate mandatory labeling, don’t require calling the fish “genetically engineered” and don’t help consumers know what kind of fish they are buying,” said George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety. “These guidelines don’t require mandatory labeling of GE salmon, and instead allow producers to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers for more information. That clearly is not what the Murkowski amendment requires.”

Dana Perls, Senior food policy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, warned, “The FDA’s decision to allow GMO salmon onto the U. S. market runs counter to sound science and market demand. More than 80 retailers have said they won’t sell this risky, unlabeled GMO fish and polls show consumers don’t want it.”

“The FDA’s unilateral decision, without tribal consultation, is an alarming signal that our sacred and prized wild salmon is now even more vulnerable to external markets and ecological threats,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation. “It’s unconscionable and arrogant to think man can improve upon our Creator’s perfection in wild salmon as a justification and excuse to satisfy corporate ambition and greed.”

“By lifting the ban on genetically engineered salmon, the FDA has put American consumers at serious risk and has directly attacked the life ways of Pacific Northwest Tribal communities,” said Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot Tribal Member and Executive Director of Feed Seven Generations. “They have done this without a single tribal consultation, which violates their legal responsibility, mandating that they consult with tribes. Clearly this is an appropriation of our culture and this action will lead to inevitable contamination and irreversible damage to our food system.”

In every year since 2015, Senator Murkowski (R-AK) has inserted a requirement into FDA appropriations language that requires the FDA to issue mandatory labeling guidelines for GE salmon, using clear, on-package labeling stating that these fish are genetically engineered. FDA claims that the USDA new “bioengineered food” labeling guidelines are adequate, but the USDA “bioengineered” guidelines do not require explicitly labeling GE salmon as “genetically engineered.” Moreover, companies could choose to hide the label using a QR code, rather than on-package labeling.

George Kimbrell, Legal Director at the Center for Food Safety, announced that CFS is examining possible legal actions to force the FDA to comply with the Murkowski amendment. Moreover, the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice are leading the legal challenge to whether the FDA even has the legal authority to approve this genetically engineered fish as a “new animal drug”.

More information on health and environmental risks of genetically engineered salmon and a full list of stores that have made commitments to not sell genetically engineered seafood and salmon, letters sent to companies by Friends of the Earth U.S., Center for Food Safety and allies, and a list of coalition partners are available at www.gefreeseafood.org.

We talk about how youth, how students, even how their own parents have no say in this insanity of releasing Frankenstein fish into their diets. They are already concerned about other grand experiments by the sociopaths — nanoparticles in all processed foods; more and more chemicals on their bodies, inside their bodies, inside their lungs, unregulated created by these sociopaths in the sciences and technologies hired as hired-guns to make profits for the elite at the expense of global health, and each child’s health. We talk about the native American way, that we need sanity back, sane ideas, sustainability that is real.

Tribal fishermen scramble to contain a spill of farmed Atlantic salmon in north Puget Sound before they tarnish local waters, shedding light on a global struggle between farmed and wild fish. Annie Crawley worked with the Lummi Tribe, Wild Fish Conservancy, Lummi Island Wild, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and many others to tell the story of the farmed Atlantic salmon spill into the Salish Sea in August 2017. The event sparked a movement of people to speak out against Atlantic salmon net pens in the Puget Sound. Although our state government has taken action to remove the net pens, they are still in other parts of our world ocean. We hope this film will ignite others to choose wild salmon over farmed salmon and create awareness around the impact farmed salmon can have to wild populations.

— Annie Crawley 

The young people of today are our only hope. It’s not the aging politicians that will work to solve the global problems. It’s not the rich and the famous and the celebrity who give a shit about us, the 80 percenters. It’s not the athletes or the CEOs or the bankers who will put the blood sweat and tears into the problems to solve them.

Young people are the lost generations, the lost people, the lost souls, as we adults have abandoned their futures by eating up their futures with this continual continent-sized pile of lies and magical thinking.

They are ready for action and for actors to help them lead themselves. Young people are open to radicals and revolutionaries. Young people need leaders and shaman people to help them crawl out of the dungeons their parents have constructed in not only their own lives, but the future lives of their children.

The students.

Each day I learn more and more about the value of listening and being with and being one with the people of the world, the new people, the arising ones, the people who have not felt gravity enough to weigh down their hope and outlook and creativity. Unfortunately, the systems set up in Capitalism are all about colonizing people at younger and younger ages so they too can be ready for the hamster wheel of Capitalism.

Image result for hamster wheel for humanity

My Love Affair With Books: Self-Education From Greaseball to Street Intellectual

Adjuncts of the world unite!

Between the worlds

Throughout all my formal studies, I continued to be an artist model and it wasn’t until I began teaching in college that the paths of teaching and modelling crossed in irreconcilable ways. My first teaching gig was at New College of California in 1988, teaching Soviet Personality Theory, a course that I made up. About the second week I was teaching there the booking secretary of the Model’s Guild offered me a modelling job in the New College Art Department. The possibility of students in an art class turning up in my Soviet Personality Theory class was not a prospect I wanted to consider. At that point I realized that I was at the end of the line of my modelling life. From that point on, while I was expanding my part-time teaching work, I also took part-time work as a psychological counselor, working in halfway houses for two years. Throughout it all I continued to read about two hours a day, come hell or high water.

The directors at the halfway houses didn’t know what to make of me. Here I was with a masters degree in counseling. Shouldn’t I stop reading since I was done with school? If I was going to read, the least I could do was read books in my field. But here I was reading Stephen J. Gould’s Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Bohm’s Causality and Chance in Modern Physics and Bergson’s Creative Evolution. After a while I would hide the books, so I didn’t have to explain myself.

“Open your mouth and keep your clothes on”: becoming a road scholar

One of the best things about teaching in liberal arts schools was that they respected interdisciplinary learning. I transformed all the reading and note taking I had done into courses, which the liberal arts department welcomed. My first course was Visionary Adult Development in which I was able to present dialectical operations as a fifth stage of cognitive development beyond Piaget’s formal operations. I used biographies of James Baldwin and Malcolm X as my case studies. To the cultural studies department I presented a class on Cultural Evolution from the Stone Age to the Present. Did I have a degree in this? No. Did the chair of the department care? No, because she knew I was knowledgeable after I showed her my bibliography: Leslie White, Julian Steward, Elman Service, Marshall Sahlins, Marvin Harris, Gerhard Lenski. I loved them all long before Cultural Evolution was even a twinkle in my eye.

One time I found a textbook in a used bookstore called Environmental Psychology. This was a subject I had never seen covered in any of my college work. It was about the impact of physical space on people’s psychology, including the size of rooms, the height of the ceilings, territoriality and how people react to natural disasters. I loved this stuff. For the better part of two years I read three or four textbooks and a number of experts such as Irvin Altman Yi-Fu Tuan and Robert Sack. I knew when I was ready I would propose it as a course and it would be accepted, which it was. I also taught more traditional courses like Cross-Cultural Psychology and Social Psychology but my favorites were always the courses I made up.

The Seeds of my first book: From Earth Spirits to Sky Gods

Just around the time I began teaching at the liberal arts school, I began to develop an interest in tribal and ancient societies. I loved Engels’ book, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State but felt Marx and Engels had been too sweeping in their lumping together tribal spirituality and the “Great Religions”. After all, I reasoned, if hunter-gatherers were egalitarian, than their spiritual practices must have been different than those of the Great Religions which emerged after the development of social classes. I read F.M Cornford’s From Religion to Philosophy; E.R. Dodd’s The Greeks and the Irrational; Eric Havelock, Geoffrey E.R. Lloyd , Gilbert Murray, Jane Harrison, Bruno Snell, James Breasted, Mircea Eliade along with the work of Jack Goody, among many others. As I read, I began to develop a course which I called From Earth Spirits to Sky-Gods. I taught the class about five times before my lecture notes got so big that I realized I had the basis of my first book. I worked on that book for twelve years.

Following my passions

Over the years, I have not been shy about contacting authors whom I admired.

Some of these folks welcomed the contact and others didn’t. In the early 1990s, I began to become interested in the world-systems theory of Immanuel Wallerstein. There was one particular world-systems theorist, Chris Chase-Dunn whose work I really liked. Chris was the most unpretentious academic I’ve ever met. I asked him some penetrating questions about his work through email. After a while he said “you ask a lot of questions. What are you working on?” When I told him, he asked me to send him the manuscript. About two years later he wrote me a letter of recommendation to Lexington Press which convinced them they should take my manuscript. Did Chris ask me what my credentials were? He did not. He understood that I was an interdisciplinary scholar and saw from the manuscript I had something important to say. About a year later he asked me if I wanted to write a book with him. I was paralyzed. This guy was relatively famous, at least in world-systems circles. He had PhD in sociology. I expressed my reservations and I told him I had never even taken a sociology class. He shrugged it off. He said to me “in world-systems theory we are all trespassers.” Around 2001 we began writing a book together, a book that was called Social Change: Globalization From The Stone Age to the Present which was published by Paradigm Publishers.

Power in Eden

In the early 1990’s a feminist student of mine took my From Earth-spirits to Sky-Gods course, loved the class but complained to me that there was not enough discussion of the the lives of women between the Stone Ages and the Axial Iron Age. This led me to the work of Janet Chafetz-Salisman, Peggy Reeves-Sanday, and Christine Ward-Galley. Between 2000 when Earth Spirits was published, and 2005 I worked on a manuscript that later turned into my second published book, Power in Eden. I sent my former student my 410-page copy. Inside the cover I wrote to her, “Are you happy now”. We had a good laugh.

You are a Street Intellectual

At the university, you don’t come across too many working-class people. But at one university I had a student who was a fireman. This guy liked me enough to take two or three of my classes. One time the guy took me aside and told me how much he appreciated me as a teacher. I tried to say that there were many good teachers at the school. He was having none of it. He said, “you are not like the other teachers. You don’t talk like them. You don’t act like them. You ought to be on a street corner on Mission street, agitating for the revolution.” “Well, what would that make me”, I asked. You’re a street intellectual, that’s what you are”. I looked at him, speechless. I’ve never forgotten this. It is the greatest compliment I’ve ever received about my work.

From Universities to community colleges

About 13 years ago, after a steep decline in the capitalist economy made it very difficult to teach in liberal arts universities, I bit the bullet and applied for part time community college teaching. The prospect of teaching 18-21-year-old students after 14 years of teaching older adults in night school was something I dreaded.

When I was interviewed for the job, the chairs of the psychology and the sociology departments couldn’t believe that I had written two books on my own without being forced to. “Why would anyone want to write books if they weren’t forced to by the department? How could I have had the time to write books on the salary of an adjunct?” These were exactly the kinds of academic questions that drove me away from school 36 years ago.

While they thought it was very impressive that I had written two books that crossed about six different disciplines, they did not want me to maintain my interdisciplinary focus once I began teaching. Community colleges are much more narrow in focus than the universities and they insisted that I could not teach in areas in which I had no degree. So I spent most of my time smuggling my interests into the classes anyway. I used to create two syllabi. One was what I called the “family values” syllabus which was what I gave to the administration. The other was the “X” rated syllabus which I gave to the students which contained what I was really going to do in the class.

To give you one example, I taught a class called Psychology of Modern Life

This was supposed to be a class about how to apply psychology to everyday life. This included working on yourself psychologically while touting the humanism of the field of psychology. But after I watched Adam Curtis’ Century of Self, I realized there was another side to psychology, a very deceptive side. So I developed a course called Brainwashing, Propaganda and Rhetoric: Dark Psychology in the 20th century. This lead me to study Cults, advertising, nationalism and sports as propaganda. I studied the work of Robert J. Lifton, William Sargent, Jacques Ellul, Erving Goffman and Serge Moscovici. I did this for nine years before the administration found out what I was doing. Part of the reason I was able to do this is that the students never complained to the administration about what I was teaching.

Capitalist economic violence against adjuncts

Between 2007 and 2014 I taught a class at one university called The History of Psychology every semester. As usual, I started out with an established textbook but became increasingly critical of it. My lecture notes kept getting fatter and fatter as I brought in material on the history of the senses, cognitive evolution in history, the history of eating habits, James Hillman’s work on polytheistic psychology, along with work on the history of mental illness and crowd psychology. In 2013 I requested that the department make my manuscript available for students to purchase. I was turned down because it hadn’t been published as a book yet. So much for academia supporting the work of scholars. I worked on my book another year, a book called Forging Promethean Psychology. Six months before the class was to begin, I was told by the department that I was being “bumped” from teaching the class. Why? There were the usual budget cuts. They were cutting classes and the full-timers had to teach the remaining classes that were left. So I had a book for my class, was all dressed up and nowhere to go.

Conclusion

Generally, the movement of my intellectual life began by passively reading books and taking notes on them. As I began to discuss some of my reading and wrote papers when I went back to college, I started to apply my reading. Once I began to teach classes the relationship between reading, speaking and writing got reversed. In my later years reading was done in the service of speaking, writing, and teaching. However, I still read in many subjects like the sciences, which I will never write books about or teach.

I have never seen myself as an academic. Even at the world-systems conferences I attended, and with which I had great sympathy, I never felt at home. I have always felt academics were pompous, and out of touch with real life, especially the full-time academics. I’ve always seen my work teaching as empowering students. I never cared much about what the other teachers thought and I’ve frankly been disappointed at how lacking in intellectual ambition most of the college teachers I’ve met were.

Over the years I developed a library large enough to cause tension in my relationship, with books spilling out of every room and stuffed into closet shelves. When I stood at the counter at Moe’s Books in Berkeley three or four years ago, I said to the guy at the counter, “If I ever get a divorce, I could see the reason in print: ’cause of divorce: too many fuckin books in the house’”. I still remember Niccolo Machiavelli’s quote:

When evening comes, I return home and go into my study. On the threshold I strip off my muddy, sweaty, workday clothes, and put on the robes of court and palace, and in this graver dress I enter the antique courts of the ancients and am welcomed by them, and there I taste the food that alone is mine, and for which I was born. And there I make bold to speak to them and ask the motives of their actions, and they, in their humanity, reply to me. And for the space of four hours I forget the world, remember no vexation, fear poverty no more, tremble no more at death: I pass indeed into their world.

Through break-ups, aggravation with socialist organizations and financial insecurity I have never lost the feeling that there is nothing like sitting in my library reading while listening to classical music and drinking a cup of coffee.

• First published at Planning Beyond Capitalism

My Love Affair With Books: Self-Education From Greaseball to Street Intellectual

Bruce Lerro with one of his latest books

Only sissies read books

When I was growing up there were no books to speak of in our house. My Italian-American parents were middle class: my father was a self-made commercial artist; my mothers’ father was a shoemaker; and my father’s father was a bartender who deserted the family. In other words, we were middle class without the culture that usually comes from being middle class. My neighborhood sandlot baseball friends were working class and the Catholic school I went to was working class. Most of the parents of the kids I hung around with were either firefighters or cops – not many book readers here. My love affair with books began at 20 years old and is inversely proportional to my interest in school. When I was in school, I had no interest in books. It was only after I dropped out of community college that I became interested in reading.

“Now dat’s the blues” says Fat George of Rivoli Records

I was a great follower of rhythm and blues music throughout my teenage years, listening to the black stations, WWRL and WLIB in New York. I worked in music stores for a couple of years which first made me appreciate the blues. After I quit school and moved out, I began to look for books on the blues in local bookstores. I remember going to Yankee Stadium one weekday night and finding myself sitting in the upper deck reading a history of the blues while barely looking up at the game. Something was changing.

“Looking Backward” and my socialist baptism

In early 1970 one of my co-workers in a wholesale music store invited me to move in with him and his friend who lived in Brooklyn, a couple of subway stops from Manhattan. My co-worker, Bob Bady, was clearly from an upper-middle class background. One time on a break he said to me he was a socialist. I said I didn’t know what that meant. He says “have you ever heard of Edward Bellamy’s book Looking Backward?” I said “no” and so he whipped out a paperback version and handed it to me. “Let me know what you think”, he said. I think he saw me as his personal project. Here I am, a greaseball with a pompadour reading a book about socialism. My friends and former teachers wouldn’t have believed it. After reading this book I knew I was a socialist. Bob dragged me to all the marches going on at the time and reading Bellamy’s book gave me a sense of where all this could lead.

My first heroes: James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Malcolm X

Because I lived so close to Manhattan and because I already worked in a music store in Times Square, I began to poke around in bookstores downtown, specifically the great Strand Bookstore and the 8th street bookstore in the West Village. By the following year, Bob had moved away to go to college, (probably graduate school) and so I was on my own in terms of reading. Given my past and present interest in the blues, it was a natural fit to gravitate toward black authors. I read James Baldwin, and two or three of Richard Wright’s books. But the book that was most riveting for me was Malcolm X’s autobiography.

Searching for mysteries without any clues: reading eclectically

I started out reading eclectically. I picked up psychology books, history books, books on philosophy, which I could not understand, and an abridged version of Das Kapital which I put down about 3 minutes after I pulled it off the shelf. I really did not know where to begin. I had no system. I read a little bit of Lenin but had no understanding of the relationship between Leninists, social democrats and anarchists. It wasn’t until I stumbled on GDH Cole’s History of Socialism that I began to put the pieces together.

I worked for UPS on the graveyard shift unloading trucks in Long Island City from 11pm to 3am. I read faithfully on all my breaks and on the train going to work and coming home. The other workers did not know what to make of me. My parents must have wanted to shake me and say “who are you and what have you done with my son”.

In and out of VISTA in seven days

Later that year I was accepted into VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program in Atlanta. On the bus for one of our tours, I cornered one of the presenters who seemed more radical. I expressed my reservations about VISTA which he confirmed by saying: “it’s all liberal bullshit.’ I knew I was at a crossroads. I really couldn’t go back to New York as it represented the old world.

About six months earlier I had met a young woman named Stephanie on the train on my way to work at the music store. Stephanie was visiting from Berkeley. She gave me her phone number and told me if I ever travelled to the West Coast that I would have place to stay. So when I left Atlanta, rather than return to New York I decided to hitchhike to Berkeley.

Busted in Topeka Kansas with “communist” material

On my way through the south I remember reading Ray Ginger’s biography of Eugene Debs. Travelling in that part of the country in 1970 was pretty dangerous for people who looked like me (perceived by others as a hippie,) so after experiencing both southern hospitality and southern hostility, I headed north on I-65, and then West on I-70. Some guy in the military gave me a ride to Topeka, Kansas where he was stationed. I was stuck on a ramp onto I-70 because it was illegal there to be on the interstate hitchhiking. After 6 hours of not moving and having a few beer cans thrown at me, I decided to take my chances and get on the interstate. I was not there for 10 minutes before a cop arrested me and took me to the jail. Before I went to my cell, the cop asked me to open up my knapsack. I was very nervous about this but not for the reasons you might suspect. He looked almost excited; anticipating that he would find out I had some pot, which I didn’t have. However, instead he pulled out three books: The Essential Lenin; The Writings of Che Guevara; and an anthology of writings by anarchists. He looked at the books, shook his head and then said “Just as I thought, ‘commuist’ agitator (intentional misspelling to capture his pronunciation). After about 6 hours in jail I decided to pay the $100 fine and get out of there. My books were not returned.

Cowhand intellectual in Eastern Oregon

On the road again a year later, I am travelling east on US-20 going from Corvallis Oregon, to Denver. I had met Ellie two weeks earlier when she picked me, along with two other guys up in her pickup truck. We stayed on her dad’s farm for a week – which I’m sure he was thrilled about. Anyway, she must have been looking for a way to get out of Corvallis and ran away with me to Denver after the other two guys left for the San Francisco Bay Area. Well, our hitchhiking through Eastern Oregon wasn’t going very well. Finally, as the sun was going down, two guys in a pick-up truck who looked like rednecks offered us a ride. We both hesitated but we were desperate, stuck in the middle of nowhere. They drove about two miles and then made a left on some dirt road. Not good.

These two guys start building a huge fire in the middle or what appears almost as a desert, and then they started drinking. We sit with them at the fire looking at the long cast shadows of the tree branches. Uh oh, is this the end? They only seem to want to talk to each other. Once it was in the neighborhood of 9 pm, we felt enough time had gone by to say we were going to bed. We put out our sleeping bags about a quarter of a mile away and tried to get some sleep. They were talking too loud for us to do that. So, I decided to go back to the fire and talk to them. One of them was so drunk he just fell asleep in the sand. Then the other one who looked like a cowhand began to talk to me.

I was amazed that he started talking about books to me and how lonely it was to not have anyone to talk to. He started talking about Marx. I couldn’t believe it. Then he asked me what I had read, which I was very careful about. He looked about five years older than I was so he must have felt he had the authority to tell me what to read. On the back of my road map I scribbled Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground; Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth”. I have since read all three, but every time I read one, I thought of him. What I really needed was a reference librarian to help me to prioritize my reading and in what order to read my favorite author’s books. What I was doing was unsystematic but my passion for reading was kindled and just kept going, and I figured that it would congeal later on.

Crashing at the Roosevelt Street Commune

Backtracking to my first hitchhiking adventure from VISTA, when I arrived in Berkeley from Atlanta ten days after I started, I found Stephanie’s house on Roosevelt Street. She was walking towards me talking to a friend. When she saw it was me she couldn’t believe it. We started jumping up and down together. She made good on her offer and I spent the next week crashing in her commune in a reconverted garage where I slept. The books around the house were what you would expect of a hippie household in 1970. A copy of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People on the coffee table was accompanied by Herman Hesse’s Damien on the kitchen table. Stephanie and her friends were more spiritual types than political. I went to one of her meditation weekly sessions which was open to the public. After the talk I asked her if you could be spiritual and a political radical at the same time. She answered carefully and said no. When I asked her why, she said that being spiritual meant no violence and that they couldn’t go together. I wasn’t satisfied with that and thought that they could be synthesized. A great deal of my reading and joining groups from council communism to neo-pagan Tree of Life groups was dedicated to making them work together even though everyone else must have thought I was nuts.

Telegraph Avenue and Moe’s Books

One of the first things Stephanie’s roommates insisted that I do is go to Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. The next day in the late morning I made a trip up there. Telegraph Avenue was then, as it was for many years, a “freak show” with all the positive and negative connotations that follow. I went into Moe’s and was floored by the variety of radical literature. After having read on the history of socialism, I was curious about anarchism and anarchists. Right on the counter, as if it was it were a best seller, were Kropotkin’s revolutionary pamphlets; a biography of Bakunin by EH Carr and James’s Joll’s book on the history of anarchism. Berkeley then was filled with grouplets of leftists all claiming to know the truth. In retrospect most of these groups were rigid and not very open to learning from each other, but for an eclectic like me just starting out, it was exhilarating to flit from group to group. Once I got a beat on the history of socialism, I knew what the centerpiece of my reading would be: socialism and radical history.

My nine-month six hours a day reading program

By this point I was in love with reading but could not imagine going back to school because of my bad experience with it. Also, I had no idea that I could find work which involved the kind of reading I was doing. So, I decided to develop my own reading program. I wanted to read more about socialism but I wanted to read in an interdisciplinary way. So I set up a program for myself, which usually had five categories of books from different disciplines. Besides socialism and radical history I read on psychology, philosophy, anthropology, mythology and the history of science.

I asked my parents if I could move back with them from the Fall of 1970 to the Spring of 1971 while throwing myself into my reading program. They said “ok”, hoping that a stay at home might allow me to become more “normal”. During that time, I would work for UPS unloading trucks at night. During the day I spent about 6 hours each day reading, taking notes and writing down my impressions. I did this from September to May. Every day I would take my books and notebooks to different libraries. In those days not all the old radical books were available in paperback. I remember reading Emma Goldman’s Living My Life in the Brooklyn Library every Tuesday afternoon before taking the train to Long Island City to work. My favorite place was to go to the 42nd Street Library in Manhattan and sit at those big oak tables and chairs. As I sat there it was hard not to feel like I was part of history.

I had a section in my reading program called “radical biographies” which included reading biographies of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Louise Michel, Enrico Malatesta, Rosa Luxemburg, Victor Serge, Alexandra Kollontai and Vera Figner. Another category was in psychology. I read the work of Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Wilhelm Reich. I was also curious about philosophy. I wanted to read in this field, but wanted a socialist take on it. Maurice Cornford wrote a three volume communist introduction to philosophy, which clarified the difference between ontology and epistemology as well as the major schools within each field. I also became interested in Art History and tore through the four volumes of Arnold Hauser’s Social History of Art.

Self-educational study group with neither carrots or sticks

In 1975 I spotted an ad for a reading group on Nietzsche in the local hippie newspaper, Open Exchange. I had read Thus Spoke Zarathustra but never dreamed anyone else would be interested in Nietzsche. To paraphrase Tammy Wynette, we liked Nietzsche when Nietzsche wasn’t cool: This was long before the postmodern rage over Nietzsche. I never met such a mix of people—a high school teacher, a printer, a carpenter and a welder. Together for a year we met at each other’s houses every two weeks and we tore through most of Nietzsche’s work in English. Every one of these folks was a self-disciplined, independent thinker who did the reading every week without any carrots or sticks. I remained friends with two of them for years, long after out group ended.

I have to say that one of the very best things about socialists is that we are, for the most part, self-taught. We read even when no one is forcing us. Many of the socialists I’ve met know more about history, economics and politics than many college instructors who had degrees in the field. We formed reading groups and studied together because it was important for the revolution that we did so.

Social Evolution as part of cosmic evolution

Throughout the mid 70’s, my focus continued to be radical theory and radical history. But by the late 1970’s it was clear that the wave of 60’s radicalism was fading and I became interested in larger issues. I thought that socialism needed to be grounded in something larger and evolutionary. A Marxist comrade of mine who was studying yoga under the disapproving eye of other comrades in our group felt the same way I did. He whispered to me I should study Teilhard de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man. From here it was a short step to Henry Bergson, Lloyd Morgan and the emergent evolutionists and then to Bertalanffy’s General System Theory and the work of the little known Oliver Reiser, especially his book, Cosmic Humanism. This culminated in the work of Buckminster Fuller. I loved Utopia or Oblivion, Critical Path and Nine Chains to the Moon and I was amazed by how someone trained in the natural sciences and a military man (the U.S. Navy) could be a social visionary.

Western spiritual traditions

It was also in the late 70’s and early 80’s that I discovered Wicca. The Neo-pagan movement was well under way, largely a product of the women’s movement’s rejection of the Judeo-Christian tradition. My favorite book at the time was Starhawk’s Spiral Dance, which pulled together pagan traditions along with a “how-to” guide in practicing magick. I never joined a group because I did not trust people to turn these practices into New Age mumbo jumbo. But I did develop a practice of my own. I’ve always found magick to be a very practical system for changing consciousness through the uses of imagery, music and dance.

I also became interested in esoteric spirituality and read books by and about Rudolf Steiner, Aleister Crowley, Dane Rudhyar for astrology and the work of Ouspensky and the Gurdjieff people. I knew all these traditions could not be easily integrated with a socialist perspective but I never gave up trying to bridge the worlds. I joined groups and participated in associations, never quite feeling at home anywhere, always being afraid of being “found out”.

“Shut-up and take off your clothes” — my 12-year life as an artist model

Throughout my 20’s, which were roughly during the 1970’s, I had worked as a proletarian, unloading trucks, driving a forklift and working as a page in the library. There was a deep division between what I was doing in my work life and my luxuriant growth in intellectual curiosity. After a crisis in which I left the Bay Area for three months, when I returned in the summer of 1978, I was determined that my work life should reflect more of my skills and interests than it had been.

As my relationship with my father began to improve in my late 20’s I “allowed” myself to admit that I really was interested in art. I began taking art classes at City College of San Francisco. This, of course, justified a twist in my reading towards the arts. One day in a figure drawing class the model did not show up. The art teacher started to pull out of the cabinet some materials for us do draw a still life. I went over to her and volunteered my services. “You will pose for the class?” she asked. I said “yes” and she said “of course, you can keep your clothes on”. I was having none of it and insisted that I be nude like all the other models we had had. She reluctantly agreed.

I posed for the class and had a great time – gestures, five-minute, then 10 minute than three 20 minute poses over three hours. At the end of the class the art teacher came up to me and said I was pretty good at it. The next time we had a model, I asked them what was involved in becoming a model. I found out you had to audition and that they had auditions twice a year. Two months later I auditioned for the San Francisco Models’ Guild and got in. For the next twelve years I worked all over the Bay Area – about five gigs a week. The pay was pretty good (by today’s standards, maybe $30 dollars per hour). Through it all I read on Muni buses and Bart trains to and from modelling gigs. One way or another, I managed to read my books on the average of about two hours per day.

Capitalist fundamentalism drives me back to college    

With the capitalist economy contracting by the early 1980’s, it was becoming more difficult to make a living as a model, along with teaching a Baseball For Beginners class that I offered through an alternative education newspaper. When I first got involved with my new girlfriend, she was very impressed by all the reading I had done, but then she started seeing possibilities for me. One time we were in Golden Gate Park and I was describing to her a table that I hand-wrote which contrasted the characteristics of ancient cities as opposed to industrial cities. She said to me something like, “you are wasting your knowledge on one person. You ought to be teaching”. I had been told this before but I dismissed it by mistakenly thinking that I needed a PhD to teach college. Besides, I hated school.

Anyway, Barbara kept up the pressure as only people in relationships can do. Finally, I stumbled upon Antioch University, which had a branch in San Francisco. The major draw for me was not just that it was a left-wing school, but that it gave me credit for prior life experience. That meant that if I went to school and took 9 units a quarter, I would have a Bachelor’s degree in a year. The cost of the school was reasonable so, I decided to do it.

Taking classes in psychology produced a crisis for me because I was expected to read “their” books. This conflicted with my own “real” reading program. I didn’t have enough time to do both. At first, I was conscientious and did all the required reading (this lasted only a couple of weeks) and ignored my own, real reading program. But I soon realized that I was so far ahead of the expected knowledge base in school that I could skim the readings because I had already read so much psychology on my own. This was a great relief to me. In one class I took on personality theory, I knew most of the material. Fortunately, the school was open to students doing directed studies. So I invented my own independent course, “Personality Theory And Social Class”. I did this kind of thing in other classes. For my class in Child Development I did a cross-cultural and historical comparison of childrearing practices.

Change of occupational plans: from shrink to college teacher

I started my college life thinking I would be an art therapist, but watching how much fun my developmental psychology teacher, Valita, was having changed my mind. I watched her animatedly talking about research, popping Pepsi after Pepsi, answering questions, being challenged and challenging us. In addition, the students in the class were older, working people, not like the students I was in class with during the day at the community college I dropped out of. This was a cool scene! I noticed on Valita’s syllabus that she had an MA after her name, not a PhD. So, I went up to her on the break and asked about it. Once she told me all you needed was a master’s degree, I thought to myself, “shit, I can do that”. I asked her if she was full-time and she said no, and said she didn’t want to be. I asked why and she said “I just want to teach students, I don’t want to get caught up in faculty politics. I go from school to school and it turns out to be full-time anyway. I just like it, me and the students”. I hugged her at the end of the class and thanked her for unintentionally providing me guidance.

So once I graduated in 1984 I enrolled in a master’s program, since I had come to realize that I could be a student and not abandon my real reading program and just continue it. At the master’s level there were only two teachers who gave me a run for my money: a developmental psychologist and a social psychologist.

Liberal arts universities had a reputation for grade inflation, so you didn’t have to do much work to pass the class. I got used to this and continued to read what I wanted. Well, the developmental psychologist I had for a directed study really tore apart the first paper I wrote. I was shocked and then I got mad. “I’ll show this mutherfucker” I thought to myself. The next paper I wrote was called Social Atomism in Developmental Psychology. It was a criticism of how the field of developmental psychology had a very liberal (rather than socialist) understanding of what it meant to be social. My teacher loved the paper and 18 months later after I graduated, I had it published in a radical psychology journal. One of the best things I got out of my undergraduate program was getting teachers to read what I had written. Having to write papers taught me how to write and, as it turned out, these became the seeds of my own later books and articles.

After four or five weeks of a course in social psychology, I approached a teacher who seemed to be a closeted Marxist. I expressed my frustration with bourgeois orientation to psychology and asked her if there were any Marxists psychologists. She told me about Klaus Riegel who made an argument that dialectical operations was a fifth stage of cognitive development beyond Piaget’s formal operations. More importantly, she told me about Lev Vygotsky and socio-historical psychology. One of the best things about being in school is getting help in orienting yourself to a field. Without Noelle’s help, it might have taken me years to find Vygotsky. But here she was giving me a reading list. I was a socio-historical psychologist all along, only I didn’t know it!

She also told me about Alexander Luria and his work showing the historical and social nature of perception, identity and cognition. Luria studied the transformation of peasants during the Russian Revolution and how their cognitive processes changed as they moved from the country to the city. In fact, Noelle encouraged me to travel to Nicaragua to make a similar study, since they were undergoing a revolution. While I never took up her suggestion, it didn’t stop me from making a special study of socio-historical psychology. Fortunately, the Communist Party in San Francisco had a bookstore regularly stocked with books coming from Russia that were translated into English and not easy to find elsewhere. I read the work of Leontiev, the work of S. L. Rubenstein, and Valsiner’s Developmental Psychology in the Soviet Union.

In 1986 I graduated with a master’s degree in psychology. The funny thing is I had no idea of what my grade-point average was until I got something in the mail after I graduated. I could have cared less. What mattered to me was the classroom dialogues and the chance to have an audience for my writing.

In Part II I will cover my teaching life as a “road scholar”, a “freeway flyer”, in which I established a dialectical relationship between teaching, writing and reading that I could never have imagined.

• First appeared in Planning Beyond Capitalism

Charter School Promoters Terrified of Growing Opposition to Their Full-Frontal Assault on Public Education

The ongoing widely-supported teachers’ strikes across the United States are bringing to the fore many problems that have been confronting public education for decades, including a big and overdue focus on the havoc and destruction caused by charter schools against public schools and the public interest for the last 28 years.

Teacher strikes everywhere are smashing the silence on charter schools and awakening many out of their charter school stupor. Even the most anti-conscious individual is slowly beginning to see the disaster that charter schools and the neoliberal antisocial offensive are producing. Criticism and rejection of charter schools is becoming more mainstream with each passing month. The charter school fairytale seems to be losing traction.

Charter school promoters are rightly fearful that their scorched earth approach to education may be slowing down due to growing social consciousness of the endless problems caused by charter schools. It is clear that nonprofit and for-profit charter schools are harming every aspect of public education and the public interest. Education privatization cannot be prettified or justified.

Approximately seven thousand charter schools, legal in 44 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam, currently enroll slightly more than three million students. While hundreds of nonprofit and for-profit charter schools close each year due mainly to financial malfeasance and poor academic performance, hundreds of these test-obsessed “free market” schools still keep opening every year.

Nonprofit and for-profit charter schools must be stopped if public education and the public interest are to be defended and affirmed. Education privatization offers no solutions, just more problems and more impunity. Teachers, school boards, and the public should keep pushing for more moratoriums on these privatized schools that are making the rich even richer while causing more problems for everyone else.

Even with the unrestricted ability to routinely cherry pick their students, charter schools, 92% of which are deunionized, have never come close to offering the kind of mass quality education that public schools have offered 90% of the nation’s youth for the last 150 years. Unlike charter schools, public schools accept all students, at all times, no questions asked. Public schools also do a better job of hiring and retaining more qualified and better-paid teachers.

Charter schools mainly enrich major owners of capital while masquerading as education arrangements that “empower parents,” “increase choice,” “serve the kids,” and “close the achievement gap.” The rich and those who wittingly and unwittingly agree with them believe that the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the so-called “free market” is a modern and socially responsible way to organize mass public education in a society based on mass industrial production.

Because the tide is slowly but surely turning against their wrecking activities, supporters and beneficiaries of charter schools are becoming even more arrogant and belligerent in their efforts to expand charter schools. Their egocentric quest to maximize profit as fast as possible makes it impossible for them to adopt a human-centered perspective. They are objectively blind to the needs of an education, society, and economy that serve the people. They only see schemes to further enrich themselves and promote their narrow antisocial interests under the banner of high ideals to fool the gullible.

The millionaires and billionaires behind charter schools, and all those who intentionally and unintentionally promote their disinformation about charter schools, never realized or anticipated that people are capable of acquiring and fortifying a social consciousness that does not tolerate assaults on public funds, institutions, assets, resources, facilities, and authority. The public opposes the unlimited greed of the rich and all the havoc that pursuit of such a narrow aim necessarily brings. More people are increasingly saying enough is enough.

Small-town America is the only Solution

Image result for artwork of young students climate change

I’ve been straddling the void, so to speak: I have had a disgust with this Imperial Society so long that down looks up, man. Slip streaming through the wastelands of America, first, as a kid wrestling in Tucson and having huge confrontations with fellow high school punks, racists against the Mexican-Americans on the other side of town, racists against the Native Americans up north, and racists against the African Americans recruited by the hometown basketball and football teams – University of Arizona Wildcats.

I hated and fought the bulldozers tearing up the Sonora, hated and fought the trappers wanting every god-damned coyote and other vermin cleared from the land, hated and fought the people on both sides of the foolish Tupperware or Rubbermaid parties who backed the baby killers and old lady rapers called US Uniformed Services.

The Minutemen along the border, shooting up crossers and holding at gunpoint, again grannies, old men and women, I hated them and did things to some of their crusades. .

I had nothing in common with the haters, the levelers, the people who gushed over July 4th bombs bursting in air, gushed over the Superbowl, gushed over the Oscars, gushed over the cheap flights to Vegas and Honolulu and Mazatlan. I knew even before Tucson and the border and my work in Mexico that the project of Empire was based on Puritanical lies, slavery of the mind, and the Mad Men in every branch of government and all sectors of the economy doing that soft shoe bait and switch akimbo with the minds and tax coffers of more and more distracted dumb-downed deluded magical thinking members of this sideshow carnival society.

Blind allegiance to something, that’s the American way, even those who see themselves as stripes of another zebra. Capitalism as a system of putting on the backs of the majority the pain and suffering and failures of the elite’s project to accumulate more and more wealth, land, power, industries, economies of scale toward human obsolescence, well, that was weighing on the 15-year-old’s heart, wrestling my way through anger in Southern Arizona with people who were not of my tribe, people from an alternative belief system, or at least I was from some alternative universe.

I felt like shit living in the skin of a teenage boy in Arizona, anywhere, in the US of A, and I had zilch in common with more and more people. Older people, that’s who I gravitated toward. Misbegotten hobos, they called themselves, or outlaws – bad check writers, credit union and small time hold up artists, drug dealers, Vietnam vets in motorcycle clubs or living in trailers out in nowhere Sonora Desert. Shitkickers who wanted nothing of US government, US lifestyles, US consumerism, US ideals.

I gravitated toward Mexicans who lived tight with other Mexicans, illegal crossers who seemed to know how poverty is the system designed to divide and conquer, as the once poor, with enough toil or scamming, get to play in the land of the middle class.

God, country, apple pie, and mother? Schools were are joke, because the idealism that young people should have garnered, the rebellion and the anti-authority tendencies we have as youth, creativity, genius, those were the things that the powers that be fought against.

Whew, that was then, 1972, and here I am struggling in Oregon, meeting the riptide of humanity along the Oregon Coast, a hardscrabble existence of boom or bust, displaced people, and old timers who have seen the entire place transformed into dichotomous America in microcosm: those who have put down roots, did the logging and fishing and crabbing thing, and then those who have wads of cash from California or Texas or Portland who have set up dream summer homes along one of the more incredible coastlines along this country’s two sides of the land mass.

Here I am doing the education thing again, teaching, right in the middle of the muck – some of my first gigs as substitute teacher have been right in the middle of grades 1 through 6, an emotional-intellectual-spiritual tender for those vulnerable years, those formative years, the years where the real difference in a child’s life could be enhanced by a society that throws its all into education, into teaching instead of training, mentoring instead of dictating, embracing creativity instead of stifling free thinking.

What a perfect time for young people to finally get the hands-on work of artists, historians, biologists, nurses and doctors, writers, farmers, tradesmen/tradeswomen. What a perfect time to help youth learn cooperative thinking, communitarian ideals, and have a chance to learn about and practice revolutionary thought.

Instead the schools look like old Army post barracks, and the lackluster curriculum is so dumb-downed that so many potentially fantastically creative and smart youth end up passing through the sieve of standardized education.

Yes, that age, 6, 7, 8, 9 squirrelly, but really, collectively in 2019, the entire mess is busted. Parents working three jobs, parents arguing about when to finally pull up stakes or drag in the anchor and head out of these small coastal towns. Fractured families, now, with 1 out of 1.9 marriages in disunion by 5 years in. This is the time of reckoning for young people, yet we are teaching them the hate of the country, the values of bombing other people, the ideals of dog-eat-dog capitalism, having them celebritize and honor the luxuries of the rich, and thereby forcing young kids to even give a shit about multimillionaire talent-less singers, movie idols and arbiters of crass culture.

Pizza and French fries lathered up in ketchup and ranch dressing in the cafeteria. Lunch rooms that are so loud it seems like an election night announcement that Hillary won. These little people are shuffled from recess to special reading classes, and from lunch room to classroom.

Children can’t sit still, and many are on the spectrum; and, really, there is no respect at all taught to them about elders, teachers, groups of other people. It is all for one — me-myself-and-I. How can we blame them with leaders like Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump!?

We know how to do things right; there’s no big black hole of head scratching on “how to solve the education crisis” bullshit. We know that experiential learning works. We know that smaller hands-on classes work. We know that having mentors in the families’ homes mentoring parents works. We know that parents having mandatory and company-supported days off for co-learning in the schools works. We know that music and second and third languages work before age 12. We know that art and science blended together works.

We know that the face of a nation, or the globe, is dependent on the next and the next generation and next ones after those “getting it.” We know that more learning works, and more cultural crack cocaine leads to more zoned-out and zombie-like adults. So no more crack cocaine pop culture, consumer-mad-men junk to consume and electing idiots who bag the money and run away from the real solutions.

We know that today, low wages and high living expenses and barely scrapping by and no public safety nets reap more and more scattered thinking, more and more survival of the fittest mindset, more and more children who can’t learn, won’t read, don’t know how to think.

We set upon our youth a firestorm of false ideologies of consumerism, false beliefs in might makes right, a false religion that America is the only nation to count and all the rest are against us.

Hey, so, here’s this truism: many of the venues I teach at I am the ONLY male instructor, and the staff and children alike wonder when I am putting in my application for full-time work. “Sir, we have been trying to get a male teacher hired on here for years,” is a common refrain from fellow teachers. High fives from the full-time staff for me, a guy, making it through a full day of 2nd graders.

Managed chaos. So many young children with behavioral plans. So many children with learning disabilities, with anxiety disorders, with self-esteem issues, with socialization complexes and with family burdens.

Of course, a society can be judged harshly on how it treats its children and elderly and infirm. Of course, a society can be judged on how many permissible levels of toxins, heavy metals, particulates, VOCs, neurological disrupters, endocrine scramblers end up in the soil, air, water, food of our youngest and most vulnerable of citizens.

Input, output. Mindless and meaningless and dehumanizing consumerism and popular culture (sic). Output, input.

Meaning in one’s life means a full-force commitment to the vulnerable, to youth, to individuals and families who are the backbone of labor, community, the arts. Meaningfulness means food security, economic opportunities at the local level, a real sense of a downtown and real town, no matter how rural the place might be.

Health clinics that serve the poor and the middle class alike. More and more interactive teaching and cross-discipline scholarship; and real work on stopping the lacerations against the poor, the working poor, the poor and aging, the sick and aging and poor, the young and homeless and poor, the enlightened youth and college aged adults who have solutions that the pigs of politics in those chambers of death could only imagine in their most enlightened moment.

So, interestingly, what I am a conjuring up is probably stuck in my brain and heart, and my gut gets it. But nothing that I say will work in capitalism, inside this out-of-balance society. Ironically, I started off wanting to go off on this insipid piece of journalism (sic) in New York Magazine.

Somehow this five-year old article got stuck in one of my hundreds of feeds, the one tied to urban planning, land use, New Urbanism, etc.  5 Reasons Cities Are Getting Better, and Everywhere Else Is Getting Worse.

As cities grow, their advantages of scale will grow, too. From 2012 to 2013, U.S. metropolitan areas of more than 1 million people grew twice as fast as cities with fewer than 250,000 residents. Downtown areas — the places where density is highest — are growing even faster. And millennials, who both start tech companies and form much of the consumer base for tech products, are flocking to cities in record numbers. The convergence of these trends means that large cities are not only going to get bigger in the coming years, but better.

I’ve lived in big cities, in suburbs, and in rural towns. All three have their charms. But new research shows that cities are much more likely to benefit from today’s massive wave of consumer tech investment — think delivery drones, self-driving cars, and green-energy innovations. The fact that many of these technologies are being developed and deployed first in densely populated urban zones, rather than in the countryside, means that in the future, cities are going to pull further away from rural and suburban areas economically, and carry a much higher quality-of-life premium than smaller towns.

A new report about so-called “innovation zones” is one of the clearest so far on the subject of urban tech growth. The report, by Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner of the Brookings Institution, claims that while innovation used to take place in loosely packed suburban areas like Silicon Valley, innovation in the 21st century is moving into large cities, which have several major advantages:

Physical assets
Economic assets
Network effects and cross-pollination
Density as a service
Special status

So much is wrong with anything coming out of the East Coast, really. The media and the so-called Press and the Publishers make a grown man cry with how out of touch and mean-to-the-rest-of-flyover-USA these pathetic souls can be in their hip and urbane bullshit. And what they take as god’s truth is so messed up that another trail of tears has to be shed just to get through the thought processes and elitism these freak-on-vators believe.

First, the stupidity of promoting these five “advantages” as if this is headline news; it shows the shallowness of the East Coast and their echo chambers – all those Ivy League and East Coast prime colleges loaded to the rafters with shallow thinkers and white paper tigers and endless department captains selling the same story ever told.

The takeaway for this magazine piece? “Move to a city.”

Maybe it would take me writing a book about the illogic of these captains of industry and Richard Florida bums who believe that innovation, high tech, and dense cities are the only places that count. As they depend on all the natural and agricultural and mined and harvested resources of the hinterland. Of these rural small towns, burbs, towns and townships.

We need more rural towns and burbs thriving, not less. Imagine, cities like Newport and Lincoln City or Coos Bay, as sanctuaries of people I write about all the time – the misbegotten, the retired-but-poor-as-Grapes-of-Wrath, the people of the land, the innovators in agroecology, the stewards of forest, estuary, reef, river. Imagine, green buses that transport big city people to green small rural communities where tulips are grown and apples thrive, and where that feta cheese is produced and that fresh air is filled with DNA-enhancing ions. Imagine real quaint communities and real meaningful places where the city or its harbingers are not the centerpiece of everything.

Where pounding nails into homemade furniture is the value added, not some robotics-fueled IKEA madness. Imagine small is better homes, hummingbird feeders fashioned out of old pickle jars, passive solar and incredible community and community-served private gardens. Aging in place and young people starting in life on the same properties. Imagine reading, hiking, fishing, identifying every tree, bush, insect marine life as values, as opposed to hipster, bullshit tech-centric crap tied to the industrial finance-military-surveillance-banking-prison-indentured-debt complex?

I’m thinking of these kids on the coast and some miles inland from the coast, small-towns, and a society that says this ain’t no place to stay, no place to raise a family, no place to see the world, no place to advance, no place for big dreams and tech wannabes.

Talk about a systemic existential crisis, this bullshit America of the billionaire Mafia president and the multimillionaires like Feinstein. Speaking of which, this DiFi, can’t even talk to fourth graders and other students of high school age.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) net worth: 2004: $61,768,616; 2014: $94,202,571. Increase in 10 years: $32,433,955 (+52.58%).

That speaks volumes now, and so, flyover states, the decrepit places, the struggling masses, the majority of Americans who actually have been colonized by mindless marketers of Lucky Charms and Lady Gaga and New England Patriots, they, with the right E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N, these people on both sides of the political dung heap, and those now in the dozen-plus vying for the Democrat nomination, it speaks volumes how they will forever court the high tech god of salvation.

Image result for artwork of young students climate change

We know how to solve climate change. We know how to solve homelessness. We know how to educate the right way. We know how to eat well, live fine and thrive in a holistic and preventative health care frame.

We know what a healthy family is, what a healthy community is, and what a good “nation” should be. We know how to think globally, act globally and be that diversity quilt of a million colors.

We know that treating us “bumpkins” in these small towns and those children in those small-town schools with the same dignity and seriousness as one treats a Bostonian or New Yorker is the right way to be an American.

We have solutions, those of us who are disenfranchised, those of us who have lived a fuller and more complete life than any Georgetown University creep could even dream of in their wildest imaginations.

The solutions and solutionaries are right here, everywhere, any place, where the pigs of capital failed to look or acknowledge our existence because they are so big city inbred they can’t hit a solution to this madness with their apocalyptic- inspired ICBMs.

Trump Creates a Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela While a Real One is Right Here in Our Schools

A created political farce played out with the frightening consequences for war against Venezuela resting in the balance on its border with Colombia this weekend, as the Trump Administration unsuccessfully tried to force the first of $20 million of unsolicited “humanitarian aid” into the country. This had nothing to do with concern for the Venezuelan people and everything to do with undermining the legitimate government of Venezuela. It should be called the food as a weapon campaign. Meanwhile teachers in Oakland California who are going into their 4th day of a strike could really use that wasted money to shore up the attack going on against education in their city and the entire U.S. for that matter.

The will to make quality education accessible in this country has long since left the station but under Trump and his Secretary of the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, champion of the for profit charter school system, the decline has become precipitous. California, the richest state in the country, has been little or no help in coming up with a plan for the crisis.

Teachers in the U.S.: Unsung Heroes

In my estimation public school teachers, entrusted to teach all our children to become critical thinkers, are the hardest working and most underappreciated group anywhere, working in a system that neglects them and sets them and their students up for failure. In the last couple of years teachers’ strikes have emerged as energizing and leading the way for all of organized labor. There have been teachers’ strikes, with varying degrees of success, in a number of states including West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, Illinois and most recently in Los Angeles.  Their demands follow a similar pattern. Most of them call for a pay increase for teachers who have notoriously been underpaid and undervalued. In the Oakland strike teachers are asking for a 12% pay raise over three years, hardly a greedy demand seeing that represents a 4% yearly raise or just about enough to keep up with inflation and cost of living. Oakland educators are the lowest paid in the Bay Area, where rents have risen 40 to 50 percent since 2012. The skyrocketing costs of housing have caused more than 18% of teachers to leave the district each year, including 600 last year.

I am not an economist but If Jeff Bezos and Amazon was ever forced to pay taxes I would think that could pay for a 15% or a more deserved 20% raise for all 3.2 million public school teachers in the United States per year. Why not?

But in all these strikes pay raises has been only one demand while most of them were about safety issues and quality of education in the class room. The demand for smaller class room sizes and more resources is across the board and in Oakland the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) looks to exacerbate the problem by proposing to close 24 of the 87 public schools that would mostly impact Black and Latino communities. Another demand has been to increase support staff like nurses, counselors and school psychologists. In the OUSD there are 22 nurses for the 36,000 students in the district.

School food programs in many school districts in the U.S. have been cut and in some cases eliminated all together. Teachers on the picket line told me this was a concern for them with hungry children showing up to learn. In the U.S. 21% of all children live below the poverty line and are food insecure. Teachers are the ones who are most aware of this problem and during the strike their Oakland Education Association has helped in organizing ‘Solidarity Schools’ that are being set up in churches and public facilities so that working parents will have a place to drop their children off during the strike and they will be fed by a grass roots campaign that is raising funds for that.

Wouldn’t you say that we have an education crisis when 30 million American adults can’t read above a third grade level? So instead of Trump and Congress using a fake “humanitarian crisis” to threaten countries that don’t line up and behave to the dictates of Washington, why not redirect all those millions and billions to land in our schools and communities.

Striking teachers and supporters picketing at Oakland Tech (Photo by Bill Hackwell)

No Such Thing as a Regulated, Public, or Good Charter School

There are many diversionary dichotomies within the unscrupulous web of charter school disinformation that have long distorted social consciousness and undermined the fight for social progress and high quality education for all. Some include the following:

  1. regulated verses unregulated charter schools
  2. for-profit verses nonprofit charter schools
  3. good verses bad charter schools
  4. high-performing verses low-performing charter schools
  5. mom-and-pop verses corporate charter schools
  6. school district-approved verses “totally autonomous” charter schools
  7. well-funded verses poorly-funded charter schools
  8. no-excuses verses regular charter schools
  9. urban verses suburban charter schools
  10. small verses large charter schools
  11. online verses brick-and-mortar charter schools

These and other misleading contrasts are designed to maximize confusion and abolish the consciousness and outlook that the core underlying issue with all charter schools is their privatized, marketized, and corporatized character. All other considerations are generally secondary, superficial, diversionary, or false in comparison to this key issue.

The privatized, marketized, and corporatized character of all charter schools is the central issue regardless of the different forms of charter schools. Form and content are not the same. Appearance and essence are not identical. It is important to look past the diversity of charter schools and appreciate their internal state; i.e., what is common and central to all of them. This will provide a much deeper understanding of charter schools. Forms and appearances are often misleading and superficial.

The privatized, marketized, and corporatized character of all charter schools is the reason why all charter schools have nothing to do with public right and instead embrace the outmoded ideologies and practices of the “free market,” private property, consumerism, competition, and possessive individualism.

The privatized, marketized, corporatized character of nonprofit and for-profit charter schools is also the reason why more than 95% of charter schools have never been started, owned, operated, or controlled by teachers since their inception 28 years ago in Minnesota. It is why charter schools are deregulated, deunionized, segregated, non-transparent, and poorly supervised. It is why charter schools close frequently, are plagued by high teacher turnover rates, dodge public standards of governance, often underperform, cherry pick their students, and are rife with fraud, corruption, patronage, nepotism, waste, arrests, scandals, investigations, and racketeering. The situation in the charter school sector is surreal, ruthless, insane, and miserable. It makes most other dysfunctionalities and crimes in society look normal, healthy, and trivial. Most aspects of the charter school sector are unethical and offensive.

Thirty years ago when democrats were actively and energetically leading the nefarious plot to deprive public schools of their “exclusive franchise” over education, deregulation and contracting became the main buzzwords to frame and drive the vicious neoliberal attack on public schools in the name of “improving schools,” “helping the kids,” “empowering parents,” and closing the “achievement gap.”

In this context, it is important to appreciate that contract law is part of private law, not public law. Private law is distinct from public law. They are not the same. They differ in significant ways. Private law governs relations between independent individuals and the exchange of goods and services. It accepts the premise that society is based on commodity exchange and possessive individualism. Public law, on the other hand, governs relations between individuals and the state, and is concerned with the common good. With private law, the government is largely out of the picture and the focus is on private, individual, personal affairs. Pubic law deals with issues that affect the society as a whole. This point cannot be emphasized enough. The difference between the motives, outlook, preoccupations, and implications of both types of laws is remarkable and often overlooked. To be clear, charter schools fall in the first category (private law), whereas public schools belong in the second domain (public law). One significant implication of this critical difference is that the relationship of students and parents to charter schools differs legally and politically from the relationship of students and parents to public schools. It also means that charter schools operate according to much different criteria and governance protocols and standards than those governing public schools. This is why calling charter schools “public” schools is erroneous, self-serving, and maximizes confusion instead of clarifying matters.

Charter actually means contract. Charter and contract are synonyms. Contract is the quintessential market category. Contracts make markets possible and rest on the ideologies of private property, possessive individualism, and commodity exchange. Social contract theory emerged in the 15-19th centuries in opposition to the feudal and medieval outlook and arrangements. “Free market,” by definition, means “laissez-faire”—no rules, no regulations, let it be, hands off! The “free market” means free reign for all major owners of capital to do as they please at any cost to students, society, and the environment. The “free market” celebrates inequality and the violent dictum that “might makes right.” It treats anarchy and violence as good and normal things.

Privatizing education through the mechanism of contracting and outsourcing requires eliminating long-standing highly-valued public governance arrangements (e.g., public school boards, public standards and regulations of governance, teacher unions, collective bargaining agreements, etc.) and moving into the deregulated, private, competitive, hierarchical, do-as-you-please, fend-for-yourself sphere of the “free market” where winning and losing, carrots and sticks, and “might makes right” are the name of the cruel game. Privatization means valorizing and celebrating the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism and denigrating the public interest. Privatization is how public education, which has served 90% of all students for more than 150 years, becomes depublicized, defunded, vilified, humiliated, scapegoated, commodified, commercialized, and subject to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market”—and all of it is cynically portrayed as being socially responsible.

Privatization is retrogressive and irresponsible. It is an attack on society and its members. Privatization violates the public interest and concentrates wealth and power in fewer hands. Privatization reduces the social wealth available to workers and the government and funnels it into the hands of private sector actors determined to enrich themselves at any cost to society. Privatization essentially increases opportunities for the rich to get even richer at the expense of the public. This is why so-called “public-private-partnerships” are a joke from the perspective of the public and society as a whole. Such “partnerships” always privilege major owners of capital and deprive workers of the value they produce. Privatization does not strengthen the social fabric in any way. Privatization drags society backward.

It is critical for the polity and education advocates in particular to make a clean break from the neoliberal ideas, categories, outlook, politics, and practices fueling the relentless violent disinformation on charter schools and instead give serious consideration to investigating, discussing, and opposing charter schools without the diversionary and misleading language of “regulated verses unregulated,” “good verses bad,” etc. A serious and disciplined focus on the meaning, role, and significance of the public and private sectors, as well as issues having to do with governance and who decides the affairs of society, that is, the issue of political power and where it lies, are urgently needed. This is hard to do in a culture that is intensely anti-investigation and where attention, focus, thinking, and discipline are being rapidly eroded by the digital invasion, but it must be done.

Diversionary dichotomies such as  “regulated verses unregulated,” “good verses bad,” and “for-profit verses nonprofit” cripple perception, cognition, and consciousness. They assault the senses and violate thinking and understanding. They mystify reality, engender confusion, increase doubt, and undermine confidence. They perpetuate an anti-intellectual atmosphere and prevent people from appreciating the core issues at stake. Misleading contrasts block people from seeing how their interests are being regularly violated by a handful of major owners of capital who are not concerned about anything except their own egocentric needs. Diversionary dichotomies ultimately sabotage action with analysis that favors the public. The rich know that many are easily fooled by their manipulative rhetoric and spin, especially when repeated over and over again. They are experts at duping people to get their own selfish way.

The aim of maximizing profit as fast as possible directly contradicts and sabotages the aim of social responsibility and a society fit for all. Maximizing profit for the wealthy few has absolutely nothing to do with serving society and its members. High quality, fully-funded, locally-controlled, world class, free public schools open to all cannot and will not be guaranteed by major owners of capital. The rich are not interested in improving schools or society. They have not solved a single major problem over the last 100 years and always operate with impunity and arrogance.

If a “school” can do whatever it wants whenever it wants, flout all kinds of public standards of governance while still being called “public,” treat the “law of the jungle” as a virtue, loot millions of dollars from real public schools with a straight face, oppose and eliminate unions, avoid publicly elected school boards, selectively enroll students, increase segregation, engage in extensive fraud and waste, underpay and overwork teachers, suddenly shutdown without caring about what happens to parents and students, continually engage in shady real estate deals, and also have unimpressive test results on top of everything else, then what is the justification for the existence, let alone expansion, of such schools in the first place? Is this how society is going to move forward? With more destructive pay-the-rich schemes masquerading as solutions for families, students, and education? What is the justification for allowing billions in public dollars that belong to the public to flow to huge private interests who have no claim to this social wealth and whose main aim is to maximize profit at any cost to society? Is this what a “good” school and “good” society look like?

Good schools can be created and developed when education is recognized and affirmed as a vital social responsibility that all modern societies must carry out on an organized pro-social basis that ensures full funding for all schools, local democratic control, and high quality curriculum, instruction, technology, facilities, and personnel. Society cannot move forward without organizing education on a mass, universal, public basis. Leaving education to the chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market” or the private choice of “consumers” who fend for themselves like animals is backward, irrational, and avoidable.

The rich and their political and media cheerleaders are more determined than ever to wreck public education and to cynically convince the public that this is in their interest. They desperately want people to believe that charter schools exist to serve “the kids” and not to make the rich richer. Fortunately, the tide is turning against the mass looting of America’s public schools by charter schools. The devastation that charter schools cause and multiply is becoming more visible and offensive to more people more rapidly. Charter school havoc and destruction can no longer be prettified or concealed. Many now see right through the violent disinformation long promoted by charter school promoters. As a result, pressure is mounting nationally on state and local governments to curb the growth of charter schools. It certainly is not the best time to be a charter school promoter. People have had enough of the criminal ruthlessness of the rich and realize that private greed has never served the public good or students.

Public schools, even in their under-funded, over-tested, and scapegoated condition, still do a much better job of meeting the needs of all students than for-profit and nonprofit charter schools. The tired claim that charter schools represent a better alternative to the 100,000 public schools that serve over 45 million youth is intended to dupe the naive. Charter school supporters are in the forefront of destroying public education and offering lower quality schools.

Each year that passes with no new charter schools in a city or state is a good year for society, education, and the economy. Charter schools introduce the worst kind of “innovation” in education, society, and the economy. Far from solving anything, they multiply serious problems.

Six states currently do not allow charter schools: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. Striking public school teachers in West Virginia recently played a big role in averting charter schools in their state. Striking public school teachers in Los Angeles and striking charter school teachers in Chicago have also lately played a positive role in opposing charter school crimes.

The momentum against charter schools is building and it will keep growing because charter schools will keep wreaking havoc on education and society. People are saying enough is enough and calling on all to defend public education.

Charter Schools: Competition Makes All Schools Losers

For most individuals, life without competition is inconceivable. Competition seems to be part of  everything we know and do. It saturates everything. Nothing seems to escape its grip. It directs and conditions people at the conscious and subconscious levels. Competition appears natural, inevitable, and normal, as if it has always existed and can never go away.

Generations of conditioning tells us that competition is what motivates us, drives us, and makes us want to improve, excel, and achieve. Competition is supposedly intrinsic to us and makes us break through barriers and reach new heights every day.

Nothing would ever supposedly get done without competition. Everyone would just be lazy and mope around at home all day eating Doritos and playing video games in their pajamas. People would allegedly aspire to nothing without the fear of winning and losing, without a protocol of rewards and punishments to “motivate” them to be productive. Competition is therefore the only way to overcome laziness and lack of productivity so as to get what one earns and deserves. In the final analysis, winning and losing supposedly brings out the best in everyone and everything and is the main way to ensure quality, excellence, and progress.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines competition as: “The action of endeavouring to gain what another endeavours to gain at the same time’; the striving of two or more for the same object; rivalry.”

Synonyms for competition include: “contention, conflict, feuding, battling, fighting, struggling, strife, war.”

Competition, the close cousin of individualism, consumerism, selfishness, greed, and anxiety is based on many long-standing myths. A main one is the myth of scarcity. According to this myth, things acquire their value from being scarce, and when there is not enough to go around, people will necessarily feud, compete, and fight with each other to obtain scarce things.

But there is no reason to compete for something, especially if it is abundant, as are so many things in the United States, an advanced capitalist economy. Why struggle, fight, battle, and feud for something if there is enough to go around? Why engage in stressful rivalry? For every homeless person in the U.S., for example, there are six vacant homes, proving that what is produced under capitalism is not for social needs, but for narrow private profit. Homelessness is not the product of a scarcity of houses but the direct result of a society based on an outdated economic and political system that embraces competition and does not recognize the rights of humans. No one should have to be homeless in a society overflowing with houses.

But there is also no automatic reason to compete for something even when it is scarce. There is nothing inherent to the scarcity of something that magically and instantly produces the drive to compete. The drive to compete is specific to the type of social order that prevails, specifically the capitalist social order.

Competition assumes, accepts, and perpetuates hierarchies, inequalities, privilege distribution systems, winners and losers. And it often brings out the worst, not the best, in everyone and everything. It rejects the idea that all humans have rights that government is duty-bound to guarantee in practice. Rights belong to people by virtue of their very being and cannot be given or taken away. They are not based on competition or merit. One’s rights, including the right to education, cannot be based on the anarchy, chaos, and violence of the “free market,” competition, individualism, and consumerism. Such a way of living is outdated, inefficient, and barbaric.

Charter school promoters and supporters never tire of reminding everyone that the ideologies of competition and the “free market” are the apex of human achievement and form the bedrock of the charter school movement. Charter schools are “market-driven” schools, they endlessly assert with a straight face. Competition is what schools need according to education privatizers who see everything as a commodity and as a matter of consumerism and individual choices. From the narrow perspective of “free market” fundamentalists, winning and losing, and punishments and rewards, are natural, healthy, normal, and eternal. It is the way things should be done. It is how you get the best. When schools compete, the “bad” ones disappear and the “good” ones prevail, and this way everyone gets to attend the “good” ones. Why, according to charter school supporters, should schools be viewed as being any different from any other commodity like beef jerky and chewing tobacco? The best way to get “good” schools, according to corporate school reformers and neoliberals, is by ruthlessly subjecting them to the same chaos, anarchy, and violence of the “free market.”

In reality, however, both public schools and charter schools, not to mention society and the economy as a whole, suffer when the ideology and practice of competition frame and drive thinking, ideas, arrangements, relations, institutions, activities, and behaviors in society.

Public schools, already chronically underfunded, over-tested, and constantly demonized by the rich and their political and media flunkies, lose billions of public dollars each year to privately operated charter schools rife with fraud, an unimpressive academic record, high teacher and student turnover rates, discriminatory student enrollment patterns, little transparency, no regulations, no publicly elected school boards, and no unions. The “free market,” competition, and privatization have successfully increased chaos, anarchy, and violence in the sphere of education and in the lives of many families, especially those families left uprooted, angry, dislocated, and stressed when a charter school closes, often without warning. Families have no recourse when this happens 200-250 times a year. They are left to fend for themselves like animals, just another casualty of the charter school sector organized and promoted by the rich.

A handful of major owners of capital have gotten vastly richer by creating pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools to expand their private empires, while also working overtime to promote the illusion that charter schools are wonderful, harmless, reasonable, successful, alternative education arrangements for “the kids.” The rich are the only winners when it comes to charter schools and other forms of education commodification and financial parasitism. Charter schools have nothing to do with “empowering parents.”

Another way charter schools, public schools, students, teachers, parents, and society as a whole lose when competition is imposed on education is through the animosity, anger, resentment, stress, and protests that are generated when schools compete for students and funds. Competing for depleted funds makes both types of schools worse off, especially when economies of scale matter. Charter school supporters’ much-vaunted competition has not generated widespread mutually beneficial cooperation and growth in the sphere of education. Instead, a mean ugly spirit prevails between most public schools and charter schools. They do not see each other as allies and friends. On the contrary, the battle between public schools and charter schools has been intensifying with each passing year.

With the rise of privatized education arrangements like charter schools, we now have a fractured decaying society plagued by two sets of education arrangements mired in crisis. Charter school owners-operators have helped move society backward. Nothing has been solved. Instead, more divisions, conflicts, and losses have been inflicted on the majority and society. The “achievement gap,” largely a product of harsh class divisions in society, has not improved in any real and lasting way.

The way out of this deepening crisis is the same as the way out of all the crises society is mired in, namely to work with others to develop modern definitions, thinking, and practical politics that will deprive wealthy private interests of their ability to deprive of us of our power and rights. Supreme decision-making power, sovereignty, must lie with the people, not the financial oligarchy whose only concern is to enrich itself at the expense of the general interests of society. If all major education decisions keep being made by the top one percent of the top one percent, society and education will keep sliding backward. Only the working class and people can usher in a modern human-centered alternative. It is entirely possible and necessary to foster locally-controlled, fully-funded, world-class public schools available to all at all times. People do not need to be treated as narrow selfish consumers who fend for themselves like animals in their anxious quest to secure a great education for their kids in a society that lacks no funds and resources.