I woke up to Twitter madness this morning – Oxford Circus was trending madly, but not Hyde Park – which where most of the protestors were headed and (one hopes) ended up. Of course, most of the coverage was of anarchists – both good and bad coverage. There was, quite frankly, relatively very little about the peaceful marches and speeches.
We have a visiting scholar with us these next few weeks. In the four days since she’s been here, she’s twice asked about anarchists here in the US. I can’t speak to the US, but here in Seattle – i have to say that the few who do identify tend to approach it from the side of personal anarchism. But i have seen and heard of bullying from within anarchist collectives elsewhere.
I’ve struggled to really comprehend what anarchism means to people who identify. I was kicked out of the only anarchist collective i was involved with for going back to school. Two years later, i wandered into Revolution Books and bought Days of War, Nights of Love. In it, i found what had been my own interpretation of anarchism – that true anarchism begins without notions of universal moral rightness, rather, through a recognition and reorganization of our own personal values.
But i think that’s a difficult one to swallow – even amongst the most ardent radicals.
I have a dear friend who recently declared that without laws, humanity would crumble to a maddened din of chaos (well – not in so many words). I know she was taking a particularly strong stance out of interest in protecting animals – her entire graduate school’s work has been dedicated to undermining notions of “compassionate slaughter” or the “humane” dairy industry. She struggles against unquestioned hierarchicized valuations of human life over animal life, against such a superb devaluation of animals’ lives overall, and the specificities of laws protecting certain animals and not others (e.g., my cat versus a corporation’s cow).
So this is where i begin to come undone – it’s not that i believe that without laws against murder, we’d murder each other at will – yet without laws to protect animals (and even with laws), there is mass animal cruelty. Whether you are full-fledged meat-eater or an ardent vegan, you cannot deny that absolute horror that individual animals suffer within (and with out) the animal product industries – all in the name of food and fashion.
And i somehow end up where i always do – trying to make sense of the struggle of a few individuals for the collective(s) and the complacency / complicity of the rest. But is that fair? If, at its root, a true anarchism is a self-anarchism, then what is the political movement? and If it is a political movement – is it a political movement toward non-politics? and If it’s a political movement toward non-politics, then where does that leave education?
As educators and researchers, we hope that we’ll reach our students to, at the very least, learn to think critically about the world around them, to not simply accept the Truths (with capital T’s) of so-called common sense. The difficulty is that by being in academia, we know that we are already reaching only the elite. Only 29% of American adults have earned a college degree, and that number is slipping fast. My favourite comment from Business Weekly:
for the first time ever, America’s educational gains are poised to stall because of growing demographic trends. If these trends continue, the share of the U.S. workforce with high school and college degrees may not only fail to keep rising over the next 15 years but could actually decline slightly, warns a report released on Nov. 9 by the National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, a nonprofit group based in San Jose, Calif. The key reason: As highly educated baby boomers retire, they’ll be replaced by mounting numbers of young Hispanics and African Americans, who are far less likely to earn degrees.
Yes – it must be a demographics problem! The article goes on to say:
Education Secretary Margaret Spelling argues that President Bush’s 2001 education reform law, the No Child Left Behind Act, is working to lift minority education levels.
To be fair, the article is five years old. Nearly four years later, the NYT reported that in fact:
The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.
A report by the Foundation for Child Development found that pre-kindergarten students are expelled at three times the rate of K-12 students. Vulnerable children benefit the most from pre-Kindergarten programs, and yet, they are precisely the ones being kicked out before formal schooling even begins – cut off from their right to equitable education before it’s even begun.
No Child Left Behind has aggravated this issue. Because funding is tied to student achievement scores, students are being held back (to the extent that it is creating a ninth-grade bulge – a triple fold increase of the number of students held back); suspended during testing periods; and, “pushing out” under-scoring students (Madeleine Cousineau, 2010).
What does this mean for my rambling today? I and my colleagues will never see these children.
When i stare out at the sea of (mostly) white faces, i’m ashamed. Not for the students who have made it – but for being part of a system that is finding ways to continue to exclude massive portions of the population. I am more deeply ashamed that the honors sections have even fewer students of colour.
So i suppose i bring it all back around…
As i think about our coming fight to save university funding (Washington State is unique in that budget cuts, by law, cannot be made to K-12 education), i wonder how we can do it without alienating both the elites and the non-academics. We sit in the middle – despised for being Marxists / Socialists / Communists / Trust Fund Kids / Anti-American (these all blend rather uncomplicatedly for most Americans, unfortunately) as well as for being Part of the Elite (a confusion i really struggle with as we graduate students who are paying our way through school with RAships and TAships are actually paid at the Federal Poverty Level – a level that is recognized to not be a living wage by any stretch of the imagination).
How do we stand up for everyone’s rights? How do we make this a moment of collectivity? And who am i to even think that i happen to know what it is that you need…?