Sunday, May 20, 2012

What we risk losing

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

I watched a grackle along the edge of our ocean yesterday.

It gallumphed down the surf's edge like a drunken sandpiper, got smacked with a wave, then fluttered back to the top of the now receding wave.

Over and over again.

I sat on the sand with Leslie, and we chatted about our grackle as it battled the wash. I love grackles, hands down my favorite bird, and this one was being particularly grackly. What would possess a bird to challenge the edge of the sea?

After a few minutes, the grackle answered my question--it nabbed a writhing sand crab, then picked it apart a few feet away. The grackle got its reward, and we got our story.
The sand crab did not fare as well.

There is a risk challenging those who hope to transform public education into data farms feeding the intricate morass we still call economics. 

Look at the humorless smiles of those running the show, the lupine grins of Arne Duncan, of Bill Gates, of Eli Broad. They may even believe what they are spewing--it takes a certain lack of humor to get to reign over the destruction of things that matter.

They can hurt you, and will if you pose a threat to their goals.

But that's not the risk I am talking about. As much fun as it is to pretend otherwise, a few words shared among a very small community of teachers poses no threat at all to the ed "reformers" who value power over democracy.
  • The risk is falling into their language, into their world, into their ethos. 
  • The risk is spending too many hours poring over their dull documents (Next Generation Science Standards, anyone?), trying to parse out meaning of individual phrases when we should be calling out the process that created such a document.
  • The risk is weighing an offer to make real money sitting at the table breaking bread with them under the hum of fluorescent lights.
  • The risk is not losing the battle--I am not so blind not to see that any remnants of "public" and "democracy" are likely to be crushed for the foreseeable future--the risk is losing ourselves.

I am a happy person, blessed with the grace of a grackle wrestling with the ocean for its food.
I am a mortal person, as doomed as the sand crab picked apart by the grackle.

A grackle will still be wrestling with the ocean long after I am gone. So long as grackles continue to be grackles, our children will have larger stories to learn than the ones foisted on them in the name of the global economy.

It takes little courage to tweet in an echo chamber. 
Live well, be part of your community, grow some food, use your hands, love.

Bill Gates from Seattle Weekly
Grackle from Wikipedia via CC 3.0 by mdq


Sue VanHattum said...

>The risk is spending too many hours poring over their dull documents (Next Generation Science Standards, anyone?), trying to parse out meaning of individual phrases when we should be calling out the process that created such a document.

Thank you. I knew there was a reason I didn't want to even enter into the conversations about the Common Core. I can't say anything particularly useful unless I put in way too much of my precious time studying them.

doyle said...

Dear Sue,

I sometimes take being serious too seriously.

Seriousness should be the 8th deadly sin.

Thanks for dropping by!

Sue VanHattum said...

Huh?! I so appreciate your very serious concern with kids learning dumb stuff in school when they could be connecting with the world.

Have you heard about the forest kindergartens in Germany, and spreading to other countries? How about having 'school' outdoors most of the time, with a warm room for looking at books and eating hot soup?

(I've often taken myself too seriously. But offsetting that is my desire to be lazy.) ;^)

Ted said...

Greetings Mike,

I definitely agree with your description of those creepy "lupine grins."

Yet, I can't possibly connect "grackle" with "grace." A few visits to the intersection outside UT Austin's Perry-CastaƱeda Library--particularly at about 5 PM or so in mid-fall--might lead you to think "shotgun" next time you see a grackle. The stench and noise are almost unimaginable.

Thinking about that scene actually brings to mind the output of the sanctimonious Jonah Edelman, Michael Feinberg, Wendy Kopp and their ilk--those who grow fat and (only modestly) rich from the leavings of Gates, Duncan, Broad et alia. Forget the shotgun. Pass me a rocket launcher.

I could use the sound and feel of waves crashing on a beach about now. Perhaps even with a solitary crabbing grackle.

doyle said...

Dear Sue,

Walt Kelly will be on my shrine, should I ever build one, next to Wendell Berry and W.B.Yeats.

Maybe I need a better word than seriousness.

My sister was a serious environmentalist, serious enough to have a law passed in her name and a park named after her in Ann Arbor--yet she led a caravan of Elvis impersonators singing in garbage trucks across the Canadian border--and got a lot of airtime as they sang "Return to Sender". I need a word for that kind of seriousness. =)

Dear Ted,

I love grackles, and, it turns out, rock doves, too. That they overpopulate in Austin just suggests you all need to develop a recipe for them.

And now a sekrit--we're getting a crew together early July at the shore. John, Jeff, Marnie, and a few others will be there. We got floor space. If you're interested, email me: doyle.bhs at the google mail.

We'll have clams, crabs, pesto, beer, mead, and plenty of stories. We ain;t getting any younger.

Leslie said...

Ted--and adding to what Michael said, if you and Ange are around at a different time, we'd still love to see you!


This Brazen Teacher said...

Ohio doesn't have Grackles. Austin has quite a few.

I haven't taken to them. They seem aggressive, loud and once when I returned to Texas from a week long Ohio trip, they had blanketed my car in excrement.

Eerie timing though bc the other day while biking to campus I was thinking about how maybe I misunderstand the Grackle.