The paucity of either well-trained or intellectually curious public school teachers in this county isn't surprising. The day I decided that I would no longer pursue a career in education was the day two English majors entered the store I was working at one summer day and we struck up a conversation.
After finding out these two bright young things were soon going to be joining the forces of education, I asked them who their favourite authors were. Well, they didn't have any. I asked them specifically about English authors--the course name is English, is it not?--and then about American authors.
Yes, I am biased. America has produced some extraordinary authors. And a couple of clunkers who are nearly impossible reads. Unfortunately for the student, if these insufferables are included in the course anthology, the student must obsequiously genuflect toward the "curriculum" and put up with another slew of Edith Wharton hatred. And, dear God, the only readable thing Melville wrote was about a whale. Anything else by him requires a steadfast patience that doesn't exist in anyone under the age of 28.
Still, these two fledgling English teachers were enjoying their summer. I, hopefully--since I don't remember--sold these two a leisure suit for their dads. But I was struck by their sheer lack of any appreciation for the world's greatest authors. English or American. They, however, had passed the Psych 201 requirement and knew that Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs existed. They had met the core requirements for education with at least a 2.0 grade point average. They were beginning that fall their student teaching.
I chose not to enter a career that would embrace these two witless creatures as peers.
So, for those of you who enjoy language, I present for your entertainment a poem from an Idaho boy by the name of Ezra Pound:
Winter is Icummen in
Winter is icummen in, Lhude sing Goddamm, Raineth drop and staineth slop And how the wind doth ramm! Sing: Goddamm. Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us, An ague hath my ham. Freezeth river, turneth liver Damn you, sing: Goddamm. Goddamm, Goddamm, tis why I am, Goddamm. So 'gainst the winter's balm Sing Goddamm, damm, sing Goddamm Sing Goddamm, sing Goddamm, DAMM.
In a year, maybe less, maybe more, I plan to roam the streets of Milan. Milan is a wonderful place. Great food. Close to Vienna, a short train ride to Venizia. Pick-up games of chess in the plaza. Beautiful women. A McDonalds at the Mercado.
And before any commentors want to rehash Ez's sordid connections to wartime Italy, ad hominem never works here. The poem is the poem.
While Michigan, with its economy dominated with union workers in the doldrums, still leads the nation in statewide unemployment, Oregon has been turning it on, rising from 7.2 percent in October to 8.1 percent today!
Eighty-one men out of every thousand that are looking for work can't find it.
Trade, transportation and utilities would normally see jobs added this time of year, but due to the uncertainty created by Oregon's own Unigovernor, Ted Kulongzynski, has exceeded even the most pessimistic prognostications for the welfare of our Glorious State.
No one said that creating a Utopia would be easy. And no one said it would be free. From health care to highways, Oregon is creating new vistas of Visioning. If you're believer in the Oregon Vision, congratulations! We are making Oregon a different kinda place.
When you grow up, a part of that process is an understanding that when it comes to your problems…they are yours. There is a psychology about problems. Whatever your current problem is, it’s the most important thing in your life.
The problem with problems—in the main—is that nobody cares much about your problems except you. If you told me of your problems there’s a pretty good chance that I’d scratch my head and wonder what “your” problem is? That is, most problems I come across aren’t really problems at all. The problem lies not in others, or in the situations that you find yourself, but in yourself. You expect things to be different than they are, and that is frustrating.
A lot of what passes for current thinking is encapsulated with the wish that man is, or has, evolved. Yet the current situation we find ourselves has much in common with what was observed by Bill Shakespeare more than 300 years ago. Julius Caesar was written in 1599. And I can’t find any difference in the way most folks deal with problems today than Brutus dealt with problems in the Bard’s play.
Cassius:"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,But in ourselves, that we are underlings." Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141). The complete works of William Shakespeare are here.
There is a rude divide between types of people.
There is the rugged individualist. And there is the effeminate group thinker.
I prefer to think of myself as an individualist. What that means in practise is that if you propose to limit my freedoms, you better have a pretty good reason for doing so. The way I’ve attempted to impart this to my sons has been that an attempt to legislate outcomes requires a certain robustness of critical thinking. Unfortunately, while I’ve attempted to inculcate this necessity of robustness, the schools were working contrary to this goal.
“Students of the Astoria School District will achieve their individual potentials through academic excellence and the use of critical and creative thinking. Students will be citizens of the earth, embracing responsibility for self, family, community, and democracy."
Citizens of the earth. Didja ever wonder what would happen to a kid who asked the pertinent question, “Am I not a citizen of the United States first?”
And really, does a child have a responsibility to family, community and democracy? What imputed values need to be expressed to arrive at this juncture?
Let’s just take a look at community service.
I am responsible for having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct aid to low-income families. Today, when I receive an appeal for donations for this or that “good thing”, if it’s in the mail I round file it; if on the phone, politely declined. What good comes from giving wealth from one group to another? None. Other than creating a dependency upon the giver of wealth. And the favourite moment, when I realized that, was when one recipient called in advance of an upcoming community service campaign to find out when she could “get hers”. She had come to expect my support. I had become programmed into her decision-making cycle.
In the 1970’s I had occasion to work in Eugene in a political capacity. The man I worked for had a constituent call from a woman who needed help, and was referred to me. Within minutes I had found her a place to live and emergency funds to move her, provide her with transportation, as well as funds for clothing and food. The “safety net” was there. Trust me. The mesh of the net has grown much tighter over the past thirty years.
For people who have grown dependent upon the wealth of others, being a citizen of the world may seem like a good thing. It’s one thing to view yourself as a member of a great lumpenproletariate rather than as a Citizen of the United States. Simply declaring yourself as a Citizen of the United States reveals imputed value. We are the world’s strongest nation, the world’s freest people, the world’s greatest innovators, the world’s greatest traders and the world’s greatest leaders.
But we lead through example rather than diktat.
I have personally curtailed my charitable giving to all but a few, case by case, instances. And now I always attach strings to my giving. My funds will be used for a particular purpose and I require proof that that use has occurred.
There is an effeminate class populated by teachers and lawyers who will condemn me as misanthropic. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have a great love for my fellow man. I respect his rights and freedoms. And more importantly, I respect his thoughts and actions. If he chooses to spend his government checks on tattoos, beer, smokes, weed and video games, I respect him enough to let him live a life of uselessness and squalor. On the other hand, when I see a man or woman working hard to provide for themselves and their families, I respect these folks enough to ask those in power to stop harming them. By trying to help them.
Perhaps you, too, know of a man or woman who was challenged as a youth; mom or dad drunk, poverty in the home, an inability to learn well. And today that person is continuing to hold down a job, even if it means the indignity of work. Like cleaning carpets. Serving fries. Washing cars.
And the funny thing is, these folks grow up and learn and gain greater responsibility. They may not know how atoms come together to create complex molecules. But they do take pride in taking care of themselves and creating a better home than they had for their children.
Sure, they may like NASCAR. Or the WWE. And they like their beer. But they make choices every day. They fix their own problems. And they don’t have to thank anyone, but themselves.