Saturday, December 11, 2010

I was a Women's Studies major...

While reorganizing some things on my bookshelf today, I came across a paper with the following written on it:

"Is heterosexual marriage a patriarchal institution inconsistent with the recognition of women as persons?"

"Re-imagining families as groups of adults who have responsibility for a child regardless of sexual relationships."


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old news? Perhaps.

Ok, this series is almost two months old now, but I still think it's worth considering:

@Slate on feminism

I posted the link on my FB page and the following discussion ensued with a college classmate:

A: "I was having just this debate yesterday at lunch. What do you think?"

Me: "About Sarah Palin & others adopting the label? On that I am conflicted. I do believe that it's a big enough tent that feminists don't have to all believe the same thing. On the other hand, it is different to acknowledge that you have benefi...ted from feminism and to think that there is still work to be done. I know that SP benefited from feminism, but I'm not sure she thinks there is still work to be done to dismantle patriarchy, promote equality for all, build a society where a range of choices are celebrated and available/acceptable for both women and men. (At least that's not what I hear coming out of her mouth.) My feminism is so tied to social justice issues (cycle of poverty, educational inequality, reproductive rights/choices, health care, social services, gay rights, marriage equality, etc. and the responsibility we all hold for one another) that it's hard for me to consider SP a feminist, since we clearly do not agree on these issues. I don't think I can consider SP a feminist until the work is done, society has been changed, until the things I believe in are not considered cutting edge/progressive. Then we can be slower about change. (Though I sense that by that time, if that ever happens, feminism will have found some new drums to beat.) If she wants to adopt the label, that's fine, but I don't have to agree with that adoption."

A: "My friend was arguing that, especially to women who are in communities where it isn't even yet acceptable to be a working mother, Sarah Palin complicates the traditional idea of womanhood to such an extent that she can be understood as a fe...minist. But I can't make that move. Like you, I think you have to not simply be an example of equality but actually promote a system that is just and non-patriarchal in order to "count" as a feminist. And while I don't believe there is any sort of litmus test (as you said, the tent can be quite large), I don't think that you can actively campaign against programs and policies that would make the world a better place for women and get to call yourself a feminist. And the fact that she bases her participation on her status as a mother is also problematic to me. I mean, that's the whole idea of republican motherhood (in the classical sense, not the contemporary idea of republican v. democrat): you get to participate in politics through raising children. While Palin's version goes a bit beyond Rousseau's because she thinks that women can directly participate in politics, it is still on the basis of being a mother. Isn't part of the point of feminism that women are not ONLY mothers? I was at a talk with Gloria Steinem on Friday and she said, when confronted with a question about Palin: "it's a testament to the success of the feminist movement that our enemies feel they have to dress up like us in order to succeed" (or something to that effect). I can appreciate that to a certain sector of society, Sarah Palin has made the idea of a powerful woman somehow palatable, but I think she's watered down feminism to such an extent that it has little or no meaning left if we can use it to apply to her and her grizzlies. Maybe you're right: if we had already accomplished all of the goals of the women's movement, we could talk about considering Palin a feminist, but I think she actually turns back the clock on many of the very programs that benefitted her. There are definitely Republican women who would count as feminists (and good role models) for me, but Palin just isn't one of them."

Me: "I like what Gloria said, that's clever. And I totally hear you on the connection to republican motherhood, a concept so heavily emphasized with my AP US History students. I also struggle, quite frankly, with Palin's stand on abortion. Again..., there are and can be feminists who are pro-life, but I am bothered by the fact that she has stated in public that she struggled with whether to continue her pregnancy when she found out her son would have Downs Syndrome. I don't have a problem with the struggle or with her decision. I have a problem with the fact that she apparently feels that her outcome should be everyone's outcome. Palin thought about it and decided what is best for her and her family. Why should I not have the same right? The abortion debate also always seems to be at odds with the Republican platform in general: 'Less government regulation! (Unless it has to do with queers or abortion. Then, more is better.)'"

A: "Do you think you can be completely pro-life and a feminist? I can see being a feminist and being against abortion for yourself or thinking it is wrong, or thinking that in a perfect world there would be no need for abortion, etc. But as so...on as you make that choice for someone else, I don't see how you can still see yourself as a feminist. So maybe I do think there is a litmus test! Anyway, it's a tough discussion because I really do see the need for diverse role models, and conservative women should have every right to see their views represented. And more women in power has to be a good thing. But why then try to co-opt the label of feminist? Just admit you're not one and leave those of us who are to fight our own fight."

I think "they" adopt the label with the hope of co-opting the term and thereby making it mean nothing. Great convo.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Bill Gates is sometimes a tool. Article on what he thinks is the answer to the money problem: step increases and increased pay for teachers with masters degrees.

"The only way out, he says, is by rethinking the way the nation’s $500 billion annual expenditures on public schools is allocated. About $50 billion pays for seniority-based annual salary increases for teachers, he says. The nation spends an additional $9 billion annually to pay salary increases to teachers with master’s degrees, he says."

(from here)

Here's the thing, though. I was required by No Child Left Behind to get that masters degree, to prove that I am "highly qualified." I took out loans to complete that degree, $36,000 by the time it was done, for tuition and living expenses while attending a state university. Most jobs, if you have advanced schooling, that translates to a higher salary. Don't teachers deserve that too, especially in light of the fact that it's a job requirement?

Friday, October 29, 2010

"On Punctuation"

not for me the dogma of the period
preaching order and a sure conclusion
and no not for me the prissy
formality or tight-lipped fence
of the colon and as for the semi-
colon call it what it is
a period slumming
with the commas
a poser at the bar
feigning liberation with one hand
tightening the leash with the other
oh give me the headlong run-on
fragment dangling its feet
over the edge give me the sly
comma with its come-hither
wave teasing all the characters
on either side give me ellipses
not just a gang of periods
a trail of possibilities
or give me the sweet interrupting dash
the running leaping joining dash all the voices
gleeing out over one another
oh if I must
give me the YIPPEE
of the exclamation point
give me give me the curling
cupping curve mounting the period
with voluptuous uncertainty
Elizabeth Austen, from The Girl Who Goes Alone. Seattle: Floating Bridge Press, 2010.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kids & Bullying & the "It Gets Better" Project

As a middle-schooler, I was bullied. This is not a unique experience. As a high school student, one of my best friends came out to me and also told me that he was thinking about killing himself. I don't quite remember what happened next, but I know that I told my mom, who presumably told someone else. Thankfully, my friend did not kill himself. He is alive and well and leading an interesting, varied, fulfilling life in New York City.

Now I am a teacher. Ever since my first year of teaching, when I was an intern, my students have come to me when they were feeling threatened. Maybe it's because I'm still awkward enough that they can see the shadow of the bullied girl inside. Maybe it's because I will not let them say derogatory things to one another or make comments like "That's so gay."

K was a junior. She IM'ed me in a panic. Someone had been calling her house, accusing her of checking out other girls at the Homecoming Dance (which she had attended, ironically, with her boyfriend). K had dated girls in the past, with little to no reaction from her peers, so she was stunned and hurt and very upset by this new reaction. She called me on the phone, crying, but begged me not to tell anyone else about it. I told her I wasn't sure I could do that and ended up relaying the information to a guidance counselor at the school. This school was one that took the safety of its students very seriously, especially with this incident coming less than 1 year after a student killed himself. They put some pieces together and decided that there was a larger pattern of generalized bullying going on at the school. They called an all-school assembly, after which the issue was discussed in our advisory groups.

This is where things get interesting, to me, in dealing with the issue of bullying. Yes, it's important to reach out to the bullied and make them feel better, and yes, we have to convey to the bullies that their behavior is unacceptable, but there is a larger group out there: the bystanders. Those who do not get involved, who do not say anything for fear of being sucked into being bullied themselves.

My juniors got together after the assembly and started to generally bitch and moan about the topic. "Like what am I supposed to do?" In what was not my finest moment as a teacher, and full of the memory of being picked on in middle school, I snapped back at them.

"I get it, but you don't have to be their best friend. All you have to do is provide a little cover. You know exactly who those kids are that are being bullied, let's not pretend otherwise. All you have to do is be friendly -- would it kill you to say hi to them in the hallway? Sit next to them in class or in the lunchroom? You two are on the football team. You really think someone's going to come mess with you for being friends with a target? You have to say something when someone is getting picked on and I know it's hard, but it's also easy. 'Knock it off. Don't say that. Lay off.'"

If you want to live in the kind of community where you don't have to worry about being picked on, you also have to make the kids responsible for keeping other kids from being picked on. The bystanders have to step up and we have to help them do it. We must all be responsible for one another.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Teaching & Learning

I wonder if by making the kids read this article, you could change their study habits and improve their grades? Hmm. (from the NYT)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The End of Summer

It's Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of the summer. Of course, there are still a few weeks until the equinox, but we're definitely on the slow slide into cool weather and shorter days. Summer weather is done -- no more 90 degrees days, I think. Last night, the temperature dropped into the 50s, which made for some nice sleeping weather. (Sleeping weather, though not actual sleeping, unfortunately.)

Have been spending spare time knitting -- lots of baby hats, since I know at least 6 people who are pregnant. Also spending time pulling together a new version of my philosophy of education statement and some actual good, solid cover letters, ones that say what I want to say about education and teaching. The 2009 job search was such a wild, desperate adventure; I would prefer not to do it that way ever again.

What questions do you ask (can you ask) to find out if the administration/supervision situation is good or nutty ahead of time? This is the next sort of thing to figure out. Now that I've had really good supervision, I would like to continue that. I've been spoiled, in a way.