Social Class Reproduction

Four Rules for Teaching Writing:
Image result for image: joy of writing
Always give writing assignments that

1. you will enjoy reading;
2. students will enjoy writing;
3. students will enjoy reading what others in the class have written
4. you will enjoy writing.

If any one of these conditions were not true, then it probably wasn't a very good assignment.

Advice I give to my students: When your words surprise you, you know you are writing.

Friday, March 9, 2018

To my Trumpeteer Friend (note: don't google pics of golden showers):

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think Trump is a Russian stooge—but there is room to wonder. He acts like one.

I am not anti-Russian. I understand that the cold war and following semi-cold war between Russia and the United States had a lot to do with the Malta Conference and Russia’s sense of betrayal. In some sense, there is probably a conflict between communist and capitalist ideology, but anyone who images Russia as communist doesn’t know his left hand from his right. I can, at any rate, respect Russia’s deep anger toward the West.

So: let’s imagine that Russia wanted as our president someone who would advance their agenda. What would they like? A president who would create cultural warfare within our citizenry. Someone who would encourage division while pretending to sponsor unity (the necessary Presidential trope). Someone who would disrupt relationships between the United States and European countries. Someone who would clearly demonstrate the fault lines in democratic capitalism and what lay behind the Founders' creation of the electoral college: that the people could elect idiots.

Ok, Trump’s not an idiot, but he’s far from intelligent (ask him to release his college transcripts). One has only to watch him painfully read from his teleprompter to gauge the depth of his intellect. But . . . but . . . well, is Putin blackmailing him? So Trump has an affair with Stormy Daniels. He gets his lawyer to buy Daniels off a few weeks before the election—opening him to further blackmail, should Daniels be so inclined. Like is anyone going to believe that Trump didn’t know about that payment??? If you do, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for you (and a wall that Mexico will pay for).

And there was a wild night in Russia with Trump and some oligarchs in a “gentlemen’s” club with women performers pretending to urinate on other performers—a kind of “golden showers.” And then a report of a later night in which Trump engaged “escorts” to golden shower the bed on which the Obamas had slept. All possibly recorded by Putin, the former head of the KGB.

So we have the email breakins, the Russian bots, the tinkering with the election, and Trump wins. 

In truth, I attribute Trump’s win to Clinton’s weak campaign. But he also won with the help of the Russians—this much we know. And so now, Russia has him. They have a fool as president; one who has created division within our country, who has alienated the United States from our European allies, who has stepped out of Syria, who has initiated a trade war, essentially disrupting the global economy, and who doesn't know whether he is coming or going to North Korea.

It might not be blackmail, but it’s as good as.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Stained Glass

This entry is about rhetoric and political beliefs. I think my Trumpeteer friend referenced in my previous post is intelligent; he has several skills, many of which I admire. He’s country, lives in the Sierras. He is politically engaged, a basic tea-party fanatic. For whatever reason, he seems to hate the Clintons and Obama.

So after one of Trump’s episodes (maybe the reports on how much money Trump has been making from his Mara Lago weekends), I asked Bill whether he had figured out yet that Trump is a con man. He responded with the email below.

He has a long way to go to reach the Clinton/Obama mob's criminal activities.  Read Gary Aldrich's "Unlimited Access".  How about Hellery's uranium deal?  How about the Haitian theft and the Iranian con,  etc, etc?  The Clinton Foundation is the biggest con in decades.  Irv, some of us still want to preserve a Democratic Republic, not a Socialist elitist dictatorship.  Your communist dream is a failure.  Stick to rhetoric, not politics. You don't know what you're talking about.  The democrats can only trash Trump, they have no platform for America.  Resist what?  You don't have an answer.  All you can do is call people names.  We're all still waiting to hear how the Russians elected Trump!  What a joke.  The demos want to save everybody with gun control, while they advocate the murder of babies.  You ought to be embarrassed and ashamed.  "Be a hero, save a whale.  Save a baby go to jail".  Hell, we can take target practice on a San Francisco wharf, but we don't have the right to keep some pervert from using our daughter's bathroom.  I don't remember, do you have a daughter?  Hollywood puts out pornography and other trash and lecture the rest of us on morality while they award themselves.  What a bunch of hypocrites you all are.  I don't know why I bother typing all this.  The only answer you have is an ignorant insult.

Two issues are interesting here. First, I think his response yields insight into why intelligent, angry white males continue to support Trump, no matter what he does. There is a lot of anger in Bill’s  response. I really don’t know where that anger comes from. Bill has had a good life, is well off, probably in the same class category as I am (upper middle class). So I think his response might reveal something of how Trump supporters think.

But second: Bill firmly believes the information he gets (like about the Clinton Foundation—he believes the meme explaining why the CF has folded). Likewise, I believe the information I get, e.g., that the Clinton Foundation is still functioning and is generally corruption free.

My point is that both Bill and I are relying for our beliefs on words. Both of us probably believe that the words we read are windows rather than stained glass into reality. And of course we look for the stained glass windows that confirm our beliefs and hold in contempt the sgws that challenge them. I can never convince Bill to look at my "facts," nor will he be able to convince me that Obama was born in Kenya. Our proofs are only more words.

PS: I realize that my rhetoric and composition friends might take exception to my having quoted my friend’s words without obtaining his permission. I have tried to contextualize them, but as we all know, context spirals outward into infinity. I also think one can fairly use another’s words without obtaining permission of the speaker. Once the words are out, they are out.

I'm thinking more about communicative failure. A colleague, Amy, replied to this post, wondering whether there is a way to get someone like Bill to understand differently--like be willing to investigate some of the claims (like the Clinton Foundation one) with which he automatically agrees; Amy linked the communicative failure to teachers' obligations to teach  students the teachers' versions of information literacy.  I appreciated her response. I'm not quoting her here because I haven't asked for her permission to use her words (now that's interesting). I also twisted her email a bit.

I think a lot about the walls between us (perhaps symbolized by the wall between Bill and me). I wrote in response to Amy when she asked whether there was a way to climb the wall:

Probably not. We are all trapped in our shells. I suspect that the answer is highly specific to the believer: I need to know more about Bill, why he thinks the way he does, just as he needs to know more about me. I am surprised that he is so angry. I think that anger might be the key or at least a path into the labyrinth. and for Bill to talk to me, he needs to find a way into my maze. Actually, I think people expand more when the experience of hearing about other ways of looking is organic, kind of slipping in from the side. I think rarely is anything learned from dialogue and certainly not from argument.

Think about our students: we don't really teach information literacy, which likely can't be taught. It can, however, be learned--the way students come into our classes and rub shoulders with (and read) each other. They learn information literacy from each other, not us.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Personal Writing in the Classroom: Guns, Premature Ejaculations, and Poisoned Apples

Personal Writing in the Classroom: Guns, Premature Ejaculations, and Poisoned Apples

Guns, Premature Ejaculations, and Poisoned Apples

I have a Trumpeteer friend who may have prematurely ejaculated when I asked whether he had heard Wayne LaPierre’s speech to CPAC. “He nailed it,” I wrote.

I didn’t fully explain my euphoria over hearing the truth: “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” As the day unfolded, LaPierre and President Trump worked like Ax and Smash to promote more guns is good guns, primarily by arming teachers.

But neither LaPierre nor President Trump went far enough, intimidated perhaps by their fear of political correctivism. For inexplicable reasons, they argued that teachers should carry concealed weapons—and, Trump explained, receive additional pay for carrying.

I don’t see why the weapons should be concealed. These weapons should be openly displayed, advertising the depth of “hardening” specific schools. Schools should display pictures of their teachers, lecturing, a Glock, or more significantly, a Colt 45, riding on their hips. (see:

Not only would such an open display intimidate school shooters, who in President Trump’s words, are “cowards,” it would also solve one of the more pervasive problems in our schools: discipline. Only teachers like myself understand how wonderful it would be to be carrying when faced with thirty libidinous teenagers who insist on chatting with or txting each other or watching videos while we are trying to explain the social implications of the subjunctive. Many of us would like to haul out our Colt 45s and say, “Shut the F#$@ up! There’s a new sheriff in town!” That gun brandished in the wild air would speak much louder than the pale threat of detention.

But even the open display of a handgun seems insufficient, particularly if we are trying to intimidate school shooters. Teachers should receive and be trained in the use of AR-15s. Think of it: the pictures advertising the “hardened” school: teachers with AR-15s slung over their shoulders while explaining the periodic table. This proposal would clearly scare away psychopathic school shooters and affirm discipline.

I can think of only one objection, to which LaPierre alluded in his CPAC address. Perhaps it applies only to colleges and universities—but my prematurely ejaculating friend claims the same is true of all teachers in California. The problem is that most of our teachers are socialists. “On college campuses, The Communist Manifesto,” LaPierre explains, “is one of the most frequently assigned texts. Karl Marx is the most assigned economist.”

I’ll have to take LaPierre’s word for these claims, although as someone with a B.S., B.Ed., M.A., and PhD, I have never read TCM or Das Capital. Truthfully, I know about them, and I have read people who have written about them, but I have never read them. I guess I slipped through the cracks in the floor.

But still: I’m worried that the European styled socialist educators might use their guns to intimidate students. So our policy will have to have filter teachers who have the wrong political orientations. I can imagine a simple test to sort the bad apples from the good.

Now that I think of it, we also know that Blacks are more inclined than Anglos to violence—witness the crime and prison rates of the Blank/Anglo populations. Consequently, we should automatically not let Blacks get AR-15s. I know that not all Blacks are criminals, but to continue my apple metaphor, as someone like LaPierre commented: you have ten apples; two are poisoned; are you willing to chance eating one of them????

Actually, since most Hispanics are criminals and rapists, we should exclude them, too. Well, that’s easy to do. We don’t even need tests to tell who’s Black or Hispanic.