Summer Reading: James Joyce

Contrary to popular belief, ​English teachers haven’t read every work in the literary canon. Despite my best efforts, I only manage to make little dents in my ceiling-high pile of to-get-to books. Every year I add everything from classics to nonfiction to politics to fluff to this collection, thinking that I’ll catch up during the summer, and then every summer I find myself attending at least one education workshop or seminar that requires its own stack of reading, and the others are doomed to cobwebs. 

Last year I moved to Atlanta for the month of July to study Communism in America with Harvey Klehr at Emory University. We read Whittaker Chambers, Richard Wright, John Steinbeck, etc. Fabulous and fascinating, highly recommend. 

This July found me studying the history of the Grand Coulee Dam, and training to teach AP English. 

Tackling the AP course this year, I have impetus to buckle down and read more classics. Today I am paying homage to James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I just finished. My previous exposure to Joyce was a few snippets in college to illustrate linguistic experimentation. We didn’t read an entire work that I can remember. 

My gut reaction to Portrait: I really enjoyed the first four chapters. Joyce takes me on a nostalgic journey back to childhood, experiencing the innocent world bubble through a child’s sensibilities. His subtle changes in descriptive imagery and maturity grow as Stephen’s experiences and awareness increase. I love the countless allusions and historical references; the Penguin Classics edition, as pictured, provides an exhaustive notes section annotating these. I found myself flipping back and forth constantly to check my knowledge and understanding, particularly about Irish revolutionaries and Catholic tradition. 

Joyce loses me in the fifth chapter, though. Intellectually, I get it. The evolution of boy to man, immature to mature, servile to free.  The myth of Icarus and Daedalus, flying. But it feels self-indulgent to me in its philosophical rambling. Pedantic and didactic. And I don’t know if this is because it’s supposed to. 

Frankly, I don’t want to teach this book in my AP course. I just don’t like it enough to reread it, and I don’t know that I want to subject high school students to it. There are way too many other fun challenging novels waiting to be read.  

Inhabit Peace

 24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 

25Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

 

27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 


28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 

29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 


30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 

31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. ~Acts 17

Synchronized Insanity 

The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted this pic of a darling baby holding a flag with the caption, “This is the future that ACLU members want.” You would have thought the organization quoted Goebbels. The Perpetually Offended, in synchronized horror, swooped in with talons pointed, and cried: EVIL WHITE SUPREMACY! 

Are you freaking mad? Is this really what we’ve become, that a picture of a baby holding an American flag is RACIST? Even worse is that the ACLU, not exactly a bastion of integrity, pathetically apologized. 

Multiculturalism,  as it’s taught today, divides. Diversity, as taught today, creates animosity and anger. Social studies (“history”), as it is taught today, often ignores fact and favors moral relativism and cultural Marxism. Since when has focusing on our differences ever brought people closer? Marxists have been purposely tearing down the foundations of our country for decades, and the ignorati follow blindly,  oblivious to what they are destroying. 

Joseph Geobbels would be proud:

It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.


ping

Visceral Reactions

Teachers feel defensive. People readily blame schools for society’s ills and balk at increasing taxes for education when they feel they have no say. It’s increasingly popular in American culture to point fingers, shift blame, and vilify whomever is in the crosshairs of accusation at the moment. 

As a constitutionally conservative educator with over 13 years experience in both private and public schools, I react viscerally to both the culturally Marxist inculcation and virulently self-protective political lobbying of the NEA, and the chest-thumping crass attacks of the self-appointed defenders of tradition who are tired of feeling silenced and marginalized. I live in both worlds. 

This is what I think. 

​1. The fault doesn’t lie necessarily with the teachers. Many of us are fair, balanced, logical, fact-based and aware. I blame the teacher and administrative education programs steeped in “progressive” language and indoctrination, shifting schools from educating individuals with facts to indoctrinating students into “social justice” warriors to fight everything traditional, conservative, faith-based and factual. In other words, most teachers are churned out to be very good little soldiers for the cause: that which has been determined important by Marxist “progressive” elitests. They feel good about what they teach. They feel it’s important to continue moral (socialist) indoctrination. The end (government manipulated utopia) justifies the means. Those of us who don’t fall into the jackbooted line either remain silent with our heads down or risk ostracization and retaliation. Recent surprising comments about inclusion from the new OEA president are heartening, but naturally suspect. 

2. The media, both mainstream and social, should be blamed for hyping every little pet peeve of Minority Group of the Day that feels its needs aren’t being met, and feeding the frenzy that follows. We aren’t interested in listening calmly and discussing logically anymore. The MO now is to label grievances as oppression, and then silence with vilification anyone who disagrees. Attorneys should be ashamed of themselves for willingly participating in this increasingly litigious behavior. 

Media also touts rankings every couple years from some questionable international test given to some kids somewhere that ranks our kids 39th in the world, without accounting for test reliability or vast differences in cultural and educational expectations and outcomes. Until we compare only countries of equal size with equal borders with equal immigration numbers with equal cultural expectations with equal diversity with equal policies regarding who we educate and to what level, it isn’t equal! Stop already with comparisons to Finland and Norway and China. Until we acknowledge how and whom other countries choose to educate and grant citizenship, it’s a moot point. 

3. Parents who raise their kids to feel entitled to do whatever they want without consequence are a problem. Countless excuses run the gamut from how Sally never misbehaves at home so it must be the teacher’s fault or Fred was at his dad’s house and didn’t know about the assignment or Lola is experiencing anxiety about school and can’t do any work or George never gets anything lower than a B, so if he has a C it’s the teacher’s fault. 

Parents who take vacation in the middle of the school year instead of during the summer or scheduled break are a problem. Maybe we can get away with that in elementary schools where, arguably, grades don’t “count,” but pulling kids from high school in the middle of a Shakespeare (biology, chemistry) unit and requesting a packet ahead of time to finish over two weeks in Cabo or Disneyland as if all we do is worksheets and expecting no grade repercussions is irresponsible and selfish. 

Parents who continuously bring forgotten lunches, basketball shoes, homework, permission slips and insist on calling and texting during class, flouting school and classroom policies are a problem. Those computers in their hands take children to places no parent wants to admit, but teachers see the huddled embarrassed giggles over a screen at lunch, the tears as a result of texting fights between couples and hurtful unfriending and destructive rumors. We see the kids who sit alone in the corners of the hallways to eat with unknown individuals across the net, plugged in to whatever they listen to these days, and we see the rampant cheating via test pictures and plagiarism. It’s okay to tell your kids no. They don’t need smart phones, believe it or not. We somehow made it through high school without being constantly connected to mom and dad. 
Of course every child deserves to be heard and worked with individually and there are always anomalies in each situation, but until we decide to set strong expectations, persevere and follow through without enabling irresponsibility, stop insulating our kids from failure and consequences, and start monitoring their activities instead of telling ourselves they are mature enough to handle it, we continue to instill entitlement and bad behavior. 

4. I blame social promotion that allows little Sally to move to third grade when she has missed half of second or hasn’t learned to read, and Fred who hasn’t turned in a single assignment for five years, but still goes on to high school. I blame lenient attendance policies that don’t hold kids or parents accountable, and discipline policies that merely tap the hand. Popular now is the suggestion that minority students ought not be disciplined at all

There are great teachers with brilliant minds in our education system who love students and give far beyond their paycheck. Parents continue to want the best for their kids. We should all agree that what we’re doing isn’t working if what we want in the end is to graduate determined, individual thinkers. If, in the end, we really just want workers who viscerally feel good about themselves because government entities like their perceived morality and celebrate every little thing they do for the Collective, then we are succeeding. 

Ping 

Melodramatic Oozings

Writing has always been cathartic to me. Arguably, my  “best” stuff oozed from poetic angst (By “best,”  I mean most over-emotional and eye-rolling) .

My early college years were incredibly difficult. On a track scholarship at a very expensive private school, I struggled to make friends, didn’t really like my classes, didn’t have a clue what I wanted to major in, didn’t wear the right clothes and didn’t have any money. I had a couple boyfriends who were, well, boys. They broke my ohsotender heart, and I wrote volumes about it.

As silly as most of my poems are,  they gave the young me a sense of control and peace, a voice when I felt no one listened. Purpose.

Today they give me smiles, memories, thankfulness that I got through that very long phase, and motivation to encourage my students to cathartically “dump their brains on the paper” to find their own voices and take the edge off their emotions.

My favorite poem from my youth slimes sentimental angst. And that’s okay.

(Apologies to my husband and men everywhere):

Men are Slime

Enticing  us with their tantalizing lies

they take hold of our hearts with

crushing grips

and squeeze out every ounce of life.

Leaving us dangling limply in the cold,

they proceed to burrow deep

under our skin

and through our innards

like maggots,

taking advantage of our still warm bodies

to prolong their own

twisted lives.

When the nourishment for their

bloated egos is depleted

they become beautifully sculpted

once again

to snare another trusting female.

Men are slime.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/ooze/

In a Trance

Trying to have a conversation with the politically passionate in America today is like running your fingers through a meat grinder. We don’t talk anymore. We scream. We don’t argue; we vilify. We can’t ever agree on any point because then the other side doesn’t lose, and then we can’t be the winners. It’s become a collectivist super bowl of bashing heads, silencing the other with violent rhetoric and, increasingly, physical attacks.

Your political beliefs and your skin color define your individual character. If you don’t agree with my assessment of current events, then you are hateful and I will attack your character until you shut up. I’ll declare that you should be fired and hanged as a warning to others of your ilk. In fact, if I’m a Hillary “progressive,”  I’ll go even further. I’ll stalk you online, post demeaning pictures or information about you, find out where you live and work, send emails to your boss and maybe drive by your house. If I’m a diehard Trumpkin, I’ll yell louder, belittle you and label you a Leftist, regardless your voting record.

White supremacists have garnered press and attention this week. They are, by all accounts, a miniscule number in the American population, and politically right-leaning groups purposely and vehemently disassociate from them. Supremacists are not conservative, not republican, but they are easy to hate, so it’s popular for left-leaning groups to label all “right wing” voters racists.

It’s unthinking. It’s dogs in the red zone. It’s trance-like loyalty to blanket ideology and rumor. Truth doesn’t matter; we create our own. For example, Antifa groups and sympathizers scoured pictures and footage of the rally in Charlottesville, trying to identify participants. When they thought they found a match – or they found one close enough – they “outed” him and began a deliberate attack to destroy his credibility. He works in a university research lab and had nothing to do with the rally. Fortunately for him, the university backed him up and changed the online narrative, but this should terrify us all. What happens when the target is just one of us who doesn’t have the same resources? What happens when the ignorami erroneously identify one of us, track us home, and violently attack? Even if they identify an actual participant, is mob mentality the answer? Vigilante justice has historically terrorized communities. Victims are identified guilty without any due process.

We cannot afford to ignore this precipitous slide into bedlam. We must tell the truth, listen to ideas that we don’t like, know why we believe what we believe, and be able to vocalize it without resorting to ad hominem. Of course we should disagree; diversity of thought is the harbinger of freedom. But logic should always trump emotion.  If we attack and silence and vilify the “other” then what have we accomplished beyond polarization and divisiveness? Wake from the ideological trance and be better humans.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/trance/