Friday, December 26, 2008

Neutrality...yeah right!

The false god of neutrality is yet another effect of modern capitalism! Neutrality represents an attack on classical liberalism and the idea that each of us is a searching, self-perfecting being. Capitalism would like us to believe that in some Hegelian way we've reached the ideal state (economically, politically, and ideologically). Even if Fukuyama thought that the capitalist state wasn't perfect and that plenty about capitalism isn't fair (think CB and Sonia), he did believe it is the best system available to humans. So if we teach neutrality it must be based on the idea that we cannot transcend the current economic system. Neutrality can now be centered on a capitalistic system. All value follows from there.

So neutrality is therefore neither possible nor desirable. If we teach neutrality we teach moral apathy and this is something capitalism demands of its teachers. It is parallel to the intolerance taught by religions. So to me, the best place to start getting rid of our world's three-headed monster (hierarchy, capitalism and religion) is none other than school themselves.

I remind my colleagues on a daily basis that schools are supposed to be those places where nothing is sacred...that place is church. I remind them that inside the halls of education everything must be treated in revolutionary terms. We must seek to transcend our current understanding. We must seek to move beyond what we treat as common sense. We must assume we are unfinished. We must look, prod, pull, smash, tear and deconstruct everything. This includes our language, our ideas, our ethics, our science, etc.

We cannot allow the moral police to enter our sphere (though they are ever prevalent and vigilant) anymore than they already have, unless they are willing to be adult about their positions and subject them to ruthless critique. If they continue to isolate themselves from analysis, they must be ignored. School boards are chalk full of the conservative religious types and they need to go away...and since this isn't happening, they must be ignored!!! Their values have place in churches, not schools. Leave the sacred (superstition) to the church or private religious schools! They have nothing to offer schools but a case study in superstition, intolerance and imposed ignorance. More importantly, teachers must be willing to be fired defending the cause of critical, revolutionary education.

Neutrality is even a claim of our media. Everywhere neutrality is claimed despite the self-deception that it is impossible and assumes certain values. These values are themselves debatable in how they are applied versus how they are abstractly discussed. That is why any knucklehead can go to their local high school and watch a couple of young debaters in a Lincoln-Douglas debate use the same exact value to dispute each others positions on complicated social, political and economic issue.

So a teacher naively hoping to be neutral could say: "using the value of 'justice' one of you defend the death penalty and the other oppose it." We now see that defining 'justice' then becomes the location of the debate. What is the neutral position in this highly debated issue like the death penalty or abortion? Does one exist? One could perhaps offer nuance to one of these issues, but it doesn't make them neutral. So how can a neutral position exist in the academic realm on issues concerning social or political relations?

Is the social studies teacher capable of neutrally recapitulating history? Not if he or she is ethical they aren't.

Can the English teacher be neutral when discussing Anne Frank's Diary or To Kill a Mockingbird?

Is the Spanish teacher neutral who takes students to Nicaragua and chooses not to ignore that the U.S. was condemned by the International Court for terrorism?

How can an ecology teacher be neutral or value-free when teaching about the environment today?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

It Has Been Way Too Long

I was blown away to realize I haven't posted since July! It's been an absolute whirlwind getting into this school year, organizing with the Two Rivers Branch of the IWW and CAJA (Community Action for Justice in the Americas). So I thought I'd maybe give a quick update of the things that have been going on lately.

I took 10 students and three parents to Nicaragua with Global Exchange at the beginning of November. The organization that led our tour in Nicaragua was called Matagalpa Tours. I was very impressed with their work.

Some of the highlights of this tour were a two-night homestay in a Fair Trade coffee community called El Roblar; a baseball game with that community's youth; a soccer game with one of the only women's soccer teams in the entire country; visits with Nicaragua's "Civil Coordinator" (equivalent to a human rights expert), unions, women's radio station (La Vos), water and electricity defender; a visit to a "free-trade zone" with sweatshops; a jungle canopy tour; and most powerfully a visit to the municipal dump called La Chureca.

This fall, I was also occuppied with a student retreat to the mountains outside Helena, MT to create a student group called Students for Social Economic and Environmental Justice (SSEEJ). During this retreat the students decided on campaigns to affect change within their own school, including an effort have the school's coffee kiosk become 100% fair trade coffee; an effort to have the school's apparel to become 100% sweatfree; an effort to reduce the amount of the overall energy consumption; and finally, an effort to improve recycling efforts within the school.

Finally, back in October I was very busy helping to organize a speaking tour from Mexico Solidarity Network to Missoula, MT. Carlos Euceda, a community organizer, and Willy Barreno, a film-maker, came through Montana to talk about the recent passage into law of the Merida Initiative that will guarantee nearly $1.4 billion in military aid to Mexico over the next several years. Their tour was very successful and their message reached many Montanans.

All in all, this has been a very busy beginning to another school year, but I hope to be able to give more attention to my blog now.