Friday, November 29, 2019

Pre-COP25 Panel of Speakers: the Intersection of Climate and Race

A headache kept me home from work today, so I got some fresh air and checked out the climate strike. It was great timing for the strike, on Black Friday, with COP 25 starting in Chile - scratch that - Madrid three days from now.

It's a really hard sell to get a protest going on a cold day. There were about 200 people there, which was great, but it could be better, couldn't it. We can't have field trips to the protests, but could I book a field trip to see a movie and then accidentally get side tracked on the way?? Oh look, that protest is today too. Let's check it out for a minute! I have to say, it's really cool when you're at a march and suddenly a huge group of people join at once. It's like the cavalry coming in to save the day!

The protest started with an indigenous smudging ceremony, drumming and singing from Idle No More. Some dancing in unison, holding hands with the strangers next to us, can be so useful for developing community. It's necessary to be part of something bigger than ourselves if we're going to tackle something this huge. The speakers outside the mall had the power cut by Primus Property Management, even though, as far as I know, they had booked the area just like any other group. But a megaphone was passed to them, and they continued. Then we marched down the middle of the street instead of sticking to the sidewalks. That felt more like a real march. There was a panel of speakers waiting for us at a nearby church. The event ended with an Extinction Rebellion disruption at the mall. Kudos to the organizers for such an incredibly smooth event!! But about that panel...

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Greatest Propaganda Machine in History

Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G. and Borat, among others) won an award from the Anti-Defamation League. Here's his 25 minute acceptance speech. It's in writing, abridged a bit, below the video if you'd rather skim than watch. (Emphasis is mine.)

"Today, around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories, once confined to the fringe, are going mainstream. It's as if the age of reason, the era of evidential argument is ending and now knowledge is increasing delegitimized, and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging . . .  What do these dangerous trends have in common? . . . All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history. . . .

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Gen Z for Zero, Net Zero

Mia Rabson reports,
"A baby born in Canada today will never know a time in which his or her health isn’t at risk from a warming planet . . . Without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives. . . . in a country like Canada, air pollution, heat-related illnesses and exposure to toxic smoke from forest fires are bigger threats to a child’s long-term health. A warmer world means more widespread transmission of diseases, as well as the political strife that comes with mass migration as some parts of the world become uninhabitable. . . . pushing the world to do more to slow global warming is critical. . . . if we intervene now to keep warming down and find ways to adapt, the savings to the health system and economic productivity down the road will in many places more than pay for the costs of those interventions."
The Lancet article she sources doesn't pull any punches,
"A child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average, . . . Downward trends in global yield potential for all major crops tracked since 1960 threaten food production and food security, with infants often the worst affected by the potentially permanent effects of undernutrition. . . . Trends in climate suitability for disease transmission are particularly concerning, with 9 of the 10 most suitable years for the transmission of dengue fever on record occurring since 2000. . . . . air pollution—principally driven by fossil fuels, and exacerbated by climate change—damages the heart, lungs, and every other vital organ. . . . Globally, 77% of countries experienced an increase in daily population exposure to wildfires from 2001 to 2015. . . . . A business as usual trajectory will result in a fundamentally altered world. . . . 
The Paris Agreement has set a target of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5°C.” In a world that matches this ambition, a child born today would see the phase-out of all coal in the UK and Canada by their sixth and 11th birthday; they would see France ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by their 21st birthday; and they would be 31 years old by the time the world reaches net-zero in 2050."
If we can make this happen, we all know that it will be good beyond merely allowing us to continue to survive on this planet:
"The changes seen in this alternate pathway could result in cleaner air, safer cities, and more nutritious food, coupled with renewed investment in health systems and vital infrastructure. . . . In several cases, the economic savings from a healthier and more productive workforce, with fewer health-care expenses, will cover the initial investment costs of these interventions."
We're implemented some changes, but greenhouse gasses continue to rise. This is the same story we've been hearing for years, and the main reason I question anyone's choice to bring more children into this mess, but at least it's being reported by mainstream media. Maybe that's something.

On Developing a Consistent Self

In a New York Times article, "What do teens learn online today?", Elizabeth Weil suggests that kids are on the right track when they stream every inch of their anguish and joys in countless video tutorials aimed at, perhaps a necessary clarification, other teens. Weil says,
"It’s nice if our fellow humans are predictable, and you have some idea of what you’ll be dealing with when a person shows up. There are whole branches of psychology dedicated to trying to help us keep ourselves together. . . . And yet, at the same time, we know it’s a ruse. We are, all of us, deeply, inalienably contradictory and chaotic. Arguably it is the dominant postapocalyptic vision of our digital times, the internet’s McLuhan moment, brought to us by teenagers who, as such, spend their days feeling like 10 different people at once and believe they can, and should, express them all. We all contain multitudes. The kids seem to know that’s all right."
I commented on the article with this memory,
Back in first year uni, in the 80s, my prof told us, "It doesn't matter what your philosophy of life is, so long as it's consistent and self-cohesive," and immediately, in my head, I countered with Whitman's 'multitudes' line. That's youth talking. It's the untamed stream of consciousness all things at all times why do we have to learn punctuation anyway line of reasoning. And it has it's place, for sure. The error is in thinking it makes us more authentic to show all sides of ourselves in real time. Unorganized thought merely flattens the ideas presented until nothing is more important than anything else, but then nothing is really communicated beyond all the feels, and "I am here!! Look at me!" We contain multitudes, but at some point we also develop a more integrated self, not just to be conveniently predictable for others, but to better understand how to live and how to connect and how to be. Prioritizing our ideas into an organized whole in a thoughtful attempt at elucidating who we are and what matters is not to be shrugged off because it's what the "olds" do. It's the later stage work of finding that authentic self.
(After haggling in my head over a few words, I hit 'submit' and then noticed that one glaringly inaccurate *it's*. Punctuation indeed! Whatevs.)

Weil seems to be newly introduced to this adolescent culture of everything at once, which might mean she has forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. It might seem different online, but that's just a matter of packaging. That flattening of ideas and values so everything is as important as everything else is a useful way to avoid decision and responsibility - those nasty things that come with age. (Well, one can only hope they come.) She calls it a "feature of the online world" while alluding to a 19th century poet. Curious.

I believe it's vital to remember who should be leading whom. What kids do often looks new and cool from a distance, and they can be jarringly sophisticated in the talent of expressing distain for anything that predates them, but there are consequences to the refusal to do the work of thinking and deciding. Developing a consistent self and philosophy of life within the complexity of being isn't a ruse set to tame us, but a method of focusing. If we forget that in a quest to avoid an "Ok boomer" dig, then we are negligent, and we deserve the culture we've helped to create.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Paul Gorski on Education and Inequity

For the first time in 28 years of teaching, I approve of the new guru being brought to the masses from on high. Immediately, from just the first few seconds of the  video we were compelled to watch for some force-fed professional development, I knew this guy was different. The sound was poor quality, and it was clearly homemade using a laptop camera and mic; there was nothing slick or polished about it in the least. That is high praise coming from me.

Paul Gorski is Associate Professor at New Century College. Beyond being an author of several books and magazine articles, he is the primary author of many articles published in journals (albeit low ranking or unranked - at least they're his own studies). And he, like me, rails against many of the ideas teachers have been told to embrace over the years, like the whole the Grit Movement. I think growth mindset fits the same "deficit" criticisms as is outlined further here, and in this tweet:

Elsewhere he adds in Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Competence. They all run into the same problem: Telling people they just need a different mindset or more grit to do better in school denies, in the most condescending way, the reality that people who are marginalized are often models of resilience and grit. They've overcome more obstacles before breakfast than the rest of us have to manage all day. He explains further in this paper,