Father, where have you gone?

for weeks i have not posted anything… lord knows i have tried. apparently writer’s block begets those who are not even writers, but under a more common name i would say… overwhelmed. i have been overwhelmed as of late. for various reasons, obviously. i say obviously because the nature of the word suggests various reasons… too many things to handle efficiently. and i feared too many to express eloquently. so i waited until, perhaps one day this block would pass. but i realized that they never pass, just like being overwhelmed by things never goes away until you deal with some of the issues overwhelming you… one at a time.

some of the things i attempted to write about; wilderness trips, rites of passage, school reform, thought reform in communist China, graffiti, youth violence, union chapter building, high school football, hegemony, use of public space, critical literacy, the wire (the season i am currently watching), the rant of reverend wright, the deaths of 50,000 plus and 70,000 plus….. and one father…..

what do all these things have to do with each other? everything… if you are me right now. this is what overwhelmed look like. a bunch of thoughts that are not adequately explained… left for you to search and sort on your own. kind of like the death of a father. just as many if not more (definitely more) unanswered questions, unorganized thoughts, uncontrollable emotions, unforgettable memories, unintelligible dreams….

yet it is in the dreams and in nature where all these things have made the most sense to me. losing my father has put me in several places all at once. many of which are juxtaposed, not seemingly plausible in coexistence. yet here i am. strong yet vulnerable. found but lost. it baffles me to realize that so many of my students are going thru this and yet i rarely ever address it in my curriculum. how do i help them? how do i help the two students of mine whom were shot this past year? and their families? friends who are still in my class? all of the links of life have to be connected by those of death. and if i am ever to teach in an interconnected way i have to remember that.

i think the only thing to do is to embrace this feeling and maybe begin to express it, talk about it, write about it. something besides think about it. i know where my father has gone… i helped to bring him there. by the side of his favorite lake, under the shadow of his favorite mountains, in the company of those who loved him…. that is where he has gone. and i am here. still overwhelmed….. but confident that i will find my way again. rest in peace Dad.

Education: Silence Broken: Critical Literacy Is The Goal

this article states perfectly why graffiti (and other seemingly non-academic issues) has a place in my classroom… critical literacy leads to greater academic understanding, which in turn leads to increased motivation, applicability, and achievement…
like the graffiti mural painted at Gompers middle school by Revok: infinite possibility, infinite potential

Education: Silence Broken: Critical Literacy Is The Goal: “Column: A young teacher’s advice on how to reach struggling readers and writers by building a culture of critical literacy.”

(Via wiretapmag.org: Education.)

Molina still extorting FoLAR over properly permitted Meeting of Styles mural, which she wants completely whitewashed

current events, civics, social responsibility, political policy and processes… which part of this should i not be allowed to teach in my social studies classroom?

Molina still extorting FoLAR over properly permitted Meeting of Styles mural, which she wants completely whitewashed: “

L.A. wants to whitewash graffiti mural

By RAQUEL MARIA DILLON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 1, 7:01 PM ET

LOS ANGELES – It was a graffiti artist’s dream come true: 10,000 square feet of concrete and a permit to paint. Families brought their kids to watch as hundreds of muralists, using their own materials and working for free, sprayed technicolor shades on the steep banks of an ugly, manmade riverbed.

Not everyone was pleased, however, with the results of the civic-minded effort, which had the city’s blessing but has rekindled debates over whether Los Angeles County should condone a practice it pays millions to combat.

Some politicians protested that parts of the mural are obscene and have attracted gang-related tags in a city where graffiti already mars homes, sidewalks and buildings. The county has given organizers until Wednesday to whitewash the mural, and neither side is backing down.

‘It would be beautiful if the river went back to its natural stateand was actually a river and a park,’ said Alex Poli, a graffiti artist and gallery owner known as ‘Man One.’ ‘But right now we have concrete walls, so the next best thing is to beautify it with art.’

The site in question, a concrete canyon where a tributary, Arroyo Seco, meets the Los Angeles River, is surrounded by an industrial neighborhood on the edge of downtown and, like most of the river’s 51 miles, is hemmed in by artificial banks to control floods.

To obtain the permit from a maze of local governments and regulatory agencies, Poli enlisted the Friends of the Los Angeles River, an environmental organization that works with the multiple agencies that control the river.

Poli organized the public art project on a sunny weekend in September, and the artists created a canvas full of bold, abstract graffiti script and some edgy imagery: a sorcerer in a hoodie sweatshirt conjuring a spray can, an angel cradling a man, a pig in a suit smoking marijuana, the Hollywood sign in flames and scantily clad women.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina promptly demanded the mural’s removal, complaining that some of the images were inappropriate for a public art display near where city planners want to build bike paths. The environmental group’s mission is to protect the river, and ‘this seemed like an odd way to do it,’ said Roxane Marquez, a Molina spokeswoman.

Marquez said Poli hasn’t kept his promise to organize a volunteer touchup crew to keep the surrounding concrete pristine and free of gang tags and extra graffiti.

Poli said the politicians don’t understand the difference between graffiti and graffiti art, which is exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.

‘People still have trouble considering it art because we use a spray can,’ he said.

In mid-October, some of the murals were whitewashed without warning. Molina and the Department of Public Works denied involvement, but in December, Molina got the county Board of Supervisors to pass an emergency motion giving the Friends of the Los Angeles River 90 days to paint over the murals or pay up to $70,000 for their removal.

[NOTE FROM NATURE TRUMPS: FoLAR did not obtain the permit–Man One did. The County’s motion to charge a third party $70k will not stand up in court. Molina should be held in contempt by the public for using her position to extort a non-profit environmental advocacy organization.]

County crews removed about 60 million square feet of graffiti in 2006 at a cost of about $32 million, county officials have said.

The Friends group stands by the idea of having art by the river, spokeswoman Shelly Backlar said. But the organization, which is scrambling to rebuild its stock with the county and the agencies that supervise the river, concedes some of what the artist put into the mural might not belong there.

‘It’s their permit and their event, and we’ve been pulled in because of the work that we do,’ Backlar said. ‘It’s not what we thought it would be.’

City Councilman Ed Reyes, who originally supported Poli’s project and authorized the permit, said he regrets that decision because he believes the art has attracted gang members, who have added their tags to the riverbed walls.

The graffiti ‘spilled out of the river channel, into the sidewalks, onto the handrails, into buildings,’ Reyes said. ‘Before it was a neutral place, but now we have clear indicators that rival gangs and taggers are showing up there.’

More tagging has steadily accumulated at the Arroyo Seco site since last fall. Other artists have primed their own pieces of concrete and added to the project, extending the murals a few dozen yards.

Poli condemns taggers but sees the more ambitious work as copycats — students learning from the masters. Tagging increased after parts of the mural were whitewashed, including offensive images directed at Molina and county officials.

‘The county needs to wake up,’ said Kalen Ockerman, who paints under the name ‘Mear One.’ ‘The rest of the world is busy paying kids to do this stuff,’ on album covers and billboards.

Poli considered painting over the murals, ‘because of all the grief.’ He’s also talking to lawyers, hoping that a strongly worded letter will stop the county from billing the environmental group or his gallery.

‘We did nothing illegal and we had permits,’ he said. ‘We’re in the business of creating art, not destroying it.’

(Via Nature Trumps: An L.A. River Blog compiled by Jay Babcock.)

Graffiti in schools – posted in the Homeroom

The intensity of this discussion only signals to me the need for the further understanding of Graffiti as a phenomenon and culture, sub culture, blight or whatever other term you want to throw on it.. the point being before you throw that term out, time needs to be spent gathering information (from many perspectives) and analyzing it to interpret its meaning… this is what the curricular project is focusing on, not “teaching” graffiti in the classroom as was hinted at by the framing of this post… which probably helped to set up the wrath of comments… but maybe this is where we start.

Graffiti in schools: “

Teacher Antero Garcia’s post about using graffiti in the classroom and in school-sponsored activities has drawn some wide-ranging comments. As he said, the response at a conference went from loathing to enthusiasm. Of course, many students are experts in graffiti — as consumers or creators.

But one reader wondered whether the students were well-versed in politics or current events, and another asked whether they were sufficiently educated in the basics.

What do you think? Does graffiti have a role in schools? What is that role?

Share your thoughts.

Mary MacVean

(Via The Homeroom.)

I hate graffiti!!! let’s have a critical discussion.

“indeed…” as omar would say with a shotgun ready. in short this is how many discussion have been generated and directed towards me as of late. yet the trigger happy defensives so common to discussions of polarizing issues have not been the result. and i have to say i am quite thrilled with the beginning of a serious dialogue. when people begin to question, people begin to work towards answers, even if they start out by questioning you personally… your integrity, morals, politics, or even your basic scruples! to discuss critically is to explore possibilities.

without recycling conversations and demeaning the intrinsic value inherent in the moment, i can say with confidence that ideas are being generated and minds are being opened. this is necessary…. from my colleagues, to workshop participants, my students, and ultimately me… the questioning is what keeps us moving forward. for more on this i have to turn it over to my friend antero and his most recent posts on The Homeroom, the LA times education blog…
the first posting on youth culture speaks to the motivation for our current collaboration in curriculum development.
the second post about whether or not graffiti is worth a thousand words shows our small progress in this former endeavor.

basically, its on!

T.F.A. as a long term solution? not anytime soon…

sitting in the 29 Bar today, deep in Trojan territory watching my Bruins get spanked in the Final Four.  this was not the only  glaring contradiction of the day.  as Antero and i debated about whether or not we could have prevented our mediocre workshop on graffiti from being so mediocre… i happened to over hear another conversation about Teach for America. immediately distracted from my mediocre conversation (no offense Antero, we were both tired) i tuned in to catch a tag line that would give me any bearing as to the the resident opinion of this highly controversial topic… Teach for America teachers. how much of a benefit are they to the education profession and all its ridiculous baggage.

in a moment’s time my fears were confirmed. the patrons discussing this at the table next to ours had said that, “teachers in TFA are positively affecting the classroom more than teachers from traditional credential programs as well as those with more experience.” i glanced at Antero’s face which reassured me that his suspicions had also been aroused (if anything it confirmed the fact that our previous dialogue was in need of a change of topic). i held my tongue a minute longer to see where this obviously misinformed discussion was headed when the lady who had began the discussion (whom i am indebted to for providing me with additional information in the upcoming link – thank you) referenced a study that backed up her assertion. i couldn’t bare it any longer so i leapt into the conversation uninvited. my clarifying question had also confirmed my hypothesis that this lady must have a daughter who was about to enter the program. i asked if shoe wouldn’t mind sharing this article with me and true to her word and my request, she sent the above link….

i pondered before i began writing my rant of a response. i thought about my own prejudices for TFA. my own everyday experiences with very close colleagues and friends who are members of TFA. i wanted to collect my thoughts to maintain the appearance of an objective and fair evaluator of issues, after all i am an educator. yet i could not shake the emotional part of the response i am about to share. the above study cites data from testing scores which everyone who knows anything about education realizes, despite the conventional wisdom, that test scores is not the only nor the best means to assess a teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom. however i could see how this data could be validated. the TFA teachers i know are far more dedicated to the perfection of their craft as teachers, way more committed to a reflective practice that with time, proper cultivation and administrative support would no doubt lead to a critical pedagogy bent on the transformative type of education so desperately needed by by our students and our country at large.

yet what was no addressed in this study was the saddening fact that TFA teachers are quite often not committed to the long term commitments to the field of education as other teachers from traditional universities, those who knew they wanted to positively affect the youth thru education specifically… those who may have had more than naive expectations on how to survive in the profession for any length of stay above the normal and frightening attrition rates commonly experienced by inner city schools like mine. what is even more depressing is the reasons why they are leaving… ask my friend, a 2nd year teacher who was assigned to quite possibly the most difficult assignment at our school, why she is leaving. one of the finest young teachers i have had the privilege to work with will not be on my time come next year. although she is one of a kind, she is not alone in this trend. another article written in 2004 highlights the issues concerning a program like TFA. before i can whole heartedly believe that TFA teachers produce better results, i have to figure out how to get around the many stories like the ones of my friend and my first mentor teacher, who change our students life for the better only to leave the profession and relegate the students once again to the horrors of a modern education system that provides them with under-qualified long term substitutes that rotate almost everyday, further eroding an already unstable life… one that does not set them up for the kind of success our society insists on measuring with bubble filling. maybe it is the definition of success that needs to be explored when we examine why these amazingly successful teachers choose to leave our profession to seek out struggle and success in others.

Delicious Tags

this is where you can follow my daily surf sessions on the net. content i peruse at leisure….

Democracy vs. (or with) Anarchy

it should be noted before you read further that i am working off of the following definitions:

democracy – an improbable experiment on the path to fruition of the promise of unalienable rights of citizens (read humans) to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

anarchy – the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without govt. – harmony in such a society being attained not by submission to law or by obedience to any authority but by free agree concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption and also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being.

i am not sure which is more viable… or which one is truly what it supposes to be by definition. not even too sure of the definitions or the validity of the available definitions. but they are both systems that i have been trying to get a better understanding of lately. whether through an organized reading circle that meets once a month, or a rebroadcast lecture of sociologist Parker Palmer on the drive back to a friend’s from a solo dining experience consisting of time for self reflection, nostalgia, and sushi….. it seems that my ponderings continue to connect in the oddest places. or maybe the most logical of places. this under utilized blog is another attempt to connect these free floating ideas to each other and perhaps to you…

my thoughts are incomplete on purpose. still digesting the information i have explored of late on these themes.

That’s what I’m screaming about Pt. II

i am so sick of “revolutionary” or “social justice” urban educators saying that there are more important things to worry about in the hood than global warming. the environment is not a priority issue. or, “people of color don’t go camping! we don’t belong outside!” yes i have actually been told that. in however much serious a statement like that was intended to muster, there are serious implications behind it. the environmental movement is accepted as a movement primarily for affluent white culture. the green media hype (Planet Earth, An Inconvenient Truth, 11th Hour, etc. – not to mention hurricane Katrina) has lessened this somewhat. realizing that even though you may be part of an urban community, there is still another larger community that needs to be experienced in order to appreciate and subsequently to assist. i am glad this middle school teacher in Harlem knows what’s up!