June, 2000, Volume 7 Nr. 10,
It is mid-June in this, the millennially obsessed common era year of 2000. A new crop of graduates sprouts from the nation's learning fields, those older moving on to the marketplace of commodity and self-commodification, those younger being offered the perennial rhetoric of the great promise and possibility of the future. This year, I join those graduates. After 29 years, dedicating three decades progressing progeny through teaching, I am calling it quits. It was with a mix of emotions that I spent my last week in teaching. Making a decision ending a career in which one's being once harbored and protected the belief and self-actualizing identity that through teaching one could play a small part in making the world a better place, fosters some doubt as to its wisdom. The last week of work, especially the last day, changed that. After committing a minimum of 5,220 solid days labor, of physical presence, intellectual challenge and spiritual vulnerability to a profession, dedicating 2,745 days on-site to the same institution and employer, driving 126,270 miles or five times around the world for the privilege, the transition to "civilian life" might have been a bit more pleasant.
Teaching, is after all, a health challenging life style. Peter Smith, leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL UK) which recently commissioned a poll of England's secondary students, found that only 5% of young people were "very likely" to become teachers, citing "too much stress and too little pay." A Vietnam combat veteran, and Purple Heart recipient, upon entering education, once suggested to me that there exist parallels between battlefield "shell shock" and teacher burnout.
I agree. I have spent decades dealing with: the daily give-and-take of increasingly disrespectful adolescent secondary students; the ever-increasing student expressions of teacher and subject irrelevance; the demotion of the profession to a mere product purchased by a consuming public fixated on corporate dominated for-profit assessment vehicles uninterested in learning for learning's sake; disregard for hard study and reading as a useful or valuable human endeavor; administrations more intent on maintaining a positive image than advocating on behalf of staff; uninterested and hypercritical parents; national politicians laying the blame of the nation's ills on teaching and teachers; decreased learner attention span to the point of making discussion irrelevant, school violence, etc. It is no wonder that many teachers leave the profession with symptoms of "increased arousal, such as hyper vigilance or increased startle response." Combined with avoidance, that is, attempts to, "reduce exposure to people or things that might bring on their intrusive symptoms", these comprise the majority cluster systems used in the definition of post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). "Depression, anxiety, and dissociation" are associated with PTSD. Ask any teacher: how many of your colleagues present these attributes as normal in the exercise of their profession? Thus, it is not difficult to comprehend why teachers throw in the towel and move on to something, often, anything else. In my experience, it is rare for teachers, after a quarter century, to continue to exude the exuberance for the profession that they had when they first began. I know a few who have and society is fortunate to have them. I know far more who long ago abandoned the sense of anticipation that comes just prior to entering the classroom, knowing that when one gives all to the process of learning, miracles take place, the awe of enlightenment smiles upon a child's face and neurons develop as a consequence for life, ever-ready to be put to good use. Call it idealism or foolhearted day-dreaming, nonetheless, it is why I became a teacher.
A Canadian friend dropping an email recently related a college experience where there was disagreement between him and a professor regarding a paper he had written. The contention surfaced as the student made a distinction between knowledge and the artifacts of knowledge, suggesting that the two are not synonymous. Artifacts of knowledge are thought remnants. Through neglect or ignorance, often through deliberate omission or subterfuge, thought remnants project a presented premise as valuable. The same can be said for critical thinking. Critical thinking artifacts, snippets of purported relevance intent on impressing, gloss over the requirement of further and closer scrutiny as prerequisites for challenge and new learning. Such was the case on my last compulsory activity as a teacher, the commencement ceremony.
I sat through the high school graduation ceremony where the featured speaker was Gerald Levin, CEO of Time Warner, soon-to-be-further-conglomerated into a mega-gigagantic AOL-EMI-and-whatever-else-there- is-left, Inc. As the master of ceremonies introduced Mr. Levin, he cited many noteworthy accomplishments and membership in a myriad of organizations, many of which are accessible only by the wealthy, including the Trilateral Commission. It was suggested "that having Levin address" the school's "first graduating class of the new millennium would only have been equaled had Henry Ford spoken to the class of 1900." Perhaps. I do not believe that Mr. Levin would have appreciated Henry Ford very much considering what Ford had to say about the "Jewish question" as first published in the 1920's by the Ford Motor Company in the "Dearborn Independent" entitled, "The International Jew, The World's Foremost Problem." Ford said,
In 1974, the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary reported,
The corporation wins no matter what.
William Mooren describes the Class Action Law suit filed by a Belgian woman "forced to work as a slave laborer at a Ford plant in Cologne, Germany during World War II" for "the work performed and the disgorgement of unfair profits using slaves to produce Fords for Hitler's war machine."
Mr. Levin, described without irony by one colleague as "Capitalism at its best", presumed that "everyone in the room wants to be a millionaire" and all wish for fame by appearing on the cover of "People" magazine (a Time-Warner publication), to become a "Madonna or a Ted Turner." It is a commentary on our culture that Levin had ample evidence to back his assumption. Sadly, it is the marketplace rather than polis that entrains and characterizes human interactions in this society. So much for teaching morality. But, no. Not everyone wants to be a millionaire. Nor do they want to be part of the Trilateral Commission.
According to Hank Roth, webmaster of "The Golems Place," the Trilateral Commission was founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller (Chase Manhattan Bank chairman) and Zbigniew Brzezinski (president Carter's national security advisor), who along with its elite members, called "the Trilateralists" arranged
Brzezinski applies a "decidedly amoral approach" which "he applies to dividing up the new world order into 'power clusters.' " In response to "Capitalism at its finest", I agree, adding that the planet can not much longer afford such fineness predicated upon the "primary objective of making the rich richer." The world simply can no longer afford the super-rich.
The Trilateral Commission is an "elite planning for world management." Combine the Trilateral Commission with "the inner circle members of the Bilderbergs" and the Council on Foreign Relations, and presto, faster than a mouse click on an AOL icon, we have a design "to politically and economically dominate the entire world under their New World Order, more recently called Globalization" and more correctly described as neo-liberalism.
No longer in vogue by the masses, critical thinking, we are told by the purveyors of the New Media, is not required. Tell that to the new international and domestic student-led movements against the Trilateralists, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Corporatization of everything and their CEO's - the Chief Exploitation Officers. "Vogue" may not be the appropriate word. Since when is critically challenging authority ever in vogue?
Levin quoted from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writings from the Birmingham jail as saying that "humankind is bound in an 'inescapable web of mutuality' and woven into 'a single garment of destiny,' " It is, however, the destiny orchestrated by the super-rich that is cause for alarm. Levin did not quote Dr. King from the same letter when he wrote,
Strange, is it not, that words in retrospect, from the pen of a hero affirmed years after his demise, can be embraced as exemplary by a Trilateralist, while those who practice them non-violently in the flesh as daily citizens rather than daily consumers, are branded as strange, malcontent, unstable, weird, or far worse as "political activists" suffering from the delusion that political activism is a "good thing." There go those artifacts again.
Yes. I am a political activist. It is within that capacity that the idealism with which I entered the teaching profession continues. No fine caviar for this vegetarian. No Lenox glassware housing Marne valley champagne either. I'll take a Cuban cigar, the prized contraband of socialism's critics, over Brie any time. Thus, it is with a puff of a genuine Habanos made from Pinar del Rio tobacco, that I bid the class of 2000 farewell, the class of 2000-plus-one. La lucha continua. Venceremos.
© 2000 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski, PhD