Published on August 25th, 2013 | by Jen McClellan0
Everyday I see the future of education unfolding and revealing itself in bits and pieces. Today, I sat in the campus center at Moorpark Community College and heard Jeff Duncan-Andrade speak to a room full of educators and administrators. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies. I won’t go in-depth about his credentials, experience or widely reaching travels and adventures, but I’ll tell this story and let his intelligence and humanity speak for itself.
We are poor. We are a minority in our community. Our gender holds us back. We develop complex post-traumatic stress disorder, which society calls ADHD and then dismisses us for it, further fueling our dysfunction. C-PTSD is a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma in the context of entrapment. This is what Jeff speaks about today. This is what brought tears to my eyes today because I knew it, on a very deeply personal level, to be true. We are trapped within a society that perpetually encourages dehumanization.
Yesterday, I hosted an event supporting members of the Socialist Party’s Ventura limb. We included members of the up-and-coming Young People’s Socialist League as well. We had planned to meet at the library, but it was closed so we winged it and moved the Revolution Movie Night to my place of residence. We watched “Capitalism: A Love Story” and an interview with Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Who are these people? What is capitalism? I didn’t know these things six months ago, but I joined the party anyway, as many people are doing, because I heard it was a struggle for humanity and we can feel the loss of this happening, even if we cannot articulate it yet. Justin Simons has given me the books, movies, and in-person informal history lessons that have filled in some of these gaps of information I have.
I still have questions.
Yesterday The New Jim Crow came in the mail. Mimi Soltysik recommended it to me. Mimi too has given me history of the party, especially here in California. He has also talked through gaps in my faith with me. “How can I trust this will work?” I ask him. People ask me this, too. What it comes down to is that if we have faith in the person standing next to us, then we can trust ourselves. Self-empowerment may very well come from our readiness to accept and admit our faith in the people around us. The New Jim Crow. As I read the introduction to this book, I read something I had to post on Facebook because what it led me to find was just nuts:
“Wait what just happened? I’m two pages into “The New Jim Crow” and it says, “we use our criminal justice system to label people of color ‘criminals’ and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind.” So I jump up and grab my Criminal Justice textbook, flip to the index, find Discrimination, racial and find page 35 like it says. Pg. 35 talks about Part II offenses and has a chart breaking down the offense, & estimated annual arrests. NO mention whatsoever of racial discrimination. Pg. 34 says “The Department of Justice publishes these data annually in Crime in the United States. Along with the basic statistics, this publication offers an exhaustive array of crime information, including breakdowns of crimes committed by a city, county, and other geographic designations and by the demographics (gender, race, age) of the individuals who have been arrested for crimes.” The two references in the margin to URLs for further study are NOT the publication mentioned. Oooohhhhh! That’s beyond subtle! I thought “okay, the arrest data will be here on this chart by race, or on this website…’ And I thought I’d remembered it being in this book. But no. We talked about it, because I had a good teacher, but it’s not here! Who revises the revisionaries!? Holy shit this book is amazing, and I’m still on the introduction … is what it read. Alright. No suspension of disbelief necessary. Put my name on the list of people who believe.”
And yet, I still have questions.
Today, as I woke up I wondered, “what am I forgetting?” I washed the dishes from our socialist cookie and pizza exploits yesterday. My mom talked to me about how since I’ve come to live with her, for nearly a year now, I have taught her much. Without any effort on my part to influence her as a person, or her views or philosophies or daily functions, I have changed her. She said she’s learned to let go of things that cause resistance. Things like fear about being a facilitator (like Justin and I were for our movie night yesterday for example).
She still has questions.
Today, I remembered the thing I wondered about when I woke up. It was the President’s Luncheon at school. Katherine Adams at the writing center informed me through email that all us tutors had the privilege of being invited to hear a lecture. What I heard today was an honor that I never thought myself worthy of a year ago as I suffered from sciatica, hypertension and drug addiction. What I heard today was not a lecture but a shared realization that one good teacher can make a world of difference in hundreds of lives, whether or not anybody ever acknowledges it. Luckily, I have had multiple good teachers, but if it wasn’t for one of them, I wouldn’t be alive today, and if it hadn’t been for my and Justin’s Professor of History, Nenagh Brown (whom I ran into and sat next to at the luncheon today) we wouldn’t be revitalizing YPSL. I wouldn’t have had the courage to volunteer to help the National Alliance on Mental Illness start their club this fall. I wouldn’t have talked to Justin about socialism. I wouldn’t have joined the party. I wouldn’t have met Katherine Adams or earned this job as a tutor on my way to becoming a teacher myself. I wouldn’t be writing this article because I wouldn’t have met Lynn Lomibao, who encourages me with words and hugs and coffee and love to no end.
You still have questions.
That’s okay because Mimi still has questions too, and he’s running for State Assembly in California. Darrel Schlemmer still has questions. Andrea Lauren, Jeff Taylor, Pat Noble, David Richardson, Landon Dixon, Matt Nicholson, Miguel Del Toro, Greg Pason and on and on and on and on …
We all still have questions.
That’s okay because it’s not about knowing everything. The excitement comes every time we discover something new, every time we make a connection like I did last night when I emailed my Criminal Justice professor and read his reply that I’d done good analysis, that I’d read between the lines, that we will meet for coffee tomorrow.
Revelations, daily, I say. Revolutions Per Minute, according to Rise Against.
This is a movement that goes person by person. One person, one day, one idea at a time. Speak up because what you have to say is important. That’s what educators are learning to teach today. It’s called self-authorization. It’s called many things, but what it is, is this movement and celebration of the radical hope that we might reclaim human dignity.
Everyday I see equality. I see an unfolding of a social system that denies racism, that denies caste and class separation. What is age? What is gender? No borders, no boundaries. We are seeing the things that are meant by a capitalist system to divide and conquer us, rather as things that make us unique and strong and unite us.
This is what Moorpark educators and administrators learned today, because they heard Jeff Duncan-Andrade speak, because they know they teach these things when they promote positive actions and creativity in their students. Furthermore, beyond Moorpark, beyond any titles or qualifications, salaries or experiences, anyone reading this now has learned that they too are capable of anything. We are the future. It is our responsibility to show gratitude to those who had made an effort to better this world by recognizing no man is an island unto himself.
You are not only you; you are a piece of everyone you’ve ever met or witnessed or loved or hated. Gratitude isn’t saying thank you, Nic Pendleton said last week. Gratitude is an action.
Get up! Get out there!
Give it away!
Tomorrow, we are all educators.