Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

About my poetry

This one is about me, sitting here and getting more and more excited about the number of public demonstrations against the latest proposals--travesties all!-- for school reform. I listen and watch from a side-balcony, the bay window desktop connection to the world that I have in this second-story apartment in the suburbs.  Can you picture it?  I used to be out in the crowds.  Now I write poetry every day and must decide a path for it.  Publish for real?  Make available on the web?  Save for something?  Read in public?  Give them to Alice? 

Let me explain.

I have an intent to open my closet door and go through the hidden and crumbling boxes to (1) find the poems that I have written most of my life, and (2) rediscover the experience that shaped Alice's thinking.  Alice is the character in my novel.  As yet mostly unwritten, Alice is the novel itself waiting, as Pirandello said, for an author.  I think the author is in the boxes with my selected history of partings.  History of the passion before leaving and of the partings themselves. And about today's wonder: Can I rebuild the burnt bridges to those who peopled my past?

Which brings me back to the poems.  Today I noticed a common theme in what I had thought was random responses to prompts, considered explorations of how I might play with poetic devices if I followed my instincts.  And if I deliberately tried to play.  The theme is separation and return.  Separation and the impossibility of return, snippets of joy in the most vivid of memories until I try to live them backwards and then what?  The poems are grieving though they are not all sad.  They are the painting and the frame of "thinks" to store or to hang, of "thinks" like irrational impressions of something past and let go of, and also present journeys into the past. 

They are not current in a political sense, which surprises me, knowing myself pretty well.  They are surprisingly self-indulgent despite the fact that I have "invited strangers" to narrate.  Why am I surprised?  Read a person's journal and see how they lie.  Read a person's poems and fiction, and learn her deeper secrets and truths.  I have seen that in others and now open to myself.

Just saying.  I thought it was time to let my reader know where I disappeared to.  And that I am happy.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Money and profits


I have never been convinced that throwing money at a problem is the best way to solve it.  Indeed, having a problem to solve is the best way to ask for money.   Funding a study and delaying the application of what we know can be regressive as well as progressive.  That aside, public school administrations throughout the United States have been clamoring about budget deficits which result in the need to (1) lay off professional personnel and (2) give away public schooling.  And they've been persistent enough to convince even me. 

But I am uneasy.  Perhaps the loud howl about money is a diversion?  Am I just a conspiracy theorist from the old left?  My ex-students don't think so; they think I just care too much about everything.  I know we are in a world-wide financial depression.  I also believe that this truth is covering other moves of a regressive nature, and the public education crisis is just the one I am most familiar with.

Here in Philadelphia, the hidden agenda is to destroy powerful unions which really do have the quality of work and the quality of schooling as top concerns.  The last two Superintendents had been very successful at what the state wanted them to do: break the back of public schooling in order to make possible business deals in the profit sector of our economy.  I was astonished that President Obama didn't see this ploy as he turned the heat up from "No child left behind" to "No teacher doing a good job."  I watched my own school aim for higher scores on tests which falsely evaluated the system while teaching children that anything goes if they win and are not caught.  By the time I retired with disability, my heart was as broken as my back was tired.  My mind was as pinched as my spinal chord.  The work atmosphere in my school was at a life-time low. 

Articles like today's "Cash on Hand" at PennLive.com raise different questions:  If there is a monetary surplus within the Pennsylvania budget, why is that not being applied in a way to save public education?  Who and/or what sees privatization as a solution to what they see as problems?  Ample warning has been given that privatizing education breaks the constitutional guarantee of free education for all and builds in automatic privilege for those who make the schools look good.  This is the aspect of testing that has not gotten enough publicity:  Public schools test everyone whereas private schools test those who they wish to include.  Who loses?  Democracy as a whole loses its argument for itself when it goes back to the leaden age of equality for the few.  Class-ism trumps racism.  As James Baldwin noted, long ago: For these are all our children. We will all profit by, or pay for, whatever they become. 


I note that I have a few passive statements above;  my analysis is not complete and my links could be more complete and persuasive.  I hope my readers will correct this deficit in their comments, be they for or against my argument.

 





Monday, May 7, 2012

Brag a little

Check out "Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much" in today's Wall Street Journal.  I had thought the reason for bragging was compensation for self-doubt or for being neglected as a child.  What science revealed, however, is that bragging stimulates pleasure synapses in the brain: "Generally, acts of self disclosure were accompanied by spurts of heightened activity in brain regions belonging to the meso-limbic [sic] dopamine system, which is associated with the sense of reward and satisfaction from food, money or sex."  In other words, we brag because we cannot help it.   The scientists gathered statistics and drew their conclusions by testing whether a person would rather give their thoughts than accept money. 

If I were still in the high school classroom, I would do a study on this.  There it might be more pleasurable for students to succeed in pretending a degree of disinterest in self.  I had to beg students to brag about what they were doing better and what they liked--except for the domineering 3 or 4 students per class who were the disciplinary challenge.  Those loud few seemed to enjoy hearing the sounds of their own voices and even silencing others.  The few were bragging, for sure, but the self-disclosure was often inappropriate to the classroom and to the activity.  However, there was always a small audience to entertain, a few who enjoyed and approved the interruptions. To me, the behavior--whether they could help it or not--seemed like a love of power rather than a love of bragging.

How would offering monetary awards for  "bragging" or for not bragging alter classroom behavior?  What other nonverbal behaviors were observed in addition to preferring talking over money?  Did scientists consider the myriad distinctions between bragging and self-disclosure?  Or is this provocative journalism making sensation out of a more modest scientific study by  skewing the terms under examination?

If anyone knows more about the where, why, and how of this study, please let us know!