Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"You can't padlock an idea"

So Arizona bigots think they've punished the folks who teach Mexican American Studies in Tucson Arizona high schools. The bigots have simply outlawed the classes. But many writers across the great and culturally diverse nation of the U.S.A. see the shallow attempt for what is: censorship. Racists in Arizona don't think any cultural viewpoints but their own should be included in school curriculum. See an example of a USA Today article that begs to differ here.
My goal as a teacher of ethnic studies was never to foment hatred against Whites or to promote segregation, but to simply educate students about the full breadth of American history and culture, good and bad, so they would know how far as a nation we have come -- and how far we have yet to go. I had that in common with the teachers in Tucson's Mexican-American-studies program. I know this because I have listened with pride to the students who took those courses as they've recounted how it made them believe for the first time in their worth and contributions.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Arizona attack on Mexican American studies continues

Ernie McCray writes in the Tucson Citizen about the ongoing racist attack on Mexican American studies. Arizona, at least Phoenix anyway, has gone to great lengths to portray Tucson High's Mexican American Studies program as some kind of evil voodoo that tortures and twists young minds, turning one culture against another. Despite massive public opposition, despite the fact that students taking this course in high school excel and continue to excel in college, the effort to outlaw Ethnic studies steamrolls along blindly. The idea of actually outlawing a very successful high school program is the actual wedge between cultures.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Free Range considerations from Boston Magazine's Katherine Ozment

Read the article here. Yes, I found it in the lovely Boing Boing.
IN THE ARLINGTON middle school cafeteria, Michael Thompson asks if anyone wants to share their sweetest memory from childhood. I raise my hand and tell the group how, when I was eight, my friends and I discovered a frozen pond way back in the woods. We raced home to get our ice skates and laced them up in the hollowed-out trunk of a towering tree. And then, accompanied only by the sounds of our voices, laughter, and the scratching of our blades, we skimmed the ice, unsupervised, for hours. “Why,” Thompson asks me in front of all the parents, “is that memory so sweet?” Without thinking, I say, “Because my parents didn’t know where I was.” “Your parents didn’t know where you were. So that experience was wholly your own,” he says. Then: “Would you let your own children do that?” “I don’t even let my kids out of the house,” I blurt.
She's just kidding about that last part, but makes a free-range kids argument you hear more and more lately.
But what calling up my sweetest memory made me realize is that while today’s middle- and upper-middle-class children have an unprecedented array of opportunities, their experiences are often manufactured by us.
Of course almost all of us were free-range kids when I grew up. Growing up in suburban northern California several of us played in an abandoned field that nature had reclaimed with oak trees and blackberries. Southwest of the field was an old olive orchard that had been similarly reclaimed. This plot had not seen human intervention in decades. Huge trees and cattails had grown in a swampy area in the middle and the olive trees kept growing wildly in their grid, with nature filling in with whatever kind of vegetation nature wanted to grow there. A creek, complete with toads, bullfrogs, minnows and dragonflies separated the two acreages. We built forts, raced our bikes, shot bb guns in the field and the orchard. Of course our parents made rules to follow on where we went, how far, when to return and reporting where we were. And we pretty much got our asses kicked if we didn't follow the rules. But our parents thought nothing of our unstructured activities. It was considered completely normal. There was no such thing as extra curricular activities to help us get in the right college. Kids didn't have resumes in those days. We were also allowed to go on hikes to explore other undeveloped land. We'd have to follow busy streets for a mile or two to get to the other areas. No one ever even broke a bone, no one was kidnapped or killed. Nothing more serious than cuts and bruises from dirt-clod fights.
Where I learned a wide array of creative and athletic skills. You can see my school next door. We hated it. Where the abandoned tennis courts are there was an old farm. Some of the same trees are still visible by the ruined athletic club. Of course the field and orchard were developed decades ago, but it was a magical area for us. By the time I moved to Maryland in 1973, a McDonalds, a mom-and-pop pizza joint and a mini-mart had appeared at the nearby intersection. We'd graduated from bb guns to hunting with our dads, and where we once played we smoked cigarettes and talked about girls. But we still hiked through the field and the orchard on our quests to get pizza or burgers at McDonald's, and the long walk, the lack of supervision was an important part of the journey. One of my friends grew up to be a famous comic book artist, another a profesional musician, another a commercial pilot who used to fly f-14s for the Navy. My point is I don't think we'd be the same people if we'd been toted up there in an SUV on the way to constant structured activities. Instead our parents would give us $2.50 and say "be careful and be back by 5."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rosemont Mine impact statement on hold

The environmental crime proposed by a humongous greedy copper company, to be gouged into the shoulder of a 9400-foot mountain range just south of Tucson, and opposed by pretty much the entire universe except for the copper company, the people paid to spread bullshit rhetoric about the mine's fantasy benefits, and people dumb enough to believe the lies or in favor of destroying the very planet we live on, may be losing steam. Quoting from Inside Tucson Business
...Derby’s announcement comes just before a planned Oct. 24 visit from Jay Jensen, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources and Environment, which oversees Forest Service policy. Jensen is coming at the request of Southern Arizona’s U.S. Reps. Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva, both Democrats, for a tour of the proposed mine site and a public meeting.

Giffords and Grijalva have asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to have the Coronado Forest Service consider a “no action” alternative in the environmental impact statement for the proposed mine, which could then lead to a decision to deny permission to start the mine.

The Coronado National Forest has said it doesn’t believe it can take that position under federal law.

Meanwhile, Pima County officials are continuing their efforts to stop the mine...

Quoting from the AZ Daily Star
The U.S. Forest Service won’t meet its November deadline for releasing an environmental document about the proposed Rosemont Mine and officials said today that they don’t know when the report will be released.
The announcement of the delay comes after months of emotionally charged controversy on the $900 million mine, proposed for the Santa Rita Mountains, about 30 miles southeast of Tucson. It also follows a raft of critical statements from officials from various agencies reviewing alternatives for the mine, which if approved would become the third or fourth largest copper mine in the United States.

The service is taking a hard look at many of the ideas raised by the general public and a group of agencies who are cooperating with the service’s review, Roth said. The Tohono O’Odham tribe, the Pima County Administrator’s office, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Town of Sahuarita and the Arizona Department of Water Resources have all raised issues, questions or concerns about the Rosemont proposal to remove 220 million pounds of copper a year for the next 20 years from a site just west of State Highway 83 in the Santa Ritas.

See the Star's article here. After that, try your library.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

DJ Olive : Art as medicine, music as medicine

DJ Olive's Sound and Sculpture Installation at the 2008 Whitney Biennial

Monday, April 20, 2009

J.G. Ballard dies

Of all the writers I've read, this guy was the biggest influence on my own artwork. His science fiction stories always take place in the present and bring into focus a creepy side of life caused by industry, tv, psychosis, neurosis, & the machines we build.

The UK Guardian does a nice job eulogizing Ballard, his contributions, & his unique genius in these two articles:

How JG Ballard cast his shadow right across the arts : JG Ballard's influence on culture went far beyond literature. We look at his lasting impact on film, pop, architecture, TV and visual art

Crash author JG Ballard, 'a giant on the world literary scene', dies aged 78

Quoting from the second article:
The young science fiction author "wasn't interested in the far future, spaceships and all that", he explained; rather he was interested in "the evolving world, the world of hidden persuaders, of the communications landscape developing, of mass tourism, of the vast conformist suburbs dominated by television – that was a form of science fiction, and it was already here".
After reading Ballard more than 20 years ago when I was in college, I never saw things the same way again. Abandoned buildings, empty swimming pools, highway overpasses, machinery, and tv always make me think of Ballard and the creepy side of modern life.