Tag Archives: Education

The Untiring Nature of Human Giving

5 Jan

What is it a person tries to communicate from foreign spaces – I once sent a friend writing on the same problem the recommendation of Rilke’s voice, full of homelessness and spirit, and I have recently taken myself back to him, but I cannot take my mind further than his Spanish dancer or Eurydices – the woman’s dance like a burning match struck in the dark, and the wholeness of a woman who has seen her grave.

Am I so homeless?

I feel a restless wandering in me, but something so deeply rooted that I need to call it home. Do I act from this space? How can I truly bring about change?

I think of all the good people I know, making tangible change, and I recall a lesson – recalled in the brightness of day – that the only truly important task for man to undertake and ensure in tangible results is that he gives love, loves humanity, loves the human, every day. All else are just means to serving this goal.

Teaching. Purchasing food. Conversation. Discussion on tragedy. The only measure I can truly use against myself is how I expressed this singular, important love –

I recognize this to be a somewhat dangerous confession. Should I not be focused on tangible results, data, improving individual student progress – after all, I am their teacher, not their psychologist or mother.

And of course this is nonsense. I’m an excellent teacher, and getting better every day. The capability of human beings to bear many focuses at once, and to truly achieve these goals astounds me and I more fully realize each day.

Whether a student with 10% sight navigating and exceling in a business-school environment, a man actively and consciously fighting alcoholism, or a mother battling depression and working abroad – well. I can say the human being is a remarkable beast, entirely deserving of love.

And this is the goal. This is what we communicate, regardless of language, border, or culture. It does not tire.


If You Don’t Care, You’re Not a Punk, You’re JUST LAZY

3 Jun

Please email Rick Snyder at this email to assert your support or concern for the issue of hydraulic fracturing: rick.snyder@michigan.gov

My email read as follows:

Dear Governor Rick Synder,

I am a concerned citizen regarding fracking. I have signed petitions calling for the new deep fracking to be banned, as it is new technology, with unknown long-term effects. I recently received your response via moveon.org.

First you state that fracking has been occurring safely since the 1960s. This particular type of fracking is new technology, with new implications and issues. You stating that the past fracking has been safely practiced is arbitrary. Again, “our experience” with hydralic fracturing being safe is utterly useless in regard to this new technology.

I suppose what most upsets me about your email is that I feel you did not actually address the issues which are on the table. You state that the DEQ is committed to environmental quality; as DEQ is an acronym for “Department of Environmental Quality,” this is redundant and a bit insulting. As history has shown time and again, institutions need we the people to monitor their government and institutions to ensure actual quality, and this is what we are doing.

You say that the DEQ enforces strict regulations to ensure that no fluids contaminate freshwater sources; are these similar to the regulations that ensure that sulfide will not come into contact with freshwater sources during nickel/copper/sulfide mining? After you talk about how safe these regulations are, you then state that we have more regulations in place so that we can adequately deal with spills. There’s some of the truth – you, I, and the people of the great state of Michigan all know that this new hydraulic fracturing causes contamination to freshwater sources. Pennsylvania is one example of the impacts of this new technology:  http://www.npr.org/2012/05/17/152268501/pennsylvania-doctors-worry-over-fracking-gag-rule

You state that MSDS will be provided so that we can know what we are doing when it comes to cleaning up spills. These are wonderful protection measures after the fact. I don’t want to see after the fact, and neither do the people of Michigan. I want prevention.

Another issue I have with the MSDS is the fact that the information is not public; you say that the DEQ will “post this information on their site,” but if the chemical compounds are protected under federal law, what is the DEQ going to post?

If this new hydraulic fracturing is so safe, why is the government protecting the chemical identities of chemicals used by the drilling companies? This is absolutely outrageous. Please, Governor Snyder, ask yourself that question out loud. Why would the government hide information from the people? To keep us safe? If this is the answer, the logic is backwards.

Your job as governor is to hear the voice of the people; I know we are many voices, but I beg of you, hear mine, my brother, my sister, my neighbor. Please call for a hold on fracking until we understand how to harness this powerful technology.


Jaime VanEnkevort
Marquette, Michigan


Learn more about fracking at: http://www.watershedcouncil.org/learn/hydraulic-fracturing/

Tyga’s “Rack City,” Getting Old, and Making it to Germany

1 Jun

I made it to Germany. In one piece. With a baby.

For some reason, all I can think of are the German kids singing, “Ima Ima Huss-a-ler, Ima Ima Hussaler” on the train that got stopped for an hour en route to our destination (i.e. sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep).

One of my very first experiences during student teaching was having to figure out how to handle a girl singing Tyga’s “Rack City” during class.

Tyga. In the pseudo-flesh.

I was baffled. I had her put on headphones and keep it down. When I went home that afternoon, I googled what I thought was “Rock City” (HA.). I decided that I had to know what I was dealing with.

I was soon even more baffled. The first thought I had: he’s an angry young man. The second: that girl can really move. Then I heard the line, “Got your grandma on my dick” and was utterly confused – then I realized:

You’re getting old!

Kids are kids, wherever you go. Whether rural wanna be gangstas in the UP, rural wannabe gangstas in Southern Germany, or a smalltown white girl from Bark River rapping N.E.R.D’s “Lapdance” in her Pontiac on the way to basketball practice, every kid likes a catchy jam, no matter how dirty (or confusing to the old folk). Or maybe we all have a not-so-secret desire to try and offend, just for shock’s sake.

Alas. Rack City, live on!

Watch the explicit, adult content only video here: http://youtu.be/SCFnewbghps

Finding Heimat in Alt Ed: I’m a Mama to 120+

30 Apr

I’ve been mountain biking lately. I’m finishing up my student teaching. I’ve removed my mind from politics.

While teaching, you start to pick up on just how important your job is, even if you knew it in theory prior to teaching. You start to notice necessary leaders in the school; leaders who show their kids what it means to be a good, fair person. You start to notice how desperately so many kids need this example. Then you notice the money.

I feel as if invisible dollar bills, not air, is the force pressing so evenly against our bodies. Money, driving all actions, squeezing all pocket books. The reality that money (or lack thereof) will be THE factor in shutting down or crippling successful schools is ridiculous, for certainly, there is enough money in the world, especially the United States, to keep schools open and functioning.

Jay Z's MIAMI Mansion

I am thinking of the school at which I am student teaching.

I was lucky enough to have been born into a family where none of my needs went wanting, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Each individual has their own personal set of issues, but my family was a rock for me. When I remember childhood, it is a warm, comforting memory. I think of home and my mother’s meals, brothers and sisters, the banks of a pond, the peepers outside my window at night – all come back to me. Family. Shelter. Warmth.

This is more special than I can truly realize.

Before arriving at Marquette Alternative High School, I had never stepped foot in a school that replicated the warm feelings of home and family. I had spent almost 200 hours volunteering and observing in area schools, and that is what they always were – schools.

This is fine; not all schools must recreate the special dynamic of home. For so many kids, however, this is exactly what they need. A safe place. Family. Home.

In German, there is a word that does not directly translate in English; the word is Heimat. We translate it to mean “home,” but it carries a special connatation – the idea of warmth, family, safety. It is all wrapped up in one small word.

Marquette Alternative High School meets a need that money cannot create. Money can support the people who need to be there in order to create this safe place, but a family does not sustain Heimat with money. Unfortunately, money always plays.

Remove a father from a family and watch what happens in the life of a child. Take away an older brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, and the family is utterly changed.

Freud said once that as soon as a given state of things is upset, there arises an instinct to re-create what is lost. People who have had their families torn apart by abuse, substance, death, and adversity search to re-create the family which is lost. A person can take multiple approaches to such re-creation, and strangely enough, we often search in the same ways which destroyed our first family.

Finding real family, real Heimat, real love, can change this.

This is my plea to allow the song to remain the same at Marquette Alternative; this is my plea to put forth money to a place that provides a safe place for so many kids. Please, find it within your budget to maintain the level this building is at.

A Heimat is something that simply cannot be replaced.

My Second Family: The Wily Brood at MAHS

Death, the Greatest Teacher

9 Oct

I learned recently that Steve Jobs died this past week. This surprised me as I had just discovered his speech to the Standford grads of 2001, where he had spoken boldly on death and living. Battling cancer, he said, “No one wants to die.”

Death. Grief. We, the American culture, the empire, the watchdog, do not like to think on death. We do not want death near, nor anything that resembles the Reaper’s face. If death is far removed from our personal life, then we can safely be terrified by horror movies, media images of war, and fantastic tales. Bring death near, and we are lost, no where to turn with our grief or fear.

A friend recently sent me the article, “My Stillborn Child’s Life After Death.” A woman loses her child during labor and takes him home for six days before burying him. She shows him his room, sings to him, and says goodbye.

The common reaction is disgust – this woman did what? Taking a dead child home is not okay – the dead should be buried, and the woman must manage her loss.

My initial reaction to the article was a deep sensation of sadness. A woman loses her child. What is more tragic than this? When life should have been flourishing, she was given the dead.

However, I also had the feeling, This is strange.

But it is not strange. Only because of my culture, my socialization, did I assign judgement to this woman’s act. Casting away the social demands of what is right or wrong regarding grief, I see this woman in her ultimate strength. I do not believe America has the answers for true joy or sorrow. We are unable to express as our animal self needs, in situations of deep loss and grief. According to the social norm, we are supposed to adhere with a one day funeral and wake – this is the allowance for public grieving. I am more apt to agree with Rilke, in these few lines from his poem Requiem for a Friend:

Once, ritual lament would have been chanted;
women would have been paid to beat their breasts
and howl for you all night, when all is silent.
Where can we find such customs now? So many
have long since disappeared or been disowned.
That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve
the lament that we omitted. Can you hear me?
I would like to fling my voice out like a cloth
over the fragments of your death, and keep
pulling at it until it is torn to pieces,
and all my words would have to walk around
shivering, in the tatters of that voice;
if lament were enough.

Where can we find such customs now? American culture leaves no room for grief – we want death quickly put away, in a neat box, and we want grief the same. Keep it inside. Grief is not meant to be kept inside. People need to scream out in the night, and others need to hear. There is a need for grieving.

I am glad this woman found a way to deal with her grief, and cast off the judgements of her culture. I thought also of the old woman in Germany who kept her husband after he was embalmed, and continued life as normal after he was dead. She still cooked him meals, sat him in his favorite chair, talked to him.

Grief, that we cannot understand. Death, to whom we are unaccustomed.

A ex-philosophy professor recently minimally explained the idea of Freud’s superego to me. He said the superego is society’s demands on the individual. As civilization progresses (we “develop”), the demands on the individual become greater. Civilization comes at the cost of the individual’s happiness.

Cast off the waterlogged coats of our society, which keep us from knowing ourselves. We are not required to adhere to society’s norms – seize your happiness – make it your own! I will leave you with a wise word from Walt, my favorite Whitman:

How can he NOT be your favorite?

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash’d babe, and
am not contain’d between my hat and boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

 – from Song of Myself

This post acknowledges Death, the greatest teacher.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

1 Oct

Steve Jobs addresses the 2005 graduating Stanford community. His comments on death are particularly searing, and reiterate the sentiment of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Watch the whole thing and prepare to re-evaluate or re-affirm.  Education via oration.

Destroy the Free Will! or Hitler’s Take on Education

19 Sep

I think everyone who reads my blog knows by now that I am anti the national education movement. I do not believe in national standards, federal control, or politicians (businessmen?) who have little to no experience in the field telling us how to run our states and classrooms.


I am going to share with you, dear readers, yet another interesting find in the national education movement – this one has to do with Nazism.

“… the new education must consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate, and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will…”

That line is a direct quote from Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation. Fichte is suggesting a new order of education because the old order is just not working (hmmm, sound familar?). The old order of education sought to “at most only exhort to good order and morality” (i.e. teach the kids what is a good, moral choice and allow them to make the choice). Fichte suggests crushing free will – note that he uses the word “destroy” – and replacing it with strict necessity in the decisions of the will.

Fichte. Maybe he got used. Or maybe he was a crappy philosopher.

Fichte was promoting Nationalism in the face of foreign invasion (the Napoleonic Wars), so the circumstances were a bit different. However, extremism is still extremism, and I can’t find myself agreeing with a modern nationally controlled education system. Fichte goes on:

“…(as) national education is concerned, we are firmly convinced that, especially among the working classes, it cannot be either begun, continued, or ended in the parents’ house, nor, indeed, without complete separation of the children from them.”

Oh, is that because working class people are too stupid to let their children be properly educated? They would probably teach their children the awful values that accompany a working-class life. Damn those hard-working, inadequately compensated working class parents. Damn you.

Hitler capitalized on nationalistic writing to form organizations like the Hitler Youth. Currently, businesses may be capitalizing on schools’ failures to meet AYP (No Child Left Behind – arbitrary federal law?) to make profits. School is not a business.

While America is not yet tearing children from their parents and educating them in private institutions, I must ask We the People to consider the consequences of moving toward a rigorous national curriculum in collaboration with privatizing education. The function of today’s schools is to help the growth of the individual, to make students conscientious thinkers, and above all, appreciate free will by the ability to make intelligent decisions (i.e. SMART consumerism! Responsible usership!). Schools and teachers want kids to do amazing, incredible things and to pursue their dreams successfully; support your local, public schools. Help reform them – vote. Get involved. Support learning for all students; public schools offer this gift.

Know what you’re buying BEFORE you buy it. Canned curriculum, federal standards, privatization of schools, and teachers without rights just may not be the trick to fixing education.

Activism takes root early – keep your voice! Make it heard!