Category Archives: powerless

The Ugly Truth of Public Education

Before reading “Savage Inequalities,” if someone came up to me and said, “Systemic racial segregation continues to exist in our public schools today,” I would have considered this an exaggeration. We’ve come a long way from the days of “colored” bathrooms and drinking fountains. Reading “Savage Inequalities” has challenged this notion of mine.

Kozol takes an in-depth look at how the public school system in America, despite common belief, has remained largely separate and unequal. But his book isn’t simply a collection of disturbing statistics concerning the discrepancies of drop-outs, per pupil spending, class sizes, and other factors between white and non-white schools. Kozol personally visits the schools on both sides of the track. His interviews with students, parents, teachers, principals, and community organizers, give this book a deeply human and psychological dimension. His tone remains natural. You can feel his indignation at in justices he encounters as well as his sense of joy in meeting such courageous people.

What is most striking about this book is what it suggests about American values. That we’ve created a system which sends generation after generation of children to ruin is embarrassing. Some of Kozol’s critics say he talks a lot about the problem, but doesn’t offer many solutions. Also, he points out several legal victories which have resulted in agonizingly slow feet dragging to enact the necessary changes. This in itself leaves the readers with a sense of futility. Perhaps Kozol feels that our lacking is of a more spiritual type and is better addressed by likes of Martin Luther King, whom he references several times throughout his book? If this is case, he fails to convey this with adequate clarity. I still give him his due credit because we cannot deal with any problem until we know it exists. For its social value and the much needed change this book may lead to, it is truly an indispensable book.

This book hit a deeply personal cord. I’m the first generation born son to a Mexican immigrant family. I entered an inner city school speaking only Spanish. At the time I was too young to understand the dynamics of racism but the psychological effects were understood. I was dropped into an all English speaking class without any language preparation. My language barrier marked as a target for hate and was encouraged by the teacher. Imagine being a kid in a place where you can’t understand anything being said. But there are a lot of messages that don’t require words to be communicated. It got to the point one time where I became so unstable the teacher couldn’t calm me down, neither could the principal and my father had to leave work to calm me down. Years later I now understand that I was having a stress overload, a first grade kid having a nervous breakdown in the middle of class. Now that I’m an elementary school teacher myself, these memories take on a new meaning. I thank my family for not letting me become the expected statistic.

I strongly recommend this book to teachers, parents, students, and anyone interested in civil rights. Kozol’s analysis is sure to leave a lasting impression and is an enjoyable read in general. It’s one of those books that make you say, “thank god this was a bestseller!” Here’s to the struggle for a better tomorrow.

Photo Credit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savage_Inequalities

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Don’t Wait for Permission

It’s been several weeks since I released my book and entered the indie writing world. Discovering the indie writing community has been a beautiful thing. It gave me a feeling similar to when I first found out about Hip-hop, Rock, and counter culture. “What! This has been here all this time?” When I first heard about indie writers I imagined a bunch of turtleneck wearing intellectuals drinking overpriced/undersized cappuccinos, yammering on about irrelevant topics, and snapping their fingers whenever somebody delivered an extra steamy pile of verbal bullshit. Once again, stereotypes had failed me. The indie crowd isn’t just a bunch of beatniks hanging around Starbucks. It’s a diverse community which sort of reminds me of a college campus. There are the different camps, nerds, jocks, hipsters, punks, loud minorities, sitting at their spots.

I knew I had to network if I wanted to get my book out there. At first, Facebook sounded like an obvious route. I created a page and badgered all my friends to join. Their words of encouragement we’re greatly appreciated but after a while I began to notice that most people don’t read books. “I’m happy for you, but reading isn’t really my thing.” Although I’ve suspected this much, it was shocking to me nonetheless. I can understand if somebody doesn’t like reading a sort of genre, but all of them? In America this type of attitude doesn’t turn heads. Which is funny because if you tell someone you don’t watch TV, they look at you as if you’re Amish. They say the average person watches 2-3 solid months worth of television a year. Considering there’s only 12 of them in a set, I rather do something else.

Let’s see what else is on.

Yet, the reading community has inspired me to shake my head too. The bookworms are a lot like the music listeners. Most people have horrible taste. First of all, if you’re a grown adult and the only books you’ve read are Harry Potter, Twilight, and Fifty Shades of Grey, backhand yourself now. But at least they’re reading something. There was a time when, for certain individuals, teaching and learning to read was severely punishable. Even now there are places where having a wrong type of book can cost you your life. Why is that? Because of what’s contained in books, ideas that have taken people a lifetime to arrive at. And those ideas exist in relation to other people’s philosophies, which in turn create an intellectual web that is deeply human. Some people fear this.

I understand that a lot of people are completely turned off to reading. Public schools fail greatly in turning students into avid readers. I didn’t pick up a book for almost a year after graduating high school because I thought all books were boring and useless to me. Then I was lucky enough to pick up writers such as Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Charles Bukowski, and plenty more. Thanks to these greats minds I’m increasingly connected to the great human spirit that drives us to continually evolve. My mind is like a raging river that’s never going to stop. Without books, it would be reduced to a murky creek. If you’re reading this, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t let the anti intellectual climate bring you down. Express your ideas through whatever means possible. The next time you see another friend becoming a zombie in front of the TV, hand him a book. You’d be surprised how it can change some people’s lives. 

Photo Credits in order of appearance:

http://indiewritingblog.com/

http://www.hangthebankers.com/nielsen-sued-for-billions-over-allegedly-manipulated-tv-ratings/

http://www.wpi.edu/offices/ih/diversity.html

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Blubber Island Survival Guide #2

Please follow these directions.

If you’re reading this, you have successfully not died. Congratulations. The first segment of the “Blubber Island Survival Guide” focused on the key aspects of the Blubber Island universe. Today we’re taking a more sociological approach. Blubber Island is a highly complex, inter-dimensional environment, so it’s really easy for things to get mixed up and turn a little screwy. Don’t panic. We here at the Blubber Island Survival Institute have the best and brightest minds working around the clock to bring you the most cutting-edge information in anti-deceasing technology.

Death has to get through him first.

The number one thing to remember: Blubber Island is bubbling with Chaos. Randomness is at every turn. There is no sense of direction nor rock to stand on. The degree of shear senseless is enough to drive the average person bat-shit crazy. When you’re not getting chased by zombies with exploding heads, you’ll be dealing with an assortment of colorful characters. Let’s take a look!

“Can I fluff your pillow?”

The first kind of people you’ll run into are weirdos. At first glance, they seem like normal people–and then they speak. Unless you want to find out what a handkerchief dipped in chloroform smells like, avoid these dudes like the Plague. Blubber Island is basically a weirdo-hive. There’s no such thing as “normal” people. These are the “normal” people.

“Aliens!”

Next up are crazy bums and hobos. These characters claim to have god-like insight into everything going on. The strange part is that sometimes they’re right on the money. Other times, they’re just your run-of-the-mill crazy-ass bums. Whether you choose to take their advice is like spinning the Wheel of Chance. Statistics have shown a 100-to-1 odds of “crazy bum talk” versus “info that will save your life”. Think of these guys as walking casinos of knowledge.

“I’m gonna kick your ass and get away with it.”

Cops and any other type of security figures. These guys thrive on two things: beating the living daylights out of you, and, well… that’s it really. Hocked up on testosterone and countless hours of MMA Youtube clips, they’re ready to break your ribs before you get a chance to break the law. You’d have better luck trying to talk a rabid grizzly bear into riding a unicycle than convincing these guys you have rights. PCP will come in handy.

“Is that a free cookie?”

Next on the list are Greñudos, Latin for “stoner punks”. Highly intoxicated, free of all care, and totally lost, these will be your allies. Constantly keeping their ears to the street (mostly due to binge drinking), they are an abundant source of information. Unfortunately, their insatiable appetite for marijuana will cause them to forget most of it. Seeking out these lumbering pot heads seems counterintuitive, yet believe us, they will not let you down (sort of).

“Hold on a second, I need to murder you.”

Next up are homicidal Neo-Nazi with heroin withdrawals. If we need to explain why you should stay away from this guy, kill yourself now.

“No, you can’t hug us.”

Lastly are entities from another dimension. These ones are hard to find. However, if you do run into one, it means something big is about to happen. They’re not going to transverse through the space-time fabric to ask if you’re on Twitter. There is virtually zero information known about these strange travelers. All we can say is that some wish to help you along and others want to stick your head on a pole. It’s sort of a toss up, so you’ll have to play it by ear.

Not today, buddy.

Once again you have helped yourself keep that pesky Grim Reaper off your shoulder. We’re positive you’ll meet all kinds of people not listed here, but we’re closing up shop. The key is to keep a sharp eye and a groovy mind. Remember this blog when running into these characters, and you’ll be A-OK. Actual results may vary.  See you next time, and remember our motto: “No Dying Allowed!”

Photo Credits in order of appearance

1.  http://www.heyhotshot.com/blog/2010/06/10/dont-die-limited-edition-book-prints-by-justin-james-reed/

2. http://directgeek.com/

3. http://fashionnetworkseattle.com/fashion-blog/good-bad-ugly/good-bad-ugly-celebrity-mug-shots/

4. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevindyer/5719860925/

5. http://prof77.wordpress.com/2010/12/30/police-steroid-drug-abuse/

6. Random stoner

7. http://www.brobible.com/life/slideshow/face-tattoo-mug-shots-of-2011

8.http://themovieprojector.blogspot.jp/2011/09/cmba-guilty-pleasures-movie-blogathon.html

9. http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/4-places-where-dying-is-not-allowed.html

Blubber Island Survival Guide

Several of my friends and other brave souls have recently stepped ashore Blubber Island. They have entered a dangerous world in which nobody can guarantee their safety. As the author of this work, I feel somewhat responsible for the countless people (this includes you) who will end up deranged, scarfing down handfuls of their own “caca” [Latin for feces]. This realization troubled me greatly. “But Ismael,” you ask, “why don’t you just pull Blubber Island off shelves and ask everyone to stop reading it?”

Perish the thought, I say.

In order to tip the scales in favor of “not eating caca,” I decided to write an official “Blubber Island Survival Guide.” Blubber Island is a vast universe encompassing countless dimensions and worlds. It would be impossible and impractical to try and cram everything in one shot, thus I will instead focus on key elements. Follow these guidelines and you might make it out alive.

This is perfectly natural. (winsomeaunt.blogspot.com)

Exploding Heads are a natural phenomenon on Blubber Island. The postman could be handing you a letter from your friend in Monkeys Eyebrow, KY, and then you’ll make some offhand remark like, “Hey, my neighbor is sort of an asshole. You think I could fart into one of his letters?” The guy gives you a funny look and BAM! The mailman’s head blow up like pumpkin stuffed with cherry bombs. Whatever you do, do not stop and try to figure out why it happened. Just accept it and move on. There have been reports of chain reaction head explosions. Why risk it?

Think of an exploding head as a traffic light turning green. Head blows up, you move forward. Simple.

I’m sorry family, I wanna live! (all-funny.info)

Blubber Island is inhabited by flesh eating zombies. Exercise all traditional zombie survival tactics such as; keeping a sharp ear, running away instead of fighting, and abandoning infected/slower traveling companions (see Image of father above). Occasionally, zombies will seem to appear without warning. Be on guard for zombies bursting out of the ground or falling out of the blue sky. Much like exploding heads, don’t think run. The following film clip is for educational purposes.

Now wasn’t that easy? He made it and so can you.

They’re not doing any good just lying around. (tucsoncitizen.com)

Another natural phenomenon is the abundant presence of guns. On Blubber Island, they seem to pop up in the strangest places. But you can’t just reach into a bush and pull out AK-47. The rules of karma are that you must put some degree of effort into it. Think outside the box and look for secret compartments. If those zombies chase you into a kitchen, it wouldn’t hurt to check the refrigerator (if you get my drift). All guns come equipped with two things: unlimited ammo and unlimited bad guys. Learn to shoot while running at a full sprint, and I recommend learning from the pros.

They definitely read this blog.

This is a good crash course in dealing with the chaotic Blubber Island universe. I will continue updating the survival guide. Hope to see you next time. Keep your finger on the trigger and always aim for the head.

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