Thursday, March 31, 2005

Thinking About Radical Democracy, Pt. 2

(for my students working on social/collective memory projects--the links are all updated. Suggestions for this list are appreciated...)

Orion: Environmental Discourse and Dissent

Green Social Thought

Radical Democracy: A Contested Terrain

Rules for Radicals

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy

Fast Food Nation and McDonaldization

History of Radicalism in the U.S.

Abolitionist Movement

Civil Rights Movement

Marxist Internet Archive

Eugene Debs, Labor Organizer

Feminist Movement

Marcus Garvey, Black Nationalist Leader

Labor Movement

Abbie Hoffman



Utopian Communities

The Student as Nigger

John Taylor Gatto: Challenging the Myths of Modern Schooling

Raoul Vaneigem: The Revolution of Everyday Life

Resources for Studying Propaganda

The Memory Hole: Freeing of Information in Action

On the Poverty of Student Life

Language of the War on Terror

Independent Media in a Time of War

Indy Media

Nancy Snow: Rebranding of America

Poet/Performer Saul Williams

Politics of University Teaching in Post 9/11 America

Socialist Equality Party Presidential Candidate Bill Van Auken: "An American Tragedy"

Douglas Rushkoff's Open Source Democracy

Chris Hedges: The Meaning of War

Stonewall Riot and Its Aftermath

Wikipedia: Stonewall Riots

Stonewall Riots, 1969

Nickle and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America

Barbara Ehrenreich

Crucial Texts of Radical Democracy

Thomas Frank: Architecture of a New Consensus

Culture-Trafficking for the 21st Century

Terry Tempest Williams: Open Spaces of Democracy

Terry Tempest Williams: Ground Truthing

BBC Documentary: The Power of Nightmares

Paul Kivel: Are You Mentoring For Social Justice

Skidmark Bob, Musical Activist

Stokely Carmichael: Architect of Black Power

George Soros: The Bubble of American Supremacy

Race and Collective Memory Bibliography

Without Sanctuary: America's Dark History of Racialized Violence (caution)

Ron Strickland's Marxist Cultural Theory

Tony Kushner: Radical Pragmatist

Race: The Power of an Illusion

Ubu Web: Freedom as Creativity

Martin Luther King's Radical Message

Michael Moore: White Frights

Remembering Johnny Cash

U.S. Prison Boom

How the Other Half Banks

Hakim Bey: Poetic Terrorism

Situationist International: Resisting the Society of the Spectacle

Bureau of Publis Secrets

Howard Zinn: Our War on Terrorism

The Nation: Our Debt to Bill Moyers

Arundhati Roy: Instant Mix, Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free)

Project Censored Annual Reports of Year's Top Censored News Stories

Guy Debord: Society of the Spectacle

Slavoj Zizek: The Passion

Raymond Federman: The Real Begins Where the Spectacle Ends

Emma Goldman: Minorities vs. Majorities

Emma Goldman Archives

Anarchist Archives

Mary Wolstoncraft: Vindication of the Rights of Women

Elizabeth Cady Stanton: The Solitude of Self

National Women's History Project

Gloria Steinem

Angela Davis: Radical Activist/Black Feminist

Combahee River Collective Statement: Genesis of Black Feminism

Feminist Writing Space

bell hooks: writing and resistance

The Beautiful Enigma of Radical Democracy

International Women's League for Peace and Freedom

Peace Women

Extreme Democracy

American Indian Movement

Alcatraz Is Not an Island: Reclaiming Native Land

Alice Paul

David Morris: The End of Reason

The End of Reason
David Morris

An Excerpt:

Organized superstitions might be more socially supportable if their creed included a provision accepting the organized superstitions of others. Unfortunately, modern religions do not practice tolerance. For example Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore gained widespread fame and even adulation when he refused to obey court orders to remove from the Alabama Courthouse a huge stone tablet on which was inscribed the Ten Commandments. When he was asked how he would react to the suggestion that a monument to the Koran or the Torah also be placed in the Courthouse he brusquely declared he would prohibit such an installation.

A few months later, Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence explained why he knew he would win his battle against Muslims in Somalia. "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

The creationism vs. evolution debate also illuminates this intolerance. Christians insist that their creation myth represent the creationist side. But there are many creationist myths, many of which predated both Christianity and Judaism. If evidence is not needed, why exclude any superstitions? As Sam Harris notes in The End of Faith, "there is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal existence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus perched upon his mountain throne or Poseidon churning the seas."

The impact of moving towards "superstition-based institutions" would be highly controversial, quite educational, and on the whole exceedingly salutary. Consider the impact on the audience if we switched the interchangeable terms in President George W. Bush's following statement, posted on a federal web site:

I believe in the power of superstition in people's lives. Our government should not fear programs that exist because a church or a synagogue or a mosque has decided to start one. We should not discriminate against programs based upon superstition in America. We should enable them to access federal money, because superstition-based programs can change people's lives, and America will be better off for it.

Entire Essay

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

An Informal Film Series About Place and Walking as Knowing as Making

I would like to know about more films like these:

An Informal Film Series About Place

Its great to know that there are other people who are thinking along the same lines as you... I wonder if I can make it to Champaign for one of the walks:

Walking as Knowing as Making: A Peripatetic Investigation of Place

Mickey Z: Fischer's Gambit

(courtesy Press Action and Scratchings)

Fischer's Gambit, Accepted (by Iceland): The Endgame of an American Chess Genius
By Mickey Z.

There is a certain allure when an icon vanishes at the peak of his fame. The myth of early death has elevated legends like Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, and Jim Morrison to veritable sainthood. However, there is something even more tangible in this myth when a figure simply “walks away” from fame. Greta Garbo and J.D. Salinger made self-imposed exile their greatest career move. Like royalty in exile, Bobby Fischer is no less reclusive.

Fischer's Gambit

Census: Nation's Public Schools in the Red

(courtesy of NCTE)

Census: Nation's Public Schools in the Red
The Boston Globe

According to a Census Bureau report, the nation's public school systems are sinking further into debt. In the 2002-03 school year they had over $250 billion debt -- up 11 percent from the previous year. The District of Columbia, New Jersey, and New York recorded the highest per-pupil spending, while Utah ranked last in per-pupil spending at nearly $4,900.

Census: Nation's public schools in the red

Read the Census Bureau report, "2003 Annual Survey of Local Government Finances -- School Systems" at
Report on American Schools

Mark Engler and Paul Engler: Stokely Carmichael "Architect of Black Power"

(for my students researching black power movements)

(originally received as an email)
Memoirs from the "Architect of Black Power"

A review of:
Ready for Revolution
by Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)
by Mark Engler and Paul Engler

Late in 2003, a collection of Martin Luther King's papers scheduled for auction was opened for public viewing in New York City. Among the most interesting items in the exhibit was a telegram sent from Malcolm X in June of 1964. Malcolm and Martin have long been considered to embody two impulses within the civil rights movement, and the telegram put the split on sharp display: "We have been witnessing with great concern the vicious attacks of the white races against our poor defenseless people there in St. Augustine, [Florida,]" Malcolm X wrote to Dr. King. "If the Federal Government will not send troops to your aid, just say the word and we will immediately dispatch some of our brothers... The day of turning the other cheek to those brute beasts is over."

Many would dispute the idea that nonviolence had been exhausted in 1964. But within a few years, a new generation of civil rights activists would move to the forefront, advocating a distinctly un-Gandhian brand of militancy. Chief among them was Stokely Carmichael, whose autobiography, Ready for Revolution, was just published--five years after his death--with the help of his friend, the writer Michael Thelwell. The book shows several reasons why Carmichael is a leading figure in the movement's transition. He braved some of the most dramatic and resolutely nonviolent actions of the early 1960s, yet later ushered in a new era of "Black Power." Ready for Revolution makes a significant contribution to the U.S. civil rights literature by providing inside perspectives on how the movement's organizing changed dramatically in only a few years. But ultimately it does little to account for how "Black Power" affected the collapse of Carmichael's own organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Understanding Carmichael's significance in the movement first requires clearing up several misconceptions. The mainstream media used the activist as a convenient peg on which to hang everything that suburban white America had to fear about African-American militancy. Critics blamed his inflammatory statements ("When you talk about black power, you talk about bringing this country to its knees... of building a movement that will smash everything that Western civilization has created") for the riots that shook cities from Watts to Detroit to Newark--uprisings that clearly reflected deep social tensions, not the speech-making of a single individual.

Even the stories that have defined his image within activist circles are often off-base. On the organizer's behalf, Thelwell convincingly argues that Carmichael's infamous sexist remark (answering "prone" to a question about the place of women in the movement) was a joke taken out of context. Mary King and Casey Hayden, the supposed targets of the quip, defend Carmichael as being one of the men in SNCC most sympathetic to their criticisms of patriarchy within the organization. Similarly, mention of how white organizers were kicked out of SNCC during Carmichael's leadership should not overlook the fact that he opposed the move, and that he was consistently critical of the extreme black nationalist staffers in SNCC's Atlanta office, who, he argued, could not effectively mobilize their communities.

Ready for Revolution devotes some 800 pages to the task of debunking popular misconceptions and giving a picture of who Carmichael actually was. Given the bombast that characterized his most famous speeches, the book is surprisingly measured and conversational. Made up largely of Carmichael's recorded oral recollections, edited by Thelwell, it provides a detailed context for his evolution as an activist.

Carmichael spent the earliest years of his life in Trinidad, surrounded by his aunts and matriarchal grandmother. At age eleven, however, he was brought by his parents to New York City. As a student at the prestigious Bronx Science High School, Carmichael was influenced by watching the Garveyite soap-box speakers in Harlem, and he befriended Gene Dennis, son of a well-known Communist Party USA figure. But his real political formation came when he attended Howard University. There he quickly rose to the leadership of the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG). As he writes of the civil rights activists, "It was a lot like finding a long-lost family that you hadn't previously known about, but with whom you instantly recognized your kinship." Impassioned discussions about politics frequently kept students up through the night ("NAG folk would argue with a sign post," Carmichael says) and forged deep ties.

In 1961, as an affiliate of SNCC, Howard's NAG sent activists to join the Congress on Racial Equality's (CORE) 1961 Freedom Rides to integrate interstate bussing. At 19 years of age, Carmichael was one of the two youngest riders to be jailed in Mississippi's infamous Parchment Penitentiary. Veteran activists would later recall the horror and pride they felt when seeing Carmichael writhing on the ground and singing "I'm Gonna Tell God How You Treat Me" as punitive prison wardens used metal vises on his wrists to force him to give up a mattress, one of his jail cell's few amenities. At the same time, SNCC chairman John Lewis would write in his own autobiography that Carmichael showed "not much interest in Gandhi or the principles of nonviolence or even the Bible." In contrast to many others in the community, Carmichael viewed the actions tactically, rather than through a religious lens. "For me and most of my friends," he writes of nonviolence, "it was merely a valuable if limited strategy."

In the early years after its 1960 founding, SNCC, like Howard's NAG, was a tight-knit, interracial group of young activists. As scholar Clayborne Carson relates, SNCC quickly gained the reputation of being the "shock troops" of the civil rights movement, willing to work in the most dangerous areas of Mississippi, and pioneering new forms of nonviolent protest. Committed to on-going organizing, SNCC criticized Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) for creating "massive, temporary mobilization and press agentry as opposed to creating powerful organized communities capable of sustaining political struggle." Carmichael writes: "Here comes SCLC talking about mobilizing another two-week campaign, using our base and the magic of Dr. King's name. They are going to bring in the cameras, the media, prominent people, politicians... turn the place upside down, and split."

Carmichael graduated Howard and moved south to become a full-time SNCC staffer in 1964, shortly before Bob Moses launched the historic Freedom Summer campaign. Freedom Summer was different from previous efforts because it imported hundreds of young activists from the North to work on dangerous voter registration drives. Moses picked Carmichael to lead the mobilization in the crucial Mississippi Delta. "It's not just political sophistication" that was required, Moses relates in a quote that Thelwell includes in the book. It was "a feel for the common person which allows you to... really be accepted by them... But you could have that and not have the ability to work with the white northerners.... Stokely was able to move back and forth among all those levels."

While Freedom Summer was a great success--culminating in the dramatic appearance of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City--it also created organizational problems for SNCC. Carmichael writes, "SNCC now had a heightened presence and visibility nationally. As a result, the organization would soon be confronting unfamiliar problems of growth and affluence... Overnight the staff--which means the organization--was fixing to double in size." He adds, "SNCC could never go back to being the organization/family it had once been or perceived itself to be."

The growth in the organization also created an ideological opening. Many of the newer staff members, most vocally represented by SNCC's Atlanta Project, did not share the organization's earlier commitment to disciplined nonviolence and questioned the goal of integration. In 1966 the growing tension led to the first-ever contested battle for SNCC's leadership positions. After a prolonged dispute, John Lewis, a religiously oriented activist who led the organization's participation in the White House Conference on Civil Rights, was ousted as SNCC's chairman. Carmichael took power. Although he personally opposed the Atlanta group, his candidacy was bolstered by the fact that he had organized the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama in 1965, an all-black political party that later became the inspiration for California's Black Panthers.

Carmichael himself is critical of civil rights histories that suggest a sharp divide between the early "beloved community" period of SNCC activism, and the later "Black Power" phase. He contends that "the new direction was simply a necessary response to current political realities." For Carmichael, the transition may well have appeared natural and inevitable, in large part because he had long argued for a move away from "the pain-and-suffering school" of nonviolence. But lack of reflection in Ready for Revolution about Carmichael's own choices, given the particular circumstances of the time, has two consequences: One the one hand, the organizer likely does not give himself enough credit for his insight and influence as a leader. On the other, the book lacks an honest defense of his most controversial political decisions.

It was during Carmichael's leadership of SNCC that Ebony editor Lerone Bennett, Jr. would dub him "the architect of Black Power." Carmichael states that after publicly championing the use of the phrase, he "spent his entire term as chairman doing little else but defining" it. He contends, both here and in earlier books, that Black Power is not a call for separatism. Rather, he explains, "this was simply about the power to affirm our black humanity... and to collectively organize the political and economic power to control and develop our communities... Being pro-black didn't mean you're anti-white."

Carmichael brought several significant insights to his analysis of the concept, including the need for the civil rights movement to shift its focus from the rural South to the ghettos of the urban North. Along with this geographical move, he worked to popularize the concept of institutional racism. "When unknown racists bomb a church and kill four children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society," he wrote. But when "five hundred Negro babies die each year because of a lack of proper food, shelter, and medical facilities... [society] pretends it doesn't know of this situation." Finally, he struck a powerful cultural chord. Carson quotes Bennett writing, "it was the genius of Stokely Carmichael to sense the mood gestating in the depths of the black psyche and give tongue to it."

However, Black Power also caused serious problems for SNCC. Many mainstream civil rights leaders condemned the use of the phrase. Although Martin Luther King would not join them in denouncing SNCC, he immediately saw the organizational consequences that would come from the rhetorical positioning. He pointed to the political limitations of organizing only in majority-black communities and he also contended that, no matter how much explaining Carmichael did, Black Power would always carry a charged connotation. Unlike "black consciousness" or "black equality," King argued, it would bring overwhelming media condemnation, alienate liberal funders, and fracture alliances with unions and other supporters.

In Ready for Revolution Carmichael admits that "Dr. King's judgement about the 'unfortunate choice of language' proved to be prescient and, if anything, understated." But at the same time, he does not take responsibility for his choices, opting instead to blame the media for its predictable overreaction. Similarly, he expresses shock in his autobiography that mainstream civil rights organizations distanced themselves from SNCC. But at the time he fashioned his politics to alienate those very organizations in order to reorient the movement in a more radical direction.

A key example of this contradiction is in Ready for Revolution's description of the planning for the 1966 Meredith March in Tennessee. "The notion of 'taking over' or even 'leading' the march wasn't in our thinking," Carmichael states in the autobiography. "All we wanted was to give it direction. I honestly couldn't think of any valid... reason why all the organizations couldn't participate amicably." However, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Bearing the Cross, civil rights historian David Garrow cites several earlier interviews in which the activist claimed to have purposefully driven out moderate representatives of the NAACP and the Urban League. "We wanted to pull [Martin Luther King] to the left," Carmichael argues in this earlier account. "Once we got rid of the right wing completely, King would have to come to the left." The moderates "fell completely into the trap and stormed out of there."

It is disingenuous for Ready for Revolution not even to acknowledge the changed position. By neither defending nor rebuking his earlier strategies, Carmichael leaves a less useful guide for present-day activists. Under his leadership, SNCC abandoned militant nonviolence and failed to consolidate its organizing program. It would collapse completely within a few years. It is impossible to say in hindsight what decisions might have altered this fate. However, it is possible to compare SNCC with other models of the time. While Carmichael is right to argue that some change in civil rights strategy was inevitable, SCLC was also pushing for a shift to the North. Furthering their role as the "shock troops" of nonviolence, SNCC activists might have used dynamic urban direct action to highlight economic injustice and institutional racism. Instead, such creative actions were largely missing in the new stage of the movement, especially with SCLC weakened after Dr. King's death.

Carmichael briefly served as a spokesperson for the Black Panther Party, but he observes that the organization's lack of organizing experience and institutional memory limited their ability to form lasting structures. This weakness was exacerbated by the media firestorm and the government repression that followed the Panther's highly visible promotion of armed self defense. Lacking effective organization, in SNCC or in the Panthers, those radicalized by the rhetoric of Black Power were largely unable to carry forward the momentum of the earlier civil rights movement.

While Carmichael was only SNCC Chairman for one year, he remained a popular speaker and media personality throughout the late 1960s. By the time the press spotlight faded, he had moved to Africa. There he took the name Kwame Ture and devoted the rest of his life to organizing for a form of Pan-African socialism. Most of the African revolutions that he supported collapsed under the pressure of foreign intervention and neo-colonialism. Ready for Revolution does not provide a very useful perspective on these events. The book's view of fallen martyrs in Ghana and Guinea lacks any critical distance, leaving the reader wishing that Ture had applied the same level of constructive scrutiny to African leaders as he had to SCLC.

Kwame Ture always considered himself first and foremost an organizer. While finally succumbing to cancer in 1998, he maintained an admirable lifelong commitment to anti-racist politics. Documenting this dedication, Ready for Revolution will stand as a significant historical resource. But in failing to fully reckon with Ture's own role at a pivotal movement in civil rights history, it leaves a key story untold. Organizers of the future will miss having a more probing reflection on critical times.

-- Mark Engler is a writer and activist based in New York City. Paul Engler is an organizer with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE), Local 681, in Anaheim, California. They can be reached at

For more articles visit Democracy Uprising

Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty

A source in one of my student's papers... haven't had time to check out fully, but it seems interesting:

Campaign for Real Beauty

Monday, March 28, 2005

U.S. Broadcast Exclusive: Secret U.S. Plans for Iraq's Oil Spark Political Fight Between Neocons and Big Oil

U.S. Broadcast Exclusive: Secret U.S. Plans For Iraq's Oil Spark Political Fight Between Neocons and Big Oil
Amy Goodman and Greg Palast
Democracy Now

In an explosive new report, investigative journalist Greg Palast charges that President Bush was planning to invade Iraq before the September 11th attacks and was considering two very different plans about what to do with Iraq's oil. The plans reportedly sparked a political fight between neoconservatives and big oil companies. Greg Palast joins us in our firehouse studio and we air his exclusive report, "Secret U.S. Plans For Iraq's Oil" for the first time in this country.

President Bush was planning to invade Iraq before the September 11th attacks and was considering two very different plans about what to do with Iraq's oil. The plans sparked a political fight between neoconservatives and big oil companies and may help explain the recent appointments of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank and John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. That's the explosive charge in an expose by investigative reporter Greg Palast. This exclusive report aired on the BBC last week. This is the first time it is being showed in the United States.

Watch/Read the Original BBC Broadcast and the Discussion Between Amy Goodman and Greg Palast

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hari Kunzru: Beyond Good and Evil

Beyond Good and Evil?
Hari Kunzru

Fantasy literature has never been so popular, but Hari Kunzru reads between the lines and finds unsettling parallels with recent calls for moral certainties in the ‘war against terrorism’

Article Link

Jonathan Melsic: At Your Leisure

(Courtesy of Melissa. I suppose my blogging is a major waste of time... ;)

At Your Leisure
Jonathan Melsic
Chronicle of Higher Education

Shouldn't you be getting back to work? I mean, reading this column isn't going to help you work more efficiently. It isn't going to teach you a new job skill. And it isn't going to help you get that job you're seeking elsewhere in this publication. Shouldn't you be spending this time doing something, you know, productive?

We all want to be productive. Academic departments want to hire job candidates who look like they will be productive, who will publish and give guest lectures and attract more and better students. So candidates like me have to prove, above all else, that we will be productive scholars. And of course, the best way to prove that is to be productive already.

We hear that requirements for tenure have increased in the past two decades, such that the professors who make tenure decisions today might not have been granted tenure if current standards had been in place when they were coming up. We hear that requirements for hiring tenure-track faculty members have similarly increased, as young scholars have to prove in graduate school that they are ready for the research demands they will face as faculty members.

At a forum on the academic job search during my first year as a doctoral student in religious studies, I heard a very accomplished professor say that "one or two well-placed publications" as a graduate student ought to get you hired. (Feel free to laugh; I did at the time, right before crying.)

How long before a publication record as an undergraduate is going to be required for acceptance into a Ph.D. program?

I'll grant that the profession gains something by demanding such levels of productivity -- more books and articles and lectures must mean that we collectively have more knowledge, right?

But we're losing something, too, and it isn't just sleep, as I fret over whether three conference presentations and a book review are enough. We're losing academic leisure, and if we continue to lose it, we will lose the soul of the profession itself.

The philosopher Josef Pieper went so far as to say that if people give up on leisure in favor of orienting everything in their lives toward work, we will destroy our entire culture, because the cultural activities that make life worth living -- religion, creating and appreciating art, conversation, thoughtful reflection -- depend on leisure for their existence.

Pieper feared that modern industry, economics, and ideology were conspiring to make people identify themselves strictly as workers, spelling the end of the life of the mind. An overworked populace literally does not have time to think. Pieper would be horror-struck by the thought of people like me clawing after that patent absurdity, the "academic job."

This year, supporting myself on up to 60 hours a week of doing nonacademic work, and then trying to concentrate for 15 or 20 hours a week on my scholarly work, I've had no leisure. I have largely failed to accomplish the goals of professional improvement I set for myself in my first column.

As an unpaid postdoc at a research center at the University of Virginia, I have a title and an office and my presence is tolerated, but I also envy the "real" postdocs there who get paid to have leisure, to think and discuss their thoughts and build up momentum on their projects, wishing that like them, I could be spending my time discovering my scholarly voice and learning more about the endlessly fascinating subject of my research.

Instead, I've worked mostly at jobs I could have done even before I graduated from college: I've been a sushi chef, a parking-lot attendant, a tutor, a waiter, a research assistant, and a columnist. I haven't been much of a scholar.

But by Pieper's account, neither are many of those who hold academic posts and crank out article after article.

Sheer volume of work is not the sole measure of an intellectual; we also "produce" with the insight accidentally made, the sudden glimpse of the big picture, the spark of a brand new idea that may or may not be completely ludicrous. We can't schedule those moments neatly in the hour between meeting with an advisee and entertaining a visiting lecturer. We can't know when they will strike, if at all, so the best we can do is be attentive to them, let them happen, and, when they do, realize their value.

Departments want to hire good intellectuals, and good intellectuals make the insights that most people cannot but that our culture needs in order to avoid stagnation. The trouble is that insightfulness does not show up on a CV, and it's very hard, in a 30-minute chat around a flimsy table in one of those tiny, curtained-off interview "rooms," to learn if a person is insightful enough to be worth hiring as an assistant professor.

So when I was interviewed at the American Academy of Religion meeting, I fell back on trying to convince my interviewers that I have been and will continue to be productive as a scholar. I stopping just short of declaring, "Chapter 4, I'll have you know, is forthcoming in the Journal of Unread Research Papers. Forthcoming! See? Productive! Me!"

I worry that by playing the productivity game, I am selling out. But I also need to admit that as I form my professional identity, I am still very much enthralled with the prospect of being one of those highly visible, highly productive academic superstars.

I wonder, then -- who is the better academic? The one with a dozen books to her name, who cancels class so she can be interviewed on NPR, and who, like a strung-out rock star standing onstage in the 17th city in 18 days, glances down at a crib note before telling the audience, "What a pleasure it is to be here at Our Lady of the Four-Four Teaching Load"? Or is it the academic who never got promoted past associate professor who works the backyard grill at the end of the spring term, asking the B-minus student what her favorite book is while rooting around in the cooler for another veggie burger?

We all know which of those two is paid more. But which one is living the life of the mind more authentically? Which one is doing more for our culture? Which one would you want as your colleague?

Despite my fantasy of being a Keynote Speaker or Guest Editor or Scholar in Residence, I also hope to be a colleague who won't tire of picking the brain of the extremely intelligent person in the office next door, not to get an idea for a class or an article, not to impress the department head, but just to learn more about something I don't know adequately.

What academics do in such leisured moments is our contribution to culture. The mere fact that we have the kinds of conversations that we do have every now and again, when we're not rushing off to scope out the new journals or make it to a committee meeting or schmooze with the dean, should be enough to justify our occupation and place in society.

And yes, I realize that I'm on very thin, elitist ice.

But we who (let's face it) are educational elites need to ensure that when those who work in the real world peer in at us, they don't just see more of what they already know -- people hunkered over computer keyboards, hoping the phone doesn't ring.

We in the humanities in particular like to complain about how students care only about getting a good job after graduation, and so they only care about getting a good grade in our classes, which they only take because they have to. We wonder (mostly among ourselves, but occasionally to the students' faces) where their intellectual curiosity went, whether they ever read Pascal or Austen or Whitman for fun (like we did).

But do we, in the way we approach our jobs, show students an alternative? Do we show them, rather than merely tell them, that devotion to the objects of our study is a worthwhile way to go through life, even if it means that we cannot point to our productivity on a pie chart?

I think we hold back out of fear of being laughed off. But when humanities professors try to defend their pursuits to those whose only criterion for judging anything is its immediate usefulness, then the game is already over. We lose by forfeiting the assumption sitting at the foundation of academe: that production and consumption, accomplishment and profit are not what life is ultimately for.

However long my CV is, I am going to try to measure myself as an academic by the insights I've made and told people about, the ideas others have bounced off me, and the number of business majors I've convinced to make Pascal's Pensées their bedtime reading. If I wanted instead to be measured by my quarterly billable hours, I would have sought a different degree.

Link for this Article


Jonathan Malesic earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia. He is chronicling his search for a tenure-track job this academic year.

Kajitani and Bryant: A Ph.D. and a Failure

(Courtesy of Melissa who knows what I am going through--I'm currently applying and interviewing for university, technical and community college positions--there is a lot of stigma associated with which path I choose.)

A Ph.D. and a Failure
Chronicle of Higher Education

As graduate career counselors at two major research universities, we encounter the F-word a lot, but not the one you think. The F-word we hear is "failure" -- a nasty, horrible utterance applied to many an overachieving Ph.D. who falls short of finding a tenure-track job.

Fear of that word -- for the summa cum laude, the Phi Beta Kappa, or the NSF grant recipient -- can become debilitating and demoralizing, turning a once confident and optimistic young adult into a depressed, panic-ridden, and paralyzed recluse. Unfortunately, we are not exaggerating.

The real problem here is the painfully constrictive definitions of failure and success within academe.

Failure, says academic culture, is anything other than achieving the ultimate goal of a tenure-track professorship. More specifically, the epitome of success is a tenure-track job at a major research university. You're still successful, albeit to a lesser degree, if that job is at a liberal-arts college, and even less so if it's at a community college. But a nonacademic career, well, that's just unacceptable.

That may seem a harsh indictment, but we've witnessed such attitudes time and again in our own experiences as former doctoral students and in those of the graduate students we now advise.

We know there are exceptions: deans who boldly pay for programs to help graduate students explore diverse career opportunities; faculty advisers who surreptitiously write reference letters for their students to apply to law school, to teach at a community college, or to seek a nonacademic job. And attitudes vary somewhat among disciplines.

But there are countless faculty members, administrators, and students themselves who continue to perpetuate a narrow definition of success in academe. Anything else is "less than."

Unfortunately, the hard facts show again and again that only a small percentage of doctoral students can achieve the success of becoming a tenure-track professor at a research institution. In their study, "Ph.D.'s -- 10 Years Later," Maresi Nerad and Joseph Cerny found that only 58 percent of Ph.D.'s in English were on the tenure track or tenured 10 years after graduation. Of those, less than a fifth worked at top research universities (The Chronicle, September 10, 1999).

Those numbers do not include the approximately 50 percent of students -- cited by Barbara E. Lovitts in Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of the Departure From Doctoral Study -- who never even completed their Ph.D.'s. Thus, a great majority of students who begin doctoral programs will never reach the "nirvana" of the tenure track. What happens to all of those students who don't make the cut?

Perhaps such figures help explain the recent finding that "depression and other forms of mental distress" were a serious problem in a study of more than 3,100 graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley. According to the study: "Nearly half of all survey respondents (45 percent) reported an emotional or stress-related problem that significantly impacted their academic performance or well-being." Another 67 percent reported feeling hopeless at times, 95 percent felt overwhelmed in graduate school, and 54 percent said they had felt so "depressed that it was difficult to function." About 10 percent had seriously considered suicide, and one in 200 had actually attempted suicide in the last year.

The Berkeley study cites dysfunctional relationships with faculty advisers, significant family responsibilities, financial difficulties, isolation from campus life and student resources, and an inability to recognize the symptoms of a psychological problem as possible reasons for graduate students' declining mental health.

We argue that all of those factors are part of the overall academic culture that privileges a narrow and largely unreasonable standard of success.

We've had to confront the academic line about failure in our own lives: One of us (Rebecca), a Ph.D. in musicology, recently ran into a former professor who said Rebecca would "never be truly happy" if she did not become an academic musicologist. The other (Megan) completed four years of doctoral work in communication before deciding that her current staff position allows her the balance that she wants in her life, as well as the opportunity to have a daily impact. But Megan has been scolded by people she barely knows for "giving up" and not becoming a professor. (Since when did a master's degree and a meaningful career become failure?)

We've also heard the stories of students who come to us for career advice:

A Ph.D., thrilled to land a faculty position at a liberal-arts college near her home, is asked by her dissertation adviser when she was going to "get a job." Presumably, a "real" one.

An alumnus, unwilling to spend yet another year unsuccessfully searching for a tenure-track position, moves on to a new career. He hides his choice from his former adviser, fearing his mentor's disappointment.

Two graduate students who are pursuing community-college careers are terrified to tell their dissertation committees, and another student fears that her fellow graduate students will shun her for considering leaving her Ph.D. program for the nonprofit world.
During a recent meeting of a new career-support group for graduate students, the topic of "feeling like a quitter" evoked painful emotions from many participants and was revealed as their biggest obstacle in choosing an alternative career path, with "not knowing there were other options" a close second. Clearly the myopic mission of many doctoral programs often clashes with graduate students' changing priorities, and could be a factor in academe's high attrition rates.

At both of our universities, we have established programs and counseling services to help graduate students counter the idea that they are successful only if they become research faculty members, and to help them explore other potential career options.

This spring the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held a well-attended symposium titled "Defining Academic Success," during which faculty and staff members from non-research-oriented institutions shared their stories and introduced students to new notions of a successful academic career.

At the University of California at San Diego, a workshop on "Alternatives to Academia for Graduate Students" drew a standing-room-only crowd last year, prompting an encore this year that attracted more than 100 graduate students.

At both institutions, we encourage graduate students to learn about the academic job search process early on in graduate school, so they can better prepare for what it requires and make conscious choices about whether it feels right for them.

What can be done on your campus?

If you're a faculty member, open your mind to a diversity of career choices for your advisees. Validate their interest in teaching or other work, not just academic research. Acknowledge alumni or former students who have "succeeded" in a range of career paths. Be realistic with students about the job market, as well as your own experience in it, and realize that not everyone wants to do what you do.

If you're an administrator, support career panels, workshops, and conferences that validate a variety of career options. Offer mental-health services for graduate student and training programs for faculty mentors. Conduct studies on graduate-student attrition and satisfaction on your campus.

If you're a graduate student, step outside of the limited perspective of the Ph.D. world and look at other versions of success. Consider what you need to be happy and successful, not just your adviser's definition. Cover your bases by pursuing other interests or experiences during graduate school; don't put all of your eggs in one basket. Take advantage of workshops and support services, and demand them if they're not available. Finally, realize that sometimes changing your mind is the right decision.

For all parties involved, we urge a re-examination of success and failure in doctoral studies. The abundance of shame, depression, anxiety, and paralysis among incredibly talented and capable graduate students can be lessened by offering them more options for a satisfying life and career, and more validation for their choices. Think about that the next time you inflict the F-word on yourself or on others.

Current Link for the Article

Megan Pincus Kajitani is the graduate-student adviser in the Career Services Center at the University of California at San Diego. A former journalist, she received her M.A. in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Rebecca Bryant is the director of the Graduate College Career Services Office at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Illinois.

Fahrenheit 9/11 for Grown-ups: Media Education Foundation's New Documentary Hijacking Catastrophe

Posted this last year, but this seems like a good time to revisit this documentary:

The Media Education Foundation has released a new documentary:

Jhally, Sut. “Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire.” Democracy Now (September 10, 2004)

Hijacking Catastrophe Website
Thanks to Bill who pointed out that the whole video is available at:

Information Clearing House

Jensen, Robert. "Fahrenheit 9/11 For Grown-ups." Tom Paine (September 17, 2004)

Emily Alpert: Rainbow and Red

On the role of two-spirit people in traditional Native American societies.

Rainbow and Red
Emily Alpert
In the Fray

Coined in 1990 at an annual conference of queer-identified Native people, the International Two-Spirit Gathering, the term “two-spirit,” encompasses various American Indian traditions of tolerance and celebration of gender-variant people. Unlike modern concepts of sexuality, two-spiritedness refers less to sexual orientation than to gender, reflecting the idea that in a single person, both masculine and feminine energies may reside. Prior to the conference, the concept was referred to by different terms in each tribe: For example, winkte in Lakota, a Sioux dialect, nádleehí in Navajo, or problematically called berdache, a French word sometimes translated as “slave boy.”

Entire Article

Thursday, March 24, 2005

James Vanlandingham: Florida Bill Aims to Control ‘Leftist’ Professors

Update: In the comments, Dr. CAB suggested we look at Oneida J. Meranto's case as an example of this trend in Colorado and Continental OP suggested this special issue on Legislating Academic Freedoms


Republicans on the House Choice and Innovation Committee voted along party lines Tuesday to pass a bill that aims to stamp out “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in the classrooms of Florida’s universities.

The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, passed 8-to-2 despite strenuous objections from the only two Democrats on the committee.

The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.

While promoting the bill Tuesday, Baxley said a university education should be more than “one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator controls the classroom,” as part of “a misuse of their platform to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views.”

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

“This is a horrible step,” he said. “Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can be decided by judges in courtrooms. Professors might have to pay court costs — even if they win — from their own pockets. This is not an innocent piece of legislation.”

The staff analysis also warned the bill may shift responsibility for determining whether a student’s freedom has been infringed from the faculty to the courts.

But Baxley brushed off Gelber’s concerns. “Freedom is a dangerous thing, and you might be exposed to things you don’t want to hear,” he said. “Being a businessman, I found out you can be sued for anything. Besides, if students are being persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs, I think they should be given standing to sue.”

During the committee hearing, Baxley cast opposition to his bill as “leftists” struggling against “mainstream society.”

“The critics ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty,” he said, adding that he was called a McCarthyist.

Baxley later said he had a list of students who were discriminated against by professors, but refused to reveal names because he felt they would be persecuted.

Rep. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, argued universities and the state Board of Governors already have policies in place to protect academic freedom. Moreover, a state law outlining how professors are supposed to teach would encroach on the board’s authority to manage state schools.

“The big hand of state government is going into the universities telling them how to teach,” she said. “This bill is the antithesis of academic freedom.”

But Baxley compared the state’s universities to children, saying the legislature should not give them money without providing “guidance” to their behavior.

“Professors are accountable for what they say or do,” he said. “They’re accountable to the rest of us in society … All of a sudden the faculty think they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say the professor shouldn’t be a dictator and control that room as their totalitarian niche?”

In an interview before the meeting, Baxley said “arrogant, elitist academics are swarming” to oppose the bill, and media reports misrepresented his intentions.

“I expect to be out there on my own pretty far,” he said. “I don’t expect to be part of a team.”

House Bill H-837 can be Viewed Online

Earlier posting on similar movements along these lines:

Is Your Professor Political?

Tarrou on an Essential Choice

"All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and its up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences."

The character Tarrou in Albert Camus' novel "The Plague" (1947)

Critical Art Ensemble: When Thought Becomes a Crime

Critical Art Ensemble: Performative Critics of Corporate Bio-Technology Practices

US Government's Attacks on Performance Group Critical Art Ensemble

When Thought Becomes a Crime

US Government Paranoia in Action: FBI Abducts Artist, Seizes Art

Park, Paula. “Buffalo Case Highlights MTAs: Material transfer agreements can be misunderstood or considered an annoyance, say officials.” The Scientist (August 9, 2004)

Critical Art Ensemble's Online Performative Critiques:

Critical Art Ensemble. “Cult of the New Eve.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Flesh Machine.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Gen Terra: Transgenic Solutions for a Greener World.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “Society For Reproductive Anachronisms.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

---. “The Therapeutic State.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Critical Art Ensemble, Beatriz da Costa and Claire Pentecost. Contestational Biology.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Critical Art Ensemble, Beatriz da Costa and Shyh-shiun. “Free Range Grain.” (2004: Online Visual and Textual Project)

Books by Critical Art Ensemble Available Online:

Critical Art Ensemble. Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media. (Autonomedia, 2001)

---. Electronic Civil Disobedience & Other Unpopular Ideas. (Autonomedia, 1996)

---. The Electronic Disturbance (Autonomedia, 2000)

---. Flesh Machine: Cyborgs, Designer Babies and New Eugenic Consciousness. (Autonomedia, 1998)

---. Molecular Invasion. (Autonomedia, 2002)

Action Site Set Up to Help Defend Critical Art Ensemble

Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Robert Jensen: Politics of Teaching in Post 9/11 America

September 11 and the Politics of University Teaching
by Robert Jensen
Common Dreams

At various time in my teaching career -- more than ever since Sept. 11 -- I have been advised by faculty colleagues that I should avoid being "too political" in the classroom. To the degree that the advice is simply pragmatic -- avoid being political to avoid being criticized -- I can understand it. But I find the suggestion hard to reconcile with my conception of what higher education should be in a pluralist democracy. Embedded in that advice are several key reasons for this culture's intellectual and political crisis, and in particular the failure of the contemporary university.

Teaching is political.

I teach in a journalism department, where I have a role in training people who allegedly will provide the information citizens need to participate in a democratic system of governance that is based on the idea that those citizens are the sovereign power. Most journalists practice that trade in large corporate institutions that are themselves at the heart of the system of power in the society. Is there a way to imagine teaching journalism in a manner that isn't intensely political?

I use the term "political" not to mean partisan -- for or against any particular politician, policy, or party -- but instead to refer to the play of power in a society. Everyone lines up in some relationship to power, either in defense of, or resistance to. Claims of taking a neutral stance -- especially when made by privileged professionals -- are illusory; neutrality is simply another way of supporting the existing distribution of power. (Just imagine how we would examine a claim by Soviet academics that they were neutral as to the system of power in their nation and were teaching so as not to take political positions. What would we say about them?) To challenge power is political. To support power is political. To avoid the question is political.

Take the question of the forces that shape the news. One approach to that issue is Edward Herman's propaganda model, which highlights the role of ownership and ideology in the formation of mainstream news. I teach that model in my introductory journalism class because I believe it is the most compelling way to help explain how commercial journalism works. My decision is informed by my intellectual evaluation of the work, but no doubt my politics play a role as well. If someone consciously rejects the model and refuses to teach it, that decision is political in the same sense. And if one claims to be neutral and avoids the issue, that too is political.

So, it is not the case of some professors being political and some not. We all are political, which affects both what we take to be relevant intellectual questions and how we frame the presentation of those questions. In a healthy system, there would be ongoing engagement about such intellectual and political matters among faculty members, who are bound to have differing views. One or another of these views might emerge as more compelling than others. One or another might emerge as dominant based on the interests of power. But all the positions are equally political.

How does one come to hold political opinions?

A deeper problem with the advice to avoid being political is the notion that intellectual work somehow separate from politics. But we should ask: How does one come to hold a political position? Is it arrived at randomly? Is it based on wholly arbitrary assertions? Or, does one have a clear argument with credible evidence to support those opinions? If so, is there not always intellectual work behind a
political position?

This culture too often treats political opinions as if they were merely subjective judgments. Certainly some component of our political decision-making includes statements that are subjective in some sense -- they are about principles that cannot be proved by reason and evidence, such as the answer to the question "what does it mean to be a human being?" But statements of such first principles are the
beginning of a coherent political argument, not the end. The formation and articulation of political viewpoints requires intellectual work if those viewpoints are to be of value in public dialogue.

So, if most of what we talk about in a journalism class is inextricably political, and if it is important to provide a coherent argument for one's political judgments, professors should make clear their own political positions that are relevant to the class and explain to students how they came to hold those positions. That is not the same thing as proselytizing. It need not be coercive but can be a healthy process in which professors model an intellectual method that can counter the shallow, superficial political discourse that
dominates in news coverage, television talk shows, advertising, and political campaigns. This should be one of the central goals of a university.

That task can, of course, be done badly. Professors can lose sight of the need to create the most open atmosphere possible for that intellectual work and political thinking. We can lose track of the central goal of helping students develop their own critical thinking skills. We can forget that our job is not simply to tell students what opinions they should hold but to challenge them to think deeper about their own positions, or in some cases to think enough to form opinions for the first time. I assume every professor, myself included, at some point has made such mistakes. At that point, the crucial question is whether students feel free enough to challenge the professor. Has the professor created a truly open and engaged classroom so that the class can help the professor correct herself or himself?

The bargain professors make

I take most of these points to be not terribly controversial. I have made these claims often and have yet to hear a colleague offer a serious rebuttal. If that is so, then why do people keep telling me to
avoid being political in the classroom?

It may be that the advice is shorthand for "you do a bad job of teaching material that has controversial political content" or "I don't like your left/radical political positions and I wish you would stop teaching material related to those positions." If the former, then I would ask that my critics tell me what they think I am doing wrong so that I can have the chance to evaluate the criticism and make necessary changes. If they mean the latter, then I would ask them to critique my political positions (and defend their own) so that we could have an intellectual and political discussion that might be valuable for all concerned.

After a dozen years of teaching, I have come to believe the reason for that advice is much more troubling, and is rooted in the bargain with power that allows us our privilege.

We should start by being clear that professors are an incredibly privileged lot -- at least those of us who have steady jobs at reasonable salaries with reasonable benefits. (More and more teaching work is performed by large numbers of adjuncts and part-time instructors who do not have those protections, but even they, by comparison with most of the rest of the population, have considerable privilege.) Professors are relatively autonomous and do work that is generally invigorating and enjoyable. I feel privileged, and I'm grateful for the privilege.

As is almost always the case in hierarchical systems with unequal distributions of power, such as the contemporary United States, people are given privilege with the expectation that they will serve that system. It is my experience that values such as a sincere belief in the value of free thought and liberal education motivate people to join the university enterprise. But it is equally clear that the system has its own demands. Because it is a liberal pluralist institution, not a totalitarian monolith, there is some variation in how successfully individuals can resist the demands of the system. But in general, to the degree that professors accept the existing configuration of power they will be accorded the privileges with minimal interference. To the degree they challenge that power, rewards will be less forthcoming and the potential for interference enhanced.

Rather than confront this, it is much easier for professors to imagine that they are outside that system of power and can evaluate the world from some more-or-less neutral position. It's easier to say things such as, "I try just to teach the facts, not my political opinions" and ignore the way in which every decision in teaching -- from the choices of subject matter and texts to the way the course is organized and the way power is distributed within the classroom -- is deeply political.

Teaching is about our opinions. The relevant questions are: How well can we defend our opinions? How well can we articulate the unstated assumptions that frame our questions as well as our answers? How willing are we to subject our teaching to scrutiny? How well do we listen to feedback from colleagues and students?

September 11

All of these questions have been very much on my mind since September 11, but they also were very much on my mind on September 10. In that sense, nothing changed for me in my teaching. But because of my antiwar writing and speaking, and the heightened level of public visibility that has come with those activities, the questions are also quite clearly on the mind of my critics and, I assume, my students. Because of the intensity of the emotions around the events of September 11, it has been more important than ever for me to foreground these questions in my classroom.

Based on reactions in and out of class, I know that many students are angry about things I have said or written outside of class, and about some discussions we have had in class. I am well aware that I have made many students uncomfortable. I do not consider that to be a problem, for I can't imagine a meaningful higher education experience that does not make students uncomfortable at some point. One shouldn't attend university simply to have existing beliefs reinforced. Students should confront alternative explanations, including those that conflict with their own deeply held beliefs. Inevitably, if one is dealing with topics that are important, that will mean students will be uncomfortable.

More than ever, this semester I have tried to monitor whether I present material in a way that makes it difficult for students with contrary opinions to speak. I have not always been sure I did all that I could to create the ideal classroom. I have on some days left the classroom wondering whether I talked too much and shut off student discussion too early; on other days, I fear that, in the interests of airing the maximal number of views, I let some students ramble on too long in a manner that bored others. I thought about those questions regularly before September 11. I hope I will continue to ask myself those questions as long as I am teaching.

I cannot speak for my students; I do not know for sure that I have taught in a way that makes the discomfort they might feel intellectually and politically productive. But I do know that at many moments I have felt uncomfortable. I assume that if I am in territory that challenges my own beliefs and forces me to think more deeply about what I am saying in class, then at some level I have succeeded.

Link to the Article
Published on Thursday, December 6, 2001

Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, a member of the Nowar Collective, and author of the book Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang USA). He can be reached at His writing is available online at Jensen's Writings.

Congratulations Air America!

Congratulations to Air America which will be celebrating its 1 year anniversary on March 31 and HBO recently released a documentary about the station called Left of the Dial.

"Still Patience... and What I Would Believe If I Believed": Pt. 2

I'm struggling with a lot these days and seeking to understand something beyond myself... Memsamechnun is pushing me (which I appreciate) to wrestle with my cynicism. Below is a comment that extends an earlier posting and comments...

To Read the Original Post and Comments

Sorry Memsamechnun, I'm dealing with some difficulties in my personal life as well, perhaps my reply came off worse than it was intended.

I am a person of deep faith that there is something more. I pray and seek answers. I try to commune as able with other life forces (human, animal, and other earthly manifestations)... I don't know if there is something more, but I won't rule it out.

My reply to Still Patience was a claim of radical doubt framed in a way that keeps me working on my own beliefs instead of securing my insecurities by forcing others to reinforce my apprehensions through their embrace of my doubt.

I don't seek converts. My doubt and fear and alienation is painful. I wouldn't wish it on my worse enemy. It is markedly so because I was raised to "believe" and I remember those earlier golden moments when I had no doubt about the meaning of the world, my life, and what would happen to me when I died--I was part of the chosen... and I knew where the others were going...

Harris does go overboard and I'm not sure if he really thinks it is possible or good that religious thought disappear. I watched the scientific movie (about quantum theory) "What the Bleep" the other night and it seemed to be very religious ... maybe science really is becoming religion? But what is Harris saying that makes sense? Is there something wrong with religion in its roots (at least the monotheistic types)? What has been the result of radical belief that views all other beliefs as wrong or worse evil? Can I really engage and respect you if I believe that because of your faith you are evil and will be condemned to eternal flames? How can that ever allow for true communion and dialogue?

As for Rushkoff, who I respect, and feel indebted to, his book on religion really seemed simplistic in that he mapped it out as if it was the latest media trend ... I don't know... have you E.L. Doctorow's "The City of God"? The characters in there evince a belief that I think is closer to my own form of faith which struggles with doubts raised by experience of the world... or if I was to have a faith maybe it is more tied into the larger earthly forces that govern our lives and the communion of beings on this planet (maybe along the lines of the doomed characters of James Welch "Fool's Crow"). I of course have just chosen two novels as examples and perhaps that says a lot about how I view other holy texts.

Memsamechnun, I respect your struggle to understand and your ability to question inspires me.

Peace friend!

One last question, what scares me more radical doubt or radical belief? What has caused more pain in the world? Which leads to productive questions?

In Memory of Rachel Corrie: 1979-2003

More Photos

Remembering Rachel Corrie

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Halliburton: Business as Usual?

Business As Usual?
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek report posted at MSNBC

Halliburton’s CEO says his company is pulling out of Iran. But a corporate subsidiary is still going ahead with a deal to develop Tehran’s natural gas fields.

Full Article

From Classroom to Community and Beyond: Educating for a Sustainable Future

Remember when we cared about the future that we would be leaving for our children and grandchildren? Remember when we defined education as something more than just penciling in the correct answer on a test? Remember when we recognized that education is not just prepared/deposited and that learning doesn't begin/end at the classroom doors? Remember when we thought of an active, informed citizenry, people who ask questions and know how to pursue answers, as the best hope for a strong democracy?

Here is an example of forward-looking educational propositions from the Clinton years (just beginning to perceive some possibilities--yeah you asshole they had flaws, but at least they were thinking about it), think about these in the context of the underfunded, ignored, testing-as-all-powerful-measurement device, "No Child Left Behind", Bush policies... for crying-out loud the Pentagon, the Pentagon!!! released a REPORT! stating that we are destroying the environment and that this is our most important concern/danger for the future. When will we learn? Who has the courage to speak the truth-to-power...

Report of the Public Linkage, Dialogue, and Education Task Force of President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development

February 1997

From Ch. 2:

Education for sustainability is the continual refinement of the knowledge and skills that lead to an informed citizenry that is committed to responsible individual and collaborative actions that will result in an ecologically sound, economically prosperous, and equitable society for present and future generations. The principles underlying education for sustainability include, but are not limited to, strong core academics, understanding the relationships between disciplines, systems thinking, lifelong learning, hands-on experiential learning, community-based learning, technology, partnerships, family involvement, and personal responsibility.
-- President's Council on Sustainable Development

How Can Education for Sustainability Be Accomplished?
Education for sustainability can give people the tools, skills, and experience they need to understand, process, and use information about sustainable development. It will help them make individual and collective decisions that both benefit themselves and promote the development of sustainable communities. And it will provide a means for creating a more highly skilled and globally competitive workforce and developing a more informed, active, and responsible citizenry.
But how can it be accomplished? The following are key principles about education for sustainability that the Task Force identified.

Education for sustainability must involve everyone.
Education on any topic, but particularly on sustainability, should flow from school to community and back again. Educators at all levels should reach beyond school walls, as many successful programs already do, to involve parents, industry, communities, and government in the education process. Colleges and universities should work with other schools and communities -- to deliver information, identify questions for research, and provide direct services to help solve community problems. For their part, communities should take a stronger interest in educating their citizens for sustainability, recognizing that current and future generations will need to be well-educated on this topic in order to bring about a sustainable future.

Education for sustainability emphasizes relationships between formal and nonformal education.
It thrives in all types of classrooms, exposing students to local, state, national, and international issues through hands-on, experiential learning in alternative educational environments -- such as wading through streams to do water quality testing, volunteering in the community, or participating in school-to-work programs. Because sustainability is all-encompassing, learning about it cannot and should not be confined to formal settings such as schools, universities, colleges, and training institutions. Nonformal education settings, such as museums, zoos, extension programs, libraries, parks, and mass media, provide significant opportunities to complement and build on classroom learning. This means that formal and nonformal educators should work together to produce an educated citizenry.

Education for sustainability is about connections.
Educating for sustainability does not follow academic theories according to a single discipline but rather emphasizes connections among all subject areas, as well as geographic and cultural relationships. Rather than weaken the rigor of individual disciplines, education for sustainability offers an opportunity to strengthen them by demonstrating vital interrelationships. For example, Dartmouth College requires students to take an international leadership course stressing business and environmental components. Students must strive to achieve high standards within the core disciplines, even as they develop an understanding of the connections across these disciplines. Further, education for sustainability involves consideration of diverse perspectives, including those of ethnic groups, businesses, citizens, workers, government entities, and other countries.

Education for sustainability is practical.
While delving into many disciplines, education for sustainability helps students apply what they learn to their daily lives. It engenders a sense of efficacy. Part of sustainability education is learning citizenship skills and understanding that citizens have the power to shape their lives and their communities in light of their vision of a healthy and prosperous future.

Education for sustainability is lifelong.
Continual efforts should be made to institute programs about sustainability in a variety of arenas, including the workplace and community centers and through the media. A citizenry knowledgeable about the benefits of sustainable living will have the capacity to create and maintain lasting change. Benefits to the individual include an understanding of and ability to participate in the social and economic changes that will affect their lives. For example, many communities have used planning processes that engage citizens in defining a desired future plan for their community. Using their plan, citizens work to achieve a sustainable future for themselves, their children, and their community.

Policy Recommendation 1:

Formal Education Reform
Encourage changes in the formal education system to help all students (kindergarten through higher education), educators, and education administrators learn about the environment, the economy, and social equity as they relate to all academic disciplines and to their daily lives.

Action 1. Parents and representatives from states, schools, educational organizations, community groups, businesses, and other education stakeholders should identify the essential skills and knowledge that all students should have at specified benchmark grades for a basic understanding of the interrelationships among environmental, economic, and social equity issues. This set of voluntary standards could serve as a model for states and communities to use in setting their own requirements for academic performance.
Action 2. State officials, school administrators, and other educators and stakeholders should continue to support education reform; emphasize systems thinking and interdisciplinary approaches; and pursue experiential, hands-on learning at all levels, from elementary and secondary schools to universities, colleges, community colleges, and technical schools.

Action 3. Colleges and universities should incorporate education about sustainability into pre-service training and in-service professional development for educators of all types, at all levels, and in all institutions.

Action 4. Schools, colleges, and universities should promote curriculum and community awareness about sustainable development and should follow sustainable practices in school and on campus.

Policy Recommendation 2:

Nonformal Education and Outreach
Encourage nonformal access to information on, and opportunities to learn and make informed decisions about, sustainability as it relates to citizens' personal, work, and community lives.

Action 1. Nonformal educators should encourage lifelong learning about sustainability through adult education programs, community and civic organizations, and nonformal education programs -- such as those sponsored by museums, zoos, nature centers, and 4-H clubs -- so that individuals can make well-informed decisions.
Action 2. Media strategists and sustainable development experts should develop an integrated approach for raising public awareness of and support for sustainability goals, conveying information on indicators of sustainable development, and encouraging people to adopt sustainable decision making in their daily lives.

Action 3. A new or expanded national extension network should be developed to provide needed information to enhance the capacity of individuals and communities to exist sustainably.

Action 4. Local and state governments should continue to extend their partnerships with community organizations and other levels of government to support community sustainability planning processes and periodic assessments.

Action 5. Employers -- in partnership with all levels of government, community organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and others -- should develop training programs to create a workforce with the skills and abilities needed to adapt to changes brought on by the national and global transition to sustainability.

Policy Recommendation 3:

Strengthened Education for Sustainability
Institute policy changes at the federal, state, and local levels to encourage equitable education for sustainability; develop, use, and expand access to information technologies in all educational settings; and encourage understanding about how local issues fit into state, national, and international contexts.

Action 1. Federal, state, and local governments should form partnerships with private sector organizations, businesses, professional societies, educational institutions, and community groups to develop and implement coordinated strategies supporting education for sustainability.
Action 2. The public and private sectors should support the development of and equitable access to enhanced multimedia telecommunications technologies and improved clearinghouse capabilities that promote an understanding of sustainability.

Action 3. Educators in both formal and nonformal learning programs should help students understand the international factors that affect the nation's transition to a sustainable society.

Action 4. Formal and nonformal educators should ensure that education for sustainability invites and involves diverse viewpoints, and that everyone -- regardless of background and origin -- has opportunities to participate in all aspects of the learning process. This will ensure that education for sustainability is enriched by, and relevant to, all points of view.

Read The Entire Report

EPA To Drop 'E,' 'P' From Name

(Onion piece, courtesy of Melissa Purdue via Anna Froula)

EPA To Drop 'E,' 'P' From Name

Days after unveiling new power-plant pollution regulations that rely on an industry-favored market-trading approach to cutting mercury emissions, EPA Acting Administrator Stephen Johnson announced that the agency will remove the "E" and "P" from its name. "We're not really 'environmental' anymore, and we certainly aren't 'protecting' anything," Johnson said. "'The Agency' is a name that reflects our current agenda and encapsulates our new function as a government-funded body devoted to handling documents, scheduling meetings, and fielding phone calls." The change comes on the heels of the Department of Health and Human Services' January decision to shorten its name to the Department of Services.

Neuorscientist Sam Harris: The End of Faith

Website for the book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

Various audios/videos of Sam Harris, including C-SPAN2; On Point Radio; A Debate with Ralph Reed; O'Reilly Factor; and Faith Under Fire show:


This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in the modern world. The End of Faith provides a harrowing glimpse of mankind’s willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when these beliefs inspire the worst of human atrocities. Harris argues that in the presence of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer expect to survive our religious differences indefinitely. Most controversially, he maintains that “moderation” in religion poses considerable dangers of its own: as the accommodation we have made to religious faith in our society now blinds us to the role that faith plays in perpetuating human conflict. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris draws on insights from neuroscience, philosophy, and Eastern mysticism in an attempt to provide a truly modern foundation for our ethics and our search for spiritual experience.

Book Excerpts

Free Press: Big Media Ownership Reports

Free Press

By Kenneth Li
Few investors and analysts see seismic shifts in an industry that has spent decades bulking up, following the Viacom disclosure.

Tribune Co. said a federal judge ruled that its holdings of newspaper and television assets in the Hartford, Conn., market violated federal media ownership rules.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. persuaded Fox Entertainment Group Inc. minority holders to accept $6.6 billion for their stock, giving him full control of assets including Fox News Channel and the 20th Century Fox film studio.

By Jefferson Graham, USA Today
Media mogul Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp said Monday that it will spend $1.85 billion to acquire fourth-ranked Internet search engine Ask Jeeves.

By Jason Deans, John Plunkett and Julia Day
The BBC director general Mark Thompson has been accused of "ripping out the heart" of BBC programming as journalists greet the news of job cuts in the newsroom with fury and bewilderment.

By Frank Ahrens
After a decade of growth by acquisition, media conglomerates such as Viacom, Sony Corp. and Time Warner Inc. are beginning to reconfigure, pushed by new technologies and changing consumer habits.

Still Patience... and What I Would Believe If I Believed

Despite my turning away from organized religion I still have a strong interest in religious belief and desire to improve myself and come to some form of peace/relation with this world/universe. Thus, I am always interested in genuine attempts to deal with belief/faith and was intrigued by this post (amongst other good postings at Still Turning):

In Your Patience

My reply to the post:

Winning your own soul also could refer to the fact that we must be careful of losing our soul in the desire to compete in illusionary games of capturing the minds of others (spiritually, materialistically, philosophically or politically) ... this insanity of demanding that others feel, think, or believe as "I/We" do must stop... its a destructive controlling process that leads to no good and much evil (as I understand evil)

Those that believe they must win souls have something buried deep inside them that scares them and that they fear condemns their soul to damnation--better that they face up to that fear/sin and allow the rest of us to go about our business of living and working on our own souls.

The devil (if I believed in such a thing--but metaphors are powerful) "wins" souls... God (if I believed in such a thing--but metaphors are powerful) does not compete for our souls, he is the light that will attract those who work on their own soul building their own personal vision through reflective soul-searching and reaching out to others (in a dialogic sense of comunication and exchange, not competition and defeat). The devil demands we submit to him, God wishes us to dialogue and commune with her, learning as we grow, living through example, and being there when others need us (not stalking them with our pronouncements of good/evil)

Least that is what I would believe if I believed ...