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robertogreco : disaffection   4

Mask: To Be Young, Disaffected, and Black
"It’s been one year since the murder of Mike Brown in the suburban Midwest drew a fault line across the US. So much has been written on the subject, that I’ll spare you the retrospection and simply say that the militant uprising in Ferguson, MO following Mike’s killing represents a kind of historical milestone. Ferguson stands as the point in time after which all discussion about racialized extrajudicial police murder must also include a certain sympathy for the insurrection that will inevitably erupt.

A year later, I’m troubled by Mike’s ghost. Specifically, the specter of his figure in a graduation gown. For most white Americans in my peer groups, college was a kind of grand farce. A place they went. A concession to their parents for which they are deeply indebted. I can count on one hand the number of educated white people my age that I know who currently have a job that their undergraduate degree enabled. The education system and its financial structure are indisputably and profoundly broken. Yet, most of the discourse around racial inequality still holds education as the “way out” of the cycle of poverty for poor people of color. That’s what I was told, anyway. Post-secondary education is seen as a kind of missing ingredient in the “elevation” of communities of color, and a metric for how likely a person of color is to escape the hell of precarious service labor in a nation that measures economic recovery in Dunkin’ Donuts jobs.

This double-standard is fascinating. It’s as if Mike Brown’s murder was more tragic because he was robbed of the rare opportunity of escape, even though that escape was college, a farce under any other circumstance. “But he was about to escape!” We are not allowed even the apparition of escape.

*****

I was one of those kids who got good test scores but never did my homework. In secondary school, I tested into the advanced classes, but then got Ds. I can’t remember a single instance of handing in a piece of homework. It’s not that I hated school per se, I just didn’t see the point. I grew up in rural Middle America as a working class black kid in a mostly white town – we’re talking 95% white. I had a very dim view of what I could do with my life.

Eleven Augusts ago, I was sixteen and I spent all of my money on a one-way bus ticket to an international anarchist gathering in Iowa farmland. Stepping out of my little world, leaving behind the abjection of white conservative modesty and “well-meaning” racialized social constructions. What I experienced there changed my life forever. I returned home with plans to drop out of high school and drop out of whatever I was fated to become.

By the next January, I had left high school. I had left my hometown to publish radical literature (on newspaper in those days) in a larger adjacent city. I taught myself to design, to prepare files for offset printing, to distribute literature on the internet. I organized a nationwide tour of small nowhere towns like mine, to search for other kids like myself. The following summer, I was a seventeen-year-old anarchist criminal, eating from the garbage, fleeing the police, going on adventures with people I had just met. Meeting people all across the country who, like me, had decided to drop out in one form or another.

I spent the next ten years designing radical literature and producing websites to the same ends. Building community spaces, breaking little laws, orchestrating tensions. I was living from odd-job to odd-job, not really thinking about my career or education as contiguous or even existent. Yet, the whole experience left me with what I now realize is the most valuable piece of knowledge in life: You can teach yourself how to do anything that can be done.

That was the ethic of the DIY culture of the late 90s and early 2000s. It was a culture of thousands of kids – we organized show spaces, produced our own books and newspapers, maintained deep networks from city to city such that any wide-eyed young person could enter into it and travel from place to place, and find a couch, or guest bed, or boat to sleep on. These were the days before AirBnB, before “Do I know anyone in Boston?” Facebook posts. It was a dropout culture that has since scattered: disintegrated into young urban professionalism, entered into the seclusion of high political critique, or settled into lumpen criminality.

I count myself among the disintegrated. The skills I built during that era of my life happen to correspond with real jobs, real career opportunities. I’m a designer and developer, but more so I’m self-taught with a decade of experience, which these days is ironically much more valuable than a design or computer science degree. I can find work that interests and challenges me, and I can get paid. I have friends with master’s degrees who serve drinks, and when I think back on how much skepticism I got from loved ones for dropping out of high school and living the life that I did, it’s honestly bizarre.

*****

If I learned anything between chugging gallons of dumpster-dived carrot juice and stealing electricity from lamp-poles, it’s that dropping out prepares you to survive coming economic crises in ways you can’t even anticipate. Sure, I thought I was preparing for an imminent ecological collapse and can therefore make my own rope, compost, and weapons – but it also taught me how to build websites and distribute information quickly. That latter thing has proven to be more useful to me than guerrilla gardening was, and points to a more insidious reality about the “margins”. Namely, that being marginalized taught me more skills for surviving in the new economy than the education system could.

When the flames were finally extinguished at the QT convenience store in Ferguson a year ago, participants in the riots, neighbors, criminals, the criminalized, looters, church moms ... all came together in its wreckage to play music and celebrate the first true victory against police occupation of the era. The fantasy of every anarchist dropout for the last decade happened there on the streets of West Florissant.

I no longer agree that one can ever really “drop out” of society, nor that dedicating oneself to trying to is without its problematics. But I do know that attending that shady anarchist gathering when I was 16 saved my life, and dropping out of high school opened my world to a new possibility of life in opposition to authoritarian power. DIY anarchist punk can’t do that today, but something can. And should.

This is the Dropout Issue, where we tap our pencils, anxious for the bell to ring. We’ll take a close look at different dropout movements, personal accounts of student rebellions large and small. We’ll throw a side-eyed glance at economic assimilation, but glare equally suspiciously at those who think a new world is possible. Our elders will suggest that we “keep our doors open” and we will completely ignore that advice. Thanks for your patience with this late issue, the dog ate our homework."
tylerreinhard  youth  dropouts  education  race  us  society  anarchism  anarchy  economics  diy  ethics  work  labor  careers  unschooling  deschooling  culture  resilience  survival  margins  marginalization  disaffection  ferguson  highered  highereducation  poverty  class 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Why Girls Get Better Grades Than Boys Do - The Atlantic
[My tweet: https://twitter.com/rogre/status/512741051941924864 "“Why Girls Get Better Grades Than Boys Do” http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/09/why-girls-get-better-grades-than-boys-do/380318/ … Missing: Conscientiousness or deference? Innate or conditioned?"]

"This self-discipline edge for girls carries into middle-school and beyond. In a 2006 landmark study, Martin Seligman and Angela Lee Duckworth found that middle-school girls edge out boys in overall self-discipline. This contributes greatly to their better grades across all subjects. They found that girls are more adept at “reading test instructions before proceeding to the questions,” “paying attention to a teacher rather than daydreaming,” “choosing homework over TV,” and “persisting on long-term assignments despite boredom and frustration.” These top cognitive scientists from the University of Pennsylvania also found that girls are apt to start their homework earlier in the day than boys and spend almost double the amount of time completing it. Girls’ grade point averages across all subjects were higher than those of boys, even in basic and advanced math—which, again, are seen as traditional strongholds of boys.

What Drs. Seligman and Duckworth label “self-discipline,” other researchers name “conscientiousness.” Or, a predisposition to plan ahead, set goals, and persist in the face of frustrations and setbacks. Conscientiousness is uniformly considered by social scientists to be an inborn personality trait that is not evenly distributed across all humans. In fact, a host of cross-cultural studies show that females tend to be more conscientious than males. One such study by Lindsay Reddington out of Columbia University even found that female college students are far more likely than males to jot down detailed notes in class, transcribe what professors say more accurately, and remember lecture content better. Arguably, boys’ less developed conscientiousness leaves them at a disadvantage in school settings where grades heavily weight good organizational skills alongside demonstrations of acquired knowledge.

These days, the whole school experience seems to play right into most girls’ strengths—and most boys’ weaknesses. Gone are the days when you could blow off a series of homework assignments throughout the semester but pull through with a respectable grade by cramming for and acing that all-important mid-term exam. Getting good grades today is far more about keeping up with and producing quality homework—not to mention handing it in on time.

Gwen Kenney-Benson, a psychology professor at Allegheny College, a liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania, says that girls succeed over boys in school because they tend to be more mastery-oriented in their schoolwork habits. They are more apt to plan ahead, set academic goals, and put effort into achieving those goals. They also are more likely than boys to feel intrinsically satisfied with the whole enterprise of organizing their work, and more invested in impressing themselves and their teachers with their efforts.

On the whole, boys approach schoolwork differently. They are more performance-oriented. Studying for and taking tests taps into their competitive instincts. For many boys, tests are quests that get their hearts pounding. Doing well on them is a public demonstration of excellence and an occasion for a high-five. In contrast, Kenney-Benson and some fellow academics provide evidence that the stress many girls experience in test situations can artificially lower their performance, giving a false reading of their true abilities. These researchers arrive at the following overarching conclusion: “The testing situation may underestimate girls’ abilities, but the classroom may underestimate boys’ abilities.”

It is easy to for boys to feel alienated in an environment where homework and organization skills account for so much of their grades. But the educational tide may be turning in small ways that give boys more of a fighting chance. An example of this is what occurred several years ago at Ellis Middle School, in Austin, Minnesota. Teachers realized that a sizable chunk of kids who aced tests trundled along each year getting C’s, D’s, and F’s. At the same time, about 10 percent of the students who consistently obtained A’s and B’s did poorly on important tests. Grading policies were revamped and school officials smartly decided to furnish kids with two separate grades each semester. One grade was given for good work habits and citizenship, which they called a “life skills grade.” A “knowledge grade” was given based on average scores across important tests. Tests could be retaken at any point in the semester, provided a student was up to date on homework.

Staff at Ellis Middle School also stopped factoring homework into a kid’s grade. Homework was framed as practice for tests. Incomplete or tardy assignments were noted but didn’t lower a kid’s knowledge grade. The whole enterprise of severely downgrading kids for such transgressions as occasionally being late to class, blurting out answers, doodling instead of taking notes, having a messy backpack, poking the kid in front, or forgetting to have parents sign a permission slip for a class trip, was revamped.

This last point was of particular interest to me. On countless occasions, I have attended school meetings for boy clients of mine who are in an ADHD red-zone. I have learned to request a grade print-out in advance. Not uncommonly, there is a checkered history of radically different grades: A, A, A, B, B, F, F, A. When F grades and a resultant zero points are given for late or missing assignments, a student’s C grade does not reflect his academic performance. Since boys tend to be less conscientious than girls—more apt to space out and leave a completed assignment at home, more likely to fail to turn the page and complete the questions on the back—a distinct fairness issue comes into play when a boy’s occasional lapse results in a low grade. Sadly though, it appears that the overwhelming trend among teachers is to assign zero points for late work. In one survey by Conni Campbell, associate dean of the School of Education at Point Loma Nazarene University, 84 percent of teachers did just that.

Disaffected boys may also benefit from a boot camp on test-taking, time-management, and study habits. These core skills are not always picked up by osmosis in the classroom, or from diligent parents at home. Of course, addressing the learning gap between boys and girls will require parents, teachers and school administrators to talk more openly about the ways each gender approaches classroom learning—and that difference itself remains a tender topic."
gender  schools  boys  girls  education  homework  compliance  conscienciousness  angeladuckworth  2014  martinseligman  deference  authority  self-discipline  adhd  grades  grading  gwenkenney-benson  conditioning  goalsetting  persistence  lindsayreddington  connicampbell  disaffection  testtaking  timemanagement  studyhabits  learninggap  attention  distraction  academics  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  gendernorms  society  enricognaulati  assessment  standardization 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Millennials’ politics are shaped by our dysfunctional system | Al Jazeera America
"In a 2011 poll centered around Occupy Wall Street, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that adults under 30 had a much more negative view of capitalism than other demographics. Under-30s had an overall negative impression of capitalism (46–47), matching liberal democrats and self-identified supporters of OWS. Even the Reason poll found 43 percent of respondents favoring socialism to capitalism. This would be less remarkable if the U.S. had a socialist party or an anti-capitalist culture, but it doesn’t. The closest experience of such things millennials have enjoyed is an unfunded hodgepodge sequence of park occupations. Capitalist ideology has close to zero competition in American politics, but it can just barely muster a majority among young people in a poll run by the free-market fan club.

It’s no surprise that millennials aren’t content with the way things are going. The rest of America feels the same way. Earlier this month, the Huffington Post announced the results of another public opinion survey with my favorite headline of the year: "American Dissatisfaction With Everything Is Reaching Historic Levels." The poll found nearly three-quarters of respondents “unsatisfied,” mostly related to a lackluster economy and an unresponsive political system. Things are so bad that the very legitimacy of American democracy is in dispute: 73 percent believe the government operates without the consent of the people and two-thirds believe they have no say. With 95 percent of the income gains since the recession ended accruing to the top 1 percent of earners, it isn’t cynicism for most people to feel unrepresented by our political and economic system, it’s common sense.

If you consider the circumstances of their political development, millennials would have to be a generation of credulous fools to trust the government at all. From 9/11 on, they saw firsthand the devastation wrought by the Bush administration’s dishonesty. The biggest protests the world has ever seen couldn’t stop an ill-advised war on Iraq, and half-assed regulation-by-crony set the economy up for a heavy fall. The Obama ’08 campaign squeezed out enough hope to win, but nearly six years later the promised change hasn’t followed. After repeatedly insisting that the National Security Agency wasn’t spying on everyone, the government has been forced — by another untrusting millennial, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — to concede that the NSA actually has been spying on everyone. Politicians who “evolve” (i.e., flip) on gay marriage have pushed the issue forward, but they also look morally unmoored, as if they can’t figure out how to treat people decently without a pollster’s help.

Every day there’s another story about government corruption or inefficiency. Whether it’s fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bragging about the U.S. military trucks they’ve seized in Iraq, or revelations about profiteering off government contracts or the shocking story that our own contractors spend at least some of their time threatening to murder State Department investigators, news about what happens with government resources is usually bad news. No wonder the Reason study finds that a plurality of millennials don’t trust either party on most of the major issues and two-thirds think the government is wasteful and inefficient. But even though millennials are wary of the bureaucracy, a strong majority of young Americans still believe in government entitlements: 54 percent believe the state should guarantee a college education, rising to 69 percent for health insurance, and a whopping 74 percent believe everyone deserves enough to eat and a place to sleep.

From food trucks to marijuana, the Reason report shows millennials are in favor of people doing their thing without state interference, but these are not the future capitalists the surveying foundations were hoping for. American millennials can’t possibly trust the government, but we still believe in a social safety net that takes care of everyone. This combination of libertarian and socialist values unnerves the major parties and unimaginative commentators, but it’s a logical response to the last 15 years. We’ve seen what happens when people don’t have anything to fall back on but the market, as well as what happens when the government feels entitled to know everything about everyone, and we don’t want either.

Caught between the market and the state, millennials might look “totally incoherent” when you ask them to pick one. But life isn’t a poll, and civic participation isn’t a multiple-choice test. These libertarian socialists don’t make sense to party partisans or the elderly, but there are more of them every day. If they reject the choice between door No. 1 and door No. 2, they’ll need to create some more options."
millenials  socialism  capitalism  us  polls  malcolmharris  2014  politics  policy  future  disaffection  libertarianism  government 
august 2014 by robertogreco
▶ Ideas at the House: Tavi Gevinson - Tavi's Big Big World (At 17) - YouTube
"She's been called the voice of her generation. The future of journalism. A style icon. A muse. Oh, and she's still in high school.

Tavi Gevinson has gone from bedroom blogger to founder and editor-in-chief of website and print series, Rookie, in just a few years. Rookie attracted over one million views within a week of launching, and has featured contributors such as Lena Dunham, Thom Yorke, Joss Whedon, Malcolm Gladwell, and Sarah Silverman.

Watch this inspiring talk as Tavi discusses adversity, the creative process, her outlook on life, what inspires her, and the value of being a 'fangirl.'"
tavigevinson  2013  teens  adolescence  rookie  writing  creativity  life  living  depression  frannyandzooey  books  reading  howwework  patternrecognition  procrastination  howwelive  teenagers  gender  feminism  authenticity  writer'sblock  making  fangirls  fanboys  wonder  relationships  art  originality  internet  web  fangirling  identity  happiness  fanart  theideaofthethingisbetterthanthethingitself  culture  fanfiction  davidattenborough  passion  success  fame  love  fans  disaffection  museumofjurassictechnology  collections  words  shimmer  confusion  davidwilson  davidhildebrandwilson  fanaticism  connection  noticing  angst  adolescents  feelings  emotions  chriskraus  jdsalinger  literature  meaning  meaningmaking  sensemaking  jean-paulsartre  sincerity  earnestness  howtolove  thevirginsuicides  purity  loving  innocence  naïvité  journaling  journals  notetaking  sketching  notebooks  sketchbooks  virginiawoolf  openness  beauty  observation  observing  interestedness  daydreaming  self  uniqueness  belatedness  inspiration  imagination  obsessions  fandom  lawrenceweschler  so 
december 2013 by robertogreco

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