Statistics and crime map…
Jan 26 Published in Remembrance, Reflections by Purple
This is a continuation of my journal from my 2001-2002 school year. Please read the previous posts to give this entry context.
Wednesday, January 23, 2002
I was doing my “free education” shtick in front of the door and Lupe said to me, “Good thing it’s free. Nobody would pay for it.”
“You don’t think so? Lots of people do pay for education, you know.”
I could tell she was thinking about that even as she said, “Yeah, well not here.”
Rodolfo was out for a soccer game, so Raymond wanted to know if he could sit in Popo’s seat, by Chad. I let him. This set off a chain reaction, “Ms. Hansen, can I sit...?” I ended up letting everyone sit where he/she wanted. If you’re strict, small gestures can seem like big treats.
My burst of generosity was followed by the ruthless use of participation cards. I love this simple torture device. The students were assigned to be ready to discuss the questions at the end of the “I Have a Dream” selection. I called on students in the order of their cards. If they had a response to share with the class, they got a plus. No response, didn’t prepare,--they received a minus.
These cards force me to call on everyone, not to depend on the “good” students to carry the discussion. They hold all students accountable. They also depersonalize the process. No student feels picked on or favored. His/her card simply came up. This exercise makes the students sit up straight in their seats.
Afterward, we departed from the questions in the book to rank America’s progress toward King’s vision on a scale of one to ten. Every student had to give me a score. The average for the day was a seven.
The last question in the book was to consider John F. Kennedy’s statement, “All of us do not have equal talent, but all of us should have equal opportunity to develop our talents,” so I asked, “Do you think you have the same opportunity for an education as a white student in a richer neighborhood in a school district with more money?”
Adriana piped up with a confident, “No.”
Since Adriana is quiet, my radar zoomed over to her. “Why not?”
“They might have better books and materials.”
That’s the problem with having a thoughtful student go first. For purposes of discussion, it works better if someone starts with a more fallacious argument. For example, fourth period a girl started with a claim that the students in such a school would work harder. Since the claimant is a hardworking person, I asked, “Do you think the students in these schools all work harder than you?”
No, she didn’t think that.
A response like hers, however, sets the ball in motion.
A New Oxymoron—Active Pacifist or Passive Activist
I saw Alice Walker speak at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.
“The traffic will be terrible,” my husband said.
“You’ll never find a parking spot,” my husband said. “They have Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays, too.”
“I don’t know how you’ll find the person who’s holding your seat,” my husband said.
I told him I was tired of his negativity. I left the house at 6:20. The doors opened at 6:30. The program began at 7:00.
The traffic into town was light, but my route took me along the front of the Civic. At first I was kicking myself for taking that way. Traffic was, of course, jammed in front of the building. However, because I was there, I saw Leslie in line. She’s the person from my California Writing Project Writing Group who was going to hold a seat for me. She’d gone down to stand in line at five. I waved out my window to her and shouted, “I’ll see you inside.”
Parking looked impossible. Then I arrived at the lot where the Farmers’ Market had been. The last booth was being dismantled, so all the parking lot spaces for booths had just opened up. Technically, the spaces were reserved until 7:30, but I took a calculated risk. Should I receive a ticket, I was already imagining my eloquent and impassioned speech to the judge about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law.
I raced to find the end of the line. I followed people, three of four abreast, along the side of the auditorium. I turned to the back of the building. More people. Throngs of people. I walked one block. Two blocks. Three blocks. Hundred and hundreds of people were waiting. Thousands. The line wrapped back to the front of the building. And the doors were already closed. I was never getting in unless I used some chutzpah.
I was glad I was dressed nicely in my $140 gray wool slacks and my black cashmere turtleneck sweater. I walked to the front door and announced that I had a reserved seat.
“The California Writing Project.”
She waved me in.
No one in line shouted or threw stones. I looked like somebody. This is a maneuver I never would have tried in the days before I met my husband.
My timing turned out to be serendipitous. If I’d arrived downtown any later or by a different route, I might not have seen Leslie in line. It was good that she had the reassurance I was coming, because not more than five minutes after I was seated, the panel asked that the audience give up any saved seats so they might accommodate some of the waiting masses.
Alice Walker was great, of course. As good at reading as she is at writing. When I taught older students, I won board approval to use The Color Purple. Later I had to fight a challenge to keep using the book. I considered myself fairly knowledgeable about her, but I didn’t know she was such a pacifist.
She spoke against the war in Afghanistan. I’m against the war in the way that I’m against all war. I also particularly hate the way this war has conferred credibility and power to George Bush. However, what is one supposed to do with an enemy who has vowed to destroy you? There are times when pacifism does not seem like the right answer. The Jews, and others, during Hitler’s rise, for example. Too passive. Too long. Too late. I agree with Alice Walker that those are the two saddest words in our language: too late.