Mister Rogers


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Mister Rogers

Imagine,
a man who does not have to protect his cool —
that is power!
He could look a child straight in the eye
and speak slowly, gently,
with utter respect,
acknowledging the God within,
the intelligence before him.
He stood tall —
without apology, without embarrassment, without fear —
for compassion,
indiscriminate compassion.
What man alive dares be so reckless?

The second coming —
all look for a Jesus to come back and save them,
something more than just the three days of Easter,
and yet, that second coming is here now,
every time a person becomes infused with the spirit of Jesus —
awakens, becomes a bodhisattva —
and walks among us
manifesting the eternally animating principles
that walked in the footsteps of Buddha,
that walked in the footsteps of Jesus,
that walked in the footsteps of Dorothy Day,
that walked in the footsteps of countless others –
known and unknown –
that walked in the footsteps of Mister Rogers,
that could walk in your footsteps,
and mine,
but for a dose of courage,
a courage that seems to come easily
once belief permeates into experience.
Love and compassion and power and peace
must be breathed into life.
“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.”

2 March 2003

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In 1969, President Nixon wanted to cut Public Television funding in half.
Fred Rogers had 6 minutes to try to convince the Senate otherwise.

May 1, 1969: Fred Rogers testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications
https://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA

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Fred Rogers (20 March 1928 – 27 February 2003)

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Why Won’t White Parents Integrate Public Schools?

“We need white parents to want integration for the sake of integration, to really value it as an end in itself.” (citylab-dot-com, 29 January 2018). My answer to Rodney Pierce:

Americans accept a class system for schools, so quality correlates to location in higher property tax neighborhoods and school districts (unlike in France or Finland where schools are nationally funded and staffed so all neighborhood schools are of equal quality). And Americans are competitive and all want their particular children to attend the “best” schools* — (so they can then graduate to become Ivy League trained bankers and real estate moguls like Donald Trump – really rich successes, yea!)… *the best schools parents can get their kids into, which is why a child’s “address” can sometimes be that of a grandparent or other relative even if the child doesn’t actually live there.

The question being asked in this post is: why don’t people who are better off (richer, with more opportunities and higher level networks) make a personal sacrifice regarding their children’s potential future by having them attend “lesser” public schools so as to raise the quality of the student body in those needy schools? I think the answer is obvious.

What we learned from first hand experience (with a non-black child who went to a largely black student-body urban school) is that the single best hope for student success regardless of economic class or ethnicity or race – but most importantly if poor, of the lower economic classes, and often from the black community – is that giving a child a reliable, kind and parents-living-together long-term stable home-life is the key to student success.

While it is true many schools are flakey, bureaucratically dysfunctional, with semi-literate and even incompetent teachers, and idiotic curricula, and a mediocre (and worse) student body (and worst of the worst: demanding, stupid and spoiled brat parents) – it is clear that everyone prefers to blame the schools out of shame to admit the actual problem: an epidemic of dysfunctional family life caused by low-moral-character selfishness by many (millions?) of individuals who abandon their responsibility to care for the children they produce, which can only be done by living thoughtful and upstanding lives in the long term. There is no such thing as a “vacation” from good parenting.

Out of embarrassment about this unspeakable national truth, we all quietly agree to blame the schools for not “post-processing” our children “correctly.” After all, how could it be me/us? If you wait for “society” to finally become compassionate and “accept” your “need” and share your burdens (as Jesus told the rich man to sell his goods and give to the poor), then you will wait till the universe ends, before the schools in America will universally improve. If you can’t wait that long for your children to have a decent chance of getting and succeeding through some reasonably good schooling (or any schooling), then the quickest and surest remedy is to give them a safe, stable and loving home-life. It all depends on how much you really care for the children you’ve brought into this world.

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Rodney Pierce: Point taken. However, I don’t think you completely take the blame off of schools. Yes, home stability and parental involvement are the single best determinants of success, but to dismiss the factor of schools, I don’t think that’s good. It’s like we’re letting them off the hook. I say this as a public school teacher in a largely, rural poor county in northeastern North Carolina. I see the effect of dysfunctional homes on a daily basis, but that doesn’t excuse our role in trying to provide an education of substance for our students. If anything, I think it puts more of a burden on us, as we become in loco parentis according to the law or de facto parents while they’re with us.

Manuel García Jr.: I don’t take the blame entirely off schools, I assign them second place. All the ills about schools, which I mentioned, we experienced first hand. The combination of stupid national and state mandates and required idiotic curricula, and beyond-stupid pacing, all fall squarely on the national, state and local schooling managers (and funding bodies of lawmakers). The idiocies and inadequacies inside the schools fall on the administrators and teachers – this criticism being partially mitigated by the poor funding of schools, and so the low pay does not universally attract the best teaching and administrative talent: Americans prefer to pay football payers millions than to pay real wages – at a Masters and PhD level – for the teachers in public (no tuition) schools. In many countries with rational education policies, schools are treated and administered as a NATIONAL system – this makes all the schools “equal” and their personnel “equally good.”

Finally, despite the disinterest Americans and their corporate rulers have about good primary and secondary education – nationally – there are still an amazing number of teachers who fight these disincentives and who go above and beyond the call of duty to help their students overcome all their life challenges (many of which are unfair challenges for children).

But, it doesn’t have to be this way: first and foremost the parents have to get their shit together and provide a stable home for growing kids into adults (most wildlife – like birds with their nests – do a better job of this than most American parents!). Why don’t they (parents) do this?: because they have never grown up themselves and insist on acting like spoiled brat crybabies, for decades beyond when that should be tolerated.

Second reason why it doesn’t have to be this way (i.e., having “bad” schools): because Americans tolerate a capitalism that finds it profitable to debase American educational systems, and finds it an unnecessary “overhead expense” to invest what is needed to bring up succeeding generations – ALL the kids – to a robust intellectual maturity.

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Marisa Garcia Aoki: While these factors all exist, the biggest problem in the way of solving them is that we (society in the US in general) don’t value any of these things (we say we do, but our actions don’t support the words). I think it’s safe to say most people agree that both a good home-life and good schooling have big impacts on a student’s opportunities for future success, but no one is willing to fund that. In the US, there is plenty of research and parental pressure to “be a good parent” but is there ANYthing in our system that teaches or funds this? We just expect people who live in poverty to magically become good parents when they probably grew up with a difficult home-life as an example. How the heck is a 15 year old kid with Dad in prison and Mom working 3 jobs going to be an ideal parent? And we know that some of the WORST offenses against children come from the foster care system, which is supposed to be a social net to support the kids with difficult home-life situations. It is the same in schools. Research comes out showing something is good. So it becomes a mandate, which by the way has no additional funding, includes no training for school personnel, and has no clear guidelines for creating a path to successful implementation (just a maniacal end goal that we must all reach or fear for our livelihoods).

Basically, the method the United States uses is similar to someone who is overweight and unhealthy, knows they are overweight and unhealthy, wishes it were different, tells himself it needs to change, even mentally blames himself and beats himself up, but doesn’t change any of the circumstances in his life; then is shunned by others for being a failure.

You want to see a change in behavior? Motivation is part of it, but without:

1) a clear plan outlining a step-by-step pathway toward what success looks like

2) a social network of support (see Japan’s way of using lesson study for teachers to collaborate and learn from each other). This also includes the room to fail without fearing for your livelihood – instead there should be a system of supporting that person to do better in the future (embedded into the social support mechanism). Think about it – a gym would never survive if it found out a member went on a binge and ate 2 pizzas by themselves, and then kicked them out…

3) funding and time to make this happen. As a teacher, I do care about doing my best. I actively work towards learning new things to make myself better at my job. But I have to pay for all of that myself, and NONE of it is getting counted on my pay scale. I would LOVE to get a masters degree. But I can’t afford it – not the money or the time – because I work ALL. THE. TIME. And I still get paid less than starting wages of the jobs I could get if I instead went into the field I am teaching!

So the problem isn’t discovering the problem. The problem is that we aren’t willing, as an entire group of concerned citizens of this country, to put into place the systems that make the necessary changes a possibility. Instead, we want individuality and capitalism to rule. So we keep blaming and complaining and the few rich jerks who believe that they deserve their billions of dollars because they are better/smarter than everyone else get to call the shots. (Because let’s be honest, what we call democracy is just a puppet show run by a machine of money). And why would they want anything to be different?

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Message #1 to a Young Artist

I want to commend you (give you praise) for your resolve to study deeply, even if that means taking “hard classes” with “lots of work.” Any creative person who produces worthwhile work is a person who has studied deeply, whether formally at a school or independently and intuitively by conscientious practice (or both). Good and great work comes out of a prior build-up of deep study. On a simple and practical level it is best to get as much “learning” as you can out of a school you are paying to attend. But beyond that, it is artistically and intellectually most beneficial to gain as much information, insight and understanding as possible about your chosen craft, and about the history of the culture you come from and the society you are living in, so your knowledge has depth, which will be the well from which you will draw the elements of your future creative works. When you remain committed to this “career” of study, and focussed on your personal artistic (and intellectual) vision, you will be able to move through your schooling (and life) with greater ease even as friends and acquaintances drop in and drop out of your social circle: you will be able to navigate beyond others’ dramas with less distraction and damage to yourself, and you will find that there will always be new and delightful people who can come into your life without being clingy drags. Over time, the experiences (both good and bad) you gain from your self-motivated course of study and practice build up as a growing fund of wisdom, which improves your ability to continue navigating your voyage through life, and improves your ability to create finer art. I am writing you this because I do not want you to get discouraged by the loss of friends, and the fleeting nature of many seemingly close friendships. There is no blame, just the unknowable chaos of the flow of life. Be happy in being immersed in your learning and in doing well in your creating. Love.

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For Message #0 to a Young Artist, see:

Art versus Stomach
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2018/01/29/art-versus-stomach/

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Poverty Draft

B-25 (WWII medium bomber) in 1987.

I don’t think that poor young men and women should have to risk their lives to increase the fortunes of rich old men and women. The G.I. Bill of a bygone era was a just and kind gesture of gratitude by the USAmerican nation to its surviving veteran warriors. Today, that gesture has been prostituted into an unjust and dishonest baiting of the hopes-for-their-futures of our youth, to drag them down into a militarized indentured servitude – a term of slavery – with the possibility of gaining funding for a modest education if they survive to request it. A better nation would fund the education of all its youth lavishly, and fund its war industries and their speculators poorly if at all. Today, it isn’t that educational and medical costs are “high,” it is that moral standards are low.

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Tony Judt was on it (the failure of neo-liberal “globalization”) in 1997.
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/1997-09-01/social-question-redivivus

Today’s belated admission of what has been obvious for 38 years (at least):
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/14/globalisation-the-rise-and-fall-of-an-idea-that-swept-the-world

MG,Jr. was on it (the failure of neo-liberal “globalization”) in 2003:
http://swans.com/library/art19/mgarci66.html

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Memorial Day 2017, Unfiltered.

John Kennedy’s grave, April 1964

Thank God!, Betsy DeVos (US Secretary of Education, and fanatical crusader for school privatization) realizes that what American parents really want is what the State of Israel has now: the US government-subsidized apartheid of their choice.

The American people do not have the right to healthcare, or job security, or food, or childcare, or a good education, or housing security, or clean water, or truth-in-advertising, or climate security, or internet access, or public transportation, or respect from police, or fiscal equality before the law, or protection from corporate monopolies, or privacy, or equality of treatment based on gender, or the freedom to choose which toilet room to pee and poop in. But, the American people do have the right to their bigotries, and the right – proportional to their wealth – to have them subsidized by the US government. This is what we mean by “freedom” in America: the freedom to exercise the bigotry of your choice without government interference!

Kissinger is still unindicted, Bush is still unindicted, Colin Powell (the officer in charge of keeping the My Lai massacre under wraps) is still unindicted, Elliot Abrams is still unindicted (again), Oliver North is still unindicted, Bush is still unindicted, Cheney is still unindicted, Condoleezza Rice is still unindicted, and many more. America certainly must hold the record for hosting the largest number of unindicted war criminals, in lives of comfort and even luxury.

“War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” (Smedley Butler 1881-1940)

America lost the Vietnam War, but its war criminals got away with it.

An Iraq War veteran, on being thanked for his service: “I didn’t serve, I was used.”

So many graves with American flags flying over them are, sadly, burials of used soldiers, and also of this nation’s morality.

PBS will air a Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War this fall. I’m sure it will be infotaining. To what extent it will expand the public mind, and elevate the American public’s moral character, is hard to say. The PBS promo trailer prompted these thoughts:

“Those who have forgotten the past are condemned to repeat it.” As are those who only remember their illusions, preferences and prejudices about past and present reality. There is a great deal the American people (and their “leaders”) could learn about themselves and their (not very equitably shared) country, by absorbing the many painful lessons of the Vietnam War. However, that has not happened, and I doubt it can happen for quite some time (ever?). Having lived through the period, I look at America today and I think: hopeless. If ignorance is bliss then America is paradise.

My own shrine to the victims and the truly noble of that war is here:
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/02/22/haunted-by-the-vietnam-war/

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Do-It-Yourself Alternative High School

High School in the United States is about training for conformity, and molding for obedience. High School gets in the way of becoming educated, in the same way that organized religion gets in the way of realizing spirituality (“knowing God”). The following is a list of 20 books I would gave to a student for a do-it-yourself education (an intellectual expansion) of a type American High Schools cannot deliver. I offer this list to you, and to American teens today, because I think that as a set they represent an entry to the endless path of awakening to the great wide world (reality), and to the art of self-teaching. Anyone who would read all these books, and work out the problems in them (if such), would merit the Alternative High School Diploma, which comes in the form of the personal satisfaction in having enjoyed learning many interesting things, and in how to think better.

How To Solve It
(G. Polya)

Desert Solitaire
(Edward Abbey)

Cat’s Cradle
(Kurt Vonnegut)

The Divine Proportion
(H. E. Huntley)

The Periodic Table
(Primo Levi)

The Ancestor’s Tale
(Richard Dawkins)

Gods, Graves and Scholars
(C. W. Ceram)

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court
(Mark Twain)

The Oedipus Trilogy
(Sophocles)

Slaughterhouse Five
(Kurt Vonnegut)

David Copperfield
(Charles Dickens)

Four Plays by Oscar Wilde:
– The Importance of Being Earnest
– An Ideal Husband
– Lady Windermere’s Fan
– A Woman of No Importance
– and if you want a 5th one: Salomé

Stranger In A Strange Land
(Robert Heinlein)

The Lathe of Heaven
(Ursula K. Le Guin)

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(George Orwell)

Animal Farm
(George Orwell)

Brave New World
(Aldous Huxley)

On The Road
(Jack Kerouac)

Eichmann In Jerusalem
(Hannah Arendt)

Cadillac Desert
(Marc Reisner)

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