Now that the school year underway for many, and about to begin for everyone else, we wanted to republish a post about what makes the kind of teacher that changes lives. This post was originally published September 28, 2005.

Everyone knows we are big fans of Mamacita. We have written about her, and she has, on more than one occasion, written a guest post on this blog. See this, this and this, as an examples of what teachers know but won’t necessarily share.

Irrespective of degrees, CEU’s, awards and prizes, a teacher’s only real credentials are her former students.

The following appeared on another blog. It was written by one of Mamacita’s former students- one of the many that taken together, make up her Doctorate in Education.

I was asked to respond to a point in a discussion somewhere about Gifted and Talented programs in schools. This got me to thinking about teachers I have known, and I felt my response was worthy of being posted here as well. And yes, the teacher referenced has her own blog – I’m proud to link to it.

Anyhoo, enjoy.

In an ideal world, all children would have access to a quality education and given the opportunity to achieve their full potential. Of course, we do not live in an ideal world. Therefore, those of us who have taken the mantle of teacher – for my money, the single most important mantle in the world – have to find ways to get kids to that point in some hideous circumstances.

I count myself fortunate beyond compare that Jane was my teacher, because she believed in me when it looked like no one else really cared. Here’s my story.

In fourth grade, they took three of us from my elementary school and pulled us out for G/T class 2 or 3 times a week. If memory serves (and years of college will dull the memory of elementary school somewhat), we took a class on basic computer use. (In rural Indiana in the early-to-mid 1980s, a computer was a wonder.) This class wasn’t much, but it was something. It sent me a message – that the school district, while still believing strongly in educating every kid, felt that certain kids showed the promise of greatness to justify extra opportunities. I grew up on a hog farm; my family was not (and to this day is not) wealthy (indeed, for most of the 80s, we were no more than one missed payment from foreclosure – I still don’t know how we made it). I was not rich, connected, or related to a member of the school board. Yet, because I showed aptitude, I was given a great opportunity.

The next year, there was no G/T. One of the three junior high schools wanted a new gym floor, so they cut the G/T program to pay for it.

For three years, I was rarely challenged. I kept up my grades – what choice did I have? – but I learned to loathe the small minds and xenophobics that populated my school district.

Then I had Jane for 8th grade English. She encouraged me and believed in me when, as I said above, my entire community was sending me the message that good enough was good enough. She exposed me to culture unavailable to the average son of a hog farmer. She took me up to the nearest College town and let me explore the bookstores up there.

Because of her, I believed in myself again. Because of her, I went on to college (it was not a given – my two brothers are quite intelligent, but they have no degrees) and then to grad school. Because of her, I knew what a good teacher is. Every time I step into a classroom, Jane is there.

And it’s all because she believed in the spirit of what a G/T program should be. All of her students get a good education – but she finds those with potential and sends them to places they couldn’t have imagined otherwise.

And you can quote me on that.


The Anchoress notes

Can you imagine, if someone had (God forbid!) driven a car into 14 gay people, how quickly the press would have managed to cover the story? Can you imagine that Mayor Newsom would call it “road rage” and suggest that there really probably wasn’t a “hate crime” attached to the action?

Commenting on the same Anchoress post, Maxed Out Mama connects a few dots  with a post by Eteraz. She says,

I think there is a war here, but it is not a war between religions, but as Ali says, between Violence and Reason. Violence has a theology, but so does Reason [emp-SC&A]. And coming back to the Anchoress’ point, I think that failure to confront and examine the “war within the Law of God” will leave people in the US with the impression that this is a different war, and that all Muslims are prone to go off like popguns in Jewish neighborhoods. I think it’s time to come to grips with what Violence is truly saying in order to let Reason prevail.

I want to reiterate this: for every act of violence in the west, there are ten in the Muslim world. The ideology of Violence must be defeated, because it will never surrender – but that need not mean that Muslims must be outcast, or that being Muslim is at all incompatible within being humane and just. What we should do is speak and live reason, even if we have to carry a gun to do this. I must, in the end, have a radical addiction to freedom, because I would rather live in an armed society than in one which carried out pograms against innocent Muslims.

Now, keep that in mind as you consider these ideas, also presented by The Anchoress. In Fascist- Word Only Noteworthy When Used By GOP, she notes that there are other imbalances, closer to home, and that there appears to be a concerted effort to keep Reason from the conscience of the American public.

When the president or conservatives use the word “fascist” and “fascism” to describe a means of movement and an ideology, well…that’s all a “tactic.” It’s been focus-grouped. It’s just a cynical ploy to which no one need pay attention. They’re just floundering around with that word, they don’t really know what it means, after all. Of course they don’t. They’re too stoopit.

But when the left uses the same words, it’s not cynical, it’s not a political tactic – it’s apparently something real and noble.

Interesting, too… G.H.W. Bush calling Saddam “Hitler,” and the ensuing controversy which arose from that…but never mentions that G.W. Bush is routinely called “fascist” and “Hitler” to…to…to the sounds of crickets chirping and a hollow wind blowing all around. No controversy, there!

It’s amazing what is “remarkable” to some people. It is even more amazing to me that when the administration finally gets around to using the right word, some in the press immediately work to dull the effect.

This in fact, is more than partisan politics. This is an attempt to assign credibity- or take it way, by a media with a clear agenda -and a part of that agenda is to preclude Reason, as MOM notes, from prevailing.  As she so perfectly notes, “Violence has a theology, but so does Reason.” Some agendas don’t want you to think about that.

How does that agenda manifest itself? See Donkey See, Monkey Do, a more than disturbing editorial on the ideas that are embraced by the rank and file Demorat supporters.

Plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme. 

Flea Market Democracy

August 30, 2006

What happens when democracy is imposed?

What happens when various political ideologies all compete openly in a democratic environment? Some have stated intentions that would upend democracy entirely, replacing that form of government with a far more repressive regime, while others would maintain a facade of democracy by controlling those institutions  that are the foundation of democracy, all the while retaining an iron grip.

These questions aren’t academic. These are questions that impact us- and our collective security, every day.

Of course, we are talking about Pakistan.

Ali Eteraz, in Free, Free Pakistan, treads where many fear to go. He discusses and examines our relationship with Pakistan and President Musharaff and more importantly, our relationship with that country over time, as the pendulum in that country swung back and forth, from a kind of Islamism to a kind of democracy. The various 20th century Pakistani governments could never quite commit to either, fully- and as a result, there were excesses of mythological proportion, in attempting to define those regimes.

On the surface, it is easy to excoriate the US and other western regimes for supporting Pakistan. There are, by western standards, clear human rights abuses as well as less than savory institutions that serve the regime and not democratic principles.

While it is easy to criticize the Pakistanis, it bears remembering that our support is pragmatic and self serving- as diplomatic relations are meant to be. For example, there are plenty of regimes that abhor the principles on which  US and other western democracies are predicated- and they all maintain relations with western democracies. Cuba, Vietnam, and Venezuela are a few current examples of regimes that espouse ideas that are anti democratic and at the same time, maintain relations with democratic regimes.

It is also clear that we support and deal with some less than savory regimes because there are no viable alternatives. The Saudis, Syrians, Venezuelans and much of the Arab world are examples of that. While there are those that decry our relations with those dysfunctional regimes, there isn’t much groundswell for cutting all ties with those regimes.

Further, we have to examine our own ideals. In the case of Pakistan, do we insist that all democracies look like our own? Would we be willing to sacrifice our democracy without a fight, or would we defend it- and maybe break a few rules along the way?

Eteraz grapples with these issues and makes more than a few observations along the way. He candidly notes that

…a dictatorship that must pander to Western democracies is fundamentally caught in an Orwellian double-think — of holding as faith two mutually contradictory beliefs. It repeats over and over that 2+ 2 is 5 with the hope that others will start to believe the answer of the equation is 5 as well. Western politics are fundamentally at odds with dictatorship and both sides know this The result of this double-think is even more Orwellian because the only logical step the dictator can take is to polish and sharpen his propaganda and hide and muffle his mistakes. In other words, he ends up creating a subterranean untouched space which is hidden from the world — the world of torture and house arrests and strongly worded ’suggestions.’

…even the dictator ceases to be aware of the existence of this abyss. And with clarity in his eyes and true patriotic fervor in his voice he speaks about free speech and free market and free expression and free religion, all the while extracting such freedom from his subjects without having to pat on his gun.

These are truths apply to other ‘elected’ governments and Eteraz goes on to highlight the clear dysfunctionality of those regimes. It is not an election that makes a government legitimate, but rather, the independence of democratic institutions from undue influence that defines the quality- and depth of a democracy.

Pakistan, like every nation, cannot escape it’s past, no matter how much that nation wishes they could. On the other hand, nations cannot escape their own ‘deals with the devil,’ either.

In either case, history cannot really be rewritten.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 83 other followers