Short Notes: Shut Up Or Else!

Jose Vilson Short Notes 10 Comments

- My Year in Review, (Information Design Remix):

Jose’s Annual Report (Medium)

Click for the huge version of this image. I personally like how I condensed my year into a picture. I wish I could have put more into it, but it’ll be OK.

This was inspired by dy/dan, who asked his readers to participate in an information design contest, and I was more than willing to do just that. It was also inspired by A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario”.

– From an e-mail I sent out to some fellow bloggers:

“… we need to remember how, as helpful as technological advances have brought us the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate, it’s also been a means of deterring and tainting the votes (think Diebold and Co. in Florida and Ohio). If a person in our collective doesn’t believe any candidate truly represents their personal views, then they have every right to register to vote but not put in their ballot. If we see for instance that, despite how different everyone makes 2 candidates in a party, they’ve voted the same way about a foreign war over the last 2-3 years, then how much of a difference can there be? I personally have no objections to a particular blogger in the collective supporting a certain candidate, but I would also prefer to make an informed decision based on their positions on the topics close to me and not be associated with the same candidate simply because someone else in the collective supports them …”

More on this in the days to come.

– Speaking of which, I recently visited Shelly’s blog, and in one of her entries, she philosophizes about the importance of not complaining, and whether that’s a viable option in today’s world. Of course, I said that there has to be a distinction between complaining and speaking up. Complaining tends to be more self-centered and self-indicting than speaking up. For instance, in our school, we have complainers and people who speak up. The complainers complain about how cold it is in a room when they hardly have clothing on, or that they lost their e-mail even though they pressed the wrong button and everyone else’s e-mail works just fine on the same computer on the same server. Some staff members might even refer to them as crazy, though the complainers won’t refer to themselves as such.

On the other hand, we have people in our system who do an awful lot of speaking up, about the conditions that we set for our children, about the subpar teaching salaries, and the lack of connection between the “higher-ups” and the people who care. Their concerns don’t get addressed, and whenever they bring these issues up, they’re mistaken for complainers, and thus, while fellow staff members won’t call them crazy, they self-diagnose as crazy (they must be crazy for making common sense). That’s the difference. This isn’t strictly isolated to teachers but to all professions; much of this makes me wonder if we can differentiate between these two.

Really, as I’ve said before, we have too many people who are complicit and conformists with what happens around them. When we don’t speak up against an injustice or a policy that affects not just us but an entire community of people (it’s really about percentages, which I’ll get to at some point this week), we have a degree of culpability. I’m not saying we need to run out there and burn buildings to the ground (word to Immortal Technique and a previous version of myself). Rather than tell the dissenter to shut up (especially when you wholeheartedly agree with their assertions and even rant and rave in your own spaces about these issues), gain courage from that person and support them how you see fit.

Speaking up takes good judgment; complaining is a cowardly undertaking. Unlike what I wrote on Shelly’s blog, I’m making a distinction between these two animals. And really, when it comes down to it, it only takes a few people to make that positive change. Until we make that distinction and effectively address that to naysayers, then the protests, blogs, letters to the editors, and the plethora of weapons of civil disobedience are really for naught.

jose, who saw the rubber room trailer and simply nodded at its truth …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 10

  1. Damian

    Differentiating between complaining and speaking up is a skill both young and old need to learn. I don’t consider myself a complainer, but I will speak up when I see something I think needs changing. Many people can’t (or won’t) differentiate, especially the targets of protest, because it suits them to discredit the “complainers.” The others are usually so apathetic to anything that doesn’t directly impact them that protests get lost in a black hole of “meh”. The question then becomes, how long do you keep shouting into the void before you wear yourself out?

    It’s one thing to maintain a positive mindset and try to overlook the small stuff; it’s quite another to stand up for oneself and others who may not have the voice to do so. You’re right in that this doesn’t just apply to teachers, but in my entirely unscientific, anecdotal opinion, we (along with other helping professions) seem to suffer from this disproportionately. Suits who take no shit are called “aggressive” and “go-getters”; teachers who do the same are “trouble-makers” and get told to quit rocking the boat.

    I hadn’t heard of Rubber Room before; I will definitely have to check that out. Thanks for the tip.

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  4. Shelly

    “Speaking up takes good judgment; complaining is a cowardly undertaking. Unlike what I wrote on Shelly’s blog, I’m making a distinction between these two animals.”

    You have hit the nail on the head with this one Jose. And like you I am seeking to become proficient at distinguising between the two… The former helps makes the world a (hopefully) better place for us all, the latter merely serves to create an atmosphere of negative and self-serving futility.

    Thanks for the shout out and thank you for adding more depth/clarification on this issue for me Jose!

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    Jose

    Mathew, thanks.

    Senora and Bam, the more I find out, the quicker I’ll let both of you know.

    Shelly, anytime. I’m still learning how to distinguish as I’ve had to confront both.

  6. LuzMaria

    It becomes murky to sometimes find the distinction between complaining and speaking up. Unfortunately, those who speak up for those whose voices are sometimes not heard and/or ignored are labeled “complainers” by those who are part of the problem. As an educator, I am fascinated by the conversations that take place in whole staff meetings. I am in awe of the administrator who can throw a curve ball at the satff to explain why a major fuck-up took place before a state exam in which the school had to be shut down due to administrative incompetence. Instead of addressing the real issue at hand, the conversation was steered to discuss parking permits, school report cards, and teacher recruitment.

    The educators who wanted to address the issue at hand, asked the hard questions and even had copies of the building code violations found in the school building. The few voices united and were seen by many of their peers as “troublemakers.” What I found perplexing is how these so called educators could be so complacent and not question the way the school is being run. Makes me wonder if they are concerned about their students or just the bi-weekly paycheck they receive.

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