john lennon week Archives - The Jose Vilson

john lennon week

Whatever Gets You Through The Night

by Jose Vilson on October 7, 2010

in Jose

John Lennon, People For Peace

You wanna know what’s funny? That one video everyone’s cycling around with a guy who’s dead asleep on the train and bangs his head against the seat, only to wake up startled and cognizant of some jerk filming him the entire time. Hilarious, even. Or so that’s what many in my social network believe. Pardon my empathy, but I’ve had to try and wake up guys like this because they were halfway comatose getting to work. I don’t want to make grand assumptions, but if my assumptions are correct, then this is horrible. One of these men I tried to wake up actually didn’t wake up after a few minutes of shaking, and that shook me for the rest of the day.

Then you read their stories of 12-hour days, no health benefits, and seven-day work weeks (or else), and the camera person might want to consider their ostensible privilege for having a camera phone to film this guy with.

You know what else is funny? Lou Dobbs’ latest story about immigration. Not one he’s reported, but one he’s the subject of. What happens with guys like him often is that they get caught in a self-defeating lie while they’re pontificating on the matters that make them the most money, even if they don’t believe in what they’re saying at all? All that bigotry, ultra-conservative, racist heady talk, and he gets caught with his house full of the very people he’s shown so much disdain for on his previous show. I wouldn’t cast a stone in a glass house, built on the backs of undocumented labor.

Then again, it actually makes sense because it’s aligned to the policies of corporate America. Simple procedure, really: bring people in from a country that doesn’t see the kind of money American workers make, treat them like dirt and keep them working until they’re hurt or they unionize, tell the world they’re the lowest rung of American society, implicitly change the opinions of American citizen workers by putting them in direct competition with people who know their rights in this country, complicate it by throwing in race and sex, and the formula works itself out pretty well.

This sort of situation makes it possible for people who want a funny little 30-second YouTube clip to use a man like him.

Whatever gets the camera person through the night. Because chances are, this guy didn’t.

Jose, who wishes John Lennon a happy 70th birthday this Saturday …


Mind Games, and How Unions Can Win Them

by Jose Vilson on October 5, 2010

in Jose

John Lennon, Yoko Ono

I purposefully watched as commenter after commenter discussed the role of unions in the future of schools in this blog; the difference between saying a union would file a grievance against its own members and saying a union files a grievance against its administration for making a teacher work later flared a virtual town hall with some of the best edubloggers I know, who all in turn wrote about their experience in their blogs. Needless to say, it was a lot of great reading (check here, here, and here for example).

But it also made me think about the union’s own battle with rhetoric, within and outside its ranks. I was watching a show recently where a political analyst broke down the language that has made liberals in our government look weak and wavering in the face of the no-compromise obstinacy of the conservatives. We as teachers face some of the same. For instance, check this:

“We need to fire bad teachers.”

On the surface, who would disagree with that? Bad teachers have a special place in Dante’s Inferno with the panderers and the traitors. Except that they don’t. Frankly, many of them are well-meaning people who a) didn’t know what they were getting into, b) were never trained properly at their teacher colleges, or c) have been burnt out by a system that preaches change constantly and never really does. This idea of “bad teachers” is further complicated by the fact that only 10% of all teachers nationwide get rated as “unsatisfactory” by their administrators. Tests haven’t been the answer either, since too many of them have been shown as an ineffective way of teacher evaluation.

“The unions [insert verb here] teachers.”

This is a meme I’ve heard almost as often than the first, and it’s just as disingenuous. I always have a hard time with this because the union is its teachers, just like any union is representative of its members. You can always rescind your membership from the union, but when you least expect it, the decades of union work have made it possible for teachers to get a relatively fair shake. It reminds me of how, in the early part of the 20th century, the media would call union leaders un-American and illegal to separate their leaders from the people on the ground.

“What charter schools have created is the opportunity to experiment — free of traditional bureaucracy — and figure out what works.

I’m not sure what John Legend was thinking when he said that, but it gives me all the more cause to think he can’t be serious. (You mean, you’re really going to make me blog about you again?!) I mean, who doesn’t want to be free from restrictions? Who always wants to think about what this law and that statute say about the things they have to teach or have to do as a service? Yet, for every ridiculous law we don’t like, there are plenty more in that fine print that protect schools from acting in their self-interest.

And that includes charter schools.

What’s more, the dialogue is such that people aren’t clear as to the difference between charter schools and regular public schools. Since they’re technically both public schools, why not say so? If we’re saying that all of these schools service every kid that walks in through the double doors (they don’t), then why not say so? Because it’s a thing we call double-speak, and the mind games persist if we don’t stay alert to them being played. Much of the wars playing out aren’t in some foreign country or a practice desert, but in between our temples.

As my more favorite John (Lennon) said once,

We’re playing those mind games together,
Pushing barriers, planting seeds,
Playing the mind guerilla,
Chanting the Mantra peace on earth,
We all been playing mind games forever,
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil.
Doing the mind guerilla,
Some call it the search for the grail,
Love is the answer and you know that for sure,
Love is flower you got to let it, you got to let it grow,
So keep on playing those mind games together,
Faith in the future outta the now …

Jose, and you know that, for sho’ …

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John Lennon Speaks Out

Well, by now, most of you have either shared, read, or linked to my first post on the Huffington Post entitled “Where The Hammer Meets The Pick.” First things first: I’m glad I got such great reactions to the post. It’s a testament to the awesomeness of my social network, and how carefully we’ve helped craft the conversations. Secondly, I’m blessed someone thought my writing was good enough to feature next to the likes of Chris Lehmann, Geoffrey Canada, Diane Ravitch, and John Legend. That’s a testament to the rings around my eyes trying to crank out those last words before I went to teach another day. Third, I can’t believe I held the “secret” in for so long. I was offered it on the way to DC during this panel I was a part of, and when people kept asking me, “What’s up?” I wanted to reply, “Huffington Post, mofos!” It was like having to pee and you’re really close to your house.

It’s probably a testament to how much I’ve grown.

More importantly, I feel inclined to mention that teachers have a voice, and the biggest side effect of this education debate from up-top is that it gives the little guys like me (little guy metaphorically of course) a chance to speak to and from a people. I don’t have the huge following my edublogger brethren do or the millions my bosses downtown do in NYC, but every so often, I get an opportunity I can’t refuse. This was another one. Because of you, I get those opportunities, and hopefully, I get to highlight people like Jovan Miles, Monise Seward, or Miss Eyre (all of whom have burgeoning audiences in their own right) the way others have me.

In the meantime, there’s this other job we call teaching, and those exponents aren’t going to teach themselves. Thank you.

Jose, who originally wanted to title the blog I wrote for Arianna “Jose’s Silver Hammer,” but there’s only so many Beatles references he can make …


Instant Karma

October 3, 2010 Jose
John Lennon

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Rather not list everything here. I’ll just consider myself fortunate for life. Thanks to all of you. You are my instant karma.

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