I’m very excited! Not only are my wonderful –but tiring–classes coming to a pleasant end, but a piece I’ve been working on for quite some time has just been published. If you get a chance to read it, let me know; and please share. My hope is that it helps put our moral struggles into perspective, and helps people be more optimistic. In the future I’ll be giving public talks on this topic.
5/26/2013: Stereotyping the Poor
When: 10:30am, Sunday, May 26, 2013
Where: River of Grass UU Congregation, 11850 West State Road 84,Suite 1Davie,Florida33325
What: I’m going to talk about the ways in which the poor are oppressed in more subtle ways; namely through stereotyping and self-silencing. I’ll also talk about strategies that I believe we can all embrace to immediately begin fostering change that supports the dignity of all people, regardless of economic standing.
6/23/2013: Chocolate, Slavery, and Our Moral Obligations
When: 10:30am, Sunday, June 23, 2013
Where: University UU,11648 McCulloch Rd,Orlando, Fl 32817
What: I’ll be discussing how most of the chocolate we consume is tainted with enslaved child labor, and what we consumers can do about this problem.
Heretical Advice from a Happily and Heavily Indebted Ph.D.:Why Poor Students Shouldn’t Fear Student Loans
Recently a student told me how he had been discouraged from freely taking out federal student loans by his professor. When the student said he wasn’t particularly concerned about repayment, the teacher replied, “Well you should!” This mentality, while partially understandable, is promoting a fear of borrowing for education in precisely those who should be encouraged and emboldened to take out loans.
In the US, economic disadvantage breeds poverty that carries on through generations. One of the central purposes of federal student loans is to aid those who are financially less fortunate in obtaining a quality education. But again and again I have either personally listened to others warn against the dangers of student loans or heard countless stories from students who are discouraged from borrowing. As I see it, the discussion around student debt is significantly influenced and directed by the fallacy of magnifying risks.
The fallacy of magnifying risks occurs when the probability of negative outcomes is overstated. I’ll never forget family members overstating the negative outcomes of dropping out of high school. As it turns out, the GED literally reads “High School Diploma” and entitles students to enter into community and many state colleges just the same as students who graduate with a high school diploma from high school. When it comes to student debt, there is usually very little discussion as to why students should fear debt. Commonsense, which is quite often just plan badsense, tells us that borrowing beyond our means is bad! And it’s this kind of thinking that colors many teachers, parents, and, unfortunately, students’ attitudes about student loans.
But the very purpose of student loans is to allow those who do not have the means to acquire quality education to have the opportunity to do so. And when we examine the facts around student loans and repayment options there is no good reason for low-income students to fear borrowing. In fact, there are two good reasons students shouldn’t fear taking federal loans
Read the rest here
I recently wrote an article discussing adjunct teaching, and it’s really gotten the interest of a number of publications. Toward Freedom first published it, and now TruthOut, Alternet, and the December issue of Z magazine has followed suit. Please share with others.
“Adjunct professors are increasingly facing unfair and damaging teaching conditions. What you need to know about the reality of university teaching.”
In the last 10 days, the U.S.-backed monarchy in Bahrain have prohibited demonstrations of all kinds and revoked the citizenship of pro-democracy activists. Our politics is so polarized that we begin to fit ourselves into good vs. evil political narratives. The frightening reality is that the “evil” that is occurring in Bahrain is occurring under the current presidency; and, yes, it would’ve been maintained by a Romney presidency. Thus it’s time to take a look at American Exceptionalism and face the discomforting music.
Please read and share:
You can also watch this short video:
And then consider taking a small step to voice your solidarity with pro-democracy forces in Bahrain:
This is the second part of my previous piece addressing the myths surrounding poverty. It’s a fairly personal account, and it’s also meant as a call to action. Please give it a read and share with others. I really do believe that much can be accomplished if we worked to a) stop shaming others for their economic circumstances, and b) spoke openly and honestly about our own economic situations. Doing so would probably lead to a lot of “soul searching” for people of all political stripes.
This is a piece I’ve been writing, speaking, and editing for about a year. Very happy to have it published:
Tomorrow I’ll be giving a talk on “Our moral Responsibility in Light of the Arab Spring,” in Jacksonville. In particular I’ll be talking about the terrible conditions of the U.S.-backed nation, Bahrain. For starters, check out this short (2 minute) video, Bahrain: One year on, then sign this quick and easy petition calling for the release of a human rights activist who was imprisoned, Nabeel Rajab.
Well the last few weeks have been eventful to say the least! I was finishing up teaching another two fantastic summer courses–always amazing students and equally engaging conversation. I also managed to work in a family reunion and two out-of-town talks.
On Sunday, July 29, I shared my perspective on the value of feminism for men with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers. This gave me the opportunity to talk about the importance of bringing gender into the public conversation about mass murders and social violence. The sad fact of the matter is that not only are most mass murders men, most perpetrators of rape, murder, arson, domestic abuse are also disproportionately men. As men continue to make violence an important component of their identity, they lose out along with the women and children around them.
The following week our family of five—soon to be six!—was off for a family reunion in Calhoun, Georgia. After a great time reconnecting with uncles, grown-up cousins, and family I hardly knew, we headed up the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga. When we stepped out of our car onto the slopes of the church grounds we looked a lot like sea voyagers stepping on dry land after a year at sea. Can you blame us? We’re south Floridians! Anyway, we met a number of kind folks who were wonderfully receptive to my talk on stereotyping the poor. During the talk I encouraged poor people to follow in the footsteps of the gay rights movement in coming out of the closet of shame. Too many hardworking poor people feel like failures or believe they don’t deserve basic respect. This has got to change. Poor folks need to have some pride, even when those who benefit from their toil refuse to appreciate them. As I said at the close, I’m not ashamed of being poor. I’m ashamed of living in a society that tolerates poverty.
On Sunday, May 13, I drove a total of 400 miles to join the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of St. Augustine to give my talk, “Stereotyping the Poor: How ‘Commonsense’ thinking furthers the oppression of the poor.” The talk stimulated a number of wonderful discussions about the experiences of the poor and questions about what to do to improve the situation: lots of wonderful people; lots of brainstorming and discussion. I’ve given earlier versions of this talk in St. Pete and Orlando. It’s my small contribution to promoting a broader social dialogue about poverty. We need to listen to people discuss their experiences being poor, and we need to contrast this with what people of great means tell us about the poor.
One of the main points of my talk is that we need to deconstruct mistaken stereotypes about the poor that are as prominent as they are preposterous: the poor are necessarily lazy; they’re satisfied and living it up on poverty; most welfare recipients abuse the system and so on. We also have to understand how cultural imperialism—when a small number of powerful people speak for rather than listen to the “other”—works to divide poor people against one another: how many in control of the media seek to pit poor whites and poor people of color against one another, to prevent unification. Finally, we also need to address the mistaken notion that education is the answer to the prominence of poverty. Society needs lots of different people doing lots of different things. So long as we need yards mowed, restaurants staffed, libraries and hotels cleaned, etc., we will need people working these jobs. Too often even well meaning people excuse the denial of these economically low-end laborers’ basic dignity on account that they need to go to school and get a respectable job. This is absurd. Most respectable moral philosophies recognize that people don’t have to earn moral concern; they deserve it on account of being sentient or conscious persons. The belief that people need an education before they’re due the basic respect of being paid a living wage for the important, necessary work they do is responsible for perpetuating the oppression of the poor.