Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.

 

Helpless? Hopeless? Hapless?

It is time, good people, for a rant. The source of this rant is?

The oppression of the poor, through the lenses of college students.

It’s something I know quite a bit about, and I think more people are going to need to get an idea soon-especially with the political situation.

There’s a food bank set up for the students at my university.

Each semester, I spend about $300 on textbooks as a social science student. My husband spends $400-$600. And there’s some math coming up, but no worries, I’ll help. I have insurance through my dad, but let’s assume it’s negligent here-because I have to pay more out of pocket than they cover. I have student loans (gasp!). And we’re going to get personal about that too. I work at the university, with work study money. That means I can work UP TO 20 hours a week-so long as my total amount of work study money is more than I have worked. I get $3000 a year, which equals roughly 9 hours a week available. I typically work throughout the summer at whatever job will hire me, but obviously it’s part time.

A little word though, before we begin. I cannot speak for everybody. These experiences are my own. I know that some people will take a different path here-and that’s OKAY. I just want you to get a rough idea of how a midwestern student with decent grades faces the realities of the financial aid system. I’m doing this in response to Betsy DeVos, and her unawareness at how it works. I’m going to break different areas up by header and then wrap it all up in a summary-I find that to be a little more helpful than just assaulting you with information.

Books

I started college officially January 2012. That was back when OSU was on quarters (meaning 3 regular sessions per year) and now we’re on semesters (meaning 2 regular sessions a year). That means I’ve had 12 sessions (I believe). Each of those sessions, as I mentioned, I pay roughly $300 in books. 300*12=$3600 in books. For my husband, it’s 500*12=$6000 (I just took the average cost. So together, we have paid almost $10,000 in books (and yes, we shop around for deals). PLUS-you have to pay for online access codes to your homework. Per course, that’s $60-$130.

To give you an idea of what the problem with that is, I have a recent event for you. We (Ben and I) were looking to make a little money to cover some purchases for the apartment. The only thing we have in large quantities are books. So we packaged up everything we had. This includes text books, books I picked up at the bookstore for pleasure reading, books we had from forever. Everything we could (minus the ones we need for this semester) was loaded into boxes. I looked at what Amazon would give me and then we hauled everything down to Half Price Books. Let me emphasize this. We took something like $8500 of merchandise to a resale place. And what do you think we got in payment?

$230. (And yes, that’s about what Amazon wanted to pay us.)

For the readers who are blown away by this, 230 dollars is approximately 2.7% of 8500. And that’s the most we could get. So we took it and made do-because what else are we gonna do?

Student Loan Payments

Ah student loans. The bane of so many people’s existence. I have 2 kinds: Sallie Mae and Federal. My Sallie Mae payment will be $670 a month and my federal will be $455 a month (according to http://www.aie.org-I’ll let you know what they really are when I start making the payments after law school). And that brings up a good point-these numbers are ONLY for my undergraduate degree, under the assumption that it will take me 10 years to pay everything off. So I will need to put aside almost $1200 per month just for student loan payments. Yikes!

Acceptance fees/loans for law school

Wherever I end up going to law school, I will need to pay a seat deposit (acceptance fee) of at least $250. That’s something I have planned for, and am well aware of. But when I enter law school, I will also have to pay money to take out my loans, and campus fees on top of my tuition. I also am aware of that. But it does not chance the fact that I will have to pay my own way to move to law school and then pay them to allow me to pay them (yes, you read that right) so I can go there. One of my schools has a fee of $910.

And since we’re talking about law school-let me fill you in on the application process. In order to apply for law school, you have to take the LSAT. It costs $17 per time you take it. And then, you have to order your college transcripts ($20). You also have to purchase the system they use to compile your application ($180). Then you have to pay for them to assemble your application per school ($30) and you have to pay an application fee per school ($30-$110). And this is true if you apply to one school or a hundred. I applied for the fee waiver (thankfully) so my costs were slightly different. But none of this includes test prep, which can be very expensive very fast.

working

As I said, I work part time. I use the money to add to my very small reserve of uh-oh money. I can make up to $1500 a semester. And that’s grand-my job is awesome, I enjoy it a lot. It’s just not a bunch of money. So there’s that. And yes, I am fully capable of getting a job. But I don’t live on campus and my husband has class 5 days a week, and we have a dog at home. So I could, yes, work over the weekend-this is true. But none of this accounts for homework time. As I mentioned above, I totally work during summer. That’s a no brainer. This summer will be tricky becuase of moving to law school, but we’ll see.

Oh-and I’m not allowed to work the first year of law school. It’s a law school thing.

apartment

My apartment is what it is. I pay gobs of money to live in a place where crime is low. I pay for safety and I know that. What I also pay for is a private electric company that charges me way too much for electric ($200 a month) and a door that sticks, gaps in the door that let cold air in, leaky outlets and a fridge that doesn’t stay closed. Also, they sent out an email saying that they wouldn’t salt the parking areas until it got really bad becuase they “like to watch it accumulate”. 

health care/insurance

As I mentioned, I have health insurance through my dad. That is all thanks to the ACA. And I know that. If I am hardcore screwed, I have options. It may take everything I have to pay that money, but I have options-ish. For example, last fall I went to the urgent care because of an ear infection which burst my eardrum. I paid $200 after insurance for the visit and another $100 for the medication. If the ACA is taken away, so is my insurance. As of right now, I go to the doctor if I have nothing else I can do. Because my health is a luxury I cannot afford. I have not been to the gyno in 3 years. I have not gotten my booster shots. I have not been able to go to the dentist in a great many years. I had to pay out of pocket for my glasses ($300 for exam and frames).

conclusion: What poor actually looks like

So there’s been a lot of disjointed information that’s come at you today. Let me provide a little structure for you.

I’m a first gen college student. My parents are hardworking farmers/pressman. I didn’t have my education paid for by my family (apart from $1000 my dad saved up and I am so grateful for). I pay $25,539 per year for my education. I’ve been in school for 5 years. Do some multiplication-you’ll see why I’m concerned about student loans. My apartment situation is paid for (in part) by the loans my husband and I take out. What we can cover with summer work is obviously done that way to alleviate needing to take out more loans. I have a credit card that I use for emergencies only and pay it off as soon as I get it. This is where I put my health care expenses, if I have any. And trust me, I try not to. Bills are still going to be there when I graduate from law school. And the $1700 a month we pay for everything, in addition to the $2000 a month for both my and my husband’s student loans terrifies me. It really does.

Not being able to afford regular doctor’s visits because of money is something that weighs on your brain a little. It makes you feel a little less than human. Being forced to choose between access to your homework and fresh food does things to your brain, makes you feel unvalued.

So when I said there’s a food bank on campus that’s for students, are you really so surprised? Because it’s not just food that we need. It’s so much more than that.

And that is why I cannot stand by and accept that our country’s education might be left in the hands of someone who has never even interacted with the financial aid system. I’ve only hit the big points-and not even all of them. Because none of this included the daily struggles, the weighing of options, the constant demands of time management, social and academic obligations, extra curricular activities or other facets. But maybe you see the reason why so many people with college degrees feel a little jilted at the system that was supposed to help us.

IMADTTO: The Conclusion

Hi folks.

Last night I received word on the President’s Prize, the project I’ve poured my heart and soul into for these past few months. I set out to combat rape culture on college campuses and in the end, it was decided that my project (for whatever reason) was not up to the level that my university wanted and therefore was rejected. I spent last night at somewhat of a loss. I believed in my project, it was the very first thing I put my whole self into and I received a very short “There were so many wonderful applicants, but unfortunately you will not be continuing on.” email and I debated what to do as my next step.

I decided that I wanted to share what I’d done with you all, so that you might know what I’d spent so much time working on, but also to use as a way to put some accountability on my university. I hope they do incorporate some of my ideas-because my pride is far less important than the safety of women everywhere. But if these ideas come into use, I hope they put them to action with as much devotion as I would have-because for them it’s just policy, for me it’s an entire life’s worth of passion. I’m only going to put the second round project proposal, because it is the most complete-but there were many other drafts, and additional pieces of work that needed to be included in the process of review.

I invite critiques and thoughts-because, as I said, this is something I’m devoting my whole life to-and am applying to law school for- so making this project better and better can only help me enact it in the courtroom.

I have to deal with losses as a lawyer, with grace and humility. I don’t want to lose, nor do I like it, but I am human and it very well may happen. I’m doing the best I can to plug forward, shake it off and carry on. My pride is wounded, but my compassion and drive are not. (Oh, and I changed the logo colors to Sexual Assault Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness colors-a change I am very happy with.)

tl;dr: I’m placing my project proposal on my blog so that I can use it as a platform to save the world in a different route: my own self.

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell President’s Prize Project Statement

IMaDtTO Logo for Future.png
Project Title: IMADTTO (I Made A Difference To That One)

Problem Statement:

          Rape culture on college campuses is a social pandemic which needs to be addressed and eradicated. There are three target areas that I seek to focus on as key elements in the fight against rape culture: prevention, prosecution of crime and response to survivors. These elements are broken into sections of action that IMADTTO addresses as research, outreach, education and advocacy.

I maintain a blog on WordPress which, to the best of my abilities, I use to further stories of perceived injustices-focusing on rape culture. I use the critical thinking skills I have cultivated to seek out the legislation, proposed bills and the stories themselves so that I may present the facts. I also use that blog to discuss ideas for the improvement of society in respect to rape culture. I have opened the conversation to my readers and subscribers to tell me their ideas and stories. Since I have done so, it has been made abundantly clear to me that survivors of sexual assault desire to have their stories heard by someone who shows them respect and believes them at face value.

I have been approached by friends I have known for years, by family members and by complete strangers alike and asked if I could just listen to them. Among their stories, a vein of similarity popped up repeatedly: the need for gender inclusive education (whereby the message of body safety and awareness was given to all young adults), the need for a safe space to talk about their experiences and the need to be believed. It is these three suggestions from which IMADTTO came into existence, and will excel. The stark need for a program like IMADTTO is highlighted by the cases of Brock Allen Turner (Stanford University) and the Steubenville rape in 2012.

This project will positively affect everyone. The students are the target audience-both at a collegiate and high school level. By increasing body positivity and safety, young adults will be prepared to enter a world where they understand their rights, are fully capable of protecting themselves and are aware of what resources are available to them should they encounter an unsafe situation. On a slightly larger scale, this project will be beneficial to the parents of college-aged children by giving them the peace of mind that their children will be attending a college which is prepared to protect its students.

Ohio State will benefit from admissions increases, emerging as a leader in student safety and body positivity. Ohio State will serve as the role model for how rape culture on college campuses can be combatted. This commitment ripples through the national and global level, because Ohio State is rich in diversity and what student learn while attending will provide them the opportunity to be ambassadors to their home states and countries.

Project Outline and Timeline:

IMADTTO operates at four specific sections: research, outreach, education and advocacy. For each of these sections, individual tasks have been allocated. The research section will initiate the project. A survey will be created to assess potential problem areas on campus, the individual’s knowledge of available resources for the issue of sexual assault, responses to stigma and pop culture rape culture, as well as gauge their interest in a support group for survivors of sexual assault. This survey will serve as the basis for my own research (in accordance with IRB). This section will also include creating a compendium of resources available across the state to be used as part of the education and outreach sections. The research conducted in this section will be used to present at the latter two conferences I will attend.
Education will focus on the themes of body safety and body positivity. Under this category, a website and mobile application will be created in order to disseminate the information gathered in the “Research”. This will include a map of the areas deemed “issue” (that is to say, where students felt needed extra precaution when using) areas, the compendium of resources, links to news articles and legislation about sexual assault and rape culture, as well as important information such as basic self-defense tips. This information will be dispersed at twenty-five (25) high schools, as well as talks at each of the five (5) branch campuses, plus main campus. How to duplicate this project at other universities will be made available on the website as well.
The capstone for this section is the introduction of a sexual assault learning module in the Freshman Survey course, and a discussion for the parents at Freshman Orientation. The learning module will be a condensed, statistical exploration of rape culture and sexual assault that will be inserted into the pre-existing Freshman Survey course. The Freshman Orientation discussion with parents will be an introduction to the ways in which Ohio State is looking out for its students, including how a perpetrator will be dealt with. This creates accountability between Ohio State and the parents to ensure that all students are protected and informed.
Outreach focuses on publications. A newsletter featuring words of hope, self-care, the stories of survivors, and thoughts from professionals (such as nurses, social workers and police officers) will be created and distributed in both print and virtual format. This newsletter will also include progress reports for IMADTTO, as a way of holding the project accountable and also informing the general public about the successes of the project. Three books will be created, as conversation starters: one children’s picture book, one middle grade book and one young adult book. These books will focus on the theme of body positivity and inclusiveness at age appropriate levels.
Advocacy will take on a sustainable entity of its own. Small groups (of about 4-6 people) of survivors will come together to create support systems and lasting friendships during their time at Ohio State. These groups will serve as a type of “first line of defense” for survivors including-but-not-limited-to encouragement, providing escorts for the other members of their group to and from activities, get well cards, providing meals or support on “trigger” days (days in which the individual may suffer from the memory of a traumatic event). These groups will be for morale boosting purposes, but also provide a basic level of support by other people who understand the necessity of the group. There will also be collaboration with local law enforcement and politicians to promote an Ohio Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, modeled after the National Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights, which was passed just this year.
Apart from the support group, this project will be, essentially, a networking and structural one. In order for IMADTTO to become functional, I must prepare the foundations of each section (the survey, the website, the newsletter, educational materials) and use those to further the project. As the foundations are completed, the project will require assistance and guidance from both curriculum advisors and orientation organizers (for the survey course and orientation discussion) as well as the cooperation and coordination efforts between myself and the leadership of the schools which I will be presenting at. Once this is accomplished, the project becomes more self-sufficient. The course work and discussion materials will be available, as will the publications, finalizing the third tier. The research presentations head off the final leg of the project, support groups will form and be self-managing.
Achievements to date include the information gathered from my blog, in which the basis of this project has come into formation. The compendium of resources has been started, but is at a national level, compiled into an alphabetized list. This is a fantastic starting point, and will be made available on the website. I would like to make an Ohio-specific list for IMADTTO. I am also currently working to complete general IRB (Institutional Review Board) modules so that I can begin the project immediately.
There are several project goals over the course of the year. Within the first three months (July through September) the survey will be created and dispersed, data compiled, presentation materials created, website and newsletter created, and branch campus visits scheduled. In months four to six (October through December) will focus on the publications as well as drafting the Freshman Survey module and the Freshman Orientation discussion. The support groups will also be organized and commence in this time frame. The third quarter (January through March) goals are completing and publishing the children and middle grade books, speaking at the high schools and working with law enforcement and legislators to draft and propose the survivor bill. The final three months (April through June) will be centered on enacting the learning module, the orientation discussion and ensuring that IMADTTO has impacted the university in a positive way. Instructions will be created for those wishing to continue the support groups, newsletter and website (or final arrangements made). A research paper will be produced (and presented), and the young adult chapter book will be made available for purchase.
There is nothing about this project which will take more than 12 months to achieve, however, there are some items which will require ongoing effort. The Freshman Survey learning module, the Freshman Orientation parental discussion and the support groups will be the lasting sectors of IMADTTO, in the event that no one continues the newsletter and regular website upkeep. For the learning module, this will be in the hands of the faculty and staff who teach the survey course, as well as the curriculum advisors. The parent discussion will be in the control of the directors of orientation. The support groups will either end at the discretion of the individual groups, or will be in the control of Sexuality and Civility Empowerment.
I will measure the success of IMADTTO based on both quantifiable markers and abstract ones. The successful creation of educational materials, the website and the completion of the goals listed above will serve as indicators for the overall success. I will also view success based on the level of reach which the project will have. The introduction of the survivor bill and the implementation of discussions about changing rape culture and making sexual assault survivors less stigmatized, while a little more abstract, are no less important.

Budget Description:

In total, this project will require $48,469. This money will be utilized for marketing, data collection, producing educational materials and dispersing information. No external funding is required. Marketing will involve “swag”, or promotional materials to be distributed to the schools I visit, as well as at various times throughout the academic year. These items will include the link to the website, resource compendium and other valuable information. Data collection will include the cost of running the survey through Survey Monkey. This will also include the price of maintaining the website and domain name (if not included in the university’s page) and mobile application costs. Producing the educational materials includes printing handouts, producing the newsletter in print form and also startup costs for the books. Funds to sustain the project, as well as scholarships for the creation of artwork for the children’s book and mobile application design. A budget for travel is included not only to ensure transportation to the schools I intend to visit, but also to three conferences given by professionals for the sole purpose of combatting rape culture in their various professions. It is at these conferences that this project’s findings will be presented.
These financial resources directly affect achieving the project goals by ensuring the conception and implementation of the project itself. Without the research aspect, this project cannot fully address the concerns of the Ohio State population. Without the education aspect, IMADTTO cannot affect prevention of sexual assaults (or knowledge of availability of resources). Without the outreach aspect, no one will know what IMADTTO’s purpose is, what is being done and how to start the discussion about sexual assault. Without the advocacy aspect, no actual change will occur. Students will have to navigate the justice system alone, Ohio might not have a survivor bill of rights, law enforcement will not know which areas students feel unsafe in. By attending the conferences I have selected, I will be able to bring the knowledge of other professionals from a variety of backgrounds to Ohio State to continually make the information I have gathered both useful, timely and culturally relevant.

Additional Information:

Although I am not the only one to think of addressing the issue of sexual assault and rape culture, I do not believe there is a program which mirrors IMADTTO in its breadth and the way it is broken down. Of the programs which exist in the state of Ohio, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio and Sexuality and Civility Empowerment will be the resources I utilize most as I take on this project. Along with this, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network will be paramount to the successful accumulation of knowledge.
The marketing sector of this project will be taken care of both in person and through social media. I have a decent following on various social media platforms, and by utilizing the power and prestige of the university, I can access a vast database of networking moments through other students and faculty and staff. The in person marketing will come from meeting with students at their schools and at Ohio State’s Welcome Week.
In order for this project to be successful, each and every one of my interactions will be a form of partnership. Because I will have access to an entire university of staff and faculty who have insights into things I may not, such as research they’ve done over a specific facet of my project, the scope of my ideals will be far less limited. My faculty mentor will be the discerning rod for any questions I may have. From procedural decisions to research methods and write-up questions, I will use my mentor not as a crutch to lean on, but as a net to capture the things I might miss because of inexperience.
Apart from financial and networking assistance, all I require is a place to set up my work and internet access. This ideally takes the form of an office, so that I may organize my work in such a manner that causes maximum efficiency. I would also require a place (such as Sexuality and Civility Empowerment) for the support groups to meet if they so choose to do so on campus.
As with any project, there will be challenges. I anticipate that my own limitations in technology will be an issue, as will recruitment in the early stages of the project. As for the technological issues, I have designed a scholarship for the mobile application so that I can both give back to the university, but also so that I can devote my time to the website. Should there be problems beyond that, I am not too proud to ask for assistance and get my hands dirty! As for recruitment, I have set aside money in the budget for a reward for participants. There will be a raffle (for those who choose to enter) of 20-$50 gift cards. Any unforeseen problems will be handled with care and patience, and with the help of my faculty advisor.
I started down this path because of my own personal outrage at court cases like those involving Ke$ha, rapist Brock Turner and the Steubenville rape. In those stories I saw human beings who, like me, had had their bodily autonomy fractured and I saw the incredible strength of the survivors. It is with all of this in mind that I submit this project statement, in hopes that I might be the leader that my time at Ohio State has prepared me to be.
This project is more than just an opportunity to be the change I want to see in the world. It is the springboard I will use to further my career goals and ambitions. With graduation pending, I am applying to law schools around the country. It is a degree in criminal law which will afford me the honor of upholding justice and running for District Attorney. As District Attorney, I will continue the work I humbly began with my blog: fostering awareness and open dialogue between peoples of different backgrounds. I carry this one piece of truth with me each day, as both the inspiration for my passions, and also as the compass with which I make my decisions:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Seuss, Dr. The Lorax. New York: Random House, 1971.)

Freedom Writers (The 2016 Version)

freedom-writersI don’t know how many of you have seen the movie in the title (with Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey). The premise according to Google: “A dedicated teacher (Hilary Swank) in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her students to take an interest in their education and planning their future. She assigns reading material that relates to their lives and encourages them all to keep journals.”

There is a scene in the movie in which Hilary discovers a very racially biased drawing (an African American child with big lips) and says “This is how a holocaust happens.” The kids didn’t know what the Holocaust was and that leads to the real meat of the movie.
That moment happened to me in real life Sept 27. And I need to talk about it.

I’m gonna link to the videos of the portion I’m talking about. I’m sorry it’s not one video. The first one is the intro (poor quality) the second one sounds reminiscent of my class discussion today (better quality), the third one is where healing begins (but also is heart breaking-because they are high school kids) (has subtitles). And this video plays into what I need to say.

I walk by thousands of posters every week. They hang on bulletin boards in buildings, outside, on sign posts, everywhere. Flyers, ads, everything. I pay attention to them a little because I hang up some of them (academic ones, on my floor at the department). But most of them I miss because I’m very busy.

My first class this morning, the professor (who I find delightful) burst through and was quite visibly shaken. She mentioned that we were not going to be taking class the direction she’d originally planned and held up these two posters (I’ll explain why I have them when we come to that point in the story).

bs1bs2

These posters didn’t immediately mean anything to me, as I am used to seeing Greco-Roman sculpture (I’ve taken a fair few Art History classes, and Archaeology courses). I thought it was advertising a study abroad or something. DO NOT MAKE MY MISTAKES. The professor was shaking, as she asked if we knew what they meant, who “Identity Europa” was. No one did. And she pulled up the links she’d found this morning to the Twitter feed of the group. I’m going to post the pictures here, because you need to be informed.

I’m posting screenshots because I don’t want to give them any more traffic than is necessary. If I gave you links to these tweets, they would get more views. More views=more validation and that is something I cannot get behind.

This group’s mission, essentially, is to deport anyone from America who isn’t white (read: European). Their targets are obviously people of color, people of Muslim heritage. Less obviously, their targets are members of the SAGA (LGBT) community and other religious minorities. Does this sound familiar? And as if this could be any more shocking, they don’t appear to be Donald Trump supporters.

We spent the entire class period discussing this information, these images and groups. I came away with the following pieces of information. (I’m only going to bring up some highlights-this conversation lasted almost two hours.)

The triangle thing (Twitter profile picture): This is actually coded messaging. The triangle is actually a three armed swastika (used by the Neo-Nazi movement) as a way to identify other fascist/racists without calling it what it is. It is also tied back to the original Nazi movement-because triangles were how prisoners were identified (they were color coded).

Response One: There’s a self-identified Japanese-African-American girl in that class who was also disturbed by this news-and shared that it is things like this that made her mother give her an 8PM curfew (the girl is 20) and she said that her time living in Okinawa was spent being racially profiled, but she feels unsafe in America now. She moved here last year from Japan. Her contribution to this conversation (one of many she had) was that the oppression of the minorities does not need to be a source of shame-it needs to be acknowledged, fixed and then left in the past, where it belongs.

Response Two: There’s a self-identified Mexican-American in that class. He was actually the most insightful person I heard all day. He spoke of how he wanted to sit down and talk with these people-to find out what it was that motivated them to feel this way. His contribution (amongst many) was that if all sides of the argument come to the table with respect, perhaps we will all walk away with a better understanding of the motivations of others.

Response Three: There’s a military man (of 20 years of service) who spoke up as well-about how he fought to defend the ability to speak out, even when others do not agree. (Which I can respect.) But he then compared this movement to BLM (Black Lives Matter) and my respect for him was markedly diminished. His “white male” privilege was mentioned by someone I didn’t see. He also chuckled at these posters-but perhaps it was out of the fact that they are absurd. I don’t find them funny.

Response Four: There’s a blonde girl who sits on the far other side of the room who brought up how “white” isn’t something that belonged to the Greeks or Romans-who were Mediterranean and therefore more olive skinned than the marble they carved. I appreciated this. As the lines between skin colors are muddled more than ever.

Response (Mine): Where is the line? I asked the professor, because I needed to know. I needed to know if I needed to be scared. I brought up that skin color is a very poor indicator of heritage and ethnicity-about how my grandfather was an immigrant from Russia, my grandmother from Poland, I was told as a child that I have native blood, I did a DNA test and I have African blood as well. I’m not Christian. I know multiple languages. I enjoy other cultures deeply. I’m part of the SAGA community. I’m mentally ill. I’m a woman. (I could go on.) Should I be afraid? My brain felt like screaming it. And that is how we learned that not only Muslims and people of color are targeted by this group, but several labels I use to self-identify. Apparently quite a few people in that classroom (my professor included) have things to worry about. We spent a few minutes talking about heritage pride as something that’s acceptable and to be enjoyed. We talked about how identity is something we make for ourselves. We talked about how differing opinions are beautiful-until they disrespect someone else. We discussed fear. But we can’t let fear win. And I’m going to keep on keeping on. Because fear will never win.

This is how a holocaust happens.

Not loudly and with much gusto-but quietly, with covert symbols and language choices. With seemingly harmless posters and images. With hidden meanings, hidden identities and hidden agendas.
This is how a holocaust is prevented. Not with apathy and fear-but with knowledge and openness. With communication and collaboration. With respect and understanding.

So I ripped down the posters I saw hung up, just as my professor had done this morning. I will continue to do so for every single IE poster I see. But I kept two. And I want to tell you why.

I’m not racist. I don’t agree with ANYTHING this movement stands for. I loathe it entirely. I felt like a shitty person carrying around racist, borderline-terrorist propaganda in my bag today.

I have the posters for the same reason that World War II holocaust propaganda is in museums: because people need to be warned, so that history is not repeated. When my children (if I have children) grow up, I need them to know that this is what the dregs of society look like-welcoming and filled with deceit. I need them to know that they need to break apart the messages that they interpret and see the truth. I need them to know the same lesson in the videos I shared up top: what may seem innocent on the surface can be filled with hatred. And hatred will fill a person up with poison until they become lethal to everyone they come in contact with.

So yes, I kept these posters. I will bury them in the back of my closet, away from the light of day until one day in the future I open that box and look back, thankful that these people did not succeed in their endeavors. I will look at these disgraceful posters and remind myself that there are good people in the world, and the darkness will not win. I will keep these pieces of history and one day place them in a museum-right next to other relics of domestic terrorism, racism, bigotry and fear mongering so that generations long after my own will see them and know that if they do not learn from the past, they are doomed to repeat it.

When Push Comes to Shove


Hi there!

It’s Friday. We’ve made it to the end of the week and for that I am so exceptionally grateful. This week has taught me more than perhaps my entire first year in college altogether. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m just experiencing the realities of the beginnings of transition (what I have dubbed the caterpillar effect). I know that all things come to those who wait. I know my future is what I make of it. I know that the sun will rise again and so will I.

I know all those things.

Depression has that weird way of making you feel like you can’t reach the things you know. For example, my most relied on quote (the bolded one above) is true, but I don’t know that I believe it. And that’s frustrating. I was up last night with a new friend who was having a panic attack and I was trying to alleviate those concerns. I know what it’s like, I completely get it. And all the while I felt my own walls caving in on me. Did I say so? Of course not. But it was there, nonetheless.

Always keep fighting. Love yourself first. You are not alone.

Those are the “tag lines” for some of the campaigns that I partake in through the Supernatural fandom. And you best believe that I’ve been chanting them over and over again since I woke up this morning. Every theme song for carrying on has been blasting through my headbuds, every inspirational quote has been read, every coping technique I know (that is healthy) has been employed. But my soul is still tired. 

And I think that’s the problem.

Being physically tired is something that often times, a day off and some peace-and-quiet can remedy. Just a break. A nap. But being emotionally, spiritually, mentally tired is something that often comes at a much steeper price. I get enough sleep everyday but my heart and soul just aren’t in “it” anymore. What do I mean by “it”? Well, at this current point-the life I’m living. I mean college and working and “adulting” and well, the total package. Let me be explicitly clear here-I am not headed down the dark and dangerous path of suicidal ideation.  I am just tired in a way that cannot easily be fixed. And I have been for quite some time.

I feel like (and this could be exaggerated because I am depressed) everything I attempt, everything I put myself out there for is getting negative feedback-denial, rejection, being ignored altogether. And that stings a little bit.  It starts to feel like just when I thought I was finding my way through this big journey called life, the universe (fate? Destiny? God(s)?) has stopped believing in me. And I’m starting to cave.

Now, I’m not trying to elicit sympathies or whatnot, as I’ve said before, this is my “journal”-one that I make public to be accountable, to share with the world so that other people may not feel so alone. 

Anyway, I people watch. I see so many people walking down the sidewalks with life in their eyes but I see every so many more who are, just like me, dead inside. And I don’t mean to be melodramatic here. You have seen it too, I’m sure. The people who catch your eye and just look completely used up and empty. Like the world has taken more than they had to give and there’s nothing left but a shell. It’s those people that I understand.

I’ve said before that I don’t feel like praying (in the traditional sense of making yourself look inferior and pleading for help) is something I can get behind. I ask things of the universe as someone who needs things-not as someone unworthy of receiving them. But this past week has seen me asking in every way possible. I’ve even starting asking Angels and Ancestors. I’m starting to feel…desperate.

And I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. Life isn’t something you can control. You just minimize damage and plan for the best case scenario.

If you take nothing else from this rant, take this:

You may be feeling these things too. You may have left depression in the past, or be waiting for it in your future. But you most definitely aren’t the only person like that. It can’t rain (metaphorically) forever.

After All This Time.

Greetings all! It’s been a while, and for that I am sorry. Today isn’t going to be a news day, it is going to be a catch-up day. By that, I most definitely mean a checklist of things for me to think about.

First, thank you new followers, old followers, people who occasionally comment and like, and people who read my stuff and think “huh, not bad”. I appreciate it. Quite a lot, in fact.

My senior year has started! Today is day three and it has most definitely been busy-busy. I feel incredibly “active” always and it’s only just started.

My senior year in college oddly mirrors that of my high school one. And that kinda concerns me. I mean, not because I’m naive about life and have no idea what’s in store, but because of this weird funk that I’ve been in these past few weeks. As a senior in high school, I’d have been one of the first people to laugh out the word “senioritis”. I’d have meant it, believed in it, used it as a saving power if ever I needed a day to myself. The college version? Depression. Crap. That’s no good.

I was watching a YouTube video by HeyoDamo about how he lost his job to depression. And he said the words (I’m mostly paraphrasing): I thought that my depression was because I was unemployed. I got a job doing what I love and I had those same feelings come back and get worse and worse…There were times when I just “checked out”.

I can completely understand. Education is wrapped into my ego, into how I define myself. At the age of three (according to my parents) I told them I needed to go to school. I cried the first time I got an A- because I thought I’d failed. (That was second grade.) And I knew I was going to college because that’s what smart people do. The thing is, about the time August started, I got sucked into this pit of depression and I’m clawing my way out (I think).

I haven’t written in so long because I felt I had nothing to say. I mean, I wrote a post about being depressed, but it’s carried over. And I want to define the parameters of it today. *Monster by Imagine Dragons*

Okay then. We need some background, I think. I’ll list it instead of paragraphs because the factors are numerous. 

-A lot of balls in the air: my proposal still hasn’t had a decision made, my financial aid is still being finalized, my LSAT score is low for my GPA, applications are very expensive, my husband and I might not be going to the same grad school (or even state).

-The feeling of inadequacy: I posted about my “Van Gogh feelings”, but include in here my weight, my stress management and my inability to control the “balls in the air”.

-Underlying factors: low self-esteem, senior year jitters, mental health conditions and just “stress”

I’m taking a full semester of classes. Four of my six classes are required, two are electives.  And I like about half of those classes (electives included). So here’s the problem. I call it my “crisis of conscience”.

I know I will save lives beyond my mental capacity following my law school path. I will leave the world feeling like I made the difference I always wanted to. And I do. I want to fix so many problems.I absolutely can too. I know it.

But.

There is some small piece of me, that however selfishly, still needs to run away. And I don’t mean in a literal sense, but in a “I want to do what makes me happy” kind of way. 

Instead of getting into the specifics (because I haven’t necessarily found a conclusion to that dilemma) I’m just going to say this:

Senior year is supposed to be the year of memories, of mistakes, of changes which will affect my whole life. But for right now at least, it just feels like I’m repeating lines I said years ago, making decisions I’ve made before and returning to a life I’m pretty sure I spent the last 5 years trying to escape from.

Depression is crap. But the sun will rise again, and so must I.

Learn the Language, the Rest Will Follow

Howdy all! I return as my slightly charged, post-GISHWHES self. I thought I’d ease into this week with a simple reflection before getting into full swing. These are my last two weeks before my senior year!! I’ve got a lot of things coming up, and I’m very excited about all of it!

It wasn’t until college that I really understood the title for today. I’d taken four years of Spanish with a wonderful woman who stressed conversation over written (of which I am eternally grateful), including an entire year with her where all we did was speak Spanish. I took 3 semesters of Swahili (a language that one of the most influential teachers I had in elementary school took as well) and I’ve been nosing around a couple languages on my own.

It was an anthropology class that drilled home for me the “learn the langauge, the rest will follow” lesson. I’m pretty midwestern. I have southern family, and that’s why I say “ya’ll”. I drink sweet tea like it’s going out of style, I mean, I don’t have to list my “credentials” but I’m trying to paint a picture here. I grew up on a farm in Ohio, the fun things to do there included mushroom hunting, digging for arrowheads and spending days being lazy.

I never really understood how people struggled with learning English because I’m a native speaker. And then something weird happened.

I’ve done a little research on this (just enough to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind) and found that my experiences are pretty common.

It started around the time I was finishing up my last year of formal Spanish education. I remember I was waiting at our local fair, talking about foods and I said the words: You know, I’ve been here all week and I still haven’t gotten any…. and I forgot what the food was called. I believe I called it sugar cloud and then someone figured out I was talking about cotton candy. That same concept has happened to me so many more times than I thought possible-made compoundedly worse with each language I study.

Suddenly, I was only able to find the words I needed if they were in another language. It’s kind of like when you’re learning a new language and you don’t know all the vocabulary, so you will in with English (that’s where the idea of Spanglish comes from) except it was happening to me in reverse!

And then it all made sense (after that anthropology class). Or well, I tried to make it make sense. You see, in a culture is like a locked box, you need a key to get in or you will never understand it fully. That key, is language. And if you master the language, you’ll be able to understand the culture. There is a culture all its own or non-native speakers learning English and although not from their perspective, I learned how to open that jar of panic, of “outside-ness” and peer into the life of someone who is still growing as an individual.

Those memories came to me this morning as I people watched from my landing steps. Diversity is a great gift-if you have the compassion enough to see that it is a blessing.