Chapter Three

Keesha hand shook causing the blue paint to zig zag uncontrollably across the cement canvas.

“Crap!” she shouted.

The near-perfect replica of the blue sky, white clouds, brown and green trees, and cityscape was now interrupted by a thick solid blue stipe that crashed through the scene like a lightning bolt. Keesha and everyone else working on the mural paused in their work and looked around for the source of the “boom” that had caused Keesha to disrupt her creative process. John craned his head upwards. Marcus and Lucy stood up and ran to the corner. They peered around, turned back toward the group, and shrugged.

Keesha refocused on her mural. “Crap,” she exclaimed again to no one in particular. “That totally ruined my sky! I was minutes from being finished.”

No one else in the group seemed upset by her mistake in the painting. Her mural team was used to her outbursts. The whole mural had been her vision. She wrinkled her brow and assessed the damage.

Lucy asked the boy standing beside her, “But what was that?” There has been a loud rumble, and the ground had seemed to gently sway beneath them. The water in the clear glass Bell jars, loaded with brushes, was still dancing around with tiny ripples.

The question was met with murmurs. Keesha remained silent. She was too busy being furious that two months of dedication were just brought down with a single blue accidental stroke. She pulled at her short braids, rubbing the large beads between her thumb and forefinger the way she did whenever she was considering something. She made sure to always have at least five beads fitted into her short weave because she secretly believed this made her a more creative thinker.

The mural was the last one in a series that the community economic network had commissioned Keesha and a small group of young people to complete; the task was to “tell the story of the neighborhood”-painted on the walls of the newly rehabbed row homes and offices for all the world to see (or at least the passers-by crossing the intersection between Dulaney St. and 5th Ave). A visual history of her community.

Keesha’s mom disapproved. But what else was new?

“Why are you bothering to paint on the sides of walls, Keesha?” her mom Susan would say, and shake her head. “You know I can get you a job at The Gallery anytime you want.”

By the time Keesha was twelve she had started thinking of her mom as a corporate sell-out. Susan Franks had moved away from their neighborhood for a six figure multiyear grant from the Museum of Art to work on their cultural exhibit, leaving behind her two daughters: Keesha and Keesha’s older sister Naomi. “Left behind” was not a wholly accurate description of what Susan had done to her daughters. The girls had chosen to stay in what, for them, was “home.” Susan was inwardly disappointed, but she honored her daughters’ wishes to remain in the community.

Keesha knew her father only as “Donor X.” Single and professionally successful, too busy for love, Susan had decided at the age of 35 that she would become a mother, with or without the help of a husband — and having none she decided to find a donor instead. Then, just one year ago, when the girls had grown to the ages of 17 and 14, she received “the job offer of a life time” and moved out of their “off script” neighborhood and into South Wick, the corporate sponsored neighborhood that had been introduced decades ago as “smart cities.” The marketing had been brilliant by design.

Naomi, the ever “older- than- her- years” daughter stepped up to raise Keesha, while the two occasioned the train on weekends to visit Susan in her studio condo on the 15th floor of the Romer Onyx Industry complex.

“Being on script isn’t so bad, you know, Keesha,” Susan said one morning while clipping the delicate blue flowers off the potted hydrangea that flourished on the rooftop Romer Onyx rooftop garden. Keesha looked at her feet and winced. “You’re getting so tall, now,” Susan said gently. She was indeed one of the taller girls in her age group. Her mother smiled and stroked the side of Keesha’s left arm. She didn’t want to disappoint her mom. But something in her was just “drawn” differently than her mom. Standing at only five feet two inches tall, compared to her mother’s nearly six foot tall stature, the difference inside and out were both noticeable. Who could she blame for being who she was? Donor X?

“Mom. I love you. But it’s just not my kind of art. I like being off script.”

Susan sighed. “Keesha. You’ll see. When you grow up, you’ll see. The real world doesn’t work that way. That’s just a fantasy land is all it is. How long is that gonna last you think. Huh?”

Sure, the Indigenous Intersections, linking city- to- city all over the country and completely subverting the on script grid of corporate ownership was growing. But who really knew what would happen next? How long could it last?

Keesha didn’t care. This…here…this community was her home, with, or without, her mother. She would make her own way. She had Naomi. And there was Ryder and Deacon, her two best friends.

Keesha examined the blue sky in the mural. Maybe it is fixable, she assured herself.

“Anyone know what that noise was?” asked the short stocky boy standing beside Keesha. Keesha dropped her paint brush into the Bell jar of watery blue liquid, wiped her hands on the sides of her denim pants and stood up. She turned back to look at the fat blue misplaced streak on the wall across her nearly completed frame. She would have to fix it later.

Keesha had her theories about the cause of the low rumble and shaking ground. Really, she wasn’t surprised by the unidentified sound. Part of her had been waiting for it. But she didn’t want to say it out loud. She had to tell D. and Ride, first.

NOTE: This is a full-length book, being published chapter by chapter with a new chapter posted every one or two weeks. Readers will have to stay tuned for “what’s next.” The story is copyrighted by the author (Morna McDermott) but may be freely shared and re-blogged/posted (with citation to the author). The purpose of the story was to create a thought experiment. What will happen if/when the corporate destruction of public education and society is complete? Can we begin to imagine/enact a different set of societal structures that are more equitable, anti-racist, sustainable, and democratic? Do we have the collective will to manifest such a future? What can we learn from good examples in the past? Can we take some cues from the world of fiction to begin the conversation? This is a story of hope.

Please join us and enjoy the story! Feedback/comments welcome in the comment box. 

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Story Summary

Ryder, Keesha, and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacons grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.

CHAPTER TWO

The phone on the wall had rung four times already.

“Get the damn phone!” Deacon shouted from behind the counter.

“Don’t you cuss in my shop, young man!” his mother called from the kitchen.

“Yes’m. Sorry, mom,” Deacon called back. He was sorry, even if his voice didn’t sound convincing. He was too busy lining up the sandwiches and salads in the glass front case. Deacon was in a rush because people were already lining up outside the entrance. And because he wanted to meet Ryder before they had to go off to their community rotations at 10:00 that morning. They were so rarely placed together at the same time, leaving Deacon to fend for himself. Keesha was always working with the muralists. So he had given up long ago of hoping to be placed alongside her. He couldn’t draw stick figures. Besides, he felt better putting his arms and his back into his days’ work. Deacon always marveled at the beauty of both creation and destruction; like when they demolished the old buildings … and creation like when he and the others rehabbed a house and made it new again. It was concrete and satisfying work, and appealed to his affection for double-edged swords like chaos and order.

“Come on, Pops, your phone is ringing,” Deacon said again, more softly this time.

The ring tone on their deli’s “location phone” agitated him. It was shrill and demanding, not like the cool smooth tones that old cell phones used to make, or at least the one Orion had shown him in secret. Nobody Deacon knew had one of those anymore, except for Orion.  And the Blacker Hatters. That last bit wasn’t public knowledge, but it was quietly understood. After their garden commitment one evening last July, Orion secretly showed Deacon and the other kids the old cell phone he kept hidden under his bed, like porn or a hand gun. “It’s not activated,” he would re assure the other kids. But he pressed the “ring” button and his audience of impressed peers “oohed” and “ahhed” with amazement as the screen lit up. The small object vibrated in his hand with each ring. Eliminating cell phones was part of their community agreement to become a decolonized zone when they unscripted. The action was necessary to stop feeding the fuel line to the data pods. Cell phone were the main artery of data mining from the people to the powerful.

It had worked. Eliminating their cell phone and all electronic data collecting devices had broken the back of the corporate masters. Orion looked at Ryder that day and said, “Didn’t your Uncle Kelley want you to ‘come up’ learning how to be a Blacker Hatter?”

Ryder shook his head to suggest “I don’t know.”

A new batch of the younger generation would have to eventually replace middle aged people like Kelley and manage the data shield, and keep up the “secret operations” to take down the corporate data systems and protect their community from pirates and hijackers. Deacon was fascinated by it all. Maybe he’d talk to Uncle Kelley himself and offer to take Ryder’s place since Ryder expressed little interest.

Deacon’s grandfather answered the phone which hung on the wall between the front of the deli and the back kitchen.

“Hello! Watson’s Deli!” he said into the mouth piece.

Deacon returned to his task, lining up the perfectly golden glazed donut rings, one after the other, until he had three rows of twelve. There was one left that didn’t quite fit into the tray. Looking carefully around first for his mother’s watchful eye, when he saw the coast was clear, he crammed the last remaining donut into his mouth and chewed quickly. He pushed the tray into the glass case and slid it shut. The store would be opening any minute.

“Uh uh,” his grandfather was saying into the phone. “Yes. That’s right.” He leaned his large sinewy figure up against the door frame as if he knew he might need to get comfortable, making his “this could take a while” expression.

“Who is it?” his mother called from the back.

“Another reporter,” Deacon said after swallowing the remaining evidence of the stolen donut. “At least, I think it is.” He listened.

“It’s quite simple, really,” Pops explained. “You all don’t need a five installments expose for your newspaper to understand this.” Pops never had patience for stupid questions, or stupid people. “Our community saw it coming.” He paused to hear a question from the reporter.

“How? Well, because we knew what being colonized and enslaved looks and feels like. It’s sandwiched into our history.” Pops loved making deli jokes. “So we could see the corporations for what they were. Masters. We were all their property. Those white middle class suburban folk just wasn’t looking in the right direction. They were too busy eating up the next device or cool app or online service to pay attention to what they were giving up.”

He paused again. He face twisted with greater annoyance.  He listened. “That’s right. Our deli shop was the first to decolonize in this neighborhood.” He shifted his weight on his feet. “Look. We resisted out of necessity. The world around us had abandoned us.”

He paused for effect. Then continued, “Places all over the country … like Detroit. No grocery stores. No businesses. No banks. No jobs,” He was gesturing with his hands and fingers, counting the items one by one. “Eventually they even took their electricity and our water. Left those people to starve. They tried to hang on. They tried to pull themselves out of it. They played the game. Meanwhile, the corporations did come into our neighborhoods to use up those kids. With those online schools…”

He spat on the floor and continued, “Kids sittin’ at computers all day… or those charter schools!” His sentence trailed off. “The corporations came in and mined those babies for their own purposes-which was profits and control. You start messin’ with people’s kids you gonna get push back!”

He listened again to the voice on the other side of the line. Pop’s body language suggested to Deacon that he was not pleased with what this reporter was trying to say.

“I don’t care what you were told about charter schools!” Pop’s yelled into the phone, “They sold us out …our kids, and our communities, so that Wall Street billionaires could own our public education system, and track our children right into their privately owned prison systems. Owning our children from cradle to grave. Then they built these data pods right in our backyards, like freeways or pipelines cutting right through our communities.”

He paused to listen.

“Uh uh. That’s right.” He nodded. “Yes. I don’t know why you want to include all of that in your story, now. Everybody knows that history. Our community was the first to refuse corporate colonization. The government led them right to our doorstep too. Promising to help. But we got smart, fast. And we had nothing to lose. We started our own food production. My deli shop was the first modeled as a community collective. We trained our people. We employed our people. We feed our people. And the model worked. It caught on. So we created our own jobs. We fixed up our own neighborhoods. We policed our own streets. And we started our own public education system. And we didn’t need no corporate masters anymore and their philanthropic generosity.”

That last words bled with resentment as they rolled off his tongue.

People were starting to file into the shop. The noise-level rose and Pops placed one finger in his ear to hear better.

“What’s that? Yes. Well, you’re welcome to come visit anytime and see what we do and how we do it. I know Cincinnati and some others are doing the same thing. But you come one down anytime. Got the best bagels on the East coast.” Then he smiled. Deacon knew it was true, too. “Well thank you for inquiring. I look forward to reading your article when it comes out.”

People were lined up, ready with their orders and their forms of payment. Some held cash in their hands. Mrs. Randall had two dozen eggs. She must be bartering for the pastrami on rye again Deacon supposed. John Eldridge had a paper commitment to swap three loaves of Italian bread and two pounds of potato salad in exchange for car repairs. Pops would be grateful for that. His car hadn’t been running for a month and it made making his home deliveries difficult. Deacon was tired of riding his bike to and from everybodies homes. His energy flowed through the streets bringing food wherever it was needed. There were no more homeless shelters. No one lived on the streets and o one went hungry anymore. Pop’s deli had been a part of that change.

Imagining himself flowing through the streets on his bike with sandwich orders made him think of Joe, his economics mentor. “Currency … Current. How are the words connected?” Deacon asked himself, pulling the long French baguette into a paper wrapper for Denisha. He knew that Joe, who was now nineteen years old, was going to probably bring it up during their economics hour at the library.

“Deacon,” his mom called. “Bring those eggs from Mrs. Randall back here, please. I can use them this afternoon.”

“Ok, mom.”

Deacon walked into the steaming hot kitchen with the eggs under his arm. All ovens were on full blast. The large square fan wedged into the factory sized window pushed lukewarm air across his face.

He practiced in his head what he would say to Joe. “Money was one source of currency. But currents are a flow of waves, electrical… or like water. It also means now. Present tense. And currency is s a medium of exchange.”

Joe, always the argumentative thinker would of course reject any suggestion Deacon offered.

He could hear him now, “So is money the most valuable currency we have? For centuries we treated human beings as currency for the profits of others. What kinds of other currency can we begin imagining now that can free of from that?”

He had a lot of respect for Joe. They had known each other all their lives and as Joe grew older, he took the role of mentoring the younger kids very seriously.

Deacon would have to drum up an answer later. The line was now out the door and he couldn’t fill his head with abstract theories while filling the food orders. Besides he was quite sure Keesha would beat him to an answer. She always did. Her smarts were her currency, he thought. But they had think bigger, the three of them, him Keesha and Ryder, because soon they were to be the leaders, and they would have to lead with answers.

The cacophony of kitchen equipment and workers talking drowned out the sound of a rumble and roar coming from outside. Looking at the expressions of people passing by on the street Deacon knew something had just happened. He carried three trays of quiches toward the front counter and noticed the disturbed countenance on the faces of the people around him. There were murmurs. Concerned and hushed tones.

“What was that?!” someone shouted.

Karl Jensen was craning his neck up out the deli front window toward the sky. He shook his head, proffering no answer. Folks on the side walk looked up, down and at each other, shrugging their shoulders.

But Deacon had a solid hunch.

NOTE: This is a full-length book, being published chapter by chapter with a new chapter posted every two weeks. Readers will have to stay tuned for “what’s next.” The story is copyrighted by the author (Morna McDermott) but may be freely shared and re-blogged/posted (with citation to the author). The purpose of the story was to create a thought experiment. What will happen if/when the corporate destruction of public education and society is complete? Can we begin to imagine/enact a different set of societal structures that are more equitable, anti-racist, sustainable, and democratic? Do we have the collective will to manifest such a future? What can we learn from good examples in the past? Can we take some cues from the world of fiction to begin the conversation? This is a story of hope.

Please join us and enjoy the story! Feedback/comments welcome in the comment box. 

IMG_1507

Story Summary

Ryder, Keesha, and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacons grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.

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CHAPTER ONE

The bloated data pods heaved and groaned with the weight of their burden. Like fat over fed cows they seemed sleepy, rested with a deadening stillness. Even though the pipelines had been dismantled years ago, after the explosions the original cache of intellectual oil still lay inside-billions of dollars of untapped financial fuel. The people called it the compost of rotted imagination and fetid possibility.

Ryder, mature for his fourteen years, liked letting that image roll around in his mind. Ryder liked to be contrary to common assumptions. Where others saw destruction he saw creation. Words like rotted and fetid reminded him of the garden his neighborhood quad had started. Every morning he stood at his bedroom window on the tenth floor of his housing project dressing for his community engagement, or perhaps the recreational trip if it was Friday. No matter what lay ahead for the day, he’d stand at the window and look down. Today he could see his friends Jacob and Chloe kneeling down in the soil along the rows of early tomatoes. They were laughing about something, perhaps a joke Jacob was making but even with the window open to let in the warm June breeze, Ryder couldn’t make out what they were saying.

Looking farther beyond the garden and down the city block, dotted with brightly colored row houses: orange, blue, pink and yellow, like a checkerboard of brick squares lining up on both sides of the street, he could see the data pods. High along the city skyline they were an ever present visible reminder to the people just how low they had gone in the name of “progress.” Then, scanning his eyes over the shaded parks, crowded storefronts, cafes, and thick over grown garden jungles (the keystone of every block), Ryder thought about how far they had come since “the interregnum”- when they fought to go off script and decolonize their city.  That’s why they replaced their colonized name with a new nickname: Interregnum City, in honor of the infamous Interregnum Mile which the Blacker Hatters (known for their illegal hacking skills) had dismantled. Ryder would try and conjure images of a world before they broke free. At least, he thought what he could of it using his imagination. Their community was re-created decades before Ryder was even born, but he enjoyed re hearing of it from his grandfather and his uncle Kelly, one of the original Blacker Hatters, the rouge hacking group. His father, he assumed would have been full of stories too, if he were here now. Unlike the innumerable details he had been given about the history of the movement, all he knew of his father’s fate was “whereabouts unknown.” It was all anyone, even his mother, knew.

The sky was a light overcast grey and Ryder knew that if he was working with Mrs. Johnson today, for his Legacy Contribution project, she’d want to take a walk through the park and sit on the bench to feed pigeons like she did every week. He’d be chilly if the wind picked up so he pulled a plain forest green sweatshirt from his middle dresser drawer and slid it over his tall thin frame. In his mind, he could hear his Uncle Kelley, using that booming dramatic tone he liked to use when he was talking about the movement to unscript themselves. If history only relied on his uncle Kelley for the retelling one would think he had single handedly dismantled the data mining pods and chased the corporations out of every city in America. He smiled to himself with affection. Kelley was short on stature, but he wasn’t short on bravado. Or courage, if the five inch knife scar going up the right side of his torso, was any indication. Decades since the injury, the scar still rippled up along his rib cage like the San Andrea’s fault.  Ryder thought of Kelley’s low voicem rising and falling with each piece of the story. He’d always begin the same way:

“There was a time, Ryder, when public schools were actual buildings where you went and sat all day in a classroom. Each classroom had a teacher. And you would read books, and fill out worksheets and take tests to show what you had learned.”

“Learned about what?” Ryder would ask. He tried to imagine what these buildings would look like. His mind could not quite determine what a “work sheet” could be. There was “work”… that’s the part he got. Everyone he knew worked. But what was a sheet? Like a bed sheet?

Kelley would say, “Whatever it was the government, well… really the corporate overlords using the government, wanted you to learn. We went from slavery to segregation to the promise of education. But once we got the right to attend public schools with white kids, they started coming up with all sorts of tests and regulations that put us right back where we were….” He stopped briefly to think carefully. “There were lots of folks, of all races tryin’ to create changes that would support what our kids and our communities needed. Parents, teachers, members of the communities. Even students were fighting for their own rights. But the corporate class with all their money and power just rolled over any resistance. They used the tests in schools to sort and track us into low paying jobs, and to close our schools and to push us out of an education before we had completed a diploma. But even that wasn’t enough for them!”

Ryder had heard the story a million times. This was where Uncle Kelley’s voice would rise to a roiled pitch. “They decided to hand over our schools and our children to private businesses for a profit! They turned public schools into charter school runs by companies who treated our kids like prisoners or investments for their portfolios. And the schools they couldn’t close, well, they let the corporations in through the back door. They outsourced everything from the tests, to the curriculum, and the classroom, the teachers, and finally even our kids’ private data, all handed over to these companies.”

“You mean all the information jammed up in the data pods, Uncle Kelley?”

Whenever Ryder looked out his bedroom window at the rusted machines slumped along Interregnum Mile, in his childish imagination they resembled iron dinosaurs. Something from a dystopic fairy tale. Well, even if they weren’t dinosaurs, that last part was accurate. The world had been living in a dystopic fairy tale.

“What did they do with the data, Uncle Kelley?”

“They used it to control our minds and our bodies. The electronic whip, we called it. With all that information, they could manipulate the choices we made. When Net neutrality was abolished the whole world around each of us was manufactured in a way to make us see what they wanted is to see, and to believe what they wanted us to believe. They controlled the access we had to the world. Worse yet, the data was used against us so prisons were built based on 3rd grade test scores of children of color. Employers decided whether to hire you based on a discipline record that went all the way back into kindergarten, Health care centers decided whether or not to provide you services based on the data they got from what you bought at the grocery store. If you ate foods that weren’t on the approved list, they could refuse to give you health care.  In schools they tracked kid’s pulses and eye movements to be sure they were paying attention. If the computer told the corporate masters you weren’t working hard enough, you could be severely punished.” Ryder did not bother to ask how.

Kelley’s voice dropped low and slow for emphasis. “That data… they just sucked right out of us… made themselves so wealthy and powerful that the people lost all hope of ever being able to have access to a free mind or clean food, clean water, or clean land ever again.”

Ryder tried to picture all that data, all that information like sewage flowing through clogged pipes churning and bubbling up on large screens as psychometric profiles and predictive behaviors. Even at the age of 14 he vaguely understood that in the wrong hands this would have brought his people back to a time of slavery and colonization. But this time, all people, black white or brown were going to be for sale. They had fought it back once. And the people woke up.

But the war wasn’t over. It had just gone underground. While Kelley was always eager to talk about the past with anyone willing to listen, neither he, nor any of the other adults, in Ryder’s world, would talk about the future. That was the cold chill of paralysis that kept up Ryder each night. Lying awake knowing that he, and Deacon and Keesha and the others were left with amorphous task of “re-imaging their future.”

Since they were toddlers, it seemed as if the three of them operated as one organic body: Keesha had the brains, Deacon had the courage, and Ryder had the heart. Best friends. Inseparable since their learning experiences in the Young Peoples Learning Center (YPLC). Deacon and Keesha were convinced that Ryder’s ability to feel so deeply for others came from spending his youth helping his mom who ran the YPLC on their street. Each apartment building, or city block of row homes, had its own YPLC to care for and educate the young children until the age of nine. In these small brightly painted rooms filled with music, paint, building blocks, books and outdoors spaces, the little ones from birth to nine years of age learned the basics: how to read, write, do math, sing, draw, speak multiple languages, cook, build and grow. Then they were graduated to city centers where they chartered their own learning agendas. Of course, parents and family members had influence on what the youth might learn, especially if there was a family business involved. But their contributions, which were places of learning, also contributed back to and within their community. All learning had purpose. And students chose their course. Back before going off script, the colonizers had tried to camouflage their corporate interests in the cloak of community efforts. But the people learned quickly that billions of dollars from outside sources were never intended to grow their community but to drain it. Double speaking in words of equality, freedom and choice, disguised social impact bonds and vulture philanthropy only worked for so long. Shortly after, they were driven out.

“Too much time with all those babies!” Deacon would sneer, using a tone of disgust underlining the word “babies.” Deacon couldn’t sit still long enough to listen to long drawn out stories strung together by small children with runny noses. He wanted round- the- clock action.

“Nu uh. It’s cause of his daddy. Ryder’s got preacher’s blood in him” Keesha would counter. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Ryder’s father when he was still a small infant was usually a hands-off topic no one could brooch with Ryder without winding up facing his fists in their face. But Keesha- she just knew how to say things just right so that the words were not unkind, or taunting. They were simply true. There wasn’t much Keesha could say or do that angered Ryder. With her, more so than with any of the others, his patience was endless. Whenever he saw her smile, or laugh, or simply draw a breath, Ryder’s whole body would light up with electricity. Simply being in her space created an invisible ripple effect from her to him. No one else could see it. But he could feel it. He wasn’t quite sure if she ever noticed this. But what folks did notice was how there was an unspoken orchestra of unity between the three of them. As young children they had simply revolved like planets into one another’s orbits and now they rotated around each other’s fields of gravity, inexplicably drawn together- even though their worlds at home were so markedly different. All they really had in common was their community, their age, and each other.

By the time they were twelve years old the Council of Elders had made it clear that very soon, the fate of their community, the growing success of the decolonized zone, rested with them. “Nothing thrills a teenager like getting the power he’s been yammering for” Kelley would say with an “I told you so” tone of voice. The he’d laugh. Ryder didn’t find it funny. None of them did. Sure they had the Council of Community Elders to lean on.  But it was really on them. And Ryder, not a huge risk taker, clung to Deacon and Keesha for their courage.

“Ryder!” his mom called from the kitchen downstairs. His mind was back to full attention of the present. He looked at the clock next to his bed. “Oh crap, I’m late! Coming mom! Be right there.”

As his foot hit the first stair he heard a low rumble from outside. The rumble grew into a roar. The house vibrated for a moment and he clutched the railing.

“Mom!” he called.

“Ryder, get down here. Quickly!”

He raced down skipping steps as he went. “What was that?

“I don’t know.”

“Call Uncle Kelley.”

She reached for the phone by the kitchen sink. Then a calm settled over the area. Ryder could hear neighbors outside on the street murmuring and asking questions. His mom hung up. “No answer.”

“I’ll go and find out, Mom. Don’t worry” Ryder said as he pushed open the front door to their row house and out onto the stoop. First thing he had to do was find Deacon.

 

Demand … or Be Damned

Posted: May 30, 2017 in Uncategorized

I was invited by Kevin Zeese to contribute something to Popular Resistance a while back, to contribute a call for an action in response to current education reform policies, including but not limited to, any piece of fecal detritus spewed by Betsy Devos and company.

I struggled to formulate a response to that request mostly because my feelings were two-fold: 1) I couldn’t generate any ideas not already being developed by others (i.e. call your state legislator, sign XYZ petition, speak up at PTA meetings etc etc…) and 2) I wasn’t sure where I stood in relationship to ESSA.

Generally speaking, I am opposed to supporting ESSA because of the devil in the details (the ways in which it is opening the flood gates for private interests in the form of vouchers, charters and online providers). And yet, as Trump and the clown car call for the dismantling of the US Department of Education and eliminating federal mandates, I am instinctively opposed to that too- much in the way one might instinctively oppose having a nail driven into their eye (the way I feel about anything attached to Trump’s name or policies). Besides, lets face it: Looking back historically, our track record for actually putting our democratic money where our mouth is, is less than stellar. Between high stakes testing and school to prison pipelines, we have done little in our policies to genuinely support disenfranchised youth and communities. So what are we hanging on to? And, if we let go of what we have, what will be in store for us? And who will decide?

So…. to be, or not to be? That is the question. Call for actions to support ESSA? Or to not support ESSA? That is the question. The answer is that it doesn’t matter. Why? Because RIGHT NOW, either road leads to the same ends, paved by the same people: privatization, profit and corporate ownership of students.

The policy makers that came before Devos (such as Arne Duncan and co.) might not have been so (openly) dim witted as to call for guns in schools to protect against grizzly bears. But education policies under Obama, and Bush before him, and Clinton before him all the way back to Reagan….all have been leading to the same neoliberal agenda. ESSA, as written and supported by Lamar Alexander will lead toward the same outcome that we would arrive it if we oppose or eliminate ESSA (that is, when the alternatives to ESSA are driven by the same policy makers that have been driving education agenda for thirty years).

What haven’t we tried? Rather than putting energy toward choosing sides drawn for us by the same corporate reformers who have been driving the bus for decades, and either being PRO ESSA or opposed to EESA, we should put our energy toward something we haven’t tried yet. DEMANDING, and TAKING DIRECT ACTION TOWARD enacting a system of policies crafted by us: Educators, parents, students and communities, especially and most necessarily, by and with those teachers, parents and students in communities that have been historically marginalized (unfunded and rendered invisible). Why don’t we stop focusing on whether or not to support policies crafted by others (the corporate and political elite), and begin really building from the ground up the demand for an agenda made by the people who live that agenda every day? Our energies and focus of strategic actions need to be redirected.

Why not tell our state and local representatives, union leadership, and boards of education: “Either you write policies that include OUR agenda, or WE-WILL-NOT-VOTE-FOR-YOU.”

It’s not like we haven’t crafted suggestions for system of policies or demands that we COULD use a starting outline. It not like we DON’T have alternatives. We DO. Numerous groups over many years have been advocated for them:

SOS demands for public education in 2012

United Opt Out demands for public education current, and also originally in 2013

BATS demands for public education

And most importantly: The National Student Bill of Rights

I think we’ve got a good start just with these alone. I am sure there are more. They’re all generally demanding the same things, since basic human rights for students and communities are the basic undercurrent of each of them. Within these organizations and other such as the teachers unions who have similar demands (really, rhetoric since they lack actionable substance) there are thousands of people who, if we redirected our focus toward OUR demands and less on debating about their offers, we could make SUBSTANTIAL and SYSTEMIC changes.

I know the first response of my readers  might be “That is just impossible.” Maybe. But it’s becoming increasingly evident that the only alternative to the impossible now is the unimaginable. If we continue on this current course of asking “Mother May I” and buying the solutions sold to us by the same folks who created the problem, we will wind up with the unimaginable.

I would rather fight for the impossible then accept the unimaginable. What about you?

Image result for education data mining

Dear New York Times,

I know that there’s a greater chance of me winning the lottery than there is in you actually publishing what I have to say in an Op Ed. So let’s pretend for a moment this response is actually IN the New York Times and not my little blog, and that millions of readers. the people who actually need to hear this stuff, will become aware of the facts the author, Ms. Singer,  so carefully avoided in her piece “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”  It read like a blatant “paid for by friend of Google” advertisement, because unlike a serious piece of journalism, this multi-page journey into the fairy tale between schools and the tech industry, carefully left out research from the medical profession (pediatricians) or data on whether or not the technological dominance in classrooms is actually GOOD for students.

As Susan Ohanian put it in a recent tweet, the article should have been called “Public schools pay Google $30 per device to train kids to love Google.”

We know these new tech-school partnerships have been great for the tech industry. The NYT article crows about how Google, not educators, are now dominating the conversation over what should be taught in the class and how. Think about that. Tech moguls are dictating what and how children should learn, not educators, nor child development specialists. And their conclusions conveniently seem to benefit their own corporations. What an amazing coincidence that is.

Yes. It’s the 21st century. Yes, computers and tech dominate the future of labor and industry. Yes, both my children own tablets or i-phones. But using something is different than having the industry dominate our children’s waking hours out of (and now) inside of school which adds up to about 10 hours a day, five days a week, from kindergarten through ….adulthood? Reams of private information and data being siphoned out of children along the way to suite private corporate interests, half of which parents are completely unaware of. The one minor blip of critique the NYT article offers regarding student privacy is miraculously resolved in one line about how Google aligns its contracts with schools with FERPA. Phew. That’s resolved! Except that FERPA was carefully revised to open the floodgates for corporate mining of student data, and with ESSA, now promoting policies that allow third party privately managed companies to become LEA’s, well the protection of FERPA for a child’s rights and privacy as a water balloon would be in a gun fight.

 

So — to my readers. Let’s please do the job New York Times is unwilling to do. Call them on this bullshit and make sure that parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens have all the facts when deciding about who should “own the future” of our children’s education.

First of all, start reading informed researched pieces like every single post by Alison McDowell at in Wrench the Gears to get an honest appraisal of what the tech industry really has in store for our children.

Second, pass along these points about Google (or any tech) dominating education, to consider as well:

  • Increased risks of obesity-increased seat time
  • Reduction of opportunities to engage with multiple learning styles: kinesthetic, social, verbal, environmental…all reduced to visual screen time.
  • Loss of socialization and development of social cuing.

“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, in a news release. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.” Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Damage to eyes, hands/wrists, and neck.

One report states “Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.”

  • Loss of data privacy = online platforms delivered to third party organizations who track every response and behavior your child makes in their learning process. Every bit tracked and monitored and managed.
  • Increases ADHD-like symptoms.  Some experts believe that “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.”
  • An adrenaline driven mentality to learning (like addiction). As one psychologist’s research findings prove, “As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome.These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention…excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties.”
  • The monies spent on new devises is often wasted. What could have gone to building materials, hiring staff, or other supports, millions are wasted (See LAUSD) on devices that wind up creating more problems than solutions. That’s our tax payer dollars going to fund billionaire corporations instead of a new playground or library books.

And ask yourself, why isn’t the New York Times willing to put the interests of children before those of corporations?

 

Power Point link here. Click to download and save:

Charter Schools forEdualch

 

Compromise or Corporatize?

Posted: April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

A passage from Tipu’s Tiger, a writing collective*:

“The concept of allyship has been instrumental in imposing more moderate power brokers and elite protest managers on decentralized movements in an attempt to rein in disruptive protest. Any social movement in recent memory that has attempted to break the mold of permitted rallies and marches, and raiie the economic cost of doing business as usual, has had to face a social justice industry deigned to channel social unrest into electoral politics, elite representation, and fantasies of political reform without mass popular resistance.”

This blog is about writing less, and listening more. I am seeking responses and reactions (post them in comments) to the quote above as it relates to possible questions to consider:

What is the difference between solidarity and selling out when it comes to allyship in the resistance against corporate colonization of public education?

How far is too far in our push against the powerful elite?

How can a radical resistance movement influence the shape and substance of future public education… (after it hits the inevitable final tipping point of elimination at the hands of neoliberalism)?

*From C. Milsten (ed) Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism (2015).

(by Banksy)