A new site

I have created a new site that is meant as a destination for poets and writers who have political poetry (primarily) that they want to share. That new site, Poetry of the Resistance, is here: https://poetryoftheresistance.wordpress.com

When I say “political” poetry I do not mean the poems have to be narrowly partisan or doctrinaire. Politics is lived experience and consciousness; it is your body and the bodies of others. Politics is your sense of justice, duty, outrage; it is your principles and it is also your disdain. It can be joy and it can be pain.

If you want to take a chance with me on this new journey, I welcome your contributions. You can email me here: demoiindependentlearning@gmail.com

“Democracy in the classroom”

This is a piece I wrote about how we negotiate democracy in the classroom at the Infinity School where I work. I enjoy this practice as it fits in with the teaching I do independently as part of DEMOI:

Democracy in the classroom

Democracy is difficult. It requires a great deal of patience and comfort with disagreement. Citizens who take democracy seriously have to be prepared to have their ideas rejected by their neighbours, friends and peers. They also have to be prepared to accept the vote of the majority even if they strongly disagree with it.

At Infinity School, we practice democracy. This is done as part of each of day with a specific time each Thursday morning set aside for the democratic process to be honed. On those mornings we spend half an hour doing something called “Town Council.”

From 8:45 to 9:15am the Eagles and I have a meeting that follows an Agenda, which they have set. I open our council by asking the Eagles what they feel are the most pressing issues facing our community. By a vote, they place their chosen items on the Agenda and then we address them in the order of priority the Eagles selected. We follow the “Process Map” system used by our model school, Acton Academy.

My role as Guide is not to choose the items or to come up with solutions: the Eagles do that. When an issue is raised it is then “on the table” where it is discussed and debated.

When the discussion/debate has come to a conclusion (they vote on this, too), the Eagles are asked to come up with solutions. They write their ideas down and post them on the blackboard. I then list their solutions and see what proposals are the most popular.

After we have narrowed down our options we hold another vote until a solution is chosen. During the “narrowing down” process there is further debate and discussion.

If this sounds complex and involved, it absolutely is. And funny enough, the Eagles love it. They enjoy voting, debating, discussing and, above all, they love setting the Agenda. As their Guide, it can be both maddening and delightful to watch a debate become contentious or inspired.

But as I watch the Eagles in action I am reminded of all of those texts, articles and tomes about democracy I read over the years as I studied history and political science. Our Town Council is democracy in action: this is community dynamics at work; this is political science.

At Infinity and across the Acton Academy system, the Heads of School and the Guides are asking for something that today seems extraordinary from their Eagles. We are asking for their commitment to experimenting with a democratic system in the classroom.

We are asking them to take the lead in designing their education and establishing the ground rules and policies, which govern their community. This is an intensive preparation for adulthood, citizenship and the working world. This is also an attempt to bring back a frequently missing component of education: self-reliance, personal responsibility and active citizenship.

Anyone who is familiar with democracy and democratic systems knows that sometimes the process of proposing ideas and arriving at solutions is messy, confusing and (dare I say it?) chaotic. But this process is the basis of a free society; it is a requirement of a community-wide commitment to personal liberty, individual creativity and the principle that each mind, heart, voice and individual matters.

We believe that our Infinity community cannot truly be a community without the participation of every member. We also know that for young people to grow up and be successful in a competitive and often contentious world, they need to be prepared to participate by proposing ideas, attempting solutions and accepting that disappointment and failure are part of life in the “adult world.”

As a Guide, one of the most important life lessons I am learning from my Eagles is that this process of participating, of problem solving, is an ongoing process that one never masters. If you and your child believe that life is a call to creativity and that the best communities (and societies) are those which reward creativity, I think your child has a home here at Infinity.

You can visit the website here: http://infinityschool.ca/education-concepts/democracy-classroom-infinity-school/

A poem for the times

Socialism’s coming

‘. . . those who possessed something, united in a common terror.’
-Alexis DeTocqueville

Socialism’s coming
but it won’t be what we thought.

The young know there’s no fulsome work.
It’s not how they won’t
but that they can’t.

Sure, you say
flip burgers!
wash dishes!
dig ditches!
But have you seen who gets hired?

Even summer jobs have been outsourced
to the global market place.

Socialism isn’t just for
the unwashed anymore
it’s for the suburban whites
in their Goodwill Ts
who still borrow their parents’ car keys

It’s for the middle aged mother and father
of two, three or four
who can’t balance their check book anymore
since they buy such frivolous things
as extra Kotex pads and strong coffee for early mornings.

What used to be called capitalism
or free enterprise
has seen its demise
it runs second to the current order
which is despised

Since you paid too much for
your four year degree
and can’t make a full time wage
even at an advanced age

Since your Associate’s, your Bachelor’s,
your Master’s degrees
(we won’t even discuss the PhDs)
have only given your more debt than before
and no one hires on long term contracts -forget tenure!- anymore.

The bogey of being one with your hand out palm up
is coming your way
because you’ve watched Congress prefer employers
who’ve bargained your health insurance away.
They finance financiers
through rococo bills festooned with riders
printed in diminutive print
designed to make sure that more money is spent
filling campaign coffers and PACs with anonymous donors.

It is also true that suburbanites (mainly whites)
don’t know work like we knew it since
it’s not good business
to pay full time when no one does
it’s not good business
to pay part time when no one does
it’s not good business
to have human employees when no one does.

So, it’s prediction time:

Socialism is coming
it is practically here
and it’s color isn’t red anymore
but black on white
the banner of a digital password
awarded by the State
containing an account number
for direct payment

Of a Guaranteed Annual Income

Because the alternative is bread riots
manifestations
and lots of no longer polite, genteel patriots
who possess semi-automatic weapons.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Episode 7 of ‘Talking to Canadians’: “Equality & Equity: Feminism as performance.”

Here is Episode 7 of ‘Talking to Canadians’ which is part 2 of my discussion with Susan Toth. I have entitled it:

“Equality and Equity: Feminism as performance.”

When I asked Susan about her feminism and how it impacts her work as a professional, she told me that it inspires her to push past gendered assumptions about performance. She noted that as a woman who is a lawyer, she should be able to become the best attorney possible. Not the best female attorney, but the best attorney.

I found this conversation enlightening and enjoyable to revisit. Thank you for listening! And follow us on Twitter @Talking_to_Cdns

https://ryanoconnor.ca/talkingtocanadians/2017/6/10/talking-to-canadians-episode-7

Passion & the education of children and young adults

I wrote a short essay on the role of passion in the education of children and young adults. The piece is based upon my work at The Infinity School here in London. You can read the link and explore the school’s website here:

http://infinityschool.ca/education-concepts/amazing-thing-happens-ask-children-passion/

Detroit Treasures

I had a tremendously positive experience conducting research at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University this past Thursday.

Detroit has some tremendous educational and cultural resources, especially in/around the Wayne State campus. Not only is the glorious Detroit Institute of the Arts located there, but so is the Detroit Public Library Main Branch (built in the 1860s), the Detroit Historical Society & Museum, the Michigan Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the libraries of Wayne State University.

This is a tremendous resource that is actually easier to get to (from London) than the museums of downtown Toronto (quicker & with better parking). I don’t know how many people know of these institutions, but I would suggest checking them out. The atmosphere around the university campus is lovely and there is good eating, too.