Friday, July 6, 2012

What I've Learned This Week(ish)

1.  The definition of "neoliberalism" which I came across multiple times in this article, in the Utne Reader, an excerpt from a book about the historical context of organized labor and its relationship to today's working class and labor movements.  I find it fascinating how relatively meaningless the terms "liberal" and "conservative" really are in terms of any kind of coherent system of thought, making their social and political connotations really important to understand.  Neoliberalism, in terms of its emphasis on free markets and privatization, seems like it would be desirable to "conservatives," and yet I suppose it is the loss of jobs in the U.S. that makes conservatives and their (typical) strong sense of nationalism object to it policy-wise.  Hm.  Anyway, it's a good article and gave me a little hope.

Teachers are somewhat stuck between "labor" and white-collar professionals.  Because public school teachers are under-recognized, under-respected and under-compensated as a group (although the public is supportive of individual teachers), we really can't abandon whatever organized labor groups we can still get moving, and yet we want to be trusted, respected and compensated as professionals, and if we were truly considered a profession our issues would be more distanced from "labor" issues.  One thing (I think) that keeps teachers (and firefighters, police, etc.) in this in-between group is the idea that we are public servants. We are expected to have a certain degree of altruism about what we do (which makes me wonder-- do public defenders and prosecutors feel the same way?  I suppose, but lawyers have such a long-standing status as professionals...)  What gives firefighters and police a little more cache than teachers is that their lives are on the line each day, lending a sense of urgency and public obligation to their causes; also, sadly, I think that the fact that those careers are still more male-dominated and that teaching has been more and more feminized keeps teacher-groups from finding more political and professional footing.

2.  I took my kids and my mom kayaking when we were camping at Patagonia Lake with my sister and her family.  Mom was (as she put it) being a stick in the mud and almost wimped out, but we didn't take no for an answer.  Benchy told her that if she couldn't get out of the boat, they had a little crane lift down on the dock.  :)  It was a calm morning, sunny, with the puffing clouds we get during the day around monsoon season.  None of us had done it before, but I used to absolutely love canoeing in Girl Scouts, so I figured we'd be okay.  It was much easier that canoeing.  I now covet a kayak.

Mom and G

The Kiddos

3.  I visited our neighborhood carniceria for the first time.  For our 4th of July barbecue, we made carne asada and guacamole along with the typical (and fantastic) family potato salad (NO PICKLES), corn on the cob roasted on the grill and watermelon.  The carniceria was great.  My dad got hooked on it last summer, but I had never gone.  The man behind the counter helped me pick out which meat to use and how much to buy, and marinated it for me.  The meat counter was large and full.  The fresh chorizo looked very tempting.  The rest of the store was a wide selection of Mexican products and American snacks and drinks.  I will definitely go back.

4.  After a break of a couple of years, I took the kids and their cousin to BICAS to fix four flat tires, fix G's shifter which seemed broken, fix my basket and adjust my brakes.  I love that place, and I learned last week that they are truly kid-friendly.  The little girls were worried about getting their bikes down the steep ramp into the basement, and a volunteer came right out and helped them down (since I was holding my own bike).  My helper Isaiah patiently explained to me the basics of how the shifting systems on our bikes worked and how to adjust the shifting, and he scavenged for a new combined shifter/brake handle for G's bike and installed it himself (probably because he saw I was distracted by the kids.)  When the two little girls became bored, Colin gave them a spray bottle full of water and they found about 90 minutes of fun in that.  We were all very damp by the end of things.  The basement was cool, well-equipped and an artistic space.  We did all of the above plus installed two kickstands for $18 total, and when I tried to pay for neato artsy BICAS stickers for our bikes, they wouldn't take our money.  They said that since the kids were with me, the stickers were going to a good cause.  SWEET.  Love that place.

OK.  There's more to say, as always, but that is plenty enough for you to digest for one blog entry. 

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