I was a little frustrated at first when I found out that we were going to meet last Sunday night simply because I didn’t want another thing I had to do during finals week. However, as my group started planning our performance and I heard what some other groups were doing, I stated to get a bit more excited. After seeing everyone on Sunday, I’m glad that we got to meet together one last time. It gave me more closure with this class and a sense of a support network because I know that class issues will come up for me throughout my time here. And while not a lot of my other friends around campus understand their own classism or care about general class issues, it’s really good to know that y’all do. I feel like I could probably turn to any one from this class if I need to talk to someone about a class issue I’m having.
On Tuesday, I decided to participate in a direct, non-violent action against PNC bank in Philadelphia instead of going to class. The group I participated with is called the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and although they are primarily an environmental justice group, the action was actually focused on jobs and economic justice as well as environmental justice. PNC invests in mountain top removal coal mining in Appalachia, where basically mountaintops are blasted off to get the coal in the ground for energy uses. EQAT has lead a campaign to get PNC to divest from this for the past three years now. However, during the two groups’ last interaction, PNC defended their investment by stating that it creates jobs for the people in Appalachia, an area that happens to be a very poor part of the country in general. While this does provide jobs, it’s jobs that are harmful to the employees and are not sustainable. Also, the practice itself adversely affects the people who live in Appalachia in many ways – cancer rates have increased, more babies are born with birth defects, and many people don’t have access to clean water in their homes.
As some of you may know, the Occupy Phildephia site was evicted this past Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. As a sign that there's still people who believe in the movement and are working toward a different society and way of life in the US, the working groups organized a march on Saturday. Some other Bryn Mawr students and I went and marched in solidarity. It was incredible. We marched, chanted, and danced our way from City Hall to Independence Park. The march itself was filled with such a strong, positive energy and we got many gestures of support from people on the sidewalks (as well as some people who were against what we stood for). After we arrived at Independence Park, we held a People's Assembly where anyone can speak up and say whatever's on their mind in regards to issues pertaining to the Occupy movement, social inequalities and injustices, voting, the role of the police in the movement, etc. One thing that was announced that I found very intriguing and pertinent to this course was one young man who said he and his friend were starting a Free University of Philadelphia. He stated that they would give anyone who wanted one, an education. I twinkle-fingered this announement (meaning I put my hands up to signal that I agreed with it/supported it) because I agree with the sentiment that everyone deserves access to free education.
I choose this space because it was outside with no visible man-made structures around. I noticed that we focused a lot in class on the buildings at Bryn Mawr and various rooms inside, but we didn’t discuss this entire other part that makes up campus. I also have found it very interesting how outside spaces are not really used or set up for schoolwork or classes. It seems like outdoor spaces are set aside for more socializing and relaxing activities, while classes and learning take place inside. To me, this separation is reflective of society not valuing education that takes place outside of schools (i.e. street smarts). I’ve also found the learning that takes place inside a classroom is very different from the learning that takes place outside the classroom (but while still in class, like on a field trip). It’s more experiential and to me, it can be more impactful and I can learn a lot more outside of classroom spaces. I think every space has the potential to be place for learning and education. Outside spaces, to me, seem more accessible for learning than inside spaces, especially at Bryn Mawr with all of the grand, imposing buildings.
While reflecting on our class and my engagement with it thus far, I realized how much more I’ve been second-guessing my thoughts and viewpoints about education and class in the U.S. The way I approach this subject has definitely evolved and I suspect I will continue to change my attitudes and opinions of education. This “re-thinking” process really works for me. I tend to always find classes that challenge my viewpoint and push our conversations very engaging and think it’s an important aspect of any class. Something that has not been working very well for me is the weekly papers and my writing and I focused a lot of my paper on my issues with that. I also wrote on my personal participation and engagement with the class.
In general, I am very excited to visit the high school after fall break, because we’ve been discussing education and class for quite a while using just our own personal experiences and our readings. I’m looking forward to actually perhaps witness first-hand some of the theory and experiences we’ve talked about in class. I’m hoping we’ll be able to sit in for a little bit on a typical class at the high school as well as talk with the students about their experiences and backgrounds. The thing is, I’m figuring that part of going to this high school is to see the interactions of education and class in action, but I don’t want to assume which socioeconomic class the students are from. At the same time, I know I probably will not feel comfortable enough with these students who are basically strangers to ask them their class. It reminds me of our first day in class when we were asked to classify ourselves and no one chose to name their socioeconomic class.
This week at UC Berkeley there was a huge controversy surrounding an affirmative action-like bill called SB 185 passed by the Senate in California that I think relates a lot to our conversations about class, access, and education so I wanted to share it with y’all.
Basically, this bill would allow public universities in California to consider an applicant’s race, ethnicity, and gender in the application process and on Tuesday, there was a phone bank on Berkeley’s campus to call in to support the signing of this bill. In response, the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) hosted a satirical “Increase Diversity” Bake Sale opposite the phone bank with pricing based on one’s race, ethnicity, and gender. Based on statements the group posted on Facebook (links below), they felt the legislation was intended to increase diversity and fill quotas, which officials say is not true. The bake sale offended a ton of students who then protested in the main plaza on campus.
I read one opinion piece that I felt spoke to some of feelings in our conversations in class. Here are some excerpts and the link to the article:
By the way, within this response when I refer to ‘education’, I’m referring to education that one receives within school and the classroom.
"In my life, I’ve been very blessed with my access to education and what opportunities my education has provided. My education takes place in classrooms, homes, and the outdoors with all my experiences in each providing different types of educations that all inform one another. However without my education in school, I would not be able to relate my experiences to one another and realize their significance. My education thus far has unintentionally been a practice of John Dewey’s philosophical theory on education, which he describes in Education and Democracy: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education as the connections between our experiences and our reflections of them. Dewey implies that education is an endless process in life as we are always discovering these connections by the process of thinking about our past and the consequences of our past on our future. His classed assumptions about education are that with his definition, to be educated, one must have time, energy to reflect on experiences and have access to a school that educates the whole self – mind and body. Within the working class, this access and opportunities are not normally possible. In Anzia Yezierska’s novel, she brings class to the forefront by describing how one from a working-class background feels in an upper-class college setting. Her novel seems to support Dewey’s philosophical stance on education in that her life experiences only had significance once she had the tools to reflect upon them.