Archive for the 'That’s So Class-y' category

Repost: Research Shows Private Schools Are Awesome

Everything "vintage" and "repurposed" is popular these days, so why not some vintage repurposed TSZ? Originally published 8/2/2006 and titled "More From the Journal of Exceedingly Obvious Results", this classic TSZ is, sadly, just as relevant today as it was eight years ago.

 

This just in from JEOR, as reported in the Chronicle's news blog:

Researchers at Harvard University say private high schools give their students an advantage over those who attend public schools.

I am shocked, shocked! to find that an advantage is going on at private schools! 

Who would have thought that our excellent system for adequately funding our public schools through the lottery of property taxes, and the generally large student-to-teacher ratios in public schools, would not be competitive with private institutions and their smaller student-to-teacher ratios?  Wouldn't you think that property values in southwestern PA would buy you just as good a public education as you could get at, say Phillips Exeter?  Or that a class size of 30 offers just as much opportunity for your child to get excellent individual attention from the teacher as, say, a class size of 10 at the local Roman Catholic high school? I would have too.  That's why we need JEOR to keep us informed. 

So what I say is, stop wasting your breath lobbying your senators and representatives to do a better job of funding a topnotch public education for every child.  Just grab your kid and scurry on over to the nearest private school as fast as you can.  And if you can't afford it or there aren't any in your county, well, that's just too bad, isn't it?  That will teach you to be born into the not-adequately-privileged class. 

There are some who say money isn't the answer.  I remember one Republican who once told me that he thought textbooks weren't necessary to truly teach a child well, that he could teach a child math without a textbook.  I asked him if he would prefer for his child to go to a school with teachers like him but absolutely no textbooks.  He got a sour look and refused to answer me.  Yeah, I thought so, is what I said.  Why is it that money is not the answer only for the poor kids?  

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Competitive Farm Marketing

You cannot sleep in on Saturday and expect the black raspberries to sit around waiting for you to show up at the farmer's market. You just can't. They will have up and left you forlorn and bereft, as they jump quickly, even frantically, into the first reusable cloth bag or colorful wicker basket that strolls by.

The natural habitat of berries at a farmer's market is close to the pay station. It's no good standing around waiting politely for the line to shuffle along the table to the berries. Say "excuse me" if you must, but slip in between and grab some of those jumpy berries NOW, and return to the end of the line, holding on tightly. You will be ever so glad you did once you reach the pay station and survey the scorched landscape that was once a lush berry patch. Remain vigilant until you have paid for the berries and secured them in your reusable cloth bag/colorful wicker basket. Because when you set them down on the table to retrieve your wallet, so as to make an offering to the berry gods, 99% of the time the hand of the person behind you will instantly hover over your berries while they ask, in foolish hope and lust combined: "Are these yours?" Whatever you are in engaged in at the moment, stop and lay a hand possessively somewhere on the berries with a firm "Yes!" that brooks no sharing.

Secure the berries carefully in your vehicle, in a cooler if you can't park in the shade. Then, and only then, return to the market to shop for the more abundant comestibles, the zucchinis and cucumbers, the cabbages and carrots, the peppers and potatoes. These will make the bulk of your meals in the coming week but the berries will make your bliss.

In your childhood you watched cartoons on Saturday morning and then tramped the woods with your friends, collecting the berries in a bucket, eating as you went, returning home with stained hands and a pailful that your mother turned into something delicious. You only had to compete with the birds, and there was enough for everyone anyway. But you washed your hands, and grew up, and went away to college, and then to grad school, and then all over the place, and now you live a cosmopolitan life in a city that offers so much more than you ever could have dreamed of in your little home town. You can have anything you want, really. You can even have your berries and eat them, too.

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You "Lean In" to Puke. You Organize For Change.

I have no problem with leaning in. Really I don't. If you are going to puke on someone's shoes, you had best lean in a little, lest the spatter hit your own glorious footwear.  And Zuskateers know that it's just sadly necessary to give someone a proper shoe-puking now and again, if only for the sake of our own mental health.

But if it's real, substantive change we're after, then we'd best be talking about organizing and collective action. In all cases, it is most heartily recommended that one know something of one's history. Our foremothers' struggles and triumphs are inspirational, to be sure, but they are also instructional.

Do not waste your time, energy, or cash enriching Sheryl Sandberg with her corporatized vision of a pseudo-feminism for individuals. Do not Lean In. Do read Susan Faludi's excellent critique of that whole hot mess situating it in history dating back to the Lowell "mill girls" in 1834. I must confess I did not know this:

The mill workers went on to agitate against an unjust system in all its forms. When Lowell’s state representative thwarted the women’s statewide battle for the ten-hour day, they mobilized and succeeded in having him voted out of office—nearly eighty years before women had the vote. Mill women in Lowell and, in the decades to come, their counterparts throughout New England threw themselves into the abolitionist movement (drawing connections between the cotton picked by slaves and the fabric they wove in the mills); campaigned for better health care, safer schools, decent housing, and cleaner water and streets; and joined the fight for women’s suffrage.

Now that is far more interesting than that Leaning In bla. If those women, in the 1800s, through collective action, could get a dudebro out of office without even having the vote, imagine what we could accomplish today with the vote. If only we organized. And worked together. And stopped thinking of success as something that individuals obtain, for their own self-interests.

 

Hat tip to @KMBTweets for the link to the Faludi article. Follow @KMBTweets on twitter. You will not be sorry!

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Washington Trades and Labor Building

A few weeks ago I was in Washington, Pa - or what everyone in southwestern Pa refers to as "Little Washington". I've been there on numerous occasions but this was the first time I'd seen this building.

Washington Trades and Labor Building, Washington, PA

This is a closer view of the entrance.

Washington Trades and Labor Building entrance

The building now houses the Newman Center for Washington & Jefferson College on its second floor.

What had originally caught my eye, and led me to want to investigate more closely, was the stone slab on the lower left of the building front.

Inscribed stone slab on the front of Washington Trades and Labor Building

The inscription reads:

This granite is dedicated in memory of our brothers and sisters of Washington and Greene Counties who paid the ultimate price for employment many of which due solely to corporate greed and employer indifference to safety.

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living" Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones

"The present age handed over the workers, each alone and defenseless, to the unbridled greed of competitors...so that a very few and exceedingly rich men had laid a yoke of almost slavery on the unnumbered masses of non-owning workers." Pope Leo XIII

It's difficult to describe how I felt when I read that. It was breathtaking to see such strong words chiseled in granite right there out in the open for everyone to see - right here in the age of Scott Walker and Mitt Romney.  It's not some very old monument either - it was dedicated in 2001.  I haven't been able to find any information about the building or the granite marker.  If anyone knows anything about either, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave a comment.

If the Republicans have their way, we'll be right back in the world these quotes describe - indeed we're heading there.  It is so discouraging to a child of a UMWA man, to see how beaten down unions are in the U.S. today.

 

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Personal Care Robots Are The Last Thing We Need

I just heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered that made me want to rip my hair out.  Personal robots!  You know you want one!  You don't need one, but that doesn't matter.  They will be made, you will learn to want them, and you'll be getting them and upgrading them just like your smart phone or iPad.  (Side note: If anyone can explain to me why the new robot thingies always have to be called "Rosie" I will be grateful.  Don't blame it on the Jetsons.  Where did the Jetsons come up with Rosie? Is it all just to mock the real Rosies, the riveters of WWII?)

We don't need robots to walk our dogs or wash our windows.  We don't need them to "fold towels, help elderly and disabled people with home care, and even fetch a beer".  For one thing, there's plenty enough beer-fetching going on in America's households as it is.  For another, if you can't be bothered to walk you own dog, or pay another human to do it for you when you are too busy, you shouldn't have a dog.  Robot dog walkers just take away one more job from young people.

But what REALLY hacks me off is the idea of robots designed to help the elderly and disabled with home care.  What the elderly and disabled need is more contact with other human beings, not less.  They don't need to be even more isolated in their homes than they already are.  They need people they can talk to and interact with and tell their stories to.  We need to pay decent living wages for this kind of care, to value it for the real importance it actually has, not sluff it off on the fantasy product of robotics researchers.

In any case, that bla bla about robots helping the elderly and disabled is just robotics engineers blowing smoke up your ass to keep their projects running.  Do you think something that currently costs $400,000 to build is being designed to help one of the most despised and neglected segments of our population? Where else is money and effort on this scale being poured into improving the lives of the elderly and the disabled?

Robots are going to be a hip thing for the youth culture, just like smart phones and iPads.  Things you could live without but are so cool to have, things that are always being upgraded.  Things that are costly.  The elderly and disabled, by and large, don't have extra cash to lay out on costly toys.  They aren't going to buy dog-walking, beer-fetching robots.

Redesigning existing home stock to be universally accessible, or making sure your local government buildings and restaurants really are accessible as they claim to be, or lobbying for better care for returning disabled veterans - none of this sounds as sexy as beer-toting personal robots, I am sure.  But all of it would be a a helluva lot more useful than one more fancy toy for your neighbor to envy.

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The More Things Change...

Got my Jan-Feb 2012 issue of the UMWA Journal recently and read this on page 2:

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

The time has come when all members of the working class must sink their petty differences and personal political opinions, and take a united and definite position. The great danger is… the capitalist class will, by means of their entrenched power in government, judiciary, the public press and financial organizations…obtain such a hold upon society that the work of redemption will be frustrated for generations to come. While the working class divide their energies and divide political parties…the capitalist class will move solidly along [its] well-defined purpose.

That's pretty much what I've been thinking lately.  I think that's at least part of what the "We are the 99%" protests have been trying to convey.

Depressingly enough, it appeared in the UMW Journal 100 years ago, on January 18, 1912. I think of all that my grandfathers struggled and fought for, and how much of it has been taken away from us.  Even the eight-hour day, which organized labor won as a right through years of difficult, dangerous, and deadly strikes and protests, is all but gone.

Let's say you work at a university or a company.  You have your "hourly wage" employees and your "salaried" employees.  Everybody knows it's much better to be a salaried employee, right?  More money, better career track, better benefits (well...as long as you can hang on to them),  and the cachet of being salaried.  No wage slave are you!  No mucking about with unions for your highly educated and trained self!  Unions are for the lower class of employees, the lesser skilled, the less important, the interchangeable parts.  You are a unique individual and you don't need a union to represent you!  You represent yourself!  You are your own brand! Just look at your web page!  People follow you on Twitter!  [Follow me @TSZuska ! For realz!] You aren't one of those nine-to-fivers who work just to live, you live for your work.  Every now and then you'll agree that a St. K3rn takes it a bit too far, but really, you've got to put in the long hours to get results and you need to show you are dedicated researcher/company person.  You're online, tuned in, available 24/7; work comes home with you, and you live with your work.  In 1848 French workers won a 12-hour workday. There are PIs today who would question those French workers' dedication.  Only 12 hours? "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays," as my master's thesis advisor said.

But what good would a union do?  Science/industry/God demands the sacrifice of your time and no progress can be made without it.  However will the coal mines operate if we don't have the tiny hands of children to pick the slate out of the coal at the breakers? The main point is that you are an individual and you are going to make it to the top.  Remember, we don't talk about haves and have-nots in this country.  We speak of haves, and soon-to-haves.

 

Fifty years ago, Rep. Elmer Holland (D.-PA) was quoted in the pages of the February 1, 1962 UMW Journal as follows:

It’s all too easy to dream up reasons why the labor movement should be shackled even more. And if the labor movement is not alert that is precisely what will happen.

If you don't believe Elmer Holland, you just go ask Scott Walker and the Koch brothers!

Twenty-five years ago, UMWA members were being urged to buy American-made goods, even if they cost more, and to complain to stores if they could not find what they wanted made in America.  But WalMart is so cheap!  And now that our unions have been crushed, our wages curtailed, our benefits taken away, and job security just some vague dream we once heard about, who can afford to "buy American"?  If, indeed, there's anything left made in America after the orgy of right-sizing and down-sizing and out-sourcing moved most of our manufacturing base elsewhere.

The Philadelphia Inquirer business section yesterday explained how Dansko would love to move all its manufacturing back into the U.S.  The main reason it can't is not wages.

Even if the company were to offer U.S. workers wages similar to what it pays in Italy - $18 to $20 an hour - its founders say there would remain the fundamental issue of where to find people with the expertise, or the desire, to take those jobs, given how shoemaking as an industry has been decimated.

"It's really about there's no knowledge - no knowledge, no support structure," Kjellerup said. "Because if you had that, I think America could be competitive in manufacturing."

And so we have the conundrum of a company that would like to pay good wages to make its product in America, but can't, thanks to decades of outsourcing.

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The Working Mom Issue: It Depends

I recently lost my mind completely and went on the twitters.  Due to my folly, I caught a link from @DoubleXSci to this article at the LA Times about the science of being a working mother: The MD: What Science Says About Working Moms, and What the Heart Says.  I have read a skajillion of these kinds of articles in my lifetime.  This one tells us no worries!  Go on and be a working mom!

Searching for more definitive answers, researchers at UC Irvine combined the results of 69 different studies on the topic. Their findings, published by the American Psychological Assn. in 2010, were reassuring. With few exceptions, children whose mothers returned to work when they were young fared just as well as those with stay-at-home moms.

"The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full-time employment early on," says Wendy Goldberg, a professor in the department of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine. "We have to look at other factors that affect child achievement and behavior. Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."

I firmly believe that if decent childcare is readily available, no one's going to be seriously damaged if mommy goes back to work whenever she wants.  Daddy goes back to work on day 1 and somehow kids survive.  We rarely think about the consequences of that separation at birth, do we?

But two lines in the above quote get me.  "The only negative effects were found with very intensive, full time employment early on" and "Maternal work isn't the whole story by any means."  I would think not.  I would guess that whether or not you call your work a "career" and whether or not your work pays enough to keep you and your kid(s) from starving are two big, related factors, that might also tie into that intensive, full-time employment early on biz.  You might call what I am picking at here "class issues".

Here are some stereotypes we know and love:

1.  Welfare queens who just keep having babies so they can get a bigger check and stay home and not have to work.

2.  Hardworking middle class people who do their part and don't want to see their taxes go to support someone else.

3.  Women in science who have babies don't work as hard and want special treatment and extra credit for lesser quality work.

Take note that in theory, women are also included in "hardworking middle class people" but in practice deployment of the statement invokes an ideal of a nuclear family with hardworking man supporting wife and kids at home.  So, we can now start putting together rules for being a woman with kids:

If you are poor, you should not have kids, because then you will need the government to support you, and that is unfair to hardworking middle class people who do their part.  If you are poor and work, you can have kids, but don't expect childcare because again, that would be unfair to the hardworking middle class.  If you are poor and work and your kids are endangered because your part-time WalMart wages won't pay for adequate childcare, they will be taken from you because you are a bad mother. Also, try not to get sick, because health insurance? Ha!

If you are middle class, congratulations!  You have a hardworking husband who will take care of you and the kids, and of course you will probably want to homeschool the kids.  If your husband's salary is inadequate to support this lifestyle, he is not hardworking enough.  You may have to get a job to help out, but don't expect childcare.  That would be unfair to other hardworking middle class people.  Keep your fingers crossed that hubby does not die or divorce you. You may have insurance, but it may be mostly useless so again, try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women, you should not be having children at all, just to pay someone else to raise them.  If you really want to have children, then you can't devote yourself to your career anyway.  So why hurt both your children and yourself?  Besides, if you have children, no one will take your work seriously.  Even if you get married and don't have children, people will be wondering if you might not just pop out a kid at any moment, confirming their suspicions that you are not serious.  Probably best to stay single.  Then they will just gossip about how you are an ice queen and frigid and a bull dyke and lesbian and ball-breaker and not a normal woman and need a good fucking and who would want to fuck you anyway.  It's not too late to think about becoming a nurse, or teacher, or even an executive assistant.  Then you can look for a nice man, settle down into a middle class lifestyle, and have some kids.  Try not to be poor, and try not to get sick.

If you are one of those career women who runs a company, you can do pretty much whatever you want because you will have lots of money and you own a company.  Not that it will be easy or that you will be universally loved or respected for it.  Just sayin', money=choice.

If you are one of those career women who wants to go into politics, you had better have children, and be prepared at all times to talk about (1) how important being a good mother is to you and how you have always arranged your schedule to be there for your children when they need you and (2) how having children will in no way ever impact on your ability to function as [fill in public office here] in even the slightest manner.

I think that mostly covers it.  Good luck!  Anyone with additional advice on how to be a woman with children, please leave a note in the comments!

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No Modesty Left At All

People keep saying the dead-tree format is over and done with but you can still learn so much from reading the newspaper.  Take for example this (for once) sensible editorial I chanced upon yesterday in the radical left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you are "poor", ask yourself:  WWJD?  Be prepared to shape up in a hurry because He'd tell you something like this:

Our Lord Jesus: Are you a tween working 60 hours a week sticking things on pots while rats gnaw at you, just so you can get your dad out of debtor's prison?  No?  What you are is lounging about in your air-conditioned paradise with your cable tv, maybe even going to the public library and using the computer to get on the Internet there, and you're whinging away because you're "hungry".  If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?  Riddle me that one, Batman!  Your school (though I wouldn't let my kids go there) is free (for now, till we institute the voucher system) and your government pays for "much" of the tab of state and community colleges (if by "much" we include "ever decreasing amounts").  Why are you so dumb?  You can be as "poor" as you want and we won't even put you in debtor's prison!

 

You see, being poor used to be about really suffering in a hideous manner unto death. If the impoverished people are fat, have cars, and aren't in jail, the system is working pretty good for them.  But give the "poor" a little and they still aren't satisfied.  It's not enough to be a wage slave in a rat-free environment.**  They want equal opportunities, too!  But the whole point of success is to give your children unusually good opportunities. But no, the "poor" want to make it about the size of the gap, claiming that if the rich get richer, the poor should too.  That's just crazy talk!

Myself, I say it's time we solved this "poverty" problem, such as it is, once and for all.  Modesty will not serve; let us be bold in our proposals.  What few poor we do have should be fed an all organic, no hormones or antibiotics diet for three months to cleanse their systems, then humanely slaughtered on-site in old style, non-industrial abattoirs. We should not limit ourselves to just the more obvious, meatier cuts but strive for a whole human, nose to foot approach.  Many parts of the poor will pair well with a good pinot noir, and there is nothing like poor heart - tender, amazing, not funky like liver, and poor trotters make great tacos.  Even if it weren't respectful to the poor to practice nose-to-foot eating, the ecological benefits alone make it a wise choice for the environmentally conscious eater -- feeding multiple mouths with one whole animal and all its edible parts is much more efficient and less tolling on our environment than processing multiple animals to feed only a few mouths, which is what we do when limiting ourselves to eating only a single part.  You know, like chicken nuggets.  Which I hear, make the "poor" so fat, but also our wallets, so what are you going to do.

 

**Well, I did hear today about a transport authority worker stuck in a booth all day who has to dodge rats running around his feet so, technically, I guess we haven't quite achieved "wage slave in a rat-free environment" yet.  So close!

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Hunger Relief vs. Poverty Relief: I Vote For More of Both

Last Saturday I came home from the farmer's market, made mega-veggie eggs for me and Mr. Z, and blogged about it.  Zuskateer Kea commented

All very well if you can afford it.

And she's right.  I am extremely fortunate both to be able to afford nutritious fresh produce, and to have good sources of it readily available to me. In parts of Philadelphia with high poverty rates, there are no grocery stores at all, and corner bodega shops may carry little or no fresh produce.  A recent series of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer about efforts to support community gardens and teach young children about gardening and good eating habits revealed that many young kids in the city don't even know what fresh fruits and vegetables look like, and can't identify them by name when they are shown them.  This is an abominable situation.  Our young children, and the parents struggling to raise them, deserve better. Continue Reading »

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Remembrance of Pies Past

Last year for the first time I made a shepherd's pie, in time for Pi Day, but inexplicably did not blog it. Onion, carrots, chunks of lamb meat in a savory filling, topped with mashed potatoes and sprinkled with cheese, then run under the broiler.  We dined with pleasure, and were sated.

Shepherd's Pie, One Year Ago

I love good pie, but alas, must purchase it or start with frozen crust. I cannot make a crust.

I love also the oblong pie that sits on a shelf in a wrapper,  Hostess Fruit Pies. Last week I searched but could not find them in my local supermarket - most likely because they are low class and my aspirational supermarket won't go slumming.  Years ago, when we were too stupid to know how low class we were, my mother packed these in my father's dinner bucket.  Something sweet at the end of a meal taken in the dark of a coal seam.  Sometimes he didn't eat everything in his bucket, or drink all the water in the bottom.  When the dinner pail came home, the leftovers that had journeyed to the underworld and back seemed especially desirable to we children - the water, more tasty, more thirst-quenching than nectar; the bit of sandwich or fruit pie, more savory than a feast. An unwrapped fruit pie was often saved for the next day's bucket; but once in awhile, we were permitted to devour it.

After I wrote that last sentence, I searched on google for "coal miner's bucket" and found this, where you can see great pictures and learn a little about a coal miner's life.  And there, I also read this:

I used to love to get anything my dad brought home in his bucket. It always seemed to taste better after it had been in there.

This gave me an odd and comforting happiness.

Hostess may have served my father's  dark world pie needs, but in the land of sunlight, it was my mother's coconut cream pie he loved.  We talked of pie today, and she told me how she made her own crust, and her own meringue, but used boxed vanilla pudding for the filling, adding a handful of coconut to it before putting it in the shell.  Back then, this was not instant pudding; it required some cooking.   I can remember my mother's meringues, picture them in my mind's eye; they were wonderful.  She made them from scratch, from egg whites; I cannot make crust, let alone meringue.

How did Daddy come to love coconut cream pie, I asked, did he always like it, or did you make it and he came to like yours?  Oh, I guess I just made it, and he started eating it, and that was the one he liked best.  I always made it for him on his birthday, he never had a cake, just the coconut cream pie.  My mother, when she made it, she made it all - the crust, the meringue, the filling.  I don't know how she did, cooked that pudding, how she made that.  I never was great with crust, mine came out okay.  Betty was the one who could make crust, so light and flaky!  Now, I heard somewhere where you could make crust with lard instead of Crisco, but where are you going to get lard today? I'd like to make one of those pies again.  Maybe when you are here and we are at the house.

If that could be, that would be the best pie day ever.

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