Archive for April, 2014

Let’s Do What We Can

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Living in a world where we feel completely caught up in the fray, lost in the middle of the billions and billions of people that overcrowd this planet, we have to remember something.  Even when you are part of a system that is bullshit, even when it seems like there is nothing to be done in the face of corruption, ignorance, and apathy–your choices make a difference.  If you are lucky enough to have the right to vote in a democratic election, use it. Even if you are completely convinced of the fact that your actions will be thrown into the wind like ashes, at least take the chance. Even when it is perfectly clear that the vampiric capitalist machine that runs our world is out-of-control, make prudent decisions with your money. Voting with your wallet is one of the very few ways we have left to influence the big picture, no matter how fucked up our system may be in the end. What you buy and where you send your money changes things. Do what you can to support local businesses and causes that have at least some small moral conscience, because there are far too many people who will not. So many of us have become inured to throwing away our time, our minds, our money, and our lives to the motivations of the wealthy and the unjust. If you have the option, vote with your feet. Try anything that you can to move away from a bad situation and throw your hat into the ring with people who are, at the very least, not boring. Do whatever you can, anything you can do to change things for the better, it will still be more than what most people do.

 

-J.A. Y.

Anti-Man Goes to Work Part X: The Re-Education

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Any reader of Can the Man is familiar with my distaste for the corporate world, the expectations of youth, and in a sense, the education system.  While driving to my new job as a glorified secretary I pondered the implications of a poignant TED talk I viewed a few months ago.  In the  video below, then thirteen year-old Logan LaPlante, describes his pursuit of what he refers to  as “hack-schooling.”  Hack-schooling is an alternative form of learning where the student, usually outside of a standard school, decides what they want to learn.  As someone who has been through the standard model  of education, barring graduate programs, I too wonder how my life would be different had I been given the choice to study what I truly wanted.  Furthermore, would I be in a better position than I am now because of it?  I’ll suppose that most of the readers of Can The Man attended and graduated from some type of high school.  In high school we took tests on the War of 1812, studied geometric equations, and giggled at all the antiquated language of Shakespeare.  Now, some seven years after graduating from high school, I foggily recall a few of the pertinent facts hammered into my brain.

 

Many inquire, “What do you plan to do with yourself if you don’t finish high school?  Flip burgers the rest of your life?”  Although the fear of not graduating, and the unknown reality of the world, worked well to progress me through the doldrums of my education—I cannot say for certain that I am better off because of it.  Sure, I may be able to recite the first ten presidents of the United States but do I know how to sustain my life?  No.  Do I know the ins and outs of buying a home or leasing a car?  No.  A substantial part of me wishes that these important life skills were hammered into my brain rather than the standardized material education forces believe is critical to a successful future.  Again, the naysayers will retort, “Well none of that matters if you can’t get a job?” But how is it possible that I have made it through 18 years of the educational system without learning how to fill out my tax sheet?

 

 

I know full well that I picked one of the least financially valuable degrees.  With an English degree most people expect that all I can do is teach snot-nosed children To Kill a Mockingbird.   Teaching is the last thing I wanted to do because it is what everyone expected of me.  Now as I sit here and hammer out this blog on my parent’s home computer I can’t help but think of the possibilities that hack-schooling could have provided for me.  I could have chosen to learn about books, writing, and language from a younger age.  Thus capitalizing on my earliest interests at the most formulating time of my life.

 

 

I do not believe that hack-schooling will become a main-stay in society, as I feel it is a form of glorified home-schooling for entitled kids who can afford to take skiing lessons and scuba diving trips instead of attending a brick and mortar building.  Would it have been fun to have this opportunity?  Hell yes.  But thinking retroactively only further diverts me from making the best of the decisions I’ve already made.  I truly believe that my formal education will pay off, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been had I enjoyed the privilege of picking and choosing my schooling from day one.

 

 

 

-Spencer James-

Curiosity Feeds the Cat

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

 

 

Some children had experiences like this in the days before the Internet. You look something up in an encyclopedia. Instead of putting the book back on the shelf, though, you read another article. And another. And so forth. World Book was in most school libraries and some homes. Maybe you had an assignment to find out about something. For whatever reason, encountering that one thing prompted encountering more things in a virtuous cycle of reading and imagining. The process is rather like reaching into a bowl of potato chips. Do it once and you do it again, repeatedly.

 

Some children relate to information this way. Now the encyclopedia is Wikipedia. Google – or Yahoo, or Bing, or some startup search enabler – brings you hundreds of thousands of web links in the twinkling of an eye. Information in as much depth and breadth as it is possible to conceive of is lurking under the screen before your eyes. Most folks in industrialized or industrializing countries spend a lot of screen time and so are just a few keystrokes away from a large fraction of mediated human knowledge.

 

The mind metabolizes information as the digestive system metabolizes food. If you know something and learn more the new becomes integrated with the old. If you think a bit critically your body of knowledge grows and becomes more elaborate, rich, and complex as links are made between old and new, old and old, and new and new. More potato chips, more ideas, more images, more questions.

 

Other children, though, do not acquire a hunger for mediated information. Perhaps reading does not come easy for them. Perhaps an impatient or inconsiderate teacher or parent punished them for mistakes in schoolwork. The Internet’s endless cafeteria of knowledge makes them want to throw up – or just makes them yawn. Instead of a garden of delights, the knowledge world behind the screen is somewhere between incomprehensible and repulsive.

 

Not everyone needs to be a brainiac. Some who command a smaller body of fact command a large body of other talent. Whatever a given child can do or wants to try is good for that child (not including literal or figurative playing with matches, of course).

 

Like everything else about us, having knowledge is a social condition. Most of our knowledge is about other people in some way, as the subject of the information or as its discoverer, provider, or interpreter. Children’s curiosity for the world of things and ideas grows when important people in their lives are curious too, when those people take an interest in their interests. Communities of knowledge nurture the growth of knowledge.

 

Schools too often lack communities of knowledge. Teaching to the test involves almost no knowledge if knowledge is understood as interwoven, interlayered collections of ideas and possibilities. Our media, so dominated by selling goods and political ideas and personalities, can counteract knowledge. Everything that fosters curiosity undermines the Man. Ask a kid a question today. Make him or her say, “Wow,” about something. Then support finding more.

 

Tony Stavely

Man Update: Sheldon Adelson

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Sheldon Adelson, subject of one of our prior “Man” profiles and well known casino mogul, is back in the political headlines once more. This real-life Scrooge McDuck caught the interest of Can The Man during Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign after doling out a reported $100 million to Republican Super-PACS in a desperate bid to defeat Barack Obama. Now the 80-year old parasite is making another political push to combat online gambling, which just so happens to coincide with a Supreme Court decision that enables increased levels of political corruption.

 

 

In a narrow 5-4 decision the supreme court struck down limitations on the number of campaign contributions that individuals can make.  The verdict was made primarily on the basis of Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion that buying politicians constitutes free speech. Following the court’s ruling news reports and radio stations began to ruminate on Adelson and his massive push to support Republicans in 2012. It just so happens that the owner of the Palms franchise is now forcing a bill through Congress to eliminate all online gambling. In an interview Adelson claimed that gambling is a vice that needs to be done in a “controlled environment” just like alcohol. That seems somewhat ironic when coming from a man who just made $2.1 billion in two days thanks to gambling profits from overseas. This new ruling means that Adelson can now shove money at as many politicians as he wants. Just recently Republican presidential candidates congregated under Adelson’s roof in Las Vegas to grovel for money. Concerning his new quest to ban online gambling the crotchety bastard said that he is willing to spend “whatever it takes” to get the bill to pass, most likely while snickering through his orcish teeth.

 

 

Political corruption is one of our nation’s most important dilemmas because it has such caustic effects across a huge range of issues. The very people who run our country cannot even catch of whiff of political positions without scratching the back of the 1% who promise to spearhead their campaigns. If we need to see any more examples of how bad things can get when you mix democracy and capitalism then quite simply we’re all fucked. Adelson is the archetype of this toxic relationship between Washington and Wall Street, and now John Roberts and the long respected supreme court have laid out the red carpet for American’s greediest man.