Tag Archives: rhetoric

#WhyIMarch

Maybe you’ve heard — there’s a Women’s March on Washington scheduled for the day after tomorrow. And if you know me at all, you know I voted for Clinton, and you know I was extremely disappointed by the outcome of the election, and you know I’m a democrat, and you know I believe in funded public schools, racial justice, socioeconomic reform and awareness, cultural acceptance, sexual identity awareness, gender identity awareness, and just about any type of “liberal” or “progressive” reform you can imagine.

So it might not be a surprise that I’m planning to spend two nights on a bus so that I can march in Washington, DC on the 21st. In fact, people who know me might assume that the list above are the reasons why I’m marching, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. My sociopolitical beliefs are certainly a major motivator.

But to assume my political leanings are the only thing driving me to spend precious weekend family time away from my one-year-old girl and supportive husband would ignore the many, many other reasons why I am participating. Among them, these five:

Because my daughter is watching me. Posting memes and articles on social media to a crowd of individuals who mostly agree with me doesn’t count as “standing up for what I believe in.” The week of the election, my husband challenged me as I struggled to drag myself out of a deep depressive state. It wasn’t about my candidate not winning — it was a moral, emotional, ethical, deeply personal and also deeply professional loss when the citizens of our country voted for a leader I feel is the embodiment of anti-intellectualism, misogyny, intolerance, and hatred. “What are you going to do about it?” he asked me. Well, I have a long-term plan that I’m sure I’ll share here later, but for now: this. I am going to do this.

Because I am able. I have the means to pay for the bus ticket. I have a husband who supports my decision to participate and will watch our daughter during the 36-hour trip. I have the means to pay for food along the way. I am in good physical shape. I have friends and colleagues who share my cause and passion, and we can stick together in DC on Saturday. I am well-off and able, and many who might want to participate may not be.

Because rhetoric can be harmful. While some journalists are claiming that the march lacks purpose, march leaders have made the case that the march is in resistance to hateful rhetoric (among other things):

“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us–women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault.”

This may not seem like a clear purpose to some, but is very clear to me. If studying language, linguistics, texts of all types, and rhetorical theory as my life’s work has taught me anything, it is that rhetoric has power. Protesting the vile rhetoric our new president and his supporters have launched against women, disabled individuals, and minorities is therefore, for me, a perfectly substantial purpose.

Because I know people who are genuinely afraid about their family’s future safety in this country. My daughter’s teachers at her daycare. Some of the students in the schools for which I work, and their families. Teens who have been bullied or ridiculed in the days since the election because of their racial or gender identities. Because our nation was built on the shoulders of immigrants, and yet has hypocritically thrown hatred and intolerance at minority groups throughout our history. Because that needs to stop.

Because sometimes, #thestruggleisreal. And I mean that in a less sarcastic way than usual. I have always worked in a field dominated by women — education. literacy. reading. Until recently, when my career path somehow landed me in the male-dominated tech field and in a leadership position right as our family welcomed a tiny new member. While I am still in education, surrounded by strong and inspiring female leaders, a few of whom will be on my bus tomorrow night, there are days when I can feel that glass ceiling pressing down. Days when I can’t attend an evening work function because of the baby’s bedtime.  Weekends when family trumps (heh) imperative paperwork, rendering me farther behind and scrambling to find the available hours to catch up. Mornings when getting out of bed after a rough night of wakeups is the closest thing to torture I’ve ever experienced. And while I am fortunate to work among men who value the input of female leaders and understand the demands of family, some interactions highlight the very real struggle of women who strive to “have it all;” respect and integrity in their work, love and comfort in their homes.

These are just a few of the not-so-obvious reasons #whyimarch this weekend. To my sisters marching all over the world, stay alert, stay safe, stay strong, stay peaceful, and stay positive.

A Concerning CNN Post

This post, from CNN’s Schools of Thought, on kids bullying educators at school concerns me quite a bit.

To begin with, yes, kids can be mean. They’re kids. Adults can be mean, too. Meaner, in fact. I happen to agree with a teacher they interviewed, who said:

I’ve found that if you establish the rules in the classroom and you have good procedures, you generally don’t run into this. (note: I’m clipping here because I don’t agree with what he says to students, which appears right before this quote)

The “this” he’s referring to is extreme disrespect from adolescent students, and he’s right, if you set appropriate boundaries and establish classroom routines and procedures, this really isn’t an issue, regardless of the student population.

Why does this article concern me? First of all, adolescents are pictured here as unruly, disrespectful of authority, and unwilling to learn, which is just not true. This positioning of today’s adolescents as “more disrespectful” than the adolescents of yesterday is very misleading; today’s kids want to learn in the same way yesterday’s kids wanted to learn. Perhaps we should ask if we’re giving them the kind of learning environment — and they content — that feels relevant to them in this 21st-century world. Maybe we also need to ask what we can do to set up classroom environments that are mutually respectful — both of the kids and of the teachers.

Second, I have to ask myself — and I have no evidence to support this, it’s simply a musing — if we do believe that kids are being more disrespectful towards teachers (though I’m not convinced), where do we think they learned that it’s okay to disrespect their teachers? Could it possibly be from the “failing schools” rhetoric that they hear on the news, in movies, or on the radio (do kids still listen to the radio?) Could it be that they learn this from people around them who believe that untrained teachers are more “effective” than the teachers who have been doing this job for 10+ years? As many studies have shown, kids aren’t immune to the educational climate. Today’s students have opinions about standardized testing, curriculum, and quality pedagogy — just ask one of them.

I wonder about the message articles like this send — both about our nation’s adolescents and about our unwillingness to acknowledge that perhaps adults are making a perceived problem worse.