Emily Heid’s statement to AAPS BOE 4.27.2022

My name is Emily Heid, and I was a music teacher at Pattengill, Pittsfield, and Carpenter Elementary schools. Even as a young child, I knew I wanted to be a music teacher when I grew up. I pursued my goal and received a bachelors and masters degree in music education. That is why it was such a heartbreaking choice to decide to leave the education field due to burnout, not feeling valued, and impossible work conditions. When I put in my resignation with AAPS this March, I expected to be met with anger or resentment from my fellow educators, but instead I received congratulations and praise. Many educators and teachers assistants told me how they also plan to quit soon, asking me for advice on how to find a job in another field.

AAPS and the state of Michigan are already facing a teacher shortage and support staff crisis, which will continue to worsen unless drastic action is made. Try leading a four hours worth of  presentations back to back without a bathroom or mental break, while your audience throws things, hits or kicks you, and you have to guard the door to stop your audience from running away. That is what it is currently like being an elementary teacher during the 2021-2022 school year. We are trying to handle extreme behaviors from traumatized children. We do not have enough trained, knowledgeable teachers assistants, and our SISS staff are overwhelmed. We cannot teach our curriculum effectively due to these behaviors, and yet are still expected to complete observations, SLOs, and other evaluations. The district is expecting educators and students to perform as if the past two years of a global pandemic never happened, as if we can just pick up where we left off, and everything will be okay. Teachers are told that we need to practice “self-care” while the admin piles on more tasks and meetings on us instead of taking things off our plate. I asked other music educators in the district how they have managed to stay in this career for 15+ years, and they told me that they had to stop actually caring, and just treat it as just a job that gives you a paycheck, otherwise it is just too exhausting and frustrating.

One of the reasons I chose to work for AAPS was due to your commitment to equity, welcoming and supporting all learners of all races, genders, religions, orientations, etc. We spent hours in professional development with Dr. Sealey-Ruiz, learning how we can fight systemic oppression and racism, offering all of our students a safe and equitable learning environment. However, AAPS is failing their low-income BIPOC students and families. AAPS divides funds and staff equally based on the amount of students per school, which on paper seems great, but there is a significant difference between equity and equality. Small schools, such as Pittsfield, only receive a part-time behavior intervention specialist due to the amount of FTE allotted per student, however, they have some of the greatest behavioral needs as a low-income, diverse Title 1 school. Teachers in richer areas of Ann Arbor receive $600-800 annually from their PTO, while teachers in lower-income areas receive $200-300 annually. If AAPS truly wants to support students of color, they need to start evaluating how they allot funds and FTE to ensure that all students are receiving what they need to be successful, which looks different depending on the school. If you treat each student and teacher as just a number on a spreadsheet, you are failing them.

I miss my students greatly. I miss sitting in a circle and singing our songs together or playing ukulele with them, showing how wonderful instruments can be. But I do not miss being assaulted by students, losing my voice, experiencing insomnia and panic attacks, and working weekends to finish my lesson plans. I do not miss feeling undervalued and like just a number on a spreadsheet. Please start valuing your teachers before it is too late and there are none left.

Trustee Gaynor’s statement to AAPS BOE 4.27.2022

While the subject of my statement will be related to Wednesday’s staff Professional Development session, I want to make clear I’m speaking to and about the Board’s responsibility.  I include myself as complicit in supporting a culture in which we gloss over problems and shy away from addressing them in meaningful ways.

Equity work is extremely important, and the Board has given its full support to the administration as it rolls out our efforts.  The current initiative is at least four years old.  Dr. Sealey-Ruiz, who has presented at I believe 6 Professional Development sessions to staff has an extremely important message to impart: that we need to love every one of our students, that we must have the cultural literacy to do so, and that we must reflect on our implicit biases so that we can do so successfully.   Note that all sessions were primarily lecture only with minimal feedback by staff.  I attended many of them, and value the message and information, though I do feel two sessions would have been sufficient, with the others devoted to building level work where staff could address these vital and complex issues in a practical way.  However I didn’t speak up clearly on this early on.

Something went awry last Wednesday.   Apparently Dr. S-R expected a larger turnout during the community session the night before and she criticized teachers and other staff for not attending.  When teachers explained., the criticism continued, and the chat ‘blew up.’   At that point chat was turned off, which upset the staff even more, as they felt they were being silenced.  There was an apology afterwards, but Dr. S-R continued to criticize the district and teachers based on … well, I’m not sure what – but it was ill informed.  If it was based on accurate information and made teachers uncomfortable, then so be it.  But this was clearly not the case.  If it was just this, it would not be on us.   What magnified the harm was that there was not effective correction from the administration, the ones who had the information and controlled the Zoom session.

And then it took over 24 hours for the administration to issue a half-hearted apology, no doubt well vetted by the time it was released.  It was unspecific, and avoided responsibility.  “We sincerely regret the confusion and hurt caused as a result of the statements made.”  There was no statement of apology.  There was no explanation of what was done wrong, and here I mean by the district, as to how it should have been handled.  There was no statement of what we are going to do to make amends.   There was no admission of wrong doing.  And there was no request for forgiveness.

I want to thank those who spoke up about what happened at public commentary.  One point I want to be clear about is that we have to do more than give lip service to the concerns of staff and others.   We can’t just say, “We hear you,” and continue on as we are.

So, now I am finally getting to my point.   WE, the board, are complicit.   We are responsible.  We supported the foundation for this to happen.   And maybe we’re ok with it.  If we continue as we have been, clearly we are.

We were not present on Wednesday, at least not most of us.  So what could we have done? Nothing, at that point.  We don’t micro-manage, nor should we.  But we oversee the district.   We are responsible for the culture in the district, and it is that by which we are complicit.

Let me be specific.   Equity is important to all of us.  In fact, we mention it as being part of every decision we make.  We certainly talk about it a lot.  But often that’s all we do – say the word.  To the point where I am not sure it has any meaning at all.  Have we had a discussion of the hard and complex aspects?  Not at this table.  And not at the school level involving in depth discussions among staff.    What we have done is hire people – good people for sure – to talk AT staff.  First we brought in a superintendent from the state of New York, twice, to talk to administrators.  This was four years ago.   This year we hired an esteemed academic to talk AT teachers six times.   I trust teachers and principals are dealing with real issues of equity at the school level; But I haven’t seen the evidence.

As a Board we set policy and give direction to the district. Have we taken a responsible look at this process given direction, asked hard questions, questioned why it’s taken four years at this glacial pace?  How much of our work is performative, checking off the boxes?  On this and other issues – concerns with our Special Education performance comes to mind, do we monitor what is happening – more than superficial annual data reports? For Special Ed, we have not.  The draft of the Hanover Report – a comprehensive review of Special Education, has been languishing for over 3 years.  Do we make sure the work involves interactions between those who matter the most – our teachers and our students?  Are we truly responsive?

Yes, we have advisory groups – but have they ever been other than a vehicle for the administration to pretend they were getting public input, but are actually directing a predetermined decision?   We have teachers and parents on these, but do we value their input? What I’ve seen is that those with independent or contrary voices get shunted to the side and eventually stop coming.  Sometimes not; there were a group of Bryant Pattengill parents – not those on the committee – who resisted for a year, and convinced trustees to go against the administration’s desire.  So yes, there can be active debate and conscientious decision making.

And sometimes it’s more hypocritical, and premeditated.   We put together an environmental policy.  We supported the creation of an environmental sustainability task force.  We charged three of us – including myself – to choose members from a list of over 80 applicants.  And what did we do?  We vetoed arguably three of the most knowledgeable, skilled and experienced people – not only on the list, but in the city:   Mike Shriberg, who was on the U-M Environmental Committee and has a resume a mile long – vetoed because he dared to criticize the district about in person schooling during Covid;  Michael Garfield, director of the Ecology Center, and one who initially pushed AAPS to act, and … Missy Stults, Sustainability and Innovations Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.   For the life of me, I still don’t understand how or why we didn’t select the latter two.  Maybe because they were skilled and experienced and would stand up for what they believed? 

In fact, are we asking hard questions at all?   Certainly not at these board meetings, where we’re carefully staying on script and deflecting issues.  We do carefully scripted public relations events.   Oh sure, let’s highlight our best and brightest, our award winners and all.   Did any of you see the speech to the school board by the HS Principal in San Angelo, Texas?  He said he was told to say positive things and bring slides.  But he intentionally didn’t!  Instead he told the bold truth – about the state of mental health of his students and his staff.  He didn’t sugar coat it.  He made it clear the district was in crisis. He probably violated the culture of school boards across the country.   What do WE do?  We hold committee meetings in which the main function is to rehearse presentations and check for glitches; to make sure we don’t slip up and say anything that would create a problem, that would make us look bad.  Oh, aren’t our slide shows just the best!  We lap it up.

Why do we rarely, if ever, hear from teachers?   Well, yes, they don’t have the time or energy beyond the work they do during and after school.  But it’s more than that.   They are afraid to speak up.  They are afraid of consequences.  They know that at the least they will get a talking to.  They get a reputation.  There have been repercussions with future assignments.   You think not?  How many teachers have you talked with?   How many have talked openly and honestly with you? Just why are teachers so fearful?  I’m not totally sure, to be honest, but I know it’s true, and I know that this is on us, because we are responsible for the culture in the district.

Of course I don’t have to go beyond the board to speak of how those who speak up are punished.   I was removed from all committees, a decision made by two different board presidents.   For what?  For breaking the board code of conduct.   For engaging with the community on Facebook; for publicly disclosing that trustees may have violated the spirit of the Open Meetings Act in a closed meeting. For… well, a myriad of reasons were stated, but without evidence.  The message was clear – Go along to get along.    And I have, for mny months. But I can’t do so today when the stakes are high.

So what does all this have to do with the debacle of the Professional Development session?  It’s not about Dr. Sealey-Ruiz.   It’s more that we have engendered a culture where every word has to be spoken carefully, vetted in several layers – and we become disingenuous.  And worst of all, that we don’t even speak of complex issues in public.  Sure we have individual chats with the superintendent, but here, everything is managed oh so carefully.  We have it refined to a science: have a closed meeting with our lawyers and we’re not permitted to say anything at all on important issues.  Mostly, we leave things to the administration.  No, of course we shouldn’t micromanage, but a long term equity plan – do whatever you will; it’s not in our province.  Top down management style where teachers are not given an opening to speak up – and are afraid to do so against the flow – well, we seem to be comfortable with that.

One trustee made a statement that implied that what happened at and after the PD session may affect some teachers but shouldn’t affect kids – and if it does, that’s on the teachers.   But I don’t want to interpret – here is the quote:  “I’m sure it impacted teachers differently depending on who the teachers are.  Some teachers feel these offended teachers are making this about them and not the kids.   I hope despite what happened we can continue to center children through this process and not let this one meeting derail all the work that has been done to this point.”

Our teachers are caring professionals, dedicated to their craft, and willing to do all they can to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills.  But they want to be part of the process for positive change.   To insinuate that they will take this out on students is at best condescending and at worst insulting.    But yes, when staff has to listen to a barrage of criticism, unfair ones, and no one steps up to effectively correct the misinformation, or apologize, that will hurt morale, and that can’t help but hurt everyone in AAPS. 

We, the Board, are responsible for this culture of superficiality and silence, of emphasizing our glory while minimizing problems.  Of doing PR and giving lip service.  Education, especially now, is not easy.  But I always thought that AAPS was strong enough to confront honestly and openly the complexities and shortfalls we have.

I apologize for being complicit in sustaining such a culture, and I will try to do better.

7/27 Sat: A Restorative Day

7/27 Sat:  A Restorative Day

Today is Departure Day for most everyone, except for those of us (well, me) who misread the schedule or were looking for cheaper flights and won’t fly out until tomorrow.   I guess this gives me the day back in Cape Town that I lost at the beginning of the trip when I missed my flight.
The beginning of the day wasn’t auspicious.   For one thing I was out of cash, and had to find an ATM machine so I could pay the night’s lodging (R350 – R for Rand – < $40 – though everyone is using the 10 to 1 conversion rate.)  But the ATM at the Spar Grocery 2 blocks away was out of order, and the liquor store next to it was closed when I walked over at 8:30 a.m.
Well, it gave me more time to hang around the lobby to say good bye to people – though as I wasn’t really part of the group, it was a lackluster hit and miss affair.  I did catch Bob and Steve on the street when I went back to the ATM later, so that was good.  In any event, once I squared up with the Check Inn, it was time to get on the day.
The weather forecast of 80% chance of rain was playing out –  but as the rain seemed to be intermittent – 5 to 10 minutes of fine showers every 45 minutes – I decided to stay with my plan to go back to Kistenbosch, the National Botanical Gardens, that we only spent an hour at, on Thursday.
With my rain jacket (thank you Isle Royale trip) shielding me from another light shower, I walked through Green Point Park to catch the City Hopper tour bus – blue route.   However, as I was a bit fuzzy about the scheduled time, or how long it would take me, I ended up missing the bus by 5 minutes. Rather than wait 30 minutes more for the next one, I walked along the waterfront to V&A to catch it.   Same bus, but at least I was walking and seeing a bit of new area on the way.
After buying my ticket, and with 8 minutes to spare, I walked next door to the Aquarium to find a toilet.  Was that every a new world!  No, not the fish or other sea creatures.  I had to walk through the cafe to get there, which was filled with families and young children — a haven for the 4 to 8 year old crowd.  As sweet as it was, I did decide that perhaps I was not in the target audience, so I’d pass on the aquarium even if I did have time.
On the bus – upper deck but under the roofed part – I stared talking to a young woman from Victoria, Australia, who was on a 4 month holiday, just coming from 2 months in SE.  She found this company which would drop you off – coming back every 3 days – at a village in Laos, with arranged home stays.  Great stories.   She was about to embark on another long Africa tour, but due to flight timing had an extra day in CapeTown.  Our conversation was cut short when it started to rain, and there was some seat shifting. I ended up next to a family from Scotland, with a 8 to 10 year old girl – they were headed out to “Monkey Village.”
Yes, it did strike me again how easy it was for me to talk to people I met, on contrast to keeping a conversation going with those in my group.
The tour bus was a ‘get on / get off ‘ affair – with earphones provided if you wanted to listen to a narration, which did add some color, even if the music interludes were insipid.  Perhaps if the weather was better I would have made one or two more stops, including at the Slave Lodge, a museum about the Slave Trade, but also with a current exhibit on Oliver Tambo, one of the great Apartheid resistance fighters, along with Mandela, Sisulu, etc.  (see http://www.and.org.za/list_by.php?by=Oliver%20Tambo ); the International Airport out of Jo’burg is named after him.  I also never found the Civic Center, where there was a Mandela Exhibit and this was my last chance.
Instead I carried on out to Kirstenbosch, to emerge through the turnstyle into another fine rain.   Fortunately there was a gift shop right there, which I was happy to duck into.   In fact, several times in the next 3 hours, it rained similarly, and each time I was close to a shelter, not something one takes for granted there.   Especially welcome were the few benches that were covered with massive stone shelters – just a nice touch, esp. as the views were magnificent.
If I were a botanist, I would go on for pages about the wonders of these gardens – massive in size, and with so many, so many, so many specific habitats and plants.  For a description and pictures (alas due to dead camera batteries and not wanting to take my iPad into the rain, I have no photos myself) see http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1007 :   “The Cape Floral Region has been recognised as one of the most special places for plants—in terms of diversity, density and number of endemic species—in the world. Covering less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora, these protected areas conserve the outstanding ecological, biological and evolutionary processes associated with the beautiful and distinctive Fynbos vegetation, unique to the Cape Floral Region.”
What I will say was that I had 3 hours of special moments.  There were very few people there; cold winter rain here will do that, though for me it felt like a cool Spring day with occasional light and brief showers, so it was just fine.  The only concession I made was to not hike the outer trails leading up to Table Mountain due to the mud and slippery conditions, along with the certainly I’d get caught in a downpour.   Instead I walked the paths slowly and appreciatively, each minute coming to a new wondrous universe of plants, flowers, birds, and scurrying mammals – the overcast wet weather did bring out more fauna – and quickly rushing streams.
The standout flowers were the proteas – of which there are 2,000 kinds of great variety, though the King Protea stands out.   I was researching the web and found a quote which totally encapsulated my experience at Kirstenbosch:
“An experience not unlike that bit in a movie where a child wanders into some weird wonderland and ends up gazing about in slack-jawed delight.”
(I will admit though that I came across this due to a misspelling; I entered “Proteus” and this quote was on a computer game site, but it still applies!)
Picking up the bus, I still had over an hour en route, most of it along the ocean overlooking seaside communities, cliffs, and beaches.  Quite impressive, and likely would have been more impressed had we not just driven the coast down to Cape Point.  Again, with a better weather, or plan, I might have gotten off at Hout Bay Harbor, or Camps Bay, or Clifton, or Bantry Bay, or Sea Point, which itself was familiar as it’s the end of my Esplanade runs.
Instead I rode all the way back to the V&A Waterfront – where I checked out the craft market and food emporiums and such – but did quickly find my destination – the store, Musica  – where I bought 2 more jazz CD’s;  well, one jazz, and one of Vusi Mahlasela, whose concert I missed in Grahamstown:  “Vusi Sidney Mahlasela Ka Zwane is a Sotho South African singer-songwriter. His music is generally described as “African folk” and he is often dubbed as “The Voice” of South Africa. His work was an inspiration to many in the anti-apartheid movement.”
So yes, a good day, and it was going to get even better!
Back at the Inn, I eschewed a run – the weather was still cold and iffy, and I had been on my feet much of the day – and instead took a much needed nap.   But I was up at 7 in time to head back to The Crypt – the Jazz Club and Restaurant, underneath St. George’s Cathedral.  
I had been there on Wednesday, when it was decidedly uncrowded, to the point I  had a table right in front of the band, and had a nice conversation with the owner.  The weekend is different.  While I arrived just a few minutes after the stated start time of 8 p.m., the place was packed and the trio had already began.  I was shown to a table where another gentleman was seated (fine with me – I was looking for people to talk with) and a third came along a couple minutes behind me.   It turned out to be a superb grouping.
Mike lives in Cape Town (Green Point, as it turns out) and is 78, retired, and living here 4 years after moving from Jo’burg.  Vernon is 62 (! – my age – which played in a great deal with the success of the evening), African-American, born in Cincinnati, and now a professor at Western Washington University, near Seattle.  He is in SA for 7 weeks, having brought students who are volunteering their time to work with an NGO in Plettenberg Bay.  He has done this for 5-6 years, and this year found a way to spend half of HIS time in CapeTown.
So much was right about the evening.  First an appreciation of jazz among the three of us.  While the place was packed, most were young people who seemed more interested in being at a cool place, though not necessarily for the jazz.  Though Vernon – I’ll call him Damani, his middle name, which he goes by with friends was quick to point out it was our job to teach them about jazz – how to listen, when to applaud solos, etc.   Of course we were both teachers by profession, so had that in common.   He was also quite aware of the jazz tradition in Detroit.
Also being from the Midwest, the subject of Detroit came up aplenty – perhaps more so with the bankruptcy being in the news world wide.  That brought Mike into the conversation as well.   Mike also served as a reference point for our discussions about SA – past, present and future.
You know, we didn’t talk all that much – just between sets – there were 3 of them – as we were listening to the music (A standard trio, with a female vocalist from Italy: NIC WILLIAMS TRIO With Special Guest FRANCESCA BIANCOLI)  we did pack a lot in when we had the chance.   Damani picked up on every reference, from Diana Ross, to working on the Assembly Line, to Kwami Kilpatrick (we were making comparisons of corruption in govt, there and here.)   And maybe it was his schtick, but it was like he was my biggest fan.  I soaked it up.
To top it off, while Damani was staying in a flat a block or two away, when I said where I was staying, in Green Point, he goes, “You’re going to *walk* – well, of course you are; you’re from Detroit and can handle anything.”  But it turns out that Mike lives in Greenpoint – right behind the Check Inn in fact, and he offered me a ride home, an offer I gladly accepted, as much for the friendship significance as the convenience.
In the end, the two big events of the day – Kirstenbosch, and The Crypt met and surpassed every expectation I could have hoped for, finishing up my time in Cape Town on a high note.
7/28 Sun:   I went out for a long run this morning – stopping and finding a bus station even closer than the one I found midweek.  This is just 2 blocks from our hotel.  I hadn’t seen it as it’s UNDER the roundabout.   I only thought to look at it, as I picked up a flyer for M, who left earlier today – and it had a map of the stations.   I find it fascinating, that each day I learn the neighborhood a little better – little things and big things.  And I do because I have been exploring and looking both, but much is still serendipitous.   Anyway the bus comes every 20 minutes, so I’ll pick up a bus around 1 p.m. and get to the airport nearly 3 hours early.
I planned to spend the 2 hours after 11 am when I had to check out, on the esplanade, taking pictures and just finding a bench and enjoying the last views of the ocean.  On the walk way this morning there were super big piles of sea foam, which had blown over the walls – it was cold enough still (about 50ºF) that it hadn’t melted yet.   Super big waves crash into the rocks and bounce over the sea wall.   But otherwise the sky was pretty clear and it looked like a nice place to spend my last hour or two.  But just now the sky has clouded over, and likely the expected rain will come.   Signal it’s time to go.
I fly Cape Town to Jo’burg to JFK, arriving about 6 am EST. I shuttle to LaGuardia for a 1 p.m. flight, unless I can go standby on a 10:30 flight.   That would get me into to Detroit Metro at 12:30, in time to catch the AirRide bus to Ann Arbor that leaves at 1:05.  If I take my scheduled 1 pm flight I’ll get in at 3, and Vickie will pick me up, as I’ll miss the bus, and there’s a 2 hour gap at that point.   Seems awfully fast, to get in less than 24 hours – clock time (not counting the 6 hour time zone change) – than I depart Cape Town.
But I guess it’s time to go, after 5+ weeks, ready or not.

7/26 Fri: Program over, Trip not

7/26 Fri: Program Over; Trip not

I reckon I’m feeling a bit melancholy this evening, as it marks the end of the NEH program; we were even given Certificates by Rich on our last bus ride today, recognizing our participation.  Most everyone will be headed to the airport tomorrow; I am one of two who won’t leave until Sunday, and at that I will be the last to leave with my flight out of CapeTown not til 4:45.  (Once again out of the loop socially).
We finished the ‘academic’ part of the program on Wednesday with our last lecture and discussions.The last two days have been pretty much, “Check off Activities – things we have to do in Cape Town.  The weather, being  cold and windy and gray, has put a sobering effect on all the activities, at least the majority of them; the ones that are outdoors.
     GreenMarket Square – an outside craft market in the center of town.  With all the same crafts we’ve seen from here to Swaziland.    Not that I didn’t buy something – but only because I gave the artist a ridiculous low price, apologizing for doing so – yet he accepted it when I started to walk away.
     Castle of Good Hope – the longest surviving building in Cape Town – right on the edge of downtown, with cannons still at the bastions to defend the city.
     Lunch – back at the Oriental Market – though I picked up Yogurt at picNpay.
     The Heart Museum at Grute Shure Hospital, celebrating the world’s 1st Heart Transplant – Christian Barnard was the cardiac surgeon.  Besides lots of exhibits, there was a room with full size models of his canine surgery, and a replica, again with models for the doctors and nurses, of the rooms where the transplant was done.    It was all a bit bizarre, actually, but I guess a country like this takes it’s chance to boast such an accomplishment.  (Another one was Geraldine talking down the admission price from R200 to R100 pp.)
     Kirstenbosch – the National Botanical Gardens, and a World Heritage Site, deservedly so.   Unfortunately we only had about 75 minutes – so I hope to return on Saturday and spend several hours walking the trails.  It’s a ways out of town, but fortunately the City Hopper tour bus makes a stop there.
    Groot Constanzia – Wine Tasting.   I wasn’t interested, and was too tired in any event.  I went for a walk, came back and talked to Bob for a bit, then discovered Richard playing dominoes outside so joined them.
    After a quick stop at the Check Inn – Bob had to pick up the group gift for Geraldine, we went back into town to the African Cafe for our final group meal (and this one was picked up by the program!)  It was an amazing meal, consisting of 12-15 dishes from all over Africa.  At the end, we gave our presents to Rich, Kay, Geraldine, and Richard, who has been the driver on Rich’s 7 tours over the last 11 years.  In fact, he’s visited Rich in the states as well so really is one of the ‘family.’
    When I came home I conked out for a half hour when I was checking for the Tigers score (Verlander lost, again, allowing 6 R, 10H, 3 W, in 6 innings), and e-mail, woke up for a bit, but ended up falling asleep for the night with my shirt on.  Still I got a decent’s night sleep.
     Today, Friday, we (minus 3 who stayed back) were off at 8 a.m. for a beautiful drive along Chapman’s Peak Road – the coast road, which resembles Hwy 101 in California, with the Rocky cliffs bringing to mind Big Sur.  We stopped off the side of the road several times for photos amid the swirling and at times ominous gray clouds and clashing surf,  and eventually wound our way down to the Cape of Good Hope, where we only stayed 15 minutes as it was very blustery and cold.   The marker did have the geo. coordinates:    xxº  xx’  xx” S   and xxº  xx’  xx” E.
From there we skirted the edge of False Cape to get to Cape Point, the furthest point SW on the Continent.   There we could hike up to the lighthouse (some took the Funicular – the cable car) which allows for breathtaking views all the way up.    Unfortunately, with my camera out of commission, and not wanting to risk my iPad slipping out of my hands, I had to hold these ‘photos’ to memory, especially the outcropping of rock — well, a peninsular formation really – that had people talking about Ireland.    The, “Oh my, I am here” feeling took hold, when I found “The Lightkeeper’s Trail” that ran high up above the sea, but along the edge of the cliff among beautiful fynbos vegetation.   It was even more incredible as it was a stone’s throw from the mobs of tourists, but I only crossed paths with 2 women the whole half hour I was on it.    Well, part of the time was spent sitting, enchanted (and with my fear of heights, hesitant to go further), looking out and down into the sea.   During that time, the clouds broke and the sun came out, brightly, and blue – it was 11:33 a.m. – and the world changed.
I looked at and marveled at the layers before me: a stripe of green in the water,  though the rest was a clear blue, and up to a massive layer of gray – the clouds had fell back, content to be a backdrop – and then this brilliant blue of the sky – all framing that promontory, layers of browns and oranges that framed the cape.  Ah someone will post a picture, though it couldn’t be more clear than what I see of it now, remembering.
Oh, there was a gift shop at the lighthouse (and down below, for sure) and I picked up my final knickknacks:  postcards (now that I’m going home, not having addresses won’t haunt me), more frig magnets, an RSA key chain with flag emblem, as well as a deck of RSA playing cards.   Silly little stuff.
Next was Boulders Beach to see African Penguins.  They have made it part of the Table Mountain National Park, so there was an additional entrance fee. Here they took Rich’s credit card so we could go in.    At the entrance to the Cape of GH, they only took cash, and I pitched in R500, and Kay put in R800 so he had enough to pay the fee (24 x R90 pp), but that all left me with R4, after the gift shop.   ok, I’m not talking about the penguins.  Actually they weren’t all that much – in fact the consensus is that they are rather an ugly breed of penguins, but there they were, one here, two there, and a mass of them in one spot on the beach.  I ended up seeing two go into the water, and that was fun, sort of.  But I was happy to video 2 of them walking, so I’m easy.
Finally we made it to Simon’s Town (yes, it really is spelled that way, and I also took a photo of ‘Able Seaman Just Nuisance’ who is in fact, a dog – a statue of a dog that is), for lunch at an excellent sea food restaurant.  I splurged, having bouillabasse, and then a platter which contained Hake filet (catch of the day), prawns, mussels, calamari, veggies, and rice.  Oh, yum.   Of course, even though Rich stopped at an ATM and repaid me, at that point I didn’t have money for another day at the Check Inn, but then again, I wasn’t going to go hungry either.
We made it back rather quickly (maybe I slept as we were crossing land) home – arriving about 4:30.   I went out for a run in search of the nearly Hopper tour bus stop, which I found next to the West Entrance to Green Point Park, which I also found.  Lots of cool things in the park – including a special sundial, where you are the gnomon, along with an exercise station, a discovery garden, recycling bins, and lots more.  But also, I exited it- worried all along I would lose my bearings – right across from the Check Inn.
I did have to get some stuff, and picked up a Mail & Guardian (weekly newspaper) and a loaf of hearty whole grained bread at a specialty shop, and then juice and yogurt at SPAR.  But their ATM was out of order, so I have to find one in the morning to extend my stay.
I guess people will be leaving all through the day tomorrow – the biggest group at 12:30.  Hopefully by then I’ll be on my way to Firtenbosch – the 80% chance of rain staying away, so more likely I’ll say good bye at breakfast.
Oh, the internet went down, mid evening.    So it goes.

7/23 p.m.: District Six & Cape Flats

7/23: District Six & Cape Flats

After the morning lecture we bused over and parked next to the Civic Center – a large block of nothing, actually, adjacent to City Hall.  From there we walked a block or two to this Middle East Food concession that Manny found and advocated for.   Lamb Schwarma with the fixings, and with … well, as I didn’t figure out the system, I ended up with french fries rather than the daal and rice I had hoped for (but which others said was undistinguished).
From there we went to the District Six Museum.   District Six was a lively diverse community of 40-50,000 people, adjacent to the center of town,  that was earmarked for Whites only and hence the people were displaced.  While not a large museum, it was particularly effective on an emotional level, made more so by our guide, an elderly but eloquent gentleman with a rapid patter, who grew up there, and related very powerful and personal stories of what life was like in the community, and how it was destroyed – not just the land and the housing, but the society itself.   The people were displaced to the Cape Flats, far out on the barren edge of town, in no particular order so families and communities were isolated and powerless.   Parents now faced long commutes and were away from home 12 hours a day; with kids having fewer resources, and less supervision.
There were standing posters – showing the district at different points of time.  The floor of the museum was imprinted with a map of the district – each street clearly labelled.   Exhibits told about the life on each block.  It all felt very personal, very immediate.   People were highlighted as individuals; recipes, cultural highlights, etc. 
Perhaps of most interest, esp. given the value of the location, is what happened to the land.  The answer is basically … Nothing.   There was both local, national and international protest to this displacements that banks and companies would not invest.   The government built a joke of a structure called “Good Hope” which everyone heckles, even architecturally.  Some land is put aside for military training, but essentially, it’s been left flattened.
There is now a process to allow families to reclaim their land, but it is complex and messy.   Too many years have past.  The government does not want people to get deeds to the land, sell it at a huge profit, and leave the area as a white enclave in the end.  It’s too early to tell how this will play out.
And where did the people go?  The answer came right afterwards.
We drove west, to the Cape Flats, barren brown areas to the West, and toured two townships – Langa, and Khayelitsha.   We walked through Langa, stopping in both businesses and homes.  What was most remarkable is the range of housing within a few blocks within the neighborhood – starting with the tin shacks or shanties, to the first set of government replacement housing — better materials, but same size, through several more improvements, until there were quite substantial homes, yes, behind fences, owned by professionals who chose still to return to their neighborhood.  We were told there was no envy for these families, that they were seen as part of the neighborhood, and good models for the young to aspire to.
The former migrant worker hostels used to have 1 man, 1 bed; 3 bedrooms to a unit, 4 units to a building.  But then families were allowed in – 1 family, 1 bed, and rather than have it be crowded – maybe 48 people per building – they went to jammed  – 200 people?  And when we went in, we saw a mother with the baby, 2 elementary age kids sharing a couch, a teen doing the hair of another, and the grandmother working in the kitchen. Oh, and all this in the same room, maybe 9 x 14 feet.  And yes, the tv was on – a 12″ set.  And there was electricity, which they have to prepay for.    Besides this room there was a bedroom or two, beds packed inside.  Bathrooms – think porta-potties – were across the street.   As the housing improved, the materials were better, the space just a bit larger,  and so on.
I was surprised by how many businesses were in the neighborhood – most from the outside looked like the housing, many just shacks, but there were grocery stores, hair salons, grills (sheep heads anyone?), cell phone services – all the way up to commercial strip malls that look out of place in the neighborhood, but are part of it, just as they are in any other more upscale area.
One thing our guide pointed out is that the neighborhood wants tourists to come by. “Why won’t they come here?” is a plaintive question.  Certainly they could use the economic stimulus, but there is also the issue of being seen as perfectly normal and proper residents of the city.
In traveling between communities, we passed two of the high schools we visited on Monday.   This was almost startling – like, hey, the students we saw live here, and vice versa.   These are real kids, and this is their lives, and they are doing fine, or not.
Khayelitsha seemed much bigger and we were running out of time, so it was mostly a bus tour.   We did stop at a shabeen (a pub) and at Vicky’s B&B, “the smallest hotel in S. Africa” as the sign says, as the sign says.  Vickie lives in a small house as others do, but kept adding on to it, out and up.  The upstairs, which we toured, had a marvelous sitting room, with a huge tv, and 4 double bedrooms off of it – Cost is R250 rand per bed per night.    Tragically, Vickie was killed by her husband, 4 months ago – the guide said there is such a patriarchal culture than her husband couldn’t handle her success.  Now the b&b is run by the children.  The 2nd oldest, 16, talked to us as though she is now in charge, getting help when she is in school.
For what it’s worth, we got ‘home’ close to dusk, and it was cold, with intermittent drizzles.  I did a quick food run, and then retreated to my room for the evening.   I was so tired, that I fell asleep before I could anything useful, though only for a half hour – enough to revive for the next few hours.   I ended up going back to sleep around midnight, waking up long enough around 3 am. to find the Tigers safely beating the White Sox, then returning to sleep until maybe 5 am, waking up for good then.
7/24 Update.  We returned from a day in class in time to get a run in on the Esplanada.   Needed badly at the time, physically and mentally.  
Then, after a shower, I took a shared taxi (60¢ fare) into town and made it to to The Crypt, the jazz club and restaurant under St. George’s  Cathedral.   The food and the music were both good. The owner stopped by and we talked for awhile.  Turns out this is only 3 months old, but has been a lifelong dream for him.   I got lucky with this discovery, even if I did miss out on the more popular entertainment choice among NEH teachers tonight.   (Beefcakes!)

7/23 Tue a.m.: Government Lecture

7/23 Tue: Government Lecture

We were kept busy today, but in two distinct parts: lectures in the morning, and tours of Cape Town townships in the afternoon.  Information about the government here, then the emotional impact in the next entry.
Our lectures were at Rosemont College (college can be anything BUT a degree granting institution), which is actually a private 10-12th grade high school; our classroom a small room, where we were packed in at tables so tight, no one could move without having others stand up.    Then the first lecturer, to speak about Economics, did not show up, and even at that, the 2nd was delayed while they found a projector, and then cables, and then hooked things up, and provided the password.
Having extra time was no trouble for the group, as we’re a talkative and otherwise content group.  Geraldine, who meant to miss the first lecture in any event as she disagrees politically with this professor, did show up and filled in part of the gap with a discussion of the Black Sash, a middle class, mostly White organization of women who protested Apartheid, usually with silent protests, and also provided aid of various sorts to those, esp. women, who were the subject of its abuses.   The women were often arrested, but the police had no idea what to do with them – their husbands were often lawyers and the like – so they’d be released after a couple of hours.
Prof. Keith Gottschalk,         e-mail:   kgottschalk@uwc.ac.za
UWC (Univ. of the Western Cape) summarized a semester course on the RSA government since 1994 in one hour.  
Government Structure:
 *A Unitary, not Federal, State; not shared control, laws, etc.
     Note:  6 kings, 1 king, 100’s of chiefs are on the public payroll
* Demographics:   Whites <10%;  Blacks are not a minority, here.
* Comparisons to both the African American & Native Am. experiences.
* Constitution emphasizes human rights – 18 pages worth.
* Small standing army – large draft.  Military not big enough to overthrow govt.
* Strong Labor Unions, business sector, religious institutions boost stability.
1996 Constitution:
* Served as a cease fire treaty. (During negotiations, which stretched out half a decade, there was more violence than in the prior decades of Apartheid. This was due to lack of trust and violations between opposing sides, and also because of conflicts within each party or alliance.)
* Compromise:    
    >Section 25 – guaranteed property rights;
    >No Punishments for prior action, but Truth and Reconciliation Commission                        
    > for… Section 19 – Universal Franchise – turning gov’t. over to Blacks.
* Westminster derived Parliamentary System; no elected president
* Proportional Representation; no threshold vote for rep in Parliament.
* Symbols compromise; e.g. includes everyone, “like if the right side of the confederate flag was stitched to the left side of the Black Panther Party”
* Justicable Human Rights Bill;  U.S. Style Judicial power
1st time permitted to rule a law illegal; Creative interpretation, 
including foreign rulings as precedents, to support human rights.
Democracy Successes
* Abolish death sentence, corporal punishment
* Redistribution of allocation for social programs:  education, health, 
housing, police, etc.    (had been 1/2 for colored; 1/4 for black)
* Welfare spending increase from 4 to 12 million recipients
* Safe drinking water (1 of 20 countries), electricity access from 40 to 85%
* 3 million houses built – given with deed (ownership)
* Gender reforms, but top down.
Largely Successful
* Capital flight declines and ended in 1990’s
* Tax amnesty allows holdings of foreign capital
* New investment from China, India, Dubai
* White flight (800,000) was stretched over a decade, not all at once; and ended with 2008 Depression
* New generation of Black Professionals, plus immigration
Problems and Challenges
* 22-32% Unemployment – national average
* Crime wave
* HIV / AIDS; TB; Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
* Climate – large variability of rainfall
* Unfunded Mandates + Lack of Capacity of State  
(“Pass laws like Sweden,  Enforce laws like Sudan.”)
* Clumsy, uncoordinated implementation
* Corruption, Spoils System, Cronyism, Revolving Door
* 13 parties with seats.  – only two with double digit %ages; national parties
ANC 66% 264 MPs
DA   17 %     67 MPs   (official opposition; ruling party in West Cape)
5 ethno – regional parties
5 fringe parties  (<1%)
3 parties broke away from ANC
New parties seem to be forming continuously, but they will have no practical effect as they are so small, and there’s no need or benefit of alliances.
    1994-99:  Mandela
    1999- 09: Mbeke  (educated in London, while Mandela was in prison)
    2009-     : Zuma
Election for 5 year term is 2014; President Zuma is running for reelection; with no viable alternative for head of the ANC, he will continue as president.
ANC Strategy — Growth of State Patronage
* Increase in cabinet ministers to 33
* Deputy Minister numbers increase – from 3 to 30
* Municipal lawyers – salary and benefits
* Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment
* Affirmative Action – public and private
Gender Reform Laws
* Choice on Termination of Pregnancy
* Divorce Courts
* Maintenance Act  (support to single parents)
Domestic Violence Act
Recognition of Customary Marriages Act
    (but men can’t marry a 2nd wife w/o permission of 1st wife)
Civil Union Act 2006
3 women in navy, 1 fighter pilot,    40% cabinet ministers  are women
7/24: In class.   Lectures this morning – discussed in the previous entry, and then the rest of the day our group only summarizing and debriefing.  It is a perfect day to be in class – cold and dreary, though I hope it clears up, as I do plan to go to the jazz club tonight.  I don’t think there’ll be all that much to write about the rest of the day, so this will do.
Professor Gottchalk pointed out that in Cape Town, all metropolitan residents contribute to the tax base, as a whole.  There is no fracturing off, suburb vs. city, as there is in Detroit vs. suburbs.  
He also lectured on the SA Foreign Policy on Wednesday, – lots of peace keeping it seems – but given the plethora of acronyms – I spent that time writing up this entry.  
Also Wed. Lecture #16  by Harold Idesus, founder & head of Rosemont College.  From Poland, now Ukraine; parent’s home language was Yiddish.  1st generation SA.    Not an academic, not an expert.   Legal background.   Economics and politics a strong interest.  worked in kibbutz in Israel.
Rosemont College – a private gr 10-12 high school – is attracting more students from throughout Africa.  English learning is an issue.
* Land Tax – forced (successful) farmers off the land to become laborers for mines.  (Would confiscate land if taxes not paid.)
* Corruption becomes part of economic structure.  One must join in to survive.
* SA has not moved from resource development to manufacturing.
* no coherent economic policy.
* National Development Plan (NDP)
* Education is highly funded; results are the lowest.
bureaucratic desire to show good data
low teacher quality;   challenging home settings;
affirmative action
* Poor record of creating jobs
* 3 teacher unions;   no classroom evaluation observations.
* R130 Billion trade with U.S.;   RSA has surplus R18.
The presentation was oral, and random, and quite interactive – so the notes reflect this, and aren’t very coherent, or perhaps meaningful.  Oh well.
Seminar – teacher committee discussing economics and government
LUNCH – ate here.  talked to the school security guard.
Kay’s Lesson – resources for follow up.
   *Political cartoons.  Zapiro;   Madam and Eve
TACOS: Time (occasion); Action (what is happening); Caption; 
Objects (list items you can identify);  Summary (message)
   *Brainstorm Lessons for preamble, National Anthem, Bill of Rights
“Amandla:  Revolution in Four Part Harmony”
Curriculum Sharing
Travel Abroad Opportunities for Teachers – handouts  (2013)

7/22 Mon: School Visits

7/22 Mon: School visits
We divided up into groups and visited six public schools, all quite different from each other, over a  2-3 hour time period.   We shared our experiences with each other in the afternoon.
24 hours later, I have impressions rather than a summary, though perhaps I can find some level of organization to all these, as I write.
All of these, but one, were secondary schools, grade 8 – 12.  The schools ranged from an “ex Model C School”  (top standards, white only) to what we might call a ghetto school.   Our experiences also ran the gamut.
One was struck by the startling differences between schools, given they are all public schools under the same authority (no local districts here).  Ok, not startled, as we see variation back in Ann Arbor.  But nothing on this scale.
The reason is that within the overall school structure, each school has its own SGB – School Governing Body – which includes parents.  If parents are involved, they take more power over how the school is run;  if not, then less.
But this also applies to the school budget.  The government provides a certain budget and staffing level to each school, relatively equitable across the country.  However the SGB can set an admission fee, to provide additional staffing and resources.  In the end, the schools reflect the parent community, rich or poor, high aspirations or hopelessness.
So RUSTENBERG – the most elite of the six schools – has not only high standards for admission, but charges R30,000 a year.  It is also a girls only school, even now – but not whites only.  In fact they give scholarships to increase the diversity – to ‘make it more colored,’ as Geraldine said, but they won’t risk the matric pass rate to do so.   This is a very privileged school, with behavior, academic standards and high expectations for each student to match.
*  feel totally at home as a private school; Technology; IT person
*  principal and staff polite.   Girls stand at beginning at class to greet teacher.  Lovely facilities.  White boards and Smart boards, swimming pool.
*  Govt says school should have staff of 24.  But school has 50!
*  sense of being privileged, but feeling privileged to be here.
THANDOKHULU:    Thandokhulu had been a White only school but was abandoned with White flight.  Blacks occupied the building and ultimately the government agreed to allow them to stay.   Now it is a school for township students who commute in to this school in the neighborhood of the University of Cape Town.    This is a math-science focus school, and students are invited to attend, though their school records often overestimate their real performance.  Students come from poor families, often struggle with English, and therefore comprehension, and don’t have all that much support from home. While primary schools feed students, secondary students do not.  There are snack concessions, but students are to bring lunch from home.  Many do not.
This is the most difficult for me to speak about as I was one of three to be assigned here, but we expressed quite different summaries of our experiences. 
We had 20 minutes or so to talk with the principal, who was quite open in his opinions, leaving us aghast at times.  He talked about the lack of commitment and knowledge of teachers – saying they don’t take work home, and will often correct papers during class, rather than attend to the students.   (Actually a common theme today was that many teachers are not academically equipped to teach the curriculum.)  Then he opined that teacher unions are too powerful, and that teacher salaries take up too high a percentage of the budget – 90% instead of the recommended 80%.  Due to this, there is not money for textbook (or roads, or other societal infrastructure, in his opinion).
We then met with a teacher whose room we’d visit later.  She presented more the opposing view, being a lifelong and grateful member of the ANC, she could see little wrong in what they are doing  (even though she admitted that Zuma was not her candidate; she would still vote for the ANC.  (That this relates to the principal’s comments is all to clear to us, even if it’s not to the reader.)
We ended up spending time in two classes, a 11th grade Social Studies class, and a 10th grade English class.  While we were told class size was routinely over 40, we counted 30 and 31 students in these classes.  Later we heard that classes of above 40 are common in the earlier grades, but due to attrition (drop outs) the numbers decrease year by year.   (As it happens, Manny, in Salinas, CA, has classes in the high 30’s, as does Emily, in Las Vegas).
In both classes, we ended up spending the time talking to and with the students.   It was notable that at the beginning of class, the students, who stay together all day – it is the teachers who move from class to class, in large part due to the fact that there are more teachers than classrooms – were talking. And they continued to talk among themselves when the teacher talked, and when we were introduced.  I was quite concerned about what would happen when I stood up to talk, and how I would respond.  But within a few seconds, all the students were quiet and attentive.  In fact, I saw the same bright eyes, and motivated level of engagement I’ve seen in my classes throughout the years.  (Well, to be honest, for one day anyway, they tuned in much more than my students do.)  The essence of our visit was to understand that kids are ready to learn, to engage, to rise to the challenge, as much here as anywhere.  Given that, there weren’t any profound discussions.  Manny gave his perspective as a Chicano; we both did a lot of comparisons of SA’s and the US historical, social and  political issues.   (Their curriculum includes Civil Rights, the New Deal, etc.)
(Not germane to the discussion is the reaction M and I had to this visit.  M was quite upset that we were left for long periods of time twiddling our thumbs in the lobby or teacher lounge (where other teachers came in at times but walked by us), whereas I figured we were intruding on their schedule and time, and this was par for the course.   M also wished to observe a classroom, rather than be in the spotlight, whereas I valued the interaction we had with the students.)
Also not relevant to anyone but me, but I did leave 30 Clague rucksacks and pencils, and a notebook I didn’t need, so that I now have room for souvenirs.  (There was an issue about to whom to give these gifts – the principal or the students in a given class; I might have chosen wrong, but oh well.)
RHODES:   ex-model B school; students bused in.   all Black, Colored. Very structured.  We were presented with folders with school info, policies, etc.
   Open, caring, inquisitive kids.  2 computer labs.  1 class engaging; 
   English Class: debates (dowry), Othello;  clubs;  active parents; Saturday tutoring.  Teacher says religion is important at school (though this is against the constitution).
LANGA:  bottom school in all ways – township area.   Random and disorganized atmosphere; disrespectful conversations between staff, and with students.  Bob went to 4 classes on his own; asked if he could come in.
 Class 1:  teacher read aloud out of book all hour; students not engaged.
             2: student teacher, no management skills; class out of control.
          3 – introduce Bob and left.  8th graders.    kids don’t feel safe, supported.
           4 – economics – dynamite teacher
One teacher said, “oh, you have to hit students.”   (Actually corporal punishment, or any such contact, is strictly against the law.)
     Cold faculty lounge.  many new teachers
 Matric (grade 12 graduating) classes had 20 students;  others had 40.
ISILIMELA:  New principal; security; nice garden; computers; feeding program
    Hiistory class – mostly lecture. kids half listening;   kids passionate
    Language barriers; gangs, orphans, social problems
    Jeff – art class in isiXhola. …. student asked him privately at end, “Have you thought of killing yourself?”  Startling.
THORNTON – primary . ex white Afrikaans.  Now isiKhosa, English, some Afrikaans.    45% Black, 45% colored, formal behavior – arts classes
   Mandela Day — 5 good deeds
  1st grade – very competent teacher
—Other Notes—
Special Ed – mainstreaming is best, however, in practice, teachers can’t cope – big classes, etc   Remedial teachers gr 1-3. 1 psychologist for 29 schools.  So in reality there is little evidence of special education services.
In most schools, there is no library or computer lab, or these are not open.
Religion:  <1994 – Christian National Education – bible into everything
   now:  no religious instruction (proselytizing); inclusive of all religious practice
(Thutong] Dept of Ed. policy, though as we saw, practice doesn’t always match theory.

7/22 Mon: Thoughts

7/22 Mon:   Thoughts
After the day’s activities in Cape Town, our bus made a stop at the V&A Waterfront, so I got off to get a Mandela Day shirt (success), get my camera batteries recharged (failure) and see where the bus stop is back to the airport (success, including getting a mandatory bus smart card; the question of ‘can’t I just pay for a ticket to the airport?’ is now anachronistic in this age of technology.) Oh and I fended off a knife wielding beggar, but as I’d guess she was 10 or 11 years old, the odds were in my favor. It wasn’t even dark yet – and this was in the 100 m between the stadium and a jogging path, so it really wasn’t too serious. Or too sane. I told her I was bigger than her, to back off, that she’d get hurt, and that I’d feel bad. Her accomplices were two 7-8 year old boys. Pretty sad.
We split up and visited six very different schools today for 2-3 hours, then debriefed in the afternoon.  I’m still processing my experiences and my notes on the others’ so will put off writing about it for now.   Lectures in the morning tomorrow, and then to the District Six Museum – commemorating a community of 55,000 people who were ‘removed’ from the land.  We’ll also visit a couple of townships. an enlightening experience each time we’ve had the opportunity to do so.
I wrote the following in reply to a friend’s e-mail, and thought it might make an appropriate entry for this eclectic blog.  It’s highly personal, and comes totally from my perspective.
Dear Friend,
Yes, I am being prolific – it covers up not having a life; a social life anyway.   I am allowing myself to be less conflicted about the latter.  I was flitting from person to person, group to group, here, not quite fitting in, and finally came to the mature decision that this was silly, that I needn’t be that needy, that my ego could survive and do well based on other criteria.  (This is the same sequence I’ve followed all my life of course, going from defended childhood, to judgmental college student, to … well, I’m still waiting to grow up, I guess.)   The other teachers are ok, clearly dedicated teachers, most are just enjoying being here, and being with each other, and being young.  What hits me most is that they are accomplished travelers and study trip participants, as though they apply for these because they are available, not so much because it will help their teaching (though of course that is not fair, as it clearly will and they are conscious of it).   Or, one wrote on Facebook that he climbed Table Mountain (in the background of every picture of Cape Town) to “check it off his Bucket List.”  I told him he’s too young to have a Bucket List.  Like the docent at the museum who said people race through their time there – as they’ve accomplished being there – not learning or feeling anything from the experience.  Anyway, I don’t mind not fitting in; I’m rather used to it, in fact.  And it gives me evenings to settle in and write, and read – and hand wash clothes, and all, and check on the Tigers if – given the time difference – it’s a Day Game (or the British Open or Tour de France) so it’s good.
I started taking Prednisone, meds for asthma I was sure to have with me – after I was having some breathing issues in the mountains, which was wise.   Finally getting into a routine of runny daily now that we’re back in Cape Town has helped too.   I likely walked 6 miles yesterday, and ran 4.   I always lose a lot of weight during the summer, but it’s winter here.  I think I lost a few pounds at first, then leveled off, but should be losing more now.
I’m glad you were interested in the Apartheid blog entry — it was long, but hopefully not as tedious or self-centered as most.   Seeing evidence of both the struggle and the impact it has on every aspect of people’s lives, even now, is a profound experience.  It seems, coming from afar, I can see things that the people here don’t see in their own lives.  There are so many assumptions – we would call them stereotypes and prejudices – that people make, that they naturally live under – that underlie everything.   ok, not that this isn’t also so in the U.S.    Like the docent at the Jewish Museum, so progressive at age 88, who even advocated for a two state solution for Israel / Palestine, but only if Israel controls Jerusalem.  (” ‘They’ – meaning ‘them’, not ‘us’ – just don’t know how to take care of things; they nearly destroyed it before.)  Or a Colored docent at the exhibit on the Land Act saying, ” ‘They’ – Blacks – are happy to live rent free in shacks.  ‘I’ could never do that to my children.”
Stagnant wages for 60 years?  Yes, everything was locked in, and there was no need to consider the welfare of Africans. The Dutch and British, after fighting for control, joined forces when they realized they could prosper with a powerless labor force, and they hammered machiavellian strokes to keep things that way.   Wage raise – it was unthinkable — how much were slaves paid?  Truly one sees how Whites consider Blacks unhuman – not just uncivilized.   (The Colorred, by the way, being of mixed descent from the earliest white settler times, strongly identify with Whites, by the way, having mostly the same heritage for 300+ years, longer than we have had in the U.S.)
Yes, I have read a lot about Unions here, though much of it is in the newspapers where they are blamed for much of the problems here (Sound familiar?)   The first unions were set up a hundred years ago, but my guess is that they didn’t represent Blacks, but I have to research this.   Of interest, it appears that in the same work space one has a choice of unions – two or more exist at the same time – so there’s a lot of infighting between unions.   I’ll try to learn more and write about it; thanks.
Mandela – there is such reverence for him here – and you know, it seems well deserved.  To go from Freedom Fighter to Patriarch – to embrace tactical violence as a political strategy, yet to embrace all people as he seemed to do – to survive 27 years in Prison, and then to publicly support the Springbok Rugby team (the movie, “Invictus”), which symbolized all that was wrong with the Afrikaner mindset, and apartheid, is still mind boggling to me.  Of course there were other leaders – heroes – all jailed as well, who don’t get the same attention, and almost no attention in the U.S.   Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Robert Sebukwe – many more: George Bizos, Helen Suzman…   In any case, I would strongly recommend Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.”   I borrowed it from the library – I didn’t want to carry the 600 page book with me (and was trying to save money on our massive reading list) – or I would lend it to you.  And I shall be happy to buy you a Mandela t-shirt.  Turns out the Mandela Day one is only long sleeve – but I’ll find you a good one when I shop for one for me.
Ah, the Tigers … I mentioned on Facebook that they are keeping things interesting until I return.   It is a puzzlement isn’t it?   It looks like Jackson’s and Fielders’ BA are headed downwards, but Martinez’ is rising.   Clearly they miss Infante.   Is Dirks playing regularly?  He and Avila aren’t doing much.   Seems like Randon is pitching more consistently — nice to see the Smyly, Randon, Benoit trio finishing up nicely yesterday.  (I first wrote, ‘last night’  but that’s only relative to time zones).  And is JV having an erratic year – or more in line with earlier seasons?  Anyway, I guess it’s easier to follow them from afar, and with them hovering in first – though in other divisions, they’d be buried in the standings.
As to coming home, at least the timing of it, after being out of synch here for a few days – likely with the pace too slow with too much time on the bus – I’m happy to play this week out in Cape Town.   It’s balanced between lectures and guided tours of the city and region, including town to the Cape of Good Hope (which is NOT the Southernmost point of Africa).  Obviously, we’re all looking forward to the school visits today – and then comparing notes.   Perhaps I wish I had scheduled my departure on Saturday, but having the extra day on my own is almost fitting; I’ll be leaving by myself as both of the other two leaving on Sunday have flights several hours before mine.]
As to what I’m coming home to – well this trip was a test run of sorts – including the model of trying to establish myself socially, retreating, and being comfortable with who I am in this regard.   To be honest, this conflict and ambivalence has been on my mind for a long time, leaving me in stalemated inaction, so it’s been a helpful transition, I hope.  In a more practical vein, I’ll be busy – packing and moving and settling in, and then preparing for school looms, so the timing is good.   And I also do want to honor friendships, as those I appreciate more and more at this point.
One more thing to tie all this up.   Perhaps it was seeing Mandela’s courage and resolve and action, but I’m pushing myself to have the same determination to reestablish contact with Claire, and if I can steel myself from the disappointment, the intractably distant Laura.   If only this were as easy as fighting a 100 year struggle against racial oppression!  (It’s easier to partipate in mass movements, then to have one genuine respectful loving relationship with another person, eh?)   Even if it takes me writing letters every week, or every day, the resolve to reestablish the relationship with my children and me is what I will most take away from this trip.   Of course, this is what I have most wanted every day since Laura, then Claire, pulled away, and there’s no clear path to get them to open their minds.  But if Mandela can pound rocks day after day, year after year, to surive, to be strong enough to fight for liberation, what better inspiration can I have.  (and now, tears again).


7/21: Museum Weekend

7/21: Museum Weekend

Between yesterday’s planned group events, and today’s ‘free day’ I packed in four museums and more.
Saturday morning we walked down to the V&A Waterfront, to the Nelson Mandela dock to catch the boat to Robben Island.  The gift shop had the Nelson Mandela Day t-shirts I saw on tv, but I didn’t buy one, in part due to not having any cash on me.   There was also an exhibit upstairs but it was too crowded with people waiting for the boat (including girls who were in town for a H.S. field hockey and netball tournament).
It took about 30 minutes of choppy waters to reach the island (one really can’t imagine anyone escaping by swimming – though apparently one did, twice, only to be caught on the other side and returned each time.  Well, the third time they sent him to Australia.)
There were two parts of the tour, and we were kept all together.  The first was  a general bus tour of the island.   The island has been used as a prison for a long long time, but also used to isolate leprosy patients (or lepers as they were called).  The island  is quite large – 5 km around, I think they said.  It was also a refuge for birds.   There is a school there, but with only 7 students it is closing.  There is also a Muslim Shrine. 
The second part of the tour was in the maximum security section, with these guides being former political prisoners.  Both our guides were quite charming, but unfortunately we all had trouble understanding our 2nd one.  He was in for 5 years in the 80’s, very thankful for the better conditions they had there, ones that were fought for earlier by Mandela and other leaders.   
He also pointed out that the prison was also known as “The University” as they figured out how not only to communicate with each other, but to teach each other.  Eventually they also succeeded in pushing for inmates to complete college credit there.
We did see the quarry the prisoners worked at, the court yard where they had to break rocks, the communal cells which held 20 people – or up to 60, and Mandela’s cell — though to me it had the look of a place where the original was torn down, and rebuilt, as there was a museum quality feel to this area.
In the afternoon we bused to the center of town and visited the National Gallery.  Besides samples from their permanent exhibit – some of which was quite impressive – they had a special photographic exhibit called, “Umhlaba,”  commemorating the 1913 Natives Land Act.   As much as we have been aware of Apartheid, the evils started much early, and destructively so.   It not only dispossessed people from their homes and land, but it literally broke up families.   Black Men could not live with their families in 93% of the country, but they were needed as Laborers, so they were forced to become migrant workers, living in hostels or other temporary lodgings, going home to see their families once or so a year.    Even homes Blacks did have were not permanent; if an area was sought by Whites (or colored?) the Blacks were driven off their land, with often their belongings burnt, if they weren’t home at the time of relocation.   In today’s newspaper in fact, they interviewed a woman making and selling beads on the street, who told of this happening to her family several times.    The cruelties – both the narrative and the photos – again had me reduced to tears several times.   (I truly don’t know what has gotten in to me on this trip, but it is deeply genuine.)
While many of the others had time to visit nearby sites – the Slave Lodge, St. George’s Cathedral (home church of Desmond Tutu, etc. – I only had about 15 minutes to walk down the “Company Gardens” and see the Parliament Buildings and such.   We were due on the bus at 4:15 to return to the hotel.  I walked down to replenish groceries – juice, yogurt, bread, cheese, applies – and then did my daily Sunset run on the Esplanade.  The evening was a shower, a meal – such as it was – and much on the computer.
Sunday, today, was a bright and clear day, and marked ‘free’ on our itinerary.  M and I walked out at the same time, heading in the same direction, but when he stopped at the first street mall, looking for a diamond for his wife, I decided I had been in enough malls, and continued on.   A good decision, as I had realized, once again, that my walking together, I lost all ability, or at least motivation,  to orient.  It turned out quite easy to, on my own, and I wound my way through fairly deserted Sunday morning streets – quite a few made into pedestrian malls – to St. George Cathedral (were later I discovered “The Crypt” Jazz Restaurant, where I now intend to go at some point this week.  Also to the Slave Lodge, another museum, which was closed today.
Where I did go was to the Jewish Museum, and Holocaust Center.   It was quite new, not super big, but with some clear and absorbing exhibits.   There were 4,000 Jews in SA in the early 1800’s, but the majority coming from the Baltics – mainly Lithuania – late in the century.  There was a recreation of a shtetl in the lower level, accessed by this grand marble spiral staircase. There was also a photography exhibit by Paul Weinberg, who also had photos in teh National Gallery exhibit.
Most valuable was talking with Sheila Lawrence, a docent on duty, for about 45 minutes.   I can’t recall everything we talked about – from Jews’ emphasis on education, to their  views and actions against Apartheid, and her views about Palestine (sensitive and even supporting a two state solution, as long as Israel retains complete control of Jerusalem (“they” would destroy it) so there’s always a catch.  I also found out about her children, and grandchildren, and I think,  great-grandchildren.   While I knew that she had a few years on me, I was more than impressed when she said she’s 88 years old.   Oh she also told me about trips to India and the current practice of trying to bring the Untouchables out of their rueful place in society.   Fascinating.  And she gave me her business card; but she doesn’t do e-mail!
After a break to have a snack in the gardens, I went across the way to the South Africa Museum.  This is a natural science museum, with big exhibits on San Rock Art, sea and animal life of the region, past and present, fossils and other archeological matters, and on Darwin.  In every exhibit there was a focus on the region, so even ‘old’ stuff was fascinating in that sense.  Parts looked dated, but the to scale models of dinosaurs, and sharks and whales – many of these suspended in the air in a central alcove spanning 4 floors – and lions and all were still pretty impressive.
On my way back, I stopped at the Greenmarket Square Craft Market – quite an impressive collection.  Steve would have enjoyed the masks, more variety than I’ve seen up to now.  They were just starting to pack up, which led me to my one purchase – a colorful ‘Mandela’ shirt  (too colorful for his tastes, I imagine) that because I really didn’t intend to buy it, got bargained down from R250 to R120 – but likely only because I said it was great, but too much; great, but I wasn’t going to wear it; great but … until I finally said ok.   Well, at R150 I tried in on, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to walk away without the seller’s most urgent attempt.  “Just for you… only because we’re packing up… you see the infant shirt is selling for R180…”  If there’s any bartering at all, I’ve found that truly be willing to walk away works the best.
I returned to the hotel – after another quick stop at Spar, for Juice and broccoli, in time for an hour break before going out for my daily sunset run.   Then to the room to cool down, eat a bit, take a shower, go on-line – and it’s about time for bed again.  
I haven’t seen much of the others – a few at breakfast; Carol, Kay and Rich after I ran; a few postings on Facebook (four climbed Table Mountain today!); but we’ll all be back tomorrow,  then dispersed for the school visits.  I have to remember to bring the 30 rucksacks and pencils I brought along, and perhaps the thick notebook I haven’t used yet.

SA’s Education Crisis – Ch. 1

The day before we visit schools in Cape Town – and as I am about to write about my museum experiences this weekend – I am inserting a summary and some thoughts about Education from a recently published book

In Grahamstown one lecture concerned education in S.A. Monica Hendricks also contributed to this book of essays and had them for sale.  With a 2012 copyright, this is an up to date analysis.   What follows is a brief summary of some parts that made an impression.


SA’s Ed Crisis Ch 1

SA’s Educational Crisis: Views from the Eastern Cape

Ed. by L. Wright
NOTE:   To save time, I most often quote the book, rather than summarize. (with exceptions made to ‘fix’ the British spellings. 🙂
1. Origins — Along with the legacy of Apartheid, the lack of resources, endemic poverty in rural areas, bureaucratic incompetence and infighting, the rampant corruption, and more,   I was struck by the issues related to transition issues related to ‘social scale’:
“South Africans have yet to come to terms with tensions between the cultural approach to communication, rituals and symbols, value systems that derive from small-scale societal elements of our citizenry and those from people who have adopted large-scale values.”     -Mamphele Ramphele (2010)
Melvyn Seeman – five historical trends making the transition to modernity:
1. The decline of kinship as an important criterion of place and of decision making, and the consequent increase in anonymity and impersonality in social relations. 
2. The decline of traditional social forms and the rise of secularized, rationalized forms, which includes: a) the emergence of bureaucracy as an organizational form,  b) the growth of mechanization and standardization as a technical form, and  c) the secularization of beliefs and values, an ideological form involving the weakening of ‘given’ standards of behavior.
3.  Increased social differentiation involving increased specialization of tasks for persons and institutions, with increased division of labor and interdependency (along with, of course, the increased homogeneity implied by standardization in other spheres, e.g., in mass culture and consumption.
4. Increased mobility both spatial and social, which implies the waning of locality ties and immediate interpersonal bonds.
5. Enlargement of scale, referring to the fact that the bases of action (e.g., communication, transport, politics, urbanization, etc.) have become massive in the literal sense that big corporations, cities and nations, make decisions that affect large populations.
Remnants of small-scale clan-based established ethic, retained as an aspect of transitional mentality in the shift to large-scale society, produce unfortunate consequences when acted out in the very different context of modernity:
* Small-scale societies play a zero-sum game.  If one person gains something, be it position or wealth or status, there is a deep-seated conviction that this gain must be at the expense of someone else.  Small-scale societies live out a belief of limited good.  Their social world, the ‘cake,’ is only so big.  If an individual gets a larger slice, this must result in the rest having less.  If someone achieves outstanding success, this must be at the expense of everyone else, therefore somehow unfair, and to be resisted. Envy and jealousy are rife.  These attitudes linger to unfortunate effect int eh different context of modern society.
* The task of the central authority (the chief or clan leader) is to treat people fairly and equitably.  This passion for social equality pushes the normal drive for individual  and social advancement underground, creating an ethical ‘doubleness’ in the society. Surface passion for equality often hides rampant individualistic striving for advancement, thus creating a subterranean climate of collusion and conspiracy which has to e kept well out of official notice.
* There is only one central source of wealth and preferment, which is in the gift of the clan leader, so every effort must be made to curry favor, while still maintaining an egalitarian social demeanor.  transferred to large-scale society, this means that everyone looks for an ‘angle’, rather than straight-forwardly pursuing the objectives of the organization.  Worthy social or educational objectives seem mere abstractions in comparison to the immediacy of the struggle for personal accumulation because large-scale society is not emotionally or intellectually present in any substantial way.
* Given that overt individualistic striving is ffrowned upon, people tend to form alliances in their efforts to advance their own welfare, so covert networks of group loyalties form around sectional interests.  In the transition to large-scale society these become informal asset-stripping consortia, or professional lobbies, or formal labor unions.  The exposed individual seeks protection by belonging to a group or groups.
* Ethical behavior in small-scale, face-to-face societies is maintained through social surveillance, rather than out of simple conviction or adherence to tradition.  Everyone watches everyone, so no-one can step out of line.  But the system of surveillance breaks down in large-scale society, where distance, anonymity, and dispersed abstract organization create opportunities for independent action unobserved by the home society.  The vigilance of the ancestor-spirit is operative mainly in the home community; outside, in the wider society, people can become ‘impervious to the wrath of spirits and amakhaya alike.”  An ethical lacuna opens up, one not beholden to universal conscience yet released from traditional constraints, and vulnerable to the temptations of easy pickings.
* Violating social cohesion is far more serious than ethical transgression. If someone transgresses, it is crucial that they own up and apologize unreservedly.  They then remain part of the group and life can continue normally.  No-one wants to create permanent enemies.  Forgiveness serve the cause of group preservation.  Hence culprits even in large-scale society tend inappropriately to be ‘redeployed’ rather than sacked.  This is a remnant of small-scale behavior retained from situations where people still have to live together, despite transgressions, because there is nowhere else to go. 
* Nonetheless, in extreme circumstances, the small-scale tolerance that forgives ethical transgressions once appropriate recompense is offered, has definite limits.   Small-scale societies have ‘edges’. When social norms are defied ethical tolerance vanishes and retribution can be merciless, brutal and wholly disproportionate; based more on a drive to extinguish the miscreant than to effect suitable punishment.  (… witchcraft, homosexuality – transgress accepted norms…) Often transgressors judge it safer to disappear and affiliate to another clan or social grouping than suffer such disproportionate punishment.
* Traditional societies are relatively static and support only a restricted repertoire of technical roles, so that people tend to believe everyone can do anything. The increased specialization and division of labor, plus the larger knowledge-load, that characterize modern society take rural people by surprise.  Qualifications, skill levels and merit have to supplant older forms of family and political nepotism if organizations are to operate successfully, a disconcerting discovery for those new to modern society.  Equally disconcerting is modern society’s commitment to continuous change and improvement.  Small-scale sensibility is far happier with unthinking routine.
Much of the ‘corruption’ can be attributed to the ethical ‘doubleness’ of small-scale society where it is deemed legitimate to enhance your share of the cake, provided you are not found out, and the ‘victim’ is not one of your own.  
Ethical damage to society at large is discounted because it is extraneous to your group and outweighed by the comfort of having enhanced the wellbeing of those who mater to you, yourself and your extended family.  In truth, the larger society is scarcely present as a reality.
Sociologists point out that transition to large-scale society is greatly facilitated by the ethical impact of the universalizing religions, such as Christianity and Islam.  With their emphasis on ethical norms governed by an internalized ‘conscience’, the universalizing religions underwrite uniform ethical behavior that transcends kinship, culture or local loyalties, thereby gradually easing and dissolving the ‘boundedness’ of small-scale society.  These religions  endorse ethical reciprocity (the Golden Rule) as a universal human demand.