Monday, September 7, 2009
Listen! Pay Attention.
I continue to be surprised when my students do not know what public radio is and they are not familiar with the local stations WYPR in Baltimore and WAMU in DC. Once you get comfortable with the local stations, start streaming public radios stations from the more diverse and forward-thinking cities in our country. A telling statement came from one of my students a number of years go in response to the integration of ethical issues into the art and design courses I teach. I designed an assignment on the issue of Blood Diamonds. We watched The History Channel's documentary together because of its horrific and blunt content. I put together and gave students lists of references for further research/learning: projects designed around the issue, websites, other documentaries and movies, and of course books. Part way through the project this student who I had assessed as being a "good" student said out loud in class, "How did I not know this was happening?" How indeed I thought to myself. I replied, "Where do you get your news? What are you reading?"
This memory indelibly lodged in my mind, came to the fore this morning as I sipped coffee standing in my kitchen, listening to WYPR. Sheila Kast hosted Bill Barry, the Director of Labor Studies at the Community College of Baltimore County's Dundalk Campus. He talked about the origins--and the future--of Labor Day and the labor movement. I am not an expert on labor history but found this interesting. The modern work week was based on an 8-hour workday so that people could have balanced lives: spend time with their families and friends, participate in civic and religious entities, and have a healthy, balanced life. Makes sense. We know that balanced people make better decisions- big and small- when they are balanced. When did we lose this as a national value? I was educated with a liberal arts undergraduate degree and teach in a liberal arts educational system. Our society will function best if we grow well-rounded, balanced citizens. I encourage you to visit the WYPR website and listen to the re-play of today’s conversation. Be informed.
This story also reminded me of the social design course I teach. On Thursday we had our first class brainstorming session in response to the question, "Before we begin to do our research in this course, what do you see as the social issues of the day?" I love this course. Students love this course. I couldn't shut them up- these students had so many ideas, opinions, thoughts about what is going on in our society today. Work is one factor. People are working too much.
Bill Barry closed with the following ideas and imperatives. "Get up, get out, get angry, get organized." This is the history of America, or it was. "What is a little law to a big bank?" This is especially apropos on the heels of multiple events such as the Bernie Madoff scheme and the failure of many people at the SEC[!] Enron, Wallstreet, etc, etc. Businesses, and the the bigger the business the more prevalent the attitude, willingly, knowingly break the law and pay the penalty because it still comes out in their favor. Why have laws if the predominant attitude from the biggest and the most powerful is to ignore them and as a society we accept and tolerate this? Are we really surprised where we are as a society? Really? And finally, as Woodie Guthrie said,
"Take it easy, but take it."