Friday, December 02, 2011

Occupy Portland evolves

Tomorrow, Occupy Portland will choose a new home in a “park-like” setting.

The aim is to stay in the chosen city park for two weeks.

The two-week term limit is part of the broader evolution of the movement.

As a Quaker participant in the Faith/Spirit support committee for Occupy Portland, I was briefed this week on how the new Occupation will work.

“Sustainability” is clearly a new watch word. The old Occupy sites at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares weren’t sustainable for all kinds of reasons.

Indeed the movement has decided that no “Occupy” settlement that purports to be permanent will work.

So Occupy Portland will be migratory. Two weeks here, two weeks there....

That moves the message around the city. We could use it here in Hillsdale where Chase Bank wants to build a new branch that this community doesn't need and doesn’t want. (If you don't believe me come to the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association meeting, 7 p.m., next Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Watershed Building, Bertha Court and Capitol Highway.)

Another important evolutionary change in Occupy is that it isn’t going to tolerate hangers-on who contribute nothing — or trouble. People who are just loitering or worse drug dealing or thieving, will be confronted at first in a welcoming way.

Here’s the plan: An active Occupier will approach a questionable character.

“Hi there! Are you plugged in?”

“No, man.”

“Well, you need to get plugged in. How do you want to help? The kitchen? The sanitary crew? The information booth?”

“I don’t want to get ‘plugged in.’ Just leave me alone.”

At that point the first community member calls over another. “Hey, this person doesn’t want to be plugged into the community.”

“Hi, let’s get you plugged in! What do you want to do?”

“I don’t want to do anything.”

So yet another encampment member is called over, and then another...until the person is surrounded by a dozen Occupiers all insisting that the aimless interloper get “plugged in” in some way.

The process continues until the surrounded person agrees to be “plugged in” or leaves.

Clearly the Occupy movement is evolving and growing stronger and stronger, and smarter and smarter.

A related point:

There’s also been a lot of discussion and planning about leaving the parks as they were when the Occupy groups arrived. Pre-Occupy photos of the condition of the sites have been taken for reference.

Much has been made in the scolding Press of the cost of restoring the original parks at Chapman and Lownsdale. According to Portland Parks and Recreation it comes to about $130,000.

What did that money buy?

Try knowledge and awareness — at last. Mass public education and broad civic engagement.

Try a stronger democracy.

Try the beginning of breaking the stranglehold corporations and the wealthy have on our government.

Frankly, it’s cheap at a price and a fraction of a CEO’s salary. For comparison's sake, Jamie Dimon, Chase's CEO, is compensated to the tune of $19 million a year. What's he done for democracy lately besides buy a few members of congress with campaign contributions? Is Dimon really "worth" 146 times the "cost" of Occupy Portland's witness for justice.

If anything, Dimon and his like should pay the social costs of their wrongs. Talk about not being plugged in....

Will future Occupancies cost the taxpayers of this city money? Absolutely. Will it be worth it? Absolutely...if we back this movement for an equitable and just society.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Evaluating my evaluations

This morning, the big white, whirring garbage truck hoisted our blue recycling bin off the driveway and dumped its contents into the cavernous bed.

The truck's compactor then unceremoniously squashed 24 years of student evaluations of my teaching into illegibility.

I stopped teaching last year but I continued to horde away in the basement my college course evaluations from as far back as 1986. Somewhere in the basement may be ratings from an even earlier teaching stint in the late Sixties and Seventies.

When I find them, they’ll go curbside too.

Why did I keep those dozens of envelopes, one for each and every class I have ever taught?

At one point I thought they might help me get a job. To a hiring committee, I might say, but never did, “Here, sort through this box and pick a course at random. Let my students do the talking.”

Maybe I kept them because I remember how I’d expectantly wait to get the evaluations back from the dean. He always got first crack at them and then would seal them in a big security envelope. My feeling while tearing it open was similar to the anticipation I had as a student when my grades came in the mail. Two As, two Bs and a C — or some such.

For me my “grades” from my students were check-mark rankings from “among the very best” to “among the very worst.” A simple check in a box summarized ten weeks of “having” me.

Most of the time I was “very good” to “good” with a rare — GLORY BE! — “among the very best.”

Occasionally I’d get a student who was, as they say, a “bad fit.” I would conclude that we were, forced to be together, “among the very worst.”

It happens.

I remember one who reported that my “teaching style” didn’t fit with her “learning style.” I had utterly and insensitively failed to “adjust,” she noted. I confess, I was late to get with the whole “learning styles” issue. I’m sure I never mastered it. The good news is that the other students didn’t seem to have a problem with me, stylistically.

Perhaps they adjusted.

The majority of written comments, like he check marks, were quite positive. As of this morning's garbage collection, I am not longer capable of quoting from them ... and that’s okay. You’re going to have to trust me — not that it really matters.

After my retirement, I think I kept the evaluations just in case I needed to be reminded that my teaching was not just good, but worthwhile. The classes made a difference and some students said so, sometimes glowingly.

As it turns out, I haven’t needed the reminder. I never looked at the evaluations after my first eager-anxious reading. I’m still in touch with a few of my students. I’m proud of them. They are the best “evaluations” a teacher can have.

Since the evaluations were trucked off this morning, I have had no regrets. If anything, it’s good to be rid of those envelopes. To know the paper will be recycled and that our basement is one box less cluttered with the useless relics of a useful life.

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