‘To everything there is a season’

Where to begin?  A little while ago I was feeling kind of frozen with the inability to come up with stuff worth writing about.  Oh, what change a couple of weeks can bring…

I’m still frozen- since this stoopid polar vortex (those are rapidly becoming my two least favourite words) thing refuses to release us from its icy grip- but the words, they are a’ flowin’.  New problem?  I just can’t keep up with them all.

So many directions and so very many events of significance.. and yet I’ll have to just let a few of them go without more than a passing nod.

There’s this guy, though.  And he deserves FAR more than a passing anything (except maybe an awed handshake or hug as I stand speechless at the greatness he embodied).

Pete Seeger.

Strange that he’s actually gone.  I can’t remember a world without his songs.  They are such a part of the soundtrack of my life, it’s hard to separate out separate out specific tunes for mention.  I’ve spent so very many summers by lakes here in Ontario, and every single one of them was accompanied by songs that Pete brought into our lives.  Songs we could sing- vocal abilities or lack thereof notwithstanding- and songs that MEANT something.

He’s been so ubiquitous that I honestly can’t even decide which of his songs I heard first, or, really, which one I love best.  Except… He adapted and then arranged words from one of my fave books from the OT, written by one of my fave characters from the OT.  So, even if the tune itself remains most associated with some other very cool cats, I have to say that Turn, Turn, Turn is right up there in the cole-appreciates-Pete department.

Since I have so much floating around in my head and attempting to escape through my fingertips, I am not going to be able to even approach doing justice to the memory of such a pivotal character in our (popular) culture.  There have been a lot of wonderful remembrances- in the mainstream media and here in the WP World- and I happened across this one at Shaunanagins yesterday.  Yep, yep, yep and yep (seven times over).  So well said.  Most resonant with me, right now in this head space I have going on, is the whole ‘music isn’t just about entertainment’ thing.  Pete taught us that.  People like Neil Young, who I wrote about here, reminded us of that reality recently.  It’s an easy thing to forget- when the throw-away pop that seems to be everywhere these days is the ‘music’ of first exposure for a whole lot of young people.

There are too few people, when you examine their lives, about whom you can honestly say that 94 (!) years wasn’t enough time here among us.  Pete was one of those ‘voices’ I spoke about.  And his is still out there carrying in ways that leave me entranced.

About that.  The whole ‘Voices Carry’ thing.  And my assertion, stemming from outrage, that we HAVE to be looking for dialectic rather than debate.  And about the whole synchronicity element- and winds of change seemingly headed in my general direction.

It’s been quite a week.  That radio show that I mentioned?  It happened, and people are talking.

#NotYourAdjunctSidekick is generating discussion all over the place in the Twitterverse, and groups of contract/part time/adjunct academic faulty are banding together to raise their voices as one.  Some of the stories are terrible- situations far more extreme and representative of the true systemic inequities than anything I ever experienced before I gave up on the system.  There are stories popping up everywhere Even if some of them- like the last speaker on The Current’s presentation of the issue- seem to be missing the point entirely, and using the discussion as yet another forum in which to bash the Humanities and deemphasize their importance in education (I’d like to continue to vehemently dispute that perspective by offering up an article, by Tom Nichols- a professor of national security affairs in the US- about the tendency to dismiss experts in the field due to the inability to use rationale and reason to examine all sides of an issue- and at least entertain the advice of those who know stuff about stuff before reacting emotionally and erroneously to any given topic).

All this talk of universities and teaching and communicating has my mind looping through all sorts of the topics that I’ve been thinking, and writing, about lately.  I’m finding myself missing the classroom.  This is an ever-present feeling- since I LOVED being a teacher- but talking about it over the last few days, and coming up with ideas and plans about affecting change have me realizing that it’s time to get back to the classroom.  But all this talk of the university system and its institutionalized problems has also reinforced the reality that I might have to come up with my own concept of ‘classroom’.

So this is leading to more talking and more sorting things out.  Some concepts are more appealing than others- so a few proposals/projects/blueprints need to be worked out in the next while.

I do know that the ‘classroom’ for me is not Toronto City Hall.  Not at this time, anyway.  The ‘how to be a candidate’ meeting was interesting and very informative.  The City employees who organized and ran the thing did so with professionalism and respect- something that is seemingly lacking in many of the politicians with whom they are required to work.  That is part of why it isn’t the venue for me.

As I sat in Karen Stintz’s seat in the council chamber, one of the organizers commented that the room was much more decorous and composed than is usually the case.  It was a joke, but it’s also all too much the truth.  There were a lot of people present at the meeting who were there in obvious search of change- and some of them spoke with passion and eloquence and without the narcissistic posturing of the people who usually sit in those seats.  It gave me some hope that positive change may be possible.  (There was at least one extremist crack-pot there (I’m not actually talking about ‘the mayor’, this time), of course, but the rest of those gathered chose to ignore his rantings and continue on with the business of actually learning something.  Hope indeed.)

There’s a great article in this month’s Toronto Life about those who maintain some level of faith that Ford is the guy to remove the City from its current quagmire.  They’re wrong, of course, but I now sort of understand why they might think that.  The article highlighted this systemic problem we have with polarizing our opinions to the extreme.

Us vs. Them.  It’s everywhere.  And that has to change.

As I walked to the subway this morning there was just the barest hint of warmth in the brutal wind that has been screaming around the buildings in the downtown core this past while.  Time for a change of season, paradigm, perspective and approach.

A time to build up, a time to break down

Or vice versa, as the case may be.

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26 comments on “‘To everything there is a season’

  1. Little Boxes.

    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes all the same.
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one,
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.

  2. lennymaysay says:

    In a bit of a writing slump myself since returning from holiday…

  3. Us vs. Them. It’s everywhere. And that has to change.
    Amen.

    • colemining says:

      Yep, HC. Can’t move forward until we let go of this ugly tendency to polarize EVERYTHING. With all the chat about the adjunct situation I’m starting to see sides being taken- tenure vs. adjunct- and some of those who are choosing up sides honestly cannot see how counterproductive that is. Sigh.

  4. Ste J says:

    Pete, a guy who deserves a lot more recognition than he gets.

  5. Grace says:

    Seeger’s lyrics~ “Turn, Turn, Turn,” are so beautifully wise. Reassuring, hopeful even. Wish I had read your post and listened to the lyrics before I wrote my last post! “If I Had a Hammer” evokes a lovely flashback~ my uncle used to sing that song to me as a child. I would wait on the front steps for him to arrive home from UBC and sing to me. I digress…

    Another thoughtful, educational post. You must teach; you are a born teacher!

    • colemining says:

      Thank you Grace. Kinder words have never been spoken. I hold teachers in the highest regard and I am in the process of finding my next ‘classroom’. This past week has led me to reexamine a number of things- will see where they take me. As always, I appreciate your insights- hope is something we must hold onto, and we have to listen to the voices that have come before us and contribute to the chorus. Change is possible. I have to keep believing that.

      • Grace says:

        Agreed. You would have probably raised your blood pressure as a politician, better to educate the masses.
        You have an “on line” classroom, need a PAYPAL button!

      • colemining says:

        Grace- did you listen to The Current on Monday? I think the producers (and Anna Maria) did an incredible job of moderating and exposing the issues we are having in the realm of (higher) education here at home. It was a privilege to be a part of the discussion- and I hope that the program is the beginning of further dialogue about this systemic issue.

      • Grace says:

        I tried to find the link to the The Current, couldn’t get the broadcast. I will try again. You have me hooked right now, checking out the Pete Seeger links. Found Seal and Jeff Beck’s version of~ Rolling Stone. “Love” that song! Off to find Anna Maria and the broadcast!

      • colemining says:

        If you click on the bright blue ‘happened’ in the post it should take you there.
        I’m going back through some old posts and listening to some of the music- there are so very many incredible voices out there. It’s humbling and reassuring all at once.

      • Grace says:

        This is a bit of a long winded rant~I listened to the broadcast and I must state, while I recognize that universities are allocating resources to high growth faculties, I disagree somewhat with this approach to funding. It is important to fund the Humanities as I believe that there is great value in an Arts degree. I also believe that higher education is never a waste, no matter the faculty or area of study. The mistake is in expecting a job at the completion of the degree, in the area of study. I believe (sound like I’ve been “born again!”) that if one wants a position in an area of “underfunding,” one must work harder, stay at it, and be prepared for tough times. I recognize that the realities of economics, high cost of housing in many areas, lack of benefits, is affecting career choice.
        RE: Public Education~ It is much more difficult for “young” teachers to get full time positions in the province I live in. They often “race” between schools, are laid off, and carry heavy teaching assignments. I suspect that many of the “new” teachers are less likely to stay with the profession, are less committed to the schools/districts, although I haven’t seen any Canadian data to support my suspicions, just conversations. Mentoring programs are helpful and should be fostered as I believe they offer support to new educators, although the reality of economics usually drives the decisions to stay or leave the career choice.
        I still believe that if one can hang in there, one will eventually attain a decent position. It might require one to work two jobs, which I recognize isn’t always ideal. I recognize that economics come into play. I don’t think one can expect a job at the end of a university degree. I also believe in “heart”~ perhaps, too much! It would be a shame to lose great teachers on account of an inability to secure work, benefits. If I ran the world, public education would be a priority, higher education, well funded, available to all, in my opinion any education, is never a waste. It does teach one to “think,” reflect, question. I believe it enhances humanity and makes the world a better place for all. Of course, I don’t run the world, hate to budget, and am a bit of a dreamer! Teachers are gold and we could do more to support our educators, non tenured educators should at the very least receive some sort of benefit package while at the college or university. I was actually shocked to learn of their situations. We need to find a way to retain excellent teachers.

      • colemining says:

        Grace- no argument from me about the Humanities funding at all. As is too often the case when people pit business/sciences against the Humanities, the guy from the Business school missed the entire point of the piece, IMHO. And, as I said, you will never get me to believe that education- for its own sake- isn’t of great value. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger supporter of the importance of an Arts education than I am- had a small fight about it with a friend last night, actually. He doesn’t get it (he’s a scientist) and, like some other people, never will. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop talking- to him and to anyone else who will listen- about the necessity of the Humanities.

        I think that most people I know with higher degrees in the Humanities are aware of the realities- and fully prepared to do the work and put in the time. I stuck it out almost 10 years. The woman who spoke after me spent 9 years as an adjunct before getting a tenure-track position. I know people who have been adjuncts/part time profs for more than 20 years- and those are the ones that concern me. I quit because the economic realities- post-divorce- made the uncertainty of securing new courses term-to-term too stressful, but many people I know- and those I don’t, but whose stories I’ve seen in the past week as I watch the Twitter feeds and read links in higher ed journals and such- are still in the system, working at unis that rely on them to teach their undergrads but that pay them a less than livable wage to do so.

        I know public school teachers in the same position that you’re talking about- some of them with 10+ years of experience- still running between schools or working supply teaching jobs. Many of them tutor after school to make additional money. Yes, they have good benefits, but, even at the elementary and secondary level, the system is being dismantled in some areas. And, here in Ontario, for a time, they were admitting more teachers to teachers colleges than the job market could sustain after they all graduated. So there is something of a backlog of people waiting for positions to open up. Systemic-wide issues.

        I hope that you are right- that if one hangs in there one can attain a decent position. After years of working two jobs (teaching and a supplemental part time admin position) and now working one job- with benefits, and regular hours but for terrible pay- about as far outside of my field and skill set as you can get- while constantly applying to postings in fields that are more appropriate/applicable/interesting/challenging, I’m more than ready for there to be some recognition of- if not ‘pay off’ from- the value of the education that I received.

        We absolutely must find a way to keep talented, driven teachers teaching– but that is becoming an increasing challenge because they don’t receive the recognition they deserve- financially and otherwise.

        Thank you for taking the time to listen and reflect and comment. We need to drive this dialogue and spread the word about the issues facing our educational system.

      • Grace says:

        I agree with your comments and am passionate about raising the profile of public education and the need for adequate compensation and retainment of teachers. My “teacher” friends are passionate, professional individuals who absolutely “love” their work with students, it fuels them. I did not clearly understand the plight of educators within the post secondary system. Thank you for posting about the subject.
        PS~ Thought you were the business guy; thank God that you aren’t!

      • colemining says:

        Nope- blowing my ‘cover’. But it’s worth it- if it helps get this issue circulating. The business guy was talking about something completely different than the rest of us, as far as I’m concerned.
        If we lose our strongest teachers- or if they are forced to teach with the ultimate and singular goal of job-training- then the future looks dire, indeed.

  6. Lisa says:

    That’s some great music he made.

  7. wonderful Pete Seeger songs… thank you thank you

    • colemining says:

      The impact he had- and the difference he made- are so significant. And those songs are part of me in very realized ways. Thanks for reading Valerie!

      • I was thrilled to see the words to little boxes – I remember it so ell, and have never heard it since the early sixties and never knew Peter Seeger wrote and sang it,. Needless to say I’ve been having an orgy on Youtube since reading your blog, and was playing Pete Seeger singing this land is our land at a huge demo in Washington. You’ll never guess who came up in one of the shots as a very young man at the demo, singing – Barack Obama !

      • colemining says:

        Valerie- I saw that shot! Isn’t it wonderful? There are so very few people who have effected positive changes in attitude the way Pete did- and he did it without some of us really being aware. Those of us too (relatively) young to have been around in the 60s sometimes miss how important he was- yet, as I’ve said, all of his music is a part of the fabric of my life. Glad you had a great stroll down memory lane!

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