Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Need to Tell Somebody (prose drafts)

Race Street

The four of us lived in a two-room flat that cost fifteen dollars a month.  The floors sagged from the weight of a wine press and wine barrels that were once stored there.  Water rushed diagonally and dammed up against the room’s west wall when my mother scrubbed the linoleum floor. Not even Lysol could remove the perfume of fermented grapes that filled the air.

After work each day, my father went to a public bath house on Grand Avenue while we bathed in a twenty-five gallon tub filled with pots of cold water heated on an oil stove. We kept our food in a fruit crate from A & P. He hammered it outside the window, just out of reach of the alley cats and sewer rats.  We lived on Race Street for fourteen months where I slept in a crib opposite a glass-dividing door, and where just beyond another family lived its life in silhouettes with clear voices. Sweetness filled the rooms, and we were drunk with happiness.

Elizabeth Street

We used sewer covers for bases and crushed wax cups for baseballs; it was a place peopled with names like Aiellinello, Petrelli, Pascucciello, and Brown.  For ten summers, the fire hydrant surged high fliers made with tires and two-by-fours.  I played along the street curbs filled with water until the police came with their monkey wrenches.

Where have the Italian feasts gone, the marching, oom-pah band on Sunday mornings and Santa Maria Addolorata’s procession  of religious icons that I was lifted up to kiss for just one dollar?  And where is Andante’s grocery store where we pitched pennies until dusk under a canopy to escape the widening June sun already burning away thoughts of school; and the old man yelling, Bunch of potatoes, on a horse-driven wagon filled with vegetables in front of Rosa’s candy store where we bought black licorice sticks, Kayo, and a candy bar for just fifteen cents? All this made way for a gray, lifeless street now erased into anonymity of lives gone past.

My Father

He was a left-handed Tarzan swinging from Andante’s grocery store awning. His right hand waved a .22 caliber pistol, and shots rang out on Elizabeth and Race Street, Father’s Day, 1957. The Everly Brothers were singing Bye, Bye Love on the Philco; Rocky Marciano abandoned his title the year before, and this was just another Sunday brawl between mom and dad.

The day after Vito’s Tavern brought no surprises for my sister and me, but this time mom broke my plastic guitar over his head, heavy with 80-proof, and we had to duck down alleys and gangways to avoid  his Fairlane’s squealing tires.

Why was he chasing us? How was I to know about the effects of Early Times Kentucky whisky and Blatz beer at six-years-old? He tried to leave my mother before, and he made my sister lug suitcases down the front stairs while I listened to cursing and the neighbors rustling, their doors slightly ajar.  We cried because of his almost leave-taking. He said, …not even a box of White Owl cigars… and …let’s go to the White Sox game. But he passed out just in time, and my sister dragged his suitcases up the stairs until next time.  My mother didn’t speak to him for four days, and he made me his mediator with a mission to obtain her mercy. By Saturday, the two of them were going to Vito’s Tavern once again, and I’m All Shook Up was playing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

Five Years before Pete Rose

I bought a box of baseball cards at Tessie’s candy store on Elizabeth Street and Ohio for two dollars, forty packs frosted in glucose and a yield of two-hundred players we’d swap like big-league managers making trades.  Sometimes two or three Ernie Banks’ cards turned up in one box, bait for any Cubs addict in 1958. 

I was the only White Sox fan on Elizabeth Street that year, a pariah who went to Wrigley Field carrying a bag of peanut butter sandwiches for munching, baseball cards for autographs, and gum for wagering with my enemies on the game’s outcome. We’d always arrive just in time for batting practice; I’d cheer for the challenger in town—Reds, Dodgers, Phillies, it didn’t matter—amid jeers. I’d bet forty sticks of gum against the Cubs each game and come home overdosed on sugar, my jaws sore from chewing.

A Childhood Recipe

It hit us like a freight train the moment we opened the downstairs door leading up to the hallway – this slow, continuous potpourri of oregano, basil, Parmesan, and garlic cloves fried in olive oil. The entire building simmered in it.

Like a sculptress, my “Italian” mother kneaded ground beef, grated cheese, crackers, eggs, and other spices into meatballs the size of small plums. All day long, she labored over dough and ricotta. She rolled them into ravioli, small squares carved by a wheel cutter. Her fingers left ribbons of flour on the table.  We kept our Sundays with an eight-quart pot of Contadina paste, hot Italian sausages, tomatoes, and beef neck bones; we dipped pizza bread bought from Atlas Bakery into her red sauce, the long wooden spoon mixing steam into the air.

The Need to Tell Somebody

I wish I could live someone else’s life, maybe go back to Chicago and ride  the Ravenswood ‘L’ through landscapes of dis-integrated streets with John Dickson,  or live in New York and watch Dorothy Blake  draw another long line of phlegm  and ooze it into the open bottle on her desk next to Len Roberts’. Maybe I could sing along in silence while riding to Smithville Methodist church with Stephen Dunn from New Jersey; perhaps pump the vibrato’s thin blade and stir the molecules of sound with Michael Collier in Phoenix, Arizona, or live in Williamsport, Pa and play a game of sandlot baseball in an empty lot, ringed by elms and fir and honeysuckle with Gregory Djanikian.

But this story needs to be written instead about playing ring-a-levio in gangways in my old neighborhood, where rats were the only scare lurking in the dark corners of tenement buildings where we played on past nine o’clock while lovers embraced in dark passageways outside doors that remained unlocked throughout the night.

It was the first time in forty years since the White Sox were in the World Series, and for seven days, Chicago forgot that America was at the helm of the world with Dwight D. Eisenhower, that rock ‘n’ roll was just four years old, and Chryslers and Cadillacs sported wings for tail lights.

It was a time when young girls roller skated  on the streets while we played fast pitch until dusk against a humming factory wall, and little boys in Davy Crockett hats pitched pennies on treeless streets under six thousand, city stars without ozone, kidnapping or terrorists’ alerts.

It was a place where teen-age girls in poodle skirts, bobby socks and Angora sweaters danced with guys in Brylcreem-slicked hair who snapped their fingers to I Only Have Eyes for You, while doo-whopping around push-button Dodges with fuzzy dice and Bobby loves Pidge air brushed on both sides.  For one week we didn’t care about Gidget and Little Joe, and two monkeys hurling through space over Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and the rest of the forty-five states where Dinah Shore launched good-night kisses to us all beneath the mid-September, Soviet moon.


Il bisogno di dire a qualcuno

Race Street
Noi quattro viveva in un appartamento di due stanze che costano quindici dollari al mese. I pavimenti si afflosciò dal peso di un torchio e botti di vino che una volta erano memorizzate. L'acqua si precipitò in diagonale, poi arginato contro la parete ovest della stanza, quando mia madre rimosso il pavimento di linoleum. Nemmeno Lysol potrebbe eliminare il profumo di uve fermentate che riempivano l'aria.

Dopo il lavoro di ogni giorno, mio padre è andato a un bagno di casa su Grand Avenue mentre immerso in una vasca da 25 litri piena di vasi di acqua fredda riscaldata sul fornello di petrolio. Abbiamo tenuto il nostro cibo in una cassa di frutta da A & P. Lo ha martellato fuori dalla finestra, appena fuori dalla portata dei gatti randagi e topi di fogna. Abbiamo vissuto sulla via di corsa per quattordici mesi in cui ho dormito in una culla di fronte a un vetro divisione porta, e dove appena al di là un'altra famiglia ha vissuto la sua vita in silhouette con voci chiare. dolcezza riempiva le stanze, ed eravamo ubriachi di felicità.

Elizabeth Street

Abbiamo usato le coperture fognarie per basi e coppe cera schiacciati per palle da baseball, era un luogo popolato da nomi come Aiellinello, Petrelli, Pascucciello, e Brown. Per dieci estati, l'idrante è salito volantini alti fatti con pneumatici e due a quattro zampe. Ho nuotato lungo marciapiedi di strada pieni di backup da fogne fino a quando è arrivata la polizia con le loro chiavi inglesi.

Dove sono le feste italiane andato, la marcia, OOM-pah banda di Domenica mattina e la processione di Santa Maria Addolorata di icone religiose che mi è stato innalzato al bacio per un solo dollaro? E dove è il negozio di alimentari Andante, dove abbiamo lanciato monetine fino al crepuscolo sotto un baldacchino per sfuggire l'ampliamento sole di giugno già bruciando i pensieri della scuola, e il vecchio che urla, Mazzo di patate, su un cavallo-driven carro con ripieno di verdure di fronte negozio di dolciumi di Rosa dove abbiamo comprato bastoncini di liquirizia nera, Kayo, e un candy bar per soli quindici centesimi? Tutto questo fece sì che un grigio, strada senza vita ora cancellato nell'anonimato della vita andati passato.

Mio Padre

Era un mancino Tarzan oscillare da tenda alimentari Andante s store. La sua mano destra agitava una pistola calibro .22, e spari su Elizabeth e Race Street, festa del papà, 1957. The Everly Brothers stavano cantando Bye, Bye Love sul Philco, Rocky Marciano abbandonato il suo titolo l'anno prima, e questo è stato solo un altro rissa Domenica tra mamma e papà.

Il giorno dopo Vito Tavern portato nessuna sorpresa per me e mia sorella, ma questa mamma volta ha rotto la mia chitarra di plastica in testa, pesante con 80-prova, e abbiamo dovuto anatra attraverso vicoli e passerelle verso il basso per evitare di pneumatici stridio suo Fairlane di.

Perché ci inseguendo? Come potevo sapere circa gli effetti di primi tempi Kentucky whisky e birra Blatz a sei anni d'età? Ha cercato di lasciare mia madre prima, e ha fatto le mie valigie aletta sorella giù per le scale anteriori, mentre ascoltavo bestemmie e il fruscio vicini, le loro porte socchiusa. Abbiamo pianto a causa della sua quasi commiato. Egli ha detto, ... nemmeno una scatola di sigari Bianco Owl ... e ... andiamo al gioco White Sox. Ma lui svenuto appena in tempo, e mia sorella trascinato le valigie su per le scale fino alla prossima volta. Mia madre non parlava a lui per quattro giorni, e mi ha fatto il suo mediatore con una missione per ottenere la sua misericordia. Da Sabato, i due stavano per Vito Taverna, ancora una volta, e sto All Shook Up stava giocando su American Bandstand Dick Clark.

Cinque anni prima di Pete Rose

Ho comprato una scatola di figurine di baseball al negozio di caramelle Tessie su Elizabeth Street e Ohio per due dollari, 40 confezioni smerigliati in glucosio e una resa di due centinaia di giocatori che avevamo scambiare come big-league manager che fanno mestieri. volte due o tre Ernie carte delle banche alzato in una scatola, esche per ogni dipendente Cubs nel 1958. Ero l'unico bianco ventilatore Sox in Elizabeth Street di quell'anno, un paria che andò a Wrigley Field con una borsa di sandwich al burro di arachidi per sgranocchiare, carte di baseball di autografi, e la gomma per le scommesse con i miei nemici il risultato del gioco. Avevamo sempre arriva giusto in tempo per la pratica di battuta, mi piacerebbe fare il tifo per lo sfidante in città-Reds, Dodgers, Phillies, non importava-tra scherni. Scommetto 40 bastoni di gomma contro i Cubs ogni gioco e tornare a casa in overdose da zucchero, le mascelle doloranti masticare.

Un'infanzia ricetta

Ci ha colpito come un treno merci momento in cui abbiamo aperto la porta al piano di sotto che porta al corridoio - questo lento, pot-pourri continuo di origano, basilico, parmigiano, spicchi d'aglio e fritte in olio d'oliva. L'intero edificio cotto in esso.

Come una scultrice, mia madre "italiana" impastata carne macinata, formaggio grattugiato, cracker, uova, e altre spezie in polpette delle dimensioni di prugne di piccole dimensioni. Per tutto il giorno, ha faticato più di pasta e ricotta. Li rotolato in ravioli, piazzette scolpiti da un taglio ruota. Le sue dita a sinistra nastri di farina sul tavolo. Abbiamo mantenuto le nostre domeniche con un otto quarti pentola di pasta Contadina, calde salsicce italiane, pomodori, carne e ossa del collo, siamo immersi focaccia comprato da Atlas Bakery nella sua salsa rossa, il lungo cucchiaio di legno mescolando vapore nell'aria.

Il bisogno di dire a qualcuno

Vorrei poter vivere vita di qualcun altro, forse tornare a Chicago e cavalcare 'L' Ravenswood attraverso paesaggi di dis-integrati strade con John Dickson, o vivere a New York e guardare Dorothy Blake disegnare un'altra lunga serie di catarro e di melma che nella bottiglia aperta sulla sua scrivania accanto al Len Roberts '. Forse potrei cantare in silenzio durante la guida a Smithville metodista chiesa con Stephen Dunn dal New Jersey, forse pompare lama sottile il vibrato di e mescolare le molecole del suono con Michael Collier a Phoenix, in Arizona, o vivono in Williamsport, Pa e giocare una partita di baseball sandlot in un lotto vuoto, circondato da olmi e abeti e caprifoglio, con Gregorio Djanikian.

Ma questa storia deve essere scritta, invece di giocare ad anello-a-Levio in corridoi e nel mio vecchio quartiere, in cui i ratti sono stati il ​​solo spaventare in agguato negli angoli bui di edifici popolari in cui abbiamo giocato le nove passate, mentre gli amanti abbracciati nel buio passaggi fuori le porte che sono rimaste sbloccate per tutta la notte.

E 'stata la prima volta in 40 anni da quando i White Sox erano nel World Series, e per sette giorni, Chicago dimenticato che l'America era al timone del mondo con Dwight D. Eisenhower, che il rock' n 'era solo quattro anni vecchi, e Chrysler e Cadillac sfoggiava ali per luci di posizione posteriori.

E 'stato un momento in cui le ragazze giovane rullo pattinato per le strade, mentre abbiamo giocato fast pitch fino al tramonto contro un muro di fabbrica ronzio, e ragazzini in Davy Crockett cappelli lanciato penny su strade prive di alberi sotto 6000, le stelle della città senza ozono, sequestro di persona, o terroristi 'avvisi.

E 'stato un luogo in cui adolescente ragazze in gonne barboncino, calzini e maglioni d'angora ballavano con i ragazzi in brillantina-pettinati i capelli che si ruppe le dita per ho occhi solo per voi, mentre il doo-enorme intorno pulsante Dodges con dadi sfocati e Bobby ama Pidge aria spazzolato su entrambi i lati. Per una settimana non abbiamo a cuore Gidget e Little Joe, e due scimmie lanciando nello spazio sopra Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, e in Pennsylvania, e il resto del 40 cinque Stati in cui Dinah Shore lanciato la buona notte baci a tutti noi sotto la metà di settembre, la luna sovietica.



Friday, March 18, 2011

Keeping a Net Beneath Them

                                Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.
                                                           --Colleen Wilcox

I open the book and pump three poems 
into their heads, push a paper ladder 
against their brains and beg them 
to climb out of their mind-set
of common connectivity and fantasy.
But I discover their fear of heights and,
of course, I compete with Facebook,
Twitter, and some strawberry blonde
in a Saran Wrap costume snorkeling for attention.

Once I drowned in the undertow of mini-skirts,
bell-bottom trousers, and long hair row after row.
So maybe it makes no difference
what they think or do or wear in school today,
or whether they squeeze the universe into a ball
to roll it toward some overwhelming question,
or love a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater
beside the white chickens.   

These are the Millennials: the Net Generation 
that plumbs the meaning of life without sweetness 
and through Wi-Fi networks and iPhones,
and what they learn now surges from a flux
of wireless LAN, Bluetooth and YouTube. 

Perhaps they’ll find out later
all they need to know [about] truth [and] beauty
for now, just riptides 
to their short-circuited obsessions.

Even so, I can’t help but love their vertigo
when the heavy tug of ignorance lifts slowly
from their faces against the sinking of gravity,
just after they embark on that first rung 
of understanding and ascend 
with no sense of balance.


“Keeping a Net Beneath Them” was originally published by Thorntree Press in Troika IV.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Appeal to Reason: Who’s to Blame (for Today's State Budget Deficits)




















“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” --Martin Luther King

Why is it an injustice to break the trust among individuals and the pension systems into which they have elected to participate? And why would someone want to take away a person’s right to bargain for benefits and working conditions?  Surely, we know that the teachers and other State employees should not be held accountable for a State’s budget deficit.  Could it be that a State is in trouble because of the arrogance, incompetence, irresponsibility, corruption, and cronyism of some of its legislators and their benefactors?  Is it because of political opportunism?

Two hundred and twenty-three years ago, the 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, formulated a theory of ethics exemplified by his categorical imperatives.  For example, “Act so that you treat humanity… always as an end and never as a means only.  Act only on that maxim by which you can, at the same time, will that it should become universal law.”  

Might we ask today whether it is an injustice for some legislators and lawyers to change existing laws, especially those laws that compel others to accept them, but are not made compulsory on themselves?   Are State employees allowed a voice regarding the so-called reform laws that will impact only them?  Why are so many people making State employees the scapegoats for today’s financial problems? 

The State’s Retirement Systems are not responsible for a State’s budget deficit or for the underfunding of public sector funds.  State employees have contributed responsibly to their pension funds. Most state employees will not receive Social Security when they retire, and most of them will have worked for lower wages and without bonuses throughout their career for the promise of a guaranteed pension.  So what really contributed to budget deficits across the nation besides its corrupt legislators who did not fully fund the pension plans of their state employees for decades?  

How about corporate America and the financial sector?  Was it because of risks posed by sub-primed mortgage bonds, credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, and derivatives? In other words, fraudulent accounting and lending/investment practices on Wall Street? Was it because of greedy CEOs from Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, Lehman Brothers, Oppenheimer, Capital One, Wachovia and others? Was it because of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, Household Finance Corporation, AIG, Moody's, and Standard & Poor's, to name a few others?   

Was it because of mortgage lenders, subprime mortgage investors, and greedy bond traders? Was it because of the Securities and Exchange Commission's incompetence? Was it because narcissists such as Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Franklin Raines, David Moffett, James Cayne, John Thain, Kerry Killinger, Maurice Greenberg, Martin Sullivan, Robert Willumstad, Dick Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, Al Dunlap, Joseph Cassano, Jack Grubman, Frank Quattrone, Stan O’Neal, Howard Sosin, Bill Aldinger, and Bernie Madoff, and others who stole billions of dollars and ransacked this country out of their sense of entitlement, narcissism, fraud, greed, deceit, and recklessness? 

And what was the Federal Government's role in the making of this economic disaster? Was it because Alan Greenspan, Henry Paulson (TARP), and Ben Bernanke were so incompetent?  Was it because of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, and others who started an unwarranted, trillion-dollar war in Iraq?  Was it because of the massive tax cuts that eradicated the country’s surpluses?  Was it because of the risks posed by deregulation and the overall encouragement of debt? Was it because of the Federal Government’s partnership with and sponsorship of banks, and their millionaire CEOs who were not convicted for the financial collapse and who then paid themselves million-dollar bonuses with OUR multi-trillion-dollar “bailout” tax money? 

Is it also because of today’s consolidation of powerful oligarchic relationships among CEOs and their legislators as evidenced by governors who give a substantial amount of money to their special-interest groups and tax breaks to those who supported their election? How about all of the above?

Does anyone really believe that teachers, policemen, firemen, and other State employees and retirees are to blame for wasteful spending, unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy, poverty, and other financial disasters?  So what kind of people believe that the pension benefits and bargaining rights of public employees who have served the public selflessly and without avarice should be diminished and then eliminated? Now you know. 

-Glen Brown


Friday, March 11, 2011

Adverbial Paradoxes

Yes

It’s the high-five of words
with a swish of sound,
an affirmation of what is
and what might come.
In one small breath,
it can change us with its pledge.
Its covenant, sometimes superstitious,
like crossing one’s heart
or kissing the Book,
locks us to the future.

Yes is the adverbial wishbone of fate,
an affidavit of hope,
washing, like a tidal wave,
politics into history,
geography into space.

No

We say it when all else fails,
and we are at nerve’s end.
It’s a proud word with an emphatic O
and said with light speed.
The exclamation bursts
like a dark fist from our tongues.

No is an unambiguous disclaimer,
shouting miles away from maybe,
light years from yes.
It’s a stubborn word
bellowing from the larynx and oral cavity.
Yet, no needs repeating
like learning a foreign language
or the multiplication table for the first time.

It’s a saucy adverb,
the least breath of sound,
smarting like jalapeños against the palate,
and it leaves no doubt.

Maybe

It’s a word full of promise, a word like sex
ringing with possibility
like a second, sidelong glance,
a cousin of perhaps, a distant relative of chance
with no present, without guarantee,
a nondescript meaning with a built-in mortality
but more alluring than yes
and not as confident as no.

Maybe puts us on parole, sentencing us
with ellipses, hurling us into doubt
where imagination becomes as thrilling
as the goal itself.  It’s a word ready to lie,
an adverbial paradox full of hope.
It keeps us hungry, and we say it
to our children and loved ones
because it’s less harsh than no
but not quite yes, knowing all along
it will be one or the other.

“Yes” was originally published in California State Poetry Quarterly; “No” was originally published in Negative Capability; “Maybe” was originally published in Poetry.


Wisconsin Might Be an Omen for the Public Employees of Illinois

The confrontation between freedom and power has an indeterminable history.  One hundred and fifty-two years ago, John Stuart Mill, in his famous essay, On Liberty, examined the “struggle between Liberty and Authority… between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the Government” (Mill 1).  A question he might have asked today is, what should be the limits of power that legislators have over their constituents, such as public employees, when some of these lawmakers’ decisions border on political despotism?

How can public employees guard against such arrogance, self-interest, prejudice, and prevarications?   In a democracy, there must be dialogue, for “[the] silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility” (17).  This revival of absolutism today forecloses the right to be heard and exiles truth from being openly canvassed.  Moreover, it extinguishes critical thinking and the understanding of the relationship among ideas and matters of fact.  In regard to creating and passing any legislation, the closest we can arrive at an acceptable course of action, such as in the establishment of a just law, is by posing counterarguments to any arguments that might be presented before it can become a law.

No doubt, teachers and other public employees have been blamed for the mismanagement of the States’ budgets all across the country.  “Shared Sacrifice” has become the new slogan of ignorance that is repeated with the regularity of a fast-food commercial.  A few corporate groups and legislators have adopted this tautological jingo to terminate further discussion of any complicated bill requiring a thorough examination and analysis of its ramifications.

To blame public employees is an attempt to further suppress any knowledge of the cause-and-effect relationship between a State’s budget deficit and the State pension systems.  To hold teachers and other State employees responsible for the financial mess is reprehensible and alarming, especially since full payments to the public pension systems were never made by legislators. It does not take long to realize how dubious and perilous some ploys are and how indefensible and unethical they might be.   

To change public employees' constitutionally-guaranteed pension with the passage of a law that mitigates certain benefits and to deprive public employees' rights to bargain is an encroachment of their right to human dignity and justice.  It is a calculated infringement of contractual principles. Those legislators who knowingly create and pass such a law supported by fabricated causality violate their oath of office.

In Illinois, “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired” (Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois State Constitution).   Nevertheless, the current House Speaker, some legislators, and lawyers of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago will continue to challenge the denotations and connotations of this Article’s diction, even though existing case laws exist that state explicitly “Any attempt to unilaterally diminish the State employee’s pension after [an employee] is hired and enters the system would violate the Pension Protection Clause” (Memorandum to Hon. Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, from Gino L. DiVito and John Fitzgerald, 12 April 2010). 

In a world of freedom, justice, and peace, “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his [or her] interests” (Article 23, No, 4 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly of the United Nations, Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948).  In Wisconsin, however, one governor does not believe “human rights should be protected by the rule of law” (Preamble to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights), and that conviction is unethical, injudicious, and discriminatory.  

-Glen Brown


Reflections on a Philosophy of Teaching and Learning


In my classroom, students learn that I am passionate about searching for truth; that there exists a vast chasm between knowledge and belief; and that any method of investigative research should take on continuous questioning, re-evaluation, and revision. During classroom discussions, I often posit controversial and contrary ideas to spur my students to inquiry and debate. In doing so, I hope to challenge and encourage each one of them to devote the time and energy necessary to think these matters through – without telling them what to think. 

In my classroom, my students’ experience is the direct result of my own incessant learning: Plato, Hume, Mill, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Joyce, Kafka, and Camus, among so many others, show us that truths are elusive and relative, that nearly all beliefs are fallible and provisional, and that both truth and belief require unrelenting analysis and proof. 

With a fundamental commitment to human rights, founded on philosophical principles and ideals, I challenge my students—through literature, philosophy, history, psychology, poetry and science, and through their own writing—to pursue a life based on logic, reason, critical thinking, compassion, empathy, humility, integrity, dignity, political and social justice, responsibility, mutual respect, and life-long learning. 

Works, both classic and modern, are presented to explore concepts such as determinism, freedom of choice, the nature of reality, knowledge, ethics, and our moral responsibility towards one another and the rest of the natural world. My favorite authors reveal that we are each responsible for who we are and what we will become, and that the human experience is, consequently, complex and varied with many meanings because each one of us can create his or her future. 

These are the values at the center of my core beliefs. What I have learned about the craft of teaching is that the teacher’s character and competency have a recurring impact on a student’s life and so, as I challenge my students, I must constantly challenge my own beliefs with rigorous inquiry, meta-cognition, and review. 

In my classroom, learning is a discovery process shaped by analysis, reflection, and application. We become aware that we are all teachers and learners. My goals as a teacher are to take a student’s potentiality and to make it an actuality; to teach my students to think and investigate critically, to question unremittingly, and to discover purpose through meaningful action. 

My students justify what they believe with evidence and describe how they arrived at their conclusions. They distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims. They determine the factual accuracy of their statements and learn to detect bias and fallacious reasoning commonly found in argumentation. They ask themselves why some beliefs can be exempt from empirical confirmation while other beliefs undergo rigorous a posteriori proof. 

They examine their reasons for supporting their particular opinions and question the efficacy of their beliefs’ practices (for there are some dogmas that advocate violence, terrorism, subjugation, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ethnic cleansing, and racial hatred). I want my students to confront such thinking and impede those who hold such viewpoints. I want my students to be dynamic and to be appalled by hypocrisy and indifference, by arrogance and incompetence, and by immorality and injustice. 

-Glen Brown