Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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James Baldwin on society and education

To celebrate Black History Month here on Liquid Ink, I’m quoting from black American intellectuals every day until March. These quotes are all deeply meaningful to me.

Yesterday’s was from Frederick Douglass. Today it’s James Baldwin, taken from his Talk to the Teachers, delivered in 1963.

It would seem to me that when a child is born, if I’m the child’s parent, it is my obligation and my high duty to civilize that child. Man is a social animal. He cannot exist without a society. A society, in turn, depends on certain things which everyone within that society takes for granted. Now the crucial paradox which confronts us here is that the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society. Thus, for example, the boys and girls who were born during the era of the Third Reich, when educated to the purposes of the Third Reich, became barbarians. The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.

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Photo of James Baldwin from Wikipedia.


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The next threat to American Educators: Murder

Questions:

What’s a good way to keep an educator from provoking a group of young people to think about a point of view that’s unwelcome, unusual or foreign to them?

How could we limit the capacity of a critical thinker to urge youth to explore ideas?

Is there a way an institution of higher education could censor its staff with a high rate of efficiency?

Might it be possible to dissuade a professor from encouraging youth to live an examined life, to urge them toward inquiring whether the ideas they grew up with, the assumptions of their society make sense?

How can we further lower morale among faculty members while further raising it among top-level administrators, particularly those who rarely see or work with actual students, and in some cases earn 15 or 20 times the amount of the lowest paid adjuncts?

Answer:

Threaten faculty with death.

Capture So, it’s not enough to pay your instructors slave wages. It’s not enough to flock them into meetings where overpaid top-level administrators present grids and graphs to highlight just how little money there is for instruction, faculty development or recruitment of talent for the faculty pool. We must also now face the possibility that students will kill us for doing our jobs.

In the meantime, the colleges shrug this off. What can the oligarchs of the American educational system do against the law of the land? They’d better warn the faculty to tread carefully. That, or as the Onion suggests, keep a gun pointed at the students at all times.

Image lifted from GunFreeUT