We Are Kindling Schist because in U.S. education, "it was always burning." Read. Comment. Submit.

ANGER’S PLACE by Your Co-Editors

Debbie:  When you and I first began We Are Kindling Schist, my primary motivation was anger. I was angry at what I was facing at the school where I worked at the time, and I was trying to make sense of it all, to decipher how this professional anger reflected other events in my life, to see if I could harness the anger and speak out for something good, and to shield myself from the feelings of helpless frustration that sometimes threatened to overwhelm me. For me, this was not about hating anyone but about finding my own power. This week so many of my friends, family, and colleagues in Education are hurt, shocked, scared, and angry at the outcome of the presidential election. All our fears seem to have come true–and yet many Americans remain willfully blind, enraging and sorrowing us all the more. I wonder again how to harness the anger and use its energy for the sake of our country’s and our children’s futures. I wonder if it is possible to do this without turning the anger into hatred, and whether even hatred of other human beings is sometimes justifiable. I’ve been reading some things about Christian forgiveness and charity and about Buddhist non-attachment and compassion, and I want to do what is right  and “go high” but I also want to help get things done. So what do we do with anger? What’s the good of it and what’s  the danger of it, personally and culturally?


Anger as a tool is a great motivator. In Biblical times Jesus is said to have turned over the tables in the temple in a fit of rage basically because folks were using the temple as a marketplace rather than worship. Since I’m mentioning the Bible it also says be angry and sin not. Therein lies the problem for mainline Christians in this matter. People are mad as hell and just don’t know what to do about it. So, you get peaceful protests and Facebook diatribes. In my case you get Facebook diatribes, tears, reading, research and withdrawal. As I’ve told you before Debbie people sicken me. I finally understand what that is about. It is about me seeing through to the core of humanity and not liking it. We are not like animals…we are animals. As humans what separates us or what is supposed to put us at the top of the hierarchy in the animal kingdom is our ability to reason. Well, we’ve traded–negotiated that away for innovations in technology. Algorithms in opposition of acumen.

I feel like I’ve strayed from your question buddy. I don’t think there is danger in anger. There is no inherent danger in any human emotion. Really, to expound more upon my original point, it is what we do with that emotion. What does that emotion motivate one to do? I am still pulling myself together from this continued farce of an election. As I write this I am actually getting disgusted as  I think of the flimsy lame ass crutch that people want to throw up regarding the constitution, the electoral college and all that rubbish rhetoric that is used to uphold oppression, regression and that spits in the face of any rational suggestions!!! Back to the Bible. Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead. Sitting around praying and asking for forgiveness is no longer my style. Anger’s place is with me. Activist anger tears down the temples of racist acts, the guise of government and all like minded venues. Anger builds up this generation of youth to be conscious consumers of their environment.


I am wondering how this translates into your work with teenagers? What do you find works when you express your anger with kids’ wasting their own time, your time, their very right to a free education? I have long felt that some anger is justified and can serve to snap people out of their complacency, yet too often I have not used it effectively. It seems that how we deal with immature teenagers, who each have their own stories of why they are who they are, could help in knowing how to deal with willfully, dangerously ignorant adults. Regarding the danger of anger itself, maybe what I fear is misdirected anger, aimed at the wrong people or the wrong things and ultimately self-destructive. Maybe that kind of anger builds when people let resentments build without being honest with themselves about what’s really going on, or maybe without even caring or energetic enough to find out what that is. Like many supporters of our president-elect! though it can happen among any faction.

Yesterday I was gardening, which at my house in Vermont involves dealing with a lot of rocks. I had to dig out a 30+ pounder before I could plant the last of the daffodil bulbs I’d ordered. It’s slow, methodic work, requiring patience, experience, and care (not to break the shovel handle or whap myself in the face with it), and it allows one plenty of time to think. I found myself pondering one long extended metaphor about changing people’s minds and hearts. It requires persistence and patience. It sometimes requires coaxing rather than cudgeling. The presence of other rocks, big or small–akin to people’s general fears and prejudices and formative experiences–can make it all more difficult to extract the rock or to reason with the hate or bigotry, and often must be dealt with first. The goal is healthy, beautiful, productive land–or a healthy country. This is not as big or as aggressive a method as what you are describing, but it seems we have to use this way too. Maybe the difference is in how we must deal with institutions and groups–mobs, many are–versus how we deal with individuals? Maybe one requires hate along with the anger, the other love?


Goodmorning  Debbie! Right now I am sitting with my students and we are watching Riker’s, a documentary about life on Riker’s Island. Debbie, did you know that in 2015 there was  a jailer for every detainee in New York city jails? I don’t know how many detainees there were but I’m certain more than a few. We are experiencing a teacher shortage in our urban schools here in Kansas City. We will be comparing and contrasting the Riker’s Island inmate narratives with slave narratives. I feel this will be a compelling experience for our students as there is a certain disconnect between how far we’ve come as a people to only go back. Of course we will discuss systematic racism as well.

You want to know what I tell my students when I am angry about their lackadaisical behavior? I tell them that if they show up everyday and have nothing to show for it then they are slaves. They are slaves because someone is making money from their physical presence while they receive nothing in return save a semi-warm building and what passes for breakfast and  lunch. Oh, and I almost forgot–a desk to lay their heads on.

Our most vulnerable children will continue to fail in today’s schools because that is the design. That is what is comfortable for the powers that be. Curriculum design should be known as a methodical deconstruction of basic freedoms. Perhaps we want to talk about that on a different thread?

You rightly designate hate as the other love. It is quite like hate and love are mirror twins. One cannot exist without the other. As for myself I don’t spend too much time thinking about or dwelling in hate. I am too absorbed in its more not so subtle nuances like disgust, impatience, irritation, and stress!

I love your metaphor about the rocks. It seems like once upon a time there was more opportunity in the life of my classrooms to sift through the weeds, sand and dirt covering the souls of those I’ve been entrusted. Those opportunities are now more difficult to manifest.


This reminds me of Miranda R.’s contemplation of the chick pea in an earlier WAKS post. I think we return to this place of sadness and anger and find they are justified. The national stage of presidential politics is a mirror of that of education–see the [st that time designated] Sec. of Education for more examples of wealthy, ignorant people wanting to bamboozle us into what they advertise as right but is actually self-serving. It all spreads through our lives, the dishonesty, the contempt, the silencing, and into the classroom where teachers either keep their heads down and mouths shut (Shawnee Mission SD and the Safety Pins, my former Vermont school where teachers are bullied by administrators, teachers teaching to the test EVERYwhere…) or are sadly aware of everything but have to risk their jobs to admit it. I am outside that system currently and so have the luxury of low-risk honesty. But I am mad, enraged, sick to death of the willful ignorance that exploits and actively harms our young people, and I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I only hope you and I will keep articulating that anger, keep kindling schist.

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