Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Notes From My Underground and the Death of Ideals

Ever since I read Camus in the tenth grade I have been in love with ideas and philosophy. Often I have registered my lament on this web site over the fact that ideology seems absent in our lives, save in the area of advertising and marketing. I have made specific reference to how politics in my country seem more like job interviews where party leaders give the answers that the public wishes to hear in a bid to become the CEO of the country. The more ideology I read contrasted against my observations of society at large, I am both erroneous in stating that ideology is completely absent and that I should be careful as to what I wish for.

Needless to say that as I continue to evaluate my belief in ideals that I allow my pallet to slum it as I sip on a glass of The Famous Grouse – a blended scotch whiskey which is largely symbolic against the legacy of single malts. To quote the Lowest of the Low “my heroes have all become pathetic clowns/ and I’m feeling far too lost to feel too profound…”

I have witnessed ideology applied in three different elements: university, the Correctional Service and as a School Teacher.

University inspired me as I spent close to nine years of my life through a couple of degrees and courses, examining the writings and thoughts of many major and minor thinkers in the academic realm. I remember the sense of revolution that guided me through my first undergraduate degree as I became a party member of the left-leaning New Democratic Party, inspired to move forth for the betterment of humanity and full of the optimism that characterises youth. Though never even remotely a Communist, I did admire the spirit of the Russian Revolution and Republicans who fought the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Though my enthusiasm waned somewhat when out of university, my spirit remained dedicated. Augmented by youth and traveling about the globe, I held fast to my ideology which was largely humanitarian. By the time of completing my last degree, however, the seeds of disenfranchisement began to germinate.

It was through a perverse course of events that lead me into the role of a Correctional Officer. I had begun by pursuing my ambitions to help educate those whom society had written off – namely the lower income individuals and those in prison. After working with the aforementioned individuals in the community for a little over a year, I spent six months teaching inmates at a maximum security prison. The Chief of Education liked my work and told me that I should look at becoming a Program’s Officer, where I could teach cognitive skills and anger management, in addition to other holistic educational courses. The easiest route to do this was to get in with Corrections Canada, with becoming a Correctional Officer being the key to the door.

I worked as a Correctional Officer for nearly five years, and was both a Crisis and Hostage Negotiator, as well as spending a period as a member of the tactical team (IERT). Through this epoch, I was exposed both to the true faith of humanity in its lowest form, as well to ideological ignorance at its peak. The inmates altered my view of humanity in a detrimental way, causing me to no longer believe in the inherent goodness that I thought existed somewhere beneath our social actions. Then there was the policy makers. Never could the distance between the front lines be further from the boardroom in a manner that would make the Generals of the First World War look like military strategical geniuses. The Commissioner of the Correctional Service and all their petty civil servants who attempt to justify their jobs tow a dangerous and unbelievable party ideological line. Through espousing that the Service believes that “all offenders have the potential to become law abiding citizens”, they have made some unbelievable policies (some of which have recently been rescinded). For example: inmates got to design the uniforms Guards wore in an attempt to make encounters less threatening. The result: Officers looked like managers at McDonald’s. Other gems included Officers not being permitted to wear stab proof vests or handcuffs because they were considered “threatening” and did not foster a trusting environment (did I mention that this is in a maximum security prison where all the inmates are in for violent crimes?!).

In a nutshell, everyone does not have the potential to become a law abiding citizen – take sex offenders for example. The system is not one to correct or reform as there is no accountability. In a nutshell, “humane control”, as prescribed by the Service, should include the death penalty because, quite frankly, that is the most humane course of action for many, especially pedophiles.

So I left the security of my job in the prison to become, once again, a Teacher. Again, I work with kids who are classified as “special needs” due to some cognitive or learning disability. I believe strongly in my work as I know from experience that this is the one place where I might make a difference. Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of potential future inmates in my classroom, but I will work like a madman to steer these children off this course. I’m no saviour, nor do I have a messiah complex. What I do believe in is giving these young people a positive education and hopefully to instil some kind of spark or confidence in them so that they might make the right choices.

Again, however, as a Teacher, I find myself in the trenches. There are two ideologies that run our education system: one is government based and the other lies in the school board. The government is all about money and, despite promising more to fund the development of our most precious resource, it never happens. I’m not talking about paying Teacher’s more, but rather paying more teachers and giving more toward school resources. An average class is given $30,000 a year funding while the government shells out $120,000 per year on average per inmate in a maximum security prison.

The second group are the more ideologically based school boards. These are the folks who look at research and all the wonderful things it tells us and continuously rains them down the line to those in the front line. This stuff isn’t all bad, in fact it’s all rather good. The problem are teachers being forced to implement more and more in the same time frame while transforming an art form into a science. The thing is, anyone can disseminate information, but not everyone can teach. Likewise, there is no cookie cutter version of a teacher that we can mass produce, in spite of various Educations attempting to do so. Some of the worst teachers I ever had was throughout my Education degree. Then there was the hypocrisy of it all. At university I paid for my education. One of the course I had to take during my Education degree was in Assessment. This course preached that teachers should base their assessments in a variety of ways to address the differences in learners (auditory versus visual, etc.). It repeated over and over again that, though convenient, teachers should never use multiple choice exams as they don’t allow for one to demonstrate their thought processes, etc. It preached to sample learning often and facilitate this through smaller class sizes to allow for a greater one-to-one attention. First off, I agree with every word of this and do my best to apply this in my practise. The hypocrisy: I was one of 300 students in this class. We were graded by the scores achieved on two lengthy multiple choice exams. Such is the reality of my profession. Whenever I attend a professional development day, I am left wondering how some of the presenters (not all) out of touch or where they ever find the time to put into play all the latest educational trends. This is all harmless until it is imposed on your classroom.

My rant ends with a last idealistic gasp. My wife, who does administrative work for a theological college, is often telling me that I should take some of the courses they have on offer. I’ve been giving some thought to getting a Masters of Theology and becoming a United Church Minister, in spite of my atheism. But Nietzsche tells that this particular market might still be viable in that “God is dead; but looking at the way Man is, there will probably be caves for thousands of years to come in which his shadow will be seen.” O my kingdom to live with Dostoevsky’s Underground Man!


  • At 6:25 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Rant helps define the mind some by expressing it as you have. Your motives are not far from some Cistercians, but Catholics require commitment. United/Anglican theologs begin to look like porridge in a state of compromise between ideas and dreams, result: gruel and grey areas that take eternity to digest. Side note, I think my wife wrote to your wife for info on CAPE programs. My wife sleeps away possibilities which I watch dancing on the closed drapes. Old adages about dreamers and doers come to mind, shed a little light and are greeted by the sense of shame with a slammed door, like j.w.'s interrupting an afternoon of specator sports. You can see the difference between the dreamers and doers in Education, Corrections and politics, that the administrators are neither, leaving the doing to you while Ivan Dinesovich is punching your conscience with a piece of firewood. The kids must be a treat, as possible inheritors of faith, compared with the discards dealt to you in the Maxi/Minnie/Goofy MALC on tense? There is hope in where you are now, where young minds shine like diamonds. Don't look at the mud, even if the school bored insists you keep some in your eyes.
    I just woke up from p.m. nap at end of shift in over-hill gang pen.
    Chez helene says she monitors your work, so keep it up. nodroggout on the couch, z-z-z-z-z-'S.

  • At 4:07 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    a day later, or two, i have a blog site of sorts with livejournal. it might eventually cost money to use it, but the csc pays me so much now, more than teachers, nurses, seniors care workers or child care workers. i would feel guilty, but i am a guard. i have no feelings. today's news is about all the fish we kill too soon, so we starve to death before global warming drowns/freezes/boils us. the bush-league terrorists may win if we don't wake up to suzuki, schindler, nader, gore, jesus. buddha, allah. i believe it is not too late, but the cynical tone of these missiles and epistles taked me back to my 'hippocritters' motif. fishing the net but netting no fish.nodroggout


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