#weekendcoffeeshare: A Morning with the Prime Minister

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I’m not actually having a morning with the Prime Minister of the UK, but I am currently enjoying my Queen Anne tea and watching the PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). For those of you that don’t think that I am obsessed with politics, know that I’m either watching the PMQs or the Daily Show with Trevor Noah most mornings.

It has been a busy month, and with my Zed post uploaded this morning, I have finished with the A to Zed Challenge for April! Though it was much better than last year’s, I am disappointed by the outcome. I’ll talk about it more in my wrap up post, but it seems like a lot for work for not a lot of gain. I still think it’s probably because of my topic. Next year, I think I’ll be concentrating on my travel blog.

There are only three weeks left of school, the last one being final exam week. I’m very glad of being so close to the end. My first year at a new school has been much better than my first year at any other school I’ve been at, surprisingly. The hardest thing has not having a permanent classroom, and floating about during the day. Next year, I’ve been promised a classroom, though it will be a portable.

For those of you who remember, I applied for a master’s degree in Sweden. I’m currently on the waiting list, but I am not optimistic about my chances. I’ll be applying to another programme in December.

I am seriously booked this weekend, and am lazing about as if I haven’t anything to do. Next week, then? – SDM

NB: Do check out the other #weekendcoffeeshare posts here!

 

 

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#atozchallenge: The American Zeitgeist

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So what influence then, shall America have on the future of the Earth? How will America’s past determine the path it takes?

One of my favourite essays in Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by AL Franken describes the love he has for America as an “adult” love, whereas some people have a “child-like” love. The adult version is taking the bad with the good, and focussing on bettering America, whilst the child version is insisting that America could do no wrong and how dare one criticise our lovely nation.

As we stand at the beginning of a new election season, where so much is at stake, how should we process the last eight years under an historic presidency? I feel as though President Obama has tried his hardest with the recalcitrant children [aka Congress] in his charge. I won’t pretend that some of his broken promises don’t disappoint me, but I am sure we would be in a much worse place with our other choices. Will this election prove the same? Or will Trump destroy the fragile ecosystem that has been built after President George W Bush’s disastrous time in office? Will Clinton prove as moderate as her husband, overly considerate with conciliatory gestures towards a mean-spirited Republican base?

This election cycle has been the most exciting since 2008. We Americans have an extraordinary chance to create a new country, or engulf it in nationalistic uber-capitalism. It has never been more important to stay informed and ready to vote. I wish us luck.

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Thank you for following me this far! All the posts from this year’s A to Z challenge can be found here.

Photo by unsplash

#atozchallenge: Youth in Action

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When I teach about France, I usually mention their love of strikes. For most Americans, strikes are rare and shocking, and a sign of laziness. Or something. I think strikes are valuable tools against capitalist oppression.

In France (and I believe Denmark) students are allowed to unionise and strike with their professors or teachers. School policies don’t just affect teachers, anyway. I believe that young people supporting an older generation (or even someone in their own) is a way to build solidarity amongst the proletariat.

The state in which I work is a right-to-work state, which is just a political euphemism for ‘right to be fired’. We cannot protest against unfair working conditions. And lest one thinks I am just whinging from my cushy middle-class career of teacher, know that when I can’t protest, nobody can, even those who aren’t seen as whinging.

I applaud the right to strike and protest and stand in solidarity with any young person who strikes to be heard.

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Mister Theatre

#atozchallenge – Xenophobia: What it Looks Like Around the World

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America has always been seen as a refuge for the disenfranchised. The Statue of Liberty states:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

We should be as welcoming as we promise, but of course we are not. We still struggle with issues of integration and hatred of the unknown. It is not surprising that we have issues with Muslim refugees; though we are loathe to say it, we have been fighting in mostly Muslim regions for a very long time. Mostly, however, America still struggles with race relations: Syrian refugees have the ire of some people now, but it is Black people (and sometimes Latino and Asian people) who have it very difficult.

In Germany, it is the Turkish population that faces daily difficulties with integration. Germany is in the forefront of the current refugee crisis, but its past problems have come back to haunt it. Without better integration, disenfranchised people will turn to the haven of a promised land.

In France, being a person of colour is difficult. Though it is strictly forbidden to ask about race, ethnicity and religion for any national census, France is socially divided by race anyway. I wrote about my issues with France in a previous post.

Personally, I have dealt with discrimination in all three of these countries, but on a much lower scale than recent immigrants. I’m not sure what integration will look like as we continue, especially with the continuing refugee crises from Syria, Eritrea and countries in Northern Africa. However, I hope that we can turn our attentions to the plights of minority without ire. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by David Mark. Poem excerpt from ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus.

#atozchallenge: Winner Takes All

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When Cameron and the Conservative Party became the majority in the 2015 elections, there was an uproar. How did an unpopular Prime Minister keep his place? Blame was meted out: Ed Miliband was a milquetoast leader with no teeth; the Scottish National Party dominated; the Labour Party had no good ideas. The Conservative Party took 330 seats, an absolute majority.

But then, the numbers came out, and things became curiouser and curiouser. The Conservative Party had actually only won 36.8% of the vote, whilst Labour got 30.5%. And here is where first past the post voting breaks apart: No matter how slim your majority, when you win, you win everything.

If this were a two-party system, this would make sense. But the United Kingdom has multiple parties, with different stakes in the system.  In the United States, we are stuck with two parties because that is how it has always been. (I hope that changes, I honestly do.)

In the UK, one might be better served by the Single Transferable Vote system, whilst the United States might be better served by the Alternative Vote (also called the Instant Run-Off). If we are stuck with the systems we have now, we will see two parties that are dissimilar enough to anger the constituency, but never enough to change. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s challenge, check them out here.

Photo by Harry Lustig

#atozchallenge: Vote of No Confidence

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When I go to the gym, I generally watch C-SPAN whilst I’m on the treadmill. (I know, I know, you don’t have to say anything–I’m a politics wonk). I am struck by a few things: first, that C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2 are incredibly well-made television stations; second, holy crap senate and house meetings are boring; and finally, what, exactly, have we hired our representatives to do?

Important meetings are very sparsely attended. I realise that in an election season most representatives have shirked their duties to go and beg for resources back home, but the work of being a representative is not over, and should be just as diligently done at the beginning of the year as at the end.

And even in session, representatives should actually be working for their constituents, and not for whomever gave them the most money. I realise this is probably a pie-in-the sky dream, but as long as they are not working for us, we should stop voting them in. The issue is, of course, that not many people watch C-SPAN during their day. The fact that the sessions are boring and hard to follow is done purposefully. It is the same thing as teachers using specialised vocabulary to talk about their job. It makes one feel special; it’s using all your expertise and of course you want to show off. But it cuts off people that could probably help you or at least champion your cause.

Watch C-SPAN! Learn some stuff! Know what your representative is doing in your name. And if you don’t like what they’re doing, vote them out! – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts for this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by PDP

#atozchallenge: USA, USA, USA!

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One of the first things most visitors to the United States mention is that American flags are everywhere: in front of homes; in restaurants; in classrooms. The last one, in classrooms, is always disconcerting. It is a stark reminder of the weird patriotic symbolism of the United States: we are united under one flag, when we cannot be united under any other thing.

Saying the pledge daily is a compulsory activity, but not saying it is protected speech. I stopped saying the pledge in high school, for a few reasons. I was against the war in Iraq and felt that the pledge was compulsory nationalism, something that as a German made me uncomfortable. I also did not feel that America was just, or free, for everyone.

Now, as a teacher, I stand but do not say the pledge. I have had students ask me why, and I generally tell them that I didn’t feel comfortable saying it as a dual citizen. Sometimes I tell them that historically, compulsory nationalism doesn’t always end well. I obviously do not force any student to say it if they do not want to; it’s not my business to know why they aren’t saying it.

Patriotism is a choice, and the compulsory nature of the pledge denies choice. – SDM

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If you’d like to read my other posts in this year’s A to Z challenge, check them out here.

Photo by unsplash