Syllabus Week

SYLLABUS WEEK used to be that you come to class, do some ice breakers and listen to what is expected of you for the rest of the semester. But those days are long gone. For whatever reason, some instructors are now dishing out homework on the first, second, or third day of classes. And that’s just insane!

Syllabus week has been rough, too. One homework here, some over there, and another one in my backpack. Why are professors so insensitive?! Have they forgotten that we have other responsibilities?! 

I had one professor say to me; “If you’re taking more than 15 credited classes, you better do yourself a favor and drop this class because I am expecting a lot from you.” Though he was smiling when he said that, I don’t think he was joking. Another professor said to us that she’s planning on handing out challenging homework this semester because, last semester, students did the bare minimum.

If you’re handing out homework while students are just doing the bare minimum, then obviously dishing out more homework is not the answer. Perhaps, your students might be doing the bare minimum because they’re trying to find a balance between other responsibilities?

Refusing to acknowledge that homework is not the end-all-be-all, signifies that you are out of touch with your students. Also, that you admire your ego more than you value their well-being. Students are not simply soulless robots solving equations and crunching up numbers all day, we have other obligations, too! Majority of us are working, trying to navigate complicated relationships, and are involved in extracurricular activities.

I, for example, have 16 credits to worry about, an internship to complete, and a host of other responsibilities that are in constant need of my full attention. To the student like myself, it is ludicrous and insensitive to expect us to fully commit ourselves to more demanding assignments.

It may sound like I am indifferent to homework, but that’s not the case. Like most teachers, I agree that assigning homework to students gives us the opportunity to strengthen what we’ve already learned. Furthermore, I believe that homework – as an idea or as a practical tool of measurement – is absolutely essential because it encourages competition. This element of competition is what drives innovation and creativity. Without competition our schools and our lives would be dull and disinteresting.

So, you see, I don’t think that having homework is a bad thing, but what I think is that having too much of it, especially on the first, second, or third day of classes, can be discouraging and overwhelming. The introduction of syllabus week was meant to give us a snapshot of what the rest of our classes might look like. In other words, it’s a time to relax and to get to know the people who you might be spending the rest of the semester with. When we depart from this general school of thought, syllabus week not only becomes stressful but it also primes us to do the bare minimum.

Though doing the bare minimum or dropping a few classes sounds appealing right now, I will not do that. Rather, I’m going to hunker down and get all of my homework done because that’s just who I am. I love the challenge.

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Freedom of Speech, Yes, But at Whose Expense?

safes-spaces-on-campusOur campus newspaper; the UB Spectrum wrote a recent article saying that “Although First Amendment rights come first,” still, “trigger warnings serve a purpose on campus.” In case you were wondering, trigger warnings and safe spaces are a phenomenon of our millennial generation—which aims to protect verbal or psychological assault on the psyches of young people from some individuals whose rhetoric might be problematic. Such a phenomenon may be trivial or even comical to Generation X and even amongst the Baby Boomers—because they were known for having a tougher skin, but it is important to us because it signifies how empathetic and respectful we are to other people’s emotional triggers.

Having said that, the entire premise of the UB Spectrum’s article was that safe spaces and trigger warnings are not only a vital part of their entire enterprise but is also a part of the United States Constitution and thus needed to be protected. “It’s vital to our reporting and we regularly use it as a defense against those who might want to muffle us,” the article mentioned. “And, we defiantly defend the right for students, professors and visiting lecturers to come and explore provocative and disturbing topics on our campus.”

All of that was fine, but here is where the article lost me; when it mentioned Milo Yiannopoulos, a Gay British, conservative writer for Breitbart News, and who was slated to speak at UB back in May but for whatever reason never did. Although “Some students felt threatened by his often racist, sexist, and inappropriate remarks,” the article highlighted, “We at the Spectrum supported his right to speak, although we find his rhetoric appalling.”

Two things; first, using someone like Milo, the epitome of a real-life troll, who once called the actress Leslie Jones from the GhostBuster film a man and an Ape, is not only problematic but blurs the line between free speech and cruelty. His inappropriate remarks and race-coded language is in clear violation of our generation’s moral covenant for creating safe spaces and trigger warnings. And Secondly, it’s one thing to approve of someone as problematic as Milo Yiannopoulos to speak but it’s another thing when the university was slated to actually pay him for it—especially when that money was coming out of our tuition or state taxes. Fund him out of your own pockets, not OURS!

I am not against free speech, in fact, if there were demonstrations going on—where people were decrying the infringement of their sacred rights to speak their minds, I would not only be there championing their cause but I would probably be one of the guys holding and shouting through the Microphone. However, the intentionally hurtful, ignorant, cruel, and miseducated phenomenon of people like Milo Yiannopoulos, crosses the line for me. His type of “free speech” is way over the top, unconstitutional, and should be equally detested.

Furthermore, freedom of speech in this country is not reserved for all Americans. It might exist in the theoretical sense but not in the practical one. For example, the phenomenon of Trumpism; off-the-cuff rhetoric, racial and sexist-coded languages, anti-immigrant, segregationist and dog-whistle politics, are not the type of micro and macro social discourses that a lot of us can “afford” to have.

If you are not a moneyed white male with prestige you do not get to engage in identity or dog-whistle politics with zero consequences. If our president Barrack Obama tried to engage in identity or dog-whistle politics he would be catalogued as Ant-American and an angry black man. If Hillary Clinton even remotely intended to engage in identity or dog-whistle politics she would be viewed as a feminist. And if a poor person was advocating for economic equality or engaging in identity politics they would be labeled as lazy, freeloaders, and people who just want the government to do everything for them.  So you see, people like Milo or Donald Trump even, are using their moneyed-white-male privilege to abuse not only our Constitutional ideals but the minds of our younger, empathic, and more respectful generation.

Be sure to click the following link to read the original UB Spectrum’s article; “Although First Amendment rights come first, trigger warnings serve a purpose on campus.”

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Class Assignment: History Of Real Africa

african-guy-sittingWhat should we know about the history of the real Africa that we don’t know (or aren’t taught)? 

What does that say about the purposes (intended or unintended) of school curricula and about our alleged entrance into a post-racial world?

What I think that we should know about the real history of Africa is that Africa was not some wayward continent that needed to be rescued by outsiders from irrationality, illogicality, and concentrated barbarism. Africa, and much like some parts of the world, had civilized technologies and inventions—like, cotton weaving and the domestications of animals—and very complex communities and impressive governments. Africa was a very well civilized continent before colonization or the rhetoric of immaturity and waywardness was ascribed to it.

“I am apt to suspect the Negroes, and in general all other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complection than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation, ” said David Hume, a Scottish philosopher during the Age of Enlightenment (1685 – 1815). This period of so-called Enlightenment experienced huge explosions of radical thinking or awakenings in human thought—specifically, politics, philosophy, science, and communication. The men who were associated with such a period received and adopted their new discoveries from the Moors, a group of enlightened Africans who were perambulating not only Europe but the globe long before the age of Enlightenment. Their introduction of universal education, libraries, fashion, urban utilities, hygiene, cuisine, medicine, and other things, would eventually enable many nations—but specifically—Europe to later get out of the Dark Ages. But that’s neither here nor there.

Many European philosophers, historians, economists, etc, during the Age of Enlightenment knew and appreciated the brilliance and many contributions of the Moors but, and as you will later discover, had to adopt and weave together a narrative that would play down their contributions. Even people like Charles Darwin, once he caught whiff  of the narrative, would also do his part to perpetuate the narrative. He once wrote, “Since the dawn of history the Negro has owned the continent of Africa – rich beyond the dream of poet’s fancy, crunching acres of diamonds beneath his bare black feet and yet he never picked one up from the dust until a white man showed to him its glittering light.”

If we would to focus on one aspect of Africa; commerce and trade, we would see that Africa was a very advanced continent that need not rely on outsiders for its sustenance. Africa, according to john Thornton, an American historian who specialized in the histories of Africa, said that Africans would often trade iron, cloth, hides, copper, gold, gum, ivory, currency, swords, basins, and, yes, even slaves with Europe back in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. However, he explicitly stated that Europe “offered nothing to Africa that Africa did not already produce.” The importunity of the latter is clear; Africa was not dependent on the non-essential commodities of Europe to survive or even to thrive. The popularized narrative of Europe being the Ivy-drip of Africa’s many resources—and sustenance of its many economies by some involved in the new age enlightenment, like, G.F.W. Hegal, for example, was false and astronomically misleading.

If we would to focus on one aspect of Africa; commerce and trade, we would see that Africa was a very advanced continent that need not rely on outsiders for its sustenance. Africa, according to john Thornton, an American historian who specialized in the histories of Africa, said that Africans would often trade iron, cloth, hides, copper, gold, gum, ivory, currency, swords, basins, and, yes, even slaves with Europe back in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. However, he explicitly stated that Europe “offered nothing to Africa that Africa did not already produce.” The importunity of the latter is clear; Africa was not dependent on the non-essential commodities of Europe to survive or even to thrive. The popularized narrative of Europe being the Ivy-drip of Africa’s many resources—and sustenance of its many economies by some involved in the new age enlightenment, like, G.F.W. Hegal, for example, was false and astronomically misleading.

Commerce and trade was one aspect or canvas that the proclaimers of enlightenment painted Africa as wayward, immature and lacking of competence. Naturally, there were many others. Fortunately, I need not name them all—for if I do, and given our proper and commonsensical understanding of Africa’s complexities—it would evolve into something comical and defy commonsense. Which is exactly what the proclaimers of enlightenment knew in their hearts, but sought to perpetuate as a political campaign because it would later justify the expansion and exhibitions of colonization in Africa.

Now then, this backdrop of misconceptions and counter-factual rhetoric of Africa’s waywardness—although a few of us know it not to be true—is important in the school curricula because it is there that every generation receives it’s white supremacy manual on how to not only view Africa but to engage with its citizens and other sub-African groups who may look African. Also, such generation(s) when/and if they ever mature to rational adults, will eventually create certain parameters and policies that limits any opportunity to involve and—ultimately—absorb Africans or people of African descent into their societies—i.e., European or Western.

In contemporary America, and since the inception of a black president from two-thousand-eight to two-thousand-sixteen, we’ve all been—involuntarily—fanned with the air of attained egalitarianism and even spoon-fed with the diet of America being a post-racial society. The word post-racial, in my humble opinion, means that a society has finally accepted not only in words but in practice that people of color and other marginalized groups are human-beings who too deserve dignity and respect. But the more we look around and truly examine every sector of American life; economics, education, politics, poverty, transnational, labor, the justice system, law, etc, we will see that there is nothing post-racial about America.

  • Forty-five point eight percent of black children live in poverty.
  • In two-thousand-fourteen, African-Americans were more than twice as likely to be unemployed (11%) as their white, non-Hispanic counterparts (5%).
  • African Americans now constitute nearly one million of the total two-point-three million incarcerated population and African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.
  • Police killed at least one hundred and two unarmed black people in two-thousand-fifteen, nearly twice each week.
  • Thirty-seven percent of unarmed people killed by police were black in two-thousand-fifteen despite black people being only thirteen percent of the U.S. population,
  • Only ten of the one hundred and two cases in two-thousand-fifteen where an unarmed black person was killed by police resulted in officer(s) being charged with a crime, and only two of these deaths (Matthew Ajibade and Eric Harris) resulted in convictions of officers involved. Only one of two officers convicted for their involvement in Matthew Ajibade’s death received jail time. He was sentenced to one year in jail and allowed to serve this time exclusively on weekends. Deputy Bates, who killed Eric Harris, will be sentenced May thirty-first, two-thousand-fifteen.

As you can see, those stats run counterintuitive to the rhetoric that America is post-racial. “The illusion of inclusion,” according to Dr. Umar Johnson, a pan-Africanist and school psychologist, “Makes us [Africans or people of African descent] believe that we’ve actually come further along than we had.” The political campaign to perpetuate Africa as uncivilized, wayward and incompetent—although that is not true–in our school curricula and elsewhere, is to, again, keep everyone believing the narrative from the Age of Enlightenment that Africa is truly backward and thus justifies the continuation of their resources being extracted.

Sources: Mapping Police Violence, DR. Umar Johnson, Feeding America, NAACP

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