Donald Trump: The Education President

a few hundred CSU Long Beach students participating in a #NotMyPresident rally at the Free Speech Area at the north end of the campus mall

#NotMyPresident

Somewhere around 2:30 am Eastern Time on Wednesday morning Hillary Rodham Clinton phoned Donald Trump and conceded the 2016 presidential election. About 16 hours later, 4pm Pacific Time, I walked out of my CSU Long Beach office and heard many voices coming from the southern end of the campus mall, near the University Library. I couldn’t get close enough to the speakers to hear what was being said over the crowd chants, but I could tell from the signs people were carrying that this was a protest of the election of Donald Trump.

After several minutes the crowd of a few hundred or so marched to the CSULB Free Speech Area at the other end of the campus mall. There they spent 2-3 hours passing a megaphone around and taking turns expressing their disappointment in the election results and their resolve to resist Candidate Trump’s pledges to repeal Civil Rights, Freedom of Speech, and other fundamental American rights.

One student said,

We did our job

referring to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s overwhelming victory in California, 5,637,955 to 3,034,901 votes. He then went on to argue that Students and Californians now needed to continue to make their voices heard. It’s a sentiment that California legislative leaders also expressed in a joint statement:

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The Education President?

In the past 11 years at CSU Long Beach I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of teaching 4,558 students. Mostly freshmen and sophomores. Almost all non-Art majors. While every student has brought their own individuality and uniqueness to their study, and many have been excellent, there is often a “Freshman General Ed malaise.” I’ve dreamt for 11 years of more engaged students. More passionate students. More self-empowered students.

When I say

Burn the university catalog

it is not because I doubt the many years of knowledge, wisdom, and learning that the catalog represents. It is because I have come to believe that top-down education can never produce the most empowered students. Education that is based on fixed curriculum will always produce a focus on extrinsic motivators like points and grades instead of the intrinsic motivation of the quest for knowledge, or the career advancement, that should be the reason for study at this or any university.

The students I saw on Wednesday were shocked, distraught, and disappointed. What they were not was going through the motions because the university or some faculty member told them to. This rally was not another hoop to be jumped through, it was a deeply personal, passionate, fully engaged, burning need. As I understand it, a student made a Facebook page about 2pm calling for the rally. Some students showed up and others heard the sound and joined in.

In the past 11 years I’ve seen Long Beach State student athletes compete at the highest level. Sometimes I’ve seen them win under extraordinary stress. I’ve seen student artists create and exhibit sublime installations of their work. But in large, 100+ classes like the ones I often teach, it’s been hard to find that level of engagement and intensity. This was the 1st time I’ve ever seen this many students this powerfully engaged in something that really matters to them. How incredible it would be if students could write their own curriculum which they were this passionate about every day.

Donald Trump is a scary guy. The politics of hate and division he preached on his way to victory is the opposite of what I thought America was about. But if he can energize this much passion, intensity, and focus in students, then at least his depressing campaign has managed to do one positive thing.

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Class Participation

I’ve grown to prefer online discussion over F2F discussion in large classes. Many students seem more willing to express themselves online. In a large room like The University Theater (UT-108) students can be reluctant to speak. As you’ll notice in these pictures, on Wednesday student after student after student were all entirely willing to share their views with hundreds of classmates. It’s a weird comparison, but I have to admit, Donald Trump is better at getting students to participate than I am.

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Tears

Many of us don’t cry every day. We save our tears for special days. Sometimes for days of incredible joy. Perhaps more often for days of incredible sadness and loss.

You can’t cry if you are dead. Or asleep. Or numb. Or distracted or checked out. Tears might suggest great pain, but they also suggest great aliveness. You have to be truly awake and fully engaged to cry. No one ever cried over something they didn’t care deeply about. Tears are beautiful. People who can cry can change the world. People who can’t, can’t.

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Post-Parody?

My friend, the wonderful cyberspace satirist Jessica Pike, made a rare sincere Tweet today. I didn’t know what to do with it!

I’ve heard it said that if nothing else, President Trump will provide loads of material for comedy writers. Alec Baldwin who’s been playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live said that Trump was SNL’s best writer.

But Trump is already satire. And our time is already hopelessly self-referential, jaded, and satiric. Perhaps the election of Donald Trump will usher in a new post-parody age. In a post-post-neo-neo time it’s hard to be any more meta, any more recursive, any more remix, than we already are. Maybe this will be an age of new simplicity and realism. I tend to prefer romanticism over realism. Maybe it can be a time of realist-romantics like Bobby Kennedy who dream of things that never were and ask

Why not?

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Vote 2016

We just fell behind to Standard Time on Sunday, and the sun set about 5pm today. As the last traces of daylight left the early evening sky, the rally was still going strong. But I left to catch part of another event, a discussion of the election with Jose Rodriguez and others in the packed and overflowing CSULB Anatol Center. Many topics and questions were explored. Like the false equivalence between Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails and the almost infinitely scrolling sheet of outrageous acts by Donald Trump. Or the fact that you can’t build a wall on the United States’ southern border, A: because there already is one, and B: because the net migration from Mexico to the US is negative!

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White Nation??

The day before the election White Nationalist Ann Coulter Tweeted some idea about how The Immigrant Story is not The American Story. That if you’re new to this country you should not be equal. Or have a vote at all. Like Candidate Trump, Coulter seems to believe that Caucasians are the indigenous peoples of North America.

On my way between The Anatol Center and The Free Speech Area I passed a public art installation Blind to History about the destruction of (actual) Native American peoples. Using yellow flags to represent population, the installation shows the California indigenous population in 1848: 150,000. In 1860: 35,000. And in 1900: 15,377.

Blind to History" a public art installation on the mall at CSU Long Beach. The installation features yellow flags on green grass that represent the dwindling Native American population in California at different time periods.

Tuition Hikes

Finally I left the still going discussion in the Anatol Center, and passed the still going rally at the Free Speech area, to head over to the USU Ballroom for a discussion of The Chancellor’s proposed tuition hikes. I discovered that the meeting had been cancelled because everyone wanted to attend the Trump Protest Rally.

  • Chancellor’s tuition hikes: bad
  • Donald Trump’s election as American President: worse

a few hundred CSU Long Beach students participating in a #NotMyPresident rally at the Free Speech Area at the north end of the campus mall

A great day?

It’s fair to say that Wednesday was not the best of days.

Yet when I see so many students so completely engaged in something it is hard to call that a bad day. Maybe Donald J. Trump is The Education President after all.