Friend Zone/Friends with benefits
The most intriguing aspect of gay identity for Foucault is how homosexuality can lead to new ways of relating. These new ways of relating Foucault refers to as ‘friendship.’
“That toward which the developments of the problem of homosexuality tend is the problem of friendship.”
In Foucault’s view, gay men are confronted with the task of transforming the self (ascesis – a work to transform the self) in hopes of achieving a new way of living.
“They must invent from A to Z, a relationship that is still formless, which is friendship: that is to say the sum of all the means through which they can give each other pleasure.” (Friendship, 136)
Foucault argues that gay men should work to “escape the two readymade formulas of the purely sexual hookup and the lovers’ fusion of identities.” The only way homosexuality is accepted is on the ground of pure sex or true love – this way homosexuality is coherent within society’s already established fields. It’s comprehensible to view homosexuality as a hook-up because it aligns with the idea of crazy young men having ‘unbridled’ and uncontrollable lust and “cancels all that can be troubling in affection, tenderness, friendship, loyalty, camaraderie, companionship, things that our rather sanitized society can’t allow a place for without fearing the formation of new alliances and the tying together of unforeseen lines of force.” (Friendship, 136)
A new ‘friendship’ has developed through the sexual revolution – the new non-romantic (w/o intention of marriage) heterosexual friendship. Men and women can be friends now without romantic implications. (Also to think about there being a time when men and women were prohibited from having a friendship.. as if friendship was too intense or personal?) In addition, friendships of people who happen to be having sex – ‘friends with benefits.’ New ways of relating act as strategies to avoid relationships that confine us into roles with an understanding of expectations – girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, etc. Though, it still seems as though society is urging us in the direction of established romantic relationships – with tons of literature on “how to be the perfect girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/etc”- there have been psychological studies with published results on why men and women really can’t be friends. And there is the widely regarded warning to young boys to avoid the ‘friend zone.’
Love vs. friendship?
Judith Butler, Foucault, + The Opt Out Movement
When I consider Judith Butler’s (2004) question, “What makes for a livable world?” and then her point that
It becomes a question of ethics, I think, not only when we ask the personal question, what makes my own life bearable, but when we ask, from a position of power, and from the point of view of distributive justice, what makes, or ought to make, the lives of others bearable? Somewhere in the answer, we find ourselves not only committed to a certain view of what life is, and what it should be, but also of what constitutes the human, the distinctively human life, and what does not. (p. 17)
It is from a place of humanness that I hope to do education differently— from my position of power as an educator, I want to interrogate: what can my actions do to make the lives of my students more bearable? Moreover, how can I create a (classroom) space that enables children to claim their own doings and reclaim the ways in which their doings have been undone? At the moment, I think that what I can do surrounds problematizing curriculum— for me, this is a kind of undoing (Butler, 2004).
In a similar vein, Foucault says
There is a whole network of relationships of power, which can operate between individuals, in the bosom of the family, in an educational relationship, in the political body, etc. . . When an individual or social group manages to block a field of relations of power, to render them impassive and invariable and to prevent all reversibility of movement- by means of instruments which can be economic as well as political or military- we are facing what can be called a state of domination. It is certain that in such a state the practice of liberty does not exist or exists only unilaterally or is extremely confined and limited.
(Bernie Sanders’ signature on a Scantron that reads “opt out.”)
“Liberation opens up new relationships of power, which have to be controlled by practices of liberty” (p. 4).
Enter in: the Opt Out movement ( a practice of liberty).
Butler (2004) explains that “the experience of a normative restriction becoming undone can undo a prior conception of who one is only to inaugurate a relatively newer one that has a greater livability as its aim” (p. 1). When considering curriculum, it can be helpful to have conceptions of models, but also to know that one does not have to choose from a set of already established curricular models/options— instead, one can make their own, make what they can imagine, what feels right, and has a greater livability for themselves and their students. Through the lens of curriculum theorists William Pinar, Lynn Beudert and Marissa McClure (2015), curriculum theory is a means for educators to think about ideas, purposes of, and actions within curriculum/experiences by paying “systematic attention to the question of what we should teach” (Kliebard, 1977, p. 260) in addition to how and where curricula are implemented (p. 24). What if one reconceptualized and theorized a curriculum by struggling “to resist curricular absolutes by engaging in discourses that are contingent upon the ideas, opinions, and lived expertise of those individuals who comprise a community?” (Cherryhomes; cited by Garaoin, 1999, p. 141).
Is this even realistic? And, what would it take to bring this systemic reconceptualization to fruition?
Diane Ravitch on Opting Out:
Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests. Ignore the threats from state and federal officials. The tests today have taken over too much of the school year. Teachers should prepare and give tests that cover what they taught.
What if all students opted out of testing? That’s democracy in action. The elected officials who mandate these tests would take notice. They might even discover that no high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.
The tests today are pointless and meaningless.
The tests are meaningless because the results are returned months after the test, when the student has a different teacher. The tests are meaningless because the scores provide no information about what the students learned and didn’t learn. The teacher is not allowed to find out what students got wrong.
Officials claim that the tests help students and teachers and inform instruction. Balderdash. The tests rank and rate students. Worse, the developers of the Common Core tests selected a passing mark so high that the majority of children are expected to fail. The passing mark is a subjective judgment. What exactly is the value of telling children they are failures when they are in third grade?
Schools have cut back on the arts, civics, science, history, and physical education because they are not on the test.
The tests are given online because it is supposed to be cheaper. But many states and districts have had technological breakdowns, and the testing period starts all over again. Students who take pencil and paper tests get higher scores than similar children who take online tests. It may be cumbersome to scroll up and down or sideways, wasting time.
In some states and districts, children with disabilities are expected to take exactly the same tests as children their age, regardless of the nature of their disability. Florida became famous for trying to force a test on a dying child. He cheated the state by dying before they could test him.
When students write essays online, most will be graded by computer. The computer understands sentence length, grammar, and syntax. But the computer does not understand MEANING. A ridiculous essay that is complete gibberish can get a high score.
The testing regime is destroying education.It is driven by politicians who think that tests make students smarter and by educrats who fear to think an independent thought.
There are two ways to stop this madness. One would be to require legislators and policymakers in the states and federal government to take the tests they mandate and publish their scores. This would prove the value of the tests. Why shouldn’t they all be able to pass the 8th grade math test?
Since this is unlikely to happen, the best way to restore common sense to American education is to stop taking the tests. Parents should discuss the issues of testing with their children. Explain to them that the tests can’t measure what matters most: Kindness, integrity, honesty, responsibility, humor, creativity, wisdom, thoughtfulness.
The best and only way to send a message to the politicians is to let your children refuse the tests. Do you really care how their scores compare to those of students in other states? If you want to know how they are doing, ask the teachers who see them every day.
Gary Stern, veteran education writer in the Lower Hudson Valley, has an insightful well-informed understanding of the New York opt out movement. He knows why it started and why it continues: parents want real changes, not promises of change.
In contrast, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post ridicules the parents as crybabies who refuse to accept that their children are not so smart after all (shades of Arne Duncan!).
Stern writes that the State Education Department imposed the new standards and tests without adequate preparation. The result was distrust and opt out.
“The state should have anticipated this year’s high opt-out rates (in some places, even higher than last year when 20 percent of kids statewide sat out exams). We had Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who once passed himself off as the state’s “lobbyist for the students,” bashing the tests and calling them largely meaningless. We saw the election of a new Board of Regents Chancellor, Betty Rosa, who said she would opt out her own kids if they were still of school age. Plus, there has been so much upheaval during the past year or two — reviews of and revisions to education policies that few understood — that only wonks and activist-types could possibly keep up.
The flipflopping, the unknowns and the promises of future change made the whole thing reek of politics. The continued mess further frustrated those parents keenly watching the process, and likely overwhelmed many others. Why not opt out until things settle down in a year or two?
“Here’s what we need to see before we can anticipate an opt-in movement:
*New York standards. Revisions to the Common Core are underway, and must reflect what the state’s educators want. Rosa, the Board of Regents and Elia will have to explain and sell the changes they endorse, likely to be a difficult task.
*Clear goals. It’s not enough to chant that students must be “college and career ready.” It’s time to explain where our benchmarks come from.
*Better state tests. Elia has promised to cut the ELA and math assessments from three days to two, and to involve New York educators in the development of questions. The tests need to reflect what kids are learning, not the other way around.
*Useable or formative test data. We need test results that can be used to improve instruction, not merely to conclude whether students hit targets. Elia has pledged to release all future test questions and to produce results earlier, so teachers can address kids’ academic needs quickly.
*A review of testing and graduation requirements for special-education students. Many parents and educators believe that students with disabilities have fared worst of all during the reform era.
*A complete rewrite of the state’s loathed teacher- and principal-evaluation system. Elia agrees that it was designed to punish teachers. She has vowed to involve educators in rewriting it. But Elia and Rosa may have to take on Cuomo, who changed his tune on other education matters, but seems committed to the failed evaluation model he championed.
“The opt-out movement was created and energized by ordinary, well-meaning parents. It wasn’t the teachers’ unions, who jumped on the bandwagon late. And please don’t accept the stereotype of clueless, selfish suburban parents who refuse to accept their kids’ low test scores or worry their special snowflakes’ psyches would be damaged by rigor. Or that suburbanites don’t care about holding under-achieving urban schools accountable. It’s an offensive, cartoonish narrative that sells parents way short.
“Parents build strong connections with their local schools. When the teachers they know and the principals they trust were becoming demoralized by state directives, moms and dads started paying attention. Many didn’t like what they saw.
“New York’s “reform” agenda was dropped out of the sky by state officials, eager for the federal dollars attached, who were so convinced that they were right that they didn’t bother to prepare parents for what was coming….
“Former state Education Commissioner John King dismissed parents’ concerns, and former Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch could not seem to grasp them….
“The state will need to sell its changes — new standards, new tests and (please!) a new evaluation system. But it can’t expect parents to buy only promises of change. Some will need to see it before they send their kids into testing rooms again.”
→ Transcript of what Hillary Clinton told the Newsday editorial board: http://www.newsday.com/opinion/hillary-clinton-at-newsday-long-island-transcript-1.11680010
An ethic of play and liberation in public early childhood education
“Q: You say that liberty must be practiced ethically? MF: Yes, for what is morality, if not the practice of liberty, the deliberate practice of liberty?” (p. 4).