Working Towards a Better Teaching Environment

January 23, 2011

At the moment I’m trying to pin down some ideas for the future. The whole new year thing (both of them), the last few few months remaining on my contract and the fact that people I know all seem to be getting engaged has prompted me to mark and execute on my plans for the future.

There are a few sticking points that I know are true and won’t change anytime soon:

-I love writing about video games and my analysis is worthwhile

-I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful girlfriend

-I still wish to invest many more years into my Chinese study, transition into native speaker-esque lifestyle

-China makes me pretty happy and I have some good friends here

-I want to keep living the independent life

-Teaching English is a favourable, flexible job in China

So, my plan is to structure my future around these permanent-enough factors. This means moving to Shanghai to be with my girlfriend, continue to write about video games and teach English and practice more Chinese. My current situation, bar the fact that I don’t live in Shanghai is pretty favourable to my sticking points. However, one can always make life better.

I am enjoying my writing more than I ever thought that I would have and have therefore decided that this year I want to start working on same game-specific books full of analysis. Putting out a book, particularly while I am still quite young, would make me an authority, popularity and credibility, so long as I can get them off the ground. Also, what I am finding now is that I have to sacrifice one part of my goals with my current time table. I can’t work a full time job and be a good boyfriend, writer and Chinese student.

So, my plan is to hopefully work part-time from this June and live in close proximity to my girlfriend too. This way I have more time for us, more time for Chinese and the time allowance needed to write my books and improve my teaching.

Currently I’m feeling frustrated at my current teaching job, which is not necessarily a bad one, mind you. It’s just that the corporate aims and the aims of the teachers often clash which can infuriate me at times. I often stew over how much of my feelings towards my job are related to my approach, the situation of the school/classes, the types of classes I have—really, what I want to know is, where do the problems lie and how can I remove them so as to make my job and the student’s experiences more enjoyable.

The following is a list of detrimental factors that have strong affects on the classroom environment:

-2hr long classes (especially with kids)

-lack of local assistant in low level classes (this is utterly ridiculous at times)

-some inadequacies in materials (flash cards, books)

-disciplining students

I guess what I really want is to teach adults. Sure, there’s a sort of trepidation in teaching adults and sometimes they go dead quiet on you or can be unreasonable, but it sure beats having to discipline a classroom filled to capacity with young children. I think that this is what I want more than anything. The challenge now is trying to find such an ideal job, I could transfer thorough my current company (which would be the safest option), but it’s hard to know yet. I have to ask some questions and fire off some emails to check and make sure it’s possible. I know that there are positions open in Shanghai for adult centres and I know that I fit the bill, which is great. All I’d have to do is negotiate my work hours down. I guess I’ll get cracking on the first part of that plan earlier this week.


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Marxism, Anti-capitalism and the Mobilisation of the Political Left (Part 3)

September 24, 2010

Marxism

Over the past two articles, most of what I’ve been saying is straight out Marxism and I don’t have any beef with that. Marxs is a genius, frankly. His understanding of economic systems is dead-on and I agree what most of what he says, particularly that of anti-capitalism and the need for a more democratic distribution of power. Socialism is effectively softcore communism and I agree that socialism ought to be the future, however, I am apprehensive about socialism as a phase into communism. Maybe because I am not as “forwarded sighted” as Marx or I just can’t envision a class-less society, but I think that, at least in my lifetime, class is necessary to maintain social order. I think that Marx’s views on communism are perhaps too idealistic. It seems like he visions a utopia and personally, that’s too far forward than I have currently contemplated. Right now, I am interested in how we can stop capitalism and replace it with a system which won’t kill the planet and our own humanity. This much is relevant to me and everything that will probably happen in my life time, from then on it’s too difficult too judge.

Leading into my last point, I disagree with Marx that a revolution from the workers will be necessary to debunk capitalism. I believe that people win arguments through persuasion, not by overthrowing the discussion. Whatever happens in the future, I think the best approach is a transition from, not an upheaval of capitalism. Maybe there will be some upheaval from the workers, but you can’t just turn society on its head and rebuild from scratch, you must evolve from a base. This transition is already in motion, but for things to really get going it’s going to need mobilisation of the political left.

The Mobilisation of the Political Left

Capitalism will be defeated by the unrest of workers due to their activism against the grave consequences of modern capitalism. The greatest issues facing the world today are all due to the unrestrained free market: global warming, widening gap between rich and poor, monopolisation, depletion of natural resources, the obesity epidemic and the destruction of democracy are a handful of examples. These issues are too big for people to ignore, and with politics playing to the tune of big business, change has to occur from the ground up, so by the people. At one point, the workers will have to become fed up and revolt. There is no way we can continue to let the planet and our own human resources deplete before our own eyes.

In a world dominated by conservative politics attempting to reinforce the status quo, the left, who stand for the rights of people and the planet over profits, must mobilise. The problem with the left, however, is that they’ve been practically demonised out of existence in the public’s consciousness by the overwhelming power of the right. Frankly, media commentators (never we forget that the media is a mouthpiece for the right, in order to conserve its own interests), like, say Andrew Bolt, can’t even form proper criticisms of left-ish thinking besides the broken-record slander of being too radical, unrealistic, bad for business or simply flawed by the virtue of being “left”, of being something alternative to the free market.

People need to launch into action on these issues because the government obviously isn’t representing us when they won’t even support something as simple as gay marriages, despite the public clearly being in favour for it. People need to rally around these issues to force change. As activism and protests continue, the pressure placed on government increases, pushing it into the public agenda and then into the consideration of politicians. In just a few years, there’s been a major movement from the left regarding climate change, and now, climate change is a huge public issue. Unlike modern politics which disempowers people by choice of the “less worse” candidate, activism empowers people as the issues are those of the people. Once you get the snowball rolling, and people start realising “oh, we did this together, now we can work towards the next problem”, people can feel empowered, will act and change will occur.

So, to conclude, in order to defeat capitalism, I believe that the political left need to mobilise on the issues of our times, those consequences of the capitalist system. When mobilisation occurs through activism and pressure is placed on politicians to reform the system to meet the needs of the people, then proper discussion can begin on how to get out of this rut known as capitalism. By putting a lid on profits, and channelling the excess into public expenditure via increased taxation on big business, while at the same time, extending democracy into the workplace by allowing workers to own their production and therefore work for their profession and not for the company’s bottom line, the world will be a better place. We have some dark times ahead of us, however “the night is always darkest just before the dawn”.

Resources

Big Ideas that Changed the World – Democracy

Counterfire

Noam Chomsky

David Harvey

David Harvey Speech

Marxism 2009

Chris Harman – The Crisis Now

David Harvey – The Crisis Now

Arguments for Democracy – Tony Benn


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Marxism, Anti-capitalism and the Mobilisation of the Political Left (Part 2)

September 23, 2010

In Defence, But in Admitting Defeat

In defence of capitalism, the free market has brought many people out of poverty, stabilised our society and delivered us many wonderful products which have enhanced our lives. The problem, however, is that capitalism depends on growth and without it, everything goes to the shits (ie. world financial crisis). That is, when the number of people consuming/the amount that they’re consuming is not increasing or the means of production cannot be further cheapened, companies can’t make more money and therefore we have a crisis. As consumers and production are maxed out and can’t be squeezed any further, these crisis become like contractions when giving birth, they become longer, more frequent and more intense. Artificial growth, such as bailouts and economic stimulus work for a while, but they are a band aid solution as, in the end, the system needs growth through customers or cheaper production. So capitalism works and has worked for a while, and now, as resources strain, it’s beginning to choke and splutter, the future then is to witness the system spasm into its eventual death.

Aside: Conservative Politics and the Dominance of Capitalism

The last 30 years of politics have been a pivotal in securing the dominance of capitalism through conservative politics rather than reform to quell the negative impacts of capitalism. In the US, UK and Australia, the overwhelming majority of elected politicians over the past 30 years have served conservative interests vested in supporting the power structures of the corporate elite. George Bush Senior and Junior, Clinton, Thatcher, Blair, Howard have only forwarded the cause of capitalism.

The Answer

Capitalism obvious cannot and should not continue as it depends on continual growth which as we know is depleting the world of valuable resources (human and environmental). What we need is a new economic system, one that shifts the motivation of corporations away from profits and redirects them towards human need. We have the capacity to solve all the worlds problems if the systems of economics support it.

I believe in that socialism can break the profit motive and focus on human need through democratic ownership of production and taxation against greed.

Worker’s Owning the Means of Production

It’s funny how we say that companies are made up of people, when in fact its only a relative handful of people who are involved in the decision making. I don’t believe in centralised power. I think that the more people involved in making an important decision, the better the decision as different people will run into different ideas. I therefore think that it is right for workers to own the means of production. That is, each worker has a stake in the production side of the company. So workers therefore make up a greater balance of power and have more influence in the company (as the company is dependent on production). Then when it comes to making decisions the constituents go to the polls and vote. The workers, being professionals in what they do, understand their job more than anyone else and therefore they should have more right in influencing the workplace. As a teacher, I know what I need in the classroom, what I’m not getting and how some changes can help me teach better.

Now, I am not an advocate for communism, so unlike Mao and others, I’m quite aware that workers are workers, they’re not bosses, managers or CEOs, they don’t know how to run companies and nor should they, it’s not their job. (Animal Farm is a good metaphor for that). So, I believe that workers should have full entitlement over what matters to them and that’s the work place. Business, management, advertising and so forth ought to be handled by the people who understand it and they should have sufficient control over it. A hierarchy should be maintained, since some people choose to work harder than others and deserve that entitlement.

When workers own what they produce, a class structure is maintained, the right people are doing the right work and the balance between workers and bosses is fair, the workplace suddenly becomes more democratic.

(So much hinges on class and balancing of power, a dilemma of a more democratic work place which does not want to allow workers to overthrow bosses or bosses to rule over workers. However, despite the complexities of forming such systems, so long as workers control production, quality of life and the production will become the new motivation.)

Taxation on Corporate Capitalism

Pretty self-explanatory. By tightening the tax rate of corporations as profit increases, the motivation to earn more profits decreases, since once an upper limit is reach, all of the money goes to the public. High taxes on big business kill any incentive to make more money than is deemed necessary to run a business.

So by workers exercising more democratic control over the work they do and by limiting the amount of money a company can earn, the profit motive is replaced by a motivation to improve production. This would lead to more innovative and creative products, as opposed to following whatever makes money. It would also ensure that workers are happier since they have more control over their work and therefore their destinies.


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