The Barely Possible Brightness of Teaching

“Anyone whose goal is ‘something higher’ must expect someday to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, Vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Speaking on behalf of many of my colleagues, I can say that we suffer vertigo.

Teaching brings forth a host of images and thoughts about the “higher calling” of the profession. Those of us who teach can, in fact, DO. The requirement in public colleges is to keep abreast of current trends in our disciplines, update our curricula, test, grade, evaluate, assess, modify, survey, and reassess, all in the squish beneath the presses of Big Data, while remaining inspirational to our students, of course. Classroom productivity levels must rise so that our tax dollars provide the most bang for the buck. The government wages war on its public educators with such vehemence and ferocity that there are days when I feel as if I’m in an ambush at the Battle of Cajamarca.   A day rarely passes on campus when I can simply arrive to do what I do best and for that which I was originally hired. Each week, underscored by a plethora of meetings to attend, surveys to complete, reports to read and write, then further meetings to assess the reports, drones on and on in a mind-numbing loop jokingly referred to as “Continuous Quality Improvement”–a perfectly Orwellian term if ever there was one.

Professor Dave Hill, the Chief Editor of the Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies at the University of Northampton, UK wrote in the introductory paragraph of his article titled, Class, Capital and Education in this Neoliberal and Neoconservative Period: “The current neoliberal project, the latest stage of the capitalist project, is to reshape the public’s understanding of the purposes of public institutions and apparatuses, such as schools, universities, libraries. In schools, intensive testing of pre-designed curricula (high stakes testing) and accountability schemes (such as the‘failing schools’ and regular inspection regime that somehow only penalizes working class schools) are aimed at restoring schools (and further education and universities) to what dominant elites – the capitalist class – perceive to be their “traditional role” of producing passive worker/citizens with just enough skills to render themselves useful to the demands of capital.”

The remainder of this excellent 25-page article provides a worthy read to educators around the free-market globe as he points to the overreaching agendas in education by those who DO NOT TEACH. One look no further than the opening lines in the Wiki on US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. His insipid professional history reveals the insidious truth about the person placed in charge to reform public education–a charter school-loving puppet who has never taught in the classroom. Early in his career, an investment banker buddy appointed him to direct a public education initiative that led to an eight year-long appointment by Mayor Richard M. Daley as CEO of Chicago Public Schools. His not-so-brilliant “Race To The Top” initiative and other plutocrat-inspired ideas as the U.S. Secretary of  Education appointed by President Obama in 2009, has left American educators in a state of vertigo. Thankfully, the National Education Association passed a vote of “no confidence”, asking for his resignation in 2014, immediately followed by the American Federation of Teachers approving a similar resolution.  He will step down at the end of this year, but the scorched earth that he leaves in his wake keeps this educator in a state of flux.

Thank you to my students and the classes I teach for giving me the breath of life and living that I need every day to push forward and onward for all of us.


About danaj33

I have been teaching in the Broadcast Electronic Media Art department at City College of San Francisco since 2001. I started teaching full-time in 2009 and am tenured. My career as an audio engineer spans 32-years since the first day I began to record and mix songs on my Tascam PortaStudio (cassette 4-track) in the early 80's while attending college at UC Berkeley. I formed a couple of bands and sang lead (sometimes playing rhythm guitar) until 1988 when I discovered that the "behind-the-scenes" tech realm was much more to my liking. I love how an audio engineer controls the ENTIRE sound mix, and not just one's own instrument. I then began a career as a live sound engineer in earnest and have toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as front-of-house sound engineer for a multitude of bands on various record labels (most notably "Medicine" on American Recordings) and have been a staff engineer at the venerable Bottom of the Hill nightclub since their inception in 1991 leaving a regular shift there in 2010 due to the teaching schedule. The club and its staff are like family. I owned and operated a live sound production company since 1989 (ending officially in 2017) called dcj Productions that has provided sound to the Bay Area community (mostly in the non-profit sector) in both large outdoor sound events as well as nightclubs and music halls. In 1991, I started recording bands on an 8-track Tascam TSR-8 analog tape recorder and moved into the digital realm in 1993 to 16-tracks of Alesis ADAT connected to a Soundcraft Ghost console in my home studio. In 1995, I advanced to Pro Tools and have been recording exclusively digital ever since, combining audio skills in sound for film as a location recordist as well as an engineer in post-production sound design and mixing. I remained "strictly analog" in my live sound mixing until just this past year (2012). Now that one can obtain a decent, live sound digital mixer at an affordable price, it was high time to check out digital for live. I now have a Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 to work on with my students to give them much needed hands-on experience with a digital console. I co-owned and ran APG Records & APG Studios, an SF record label and recording studio, from 1999 - 2004 which had a distribution deal through EMI. The company folded in 2004. I continue to record music and engineer live performances at many Bay Area venues in addition to full-time teaching at CCSF. In 2001, I was hired to the part-time faculty at City College of San Francisco in the Broadcast Electronics Media Arts department where I have taught many of the classes including Digital Media Skills (BCST119), Basic Audio Production (BCST120), Digital Audio Production (BCST124), Sound Recording Studio (BCST125), Sound For Visual Media (BCST126), Advanced Sound Recording (BCST127), Sound Reinforcement (BCST128), Audio for the Web (BCST135), Video for the Web (BCST136), and Field Video Production (BCST141). I have also taught classes in sound design, audio for animation and games, music video, and computer applications at Art Institute of California-San Francisco, Globe Recording Institute, and Laney College in Oakland, CA. Outside Affiliations: - Co-Director of SoundGirls - current member of Audio Engineering Society and on the SF Chapter Planning Committee - past Vice President and Interim President Board of Directors - Bay Area Girls Rock Camp - past volunteer/contributor to Women's Audio Mission - past member Bay Area Women in Media and Film - past Board of Directors for Camp Reel Stories
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1 Response to The Barely Possible Brightness of Teaching

  1. Susmita says:

    I could not agree more.All this ‘data’ generation is sucking time from our students.It is preventing us from thinking how to improve.It is making robots out of the living human brain.

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