New York City Ballet

A young feminist friend of mine published these photos on her blog, and I found them horrifying (as I’m sure you do).  But the pics got me thinking about work related injuries,  the romanticization of certain occupations, and our gendered conceptions of physical labor.

First of all, these photos are of women’s feet.  While it’s true that gazillions of little girls fantasize about being ballerinas with no thought whatsoever to the consequences for their feet, I wonder if men’s feet suffer the same consequences.  Maybe their feet don’t suffer because they spend much less time en pointe, but I also have the feeling that we look at crusty calloused feet as manly, and that part of our horror in looking at these feet is that the feet belong to women.  Women who definitely don’t appear to have had a pedicure recently and won’t be wearing sandals any time soon.  

We certainly react with horror to, say a man whose hand has severed fingers from a slaughterhouse injury.  But do we get upset if he has some blisters and bandaids from working as a lumberjack?  Even a Monty Python style lumberjack?  And don’t women’s feet look a lot like this when they wear high heels for awhile?  In other words, is this really a ballerina problem?  Or is there some sort of inherent fetishization of women’s feet that we should attend to?  In a gender studies course I taught, the students were getting up in arms about Chinese foot binding, and when I mentioned the parallel to high heels, they flipped out—“but women CHOOSE that!”  Really, I think there’s a lot less choice about general footwear standards than having a career as a ballerina.  

Don’t most artists suffer for their art?  Don’t many in physical occupations feel proud of the physical manifestations of their efforts—their “war wounds” so to speak?  Maybe what should upset us is not the condition of these women’s feet but that we don’t all realize that any ballerina worth her salt could kick anyone’s ass.  Except she probably wouldn’t want to expend the effort.  Why risk injury unless it was for the love of dancing?

(via octagon-surgeon)

Just Kidding!

I tried blogging at another site, but it just wasn’t happening for me.  So I’m on tumblr again at

A New Beginning

My new blog is The Chaos Muppet.  You can find me at

…and in conclusion

The first year I homeschooled Rhino, I had a lot of feelings.  I was unhappy to be homeschooling but relieved to have the option.  I was angry there weren’t other options and guilty that I wasn’t working to create them rather than retreating into my little world of privilege.  I was scared of Rhino’s initial academic meltdown and proud of her volunteer work and personal growth.  

I was working through the personal and political repercussions of our family’s choices.  What does privilege mean in the context of a child with disabilities?  Is taking just two years away from the urban public school system with one of three children such a sin?  I found myself pleased that our homeschooling endeavor wasn’t regulated (in part because Rhino was 16 and eligible to drop out if she wanted to), yet I found myself wishing there were  lot more regulation of other homeschoolers.  I developed a bit of an obsession with fundamentalist Christians.

I had no interest in the homeschooling community.  A good friend recommended a book on homeschooling (it’s called Kingdom of Children), and I bought it, only to realize that there are probably 10,000 books I am more interested in reading.  I find the whole concept of homeschooling annoying.

And that’s where I am now.  I think homeschooling worked out well for Rhino in the particular unique circumstances she and our family faced in a particular moment in our history.  I’m glad we were able to homeschool, though sorry we had to do it.  I wish there were were some volunteer-internship based public charter school with a college prep curriculum and time for students to dream.  

If I were a different kind of person, I would start that school.  But I’m not that person.  

So here I am, realizing that my opinions of homeschooling are more or less what they were when I started this endeavor—it’s bad for society and people shouldn’t do it.  But I’ve made my peace (or as much peace as I’m ever going to make) with homeschooling Rhino anyway.  

And even though I actually have half a dozen posts in draft, and thoughts about any number of things I’ve seen about homeschooling in the news, and experiences that I never got around to blogging about, I really don’t want to think/talk/write about homeschooling anymore.

Rhino continues to be her amazing self, and if you like you can follow her adventures at (she blogs with 4 friends who are all heading to college—guess who the cuttlefish is?)

As for me, I do have things I want to blog about, and when I start a new blog, I will post the url.

Go and support your urban public school system.  And if you ever get a chance, you should pet a penguin.  They are super-super soft, and forever after just thinking about how great it was will give you an endorphin rush.  

Fun with Missouri’s Constitution

Missouri has a new state constitutional amendment on the ballot.  In part, the amendment states, “no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” The intent behind this is to allow fundamentalist Christian students to opt out of lessons on evolution or sex education.  But the potential impact goes far, far beyond the amendment’s intent.  And some of that is fun!

This kind of nonsense is what makes some people like the idea of homeschooling—the faithful can go home and restrict themselves while everyone else gets to learn actual science.  Of course, not ever letting your child hear anyone else’s point of view ever doesn’t mean that they have faith.  In fact, it’s rather the opposite.  Faith is belief without evidence.  But since kids who never learn any other point of view never get any actual evidence that contradicts their religion’s world view, they have ignorance rather than faith.  If we think of an Eden parallel, it’s not telling kids not to eat from the tree of knowledge—it’s preventing them from knowing the tree exists.  I really worry about these kids.

However, those who like to suffer fools gladly—because if you have to suffer, you might as well introduce as much gladness as possible—can think of many other ways that this amendment could be implemented.  A professor of mine (and Mr. A’s) used to draw parallels with the Church of the Holy Cinderblock.  If we have to make religious exceptions for Christians, we have to make them for all religions.  

We could have the Church of the Knights of Nee.  Like the knights who say nee of Monty Python fame, they cannot hear the word “it.”  ”It” must be excised from the texts of all children of the knights, and any teacher who utters “it” is violating their sacred religious principles, and so the kids are entitled to  wear noise canceling headphones at all times and read censored transcripts of the lessons later.

On a more realistic note, we could ban any lessons that indicated that consumption of pork or having only one set of kitchen utensils was acceptable so as not to have lessons that violate the beliefs of observant Jews.  Any pictures of pepperoni pizza must be destroyed or clearly labeled to indicate that the pepperoni-like substance is actually a flavored soy product.

Or we could have Shakers, who didn’t believe in procreation (which is why there aren’t any now, but we could instigate a revival in Missouri!).  In any families portrayed, it would have to made clear that the children were adopted progeny of the sinful.  And everyone would have to learn to make simple but attractive wooden furniture.  

We could encourage the Amish to attend public school, and eliminate all lessons that mentioned cars, war, buttons, married men shaving, or wearing red.  And the children could use kerosene lamps and candles for light.  And they could put a petting zoo in the parking lot.

Do we want all these kids to be educated at home?  Do progressives want to leave the schools to the religious and educate their own kids at home?  Is it possible to have a pluralistic society in which children are educated together?  Is there a potential for a common curriculum that educates without belittling?

Maybe the grown-ups should be the ones to stay home.


Wanna know what bad homeschoolers do after they quasi-graduate from virtual high school?  Well, the Rhino bad homeschooler enrolls in City Year and learns to make the following elevator speech:

“City Year is an education-focused non-profit organization that unites young people ages 17-24 in a year of full time service. Every 26 seconds a child drops out of school.  I am definitely not reciting this from memory rather than engaging in actual conversation with you.  Also did I mention we mentor children to end the national dropout crisis? Because that’s a thing we do.”

Everyone should have a Rhino.  And an elevator.

Rhino has moved to her room in a rented house where she is doing City Year (one year of intensive service to underprivileged public schools has potential to make up for 2 years of homeschooling, right?).  You can see her chalice (a symbol of our religion) on the windowsill.  The night table is the one mentioned in a previous post that we got at a craft fair when she was in preschool, and the brown table was trash picked more than 20 years ago in Boston.  She inherited the space heater/fan from the previous occupant of the room (also a City Year volunteer).  You’ll note that the cat barf on the mattress is not visible at all.  It wasn’t smellable either.  The Rhino on the bed is an original.

Rhino has moved to her room in a rented house where she is doing City Year (one year of intensive service to underprivileged public schools has potential to make up for 2 years of homeschooling, right?).  You can see her chalice (a symbol of our religion) on the windowsill.  The night table is the one mentioned in a previous post that we got at a craft fair when she was in preschool, and the brown table was trash picked more than 20 years ago in Boston.  She inherited the space heater/fan from the previous occupant of the room (also a City Year volunteer).  You’ll note that the cat barf on the mattress is not visible at all.  It wasn’t smellable either.  The Rhino on the bed is an original.

The Not-So-Long-Awaited Part 3

Here are two last thoughts on the status of teachers.  Neither one of these articles addresses homeschooling, but I think issues surrounding homeschooling are relevant.

This article says that teacher bashing is a form of misogyny:

It’s interested that nearly all homeschooling parents are mothers (of course many dads play a tangential role, but the main force is almost always mom, including in my uber-feminist household).  This idea that teaching goes along with housewifery, or perhaps in more liberal circles, with a jobette (selling Mary Kay…), further erodes the status of teachers.  While politicians love to say that motherhood is the most important job in the world, it requires no qualifications other than a functioning reproductive system (and some live sperm)*.  And the main qualification for being a mother whose primary occupation is homeschooling is finding a source of financial support, either by being independently wealthy or by being married to someone who is willing to financially support the household.  There is so much misogyny centered around mothers and the care work they do—when we say that anyone who can be a mother can be a teacher, I think we wind up giving teachers the status of unpaid caregivers.  One might say that the solution is to elevate motherhood and other care work.  Let me tell you, in an individualistic, capitalist society, that will never happen until someone starts paying mothers some big bucks.

This next piece is on the dangers of teacher bashing:

What’s at stake is more basic: Whether the right to a free public education for all children will survive as a fundamental democratic promise in our society, and whether the schools and districts needed to provide it are going to survive as public institutions.

Read the whole thing here:

Again, many people homeschool because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that they can teach their children better than people who are actually trained as teachers.  In some cases this is surely true, but it doesn’t do much to attract better qualified people to the teaching profession.  We homeschoolers might not care about that because we’ve pulled our children out of the system where most children get their education.  

Except, of course, we have to live in a society with all of those children for the rest of our lives.

*Mothers through adoption actually do have to have further qualifications, as they are generally investigated up, down, and sideways before being trusted with a child.

Teaching: Any Idiot Can Do It. Part 2.

I wrote a post a while back about the disrespect for the teaching profession that homeschooling implies.  This was apparently thought to mean that having a teaching certificate is somehow important to teaching quality. I don’t think it is, particularly.  I just think that when we make a big deal about it being irrelevant, we lower the status of teachers.  One can train a layperson to do a lot things that require a professional license. A layperson can trained to do certain medical procedures at least as competently as a physician—especially a physician who doesn’t specialize in those procedures.  Yet if the lay person actually performs them, s/he can be prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license.  And if the person performs them badly, s/he might go to prison.

Not so the incompetent homeschooling parent.  There are many extraordinarily competent homeschooling parents (who hoard their talents within a very limited circle).  But, in part because of the religious right, there is increasingly less regulation  of homeschooling.  One does not have to be a high school graduate to homeschool.  If you read the blogs of people who have left the fundamentalist Christian movement, you will hear some very interesting perspectives on the downsides of homeschooling.  Here’s one I found particularly interesting:

My wife, Kristine sat on a homeschool board for a few years and witnessed the split of the homeschool group in that region of the country.  What was the split over?  Academics?  Nope.  Whether or not it was the right thing to require a statement of faith for a family to join the group.  The “yea’s” won the day and the detractors had to leave.  The detractors were a much smaller group and yet, when anything was to be done academically with tutors or extra classes taught by experts, it was this group that organized it.  The “statement of faith” group was simply satisfied to have a sermon with a gym day.

That explains my view of academics in some homeschooling to a ‘t’.  On a side note, my wife has gone back to school and has seen that her parents were miserable teachers.  Miserable.  Her writing competency was at the 6th grade level, as was her math.

What I find most interesting is that Kristine was sitting on this homeschool board because she was homeschooling her own children (she and her husband had six before they left the Christian Quiverfull movement).  The kids now attend public school, but she was originally planning to homeschool them all the way through.  

When I sent Rhino to urban public school, I brought our family’s resources into a system that needed them.  When I homeschooled her, I contributed to making people like Kristine, Kristine’s parents, and the thousands of people like them able to deprive their kids of a meaningful education.  In Jesus’s name.

End of sermon (sort of—part 3 is coming soon).  

See, I told you it was officially over.  Now only if it were also unofficially over…

See, I told you it was officially over.  Now only if it were also unofficially over…