Thursday, February 18, 2010

righteous indignation

Today I attended an all day conference. 'What?' you ask... 'less than a week before Career Day?' Yes. I guarantee it was not my choice. That probably explains why I feel so crazy. Conferences are supposed to rejuvenate you, let you meet with your peers, and then feel like you can tackle the big problems for a little longer before burning out.

Perhaps it is the added Career Day stress, but I did not feel that way this time.

The central theme focused on education, which would normally be appealing to me for obvious reasons. It was tricky, though, one of those speakers that defined success = college which I am personally opposed to. I define success as being able to care for oneself without assistance, support a family, and feel satisfied with the work one does.

Standing ovation to wanting to save all children. Wanting to help them all feel valued and special and able to succeed (read: go to college). Wanting to help them know they can rise above. I guess it must feel good to applaud that, like your two hands hitting together must save some child somewhere.

But this event was held at the Biltmore downtown. Fancy place, like one waiter to every four people or something. All day, people not really caring for their own waste or even acknowledging the presence of the silent army that stood by to cater to one's every need. I have gone to this conference for three years in a row- I even started to recognize some of the staff. When I was teaching on the Eastside, many of my students' parents worked there, or one of the other beachside hotels.

I wonder if this conference, and others like it, are some of the most depressing for them. To listen to people talk about change and community building and social justice and saving the children of poor workers and standing ovations... and then be completely ignored as you provide service to another. I wonder if they feel the irony of it all.

Whose children do all the applauders think they trying to save? Can you really teach all children they have value while simultaneously ignoring and devaluing current adult members of society?


Jeannie said...

Love this post, Michelle. Something I think few people are thinking about.

Debbie Lloyd said...

you are an such a smart, caring, thoughtful,and amazing woman Michelle.. the world needs more like you :)

Taylor and Jodi said...

Wait- maybe I'm not understanding you and I certainly wasn't there, but what do you mean by ignoring and undervalueing the silent army of workers? I can see being upset with the wasteful cost and extravagance or the pointless topics covered in the conference. All that I agree with, but what part of giving hard working people jobs in a state with >10% unemployment is ignoring and undervalueing?

michelle magnusson said...

I mean acknowledging people's presence. Like thanking them when they serve you. That's all.

krissiecook said...

At another non-profit which shall remain nameless, we had an annual Gala dinner for big donors. The main fundraising line was that the money went to support educational programming for school kids. One year they had the brilliant idea to have some of those kids make a movie about the programs the donors would be supporting. And then they wanted to kids to come to the Gala.
Here's the punch line: they wouldn't let the kids eat dinner with the donors, but kept them in offsite with the hired help until they were told to silently go on stage and receive some applause, and then to become invisible again. They were afraid the kids might act, well, like kids.
Nice. Go ahead, deny the existence of the kids except when it's convenient.

Flem said...

What an interesting perspective. I have never been to a conference in a super fancy location like that except for once--Carnegie did host a conference at the Drake hotel in Chicago, but they invited kids as presenters AND diners. They also put them in their own rooms and the kids felt like they owned the focus of the conference.

So, go Carnegie!