Labor Day Parade — An Inspiration

Labor Day Parade 2018

This Saturday, at the Labor Day parade, corporate media did their no-show, again!

But, regardless of the blatant Journalism of Exclusion, I had my reasons to celebrate. I realized the value of the work I’ve done for so many years here in America. It came back to me one more time that I may have lost a lot leaving India. But I have gained enormous knowledge and analysis that was impossible for a very ordinary man like me, with no opportunity to see the world.

Yes, it was unthinkable back then that I would spend more than half of my life in USA.

Saturday, I went to march along with at least 25,000 union workers and their families and loved ones in New York. This is my personal estimate, and I could be totally undercounting the massive parade.

With their warm, genuine smiles and handshaking, my students who are also my union brothers and sisters rekindled my hope that the political education we’re sharing with one another for so many years has made an impact.

Sure, we still have differences in the ways we talk about solutions to this unthinkable mess: I believe in democratic, nonviolent socialism, and many of them believe in status-quo Democratic politics. But we all understand the gravity of the situation — in areas of climate change, food and health care crisis, immigration and human rights scenarios, women’s rights, education, race and economic inequality. We all understand that America is teetering on the brink of fascism.

Yesterday, I saw light in the eyes of my fellow foot soldiers.

And I shall support new, honest, progressive political candidates — away from the DNC status quo. I hope you do, too.

On September 13, 2018, New York Democrats will vote in the primaries. I shall vote for candidates who promise me peace, tolerance, harmony, democracy, socialism, equality, health care, affordable education, and a clean, cooler, saner, humane climate.

I invite all my union brothers and sisters to think hard about their future. And the future of their children.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Photo courtesy: Smart Destinations. Only for non-profit, educational, one-time use.

“Don’t even believe a single word I say.”

Optical Illusion
This is how I teach my labor union workers here in America.
People call me by my first name. “Partha,” they say, “I have a question.” Questioning, challenging, doubting what the teacher preaches is totally okay.

No, over the 30+ years I’ve lived in America, I have not changed my name to Pat or Paul. I have been adamant that my American students, teachers, colleagues and even neighbors pronounced my name correctly. If not, tough luck, I will not reply.

I teach a critical-thinking, interactive workshop to about 1500 union workers each year. Each class, I have about 30-40 students who go through the class I put together on a different subject each year. This year, we’re discussing extremism. Last year was human rights. The years before were climate change, immigration, economic inequality, etc.

Every class is attended by a group of union workers, and we do interactive discussion for six hours — with help of documentary video clips, fact sheets, individual and small-group brainstorming, and Q/A with help from peer-reviewed research. At the end of the day, we become more conversant on our own questions — pertaining to the subject of discussion.
This year, I’ve been using a special catch phrase. “Don’t even believe a single word I say,” I tell them in the beginning of class. “You do your own research, and find out. Then come back, and share your research with the rest of the class.” That’s how open and free my class is. That’s how I teach.

Unlike India, calling the professor by their first name is not a big deal here in the U.S. If and when somebody addresses me as Dr. Banerjee, I practically become uncomfortable.

I never believed in fake respect, and I never cared for the British colonial education, that would put the teacher at a higher, artificial pedestal — where anything but addressing a he-teacher as Sir and a she-teacher as Madam would be unacceptable, and even punishable.

Surprised? I even eat potato chips and my students drink their coffee in classroom, while teaching and learning. Then we clean up the classroom spic and span — ourselves. Doing your own chores is a lifestyle here.

India has joined the rat race to “become like America.” But India has not changed its feudal, prehistoric education system even by an inch, or by a millimeter.

Sincerely,
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York
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