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tv   Book Discussion on Demand the Impossible  CSPAN  August 27, 2016 1:15pm-2:01pm EDT

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potential for researchers to be led astray and he talks about this in relation to three topics. quantum mechanics, string theory and cosmology. this is an expert in the field and his take on 21st-century physics. real critique of the field. >> host: this was a preview three titles that will be published in the fall. >> host: harold meyerson, in your upcoming book michael rose, the use of the word manifesto. >> it is an attempt to write clarity, all these issues we debate have been framed incorrectly or in a way that narrows the imaginative landscape.
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i wanted to write "demand the impossible!: a radical manifesto," i am in the majority of public opinion. i am not a barricaded minority with some weird outlier ideas which i am in the majority with issues like war and peace, mass incarceration. i wanted to take it out of the frame given to us and make it in the form of a manifesto, this is what we are fighting for. i wanted to say, let's take one example. healthcare. obamacare or the way it has always been. i reject that. i want free healthcare for all. i want to break the duality we get trapped in an the framing of issues, schools are something i am passionate about. the framing of the debate is those who want to privatize, crush the unions, measure education by a single metric at
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those who like the status quo. i reject that. i hate the status quo in public education but my answer is not to go in the direction of corporate school reform. it is a short book, a punchy book, kind of a manifesto. you take it up on the door of the executioner. >> host: what is the historical context of the word manifesto? >> it is something you put a nail in the door of the king who has been running roughshod over the people and post a manifesto on the door and it is a signal to those who want a more humane and liberated future and also a signal to the 1%, the royalty, but the people are not satisfied. the town crier goes around saying all is well and the manifesto says all is not well.
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things are out of bounds and we are on a mission to prepare. i was trying to reframe the issues, call for action. it is a summary of lots of things i have been involved in for 50 years. >> host: how can healthcare be free? >> guest: very easily. the thing you have to do is take capitalism out of healthcare. healthcare is a product and not a human right, we see not only abuses of people jacking up drug prices and so on but becomes kind of a medieval market. what they are trading it is people's lives. we can't have it. a failure example how crazy it is, turn on the tv any night and watch the ads for made up diseases. we are the only advanced
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industrial country that advertises drugs on tv. why would you allow that? why is health not something you are concerned with with a medical professional and your family? it is not something to be sold by looking at beautiful people doing beautiful fun things while you take pills. on tv and you always here at the end they read off a list of side effects, suicidal tendencies, kidney failure, tuberculosis, a no bleeding, it goes on and on. that is the first thing you have to understand. capitalism and medicine don't go well together, just like education and capitalism don't go well together. the second thing is we are the richest country in the world and we have enormous wealth. the only question we should be debating is how we want to &
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that wealth. i want to sign up with $1 trillion military spending a year, mass incarceration for surveillance state that has run amok. none of those are things i want to vote for. i went to vote for healthcare, education, guaranteed standards of living, those are the things we should be investing in and we could easily do it. you can look to canada or the scandinavian countries or any european country and see that our healthcare is less satisfying, more bureaucrats eyes to, more expensive and more inaccessible than any of those countries. >> host: what is your personal experience with medicare? >> guest: i am on medicare. medicare is a great idea, not only not fully realized but almost a joke of itself.
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the da and medicare are mildly socialistic programs with people who are in them are satisfied compared to what they had before. last year, two years ago, i was at home and a friend of mine from canada was visiting, a professor of education in ottawa. he was sitting at the table when the mail arrived all the choices i had to make in my medicare program. all the options that you sign up for. what would cost extra. he pulled out of his wallet what looked like a credit card and 2b this is my whole medical program, this one card, i doctor, mental health, everything is on this card because it symbolizes look is an example what is wrong with our healthcare system.
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i am on medicare. at the same time it is not streamlined, it is not user-friendly, makes you jump through hoops you shouldn't have to jump through. talking about healthcare i don't want to demand the impossible even though that is the name of the upcoming book. i want the healthcare program the u.s. congress has. everyone should have that healthcare program. then we could be free citizens in a free country, the political ruling class should not be better than the rest of us. if they voted in for themselves they can vote it in for the rest of us. >> host: you reject the current argument about the direction of public education. what is the new argument we
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should have? >> what our schools in a democracy required to do? schools in a free society? schools are windows into any society. if you are in and a totalitarian society the schools will reflect that blue schools in apartheid south africa reflected apartheid. wonderful, state-of-the-art schools for white students and horribly overcrowded broken down schools for the african population. that reflects apartheid. if you look backward and say in romania 30 years ago, in germany 60 years ago, those schools produced some good scientists, smart people and good athletes, they produced obedience and conformity because they reflected a society that
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demanded obedience and conformity. in a democracy you want something else. that something else is based on a fundamental belief that every human being is of incalculable value. the condition for the full development of all of us is for any of us, of each of us deepens on full development of all of us. that has implications for policy and curriculum. we do not some schools for the wealthy like here in chicago. schools like the president's children attended, that ari duncan, the secretary of education or the mayor's children attend where they have a class size of 15, curriculum based in part on the children themselves, they have a well respected unionized teacher
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corps, five libraries, a full arts program, sports. we in a democracy have to demand that is good enough for all our children with anything less than that destroys the foundations of society. what i'm arguing is we can be more utopian than we have been. we can look towards schools not just for the 1% and the wealthy but we can go beyond that and we want schools where kids emerge from the not having to recover from the experience of having learned how to think for themselves, imagine a new world. we should base our schools on democratic values of liberty, life, curiosity, imagination,
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entrepreneurship, that should be the goal of our schools, not obedience and conformity which is more relevant to an authoritarian society. >> host: in your book "demand the impossible!: a radical manifesto" you list the amount spent on a student in dc public schools, you with the costs of up private school where the obama girls attend. how do we bridge that difference? >> the first thing we have to do is agree that it is worth doing. since there is no agreement with the house that it is worth doing they continue to churn out models of schools for other people's children they would never allow for their own. i have no problem with the obamas going to tidwell, friends or ari duncan going to the university of chicago
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laboratory. but my problem is when they say other people's children don't deserve that, you can say it is not realistic, that is fine. hillary clinton's campaign for women's equality, you could argue that is not realistic or we could say racial equality isn't realistic but it is an aspirational goal. as long as we set it is an aspirational goal we know what we are working for. when i talked to arnie duncan or john king, the current secretary of education, or the superintendent, ceo in chicago, and i say what do we want? everybody should have choices. i am choosing this school. other people are choosing other schools. that is a hypocritical lie. when they say choice, they don't mean southside of chicago, we build the university of chicago laboratory school and parents can choose which they mean you
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can go to high school that is in real trouble or the school next to it that is just like it except it is a newer holding. that is no choice at all. we want is for all children where initiative, courage, critical thinking and creativity are ordered and every kid has an adequate chance at a decent life, every kid is living a decent life, finding things that connect to that matter to them. i know it is possible because i have seen it not just with kids of the elite the kids in new york city where there have been initiatives taken, profoundly great schools are happening for ordinary kids. the problem is if we don't invest in that, if we don't care about it and we see the way things are is the way things are we can never get the equity or the schools we deserve.
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>> host: could you have written this book in 1968? >> guest: the book "demand the impossible!: a radical manifesto"? interesting way to think of it but i could not have made in 1968 i was 24 years old and i am now 72 years old. >> host: when you talk about the issues you are talking about, military spending. >> guest: you are absolutely right to draw the connection. the issues that i care about, war and peace, white supremacy and racism, institutional racism, education for all, decent healthcare, environmental justice, these issues i cared about in 1968, i cared about them in 1965. what changed is the world keeps changing and we keep changing. we are all works in progress and we are driving through a vortex of swirling history in the making. i don't feel i could have written in 68 only because, not
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that i wasn't passionate about the issues. i didn't know the things i know now, didn't have the experiences i had no. one of the things i feel strongly about is i sometimes have trotted out by universities and other places as a relic of the 60s. i think the 60s is mostly miss and symbol created by the media. i don't looking at my watch in 1969 saying is almost over. nobody lives by decade. nobody watching this does. we live in the here and now and if we are smart we don't allow ourselves to become calcified and set in stone and dogmatic and stupid and say the way i was then is the way i will always be. whatever the 60s was, was prelude to what is on the agenda now. i am happy i was able to experience that moment in 1968,
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it was a magical year for me. i was 24 years old. it was magnificent. i'm thinking of thomas smith and john carlos raising their fist at the mexico city olympics being expelled from society is now we have young women in west point making the same gesture. things change but things go through change for the better. it depends on us whether they change for the better or the worse. things are always changing. another world is not only possible but it is coming. will be a better world? only if we, me and people watching and you and other citizens fight for more democracy, more transparency, more peace, more fairness, if we fight for those things we might get a better world. equally possible the world is endless war which are political leaders are promising us with greater any quality which we are seeing grow day by day. those things are possible too.
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when i say i ever work in progress, i couldn't have written it because i wasn't writing them. i was shouting. i hadn't written the book then. now i have written several. kind of evolving and say what do i want to make in the public conversation? that is a different place than 40 years ago or 50 years ago. >> host: what has changed for the better? >> guest: a lot of things have changed for the better. purple are more aware. young people are more aware than i was ever to know you were as a kid and you are younger than i am. kids today know everything. they know a lot and they are smart and savvy. i love being with them. one of the great joys of having been a teacher all my life is i get to be with young people and
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young people are always -- they put old people on trial every year. we should be put on trial. what got better? in many ways we are more aware and conscious of and clearheaded about race, more clearheaded about gender. if i had to say one thing unequivocally so much better than when we were kids it is gay-rights have broken through in ways that are breathtaking and unimaginable even ten years ago. go back 50 years when i was a kid, the idea that we would someday be sitting here saluting gay marriage, seeing marriage equality is reasonable, now the debate is ridiculous things about toilets and so on. that is huge. another thing is we elected an african-american president. the country with his history to
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elect a person who came out of that history in a position of a class that was despised is an incredible step forward. did it defeat whites the premise? absolutely not. but it was a growth against white supremacy. when i was young and possibly when you were young there was a big debate whether a black man be the quarterback of the football team. that was a debate. how could a black man lead a football team? now this man in the united states for eight years. we should be pleased. was he flawless? did he do the right things? could he have done more? absolutely. i don't look at the president of the king who can do whatever he wants. i look at elected officials as
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people who respond to the power people like you and i have and rarely use properly, the power of the neighborhoods, community, workplace, school, synagogue, mosque, church, we have power there and if we mobilize that power we can a was amazing things. and johnson didn't give us the civil rights act, the black freedom movement to that. the labor movement gave a social legislation. abraham lincoln never belonged to an abolitionist party. fire from below is what i believed in and that is what this book is about. >> host: you have been, dissident, radical, terrorist. how do you label yourself? >> dissident and radical i'm happy with, i'm not a terrorist endeavor was. a good friend passed away a few weeks ago, was also called a terrorist and radical, if you want to put me in that category i am pleased to be in that category but i don't measure up. the freedom fighters we admire,
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martin luther king, malcolm x, you can go back through history. all the great people who moved history forward were dissidents and radicals. that is where we look for inspiration. what we did in the weather underground a moment and 6000 people a week were being murdered by our government be considered extreme acts of vandalism, we destroyed property and that is not terrorism. we were not using violence as a weapon of trying to crush people or persuade people, we were issuing a noisy scream against genocide of the terrorists were the people dropping bombs on vietnam and that was our government, that is very sad chapter. you can read martin luther king
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or the great people who were living than it they will say america was involved in a terrorist war and those who tried to stop it were on the right side of history even if our tactics were sketchy and stupid. we never killed or injured anyone except our own people. i reject the label terrorist. >> host: where did the names come from? >> guest: the label terrorist? >> host: the weather underground. >> guest: the weather underground, we were part of students for democratic society. i was an elected leader, my wife was, we were engaged in huge internal battles about the direction we should take in the late 1960s. we opposed the war from the beginning and in the beginning a majority of americans supported the war and three years later a majority opposed the war. the black freedom movement did that.
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describing what they had done and seen, they turned the country away from war and yet the war drags on. there were battles which direction to take, a group of us go from manifesto and it was dense, impossible to read, reading it will drive you blind. we were trying to name the historical moment which is the responsibility of us than it now. we were trying to name the historical moment, this dense documents, we had to give her the title and one of our members whimsically came up with a line from bob dylan, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. we meant it as a joke because we were saying history is so obvious, open your eyes and you will see we are right about the world and what ought to be done so we -- debate was between that line, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the
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wind blows and the line further down, the pumps don't work because the vandals took the handles with we might have been called the vandals but history calls us the weather underground. we will take it. >> host: do students know who you are? >> guest: rarely. one of the funniest moments in 2008, i had my doctoral students at my house, we had our seminar, some political junkie turned on the debate between hillary clinton and barack obama and george stephanopoulos. and i wasn't paying much attention. what about your relationship with bill ayers. my students fell on the floor.
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he went through bill ayers did this or that and obama answered it. he has the same name as you. my other students said that is because he is the same guy. it wasn't front and center. i became more notorious, and i was an adjunct. i had no idea until after the class when somebody told them -- it is not what my teaching is about and it is not as prominent a flag on my own just as it is for folks like you who are looking at my life from the outside and see one glowing
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moment. if i were to define myself i like the word radical which means going to wait and the word dissident because in an unjustified thes are on the right side. if i were to name myself i am the proud parents of three unbelievably beautiful men and grandfather four incredible grandchildren why spend as much time with that i can who i love dearly. that is a defining aspect of my life. when i sat down to write my second memoir, public enemy, i was going back to the end of the weather underground in coming 22008 and didn't anticipate this but the book is about teaching and parenting instead of surprising. public enemy you want to write about, i told my story of those 25 years, it is the story of raising kids, something i was committed to and cared about and
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still care about. >> host: how many books have you written? 20? 30? >> guest: 30 if you include edited books, two books come out this year and another in spring. i have an edited book coming out in january called every person is a philosopher about the radical teaching life of a colleague of mine who passed away too young and another book called teaching with conscience in an imperfect world. it is an invitation. this is -- this cover includes artwork from my granddaughter. very proud of that. they were surprised because they worked on it and one morning, one afternoon they came home from school to a letter in the mail, a check from the publisher, top of the vida, they
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were illustrators on this book. >> host: you were recently adjunct at a catholic university. was a conservative university? >> guest: i don't think it was. universities almost by definition are conservative but they also allow and encouraged dissidents and a lot of points in view. they are conservative in the sense they conserve the knowledge of society and pass it on. that is part of their mission but they are also places, maybe the last places in the us where there is a public debate and dialogue about the issues. we assume in the university that every opinion is welcomed, subject to scrutiny, every opinion is to be argued about. i was at catholic universities and i see the jesuit
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universities and the very progressive, forward-looking, pope francis, what are we talking about you this is not the church i remember of cardinal spellman. this is a church that has been going for it you may remember when francis was first making noise, stephen colbert called him america's most prominent catholic. he said of course i believe pope francis, the pope is infallible but not this guy because pope francis has been a real breath of fresh air. jesuit universities encourage progressive thinking and humane values. they are not all like that i in catholic schools have led good roles in recent years. >> host: something else you talk
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about "demand the impossible!: a radical manifesto" is political correctness. we have seen incidences this past year at universities. >> we see this all the time. >> host: how do you define political correctness? >> guest: it is important not to fall into the trap of saying we love this particular candidate because he shows what he thinks, not enough to say what you think, the ku klux klan says what it thinks. that is not valuable in itself, they use it to say i am a dissident. i am a freethinker. i think black people are inferior. i know it is not politically correct. that is ridiculous. - you can examine those on context. there have been instances that are ugly and ridiculous on
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college campuses. let's take a balanced view. a professor at we in college was fired for saying we worship the same god. he was fired. a professor at dominican university has come under attack for expressing solidarity with muslim citizens being oppressed. it doesn't work one way. sometimes people say you can't say this or that was the best way to defeat what you can or can't say, shouting people down, excluding people, throwing things that people is incorrect, it should not be done. people get passionate. what we shouldn't do is have speech codes in any direction or sue people for speaking. there was a about about donald trump having a rally here. i was in the demonstration against his presence but no one
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was trying to prevent him from speaking, no one could prevent donald trump speaking with what we did at that rally that was admirable and students did it, they got together and said we don't want hate on our campus. they had a huge rally. i had a call saying get a ticket to go into the rally. i stood in line with the trump people and had great spirited discussion wearing my black lives matter movement, most of these folks had come from the suburbs for the spectacle. some of the folks had just read i'm rand and were on fire. and had great conversations was when we got into the auditorium instead of having 10,000 trump supported they had 5000 from supporters and 5000 did not
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approve, he did not come to chicago. why did he cancel? he requires an adoring crowd. we denied him the adoring crowd. he likely mirror two dissidents he can call out is discussing people and carry them out of the room but there were 5000 of us, it was disconcerting. he didn't want to give that speech. did we denied the right to speak? we did not. did we create conditions for interesting dialogue? i had great dialogue all night and it didn't turn ugly until people who stood in line for so long were unhappy and pushed some other people around but it wasn't a big deal. what was great was people were expressing themselves and on the college campus likely university of illinois chicago, that should be fully allowed. the greatest part of that rally was our lines were 10 feet apart. i was with the organizers of the
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dissidents and after a time i crossed over into the lines of we trump people. i had a ticket. that was great. we were talking back and forth. that is right in a free society. it should be encouraged, not shunned or condemned. >> host: you talk about spirited conversations was with a friendly? >> guest: there were two or three guys who were hostile. they figured out quickly who i was, somebody recognized me they knew who i was. in the hour and a half i was in line, talk to 25, 30 people, only if you were hostile. most were having fun debating the issues. one copy a tax and spend liberal. at first i objected to being called a liberal because i'm a radical. we talked about whether to close the pentagon. i wanted to close the pentagon.
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i must be more small government than them. they didn't want to close the pentagon. we had a spirited discussion about issues. most were killing each other. it was fun, there was no hostility except we were completely accommodating each other's views but it is also true that i talk to conservatives, organized conservatives all the time. how can we possibly move forward if we don't listen with the possibility of being changed and speak with the possibility of being heard? in my mind the essence of democracy is talking to strangers. you can't live in a democracy if you are living in a barricaded living room or in a tunnel. you can only be part of a democracy if you enter the public square with some goodwill and try to debate the issues. >> host: when did you use the phrase demand the impossible? >> it is an old phrase.
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at one point at the end of talk, be realistic, demand the impossible. i loved that. the impossible is what we should be arcing toward because our imaginations are stunted unless we think outside what is given to us. think about harvey mills to take one example of a great american dissident. harvey mills was thinking outside the world that was given to him. he wasn't just standing up for his own humanity. define homosexuality as ugly and disgusting, i don't buy it. i'm a human being and this is my humanity speaking up. take anyone else, jane addams, i mean all these folks, the world that is given to me is unacceptable to me and i will fight for my humanity and i will
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expand definition of who is part of humanity. martin luther king, the great leader everyone acknowledges as great, one of the things we forget is he was only an activist for 13 years. he evolved every year. he became more complicated, more in touch with what he wanted. 's dream kept expanding. by the end of his life you read his speeches in the last 20 years of his life he is talking about connecting racial justice with economic justice with global art justice or peace. that combination was incendiary but he was not accepting stay in your lane. he was called continually in the late 60s day in your lane, you know nothing about me. i am about humanity. when i see an inhumane war i
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must stand up. martin luther king with that important moral compass, we have to look at that and say we can do that too. that means expanding our imagination. demand the impossible sounds like a contradiction but if we only demand for possible, this is why hillary clinton is so boring. bernie sanders said free higher education, she said not free. he said free medical care. maybe 50-year-olds should qualify for medicare. why 50? why not 30? why don't and? the idea that you will trim your sale and talk about what is not going to have in our conversation started. i want to demand the impossible, peace, justice, joy, those are human rights. >> host: you held up that book a minute ago, teaching with conscience, talked about your
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grandchildren doing the cover. i noticed your hand at the same time. >> i got this tattoo this year a few months ago. i have a lot of tattoos but after i got this one my brother said to me you will never get a job if you have a tattoo like that which i said good, i am 72, i don't want a job. it was given to me by an artist from latin america, it was her design. she lived with us for a while while she got immigration in order. we didn't ask her to give us any money. just stayed on the third floor of our house, she was wanting to give us something so she came to breakfast one morning and decide a tattoo for my hand and my wife's hands. we decided what the heck, we are
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both in our 70s. we are still evolving, you never know. >> host: you mentioned your first tattoo. what was that? >> my first tattoo i got when i was 18 years old. i got a red star in the merchant marine, red star on my shoulder because it was early 1960s, i had just become enamored of the liberation movements around the world and said i want a red star with the communist revolution and independence around the world. i got a bright red star on my arm. like everything you think a tattoo is permanent but as you get wrinkles and things said it isn't permanent. my red star is not pink. >> host: do you consider yourself a communist? >> in some ways. of the teacher i'm opposed to labels, i think labels are
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limiting which i reject labels. i think they are wrong, morally and incorrect. if you make me label myself when it comes to economic matters i am a communist, from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. when it goes to government i'm in an artist. we can move ourselves, we don't need mayors or chiefs of police. i am in anarchist. when it comes to the first amendment i am a fundamentalist. when it comes to sexuality i am a libertarian. i can be many things. i refuse to be boxed as one thing. i am many things just as you are. one of the things as a teacher, as soon as you put a label on somebody you have limited their capacities to move and act and be in the world. i don't want to say this
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person's behavior is distorted. i want to say he has a lot of things going for him including being an incredible poet. look at the coolness of our humanity, let's not get stuck in stereotypes or flat images of each other. we are all human beings, moving through wildly diverse world for a short time, but love each other, it is better. >> host: teaching wisconsin came out this year, "demand the impossible!: a radical manifesto" comes out in september. you mentioned spring of 2017 title. >> guest: beacon, called you can't fire the bad ones and 20 other myths about teachers. you have a series of books that are myths. that is another attempt to change the frame of the discussion with the idea that all these things said about teachers, lazy, incompetent, you
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can't fire the bad ones, they are aimlessly sucking on the teeth of society. i will counter all those arguments, try to make a handbook for fighting back. >> host: long time education professor and author bill ayers has been our guest on booktv. >> you are watching the tv on c-span2, television for serious readers which is look at what is on prime time tonight. we kick off the evening at 7:00 eastern with a report on the world's water supply.
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it all happens tonight on c-span2's tv. sunday, september 4th, booktv is live michigan, with best-selling author, radio talkshow host and columnist on in-depth, like monthly offer call in program. is most recent book examines how the ten commitments are still relevant today. he writes about good and evil is extremism, racism, the holocaust and other such topics. and contemplates the pursuit of happiness in happiness is a serious problem. 2013 book still the best hope, he lays out why he believes american values are on trial in an uncertain world. he is familiar's los angeles times festival of books. >> if everybody lives by the 10
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commandments you would not be one army. that would not be one missile. he would not need any policeman, you would not have to put locks on your doors. this is all humans need. ..

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