18 December 2009

Friday mornings posts are back! (For today, anyways)

Hey, look at me, trying to get back to my Friday morning blog habit! It's only been, what, six months? Actually would have written more yesterday, but I did not want to take my focus away from the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Modern Hooker tweeted some cool pics; SWOP East was on the internets radio.

Well, christmas is a week away. Compared to the last, oh, 10 years or so, I've been experiencing no holiday anxiety or drama at all! It's the freedom of being an out atheist, out to the three people closest to me who would be the most upset by it. I'm just assuming they were upset; we have yet to discuss it openly! In other words, I've not yet suffered any consequences for my honesty. (Being remembered in their prayers is not "consequences.")

Now for the real nitty-gritty - it's one of those "have to get this off my chest" moments.

Last April, I finished an online Paralegal Studies program through California State University, Monterey Bay - Extended Education. CSUMB EE provides the means of enrollment and certifies completion; an online educational provider actually does the teaching, via its contracted instructors. A little review of the provider/program led me to believe I would receive legitimate, and rigorous, instruction from qualified, working professionals. Upon completion of the courses, I would receive legitimate certificates indicating my completion of the legitimate educational requirements. Hard study and exams completed, and I got my certs.

So yesterday, I'm browsing the updated/revised CSUMB EE website. They now includes links to self-guided, open-ended study courses (versus the instructor-led, scheduled start-and-end-date type). I clicked through to the eLearning Center for CSU Monterey Bay, and browsed the "Personal Enrichment" courses. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a link for "Psychic Development" courses. For the few seconds it took to click and load the page, my brain sez, "Oh, you must have misread it... they must mean 'psyche'" - like it's really one of those brain exercise programs they show on PBS. Of course, it was not. They actually, really, truly meant psychic - with courses from 40 to 80 hours long, from $228 to $310 per course.

I was taken aback. Not at the existence of such courses. (Full disclosure [as she turns red]: I started but never completed a homeopathic correspondence course back in my woo-lover phase, ca. 1991. Moving on...) No, what took me, uh, aback was that the branch of the institution of higher learning that had charged me around $3,000 for purportedly legitimate legal training also offers this crap, as if it is *equally* legitimate and valuable. Like it's REAL, man. It may be just a shopping cart link on a web page, but you know, that is the same way I got to my "real" paralegal program. The actual provider of the "psychic diploma" is Stonebridge. But look again at the description page, the graphic image at the top. It says, "The eLearning Center", has the cute CSUMB Otter logo, and "California State University, Monterey Bay Extended Ed & International Programs." What does that look like? Like you're reading "real school" course descriptions; you'll be enrolling in a real school, via a real university, which CSUMB purports to be. Maybe I should have waited for the accreditation review to be completed.

I know I don't even need to go into the laughable course descriptions - we all know it's bullshit. But it's endorsed bullshit. Endorsed by the same program that certified my supposedly legitimate paralegal training. Training that California law requires. Gosh, do psychic counselors have state-mandated minimum and continuing education requirements for rune divination, tarot reading, and lithomancy? Um, no. None of those, not even the word psychic, is mentioned in the codes. Gosh, then I wonder - from whence did the requirements for each course, and the program, originate?

This left me feeling very insecure about my paralegal education. And did I mention the anger, that a real school would offer this like a legitimate continuing education opportunity? Seeking to learn more, I clicked the EE contact page. And went, "Ai-yai-yai-yai-yai!" (That's sort of verbal for *facepalm*.) All hope was abandoned. I mean really: when the State university-employed professionals and support staff have South Park avatars for their contact page photos, what can one expect in terms of legitimacy?

Now that I have spent my morning putting this post together, getting distracted by searching statutes and seeking accreditation information, of course there is much more work I need to do if I wish to "do something" about this. But hey, I'm a lifelong, self-motivated learner (that's what got me into this mess!). I'm off to learn more about this program, and its provider, from CSUMB, Stonebridge and their accrediting associations. But it's going to take more time than I have today!

To be continued...

17 December 2009

Brief Public Service Announcement - December 17

Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. The following is quoted or paraphrased from Sex Worker Outreach Project sources; links inserted by me.

December 17, 2009 marks the seventh annual International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. Events are being planned in over two dozen countries and in dozens of cities. In San Francisco, sex workers Annie Sprinkle and Kimberlee Cline will host a remembrance ritual and a solidarity stroll down Market Street. In Phoenix, Arizona, sex workers and allies are coming together for a protest rally in honor of Marcia Powell at the Arizona Department of Corrections. Ms. Powell was a prisoner of the State of Arizona who collapsed and died from heatstroke last May after being locked in an outdoor cage and ignored for four hours in 107 degree heat.

The International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was created in 2003 in response to the trial of Gary Ridgway (a.k.a. the Green River Killer) and his brutal statements about choosing prostitutes because he could “get away with it.” Many believe that the Green River Killer did in fact get away with it in the Seattle area for over 20 years because of law enforcement’s disinterest in solving the murders of prostitutes, and society’s general acceptance of violence against sex workers.

From Annie Sprinkle's press release:
"If the victims had been teachers, nurses or secretaries or other women, I suspect--as Ridgway did-- that the killer would have been caught much sooner,” says Annie Sprinkle, Ph.D. a former prostitute and adult film star of twenty years, turned sexologist and artist. “While I personally feel that I came out of the sex industry a winner, I’m aware that there are those that aren’t as lucky as I was and are real victims of bad laws, whore-phobic hate crimes, rape and worse. It’s so important to remember those people, and to let the public know we care and we need and deserve safer working conditions.

I think I have already noted that I am not a sex worker. But I am a supporter of civil and worker rights. All workers deserve the right to be safe in their work. All people deserve to be seen as PEOPLE, not as labeled objects. Modern Hooker's latest post puts it out there simply and powerfully.

As a non-sex worker, what can you do? Become aware of those things around you (and maybe in you) that contribute to the marginalization and dehumanization of sex workers - or heck, anybody else! Here are just two suggestions from SWOP's printed handout for allies:
Watch Your Language. Cracking jokes or using derogatory terms such as "hooker", "whore", "slut", or "ho" is not acceptable. While some sex workers have "taken back" these words and use them among themselves, they are usually used to demean sex workers when spoken by outsiders.

Address Your Prejudices. If you have a deep bias or underlying fear that all sex workers are bad people and/or full of diseases, then perhaps these are issues within yourself that you need to address. In fact, the majority of sex workers practice safer sex than their peers and get tested regularly.
Thanks for reading about this event, and please follow the links - SWOP et al. have great information out there, much more organized and articulate than I can express here (hence the heavy use of quoted material in this post!!).