An Honest Living
February 17, 2019 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Steven Salaita (previously), who can no longer find work in academia due to his past comments on Israel, is now a school bus driver. In a long essay on his website, he reflects on the transition.
posted by Cash4Lead (20 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
posted by k8t at 4:08 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]

I keep thinking about becoming a Metro driver in Seattle. There's a nationwide CDL shortage exacerbated by rah-rah Wall Street / Silicon Valley autonomous vehicle propaganda. Bus drivers are public servants and it is an inherently admirable profession. I guess the holdback for me is the running over people in the dark part, which, granted, doesn't happen to every transit driver.
posted by mwhybark at 4:52 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

That said, and certainly acknowledging that this is published on his own website:

Infamy never agreed with my disposition. I disliked the attention, ... After a while I felt obliged to sabotage my fame. No media appearances. No networking. No phony relationships. No orchestrated controversies. No whiny monologues about being repressed.

I can't say I clearly understand my own relationship to writing and whuffie, if you'll permit, but... isn't this a bit whiny and self-congratulatory? I mean, so what.
posted by mwhybark at 5:02 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]

I guess the holdback for me is the running over people in the dark part

For me, it's the children
posted by thelonius at 5:08 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

I can't say I clearly understand my own relationship to writing and whuffie, if you'll permit, but... isn't this a bit whiny and self-congratulatory? I mean, so what.

It seems, based on the previously link which is the only context you'll get to exactly what it was that people found so objectionable, that he had the opportunity to become another Jordan Peterson, and chose to consign his academic career to oblivion.
posted by Merus at 5:13 PM on February 17 [5 favorites]

Well, I was familiar with his trajectory and remember the incidents, up to a point I guess. you know the rule as well as I do: criticism of Israeli foreign and internal policy is not inherently anti-Semitic. So I was interested to read his narrative, which I understand to fit the rule applied. But uh, hm, yes, there may be some pulling the wool over one's own eyes at work here, which is to say, pink thinking. Anti-slack. Disappointing.
posted by mwhybark at 5:25 PM on February 17 [3 favorites]

aw c'mon, there are some gems in there

" a tall, lanky man with the gravitas of a pogo stick, he had earned his job through the sort of obsequiousness senior faculty love to confuse with merit. "
posted by lalochezia at 5:28 PM on February 17 [7 favorites]

And I don't think I follow the Jordan Peterson analogy, whom I understand to be offensive based on sexism, not anti-Semitism. I will freely admit my interest in and analysis of his career and writings has been restricted to eyerolling and FB blocks.
posted by mwhybark at 5:28 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]


My reaction exactly.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:30 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

He used the word "Zio-trolls," a slur originated by David Duke. Asshole.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:28 PM on February 17 [10 favorites]

that he had the opportunity to become another Jordan Peterson

posted by atoxyl at 6:52 PM on February 17 [1 favorite]

Man I wish we could talk about these issues. US involvement is such that we really should. But I can't help but sympathize with the people who say we should probably deal with our 'little' mainstreaming-Nazi problem before getting comfortable with histrionic criticism of Israel. But, like, if I had Palestinian family, I don't think I'd consider this guy that histrionic. It's really upsetting that we have to be on look out for Jordan Petersons-likes.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:55 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]

I mean regardless of how you feel about his comments I see zero evidence that he had the opportunity to make a career out of the controversy (which is what I take "doing a Jordan Peterson" to mean). The constitutency on the left is inadequate. The constituency on the right exists, if you are suggesting he could have gone full-on ZOG conspiracist to make a buck, but I'm not sure he could have - since if I'm not mistaken his whole deal was built on having Palestinian/Arab roots, not on looking out for the white man.
posted by atoxyl at 7:04 PM on February 17 [6 favorites]

"Trainees are paid once they reach the classroom. "

In case anybody wants to start driving school buses, in the midwest they pay you from the minute you pass the background check, because you can make much better money driving commercial with your CDL (and the midwest is ground zero for train and truck goods tranport so they are ALWAYS hiring) and the background check is much less strenuous. School bus drivers have to pass the same background check as teachers, plus an additional health exam, and that makes it very difficult to hire enough bus drivers because you can sex offend as much as you want and get paid more per hour to drive a semi truck.

(Also our transportation director was raised in Mexico and was fluent in English and Spanish and knew a smattering of words in most of the languages in our district so he could reassure lost kindergarteners in their mother tongues, and our drivers all went by their real names without a problem! And, good God, our multicultural education required of all district employees sucked A LOT LESS than what he claims to have gotten!)

It is a weird job, consisting of the morning and evening driving separated by a nothing-to-do break in the middle, with very high standards for employees since they work with children. But in blue states it's a union job with good benefits, which makes it more appealing, and a lot of districts strive to make it more appealing still, by offering bus drivers mid-day lunch duties (as cooks or servers or supervising the lunchroom, for extra pay and a second union membership) or putting bus drivers with children on their child's route (even if they wouldn't usually get that route via seniority picks, which is how routes are assigned) so they can bring their kid with them in the morning, drop them at school, and pick them up on the bus in the afternoon. And a lot of larger districts partner with local community colleges to offer midday classes that help bus drivers move to "parapro" positions, where they can work as teachers' aides. We had a lot of young women driving buses who were working towards parapro certification, and hoping to move from there into teacher training programs. (We had a driver --> parapro program and a parapro --> teacher program, called "Grow Your Own," the district paid all costs for both as long as you stayed in the district 3 years after earning the certification, and you earned a union wage with full health care the entire time, and the district would try to assign you to routes/schools with your child, if you had one.) Lots of other drivers, often immigrants but also young women, use the midday break to study for evening college classes (or US certification exams to allow them to practice their original professions). A lot of larger districts also bring in English-language tutors to the bus barn midday to help immigrant drivers improve their English. (It's always called a bus barn even though it's really a large parking lot for the buses with a small cinderblock building for the humans.)

I wish, as an anti-colonialist and anti-capitalist scholar, he'd talked more about his bus-driving cohorts -- immigrants, African Americans, young single mothers with children, retired people. It really helps to love children and have a certain amount of tolerance for high spirits! (young men often failed out of the program because they couldn't cope with noisy kids), but it's a job filled primarily by grandparents and single mothers and immigrants, who are committed to the community's children, and they deserve recognition and honor for that. It's a hard job! And it's a job that helps a lot of marginalized and colonialized people move up the social ladder, which I feel like he ought to be interested in.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:50 PM on February 17 [46 favorites]

Can I do it here? It’ll just take a second.”
“Go over there. Fill out your card. Get back in line.”

As someone who has been through this a Toronto airport many, many, many times this is absolutely standard practice and he wasn't being picked on.
posted by Damienmce at 8:20 PM on February 17 [2 favorites]

I read that passage as more of a complaint v about how the other person, who ostensibly supported him but couldn't loan him a pen, was a useless asset. Verbal support for his case was nice, but what he needed was a job.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:34 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]

"Just a crank who needs a pen" - maybe a liitle a little more true than he realizes...
posted by blue shadows at 12:11 PM on February 18

I find it interesting to have this and this up on the blue at the same time.

posted by jenfullmoon at 2:20 PM on February 18


We had a city bus driver who had been fired from a job in the State Department and done some prison time, for some kind of minor espionage or embezzlement (I'm not sure which). Eventually he got arrested for shoplifting from a grocery store. A sad story - the man had some self-destructive drives, it seems.
posted by thelonius at 2:29 PM on February 18

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