826 National is a family of seven nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, with expository and creative writing.

Our mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Each chapter offers drop-in tutoring, field trips, workshops, and in-schools programs — all free of charge — for children, classes, and schools with particular interests or particular needs.

I found a copy of an 826 NYC folio about 3 years ago at Bound on Tomas Morato. It was a simple little volume, about half an inch thick and printed on unbleached matte paper.

Since I found that folio, I haven’t stopped wanting to become part of 826 or something like it. Pepe posted an entry a few months ago about sponsoring a UP student but thinking about it, better education can’t necessarily run on greater subsidy or better facilities alone, but on humanizing experiences and the incalculable value of investing one’s own time in someone else’s future. You can give people opportunities to go to school by offering to pay for it, taking care of their books, etc. but what better way is there to inspire how important education is other than being there youself to share what it’s done for you and to pass on what you’ve learned.

I rarely ever check my madteaparty account because judging from the posts that land in my gmail inbox, there’s way too much bitching going on the UP message board. What’s been constant about the bitching is this kind of reverse condescension of public school students towards the so-called “elite” for having had all kinds of opportunities handed to them, thanks to their capacity to actually pay for their education. But one the other hand, good education isn’t always something you have to shell out for, it’s something you can find in books, in exposing yourself to people who inspire you, in finding something to be passionate about, but more importantly in finding encouragement to do what you’re capable of. Isn’t that, after all, what’s at the root of all those 8-hour days spent in the classroom?

So thinking about it, the common denominator here isn’t necessarily the money you spend but the time and encouragement you can afford to devote, which says so much about the exchange we make whenever we link arms and rally against tuition fee hikes and lowered state subsidies. These are problems, but there are also other, more sustainable solutions. Dave Eggers (forgive the fangirling) ends his TED talk with the words “you can shine that light [on them] one human interaction at a time”.

Anyway, I’m off to make some money now.

All Art is Quite Useless

I worry a lot. If I have nothing to worry about, I’ll make something to worry about. It has to be work, because if it has nothing to do with work (or time or money), I know that it’s not really a problem, so the only way to get back to worrying is to think hard enough about something trivial for it to turn into a problem.

My favorite thing to worry about is (like all of you, probably) my future; specifically what I’m going to be doing. I’m nowhere near that specific moment I’m worrying about, but it’s keeping me from wrapping my head around what I should be dealing with now: like the thesis, the bills, the grades, and all that jazz.

It was my idea to shift to clothing technology because of the wealth of lucrative opportunities it provided. I knew that if I had a diploma from this course, I would have no problem landing a job because I’d be one of 9 or 10 people graduating from this course for the year. So what worries me is landing a job in line with this course: what if I don’t want it.

I think I’ve been conditioned too much to think that the only way to progress, to validate the past four years, is to do something completely in line with my course. To do something that has nothing to do with clothes would mean I wasted the past four years, and would be comparable with the parasitic behavior I’ve been taught so carefully to look down upon.

The thing about Clothing Tech is that there is nothing open-ended about it. You have a clothing aspect and a technology aspect, and if your expertise in either of the two has been honed well enough in your college years, then you should have no problem finding a venue in which to further sharpen your skills with years and years of experience and a hefty paycheck to come with it.

I guess I’m still infatuated with the idea of an open-ended future. However, the wealth of possibilities that used to inhabit whatever dreams I had of it are slowly narrowing down to this sharp little tee that focuses on what my professors and parents want for me. I’m slowly beginning to wrap my head around the fact that maybe, just maybe I will end up in the clothing industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I like clothes. It’s the industry part that bothers me. One by one my professor has been pulling us aside and blathering on and on about job orders and machinery and productivity measures and how good it all is. But you mention machines and it just kills the romance; suddenly you’re back in that dreary reality where things aren’t really made for people; things are made for the sake of making things, because you have charts to fill up and deliveries to make. It seriously bothers me that this is what I’m going to advocate if I have to prove I’ve made myself useful and that the past four years paid off. It bothers me even more that I’m beginning to think this way.

The faculty have always stressed that clothing technology isn’t a design course, that we’re not here to make pretty things. If you consider that design is a discipline that humanizes and allows people to see how things can improve and how a status quo can be made more livable, they’re right.