Morning Announcements:

If I were a teacher in this school, or any Negro school, and I was dealing with Negro children, who were in my care only a few hours of every day and would then return to their homes and to the streets…I would try to teach them—I would try to make them know—that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal….I would teach him that the press he reads is not as free as it says it is…I would try to make him know that just as American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it, so is the world larger, more daring, more beautiful and more terrible, but principally larger—and that it belongs to him. I would teach him that he doesn’t have to be bound by the expediences of any given Administration, any given policy, any given time—that he has the right and the necessity to examine everything….I would suggest to him that he is living, at the moment, in an enormous province. America is not the world and if America is going to become a nation, she must find a way—and this child must help her find a way—to use the tremendous potential and tremendous energy which the child represents.

From “A Talk to Teachers” by James Baldwin. Delivered October 16th, 1963. I’m having trouble locating the name of the school. Available online here.

It’s Monday morning. Love to all of you teachers who got in early for class prep.

Dominic Barter

“My understanding is that when any of us are together for a certain period of time, a justice system starts to emerge, and if we don’t consciously choose the justice system that we’d like, the way in which we resolve our differences and disputes, then we will simply inherit the justice system in which we’ve been educated.”
– Dominic Barter

I’m getting ready to co-facilitate a workshop on restorative justice capacity building in Richmond at the CRE conference in DC next month.

a short guide to Friere

“Freire (1988) called for a pedagogy that leaves behind what he calls the ‘banking’ concept of schooling, in which students become depositories for a set knowledge imposed by teachers.  He asserted the need to replace this concept of schooling with one in which the purpose of education is to empower students for personal and social transformation; the curriculum is always connected to the concrete issues of the student’s life; critical thinking is a way of finding one’s own voice within the individual/social dialogue; critical understanding is a foundational process in meaning-making in one’s own life; and critical and creative consciousness are reunited in imaging a moral vision for a more fully human life.” – Sherry B. Shapiro

This unbelievable helpful summary of Freire was sent to me by a colleague. So simple.

—-

Pedagogy and the Politics of the Body:  A Critical Praxis.  NY: Garland, 1999.  14. Print.

“The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law setting minimum wage, overtime, and timely pay standards for both hourly and salaried workers, currently does not cover contingent faculty—regardless of how poorly or how infrequently they are paid—simply because they are teachers. In addition, eligibility for important federal programs under the Family and Medical Leave Act and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program depends in part on the number of hours worked, limiting or complicating adjuncts’ access to those benefits.”

Crisis at the Boiling Point, A Report by Adjunct Action/SEIU, November 2014.

“Книга, прочитанная тысячами людей, это тысячи разных книг.”

Андрей Тарковский, Запечатлённое Время (via russian-literature)

Acting French

“I was a boy haunted by questions: Why do the lilies close at night? Why does my father always say, “I can dig it”? And who really killed the dinosaurs? And why is my life so unlike everything I see on TV? That feeling—the not knowing, the longing for knowing, and the eventual answer—is love and youth to me. And I have always preferred libraries to classrooms because the wide open library is the ultimate venue for this theater. This culture was reinforced by my parents, and the politically conscious parents around me, and their politically conscious children. The culture was so strong that it could be regarded as a kind of social capital. It was so old that it could also be regarded as a legacy. This legacy is more responsible for my presence in these august pages than any other. That is because a good writer must ultimately be an autodidact and take a dim view of credentials. My culture failed to make me into a high-achieving student. It succeeded at making me into a writer.”

-Ta-Nehisi Coats

From Acting FrenchTheatlantic.com. Atlantic Media Group, Aug. 2014.

 

Inside/Outside Politics

“The gap between the poetry she wrote and the poetry she contained was, for Natalie, something unsolvable.”

– Shirley Jackson, from Hangsaman.

 

“Here’s the thing, for-profit colleges have manipulated a system primed for manipulation. No doubt about that. But eliminating for-profit colleges does not eliminate the conditions that cause people to seek them out.”

-Tressie McMillan Cottom, from “Debbie Downerism: John Oliver and For-Profit Colleges.”

—-

TressieMC.com. 9 Sept. 2014.

Quilting for Engineers

“In developing the course, I knew I wanted to include the idea of ‘making things.’ I think the importance of making things has been lost in education…I thought, could we use the idea of making things as a vehicle to understand the business? For a quilt project, it was obvious. Let’s see if we can make a quilt. Do we have the skills and the patience to make a quilt? Well, I think the answer is going to be yes…It’s about making things that hold up, that serve their purpose, that have good design and good construction…That’s what engineers want to do. We teach them a lot of theory, but for many of these students it’s the first time they’ve made something.”

Russell D. Jamison

Prof. Jamison is teaching quilting as part of the curriculum in the School of Engineering this semester. I would love to do a full year of FI as a class centered entirely around quilt construction. The curriculum design would be incredibly fun to play with. My students did quilt squares as part of VCU’s observance of emancipation a few semesters ago, but a full quilt as a full year’s study would be an entirely different approach.

You can read about Prof. Jamison’s class at the link below.

—-

McNeill, Brian. “Engineering Students Learn Quilt Making, Innovation.” News.VCU.edu. VCU News. 17 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014.

 

Pussy Riot at the Olympics

Members of the group, including Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who were released from jail in December, were set upon by uniformed Cossacks – who are acting as an informal police force during the games – and plainclothes security men, as they attempted to perform under a sign advertising the Olympics.

-via The Guardian.

and Tumblr Commentary, from Annihilate This Week:

OK, this is fascinating, because if you click through, there are photographs of members being unmasked and Nadya and Masha are clearly performing as part of Pussy Riot during this action. So does this mean the statement released earlier this month indicating that the two of them were no longer members of Pussy Riot was just a smokescreen to try and throw off the Russian government? Because that’s pretty fascinating. Also, note the fact that one of the members was apparently male, which also contradicts previous communiques. Finally, note the fact that police on the scene didn’t arrest anyone, which makes me think that, on some level, Pussy Riot has got the Russian government afraid to mess with them. I find that FASCINATING. (Not, of course, that it stops right wing militias from beating them up, which is far from ideal, but still, no one from Pussy Riot’s crew being in jail as the result of this incident is extremely surprising to me.)

I am pretty confused at the moment about what is going on with Pussy Riot overall, but I will say one thing: they’re pretty much the punkest band in the world. And I stand by that even if they aren’t an actual band, in the strictest sense of the term.

It seems like a mistake to interpret the open letter distancing the group from Alekhina and Tolokonnikova as having much definitive meaning. As far as I can tell the original source for the letter is this post from Pussy Riot’s live journal,* which is of limited value for two reasons: 1. the journal has been largely inactive for the last year, leaving some questions about how central it is to the group’s actual function, and 2. the fundamental makeup of Pussy Riot has always been one of decentralized egalitarianism. The idea that a few members could define, without their consent or participation, the “status” of other members seems entirely outside the group’s central values system. As an art collective Pussy Riot has always had some particularly active central figures, but I don’t think it’s right to interpret that as a closed membership system. It’s also worth noting that a smokescreen in contemporary Russia would be unnecessary and ineffective–the government hardly needs group membership as a pretense for arrest, and neither Alekhina nor Tolokonnikova have made any effort to veil their contempt for Putin or for his government. They’re just as arrest-able as independent activists as they are band members, possibly even more so.

All that said, I’m equally fascinated by this last point: they haven’t been re-arrested. This seems totally out of character for the Russian government, and I wonder if it is only a stay of arrest until after the Olympics have closed.** Prominence in the West has not been a dissuading factor for the Russian police in the past; it is very hard to see why it would be now, especially when the activists are so clearly unconcerned with avoiding it.

I’m most interested to see what they do after the Olympics, and especially with regard to prison activism. There is so much to be done to raise awareness about the Russian judicial and correctional systems; I think there is a lot they can do with their newfound global audience.

*It’s been like two years since I’ve read their live journal, and the comments are really active now. I totally learned the Russian word for “trolling,” which is троллинг. Word adoption from the internet is happening so quickly that I predict soon we will all speak Russian simply by speaking English with an accent.

**It’s also possible the amnesty legislation that allowed for their release would preclude their re-incarceration. I haven’t read whatever document Putin issued to allow their release, so who knows. Some Russian lawyer?