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the millennial/gen-z strategy - the collected ahp
"“Tell a subset of your population that they are entitled to economic security if they play by certain rules, provide them with four years of training in critical thinking and access to a world-class library — then deny them the opportunities they were promised, while affixing an anchor of debt around their necks — and you’ve got a recipe for a revolutionary vanguard.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article by Eric Levitz, published earlier this week, with the straightforward title “This One Chart Explains Why the Kids Back Bernie.” The chart (or rather, the stats that create the chart) are indeed explanatory:
(1) The unemployment rate among recent college graduates in the U.S. is now higher than our country’s overall unemployment rate for the first time in over two decades, (2) More than 40 percent of recent college graduates are working jobs that do not traditionally require a bachelor’s degree (while one in eight are stuck in posts that pay $25,000 or less), and (3) the median income among the bottom half of college graduates is roughly 10 percent lower than it was three decades ago.

This is the millennial (and Old Gen-Zer) reality: an “anchor of student debt,” as Levitz puts it, taken out in the hopes of achieving fabled economic security. But who convinced us that college was going to solve, well, everything? In the book I’m finally finished writing on millennial burnout (actual cover coming soon, I promise) I try to work through that question: how did we come to believe in “(the best) college at any cost”? (See also: grad school at any cost).

A lot of the answer can be traced to “the education gospel,” a term coined by an economist (W. Norton Grubb) and a sociologist (Marvin Laverson) to describe the nexus of ideologies (about the future of America and democracy; about how to beat the USSR, then Japan, then China; about how the economy could replace the manufacturing jobs displaced by globalization) that undergird “college at any cost.”

Grubb and Laverson chose the word “gospel” to evoke just how ideological integrated — how naturalized — the idea had become. Of course more education is better than less education; of course you should go to college by any means necessary — even when the costs of that college outweigh the benefits, despite increasing evidence that college is not “worth” its cost for those who drop-out, or for those who come from lower-class backgrounds. They point to a study from the National Commission on the High School Senior year, released in 2001: “In the agricultural age, post-secondary college was a pipe dream for most Americans,” it declared. “In the Industrial Age, it was the birthright of only a few. By the space age it became common for many. Today, it is just common sense for all.”

The roots of this “common sense” go back to the mid-20th century, when the government decided to create the grant and loan programs that made it much, much easier for people to go to college. In 1947, 4.2% of women and 6.2% of men had a college degree; in 2018, those numbers had risen to 35.3% and 34.6% — but that’s of the entire population. A more useful statistic is the percentage of high school graduates who immediately enroll in college: which, in 2016, was 69.7%.

And here’s where the stats become really telling. For the group of students who started college — any type of college — in 2011, only 56.9% had finished their degree by 2017. Around 70% of graduates have student debt of some sort; in 2016, the average debt load was $37,172. That’s a huge amount of debt, especially given the fact that it’s $20,000 more than it was in 2003.

But that’s the people who have degrees. If you reverse the completion stat above, you realize that 43.1% of students who started college in 2011 had not finished their degree in six years. These are students who believed that college could be a pathway towards success, of stability, or their dream job — but couldn’t make it work. There are so many reasons why people are forced (or choose) to drop out of school, and some do find success and stability because they quit school. But they often have nearly as much debt as those with a degree but none of the credentials to put on their resumes — which helps explain why they’re three times as likely to default on their loans.

The institution that pisses me off the most in this scenario are for-profit colleges, where only 23% of students graduate, and 48% of those who do leave with more than $40,000 in debt. A whopping 52% of student loan defaults come from graduates of for-profit colleges. If you don’t know about the general scamminess and ethical grossness of the for-profit college, I can’t recommend Tressie McMillan Cottom’s Lower Ed enough (you can buy it here, and read an excerpt here).

But if college is theoretically an “equality machine,” then for-profit colleges are inequality machine: they target first generation students, they disproportionately enroll (and fuck over) students of color, they charge massive amounts of money for degrees and education that could be obtained for far less at local community colleges, they jack up their price to the maximum allotted under loan guidelines, and they get away with it because 1) Betsy DeVos and 2) millennials have been so inculcated with the education gospel that, again, we believe that no matter how much it costs, how difficult it will be to complete a degree, how tight the market might be in the field we’re pursuing, the degree itself will be worth it.

To be clear: people with college degrees make more, statistically speaking, than people without college degrees. But the “equality” component of the machine is broken. There’s a massive gap between the promises that floated around that degree — and that includes graduate degrees — and the lived post-degree experience. We’re not talking about liberal arts graduates ski-bumming until they decide they’re ready for that six-figure job. We’re talking about those 40% of graduates working jobs that don’t even require a college degree, and the one in eight working jobs that pay $25,000 or less.

I’ve talked to and heard from hundreds of millennials in this position. If they have loans, they’re either on income-based repayment (and they’re convinced that they’ll be paying them off forever), in default (with reverberations and shame across the rest of their lives), or in deferment (amassing huge amounts of interest). They feel stupid and ashamed that they took out as much money as they did, or pissed that so many forces in their lives — parents, guidance counselors, professors, culture, peers — assured them that it would all work out, if they could just get that degree. It’s hard to convey just how difficult and devastating it is to pay down a broken dream every single month for the rest of your life.

I’ve written extensively about student loans, and the broken state of the student loan forgiveness program, here. That piece was the first thing I wrote after the original millennial burnout article, because it was the most tangible expression of the gap between what millennials were told their future would look like, if only they worked hard enough, and the lived, post-Recession reality. To understand millennial burnout, you can’t just understand the amount of student loans we’re carrying; you have to understand what they feel like. And if and when you understand that, it’s incredibly straightforward to see why so many support Sanders and Warren.

Back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, middle-class boomers and young Gen-Xers were faced with the reality that their parents’ broadly stable middle-class existence would not necessarily pass down to them. The so-called Golden Age of American Capitalism had lasted just long enough that those who grew up under it could believe that it might last forever. They responded to the decline in stable middle class jobs in a number of ways: many of them, too, went to college, but because public institution funding had yet to be gutted by tax cuts, it cost much, much, much less. (Cue: your boomer uncle who loves to tell you he worked his way through college and graduated without loans).

But as Barbara Ehrenreich persuasively argues in Fear of Falling, they responded by turning decisively inward: how can I do whatever is possible to help me and mine? You could work tirelessly at cutthroat, soulless jobs (investment banking!) no matter the cost (to yourself, to your family, to the environment, to society), adopting what Ehrenreich calls “the yuppie strategy.” Or you could vote for politicians who promised to lower your taxes, make your life better, regardless of the effects on those who didn’t act and spend and look like you. (See: the widespread embrace of Reaganism). As Levitz points out, in 1984, 61% of voters under 25 voted for Reagan. Conservativism — think Michael J. Fox as Alex Keaton from Family Ties — was, I dunno, cool? Not actually cool, but very much mainstream.

The strategy makes “sense,” in so far as it was motivated by self-preservation and fear. And a whole lot of millennials were raised by parents who lived through, if not fully embraced, the guiding ideologies of that period. But it’s fascinating to watch as millennials and Gen-Z — — faced not just with the fear of falling, but the widespread reality — embrace a profoundly different one."
genz  millennials  generations  geny  education  highered  highereducation  debt  studentdebt  boomers  wnortongrubb  ericlevitz  unemployment  employment  wages  loans  unschooling  deschooling  educationgospel  marvinlaverson  ussr  coldwar  japan  china  highschool  inequality  commonsense  investment  parenting  betsydevos  nonprofits  nonprofit  forprofits  capitalism  berniesanders  elizabethwarren  barbaraehrenreich  ronaldreagan  reaganism  conservatism  familyties  alexkeaton  michaeljfox  tressiemcmillancottom  race  generationz  generationy 
20 hours ago by robertogreco
Class Carpetbagger | Corey Pein
“When he speaks about education and opportunity, Pete reminds me of my high school guidance counselor. That guy was a jerk.”



“But my comrades on the “housekeeping” crew did not need more paperwork, or whatever else Pete is selling. They needed free health care, housing subsidies, and a labor union.”



“Like so many bourgeois strivers, Pete takes up space wherever he goes.”



“The most delicious thing about Pete’s campaign is that, possibly for the first time in his life, his privileged class position is a liability, not an asset.”



“can someone explain to me why rich kids feel so gratuitously entitled to tell the working class how to live? Go ahead. I’ll wait. I really want to hear this explanation, especially from Pete, but any rich kid will do.”



“Clinton’s ability to speak authentically about his underclass upbringing is part of why his charisma clicked with so many Americans. And yet “the boy from Hope” was, in the end, a class traitor. I’d like to think Bill might have turned out better without the Rhodes.”



“Pete is no Bill. He has no story to tell; he has studiously collected anecdotes. He is an unapologetic conservative in that he doesn’t think class matters at all, except to the extent that he can exploit it.”



“His pitch is based on a phony heartland appeal. Nobody’s falling for it, except people who are even more out of touch than he is with working-class struggle.”



“When I look at Pete, I see the face of America’s rotten sham meritocracy, and I know I am not alone.”
petebuttigieg  2020  us  capitalism  equality  politics  coreypein  elections  meritocracy  billclinton  class  poverty  entitlement  bourgeoisie  education  elitism  ambition 
6 days ago by robertogreco
(Self-Directed) Education is a Political Act | Alliance for Self-Directed Education
“With that said, I created the following diagram as a visual aid to help understand the many various SDE methods at work, how they generally are similar and different, how their sense of “freedom” is ideologically politicized, and how they are allied as trust based models in contrast with fear based counterparts in the top section of the diagram. This diagram seeks not to pigeonhole any one model into a political ideology but rather to provide a broad understanding of where each model lies on a spectrum of definitions and methodologies of “freedom” and education as a political act.

[image: “A chart showing fear based and trust based models of education"]

Since freedom is rooted and established in trust, the act of stripping away that freedom starts with fear and control. Therefore, I have simply distinguished these two overarching philosophies into “Fear Based” and “Trust Based” categories. The fear based models of education are out of scope for this article (for more on that, start with this excellent article). However, I want to briefly touch upon why “Democratic Schools” are listed under this category. Note that “Free Schools” are listed under the trust based model; while most Free Schools are also democratic, it is possible to have democratic decision-making in fear based schools (e.g. “Vote on whether we’re studying the Nile or the Pyramids first…”) This distinction is not always clear and earlier in my research caused me a lot of confusion, especially in my travels to Europe where I learned that visiting a “democratic” school did not necessarily mean I could expect the school to be self-directed as well. It is also important to note that often (but not always) this did not mean the educators there were not interested in SDE. Rather, they were often working constrained by laws that make SDE illegal in countries like Greece, Turkey and Germany. Meanwhile, in the United States the adoption of democratic education within conventional schools can also be seen in classroom meeting trends and in the work of organizations like the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).

On the “trust based” side of the diagram, most notable might be that I have placed unschooling under all three political ideologies. Unschooling is certainly the most difficult SDE methodology to pin down, since it is practiced for so many different reasons and in so many different ways. I broke it down into three general sub-groups:

- Self-Governed Unschoolers under the Libertarian label are generally those unschoolers looking for independence from institutionalization. These are families who are focused on the liberation of their learners. While they might be a part of some collective or taking classes in various places, ultimately their focus is their own freedom and learning, not the welfare of any collective or group they may temporarily be a part of.

- Decolonizing Unschoolers is best described by Zakiyya Ismail, who simply wrote, “It is about stepping out of an oppressive system and into a liberatory one.”20 For these unschoolers, this is not just about independence of one’s own learning; it is also about dismantling the oppressive system of conventional schooling in order to create an equitable world, and so, this model fits well under the Anarchism label.

- Communal Unschoolers is admittedly a term I made up for clarification and distinction in this diagram. However, this is a very real type of unschooling, a type that I run across often in my own work with unschoolers. Communal Unschoolers are families who unschool as a collective in order to make it possible to do so for each individual family. There’s a reliance on each other and a buy-in in order for each learner to be able to unschool. Therefore, this model fits best under the label of Socialism.

As for schools and centers, I’ve placed Sudbury Schools and Liberated Learners under the Libertarian umbrella. Liberated Learners are listed here for the same previously mentioned reason that Self-Governed Unschoolers are in this category. And while Sudbury Schools are communities, their standard of no adult offerings and policy of barring parent involvement align with the notion of learning based primarily on the individual’s needs. Their School Meeting and Judicial Committee structures reflect the Libertarian idea that governance is necessary but should be made as small as is necessary to maintain autonomy.

I have listed Free Schools and Summerhill on the other end of the spectrum, under the Socialist label. While individual freedom is certainly valued highly in these schools, Summerhill and Free Schools generally emphasize being a collective reliant on communal equity. In contrast to Sudbury Schools, these schools generally have communal offerings (or classes in the case of Summerhill) and often rely on parent involvement in the community (or the adult “House Parents” and older youth “Beddies” who foster a sense of “family” at Summerhill, which is a boarding school). There is a real sense that a culture needs to be developed for a healthy learning atmosphere to thrive (much like the nineteenth century SDE Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi’s premise that an “emotionally secure environment” needs to be present for “successful learning” to take place).

Judith Suissa compares Summerhill to the third category listed in the diagram, anarchism, when she writes, “What Neill was really after was an appreciation of freedom for its own sake– a far cry from the social anarchists, who viewed freedom… as an inherent aspect of creating a society based on mutual aid, socio-economic equality and cooperation.”22 From this reasoning, I have placed in the anarchistic category Agile Learning Centers, as well as the more obvious Free Skools and Modern Schools (which directly declare/d themselves anarchistic). Agile Learning Centers were a direct reaction to the Free School model, retooling and reframing Free School practices for meetings, conflict resolution, and so on. These consent driven structures and nonhierarchical systems align with anarchist ideologies. Additionally, the ALC Network’s intentional dedication to social justice and equity separate it from the other SDE models and also fall under the definition of anarchistic values.

With all of this said, it is important to remember that each individual and each center is different, and that such diagrams are only useful as a general guide to understanding the methodologies. At the same time, this comparison of SDE models to political ideologies is also an important reminder that, while one does not need to support radical politics to believe in SDE, a young person practicing Self-Directed Education will experience radical freedom and trust based ideologies, and those experiences will influence the development of their framing of the world. The same is also true of children being raised in conventional fear based environments, different as the politically ideological implications may themselves be.

Articulating these SDE model differences while holding as foundational their trust based alliance is a practice intended to establish a greater bond. With this understanding, all of us in this world of Self-Directed Education can learn more from one another. During this time period where partisanship is dividing humanity so severely, it is important to remember our similarities and to remember that all individuals, regardless of political beliefs or educational beliefs or any other beliefs that diversify humanity, all deserve to be approached with respect and kindness. I am proud to be in alliance with other members of this trust based Self-Directed Education movement, and I celebrate our many flavors and methods.”
alexanderkhost  via:derek  2020  politics  self-directed  self-directedlearning  freeschools  summerhill  sudbury  sudburyschools  education  schools  schooling  unschooling  deschooling  anarchism  anarchy  socialism  individualism  society  radicalism  children  modernschools  autonomy  mutualaid  freedom  liberation  community  communities  progressive  sfsh  lcproject  tcsnmy  libertarianism  doctrine  authority  authoritarianism  conservatism  moderatism  moderation  permissiveness  liberalism  publicschools  conventionalschools  agilelearningcenters  waldorf  waldorfschools  montessori  montessorischools  charterschools  trust  fear  parenting  schooliness  indoctrination  judithsuissa  asneill 
6 days ago by robertogreco
diana / on Twitter: "This is very small but: when I was the dept receptionist, Brathwaite would always stop and thank me for whatever small task I had done, & give me copies of his books, & explain that education could not function on bureaucratic
"This is very small but: when I was the dept receptionist, Brathwaite would always stop and thank me for whatever small task I had done, & give me copies of his books, & explain that education could not function on bureaucratic time, & just generally be the most open-hearted prof"
kamaubrathwaite  time  learning  howwelearn  education  academia  highereducation  highered  deschooling  undercommons  bureaucracy  srg  process 
13 days ago by robertogreco
The First Rainbow Coalition | Season 21 Episode 6 | Independent Lens | PBS
"In 1969, the Chicago Black Panther Party formed alliances across ethnic and racial lines with other community-based movements in the city, including Latino group the Young Lords and southern whites the Young Patriots. Banding together in one of postwar America's most segregated cities to confront issues like police brutality and substandard housing, they called themselves the Rainbow Coalition."
rainbowcoalition  blackpanthers  blackpantherparty  1968  1969  chicago  patriotism  us  history  race  ethnicity  younglords  youngpatriots  segregation  policebrutality  housing  resistance  freedom  liberation  solidarity  education  inequality  urbanrenewal  urbanism  socialjustice  socialism  join  risingupangry  fredhampton  bobbylee  self-defense  revolution  organizing  cointelpro  oppression  fascism  exploitation 
20 days ago by robertogreco
ZigZag ALC
“We are a transformative Agile Learning community of diverse people of all ages in Asheville, NC. We practice Self-Directed Education, empathy-based communication, consent, and liberation. Liberation means freeing ourselves and our children from oppressive systems and schoolish mindsets of perfection, conformity, compliance, and zero sum games. We grow, discover, and celebrate our kids and ourselves exactly as we are. 

Agile Learning at its core is about giving kids genuine choice about how to spend their time throughout their day, and this self-direction works best when done with intention and as part of a vibrant community. Facilitators and mentors offer classes, projects, activities, and weekly field trips based on the interests of the kids enrolled. We believe in the importance of play, nature, community, intention-setting, and trust-centered decision making. We practice power-with instead of power-over, which means that all of our needs matter, kids and grownups alike. 

We are an alternative to public/private schools for kids ages 3-13. We want to help families that never intended to pull their kids out of school, but find their kid is stressed, losing their curiosity, being bullied, etc., and needs help finding another way forward. We can help with that transition and be a resource in creating an education that is more meaningful and fun. ​

We are also a resource for unschoolers and homeschoolers already happy and comfortable with their education and just looking for another wonderful opportunity to enrich their lives.”

[via: “Unschooled Asheville: A day in the life of homeschooling's boldest movement”
https://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2020/01/22/asheville-unschooling-homeschool-zig-zag-gains-popularity/4419234002/ ]
unschooling  agilelearningcenters  self-directed  self-directedlearning  education  deschooling  asheville  northcarolina  homeschool  lcproject  openstudioproject  agilelearning  learning  children 
21 days ago by robertogreco
Eric Mustin on Twitter: "Quick thread: I think what everyone is missing about Lambda School / bootcamps is this: they are first and foremost Recruiting Companies before they’re an educational institution. They get paid on placement. It’s what drives a
"Quick thread: I think what everyone is missing about Lambda School / bootcamps is this:

they are first and foremost Recruiting Companies before they’re an educational institution. They get paid on placement. It’s what drives all the curriculum hyperbole+outcomes sleight of hand

They’re trying to sell to two groups of people:

1. the *partner* tech companies who either explicitly or implicitly pay for their placement services

or

2. the really good applicants that want to move into SWE and feel confident about their outcomes chances

This is why so many students feel abused by bootcamps, if they aren’t in the top X% of their class or seen as having good placement potential, the schools can just stop allocating them resources, abuse/force them out so they aren’t considered a “graduate”, then fudge the outcomes

The clusterfuck of bootcamps unable to formalize consensus on how to represent outcomes stats speaks volumes. These ppl speaking out about feeling ripped off aren’t *all lying* , understaffing forces LS+others to be stingy with who gets allocated instructional resources

It’s not that bootcamps are maliciously trying to rip off students, but bc *everything* is driven by the recruiting side of the company , it makes them push the envelope everywhere else, overpromising instructional quality + results to entice good applicants and good partner co’s

The best applicants will be *fine* regardless. They have good resumes and , having quit jobs and already bet on being able to level up fast enough as a SWE, will just learn autodidactically. They’ll still have to play life on hard mode for the next few years to stay employed tho.

Meanwhile, partner co’s will churn pretty quickly after cherry picking 1 or 2 good hires (Of course the bootcamp will still tout the logo), + the bottom 80% of students will feel swindled and have lost income from not working. AND, upfront cost bootcamps rarely give a full refund

This is the bs that drives Austen’s “forgetting the denominator” tweet on outcomes the other day, and having a report “in the next 6 months”. These co’s are trying to value at *billions* of $ and you think they can’t calc the outcomes math for a few hundred entry lvl SWE? Cmon

They just can’t do it in a way that paints them well, so they fudge it, and they’re gonna kick the can on any real moderation of the misinformation about their value add and all that Joseph Smith style proselytizing, all for a “school” thats really just curated udemy + recruiters"
ericmusin  coding  bootcamps  education  2020  lambdaschool  money  capitalism  recruiting  codingbootcamps  instruction  via:audreywatters 
21 days ago by robertogreco
Pedagogy, Otherwise: the Reader | Ecoversities
https://ecoversities.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Pedagogy-Otherwise-Reader.pdf
https://www.are.na/block/5983033

“Pedagogy, Otherwise: the Reader was assembled in the context of /and in conversation with the Eco-versities Alliance, a trans-local community of learning practitioners from around the world committed to cultivate and reclaim knowledges, relationships and imaginations. Most of the texts appeared originally in the series Pedagogy, Otherwise, as part of the line of inquiry Learning, Education and Pedagogy on ArtsEverywhere.ca, an online platform for artistic experimentation and exploration of the fault lines of modernity.

Editor Alessandra Pomarico, member of the Ecoversities Alliance and publication group, hoped through this compilaion, to give voice to “a wide range of perspectives, explore a diversity of ways of knowing, attempting to decolonize the structure of education, contesting universal dominant frames, and focusing on pedagogy as politics. Artistic perspectives, convivial/militant research, theoretical discourses, as well as praxis of both affects and cognition, embodied and land-based practices – these are some of the tools and processes through which we witness today how learning communities are unfolding in different contexts, reclaiming autonomous yet interconnected zones of knowledge, even in the most diring geopolitical conditions”.”
via:todrobbins  ecoversities  unschooling  deschooling  education  community  learning  communities  lcproject  openstudioproject  altgdp  alternative  schools  schooling  experientiallearning  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  decolonization  emplacement  place  solidarity  inquiry  emergence  emergentcurriculum  knowledge  unlearning  howwelearn  howweteach  culture  intercultural  ecology  consciousness 
25 days ago by robertogreco
Ecoversities | reclaiming knowledges, relationships and imaginations
"ecoversities: learners and communities reclaiming diverse knowledges, relationships and imaginations to design new approaches to higher education.

RE-CONNECTING

RE-IMAGINING

RE-GENERATING

What might the university look like if it were at the service of our diverse ecologies, cultures, economies, spiritualities and Life within our planetary home?

our vision

The Ecoversities Alliance is committed to radically re-imagining higher education to cultivate human and ecological flourishing. Ecoversities seek to transform the unsustainable and unjust economic, political and social systems/mindsets that dominate the planet.

our hope

Supporting learners and communities around the world to reclaim their own processes of un/learning, knowledge co-creation and sharing, and community building.

Inspiring, nourishing, connecting and giving visibility to diverse eco-versities initiatives around the world.

Building solidarities, collective inquiries, inter-cultural dialogue and new experiments in higher education.

Nurturing an ecology of knowledges, radical pedagogies and learning commons which expands human consciousness and cultural and ecological regeneration.
our actions

The Ecoversities Alliance is a trans-local community of over 100 transformative learning spaces from around the world who have been meeting and working together since 2015 through international and regional gatherings, learning exchanges, campaigns, workshops, learning journeys, film festivals and publications.

our values and orientations:

Emergence
An invitation to the unknown, allowing diverse ways of being, knowing, doing, relating to emerge.

Inquiry in Solidarity
An invitation to be authentic and critically engaged with co-learners, whilst invoking self-reflection, kindness, and compassion to support others in their own inquiries and discoveries.

Experiential Learning
Learning with our senses, stories, spirits, hearts, hands, heads and homes in order to find ways we are interconnected, and entangled in each other’s struggles and dreams.

Emplacement
An invitation to reconnect with and learn from the land, the place and the non-human. To engage in and promote deep localization.

De-colonising
An invitation to address, explore and unlearn the dimensions of oppression, power, and privilege that are part of our own lives, relations, tools, structures, histories and beliefs.

Inter(trans)cultural Dialogue
An invitation to learn in-between cultures, epistemologies, cosmologies, and to learning ways we might not recognize or have experienced before. To learn from/ within/ beyond diversity.

ecoversities
Here you will find an ecosystem of communities and organizations that are re-imagining the idea of the university and the purpose of higher education."
via:todrobbins  education  unschooling  deschooling  community  learning  communities  lcproject  openstudioproject  altgdp  alternative  schools  schooling  experientiallearning  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  decolonization  emplacement  place  solidarity  inquiry  emergence  emergentcurriculum  knowledge  unlearning  howwelearn  howweteach  culture  intercultural  ecology  consciousness  ecoversities 
25 days ago by robertogreco
The Secret Grace of Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers - Mn Artists
“Thanks to Alec Soth and the team of Little Brown Mushroom, a group of international artists and writers find themselves immersed in finding the stories hiding in plain sight within the marvelous mundanities of the Midwest.

“ALL OF THIS COULD JUST BE A MASSIVE FAILURE, one never knows,” Alec Soth shrugs, his slim frame curled into a Thinker pose as he rests in a swivel chair in the converted garage space that serves as his studio and office. He’s speaking about the Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers, a recent arts workshop held at Little Brown Mushroom, the Saint Paul publishing house Soth co-founded. His “take it as it comes” attitude is fitting to the project, as Soth and his fellow instructors envisioned the camp as something of a repudiation of the glut of tightly scheduled, for-profit workshops that dominate the photography landscape.

As an internationally celebrated photographer, Soth gets invited to participate in those workshops all the time. “I’ve always avoided them for a variety of reasons,” he says, running a hand over his dark, close-cropped beard. “If it’s somewhere else, I don’t want to just fly off and go do a thing in Cuba or wherever. It always sounds exotic, but then that’s also problematic. They tend to be very expensive for the participants so that it can make money. And that’s fine, but it attracts dentists.”

Affordability and accessibility have always been cornerstones of the Little Brown Mushroom philosophy – their photo essay books generally retail for less than $20, with pricier special editions available for serious collectors. The idea is to produce high-quality artwork that stays in the price range of students, casual arts patrons and other folks who can’t or won’t pony up for the usual high-end art books. Not long ago, it dawned on Soth that the same ethos could be applied to those big-ticket workshops.

“I thought, I keep getting asked to do these workshops, but what if I did a workshop here? Because I’m hungry to be involved in education in some way, but I also want to do it on my own terms,” Soth explains. Once the seed was planted, the framework came together quickly: Little Brown Mushroom would invite artists to apply for a free, five-day workshop based in the cozily industrial confines of the company’s Saint Paul offices. Making the workshop cost-free was hugely important, not just because it kept things affordable for the applicants, but also because it provided Soth and his collaborators with a little more room to move. “It relieves some of the burden of having to fulfill a specific expectation,” Soth says. “It’s free to be more experimental. Also, it allowed us to cherry-pick really interesting applications. We got a ton of applications, really fascinating ones. We could’ve done it 20 times over. The only negative to this whole process so far has been saying no to people with these wonderful applications.”

That freedom also allowed the Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers to focus on perhaps the stickiest aspect of the Little Brown Mushroom mission: exploring the possibilities of photo-centric narratives. In a side room the staff refers to as “The Cave” stands Soth’s sizable collection of photography books. The library ranges from well-known classics to recent obscurities, but in Soth’s eyes the real jewels are a smattering of books that attempt to wed photos to some sort of overarching narrative. There are children’s books, Mexican fotonovelas, even a few more adult-oriented artistic efforts like Daniel Seymour’s A Loud Song. Soth has long explored the intersection of storytelling and photography in his own work, most recently in his series of LBM Dispatch collaborations with author and Little Brown Mushroom team member Brad Zellar.

“The thing about Little Brown Mushroom is it’s always a combination of text and image,” Soth says. “We use a storybook, like Little Golden Books, as sort of a template for visual storytelling. It’s really storytelling at its most basic form. And then something like these “dispatches,” that’s more modeled after newspaper journalism, but also something like Life photo essays. It’s kind of a dated thing, but Dorthea Lange and Paul Taylor collaborated, Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell, these writer-photographer collaborations. It’s kind of a bygone era.”

Despite Soth’s fascination with and enthusiasm for narrative photography, he’s not convinced that it’s a particularly effective format. “Truthfully,” he says, “I don’t think they go together very well, images and text. I think they fight each other. But I feel hungry for it. As an artist, [this workshop] is a way for me to play around and experiment with other artists in terms of, ‘what are the possibilities of this?’”

With that loose mission statement in hand, Soth and the Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers staff – Zellar, photographers Carrie Thompson and Ethan Jones, designer Hans Seeger, visual artist Jason Polan and filmmaker Galen Fletcher – sorted through the more than 400 applications and picked out 15 attendees from all around the world. The final roster included artists from corners as far-flung as Germany and Venezuela, with just one Minnesotan in the mix. (In the interest of getting as diverse a selection of perspectives as possible, the staff intentionally decided to limit the locals and only consider applicants with whose work they were unfamiliar.)

The campers roll in on Tuesday with little idea of what to expect from the undertaking. Much of their trepidation has to do with working in teams. “Collaboration is kind of a new thing for me,” says Jeff Barnett-Winsby, a photographer from New York. “But it’s definitely something that I’ve been enjoying. I think a lot of photographers [are concerned that], because our work is so representational, it’s also easily replicated or at least emulated. It makes for a really insecure artist. Those artists are notoriously bad at collaborating, because you have to give up control and authorship. I think we did a really great job – but maybe I’m just talking about me.”

When we speak, before camp starts, Soth admits that he himself has only a basic idea of how the week will unfold. “We’re going to pair people off for the first day to do little collaborative projects. Ideally we’ll get as much of a mix of mediums between those people as possible,” Soth explains. “They go out and they have to generate some sort of story. It can be a very simple thing… It’s like a children’s book, the primal form of storytelling. Like, ‘I went to Hawaii. I saw the dolphin.’ Except in a more sophisticated way: ‘I went to Menards. I photographed someone in a wedding dress.’”

He’s not kidding about Menards, either. Exploring the untapped wonders of Saint Paul, especially the nearby Saint Anthony and Midway neighborhoods, is very much a part of the workshop agenda. William Faulkner once said that a key to his success as a novelist was the realization that “my own little postage stamp of soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it.” Soth clearly abides by a similar philosophy.

“They’re going out in this vicinity,” he says. “A big belief of mine is that I don’t have to go to Cuba to do a photo workshop, or to see the exotic people. It’s exotic here. It’s interesting. Menards is very interesting. One can do a photo workshop here as well as anywhere else. In some ways it helps to avoid some of the clichés.”

And so it is that a group of international artists and writers find themselves checking in at Al’s Diner in Dinkytown, wandering the woods outside of the city and otherwise immersed in the marvelous mundanities of the Midwest. The unstructured nature of the undertaking foments some peculiar – and, it seems, welcome – digressions. Easter Trouble Press founder Jim Reed, a fan of Soth’s work who traveled from Frankfort, Germany to take part in the camp, finds himself inspired to experiment with William Eggleston’s “democratic camera” concept during the group’s trip to the forest. “I decided I’m going to drink beer and get intoxicated, in the spirit of Eggleston, and go around and sit and stare at objects, try to give objects their full worth the way that Eggleston gave objects their full worth,” Reed says. He eventually evolves that idea into a sort of conceptual Easter egg hunt for the other campers.

There are probably a lot of arts workshops where that sort of thing wouldn’t fly, but as far as Soth is concerned, anything that helps an artist tap into a vein of storytelling is fair game. “Part of the name, the whole ‘Socially Awkward’ thing, is that photographers and writers are generally more reclusive people. Certainly I was. That’s part of my reason for doing it. But I am interested in storytelling as communication. Wouldn’t it be interesting just to experiment with this form of presenting material in a slideshow? And in part it comes from personal experience, because I’ve been forced into this situation. I’m not saying I’m good at it at all. I give the standard slideshow, like an artist’s lecture. But I thought there was potential here for something.”

From the look of things around the Little Brown Mushroom offices on Wednesday evening, after the second full day of workshops, the campers are finding the challenge daunting but are eager to rise to it. A dimly lit back room hums with quiet energy as duos hunch over MacBooks and try to pull loose narratives out of their day’s outing in the forest. Soth and some Little Brown Mushroom staffers mill about up front, chatting about upcoming projects and allowing the artists to go well over their allotted work time.

It’s pushing on past 8 pm when the instructors finally give the “pencils down” call. The campers have prepared a series of slideshows in which they’ve tied their photos together with some … [more]
2013  irabooker  campforsociallyawkwardstorytellers  aprildobbins  alecsoth  littlebrownmushroom  storytelling  camp  conferences  creativity  lcproject  openstudioproject  walkerartcenter  minnesota  books  publishing  selfpublishing  visual  pop-ups  writing  photography  bradzellar  slideshows  stories  socialmedia  tarawray  wenxinzhang  serendipity  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling  education  curriculum  summerinwintercamp  ephemeral  ephemeralinstitutions  ephemerality  hansseeger  delaneyallen  horatiobaltz  jeffbarnett-winsby  julianbleecker  elainebleakney  bradfarwell  adamforrester  colinmatthes  buckymiller  dianarangel  jimreed  caitlinwarner  classideas  photobooks  ncmideas  carriethompson  galenfletcher  ethanjones  jasonpollan  projectideas  stpaul  self-publishing  adventure  fun  unconferences  experientialeducation  design  conferenceideas  camps  learning  collaboration  experientiallearning 
26 days ago by robertogreco
Popsicle #27: LBM Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers « Little Brown Mushroom
“The other day my daughter and I had a conversation about the event I was hosting at my studio, The Camp For Socially Awkward Storytellers. While she agreed that I’m something of an expert on social-awkwardness, she disputed the notion that I’m a storyteller. “You take pictures and put them into books,” she said, “but they aren’t really stories.”

Her words bruised a bit, but deep down I knew she was right. I know very little about storytelling. If anything, the camp was an elaborate con to get fifteen exceptional artists from around the world to travel to Minnesota to teach me about storytelling. Man, did it work. In five short days I learned more about the possibilities of visual storytelling than I’d probably learn in a year of grad school. But there was another lesson of equal importance: the value of having real encounters with real people in the real world.

I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in digital culture. More and more of my daily life is lived in a virtual space behind the screen of my computer. On Saturday night, this virtual space was turned inside out. Fifteen flesh and blood artists projected images onto a screen in front of a flesh and blood audience. The result was, in a word, alive.

In the last few weeks I’ve expanded my “social network” to include Instagram. As expected, I quickly became caught up in the Pavlovian ego-boost of the ‘like’ count. After Saturday night, I understand why screen actors return to the stage. The sound of people laughing and clapping means more than a million ‘likes.’

For the fourth time in 27 posts, George Saunders:
I began to understand art as a kind of black box the reader enters. He enters in one state of mind and exits in another… The writer… can put whatever he wants in there. What’s important is that something undeniable and nontrivial happens to the reader between entry and exit… The black box is meant to change us.

A ‘like’ is not a change. Nor is a thousand ‘likes.’ I believe virtual social networks have great creative potential, but it is almost impossible to quantify. Sometimes you just need to climb into the black box with other people.

I’m so grateful to everyone who climbed into that box with me last week. Along with thanking the Soap Factory and their amazing audience, I want to individually thank the camp participants:

Wenxin Zhang, Tara Wray, Caitlin Warner, Jim Reed, Diana Rangel, Bucky Miller, Colin Matthes, Adam Forrester, Brad Farwell, April Dobbins, Elaine Bleakney, Julian Bleecker, Jeff Barnett-Winsby, Horatio Baltz, Delaney Allen.

The visiting artists: Brian Beatty, David Sollie, Vince Leo.

Our interns: Yara Van der Velden, Kayla Huett, Phil Bologna.

And the LBM team: Brad Zellar, Carrie Thompson, Hans Seeger, Jason Polan, Ethan Jones, Galen Fletcher.

I truly feel changed.

Alec”
campforsociallyawkwardstorytellers  2013  alecsoth  littlebrownmushroom  storytelling  camp  conferences  creativity  lcproject  openstudioproject  walkerartcenter  minnesota  books  publishing  selfpublishing  visual  pop-ups  writing  photography  bradzellar  slideshows  stories  socialmedia  tarawray  wenxinzhang  serendipity  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling  education  curriculum  summerinwintercamp  ephemeral  ephemeralinstitutions  ephemerality  hansseeger  delaneyallen  horatiobaltz  jeffbarnett-winsby  julianbleecker  elainebleakney  aprildobbins  bradfarwell  adamforrester  colinmatthes  buckymiller  dianarangel  jimreed  caitlinwarner  classideas  photobooks  ncmideas  carriethompson  galenfletcher  ethanjones  jasonpollan  projectideas  stpaul  self-publishing  adventure  fun  unconferences  experientialeducation  design  conferenceideas  camps  learning  collaboration  experientiallearning 
26 days ago by robertogreco
Photographer Alec Soth mounts storyteller's summer camp awkwardly | MPR News
“Internationally acclaimed St. Paul photographer Alec Soth constantly pushes the boundaries of his medium. This week, he’s running a summer camp for artists from around the world. No one – particularly Soth – claims to know how it will turn out.

Until now, there’s never been a Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers.

Sitting in one of the workrooms in his St. Paul studio, Soth tells the 15 participants he has decided speed dating is the best way to get everyone to meet as quickly as possible. Moments later, the room is filled with animated conversations across a very long table. Every two minutes at the clang of a cowbell everyone moves and meets another camper.

They are photographers, illustrators and writers. Soth and his staff selected them from more than 400 applicants for this free summer camp sponsored by Soth’s small press, Little Brown Mushroom. One came from Germany, another from Venezuela. All responded to a simple post on Soth’s website. There were few details.

Soth and Brad Zellar, his long-time collaborator writer, claim they are making up the camp as they go along. They use the speed dating session to decide what to do next.

Given that Soth called the camp Socially Awkward Storytellers because he’s so uncomfortable speaking publicly, that next thing - a slideshow - makes sense.

“This whole thing about social awkwardness and public speaking is that the slide projector is a great way to, like, pull people’s attentions away,” Soth says, switching on his projector. “That’s why I am diving right into it.”

This really is a camp about telling stories – with pictures. In a world where smart phones have made cameras ubiquitous, Soth challenges the group to return to an older form of storytelling – the slideshow.

“Given that we have a limited amount of time,” he says, “why don’t we use that as the model for this workshop and practice telling stories that way.”

And just to raise the ante, everyone will present their slideshow Saturday evening at the Soap Factory gallery in Minneapolis. It’s open to the public – another detail omitted from the original description of the summer camp.

No one seems too put off.

“You know I like Alec’s work, and I’d heard him talk and he didn’t seem like a jerk,” Brad Farwell says during a break.

Like many of the participants, Farwell, who came to the camp from New York, is interested in how photography has changed. He says for many people it’s become a performance, with people taking them without the intention of ever making a print.

“They sort of make a photograph, and then see it on the back of the camera and then a lot of those photographs exist on the back of the camera in the instant of their making, and then disappear.”

As the group ate lunch cooked on the grill in the parking lot, Wenxin Zhang – formerly of China, now of San Francisco – and Colin Matthes of Milwaukee, a visual artist who denies having any photography skills, compared notes.

“I think the schedule is like a spy schedule,” she says. “You are going to bomb this building today. Tomorrow you are going to dig into the ground and find some gold.”

“I like that we didn’t know anything beforehand,” says Matthes. “We had no idea about the schedule besides it starts around 9 or 10 every day.”

Twenty-four hours later the group is standing in a clearing in a Minneapolis park learning about their next mission.

It’s an artistic capture the flag game where they have to find their group leader hiding somewhere in the woods and document whatever he’s looking at. That group leader will be chugging beer too, so he may not be that focused.

Soth looks on, loving it. The previous evening he had sent the campers out to hunt down stories in the city.

“I mean they, within four hours, produced so much quality work, it was staggering,” he says.

There were explorations of Minneapolis, and a documentation of a receptionist’s life. One of the staff interns said they produced more in one evening than an entire year of grad school. Soth says the camp is still an exercise in spontaneity, but he this already thinks it’s been a success.

“This is fantastic,” he adds. “And it’s also a story. Something unexpected happened. I mean I had no clue that a fellow was going to run off in the woods and hide and we’re going to track him down. It’s an adventure, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Soth and Zellar both say, if nothing else, it’s given them a chance to get to know some interesting people.

“Some of these people are mind-blowingly talented,” Zellar says. “I mean some of these applications … they created a little project and a .pdf (document). It’s light years beyond anything I could conceive of, ever.””
campforsociallyawkwardstorytellers  2013  alecsoth  littlebrownmushroom  storytelling  camp  conferences  creativity  lcproject  openstudioproject  walkerartcenter  minnesota  books  publishing  selfpublishing  visual  pop-ups  writing  photography  bradzellar  slideshows  stories  socialmedia  tarawray  wenxinzhang  serendipity  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling  education  curriculum  summerinwintercamp  ephemeral  ephemeralinstitutions  ephemerality  hansseeger  delaneyallen  horatiobaltz  jeffbarnett-winsby  julianbleecker  elainebleakney  aprildobbins  bradfarwell  adamforrester  colinmatthes  buckymiller  dianarangel  jimreed  caitlinwarner  classideas  photobooks  ncmideas  carriethompson  galenfletcher  ethanjones  jasonpollan  projectideas  stpaul  self-publishing  adventure  fun  unconferences  experientialeducation  design  conferenceideas  camps  learning  collaboration  experientiallearning 
26 days ago by robertogreco
Artists from around the world gather in St. Paul for Little Brown Mushroom’s Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers – Knight Foundation
"Little Brown Mushroom’s Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers culminates in a public event Saturday July 13 at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis.

This weekend, 15 “visual storytellers” from all over the world are convening at the headquarters of Little Brown Mushroom (LBM), an interdisciplinary publishing outfit based out of photographer Alec Soth’s St. Paul studio. The LBM team – including Soth and photographers Carrie Thompson, Ethan Jones, Galen Fletcher, writer Brad Zellar, plus a rotation of interns and collaborative partners – invited artists of all kinds to apply for a spot in their week-long Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers. LBM selected a final list of 15 artists and writers from the pool of more than 400 who responded to the call; the international assortment of “campers” gathered in Soth’s studio for the free, five-day workshop this week.

The original call for artists describes the endeavor this way:
Visual storytelling tends to be a lonely business. As such, it attracts more than its share of wallflowers. Here at LBM (home to more than a couple introverts), we thought it would be worthwhile to bring creative loners together to see what we can learn from each other. We’re envisioning a gathering that is more summer camp than classroom. After various daytime outings, we’ll sit around the digital projector and tell each other stories. From there we’ll discuss the ways in which visual stories can be translated into book form.

In a recent email, Soth said the group will spend four days this week in various workshops. On the fifth and final evening, Saturday, July 13, the participants will offer brief, Pecha Kucha-style presentations of their work, at a public event emceed by comedian and writer Brian Beatty at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. A party will follow, with a cash bar, socializing and dancing to tunes spun by DJ Vu-Vu Zella (aka Brad Zellar).

Participating “campers” include: the LBM team, plus Hans Seeger, Delaney Allen, Horatio Baltz, Jeff Barnett-Winsby, Julian Bleecker, Elaine Bleakney, April Dobbins, Brad Farwell, Adam Forrester, Colin Matthes, Bucky Miller, Diana Rangel, Jim Reed, Caitlin Warner, Tara Wray and Wenxin Zhang.

Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom. Pro tip: The “summer camp” t-shirts pictured on the LBM team above will be available to buy at the event on Saturday, July 13. As far as I know, the RV is not for sale.

I’m telling you – this can’t help but be interesting. Little Brown Mushroom has been publishing such surprising, compelling stuff in recent years. Of particular note is the “LBM Dispatch,” occasional road trip photo and text collaborations by Soth and writer Brad Zellar – tabloid-sized newsprint pieces produced in the style of a small-town newspaper. Thus far, LBM has published five installments: “Ohio,” “Upstate,” “Michigan,” “Three Valleys” and, most recently, “Colorado.” (The pair recently wrote a fabulous piece on the project for Vice magazine, if you’re interested in reading more.)

Little Brown Mushroom’s Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers runs from July 9 through 13. The camp culminates with an event, The Socially Awkward Storytellers’ Slideshow and Dance, on Saturday, July 13 at 7 p.m. at the Soap Factory, 514 Second Street SE, Minneapolis. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.littlebrownmushroom.com."
alecsoth  littlebrownmushroom  2013  camp  conferences  storytelling  writing  photography  bradzellar  slideshows  stories  socialmedia  tarawray  wenxinzhang  serendipity  spontaneity  unschooling  deschooling  education  curriculum  summerinwintercamp  campforsociallyawkwardstorytellers  ephemeral  lcproject  pop-ups  ephemeralinstitutions  ephemerality  hansseeger  delaneyallen  horatiobaltz  jeffbarnett-winsby  julianbleecker  elainebleakney  aprildobbins  bradfarwell  adamforrester  colinmatthes  buckymiller  dianarangel  jimreed  caitlinwarner  creativity  openstudioproject  walkerartcenter  minnesota  books  publishing  selfpublishing  visual  classideas  photobooks  ncmideas  carriethompson  galenfletcher  ethanjones  jasonpollan  projectideas  stpaul  self-publishing  adventure  fun  unconferences  experientialeducation  design  conferenceideas  camps  learning  collaboration  experientiallearning 
26 days ago by robertogreco
Prenda
“What is Prenda?

A completely new take on education

Prenda is a new kind of educational experience. We combine flexible learning environments, cutting edge techniques, human-centered technology, and passionate people to help children develop creativity, problem solving, and 21st century skills. Our mission is to empower learners. Sounds cliche? Think about what it means to be a learner. We think it’s two things: 1) a learner makes a choice to learn, and 2) a learner has the skills and habits to learn whatever they want. It’s a powerful way of interacting with the world, and we want to help every student hone this power. We take our mission and values seriously.

How does it work?

Prenda microschools are small groups (8-10 kids) meeting in a home, office, or studio. We’ve found a great blend of in-person interaction, personalized learning through technology, and passionate adults committed to guiding the learning experience. We are more concerned with the helping kids learn how to learn than we are with regurgitating information. We care more about growing into confident, empowered learners than we do about getting the answers right the first time. In our model, kids take responsibility for their own learning, unlock their potential, and see amazing results. Read more about how our learning model works here.

TALK TO A GUIDE

Where do adults come in?

We’re looking for passionate people who love learning and are committed to helping open doors for the kids in their community. Do you want to help us build the next generation of child education? Feel free to read more about how learning guides are critical to a Prenda class.

If you’re interested in helping us build a Prenda microschool, apply today so you can help us build the future!

APPLY AS A GUIDE

The Prenda Story

In 2013, Prenda founder Kelly Smith started volunteering at the public library, teaching kids computer programming. Watching the kids come to code club each week and work hard to build cool projects, he realized that 1) learning can be engaging and fun, and 2) the model worked better when the adult didn’t know how to code. Startled, he dove into researching education and landed on a new model of informal microschools.“
microschools  schools  education  arizona  phoenix  schooling 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Flying Squads | Providing young people with time to practice making their own decisions
"“A city that is really concerned with the needs of its young will make the whole environment accessible to them, because, whether invited to or not, they are going to use the whole environment.” -Colin Ward, The Child in the City

***

Our Program

Flying Squads provide young people with time to practice making their own decisions in a nurturing community of human connections through which they can develop relationships and work on self-confidence with genuine feedback from peers and society.

Unlike school field trips, the Flying Squad does not have a predetermined destination but instead practices the crucial skills of deciding together where to go and how to spend their time. Each day starts in a public space (typically a library) documenting and reflecting on previous time together in a communal journal. The group then sets out into the world to explore common interests as a collective, experimenting on how to build community and deciding how to voice group concerns on the social justice issue of being youth in a city built for adults.

Even in the most caring of school and homeschooling coop spaces, a definitive line is drawn on where children learn and what space and materials are and are not for them. By intentionally not using a learning space or having predetermined tools and materials, Flying Squad participants learn the important value of abolishing these distinctions as the young people involved interact with the world outside on a regular basis, carving out a space for themselves in their city. And as they do so, they learn perhaps one of life’s most important lessons: how to find self-identity while caring for and developing a community with others.

***

A Brief History

Flying Squads started in a library in Brooklyn in the fall of 2018. But the concept behind them began years earlier, when I was working to co-found the junk playground, play:groundNYC, which wonderfully gives children free choice, but still within a confined space.

At the time, I was reading Colin Ward’s gorgeous book, The Child in the City, which discusses how, to truly be free, children must be a part of the city itself. Children need to feel comfortable on their own streets and must be welcomed in public spaces– a concept that no longer exists in today’s modern culture.

And so, I spent a year running a program helping children “get lost” in the city (called Ramble the City), but that too still felt too top-down, dictating where and why children went around to various spaces in the city. Ultimately this led to Flying Squads, a program specifically designed to encourage young people to take back their city and to again be accepted in society as autonomous individuals in a communal space.

Now in our second year, we are thrilled to announce that our project has grown, with Bria and David starting a second community in Portland and Brooklyn starting a third community in Eugene.

—Alexander Khost (what’s my title… Initiator? Provocateur?)

***

Facilitators

Bria Bloom (Portland Flying Squad) grew up unschooled, and now is a passionate advocate for Self-Directed Education and children’s rights. Bria loves to work and play as an SDE facilitator, and has experience doing so from her work in free schools, alternative spaces, and her experience as a parent. She spends her time exploring questions and ideas with young people and adults, supporting young people in whatever way they need, laughing often, and marveling at all of the positive risk-taking, creative thinking, and passion that lives in self-directed communities every day. Bria is also a martial artist and a dancer, a happy Portland cyclist, and a writer. She spends a lot of her time reading and discussing education and parenting ideas with anyone who is interested.

David Jacobo (Portland Flying Squad) is a Self-Directed Education advocate and facilitator. He has a passion for children’s rights, Self-Directed Education, and social justice. He was born in Los Angeles and raised between Oregon and California. A second generation immigrant of Mexican and Guatemalan descent, David and his family moved constantly to find work opportunities until finally landing in Salem. He graduated with a B.S. in Sociology at Portland State University. After working for three years in public schools, David sought to find alternative education styles that focused less on conforming and authority and more on creativity and autonomy. David is an avid photographer and a working musician. He hopes to not only inspire kids but to be inspired by them as well.

Alexander Khost (Brooklyn Flying Squad) is a father and children’s rights advocate. He volunteers running Friends of the Modern School, supporting the history and maintaining current models of anarchistic education. He works with young people at the homeschooling coop, Brooklyn Apple Academy; he is the Editor-in-Chief of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education’s online magazine, Tipping Points; and he is the founder of Voice of the Children, promoting and facilitating art and activism for young people.

He previously founded the Teddy McArdle Free School, a democratic free school in New Jersey, and more recently co-founded play:groundNYC, a junkyard playground for children on Governors Island in New York City.

Brooklyn Wetzel (Eugene Flying Squad) is an adult self-directed learner with a passion for freedom and autonomy. From a young age, she rejected institutional schooling and sought her own path in music promotion, art, and small business. Over the last 5 years, she has facilitated at a democratic school, ran a photo booth business and worked at an indigenous language game development start-up in rural Montana. After moving to Oregon in 2018 she completed the Agile Learning Facilitator training and started work on a community non-profit supporting people in end of life issues. A digital native and idea person, one of her favorite things is to connect people with new resources to explore their passions. Brooklyn has a deep trust in people of all ages to grow and learn to be their best selves without coercion judgment or hierarchical structures."
unschooling  education  adventuredays  flyingsquads  alexkhost  davidjacobo  briabloom  brooklynwetzel  eugene  oregon  portland  brooklyn  nyc  via:derek  openstudioproject  lcproject  cv  self-directed  self-directedlearning  colinward 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Approaching The Elephant roams the chaotic halls of a free school
"The Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey doesn’t look, sound, or operate like most people’s idea of a school. There are no desks, no grades, no exams. The classes themselves are voluntary, with students urged to study what interests them most. (For many of the preteen attendees, that list includes working with power tools, making paper airplanes, and running wild through the halls.) Everything is decided upon as a group, from rules to curriculum to disciplinary measures, and the kids’ votes count as much as the adults’. All of this may sound like a recipe for disaster, but there is method to the madness: Like the more than 250 other free schools in the world, Teddy McArdle was built on a belief that education should be democratic, individual passions should be fostered, and children should have a say in their own upbringing. But there’s a big gulf separating a good idea in theory and a successful one in practice.

With Approaching The Elephant, director Amanda Rose Wilder documents the first full year at Teddy McArdle, following an inaugural class of about a dozen students and the patient instructors overseeing their veritable daylong free period. Shooting in “Academy Ratio” black-and-white, in the fly-on-the-wall observational mode of Frederick Wiseman, Wilder captures the bumps and grinds of this educational experiment—the randomly attended lessons, the conflict resolution, the vote sessions that often devolve into screaming matches. The footage, edited by Actress director Robert Greene, coheres into what feels like one long, chaotic school day. You can practically feel the pulse of grown-up veins, the fraying of last nerves.

In other words, those seeking a cogent argument in favor of the free school model won’t find it here. The filmmaking mirrors the non-interference policy of the program: In addition to employing no dates, no name tags, and no talking-head interviews, Wilder declines to include statistics, or really anything that would place Teddy McArdle in the context of other schools (beyond an opening block of text tracing the free school philosophy back to early-20th-century Barcelona). What we get instead is a portrait of the sheer difficulty in establishing a democratic organization, especially when its prospective practitioners are between 5 and 12 years old. The kids love the meetings, where they get to loudly voice their opinions, but their passion rarely seems to extend to the learning process. Part of the problem, in this case, is that most of the students come from more conventional classroom environments, and hence treat Teddy McArdle like little more than a blessed alternative—all recess, no homework. Some of them, like a young girl who hesitates to use a saw because her parents probably wouldn’t let her, seem too indoctrinated by authority to embrace the guiding principles.

“Characters” gradually emerge before Wilder’s camera, the kids revealing themselves as troublemakers or team players, suited to the program or decidedly not. But it’s an adult personality that comes into sharpest focus: Alexander Khost, the school’s founder, bristles under the pressure of monitoring (without controlling) an unruly student body; the ideals of Teddy McArdle often seem in direct conflict with the difficulty in realizing them. Does a firm belief that school should be an encouraging, not discouraging, institution outweigh the property damage some of the rowdier kids cause? How does one honor a system of absolute voting rights when the need to overrule a foolish decision presents itself? Khost believes in treating children as equals, but more often than not, he sinks to their level instead of bringing them up to his—especially late in the film, when the behavior of a delinquent student provokes this once-bullied mentor to throw a tantrum and launch an expulsion crusade. (As in the lightly fictionalized The Class, there’s the troubling suggestion that some kids will have to fail for the others to succeed.)

At one point, Khost openly admits that it will probably be two decades—enough time for these first few groups of students to grow up and enter the “real world”—before they’ll know if the Teddy McArdle methodology is a sound one. It’s hard not to wonder what a longer filming commitment, à la Hoop Dreams, might have revealed about the sustainability and value of free schools. But as a microcosmic study of democratic growing pains, Approaching The Elephant is both gripping and often dryly, shockingly hilarious. When Khost is forced to honor a call for meeting and humor debate as to whether jumping off school property is an unalienable right, the occasional absurdity of what he’s sanctioned becomes painfully clear. Wilder gets the same impression across a few minutes earlier, during a long shot of the head instructor chastising a young boy for striking him while another writes “fuck” on a chalkboard nearby… and misspells it to boot. At least one lesson gets imparted within the walls of Teddy McArdle: Get the kinks out before inviting a camera to film your venture."
aadowd  amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Approaching the Elephant | A documentary film by Amanda Rose Wilder
“Year one at the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, New Jersey, where all classes are voluntary and rules are determined by vote. Wilder is there from the beginning to end of the school year, documenting and observing founder Alexander Khost, eleven-year-old Jiovanni, seven-year-old Lucy, along with an entire indelible cast of young personalities as they form relationships, explore their surroundings and intensely debate rule violations, until it all comes to a head. APPROACHING THE ELEPHANT is a vivid portrait of unfettered childhood and human relationships.”
amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
True/False Diary 1: Approaching The Elephant, Demonstration, Sacro GRA | Filmmaker Magazine
"Halfway through, it’s too early to take the overall temperature of True/False 2014 in its 11th year (my fifth attending, each year with the hotel paid; full disclosure). All smooth so far, though it’s early going, so let’s forego atmospherics at this point and jump into one of the festival’s world premieres, Approaching The Elephant. (“Thanks for everyone being here for basically the highlight of my life,” director Amanda Rose Wilder said in her introduction.) The subject is “free schools”: further left on the continuum than Montessori, and (at least as practiced by the subject school’s founder Alex Khost) an exercise in allowing children to set the educational agenda so they can discover their own identities and regard/empathize others as distinct individuals in their own valuable right.

Khost started the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, NJ in 2007. In Approaching the Elephant, the nascent institution’s first year is ruthlessly edited into initially disorienting black-and-white shards of faces, hands and bodies in close-up destructive action by festival mascot/director Robert Greene (director of big-time premiere Actress, to be covered in my next post). The film approximates the subjective chaotic world of children given the rare freedom to figure out what they want to do (namely, rage) in an ambiguously structured environment. “There’s definitely a certain amount of ‘is this really working,’” Khost concedes in a rare adults-only chat moment, but concludes it’ll take 20 years to find out.

Kids screaming all sound the same at first; it takes time for the film to unveil the ethical duel taking place between two of them. Jiovanni’s a long-haired wild child, prone to standing in the hallway and disruptively blaring a saxophone for attention. He’s dangerously close to being a bully, and regular foil Lucy doesn’t like it, though she’s not sure where the lines of permissible behavior should be drawn. At one of the school’s administrative meetings (a proto city council gathering, with points of order and votes on the issues of the day), she first voices her opposition to any school rule that would outlaw violent games, then turns around and proposes a rule that saying “stop” requires that someone else stop their negative actions.

Jiovanni’s meandering attempts at playing the piano increasingly dominate the soundtrack, drowning out others as a neat way of demonstrating how his individual presence threatens to extinguish the group project. There’s a scene where, after being chewed out for essentially being a total jerk, he sullenly refuses to admit fault. It took me straight back to third grade; for former problem kids like me, I suspect it’ll be hard not to look at Jiovanni and guiltily admire his relentless free spirit instincts. His repeated disruptions lead another child to yell at him in a meeting for taking every chance he’s given and throwing it away, a speech that’s remarkably similar to an intervention meeting or adult speech canceling a friendship with a self-destructive person.

Approaching The Elephant‘s adolescents are smarter than 80% of the regulars at my local, but intelligence won’t save them; this is a democracy in inaction. The kids do learn to have meetings and lay down the law for themselves, but it’s a victory of attrition against a charistmatic negative force. “Why are you mean?” Lucy asks. “Because I’m bored,” says Giovanni with the candor of self-aware self-destroyers who know exactly who their enablers are. The film works as a parodic demonstration of a nascent democracy, as a portrait of feckless youth, and a study in how charismatic jerks abuse their leeway; it’s a multivalent winner, all the better for its deliberate, focused confinement to one space."
vadimrizov  amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
“To Film Children in Ways You Don’t Usually See on Film”: Amanda Rose Wilder on Approaching the Elephant | Filmmaker Magazine
"A gripping, obsessively watchable observation of adolescent behavior set free, first time feature filmmaker Amanda Rose Wilder’s Approaching the Elephant finds its inspiration in the inaugural semester of New Jersey’s Teddy McArdle Free School. Following co-founder Alex Khost, a wide-eyed, determined optimist who dreams of (and gets his chance to) run a not-entirely-anarchistic Free School, the film immerses itself amongst the young children experiencing a drastically unfamiliar educational environment. Neither polemical condemnation nor evidence of its success, Wilder’s camera observes the “experiment’s” highs and lows, as school rules/punishments are democratically voted on by the students.

Lovingly photographed (post-converted to black-and-white) and framed in the 4X3 aspect ratio, Approaching the Elephant opens Friday as part of IFP’s Screen Forward series. I spoke with 2013 Independent Filmmaker Lab alum Wilder about her interest in Free Schools, her favorite scene in the film, and always remaining a watchful observer.

Filmmaker: As a first time feature filmmaker, you possess a striking assuredness in your work, and one that feels well versed in documentary history. Who are some of your cinematic influences?

Wilder: I have quite a few. When it comes to filmmakers, I have to cite the Maysles, the Dardennes, Frederick Wiseman, and John Cassavetes. Other detached snippets from filmmakers, such as a camera motion in a Glauber Rocha film or a short by Jerzy Skolimowski, are also influential. There are some strange things too, like Field of Dreams and Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m also inspired by poetry and short stories — specifically, for this film, by J.D. Salinger and Roald Dahl.

Filmmaker: The clarity of your images is quite invigorating. What camera did you use? What made you want to shoot in 4X3?

Wilder: The DVX100. It’s still a great camera, and I like how the 4×3 aspect ratio frames people’s bodies. Approaching the Elephant is very involved with people.

Filmmaker: The film opens by noting the history of the Free Schools movement and how they came to popularity. What was your way into the subject? Had you been wanting to observe a Free School in action? Or did The Teddy McArdle Free School specifically pique your interest?

Wilder: I’d visited Summerhill, the longest running free school, when I was ten. My dad is an elementary school teacher and wanted to see what it was like. It was an experience that stuck in my mind. Then I went to an alternative school, Marlboro College, where I switched my focus from poetry to documentary. After I graduated, my film professor, Jay Craven, a Vermont-based filmmaker and producer of Approaching the Elephant, asked if I wanted to make a film with him exploring alternative education. I said yes, and that summer I attended an education conference where I met Alex Khost, who was about to start Teddy McArdle 20 minutes from where my mom lives in New Jersey. Alex was a person I felt I wanted to follow, and I asked him if I could visit on their first day. He went back to those who were involved at the time, and they voted that I could. On the first day I met Lucy and Jiovanni, who were to become the two other main people in the film, and got the sense that this school was going to allow me to film children in ways you don’t usually see on film. I also felt strongly that, beyond any agenda, there was a story.

Filmmaker: The film features numerous seasonal activities that feel rightly commonplace at an elementary school, i.e. a garage sale, a talent show, etc. These events indicate the passing of time, the progression of a full school year. Was it always your intent to observe this “experiment” from the fall through the summer?

Wilder: Yes, while days flow together, there is a clear passage of time. It was less about executing a predetermined intent than letting my developing interests and the unfolding story guide what was filmed. Beginning on the first day of school and ending on the last made sense, story-wise.

Filmmaker: Stationed in the school’s parking lot, you employ numerous establishing shots of the school, a prominent white cross displayed on its roof. It doesn’t seep into the narrative necessarily, but your camera features consistent reminders that this is a religious institution first.

Wilder: Well, there’s humor there, that this radically alternative school was renting space from a church. It’s just one of those details you could never make up, or I couldn’t. I love the cross shots. I wouldn’t want to run too far with it, it’s great as just a visual, but you certainly could – is this a story of heaven or hell, which is which, inside the school or the world surrounding? etc. The reality is that many free schools are housed, at least at first, in churches because of the relatively low cost of rent.

Filmmaker: One particularly striking sequence features the kids in shop class, using sharp saws to cut wood and hammers to strike down nails. Your camera gets dangerously close to the action, and I cringed at the potential danger prevalent throughout. And yet you always refrain from getting involved and imposing onto their world. How quickly did the students grow comfortable with you? Did you have a large crew?

Wilder: Not at all. Recently whenever I’m at screenings, I stay until the end of this first woodworking scene you’re talking about and then leave. Honestly I am a little tickled by audiences’ gasps and exclamations. I know that at that point in the film people are hooked into the story and weighing what’s going on. At no time did I ever feel the kids were being unsafe with the woodworking tools. Mostly they were using coping saws, from which the worst you can get is a minor cut. Organized sports are probably more dangerous!

Maybe it’s something about the closeness and low angle of one of the shots in that scene that scares people. A big issue in the film is safety – a determinant that has so much to do with what children can and cannot do and how they live their lives. My acceptance at Teddy McArdle was immediate. This was a new and small group, and everyone was very open. Two factors that probably helped a lot were, 1) everyone was very engaged with what they were doing, and 2) I was a one-person crew, operating camera and sound.

Filmmaker: You often position your camera down the end of a school hallway, observing from afar the rambunctious, uninterrupted (and often unsupervised) activity of the students roaming about. The camera is the watchful eye that’s never acknowledged. Was this your intent?

Wilder: I think it’s more my personality than intent. I love to observe, to move an audience through a story by how I move the camera and then with the editing. Some filmmakers like to be in the foreground, which is fine, but that’s just a different kind of person than me.

Filmmaker: In many ways, the film is about the silent reactions of others. You continuously cut to the face of a student in the room who is not the focal point of the discussion, the most poignant example of this being one you showcase on the film’s official poster: Jiovanni stares off into the distance as his fellow classmates debate whether or not to expel him.

Wilder: Thanks! That’s a nice observation. The film focuses on three people but relies just as much, if not more so, on the watchful observations of others, on what’s going on with someone’s hands as much as their face, processing as much as talking. As the narrative barrels forward, it sort of momentarily hovers in these moments and you can feel a sort of collective thinking.

Filmmaker: Some have used Lord of the Flies as a reference when describing the film, but the film feels more like a courtroom drama, a 12 Angry Men for first time jurors learning how to mature and respect their fellow man. You watch them closely as they become frustrated with the burden of decision-making and the grayness involved in doing what’s right. What drew you to featuring these key organized meetings?

Wilder: There is a lot of woodworking and meetings in the film because I found the meat of the story there. I’ve never gotten through William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, as I find the tone so disparaging of the kids. I haven’t seen 12 Angry Men. Are there any women in it? You really can’t deny the importance of Lucy in Approaching the Elephant.

Filmmaker: Speaking of Lucy, in one scene, she takes Alex to “court” and is confused when she discovers a loophole in the rules: since Alex is the grownup, he has the final say. Lucy struggles internally with her disappointment here, as she discovers a hidden bifurcation of student and teacher lines.

Wilder: It’s my favorite scene. I love how Alex and Lucy treat each other with complete respect, and yet at the same time firmly stand by their points. When we shot this, he was 32 and Lucy was seven. For people who aren’t used to treating kids as equals, it’s quite a mind warp. Lucy is such a force.

Filmmaker: Your editor and co-producer Robert Greene has been quite vocal about recognizing the performance-based aspects of documentary subjects. With that in mind, Jiovanni emerges from this film as a troubled but fascinating character, a misguided rebel who, by the film’s conclusion, encounters an unfortunate fate at the hands of his peers. Could you speak a little bit about what his presence brings to the film?

Wilder: I felt Jiovanni’s presence the minute I met him. He is one of those magnetic and fascinating figures, up against certain challenges and who you can’t help but hope succeeds. But will he? In this way, in my mind, Jiovanni is very much a young version of Alex. And Lucy exists in a different sphere. A.S. Neill, who started Summerhill said, “A child’s wish to be an adult is a power wish.” Lucy’s approach to this wish, to be as strong as Alex (and Jiovanni) is very different than Jiovanni’s approach, who bucks the… [more]
amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  erikluers  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
The School Where Children Can Do Whatever They Want (Pretty Much) - VICE
“Amanda Rose Wilder’s new documentary Approaching the Elephant follows a year at the Teddy McArdle Free School in suburban New Jersey, an alternative elementary school organized around the principles of self-regulation. Named for a child prodigy from a J.D. Salinger story, Teddy McArdle consists of about a dozen students, several teachers, and no mandatory classes. At first glance, the school day seems to be improvised from moment to moment, with the adults relying on suggestion and a loose parliamentary style of rule-making to channel the students’ energies around one project or another for the day, or not. The school seems to operate in a limbo between class and recess.

At the center of this activity is the school’s founder Alex Khost, an endlessly energetic and patient man in his early 30s who hated school as a child and is determined to create something better as an adult. Much of the drama revolves around two of his pupils: Jiovanni, a sensitive and creative 11-year-old boy who often becomes a disruptive and destructive presence, and Lucy, an outspoken and critical seven-year-old, who swings back and forth between being attracted to Jio and being bullied by him. In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Lucy tells Alex, “I don’t like the things he does, but it’s boring when he’s not here,” more or less framing everyone’s relationship with Jiovanni. Can Alex’s radical vision for a new kind of school deal with a bright, charismatic kid who won’t cooperate?

A disciple of the Maysles Brothers and their Direct Cinema revolution of the 1960s, Rose Wilder found a perfect subject in the Teddy McArdle Free School for her fast-moving, observational style, which arrives free of commentary or context in a timeless black-and-white presentation. This stylistic choice feels important, because it helps release the film from the realm of current events and moves it closer to a timeless study of childhood, capturing something raw and elemental about how children are that isn’t specific to any decade. No matter your opinions on education or your personal experience of childhood, you’ll find it hard to experience Approaching the Elephant without feeling affected.

VICE: How did you come across the Teddy McArdle Free School and why did you decide to make a film there?

Amanda Rose Wilder: I started the film when I graduated from college, about eight years ago. Before that, my main interest was poetry and then I sort of transitioned over to film, and I found Direct Cinema to be sort of an interesting mirror of poetry in film. I remember watching the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter and thinking about how you can unpack that film unendingly. It’s fun to unpack in the way that a poem is fun to unpack. Meeting Alex Khost had everything to do with my interest in making a film about the school because he was so open and charming. Opening the school really mattered to Alex. He’d been bullied and hated going to school when he was young, and didn’t want his newborn son to have to go through the same experience. I was excited by the idea of people starting something new and mostly doing it on their own, and I wanted to see it unfold. The individuals at Teddy McArdle and what happened between them are really the story.

One of things I was most impressed by was how the school charges its students with running an active democracy in order to get anything done. The idea that students and teachers are equal and have the same degree of power in the school sounds simple and appealing on the surface. Over the course of the film, you begin to appreciate how heavy this responsibility is, and it’s incredible to watch children work to deal with it. It’s very different from the traditional American public-school experience, which is not very democratic at all, or only in highly mediated and controlled situations.

There is a scene where Lucy calls a meeting on Alex for harassment—actually, for not allowing her to jump off of a storage bin—for making a rule by himself instead of voting on it as a democratic community. It’s such a mind warp because both Lucy and Alex are treating each other with such respect as equals, and yet she’s seven and he’s 31. For me, the movie is about kids making real decisions for themselves. Most of the time when you see a movie where this happens, it’s not about kids in school but kids who live on the street, like the documentary Streetwise. The free school model allowed me to capture something about childhood that you aren’t often allowed to see. The tensions and fighting and bullying, which exist in all schools, but the community and joy and inspiration as well.

The way the students and teachers resolve their problems with Jiovanni, the most disruptive kid in the school, was really surprising. Having to collectively decide whether or not to expel a disruptive classmate is not a situation that most elementary schools place their students in. By the time we arrive at this scene, you have to be impressed at how proactive the Teddy McArdle kids need to be in order to maintain a school that functions at all.

There have been conflicting reactions to how the narrative of the film unfolds. Some people see the school as dissolving into chaos, and some people see the school coming together and starting to work in functional way. For me, the school was like a family at that point. Everyone really cared about Jiovanni, the student who they had to make a huge decision about whether or not to expel, who had been given months and months of second chances. I was myself expelled from high school and it was such a different experience, a one-strike-and-you’re-out kind of thing. Jiovanni himself completely understood what was happening to him.

At screenings of the film, Alex is sometimes asked what he would have done differently. While many things could have been done differently, it’s hard to really do something for the first time again, you know what I mean? Everyone has a first time, and it’s always imperfect. I like that about the film, that it shows imperfections and shows people not always acting the best. Not every documentary has to be about a perfect hero. Alex does behave heroically at times, but he’s human and he has flaws, we all do.

What’s your hope for the film? What do you hope people see and take away from it? Can it contribute to a larger conversation about education or politics or life?
I think that whenever you’re filming something, you are promoting it in some way. What I hope the movies promotes is someone like Alex trying something new, and not necessarily doing it right the first time. Giving something new a shot. I remember meeting Alex and how his face was so alive and so excited when he was talking about starting this new and different school. I would rather film someone like that than someone who’s been doing the same thing for years and looks dead. I have my own feelings about free schools, but the movie is more about childhood in general and touches on larger questions about democracy and community. Lucy and Jiovanni are examples of how a child can be scary and inspiring all at once. Kids need to make mistakes and do things wrong and cry. Just like adults do. Focusing on two people who are under ten and showing all the qualities of their personalities was important for me, showing the rawness and messiness of childhood.”
amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  matthewcaron  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
A Filmmaker Follows Education Without Required Classes — Even Math : NPR
“”So you don’t have to do math?” asks a child early on in the documentary Approaching the Elephant. His teacher, Alex, has just explained one of the rules of the Teddy McArdle Free School, where this student and a dozen or so others (who, from the looks of it, range in age from around five to ten) are now enrolled. There are no required classes and almost no prescribed rules. Instead, kids can focus on whatever interests them and teachers and students propose and vote on rules together.

So no, nobody at Teddy McArdle has to do math if they don’t want to, a piece of news that’s heralded with cries of “yay” and “awesome.”

Approaching the Elephant documents Alex’s attempts to implement this radical teaching philosophy during Teddy McArdle’s first year of classes, which began in September 2007. Director Amanda Rose Wilder came to the school with no crew, handling camera duties solo, an approach that undoubtedly helped foster the film’s immersive feel.

At a superficial level, the film continuously flirts with chaos. Its aspect ratio is narrow and confining. For much of the movie, we’re surrounded by the cacophony of shrills, yells and arguments and the unspecified noise that inevitably ensues when you allow kids to do almost whatever they want. The camera, right in the thick of things, sticks mainly to close-ups of the teachers’ and students’ faces. Very rarely does Wilder pull back into wide shots for a breather.

And on several levels, that’s just not the kind of movie Approaching the Elephant is. It’s not a documentary that takes that wider view and hopes to enlighten us about the principles of the Free School or argue for its merits or deficiencies. As edited by Robert Greene—who also edited Listen Up Philip, directed the fantastic documentary Actress and helps give Approaching the Elephant its entrancing, tight, whirlwind rhythm—the final effect ends up closer to 2012’s Leviathan than Waiting for Superman. It’s a visceral, experiential, and absorbing viewing experience, not an educational issue doc.

That said, beneath Approaching the Elephant’s manic surface lies an elementary structure provided by its focus on two students: Lucy and Jiovanni. Lucy is outspoken and, in some ways, a model student for the free school. At one point, she goes so far as to debate Alex about whether he has the right, in the name of safety, to unilaterally forbid students to jump off a filing cabinet onto a mattress. “What you decide by yourself, I’m not going to listen to it,” Lucy says, and in the context of this school, the argument has some merit.

Jiovanni is the troublemaker—rambunctious, angry and, in many cases, a bully. He particularly enjoys tormenting Lucy, and the two repeatedly wind up in emergency conflict resolution meetings. (Everything at the school is handled democratically, so when a student feels hurt, threatened, or insulted they can call an emergency meeting where all sides present their side of the story. Later, if necessary, a jury made up of students and teachers decide whether a punishment is merited.)

Eventually, as the misconducts pile up, Alex and others wonder whether Jiovanni can handle the freedoms that the Teddy McArdle School offers. The movie’s lingering question, though, is more general. With every new fight, yelling match, and emergency meeting, the school and its pedagogical experiment seems to inch closer to implosion. You begin to imagine the kind of disaster, the kind of injury, that might shut it down completely. You begin to expect it. It’s exhausting.

It’s also brilliant. Without delivering lectures about the tenets of the free school philosophy (we enter having been told only that it originated among Spanish anarchists in the early 20th century and that there over 250 free schools in the world today), Wilder initiates us into the tensions that produce its existential crises. Having created a space where children can express themselves with nearly no restrictions, Alex and the other teachers then must try to create some structure, some habitat for learning, without imposing a system. (The movie’s mixture of order and chaos, in this sense, mirrors the school.)

Another essential component of free school philosophy is respect—Alex continuously implores the kids to treat each other like human beings. But while that extends to how Alex hopes to interact with the students as well—as one adult among others rather than as a teacher enforcing edicts—the situation at times seems to backfire, pushing everyone toward bickering and petulance.

There are times when you see the benefits of Alex’s approach. By the end of the film, many of the students, who in meetings regularly propose and debate potential rules and practices for the school, are arguing their opinions with impressive eloquence and confidence.

But there’s also a moment where Alex, frustrated by the kids’ continuous misbehavior, threatens to quit the school. “I don’t like being around people who are mean to other people,” he tells the students. That makes you wonder whether teaching elementary school is really for him. It also highlights how, at least in the vision offered by Approaching the Elephant, Teddy McArdle seems persistently embroiled in conflicts.

Alex and other teachers offer a number of reasons for this frustration: that the kids, unaccustomed to their freedom, are taking advantage of it until they become bored (one person calls it the “gangster phase” of the school’s development); that the school needs a few years before its merits will be evident; that, because it’s an alternative school, the school attracts not just children who might benefit from its approach but also those who haven’t succeeded in other settings and are looking for any other option.

Wilder never declares which of these might be most true. She in fact shot two years of footage at Teddy McArdle, staying on until the school shut down in 2009, but her decision to focus only on the inaugural year was astute. It not only focuses the film, but also leaves us absorbed in the primal battle we’ve witnessed between well-intentioned philosophy and human nature. There’s no closure or natural victor. Only Alex talking about the changes he hopes to make in the school’s second year and the thought, in the back of our heads, that at no point in the movie did we see any of the kids doing math.”
amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  tomashachard  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Getting Real With The Director of Must-See Documentary ‘Approaching the Elephant’ | BlackBook
“Imagine the scene of a group of precocious schoolchildren having a democratic meeting about who has the right to a piece of wood—each as expressive in their righteous anger or inquisitive silence, while patiently awaiting the final verdict—and you’ll begin to understand the allure of Approaching the Elephant, one of the finest American documentaries in recent memory. The feature debut by Amanda Rose Wilder depicts the inaugural year of the Teddy McArdle Free School in New Jersey, where director Alex Khost and his colleagues teach art history, woodworking, a variety of instruments, and whatever else the kids decide they want to do that day. It’s a bustling, genuinely curious portrait of communal education that seems incredibly generous, exciting, and even a little scary all at once.

Elephant is reminiscent of the films of Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles Brothers, which observe American institutions with patience and a deep faith in their subjects that feels wholly unburdened by commercial concerns. We’re never told how to watch these incredibly engaging children, much as they occasionally develop Brat Pack-esque roles and behaviors. A vague love story develops between fiery blonde Lucy and surly Jiovanni, who roughly function as protagonists under Wilder’s solitary roving camera—until Khost, the viewer and their fellow classmates are forced to accept that not all children thrive under these circumstances.

Shot nearly eight years ago, converted to black-and-white and pieced together by reliably efficient editor Robert Greene (Actress, Listen Up Philip), the film finally opens today for a weeklong run at the IFP Media Center in DUMBO. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Wilder about the origins and inspiration behind the film, and how the subjects responded to it many years later.

How did you first conceive or become involved with this project?

My dad is an elementary school teacher and was always interested in more progressive, unconventional models. He took me once to visit Summerhill, which is the longest-running and most famous free school in the UK. That was my first interaction with free schools, and it was a memorable experience—but he wanted to know if I wanted to enroll there, and it was way out over the ocean. I didn’t really get it at the time, that school could be riding horses all day.

Then he moved with my stepmom to Missouri, and I went on my own volition to a prep school in Connecticut. I had a bad experience in boarding school and didn’t really understand what prep culture was. Ultimately, I think bad experiences are good for you, but I kind of went the opposite way in college. I went to Marlboro in Vermont, which is more progressive—you design the last two years of your education and plan a concentration, which is more like a graduate program than a B.A. That’s where I switched over from poetry to documentary, and my thesis was on “the documentary poem”.

That’s when I became obsessed with the Maysles brothers, and the idea of observational filmmaking as this art, or poetry. And then my film professor, Jay Craven, a filmmaker who makes films about regional Vermont stories, asked if I wanted to make a movie with him exploring progressive education in some way. He raised some money for that and then asked if I wanted to go to this alternative education conference called Aero, and so after I graduated I went there and did all these interviews, and one of those people that I just met on the street was Alex [Khost], who was just about to start Teddy McArdle. It was going to be 20 minutes from where my mom was living, and I was sort of in transition, so I decided to shack up with my mom and basically film there the whole year. I shot about 178 hours the first year, and then 40 or 50 hours the year afterward.

Was your aesthetic for this film inspired by any particular films or filmmakers?

The Maysles were my first real film influence. When I saw Gimme Shelter for the first time, I watched it straight through again a second time, and just recognized something in it that I thought—that’s the kind of film I want to to make. I guess to me, direct cinema is related in a lot of ways to poetry, in that it’s about so many things—it’s so fun to unpack a film.

Richard Brody wrote a capsule review [in the New Yorker] that sort of criticized the fact that I wasn’t a presence in the film. It had me thinking a lot about being a presence, and obviously there’s a strong tradition in direct cinema of not really being present. People talk to you, and you kind of cut that out. But what I always liked about the Maysles’ films is that the filmmaker is…not in the foreground, but very much present. So much is [about] the eye of the camera and also the editor, which is how it was for this film as well. Robert Greene realized that I’m much more of a shooter, and that I needed someone who complements my talents with other necessary ones.

I was able to shoot a second camera with Albert Maysles and edit that material, to watch his footage and mine side-by-side, which was definitely a learning experience. Sean [Price] Williams, the cinematographer, who was also working with the Maysles at the time—I would go see films with him, and that’s how I originally met Robert, outside of Anthology Film Archives years and years ago.

There was some narrative influence as well. Le Fils by the Dardenne brothers is also very much about woodworking and a man-boy relationship and the idea of a naturalistic narrative, which breaks from the direct cinema form a little bit.

It reminded me a bit of Allan King’s Warrendale, in terms of the proximity you had to these kids, and with caregivers trying to contain the emotions of so many different troubled children all at once.

Yeah, there’s that whole alternative community. And you’re just constantly back and forth in Warrendale, whether their methods are horrible or their methods are working—which I think is a good place to put a viewer in.

During that scene where they hold a meeting to discuss Lucy’s harassment, I noticed how you were able to maneuver around the room to focus on each of the participants, while also getting that great insert of Olivia playing with Alex’s keys. These moments never feel hurried or strained. Was your filmmaking mostly intuitive, or did you have a game plan when dealing with these group sequences?

I think there were a lot of elements of Teddy McArdle that helped make it a consistent place for observational filmmaking—one being that it was really limited to one space. A lot of the movie takes place in maybe three rooms, and there were always a lot of people sitting around talking, so it was very easy to just be behind people. And I was there on the first day of school, so I think that helped. I think being there from the outset really helped people [get used to it], and that it was just me.

I think it was mostly working instinctually. I would get there and I would pick up on a conversation across the room, and I would go over and listen…I was always trying to find scenes, or shots that I felt captured me. Then there were scenes that I knew were going to happen, or there was a little bit more preconceived thinking, and that was one of those scenes. Alex knew that I was interested in filming that scene [once the hearing was called], and he approached me and said, why don’t we do this one now.

Another example is the scene at the end where they decide what to do with Jiovanni ultimately. I guess I sort of gathered in my head who I would want to focus on, and just remind myself not to get too distracted and bounce around a whole lot.

That was one thing I always noticed about Al Maysles was how patient he would be [with his subjects]. The best cinematographers always sort of inspire you. I remember watching this Glauber Rocha movie, where during a sewer scene, there was a shot I really liked where the camera just sort of moved forward into people talking. And in the sewer scene [in Approaching the Elephant] where Lucy’s talking into Olivia’s ear, I just moved in and picked up that shot. I decided to re-enact it in that moment.

I was also curious what the “inappropriate movies” were that Jiovanni was cited for watching at his hearing at the end.

That’s a good question! I can’t actually answer that. I don’t think it was sexual in nature. I think it was more like there was a rule for younger kids, like 5 years old who were more scared by violent things, and he just wasn’t respecting those rules.

Have any of the kids seen the film? It would be fascinating if you did a kind of Chronicle of a Summer-style screening for all of them together, and filming their reactions.

They’re all 16 to 17 years old now, and we had a screening for people in the film about a month before it premiered at True/False last year. Jiovanni flew up from Florida, where I am now, and he stayed with us in Brooklyn a few days ahead of screening the movie at Lucy’s house. That was neat, and I did really want to film at that time, because we had Alex and Jiovanni—who’s taller than Alex now!—and he works at the Indy 500 racetrack. But I did feel like it was important to have some time with him without filming, and to get to know each other better, since in a way I didn’t really get to know him as a person without the camera in hand.

Alex and I talk about what an interesting film it would have been to have made about the last year of our lives together. We’ve done all the Q&As together, in Copenhagen, Italy, elsewhere. I’ve definitely heard all the people’s impressions of the movie, which are so varied.

But most [of the participants] have seen it, and I think everyone likes it, thinks it’s a good or great film. Lucy loves it, I think, though she says she remembers she had more fun, and wished I had included more fun moments.

It looked like she was having fun to me!

She really did seek out attention from the boys, which was fun a lot of the time, and then it crossed the line. She… [more]
amandarosewilder  approachingtheelephant  2015  micahgottlieb  teddymcardlefreeschools  summerhill  freeschools  democraticschools  alexkhost  film  documentary  education  unschooling  schools  schooling  children 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 337: What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech?
"The response to my article “The 100 Worst Ed-Tech Debacles of the Decade” has been overwhelming, and I’ve spent the first few days of 2020 dealing with the influx of messages it’s prompted — mostly positive messages thankfully, although I haven’t looked at the comments on Reddit or Hacker News. (Good grief, why would I?!)

I want to respond briefly to one of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard: that I did not also write a list of “The 100 Best Ed-Tech Achievements of the Decade.” And that somehow that means my analysis is incomplete.

I’m not sure why folks want me to tell them what’s praiseworthy. As I said on Twitter: get your own moral compass. Look at your own practices, at the practices of those around you. And do better.

But more importantly, let’s be clear: the technology industry — education technology or otherwise — does not need my validation. It needs criticism. It needs criticism that refuses to come with sugar-coating and a few plaudits. There are not “two sides” to this issue that deserve equal time. There are not “two sides” — some good and some bad ed-tech — that exist in any sort of equal measure.

What if anything “good” about ed-tech this past decade was so overwhelmed by all the money funneled into the “bad” that the “good” didn’t matter one whit? What if all that “bad” meant any semblance of “good” was stifled, suffocated? What if, as David Kernohan has suggested, there wasn’t anything this past decade but technological disappointment? What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech?

I’m serious. Sit with that sentence a minute before you pipe up to defend your favorite app or social network or that cute robot your kids coded to move in a circle. What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech? What if ed-tech is totally inseparable from privatization, behavioral engineering, and surveillance? What if, by surrendering to the narrative that schools must be increasingly technological, we have neglected to support them in being be remotely human? What if we can never address the crises of our democracies, of our planet if we keep insisting on the benevolence of tech?"
audreywatters  edtech  technology  schools  education  surveillance  humanism  climatechange  society  democracy  canon  privatization  behaviorism  davidhernohan  criticism  journalism  2020 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Anand Giridharadas on Twitter: "My theory of beating Trump. Run a true progressive. And sell their policies in a way too few progressives do — in the languages of patriotism and personal transformation. Show people your way is the American way. And your
"The languages of justice and corruption are powerful. They’re the ones I speak in much of the time.

But I think we sometimes forget that America will be more fun, more thrilling, more joyous, full of better marriages and better holidays and better youths if these ideas succeed.

Progressive candidates can do better at helping people picture their lives on the other side of the mountain of change.

What will your marriage be like when you’re not stressed by debt and healthcare?

What books will you read to your kids when you’re not working three jobs?

Personal transformation is a powerful American vernacular. Except it’s about what you can do alone, as a self.

What I’m suggesting is that progressives co-opt this language but for grand public policy.

Sell health and education and tax policy as the real enablers of a new you.

And patriotism.

Don’t let the incrementalists and the defenders of ruthless corporations own the flag.

Taking care of each other is the American thing. Learning is the American thing. Paying your fair share is the American thing.

Root this fight in the language of country.

I don’t hear enough of these things.

I was born in Ohio. I went to college in Michigan. I now live in New York.

I believe these policies would benefit people in all these places. But some languages work better than others in the heartland.

Languages that are true to the facts.

At the end of the day, the country progressives want to build will be a more fun country to live in. That truth gets lost in the very worthy talk of oligarchy, corruption, and billionaires. I’m guilty of this, too.

We have to help people visualize the new America — and new them.

So that’s one guy’s take on how to defeat Trump while defeating what enabled Trump, while being mindful that doing so requires speaking to people who are non-native speakers of the language of social justice.

Check out the rest of my chat with @MMFlint: https://anchor.fm/rumble-with-michael-moore "
justice  corruption  anandgiridharadas  politics  progressive  progressivism  elections  2020  2019  patriotism  society  solidarity  personaltransformation  healthcare  inequality  medicine  change  debt  education  highered  highereducation  taxes  policy  centrism  incrementalism  corporatism  care  caring  us  economics  relationships  language  messaging  oligarchy  socialjustice  transformation  elizabethwarren  berniesanders  michaelmoore 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ep. 9: Please Let Me Rob You, I'm Woke (feat. Anand Giridharadas) from RUMBLE with MICHAEL MOORE on RadioPublic
[also available here:

https://anchor.fm/rumble-with-michael-moore/episodes/Ep–9-Please-Let-Me-Rob-You–Im-Woke-feat–Anand-Giridharadas-e9s5iu/a-a182c6l
https://open.spotify.com/episode/3j3jewq1yxOQ5eQpE5GdtJ
https://overcast.fm/+V18Uxlflk ]

“While the majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and one emergency away from financial peril, a new study shows that the 500 richest people in the world gained a combined $1.2 trillion in wealth in 2019. In the U.S., the richest 0.1% now control a bigger share of the pie than at any time since the beginning of the Great Depression.

But what happens when the very people hoarding this wealth at the expense of democracy, the environment and an equitable society, re-brand themselves as the people who will fix society’s problems? What happens when the arsonists pose as the firefighters?

Anand Giridharadas has been studying these questions and he joins Michael Moore to name names and discuss what to do about it.

Rumble Reads:

Anand’s book, “Winners Take All” is here:

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/539747/winners-take-all-by-anand-giridharadas/9780451493248

Follow Anand here:

https://twitter.com/AnandWrites

The Jamie Dimon “60 Minutes” episode that Michael and Anand ridicule is here:

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/jamie-dimon-jp-morgan-chase-ceo-the-60-minutes-interview-2019-11-10/

The new survey about the wealthiest people in the world is here :

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-27/world-s-richest-gain-1-2-trillion-as-kylie-baby-sharks-prosper
anandgiridharadas  michaelmoore  inequality  winnerstakeall  winwin  2019  us  wealth  power  economics  society  war  polarization  internet  work  labor  democracy  capitalism  abuse  proximity  barackobama  lloydblankfein  democrats  markzuckerberg  jeffbezos  billgates  politics  policy  wapo  washingtonpost  class  republicans  corporations  taxes  profits  mikepence  elections  corruption  finance  financialization  profiteering  banks  banking  investment  stockmarket  michaelbloomberg  liberals  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charitableindustrialcomplex  charity  oligarchy  plutocracy  kleptocracy  healthcare  cities  problemsolving  culture  elitism  climatechange  reputationlaundering  reputation  business  neoliberalism  wokemanickypercapitalism  latecapitalism  poverty  walmart  healthinsurance  pharmaceuticals  wendellpotter  change  profiteers  berniesanders  2020  fun  debt  education  highered  highereducation 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Alec Resnick on Twitter: “OK, via prompt by @vgr, 1 like = 1 opinion about unschooling”
“1. Unschooling’s greatest mistake was situating itself in the negative space of school. It doesn’t have a coherent position on what learning is.

2. Because unschooling is reacting to school’s coercive structures, it has developed an overly naturalistic view of learning that’s about “getting out of the way” which idealizes youth, learning, and often glosses over the complexities of actually learning and working.

3. The future of unschooling is much more likely to be invented in the world of work than the world of school or unschooling. And it probably won’t even be named as education per se for much of its infancy.

4. Mostly we talk about “learning” only to make sense of either (a) doing something inauthentic, or (b) being a novice. At some point, you stop “learning” the guitar and start just getting better. The most radical perspectives abandon treating learning as a distinct activity.

5. The most meaningful part of “unschooling” is the phase people go through in learning to learn and get things done without school-like structures. Understanding why we go through that phase has much more to do with psychology than education and is woefully under-explored.

6. Education won’t see meaningful reform until the time and money associated with schooling is made available for invention and experimentation. Unschooling, as long as it remains an “exit” strategy (in the AO Hirschman) sense, will never be instrumental to this.

7. One’s opinion about the relative decomposition of the premia which formal education earns people into human, network, and social/cultural capital is a far more important term in the mid-term future of school, learning, and unschooling than anyone’s pedagogy.

8. Education is a prematurely professionalized sector. Basic standards of rigor, consistency, shared vocabulary, and similar which other professions take for granted don’t yet exist. Unschooling has inherited and amplified this hubris as a reactionary position and community.

9. Human development is slow. Experimentation requires longer time horizons than most investment vehicles permit. To a first approximation, you can probably ignore research or reform efforts which don’t have built into their structure deep acknowledgment of this.

10. By framing its superiority in terms of rights, humane-ness, and ethics (as opposed to, e.g., efficacy), unschooling opts for the losing side of the political economy in conversations about the future of learning. This is a harsh critique of both unschooling and education.

11. Unschooling hand-waves at the reasons school exists (e.g. “industrial revolution factory model”), but has failed to develop a coherent analysis of school’s robustness to change and staying power. “What’s adaptive about school for whom?” is an underappreciated question.

12. School [and un-schooling] have much more to learn from kindergarten and the world of work than either appreciate.

13. It is a deep and important question why, for the most part, graduates from graduate schools of education (having nominally studied how people learn and grow), are not some of the most highly paid and sought after designers/managers in fields where knowledge work dominates.

14. A basic incoherence in discussions of unschooling, learning, and education, is that [mostly] people treat learning as a domain-independent activity. Domain specificity of methods’ relevance/efficacy is ignored because of the political functions of discourse around learning.

15. The set of things people worry about learning is ~arbitrary, a minute sliver of what’s out there. The process of identifying, creating curricula for, and developing educators to support learning a topic is so slow so as to make content-first reformers largely irrelevant.

16. Most discussions of learning wildly overindex on “fit” of topic-defined interest. Learning and motivation are driven by the social and cultural contexts in which people find themselves.

17. When given the chance to focus on “cognitive” or “affective” factors in someone’s learning, returns are almost always higher emphasizing the affective. We don’t yet have fundamental explanations for this, but it is a fact largely ignored by unschoolers and schoolers alike.

18. At most conferences, you hear about new ideas and new work. Unschooling/alt-ed conferences are much more similar to a political caucus coming together around values. Whether this is cause or effect, the intellectual stagnation has yet to even be identified by the sector.

19. Unschooling [and school] has never really grappled with the reality that choice amongst “education options” is better understood as choice among “insurance products” than “investment products”. i.e. it is about raising the floor to which you can fall.

20. The timescale required to capture the long-term returns of human capital development mean that for all intents and purposes, only governments, churches, universities, and visionary billionaires will be in a position to meaningfully experiment with new K12 institutions.

21. Much of the work of unschooling has as little to do with school and learning as remediating an unhealthy relationship to body image has to do with the theory of nutrition.

22. One of the greatest unrecognized reform strategies is to leverage new, salient skills (e.g. programming) to create cover for new pedagogy. Doing this in K12 requires inventive, intellectual work connecting these skills to all the disciplines for which school is responsible.

23. Dewey, Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf, etc.—the extent to which these have succeeded or not has ~nothing to do with their pedagogical efficacy. It is a political/financial/cultural fact. Efforts which do not have a historical analysis and story about this are unserious.

24. One of the most important [false] things you learn in school is that you learn by being taught. In unschooling, many people never unlearn this, instead substituting other classes or courses for the classroom that’s now gone.

25. Many explain away counterfactuals about people who drop out/unschool/homeschool by pointing to privilege. This is a fascinating datum. If it were an honest point, then educators would be interested in the pedagogical and managerial insights of the upper-middle class family.

26. There are approximately as many people homeschooled as there are in charter schools. “Charter school” is a design and governance mechanism. As is “homeschooling”. Talking about them as though they are pedagogies—e.g. “Does homeschooling work?”—is pure confusion.

27. Just as corporations have offered us new [often dark] visions of what the next nation states look like, so too will the first entities to figure out how to leverage tools like income share agreements to securitize human capital offer us new [maybe dark] visions of cities.

28. The bias to emphasize the cognitive in education leads people to vastly overestimate the power of remote technologies and experiences to transform learning. If it is fundamentally social, much of it will be fundamentally local.

29. To the extent unschooling recognizes learning is a slow, social, high-touch, and therefore local process it has one up on every company tackling this space which aims to be the first in history to create a large-scale, high-touch organization anyone wants to join.

30. One of the most valuable skills those who unschool and support others who unschool develop is the ability to introduce people to a map of an intellectual territory without confusing exposure for attempted mastery. Formal education could learn a great deal from this.

31. The most important ratio in the future of learning is the relative balance of dollars and minutes which go into (a) investigating how school works and could be improved, (b) investigating how “non-traditional” learning works, & (c) inventing new tools/approaches.

32. Pick any organizational unit (company, lab group, whatever). The first 100h of activity on-boarding a junior colleague to that group likely represents 1000h (8–10m full-time) of rigorous activity for a young person. Unschooling should focus on organizing access to this.

33. One of the cleverest sleights of hand—whose provenance I’m still mystified by—is that we discuss learning’s future in terms of methods instead of entrants/products. Learning is one of the most “execution-dependent” and “recipe-resistant” activities I can imagine.

34. Once you assume the moniker of “alternative”, you’ve lost the whole ball game.

35. Unschooling is really a battle against legibility. Competing with school will mostly be about subverting or competing with its measures of legibility. School’s measures are far less meaningful than most will admit. In whose interest is it to improve them?

36. To the extent that unschooling (and school reform) must confront legibility, as work product becomes increasingly structured and digitized (e.g. Figma, GitHub, etc.) there is a growing opportunity to leverage passive process artifacts for analysis and evaluation.

37. Conversely, most attempts to leverage portfolios or similar dramatically underestimate the sensing bandwidth constraints they’re up against. Last I checked, MIT spends an average of eleven (11) minutes evaluating a candidate.

38. Unschooling rightly recognizes an opportunity to unbundle (often leveraging online and community resources). Its efficacy requires knowing youth well (which dramatically increases CAC). No one knows whether, including that, there’s any value to be unlocked by unbundling.

39. Many undertake alternative educational arrangements/endeavors prompted by their own children. Though an authentic motive, it is not durable: Starting and growing the organization will outlive your kid’s needs.

40. A core challenge in organizing for educational change (in unschooling and elsewhere) is that your constituency (youth and families) are definitionally … [more]
unschooling  alecresnick  education  learning  deschooling  legibility  credentials  charterschools  howwelearn  pedagogy  howweteach  schools  schooling  society  work  chezpaniesse  local  alicewatters  learningecologies  environment  rahcelcarson  resources  tools  organization  organizing  montessori  reggioemilia  portfolios  formal  informal  informallearning  mastery  labor  homeschool  waldorf  johndewey  history  psychology  humandevelopment  skills  coercion  alternative  altedu  greatbooks  networks  networking  class  canon  classism  inequality  universalbasicincome  ubi  constraints  economics  race  institutions  flexibility  disciplines  specialization  exposure  edg  srg  mitmedialab  ledialab  xeroxparc  access  identity  opportunity  edtech  branding  culture  culturalcapital  rent-seeking  bureaucracy  sudburyschools  sudburyvalleyschools  reality  social  technocrats  publicschools  publicgood  apprenticeships  mentoring 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
My So-Karen Life - The New York Times
“All our teachers were Jeans, and the Jeans loved the Karens of course, for their neat, sexy cursive and their indifference to pedagogy. “Why is our state bird the chickadee?” I wanted to know. “Why not the robin, or the blue jay, or the sea gull? Why, in fact, not the mallard duck?”

Karens never asked why we had to memorize all the state birds. They just did it. If Karens were a state, their motto would be “Because.””



“You know how Karens are because we live on Planet Karen.”
patriarchy  sarahmiller  feminism  generations  2019  centrism  selfhood  freedom  happiness  karens  whiteness  pettiness  sameness  bullying  economics  education  pedagogy  unschooling  deschooling  groupthink  brainwashing  injustice  justice  socialjustice  intersectionality  race  racism  gender  power 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ivan Illich's Late Critique of Deschooling Society: “I Was Largely Barking Up the Wrong Tree” - Bruno‐Jofré - 2012 - Educational Theory - Wiley Online Library
[.pdf: https://www.are.na/block/5605220 ]

"In this article, Rosa Bruno‐Jofré and Jon Igelmo Zaldívar examine Ivan Illich's own critique of Deschooling Society, and his subsequent revised critique of educational institutions and understanding of education, within the context of both his personal intellectual journey and the general epistemological shift that started to take shape in the early 1980s. Bruno‐Jofré and Zaldívar consider how, over time, Illich refocused his quest on examining the roots (origin) of modern certitudes (such as those related to education) and explored how human beings are integrated into the systems generated by those “certainties.” Illich engaged himself in historical analysis rather than providing responses to specific contemporary problems, while maintaining an interest in the relation between the present and the past. Under the metaphors of the word, the page, and the screen, he identified three great mutations in Western social imaginaries and the reconstruction of the individual self. Bruno‐Jofré and Zaldívar argue that while his written work, including Deschooling Society, generally had an apophatic character, his critique of education, particularly in the late 1980s and 1990s, is intertwined with his analysis of the parable of the Good Samaritan and his belief that modernity is an outcome of corrupted Christianity."
ivanillich  2012  deschoolingsociety  rosabruno-jofré  jonigelmozaldívar  education  unschooling  deschooling  certainty  certainties  christianity  goodsamaritan 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Dr. Steven W. Thrasher on Twitter: "I find it wildly confusing that 18-year-olds—who can vote, who can be sentenced to death if they commit certain crimes, who can be sent off to war to die—are legally tied to their parents in an infantilizing manner
"I find it wildly confusing that 18-year-olds—who can vote, who can be sentenced to death if they commit certain crimes, who can be sent off to war to die—are legally tied to their parents in an infantilizing manner to get health insurance or qualify for student aid. It’s—weird.

The family functions in neoliberal society as a site for the state to offset economic liabilities onto. An 18 yr old who can be conscripted as a soldier deserves Medicare. What neoliberalism grants is private insurance from parents (IF they have parents (if THEY have insurance))

An unfortunate turn in Gay Inc politics was a move from desiring healthcare for all (to free all from hetero/sexism), which was replaced by the “targeted” (@pocojump) goal of expanded health insurance thru same sex marriage. David Eng calls this a kind of trickle down economics.

Adrianne Rich wrote of “compulsory heterosexuality.” When Mayor Pete calls for access to higher ed to be determined for *legal adults* by their parents, I think this is a kind of compulsory heterosexism as well, and a kind of compulsory infantilization.

By demanding LGBTQ young adults specifically (& young adults in general) be bound to their parents’ earnings WHICH THEY DON’T CONTROL to receive public education past age 18, Mayor Pete is using the family as a locus of social control in the most cynical, conservative way.

To say young legal adults must go through their parents to access healthcare or education allows their parents to hold biopower over the lives of adults. Medicare for all or free college for all would grant much more freedom to 18 year olds. But when they must go to their folks->

as legal adults who are basically hostages for the means of life itself, their parents can wield homophobia over them. Demand their trans “adult children” not get hormones or gender affirming surgery. Deny birth control. Wield stigma.

It’s not good, and it makes no legal sense.

No wonder old Dems like the youngest candidate (Pete) & young Dems like the oldest (Bernie):

Pete is trying to reinforce the existing, conservative social order.

Bernie is offering something akin to queer liberation by way of liberated access to learning & health.”
medicareforall  healthcare  infantilization  policy  us  heteronormativity  sexuality  petebuttigieg  berniesanders  insurance  healthinsurance  marriage  neoliberalism  patriarchy  conservatism  democrats  election  2019  2020  queer  liberation  health  education  highered  highereducation  financialaid  control  parents 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Grown Unschoolers [GrownUnschoolers.com]
"What's the big idea?
GrownUnschoolers.com is a free website that shares long-form profiles of grown unschoolers, ages 20-99, in their own words.

How do you define "unschooler?"
We think of an “unschooler” as anyone who enjoyed large amounts of autonomy and self-direction as a child, mostly outside of conventional school.

If you attended a highly self-directed school (like a democratic free school), went to community college, or participated in another structured learning environment, we still consider you an unschooler—as long as you were the one making the decision to attend or not.

Why does the world need this website?
People love stories. When parents and young people consider homeschooling, unschooling, and self-directed education centers, they benefit from reading detailed stories of those who have done it before—especially concerning the transition from K-12 into college, career, and general adulthood.

While many stories of grown unschoolers may be found online and in books, a central repository of detailed profiles didn’t exist. That’s why we believe this site needs to exist.

Who's behind this?
Editor-in-Chief: Maya Landers (21-year-old grown unschooler in Austin, Texas)
Consultant & Technical Support: Blake Boles (who originally devised the idea)
How can I get in touch?
Send questions, comments, and glowing praise to grownunschoolers@gmail.com.

If you’d like to get in touch with someone profiled on this site, please compose an email to that person, send it to grownunschoolers@gmail.com, and we will forward it.

How can I find out when new profiles are posted?
Sign up below to receive new profiles via email. An RSS reader also works (old school, but effective)."
unschooling  deschooling  education  learning  self-directedlearning  self-directed 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Ed-Tech Agitprop
"Is technology changing faster than it's ever changed before? It might feel like it is. Futurists might tell you it is. But many historians would disagree. Robert Gordon, for example, has argued that economic growth began in the late 19th century and took off in the early 20th century with the invention of "electricity, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, chemicals and plastics, and the diffusion to every urban household of clear running water and waste removal." Rapid technological change -- faster than ever before. But he argues that the growth from new technologies slowed by the 1970s. New technologies -- even new digital technologies -- he contends, are incremental changes rather than whole-scale alterations to society we saw a century ago. Many new digital technologies, Gordon argues, are consumer technologies, and these will not -- despite all the stories we hear -- necessarily restructure our world. Perhaps we're compelled to buy a new iPhone every year, but that doesn't mean that technology is changing faster than it's ever changed before. That just means we're trapped by Apple's planned obsolescence.

As historian Jill Lepore writes, "Futurists foretell inevitable outcomes by conjuring up inevitable pasts. People who are in the business of selling predictions need to present the past as predictable -- the ground truth, the test case. Machines are more predictable than people, and in histories written by futurists the machines just keep coming; depicting their march as unstoppable certifies the futurists' predictions. But machines don't just keep coming. They are funded, invented, built, sold, bought, and used by people who could just as easily not fund, invent, build, sell, buy, and use them. Machines don't drive history; people do. History is not a smart car."


We should want a future of human dignity and thriving and justice and security and care -- for everyone. Education is a core part of that. But dignity, thriving, justice, and care are rarely the focus of how we frame "the future of learning" or "the future of work." Robots will never care for us. Unbridled techno-solution will never offer justice. Lifelong learning isn't thriving when it is a symptom of economic precarity, of instability, of a disinvestment in the public good.

When the futures we hear predicted on stages like this turn so casually towards the dystopian, towards an embrace of the machine, towards an embrace of efficiency and inequality and fear -- and certainly that's the trajectory I feel that we are on with the narratives underpinning so much of ed-tech agitprop -- then we have failed. This is a massive failure of our politics, for sure, but it is also a massive failure of imagination. Do better."
2019  audreywatters  edtech  agitprop  dystopia  technology  storytelling  propaganda  pressreleases  capitalism  neoliberalism  benjamindoxtdator  economics  education  learning  highered  highereducation  johnseelybrown  davos  worldeconomicforum  power  money  motivation  purpose  howwelearn  relationships  howweteach  schools  schooling  disruption  robots  productivity  futurism  robertgordon  change  history  jilllepore  security  justice  society  socialjustice  technosolutionism  californianideology  work  labor  future  machines  modernism 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Spaces of the Learning Self - e-flux Architecture - e-flux
"In the 2015 UNESCO-sponsored policy paper entitled “The Futures of Learning,” notions such as “active learner,” “metacognitive development” and “participatory learning” are abound. The most important, however, seems to be the “personalization” and “customization” of learning, or even “learner-designed learning.” As if copy-pasted from Van der Ryn’s 1969 tract, the advice reads as follows: “With personalized learning, individuals approach problems in their own way, grasp ideas at their own pace, and respond differently to multiple forms of feedback.” Neuroscience research is cited to the effect that instead of preparing “lessons” (so old school), the task of a instructor should be “designing project-based forms of learning.” This proposition rests on the assumption that learners improve better on “core subject matter” and benefit from emphasis on “depth over breadth” when learning in a personalized environment. “Instructional design” is presumed to become the central agency of such infinitely customized collaborative pedagogy. The key instructional designer, however, is going to be the learner herself, equipped with networked hand-held devices: “Future learning processes will inevitably take place in environments in which learners select their own modes of learning and bring personal technologies into education,” thereby dissolving not only any difference between formal and informal learning, but also between inner and outer, psychic and physical spatialities of learning.

This exit from the old systems and architectures of both education and class and enter into mobile learning capsules, however they may be defined, has been a political project and designer’s dream since at least the 1960s. Yet considering Didier Eribon’s self-critical account of class flight into self-organized learning, Ruth Lakofski’s appreciation of the bag lady’s mode of spatializing her “exploring soul,” or Sim Van der Ryn’s proposals for an education revolution based on radical individualism, the vista of “pedagogy 2.0” and lifelong personalization (read: commodification) as is promoted today is truly disheartening. That said, the self still waits to be designed. Improved enclosures for enhanced learning experiences will be proposed, with no end in sight. The paradox of programmed autodidactism and the responsibilization of the neoliberal subject to watchfully manage their own lifelong learning curriculum will stimulate the knowledge industry of instructional design schemes. It might thus be convenient to recall what Ivan Illich, author of the influential 1971 Deschooling Society, self-critically wrote in retrospect when he called for “the reversal of those trends that make of education a pressing need rather than a gift of gratuitous leisure.” Drug-like addiction to education, Illich bemoaned, would make “the world into a universal classroom, a global schoolhouse.” Something surely to be avoided, at all cost."
tomholert  ivanillich  deschooling  unschooling  deschoolingsociety  leisure  education  economics  individualism  californianideology  teachingmachines  edtech  technology  automation  autodidacts  responsibility  neoliberalism  personalization  commodification  pedagogy  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  teaching  simvanderryn  ruthlakofski  didiereribon  self-directed  self-directedlearning  openstudioproject  lcproject  informallearning  formal  networkedlearning  collaboration  collectivism  instructionaldesign  projectbasedlearning  neuroscience  lifelonglearning  michelfoucault  pierrebourdieu  annieernaux  raymondwilliams  chantaljaquet  self-invention  ruthlakosfski  mobile  mobility  cybernetics  1968  1969  anthonyvidler  mikekelley  environment  howardsingerman  autonomy  chrisabel  jerrybrown  california  robertsommer  antfarm  archigram  psychology  participatory  michaelwebb  architecture  design  society  networks  esaleninstitute  unesco  philosophy  educationalphilosophy 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Revolution and American Indians: “Marxism is as Alien to My Culture as Capitalism”
"The only possible opening for a statement of this kind is that I detest writing. The process itself epitomizes the European concept of "legitimate" thinking; what is written has an importance that is denied the spoken. My culture, the Lakota culture, has an oral tradition, so I ordinarily reject writing. It is one of the white world's ways of destroying the cultures of non-European peoples, the imposing of an abstraction over the spoken relationship of a people.

So what you read here is not what I've written. It's what I've said and someone else has written down. I will allow this because it seems that the only way to communicate with the white world is through the dead, dry leaves of a book. I don't really care whether my words reach whites or not. They have already demonstrated through their history that they cannot hear, cannot see; they can only read (of course, there are exceptions, but the exceptions only prove the rule). I'm more concerned with American Indian people, students and others, who have begun to be absorbed into the white world through universities and other institutions. But even then it's a marginal sort of concern. It's very possible to grow into a red face with a white mind; and if that's a person's individual choice, so be it, but I have no use for them. This is part of the process of cultural genocide being waged by Europeans against American Indian peoples' today. My concern is with those American Indians who choose to resist this genocide, but who may be confused as to how to proceed.

(You notice I use the term American Indian rather than Native American or Native indigenous people or Amerindian when referring to my people. There has been some controversy about such terms, and frankly, at this point, I find it absurd. Primarily it seems that American Indian is being rejected as European in origin--which is true. But all the above terms are European in origin; the only non-European way is to speak of Lakota--or, more precisely, of Oglala, Brule, etc.--and of the Dineh, the Miccousukee, and all the rest of the several hundred correct tribal names.

(There is also some confusion about the word Indian, a mistaken belief that it refers somehow to the country, India. When Columbus washed up on the beach in the Caribbean, he was not looking for a country called India. Europeans were calling that country Hindustan in 1492. Look it up on the old maps. Columbus called the tribal people he met "Indio," from the Italian in dio, meaning "in God.")

It takes a strong effort on the part of each American Indian not to become Europeanized. The strength for this effort can only come from the traditional ways, the traditional values that our elders retain. It must come from the hoop, the four directions, the relations: it cannot come from the pages of a book or a thousand books. No European can ever teach a Lakota to be Lakota, a Hopi to be Hopi. A master's degree in "Indian Studies" or in "education" or in anything else cannot make a person into a human being or provide knowledge into traditional ways. It can only make you into a mental European, an outsider.

I should be clear about something here, because there seems to be some confusion about it. When I speak of Europeans or mental Europeans, I'm not allowing for false distinctions. I'm not saying that on the one hand there are the by-products of a few thousand years of genocidal, reactionary, European intellectual development which is bad; and on the other hand there is some new revolutionary intellectual development which is good. I'm referring here to the so-called theories of Marxism and anarchism and "leftism" in general. I don't believe these theories can be separated from the rest of the of the European intellectual tradition. It's really just the same old song.

The process began much earlier. Newton, for example, "revolutionized" physics and the so-called natural sciences by reducing the physical universe to a linear mathematical equation. Descartes did the same thing with culture. John Locke did it with politics, and Adam Smith did it with economics. Each one of these "thinkers" took a piece of the spirituality of human existence and converted it into code, an abstraction. They picked up where Christianity ended: they "secularized" Christian religion, as the "scholars" like to say--and in doing so they made Europe more able and ready to act as an expansionist culture. Each of these intellectual revolutions served to abstract the European mentality even further, to remove the wonderful complexity and spirituality from the universe and replace it with a logical sequence: one, two, three. Answer!

This is what has come to be termed "efficiency" in the European mind. Whatever is mechanical is perfect; whatever seems to work at the moment--that is, proves the mechanical model to be the right one--is considered correct, even when it is clearly untrue. This is why "truth" changes so fast in the European mind; the answers which result from such a process are only stopgaps, only temporary, and must be continuously discarded in favor of new stopgaps which support the mechanical models and keep them (the models) alive.

Hegel and Marx were heirs to the thinking of Newton, Descartes, Locke and Smith. Hegel finished the process of secularizing theology--and that is put in his own terms--he secularized the religious thinking through which Europe understood the universe. Then Marx put Hegel's philosophy in terms of "materialism," which is to say that Marx despiritualized Hegel's work altogether. Again, this is in Marx' own terms. And this is now seen as the future revolutionary potential of Europe. Europeans may see this as revolutionary, but American Indians see it simply as still more of that same old European conflict between being and gaining. The intellectual roots of a new Marxist form of European imperialism lie in Marx'--and his followers'--links to the tradition of Newton, Hegel and the others.

Being is a spiritual proposition. Gaining is a material act. Traditionally, American Indians have always attempted to be the best people they could. Part of that spiritual process was and is to give away wealth, to discard wealth in order not to gain. Material gain is an indicator of false status among traditional people, while it is "proof that the system works" to Europeans. Clearly, there are two completely opposing views at issue here, and Marxism is very far over to the other side from the American Indian view. But let's look at a major implication of this; it is not merely an intellectual debate.

The European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe is very similar to the mental process which goes into dehumanizing another person. And who seems most expert at dehumanizing other people? And why? Soldiers who have seen a lot of combat learn to do this to the enemy before going back into combat. Murderers do it before going out to commit murder. Nazi SS guards did it to concentration camp inmates. Cops do it. Corporation leaders do it to the workers they send into uranium mines and steel mills. Politicians do it to everyone in sight. And what the process has in common for each group doing the dehumanizing is that it makes it all right to kill and otherwise destroy other people. One of the Christian commandments says, "Thou shalt not kill," at least not humans, so the trick is to mentally convert the victims into nonhumans. Then you can proclaim violation of your own commandment as a virtue.

In terms of the despiritualization of the universe, the mental process works so that it becomes virtuous to destroy the planet. Terms like progress and development are used as cover words here, the way victory and freedom are used to justify butchery in the dehumanization process. For example, a real-estate speculator may refer to "developing" a parcel of ground by opening a gravel quarry; development here means total, permanent destruction, with the earth itself removed. But European logic has gained a few tons of gravel with which more land can be "developed" through the construction of road beds. Ultimately, the whole universe is open--in the European view--to this sort of insanity.

Most important here, perhaps, is the fact that Europeans feel no sense of loss in all this. After all, their philosophers have despiritualized reality, so there is no satisfaction (for them) to be gained in simply observing the wonder of a mountain or a lake or a people in being. No, satisfaction is measured in terms of gaining material. So the mountain becomes gravel, and the lake becomes coolant for a factory, and the people are rounded up for processing through the indoctrination mills Europeans like to call schools.

But each new piece of that "progress" ups the ante out in the real world. Take fuel for the industrial machine as an example. Little more than two centuries ago, nearly everyone used wood--a replenishable, natural item--as fuel for the very human needs of cooking and staying warm. Along came the Industrial Revolution and coal became the dominant fuel, as production became the social imperative for Europe. Pollution began to become a problem in the cities, and the earth was ripped open to provide coal whereas wood had always simply been gathered or harvested at no great expense to the environment. Later, oil became the major fuel, as the technology of production was perfected through a series of scientific "revolutions." Pollution increased dramatically, and nobody yet knows what the environmental costs of pumping all that oil out of the ground will really be in the long run. Now there's an "energy crisis," and uranium is becoming the dominant fuel.

Capitalists, at least, can be relied upon to develop uranium as fuel only at the rate which they can show a good profit. That's their ethic, and maybe they will buy some time. Marxists, on the other hand, can be relied upon to develop uranium fuel as rapidly as possible simply because it's the most "efficient" production fuel available. That's their ethic, and I fail to see where it's … [more]
russellmeans  1980  writing  oraltradition  lakota  thinking  abstraction  indigeneity  genocide  resistance  marxism  culture  outsiders  education  unschooling  deschooling  leftism  anarchism  johnlocke  adamsmith  descartes  physics  politics  economics  christianity  religion  efficiency  spirituality  complexity  hegel  karlmarx  materialism  isaacnewton  dehumanization  despiritualization  progress  development  victory  freedom  loss  indoctrination  schools  schooling  scientism  rationalism  capitalism  redistribution  truth  revolution  society  industrialization  sovietunion  china  vietnam  order  indigenous  alternative  values  traditions  theory  practice  praxis  westernism  europe  posthumanism  morethanhuman  rationality  belief  ideology  nature  survival  extermination  whiteness  whitesupremacy  community  caucasians  deathculture  isms  revolt  leaders  idols  leadership  activism  words  language  canon  environment  sustainability 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
paying for civilization
"The other day I was walking the dogs along a favorite trail, turned a corner, and realized there’d been a significant re-routing. They’d closed a section of the old trail, which was rocky and treacherous and steep in winter, and rerouted a new, evenly graded trail to the side. A few yards down, they’d planted a new row of saplings, protecting them from the hungry deer with chicken wire. A bit farther down the trail, they’d opened up a once-fenced and densely wooded section of the trail to create a small sitting area overlooking a small, usually hidden reservoir. I actually gasped when I saw it. I was so surprised, happy, grateful. What a gift!

I use the word ‘they’ as if it were people, and of course people did the work. But in a way, I gave that gift to myself. Or everyone in Missoula gave that gift to me. A whole host of trail maintenance programs are funded by the Missoula Open Space Bond, which funds the conservation and maintenance of trails, rivers, and open spaces in the county. It helps restore busted habitats, and continues work on a project making it so that there’s a trailhead within ten minutes of everyone in the county — not just people who live in the more desirable areas. It’s regrading hills to make trails more accessible. It’s making civilization better, more livable. And I fucking love paying for it. That’s what I say every time I pay my taxes: I love paying for civilization.

I don’t know where the American attitude towards taxes came from. I do know that growing up, through some combination of pop culture and adult figures, I somehow internalized the idea that taxes are bad, and smart people spend a lot of money figuring out how not to pay them. It’s not tax evasion, it’s good business sense. Or something like that. Weirdly, that began to change when I actually started working. I didn’t make enough in my 20s to pay hardly any taxes. In fact, I was making so little for much of my grad school career that I became accustomed to large refunds at the end of every year, which felt like bonanzas, but made me feel sheepish: you don’t even make enough for us to really tax you.

After grad school, those refunds began to disappear. I moved to New York, where everyone bitches about the city taxes. But I also looked around me and saw marvels of the city everywhere. Every time I walked along the Brooklyn piers, or used a public drinking fountain, or watched the streets being cleaned of New York filth, or even riding the broken subway. Did I want the subway to be fixed? Of course! Was I nonetheless grateful for a marvel that transports 4.3 million people in the city every damn day? Yes. Again: I love paying for civilization.

I had to find a financial advisor earlier this year, mostly because I had a book advance and needed to come up with a strategy to pay down my still massive student loans. He’s a nice guy, very smart, but when we sat down, he immediately started telling me about the complex ways I could shelter my earnings from taxes. When I told him I was down with paying taxes, it was difficult to tell if he was just surprised or just thought I was stupid — which presupposes the idea that smart people pay less taxes. I’m not dumb, and I take deductions like everyone else. But I’ve also made a conscious decision to think of paying taxes not as a burden to get out of, but as a willingly performed obligation, a way of being a citizen in my community.

My property tax statement came in the mail last month. In Montana, it lists the specific allocation of every tax dollar, down to the penny. We’re spending $50.66 on the county library. $3.84 on “relationship violence services.” $14.08 on “aging services.” $519.98 on elementary schools, and $168.90 for “elementary equalization,” which goes towards school districts that don’t get the same $$$ in property taxes. $14.48 in weed control. $35.99 towards the beloved neighborhood park, where there’s a natural iceskating rink and hoards of children and so much room for the dogs to run. $7.68 in substance abuse prevention. And $56.70 towards the Open Space bond, which includes that regraded path and sitting area.

I don’t have kids, so I don’t personally “use” the public school system. I don’t have friends or family members in substance abuse programs, or in need of assistance fleeing domestic abuse. I don’t (yet) need aging services. But the idea that I should only pay for things that benefit me directly is anathema to me. Every single thing on that list benefits me in some way, because it benefits the community around me. Kids’ education matters not because they’re my kids, but because education matters, in general. I might not need rescue services in the woods out in the corner of the county, but some day, maybe I would. Maybe I would need help in some way that’s currently unimaginable to me. Paying taxes means caring for other people, even if their circumstances aren’t identical to your own. And for all of our best intentions, sometimes we need incentive to care about other people.

I’ve spent a lot of time reporting on and talking to libertarians and conservatives who object to nearly all forms of taxation and government spending, apart from roads. They believe that individuals should be able to decide which programs are important to them, and fund them accordingly — personally, through non-profits, through churches. I get the impulse; we work hard for our money and we’ve internalized a “right” to agency over where it’s directed. Within that model, there are all sorts of services that would fall through the cracks — and not just weed control. Just look at the GoFundMe model: if you have a cute kid, an incredibly tragic or melodramatic story, and a good marketing sense, your plea for assistance might go viral and be filled. But the vast majority go unfunded and unfound. Leaving services up to subjective giving means allowing so many people, and projects, to fall through the cracks. Taxes create a remove — and foils our very human, but very uneven, impulses.

Which isn’t to say that I like everything my taxes fund — military spending in particular. I don’t like bloat or waste; who does? But I also don’t think that entire programs and services should be cut, or cut to the bone, in the name of giving me $14.07 more a year. I support and vote for candidates who advocate for responsible spending — but spending nonetheless. I get annoyed at the hand-wringing over whether or not something like Elizabeth Warren’s health care plan will raise taxes on the middle class, because I’d much rather pay more taxes and far less in personal health care costs and premiums — while also reveling in the ways universal health care would liberate myself and others from “job lock,” and the constant fear of medical debt, and fear in general. How much is too much to pay to make life substantively better for so many people around you?

This all comes back to an idea I touched on a few weeks ago, thinking about how you can decrease burnout in others. One way is by not practicing burnout behaviors that affect everyone you encounter. Another is working to create and normalize social safety nets that take away even one massive burden and fear — for yourself, for your neighbors, for your coworkers, for people you’ll never meet but whose mental and physical contributions to society nevertheless matter.

I love that a huge truck comes by the first week of November and sucks up all the leaves from the street. I love my trails. I love that the roads get plowed, even when it takes a bit. I love that the bus is free, even though I’m going to keep voting for people who want more buses, more routes. I love the library — it doesn’t matter that I hardly use it; I love that it’s there for others, and that it’s always full. I love the weed control that prevents the forests from being overtaken by noxious invasive species. And I love all the projects that seemingly benefit me not at all, because they make life better and livable for someone else.

Think about all the things in your life and community that you help pay for every day. You create and maintain civilization, every day. Taxes! What a blessing, to be able to care for others in this way."
taxes  society  civilization  collectivism  education  healthcare  parks  socialsafetynet  annehelenpetersen  2019  well-being  politics  libertarianism  communities  community  government  missoula  aging  retirement  socialsecurity  publicschools  care  caring  taxation  roads  infrastructure  services 
november 2019 by robertogreco
The Smartest People in the Room? What Silicon Valley’s Supposed Obsession with Tech-Free Private Schools Really Tells Us - Los Angeles Review of Books
“As a case in point, many techies’ conviction that they must monitor and cultivate — with concerted effort — their children’s technology habits is firmly and prosaically rooted in the values and worldviews shared by many non-techie middle-class parents. Private schools almost by definition have to craft stories that appeal to privileged strivers anxious about their children’s futures. Some of these stories recount how their graduates’ creative brilliance was spawned in their school’s tech-free environment. Related ones ply anti-contamination themes, and fetishize the purity of childhood. Techie parents are as susceptible as anyone else. Moreover, the ways in which technology fits into these narratives — or is actively excluded from them — has far more to do with parents’ age-old fears about social change and new media than with any special knowledge vouchsafed to tech workers. Indeed, such stories are similar to widely held beliefs in 18th-century England that novels corrupted the soul. In the latter half of the 20th century, first television and then video games became the sources of this alleged corruption, joined by the internet at the dawn of this century.”



“The more important point here is that believing techie parents have secret insider knowledge about the harmful effects of children’s technology usage reinforces the dangerous myth that techies are always the smartest people in the room…”



“Beliefs in techie superiority are, unfortunately, buttressed by the fact that money confers credibility…”



“As a society, we must see the technology world for what it is: an industry as insular as it is influential, and in desperate need of many more kinds of expertise.”
privateschools  education  siliconvalley  2019  waldorf  vaccinations  elitism  intelligence  society  technology  edtech  media  smartness  credibility  belief  superiority  insularity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema - The New York Times
"Bong Joon Ho’s latest film joins a growing list of movies criticizing South Korean inequality — a problem so pervasive it has given birth to its own slang."

...

"While such inequality afflicts the United States and many other countries, South Korea’s income distribution is remarkably lopsided. In 2015, the top 10 percent of South Koreans held 66 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the poorer half of the population held only 2 percent, according to figures cited by Kyung Hyun Kim, a professor of East Asian studies at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of several books on Korean cinema. In addition, large numbers of South Korea’s elite inherited their wealth.

That inequity, combined with scandals involving corruption among the privileged, have bred so much bitterness and frustration among Koreans that new slang phrases have emerged in recent years, like “gold spoons” and “dirt spoons.”

“People who are born with a gold spoon are the ones who have made it,” the professor said. “The have-nots are dirt spoons. They will always be given a dirt spoon, and it will always be a struggle.”

The lack of social mobility for dirt spoons is at the heart of “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho. The Kims are each smart and talented in their own ways. Yet they are so poor — they crouch next to a toilet just to steal a neighbor’s Wi-Fi — that there is no clear path for them to succeed.

Though economically disadvantaged Americans face a similar plight, in South Korea, job prospects can be tied to family background, as when employers ask about applicants’ parents, a practice that could favor the privileged, Kim, the professor, said. Furthermore, investigations have uncovered nepotistic practices, like private schools’ preference for installing family members in teaching positions.

So why not fake it till you make it? In “Parasite,” the Kims’ son, Ki-woo, fluent in English, uses a referral from a privileged friend and counterfeit college credentials to trick the Parks into giving him a job as a language tutor for their teenage daughter. Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung, pretends to be an art therapist and gets hired to work with the Parks’ disturbed little boy. Dad and Mom soon join the subterfuge by posing as a professional driver and a housemaid for the Parks, who are as gullible as they are neurotic about cleanliness."
bongjoon-ho  parasite  film  inequality  koreas  southkorea  2019  class  nepotism  elitism  capitalism  education  society  socialmobility  precarity 
october 2019 by robertogreco
From Bureaucracy to Profession: Remaking the Educational Sector for the Twenty-First Century
"In this essay, Jal Mehta examines the challenges faced by American schooling and the reasons for persistent failure of American school reforms to achieve successful educational outcomes at scale. He concludes that many of the problems faced by American schools are artifacts of the bureaucratic form in which the education sector as a whole was cast: “We are trying to solve a problem that requires professional skill and expertise by using bureaucratic levers of requirements and regulations.” Building on research from a variety of fields and disciplines, Mehta advances a “sectoral” perspective on education reform, exploring how this shift in thinking could help education stakeholders produce quality practice across the nation."

[full article in .pdf: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/33063300/Mehta_--_From_Bureaucracy_to_Profession_--_HER_2013.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y ]
jalmehta  us  schools  schooling  scale  bureaucracy  skill  edreform  education  publicschools  professions  policy  institutions  cynicism  johntaylorgatto  pisa  assessment  singapore  finland  korea  southkorea  canada  lindadarling-hammond  expertise  professionalization  teachers  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  management  teachertraining  responsibility  standards 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Why Equity Has Been a Conservative Force in American Education—And How That Could Change - Next Gen Learning in Action - Education Week
"By Jal Mehta, an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the co-director of the Deeper Learning Dozen

Over the past 15 years, at least since the passage of No Child Left Behind, equity has been more of a conservative than a liberating force in American education.

It started with good intentions. The idea was that some students, particularly students of color and poor students, historically had been ill-served by our school system. When Ted Kennedy and George Miller joined their Republican colleagues in supporting No Child Left Behind, they did so out of a belief that it was a continuation of the civil rights movement—a way to use federal power to support an equity agenda.

But that's not how it played out. The consequence of holding everyone accountable to low level tests in reading and math, without building any of the supporting structures, climate, or culture that would enable those results, is that schools serving disadvantaged students narrowed the curriculum and focused disproportionately on test prep, whereas more advantaged public schools and private schools had flexibility to continue offering a richer and more holistic educational approach.

Even as the legal requirements for NCLB have ended, the mindset has persisted. Urban schools and districts continue to be run in more authoritarian ways than their suburban counterparts, and students in disadvantaged schools continue to be more subject to test-driven pressures. When we run institutes at the Harvard Graduate School of Education on "deeper learning," we tend to attract folks from more privileged public schools and private schools here and abroad. In contrast, when we offer institutes on data-driven instruction or school turnarounds, we tend to attract people serving students of color in high-poverty public schools.

The consequence is that equity has become, more often than not, a conservative force in American public education. The effort to close achievement gaps has in practice doubled down on the century-old industrial model of schooling, leaving in place all of the essential elements of its grammar: teaching as transmission, batch processing of students, conventional assessments, tracking and leveling, and all of the rest. Anything that moves away from those assumptions—like project-based learning, problem-based learning, interdisciplinary learning, authentic assessment, or constructivist pedagogy—is seen as "risky;" something that is "OK for the privileged kids" but somehow distracts from the real work of closing achievement gaps on state-sponsored tests.

I've come to think that the reality is close to the opposite. The existing system, for all of its warts, works well enough for the privileged kids. They know how to play the "game of school," and thus they learn what they need to learn to get the grades and credentials they need to head to college and beyond. It is the kids who are disaffected from school who are most in need of a new approach. For them, finding a way to make school more relevant, more student-centered, more connected to their purposes and passions, is not a luxury but a requirement. Ironically, the more we double down on closing achievement gaps within the existing grammar of schooling, the more difficult we make it for ourselves to transform schooling into a more purposeful, relevant, and engaging institution.

There is an alternative, well-developed in some circles, but just recently entering broader reform discussions.

Equity as liberation.

This approach has entered the mainstream education space over the past five years from places like the National Equity Project and equityXdesign. The roots of it are old, drawing on Paulo Freire's ideas of "problem-posing" education and education as a force for liberation, and they run through the writings of folks like Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Pedro Noguera, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Theresa Perry, and many others. The idea here is that equity is a lens, a way of seeing how power is distributed, whose voices are being heard, which ideas are being represented, and whose interests are being served. It relies more heavily on what Shane Safir calls "street data" (the lived experiences of students in schools) than "satellite data" (test scores). It sees diversity as an asset—where our different lived experiences and funds of knowledge create rich opportunities for mutual learning—which is a profoundly different stance from the deficit approaches that have become standard in these discussions. It takes seriously the idea that education should liberate, meaning create ways for students to take agency to transform their lives and the world around them.

Taking this stance also implies a different way of working. Fundamentally, many gap-closing approaches take a fundamentally old-style command and control orientation for granted. What is to be known is determined by the district or the state. Students don't know this knowledge when they start. Teachers don't know how to deliver this knowledge. The solution is tighter implementation chains—from districts into the heads of teachers and then into the heads of students. This prescription is compounded by urgency; we are told that students have no time to lose so vertical hierarchies are the most efficient way to get things done.

A better approach would start with a different set of assumptions. There is lots of knowledge in the system, held by both teachers and students. This knowledge is also more heterogeneous than what is known by the district: Older teachers may have wisdom about teaching practice, younger teachers may have learned non-Western history in college, and students may know things about their neighborhoods and communities that are invisible to teachers and administrators. Good leadership would tap into these centers of knowledge and connect and build upon them in ways that are likely to lead to mutual learning for everyone.

It also would imply a different approach to change. Much of the traditional literature assumes that the leader is the hero, the members of the organization are the resistance, and the central challenge is to achieve "buy-in" via "change management." A liberatory design approach, by contrast, assumes that teachers and students would like to develop engaging, meaningful learning experiences, and that the problem is not them but the institutional structures and culture of schools that constrains them. Such an approach would foreground the lived experiences of students and teachers and invite them to help redesign schools in ways that are more purposeful and humane. Rather than act on students, teachers, and communities, we would work with them.

Liberatory design would also create an attractive symmetry between adult learning and student learning. If we want classrooms where students are seen as capable meaning-makers and teachers are facilitators of that learning, then districts need to treat teachers as capable meaning-makers and themselves as facilitators of teacher learning. Taking this point seriously would require districts to rethink many of their assumptions, large and small, spurring a shift from a bureaucratic to a professional mode of social organization.

Engaging with the lived experiences of students would also force us to think harder about whether students' full selves are welcomed into schools. This is relevant for all students, but particularly for students of color. One of my favorite ethnographies of schooling is Angela Valenzuela's Subtractive Schooling, which shows in excruciating detail the ways in which the mostly Mexican-American students in her research have to forego critical parts of themselves to show up in school. Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir similarly recounts how his inquisitive stance was not welcome in Baltimore schools that repressed questions and rewarded compliance.

We could create schools that reverse this cycle; many in the sector already have. They start from what should be an uncontroversial idea—that students learn best when they feel affirmed, recognized, and welcomed into the spaces in which they are learning. Diversifying the curriculum does not mean lessening the rigor of that curriculum; rather, it potentially enables more students to do rigorous work by creating subjects worth investing in. And when we do that, ironically, we have a much better chance of closing conventional achievement gaps, because we have created welcoming, inclusive spaces where students can do their best work.

Equity can be either a conservative or a liberating force. Which one is it in your school?"
equity  achievementgap  education  policy  jalmehta  via:derek  2019  liberation  conservatism  curriculum  nclb  rttt  intentions  civilrights  testing  standardizedtesting  reading  math  schools  schoolclimate  testprep  inequality  authoritarianism  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching  publicschools  privateschools  data  poverty  us  transmission  interdisciplinary  constructivism  pedagogy  credentials  paulofreire  pedronoguera  jeffduncan-andrade  glorialadson-billings  theresaperry  power  shanesharif  experience  diversity  discussion  agency  horizontality  leadership  communities  change  management  institutions  culture  schoolculture  liberatorydesign  ta-nehisicoates  baltimore  compliance  curiosity  inquiry  rigor 
october 2019 by robertogreco
What’s Happening In Sweden? – Bella Caledonia
"When it comes to making absurd exaggerations about this country to suit their beliefs, they are latecomers. If Sweden occupies an outsized position in the dystopian geography of the nativist right, this is derivative, a sacrilegious inversion of the role it has held for generations in the belief system of their progressive opponents.

It seemed harmless enough, a few years back, when no one talked about ‘fake news’ – but actually, what’s the difference between taking a small local experiment and blowing it up into a story about a whole country switching to a six-hour day, and taking a few local incidents involving immigrants and blowing these up into a story about a whole country where law and order is breaking down? The content is different, sure, and the consequences darker, but the basic pattern is the same."
sweden  dougladhine  myths  socialism  democracy  history  socialsafetynet  2019  bureaucracy  immigration  nationalism  whitesupremacy  arms  weapons  andrewbrown  dominichinde  scandinavia  nordiccountries  welfarestate  chile  pinochet  austerity  schools  schooling  education  privatization  markets  capitalism  labor  work  misinterpretation  england  uk  military  neutrality  foreignpolicy  coldwar  wwii  ww2  exceptionalism  modernity  socialdemocrats 
october 2019 by robertogreco
HEWN, No. 324: Sorry, you can’t get to Sesame Street from here any more
"I’ve been thinking this week about a 1985 interview with MIT computer science professor Joseph Weizenbaum. The interview opens with a question about the role of computers in education — a question that Weizenbaum dismisses in part because it assumes that computers are good and useful and necessarily have something to offer. “The computer has almost since its beginning,” he says, “been basically a solution looking for a problem.”

It’s a “solution” that, in its search for a problem, has come “to use entire generations of schoolchildren as experimental subjects.” (Related: “Psychodata: disassembling the psychological, economic, and statistical infrastructure of ‘social-emotional learning’” by Ben Williamson.)

Even if we can demonstrate that introducing computers into classrooms helps students improve their test scores (or what have you), Weizenbaum argues there are still many questions to be asked about why students struggle in the first place. “The question, ‘Why can’t Johnny read?’ must still be asked.”
There is a very good reason that questions of that kind are uncomfortable. When we ask this question, we may discover that Johnny is hungry when he comes to school, or that Johnny comes from a milieu in which reading is irrelevant to concrete problems or survival on the street — that is, there is no chance to read, it is a violent milieu, and so on.

You might discover that, and then you might ask the next question: “Why is it that Johnny comes to school hungry? Don’t we have school breakfast programs and lunch programs?” The answer to that might be, yes, we used to, but we don’t any more.

Why is there so much poverty in our world, in the United States, especially in the large cities? Why is it that classes are so large? Why is it that fully half the science and math teachers in the United States are underqualified and are operating on emergency certificates?

When you ask questions like that, you come upon some very important and very tragic facts about America. One of the things you would discover is that education has a very much lower priority in the United States than do a great many other things, most particularly the military.

It is much nicer, it is much more comfortable, to have some device, say the computer, with which to flood the schools, and then to sit back and say, “You see, we are doing something about it, we are helping,” than to confront ugly social realities.

Sesame Street was one education technology that, from its outset, did try to confront those social realities. The show, first pitched by Joan Ganz Cooney in a 1966 report to the Carnegie Foundation, recognized that “disadvantaged children are inadequately stimulated and motivated during the preschool years and the belief that the right kind of early intervention can provide adequate compensation have done much to create the present ferment in cognitive development research and preschool education.” The initial mission: create a show for public (not commercial) television that would develop school readiness of viewers age 3 to 5, with particular emphasis on the needs of low-income children and children of color.

Sesame Street is the most researched television show in history — not only in its reception but in its development. From the outset, there was attention to repetition and sequencing, for example. There was careful consideration of when to use straightforwardness and when to use fantasy; consideration of how dramatic tension and humor affected comprehension. With a mission of reaching preschoolers of color, Sesame Street cast actors of color. The curriculum was relevant and meaningful and age-appropriate. Sesame Street knew the problem; it hoped to be a solution.

And then in 2015, it moved from PBS to HBO. It started a venture capital arm the following year (to invest in “data-driven education products that promote personalized learning and educational technology”). This week, it moved from HBO to HBO Max, an even more exclusive streaming service.

What made Sesame Street decide to abandon its mission? What made it think that ed-tech investment was the solution to early childhood education, to childhood poverty, to racism and discrimination? Not research, that’s for damn sure. Not a commitment to social justice. Somewhere along the way, Sesame Street decided that the brand, the computer trumped social change.

Weizenbaum again:
I think the computer has from the beginning been a fundamentally conservative force. It has made possible the saving of institutions pretty much as they were, which otherwise might have had to be changed. For example, banking. Superficially, it looks as if banking has been revolutionized by the computer. But only very superficially. Consider that, say 20, 25 years ago, the banks were faced with the fact that the population was growing at a very rapid rate, many more checks would be written than before, and so on. Their response was to bring in the computer. …

Now if it had not been for the computer, if the computer had not been invented, what would the banks have had to do? They might have had to decentralize, or they might have had to regionalize in some way. In other words, it might have been necessary to introduce a social invention, as opposed to the technical invention.

What the coming of the computer did, “just in time,” was to make it unnecessary to create social inventions, to change the system in any way. So in that sense, the computer has acted as fundamentally a conservative force, a force which kept power or even solidified power where is already existed.

They might have blocked off Sesame Street, but we can’t let the bankers and the tech CEOs win."
audreywatters  2019  edtech  sesamestreet  josephweizenbaum  education  computing  computers  compsci  learning  benwilliamson  history  conservatism 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Mariame Kaba: Everything Worthwhile Is Done With Other People – Adi magazine
'Eve L. Ewing: Let’s talk more about organizing and activism because I think that that is a really important distinction. I do not identify as an activist. I am very frequently identified as an activist, which I find very puzzling. What do you see as the difference between those things?

Mariame Kaba: I think that people who are activists are folks who are taking action on particular issues that really move them in some specific way, but activism only demands that you personally take on the issue. That means signing petitions. Being on a board of a particular organization that’s doing good in the world.

That way, activist is super broad, and that’s why people call people activists. Your individual action, for example, of writing, can be a form of activism in the sense that it wants to educate people and get them to take action in their own way. You are in that way potentially being activist in your orientation, at least, if not in identity.

Organizers, however, can’t exist solo. Because who the hell are you organizing? You can’t just decide to wake up one morning and be like, “I’m just going to do this shit.” If you’re organizing, other people are counting on you, but more importantly, your actions are accountable to somebody else.

Organizing is both science and art. It is thinking through a vision, a strategy, and then figuring out who your targets are, always being concerned about power, always being concerned about how you’re going to actually build power in order to be able to push your issues, in order to be able to get the target to actually move in the way that you want to.

I have been an organizer for a big part of my life in the sense that I’ve been involved with other people in campaigns to move various things. But sometimes I’m just an activist.

But [in that case] I have no accountability to anybody, and that’s kind of dangerous. Because there are a lot of people doing a lot of shit that nobody can call them on.

Eve L. Ewing: Who is failed when that happens?

Mariame Kaba: I think that the people who are most directly impacted by the things people are doing are failed. Because they should have a say, and be part of the shaping of that thing that is about them. That’s critically important. But I also think that you yourself are failed if what you’re trying to do is do a hard large-scale thing and you don’t have any people.

Eve L. Ewing: Or you’re just trying to do it by yourself.

Mariame Kaba: It’s like, why?! You’re going to burn out. It’s not humanly possible for you to just be your Lone Ranger self out there in the world. Ella Baker’s question, “Who are your people?” when she would meet you is so important. Who are you accountable to in this world? Because that will tell me a lot about who you are.

And how much hubris must we have to think that us individual persons are going to have all the answers for generations worth of harm built by multi-millions of people? It’s like, I’m on a 500-year clock right now. I’m right here knowing that we’ve got a hell of a long time before we’re going to see the end. Right now, all we’re doing is building the conditions that will allow the thing to happen.

Eve L. Ewing: Furthermore, people who came before me have left me things that mean a lot to me that they will never live to see the fruition of. And so therefore it’s unreasonable for me to expect, “I’m going to fix this.” I think one of the biggest things we can do for ourselves is to recognize how, even as oppressed people, we have internalized the narrative of individualism.

Mariame Kaba: Capitalism is what helps us figure out the individualism part. It’s so married together. The itemization of everything into its own little sliver is capitalist. The other thing I learned from my friends, Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi and others who are disabled people in the world, is this notion of crip time. Folks who are disabled have to operate in the world in such a different register. That’s what Mia says all the time: the notion that we supposedly are not interdependent on each other can only exist in an ableist world. Because if you have any sort of disability, you desperately need a relationship with other people—you can’t be on your own or you will die. You have to recognize the interdependence, or build interdependence. You don’t have a choice. Crip time means, “We’re just going to get to it when we can.”

Disability justice gives us that real insight. I am not visibly disabled, but I’m chronically ill. Having lupus was a moment for me. The things I felt were super important were actually not that important—a re-frame of my whole entire existence—and I was like, oh, okay. “I can’t do this” meant something.

Eve L. Ewing: I want to circle back to visibility, and who is uplifted and not uplifted in movements. I sense you increasingly choosing visibility in different ways. I saw a picture of you in the New York Times and I was like, “Oh, my goodness.”

Mariame Kaba: I know.

Eve L. Ewing: So, I would love to hear your thoughts around why you generally choose to not be photographed, and some of your other choices around naming yourself, not centering yourself. And then ways in which that is changing, and why?

Mariame Kaba: That’s a really good question because it’s one of my struggle areas internally as a human being.

I grew up with mentors who taught me that the organizer is never up front. I would write things anonymously. I wrote a hell of a curricula, which I see still circulate today, with no attached name to it.

When I was in my 30s, I was doing a big curriculum project with a friend. She’s a white woman. We were finishing this project and I was like, “Oh, I don’t need to put my name on it.” I’m a believer in information access, free information access. I also don’t think my ideas are these original ideas. They belong to a lineage. So I always felt not proprietary.

She said, “It’s interesting to me. As someone who a lot of younger people look up to, younger women of color in particular, and your own interest in history, it’s so interesting to see you erasing yourself from history.”

Eve L. Ewing: She hit you with the “interesting”!

Mariame Kaba: Like daggers. She’s a very good friend of mine. But the fact that a white woman said that to me just messed with me. And did it from a place of real care, you know?

Eve L. Ewing: Yeah. “I just think it’s funny how…”

Mariame Kaba: “I just think it’s funny how you’re willing to erase yourself from history when you’re always recapturing histories of all these black women in your multiple projects, and you’re always talking about how you had to find them in the archives, right? And you’re literally erasing yourself at the moment. Also, it’s interesting that the younger people are seeing you do that.”

I was like, “Oh, wow.”

I took a breath, I thought about it really, really hard, and I was like, “You know what, actually? In part, she’s right.” In part, I still believe in just not centering myself. [But] she’s right in this sense: how are people going to be able to trace the lineage of ideas if I’m writing a whole bunch of things that no one knows I wrote, right?

That began the shift in my life around putting my name on my stuff. They email me from New Zealand and they’re like, “Thank you for putting out this thing. We’re using it.” I also know that the ideas are traveling, and that makes me feel good about that work, and I never got that before. So, that was a gut-check moment for me around being like, “At least put your name on your shit.”"

...

"Eve L. Ewing: When you say litigation focused, you mean specifically around litigating Jon Burge [the Chicago police commander notorious for torturing people into giving false confessions]?

Mariame Kaba: Yeah. Prosecution, jail, and all these cops going to jail. Then, Joey Mogul [a Chicago-based attorney at the People’s Law Office, known for representing victims of police torture] came to me in late 2010 or early 2011 and said, “I hear you. We had these conversations for years, and everybody’s left empty now that Burge [was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice]. The survivors who remain haven’t gotten anything, and the statute of limitations [for torture victims] has run out, and we have no court recourse. It’s got to be political, and also I have evolved on abolition myself.”

It wasn’t a mea culpa; it was just a recognition that we need something else, and what can we do? That’s when art was the offering. We said, let’s ask people for [ideas for] secular memorials, and that reparations ordinance was one of the secular memorials.

All the things people talk about are in the abstract, but it’s not. It is about listening to feelings from our imaginations, right? Art can be uniquely situated for that. That’s why cultural work is an organic part of organizing, even when organizers don’t know it.

Eve L. Ewing: Artists are always there.

Mariame Kaba: They’re there. They’re there as the people to help us think through it. Why does this have to be? It doesn’t have to be like this. You can think of something totally fucking different. Why are you all stuck in the presentist moment? You can dream a future. We need that so desperately in the world.

Eve L. Ewing: Who are your heroes?

Mariame Kaba: God, I have so many touchstones. I believe in touchstones, people who you go back to in particular moments where you need something.

I turn to Baldwin a lot. I read him when I’m feeling a sense of despair over the world that I’m in. I find a sentence that he wrote and it’s like, “Ooh, yes.”

I think about so many of the black communist and socialist women of the first part of the century. If they could go through what they went through, if Marvel Cooke could go through the Red Scare and through being fired by… [more]
mariamekaba  eveewing  prisonabolition  prisons  sociology  knowledge  relationships  organizing  stuggle  activism  restorativejustice  transformativejustive  angeladavis  history  education  community  accountability  ellabaker  capitalism  individualism  mutualaid  miamingus  leahlakshmi  disabilities  diability  visibility  anonymity  information  access  accessibility  erasure  self-erasure  reparations  jails  incarceration  touchstones  heroes  jamesbaldwin  marvelcooke  redscare  idabwells  ruthwilsongilmore  bethrichie  camaralaye  waltwhitman  poetry  colonialism  criminaljustive  police  policeviolence 
october 2019 by robertogreco
Is College Merely Helping Those Who Need Help Least? - The New York Times
“I am — to capitulate fully to the nomenclature — a “first gen,” meaning a first-generation college graduate. For me, as for many first gens, a college degree was transformative. If you’d met me when I was 10 — pulling copper from radiators in my father’s junkyard — you would have thought my trajectory was set. I certainly did. The shape of my life stretched out in front of me like a shadow, its terminal point determined absolutely by where I was standing at that moment. There would be marriage at 17 or 18. Children soon after. If I worked, it would be as a cashier at the local grocery store.

When I was 17 I enrolled in college and everything changed. History, philosophy, geography: A decade at the world’s best universities will lift you to new ground. The life I live now is not the life I was born to. I was propelled up to it, and the motor that powered my ascent was a university education.

This is our ideal of higher education: as an engine of opportunity. And data show that, when it works, higher education is exactly that. So why is it that The Chronicle of Higher Education recently called our system an “engine of inequality”? Has a college degree lost its transformative power, its capacity for lift?

Put simply, no, it hasn’t. We live in a knowledge economy, and human capital has never been more valuable. The problem is distribution. As higher education has increased in value, that value has increasingly become captured by those at the top, so that today, whether you graduate from college is largely determined by your parents’ income. In the United States, 77 percent of children born into the top income quartile will earn a degree by age 24, but for the bottom quartile that number is a mere 9 percent. The implications are clear: The education system isn’t transforming the lives of those who need it most; it is dispensing ever more opportunity to those who need it least.

How it is that inequality has come to define higher education is the subject of Paul Tough’s new book, “The Years That Matter Most.” Tough has spent much of his career as a journalist documenting the injustices of our K-12 system. Here he turns his attention to the years after high school, to our colleges and universities, where we might hope those injustices are addressed. The news is not good. In chapter after chapter, Tough shows how higher education does not ameliorate the inequities of K-12. It magnifies them.

Tough rests his case on research, but it’s the people in his drama who will stay with you. We meet Ned Johnson, a $400-an-hour tutor in Washington, D.C., and Ariel, one of Ned’s teenage clients. We watch as Ned helps Ariel raise her score on the ACT test from a 26 (the product of work she’s done with three previous tutors) to a 32, out of 36. We then see Ned do the same with Ben, a low-income Haitian-American student brought to Ned by a wealthy benefactor.

We meet Clara, whose father takes a list of the 100 most selective universities in the country, draws a line under the top 30 and tells Clara she is only allowed to apply to schools above the line. (This becomes possible after Ned helps raise Clara’s score from a 27 to a near-perfect 35.) We meet Kim, a low-income student living in Appalachia, whose father, a Marine, abandoned her family when she was 7. Kim dreams of attending Cornell, and her test scores (sans tutor) could get her there, except her mother, who did not go to college and is dubious of its value, doesn’t want her to go.

We then witness the great sorting of America’s youth: The wealthy congregate at the most elite universities; the middle class raid retirement accounts and bury themselves in student loans in order to attend increasingly budget-strapped state schools; and the poor — if they go to college at all — are exploited by a cadre of aggressively marketed for-profit institutions.

Two types of stratification are happening here. The most obvious is the concentration of wealthy students at a few top schools. Tough rightly calls out the Ivy League and its ilk for capitalizing on positive press while offering little in the way of actual change. It remains the case that in most of the Ivy League, at least two-thirds of every class come from the top income quintile, while those from the bottom quintile account for less than 4 percent. In some cases the imbalance is extreme. Several Ivies admit more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the bottom 60 percent combined.

Tough also identifies another type of stratification that is less conspicuous but perhaps more consequential: not the inequities between the students, but rather the growing inequities between the institutions themselves. Until recently, the funding gap between our state colleges and our elite schools was fairly modest. But since 1990, that gap has exploded, so that elite colleges now have an endowment-dollars-per-student ratio of more than $1 million, compared with less than $35,000 per student at a typical college.

Tough proposes two explanations for this widening gap: politicians and donors. Since 2008, state legislatures have cut approximately $14 billion in funding from public universities, or approximately 20 percent. These schools make up the difference with tuition hikes, which forces them to compete with one another for the small slice of wealthy out-of-state students who can pay double or triple fare. This is higher education reduced to free-market principles, a world in which universities behave more like businesses than schools, pursuing customers rather than students.

Meanwhile, philanthropic giving to the most selective schools has skyrocketed. As Tough points out, wealthy universities have wealthy alumni, who, after benefiting from an elite education, are even better positioned to donate large sums of money. This is the final cog in the inequality machine, an intense cycle of wealth concentration that Tough calls “unsustainable — and yet, at the same time, unstoppable.”

Some of the imbalances Tough describes are simply breathtaking. In 2009, President Obama asked Congress for $12 billion to revitalize the country’s community-college system. He didn’t get it. But between 2013 and 2018, a lone American university — already the richest in the world — raised $9.6 billion in a single fund-raising campaign. And so the machine turns.

The apparent weakness of this book is its forgettable title; the content, however, is indelible and extraordinary, a powerful reckoning with just how far we’ve allowed reality to drift from our ideals. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of higher education to the present moment. As a country we are divided economically and politically, and education sits conspicuously at the center of both divides. Whether you have a college degree turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of both your political preferences and your income.

Reading Tough’s book, you cannot fail to notice that these three factors are related — that we have allowed the inequities of our economic system to be reproduced in our education system, and that the result is poisoning our politics. We then ask ourselves why so many Americans no longer believe in college or degrees. Or facts. Or science. Why they perceive education as not for them but rather as a good distributed by the elites to elites.

On the other hand, there is not much motivation among people of means to reform education — to give less money to Princeton and more to Penn State, or to send both their taxes and their children to public colleges. But for those wondering why the American people have lost faith in higher learning, the answer is straightforward: If we want others to believe in public education, we first have to believe in it ourselves.”
highered  highereducation  inequality  elitism  funding  education  us  policy  paultough  tarawestover  ivyleague  privateschools  colleges  universities  privilegehoarding  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  corporatization  neoliberalism 
october 2019 by robertogreco
English | シューレ大学 Shure University
"About Shure University
Shure Tokyo is the parent organization of Shure University, an NPO founded by students it in 1999 who wanted to continue their education.

No qualifications necessary
Anyone who is 18 or older that wants to learn and express themselves is welcome to join, and there are no GPA or otherwise academic-based matriculation requirements. However, because Shure University not an accredited university as recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Education, students are unable to obtain a bona fide diploma.

No pre-defined curriculum
There is no academic credit system, and students are not required to take compulsory courses. Each student chooses which days to attend school, and how many years he or she wants to attend. The students can thereby discover their deep passions by taking a variety of classes and activities in whatever subjects interest them. While there are many students who attend classes at the Shure University campus, there are also students who attend classes remotely via email, telephone, and Internet teleconferencing utilities like Skype.

Reaching out to others, slowly
There are approx. 40 students total at Shure University, and almost all have experienced episodes with previous school truancy or seclusion from society (hikikomori). However, since the desire to connect with other people remains, students strive to make friends and maintain relations.

Personal Courses and Group Projects
There are many unique courses available at Shure including: Alternative Education, Academic History, School Truancy, Family Discourse, Life Discourse, Cultural History, Politics and Economics, World History, Research Seminar, Creating Your Own Way of Life, Literary Discussion, Pop Music, Computer Science, Tokyo Cultural Activities, Live Theater, Modern and Fine Arts, as well as language classes such as English and Korean. A number of project -based classes are available as well including: Film, Drama, Solar Powered Cars (how to build and race), as well as Music.

Consulting with an Advisor
Meet with an advisor twice a year to develop and revise your academic plans at Shure. If you need to, you can also meet with an advisor at any time in between the bi-annual meetings.

Receive Counsel from Guest Lecturers as well as Compelling Advisors
Serizawa Shunsuke, Hirata Oriza, Shin Sugo, Hau Yasuo, Ozawa Makiko, Ueno Chizuko are just a few among approximately 50 advisors that you can choose from after deciding which lectures, courses, and workshops to attend.

Creating your own way of life
Most people in Japanese society assume that everybody graduates high school or university and then get jobs and become adults who thrive and engage in society. However, this way is not the only way to grow up.

Changing yourself to match society’s expectations is only one way to live. Another way is to create your own values through your own interests and experiences for the purpose of suiting your own lifestyle. How do you want to work? How do you want to spend your time? How do you want to build relationships with others? Students here try to create their own values with other students, staff members, advisers and other friends of Shure University.

Contact
Address: 28-27, Wakamatsu-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan (Google Map)
Tel: (+81)3-5155-9801
Fax: (+81)3-5155-9802
Mail: univ@shure.or.jp"
japan  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  tokyo  unschooling  deschooling  slow  slowpedagogy  srg 
september 2019 by robertogreco
/text: A Good Education
"Laws which harm parents for not forcing their children to attend school share a premise. The premise is that making children spend most of their waking hours navigating a numbers-driven bureaucracy will make them competent adults. These laws also beg a shared question: they imply (without evidence) that these bureaucratic skills are good, because living to serve bureaucracies is good.

I’m saying systems of education are miserable. In order to see and avoid this misery, we need only believe the promise of a liberal education: by understanding the workings of the world, you understand yourself. The converse—that by understanding yourself, you understand the workings of the world—is also true.

As a kid I retreated from boredom and social pains by reading. For twenty years, I’ve read books at least a few hours per week. After reading and writing independently for over a decade, I attended a small school in which people habitually read, discussed, and wrote about books. After these experiences, I believe the most reliable method of educating yourself is to regularly read books and talk about them with others. To concentrate and clarify these efforts, it’s good to get in the habit of writing down your thoughts. In conversations and in your writing, communicate as precisely as you can. Finally: you must not to be forced to do any of this.

A person can lift weights in a gym in order to move more capably outside—in a more complex, unpredictable, and exciting environment. In a similar way, one can regularly visit the place created by reading a story, having a conversation, or constructing an argument. What does visiting that place produce? A self-driven education with a small community makes you more capable of social care and political decision-making. If systematized schools make obedient citizens (consumers), a curiosity driven education makes people full. In this fullness—a private, powerful feeling—a person is ready to act and judge according to their chosen ethical commitments. A self-educated person prefigures a free person.

To learn, you don’t need to read books: learning is constant, physical. A peasant farmer without access to written knowledge will be deeply knowledgeable about what is at stake for his living. Yet some skills and habits enrich a person’s understanding of their behavior, as well as their ability to sense and appreciate what’s in front of them—two capacities useful in every situation. This enrichment is optional. In fact, it’s often harmful (think of Simone Weil, motivated by reading, working in an automobile factory to better to better understand—to better feel—the living of the working class). Every good education is a risk, because wholeness is a risk. Industrialized culture abrades people, and undoing these abrasions makes one a threat to the continuing function of cultural machines.

Some encouragement to feel whole:

Books

Read mostly books. They’re burdensome for their authors, demanding more skin in the game. (If you can tell a text was written for money, don’t read it.) If a book has been in print in various forms for hundreds or thousands of years, it’s likely to stay in print just as long; this can be a criterion for what texts you prioritize. Canonical books needn’t be “Great Books”, but they are influential books; they account for much of the society we’re sitting in. And don’t trust critics: influential books are necessarily weirder and more nuanced than they’re represented to be.



Conversations

Conversations are not arguments, though are made of them (and jokes). A good conversation is surprising and helpful for all its participants; don’t leave anybody behind. The most useful move in a conversation is called “the principle of charity”: summarizing someone’s argument, checking with them to make sure you’re being fair. Ideally, you help them make the best possible version of their argument, and then argue otherwise. Ignore claims that what you’re reading is “just” this or “just” that; not one thing is just one thing. A rule of thumb: if you’ve worked together to ask good questions, you’ll have learned something.



Reading

Read what you want to read, not what you should. Though frustration—challenge—is necessary to becoming better. Rereading a book is extremely useful; reading slowly is extremely useful. If you love a book written first in another language, read multiple translations. In general, try to see how a book’s parts connect, using as many parts as possible. Reading aloud is good (for most of history, people automatically spoke the words they read). Finally, quantities—of books and pages read; of points refuted; of authors collected on your bookshelf—don’t mean shit.



Ethics

It’s useful to understand arguments which piss you off and disgust you; understand, then moralize. No life is lesser because they haven’t read what you’ve read. Plus, if you can’t teach it, you probably don’t understand it. If reading about a topic doesn’t seem helpful enough, the quickest and most thrilling way to learn about something is to make it. (If you want to learn about a plant, grow it; if you want to know how a sonnet works, write one; if you want to learn about labor struggles, join in.) Though remember that many people don’t have the means to experiment this; most who self-educate are among the lucky. Do not think less of the unlucky. In fact, wholeness comes with thinking more of the unlucky—since the lucky have deprived them of the power to cultivate their own luck, and this deprivation has defined much of society. Think, too, of the silent.



Why?

Existence is testimony. Make time to listen.



Tools

Library cards are still free; libraries still loan out books; many libraries have computers with internet access; Wikipedia and most .pdf’s are light on data plans. If you can’t afford it, find a way. Asking for help is beautiful."
kenbauman  2018  education  unschooling  learning  howwelearn  libraries  wikipedia  tools  existence  testimony  listening  society  children  parenting  schools  schooling  compulsory  bureaucracy  reading  writing  self-directed  self-directedlearning  self-education  books  howweread  howwewrite  conversation  ethics 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Weirdness and Joy of Black Mountain College | The Nation
"Can the art of teaching art be exhibited? No, but people keep trying."

...

"Can art be taught? That question isn’t as old or as hoary as one might imagine. For many centuries, artists were taught, either through a studio apprenticeship or, later, in a formal academy. It only became possible to think of art as something different in the 19th century, when the old system fell apart and it seemed conceivable that anyone could be an artist. But very few people were. Perhaps being an artist was the result of some peculiar inner drive or necessity, some genius that burned in certain kinds of people—something they were born with rather than something that they learned. The question has by now fueled two centuries’ worth of bar banter, family quarrels, and panel discussions. What keeps the conversation going is that many of the people who say that art can’t be taught still make their living by teaching it. Teaching does have its own rewards, and so does trying to learn, whether the learning “takes” or not.

A related question is easier to answer: Can the art of teaching art be exhibited? No, but people keep trying. The ambitious show “Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933–1957,” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, is the latest such effort. (It will be on view at the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, from February 21 to May 15, and then at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University in Columbus from September 17 to January 1, 2017. A handsome catalog is available from Yale University Press.) In fact, Black Mountain exhibitions have become a genre unto themselves. “Leap Before You Look,” curated by Helen Molesworth, formerly of the ICA/Boston and now at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, is the fourth that I know of. The first, which I saw in 2002, was “Black Mountain College: Una Aventura Americana,” curated by Vincent Katz, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. Then came “Starting at Zero: Black Mountain College 1933–1957,” curated by Caroline Collier and Michael Harrison, at the Arnolfini in Bristol, England, and Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge, in 2005 and 2006. And last summer, I paid a visit to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin, which mounted “Black Mountain: An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933–1957,” curated by Eugen Blume and Gabriele Knapstein.

Why the recurring preoccupation with a short-lived, unaccredited school at the back of beyond, which never had enough students to pay its way? It could be the school’s believe-it-or-not story and how, the more you learn about it, the more unlikely it seems. The tale begins in 1933, when an unorthodox, arrogant classics professor named John Andrew Rice and several of his colleagues were purged from Rollins College in Florida. A number of their fellow professors resigned in protest, and some students withdrew as well. Bent on starting a college of their own, they found a complex of buildings for rent near Asheville, North Carolina, and some start-up money—but not much. At first, the faculty worked without salaries, but at least they owned the joint: The papers of incorporation specified that “the sole membership of the corporation” would be “the whole body of the faculty.” In other words, there was no board of directors and no non-teaching administration either, so the instructors had no other masters than themselves.

There was splendor and misery at Black Mountain, which was run according to the will of its teachers and, to a great extent, its students. The faculty believed that the curriculum should reflect what the students needed or desired to learn. This principle runs contrary not only to the present conception of the student as a consumer or client who is to be supplied with certain knowledge, but also to the designs of the conservative governors of North Carolina, Wisconsin, and other states, who believe that they should have the final say over what’s being taught and who’s doing the teaching at their state colleges and universities. At Black Mountain, teachers and students committed themselves to shared undertakings, the educational equivalent of socialism: from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

...

"Black Mountain’s founder had in his own way anticipated the Maoist doctrine of continuous revolution. “At one time Rice said he thought the college should disperse every ten years into smaller units,” recalled M.C. Richards, the English professor turned potter who’d been instrumental in bringing Olson to the campus. “This was to avoid too much stability. It was to be faithful to the chaos out of which creativity constellates.” No one was better at cultivating chaos and spangling the atmosphere with its constellations than Olson. Who else would have thought of suggesting to a fellow poet, Robert Creeley, that he fill in as a teacher of biology? When Creeley pointed out that he’d never studied the subject, even in high school, Olson “said, ‘Terrific, you can learn something,’” Creeley recalled. “Subsequently, I realized that teaching is teaching. It has, paradoxically, nothing to do with the subject.” In other words, true learning, as described by Jacques Rancière in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, is fostered by teaching what one does not know.

As Rancière wrote, this kind of education can never be institutionalized; “it is the natural method of the human mind,” yet everything works against it. No wonder Black Mountain could never come to terms with the outside world or itself. Robert Duncan, in his extraordinary poem “The Song of the Border-Guard”—shown in “Leap Before You Look” as a broadside accompanied by a Twombly linocut—imagines “a barbarian host at the border-line of sense.” Which side of the border was Black Mountain on? Were its denizens the barbarians readying themselves to overcome the common sense of Eisenhower’s America, or were they guardians of a deeper sense of life and learning against the yahoo horde surrounding them? No matter. “The enamourd guards desert their posts / harkening to the lion-smell of a poem / that rings in their ears.” And the poem of Black Mountain still rings in ours."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  pedagogy  teaching  education  highereducation  highered  2016  barryschwabsky  leapbeforeyoulook  johnandrewrice  rancière  reproduction  ephemeral  ephemerality  institutions  institutionalization  lcproject  openstudioproject  tcsnmy  sfsh  cv  art  arts  socialism  jacquesrancière 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The most influential college you’ve never heard of, why it folded, and why it matters | Scalawag
"But Black Mountain College was not, strictly speaking, an art school. And it certainly didn’t start that way. In 1933, classics professor John Andrew Rice tossed the snowball that kicked off a decades-long avalanche, foregoing more pointed Latin and Greek coursework at Rollins College to lead his students on Socratic journeys about topics from religion to “What is Art” and bad-mouthing academic hierarchy. The Rollins College president, a self-proclaimed “experimenter in education,” was nonetheless displeased. For this curricular skullduggery, and for Rice’s generally winking attitude toward authority, he had Rice fired.

Popular as Rice was, his exit caused a scandal. When the dust settled, eight professors had left Rollins, and a number of students with them. After some uncertainty, Rice and his colleagues decided to put their rebellious philosophies to test. Thanks to a local professor, property was located in western North Carolina, a grand colonnaded hall atop an Appalachian hill in the shadows of the Blue Ridge; funders were secured to support the endeavor; teachers were recruited. From a pedagogic schism, Black Mountain College was born.

The goal was from the outset to approach education in an unregimented way. There were no required courses, no extensive examinations, no formal grading. The school was not even accredited, “graduating” only sixty students throughout its lifetime. Yet its alums were accepted by graduate schools and as transfers, from Harvard to Princeton to the Pasadena Playhouse College of the Theatre, despite their lack of certificates.

To ensure an open curriculum, the founders decided to avoid top-down control, instead granting ownership of the school to the whole faculty evenly, including new hires. Meanwhile, the school decided to make no decisions without student input—student officers could be present at faculty meetings and would sit on the governing Board of Fellows (constituted otherwise of a subgroup of the professoriate). Discussions of school policy were typically open affairs attended by all. Collectivism was applauded; democracy reigned.

This opened space for BMC’s idea that learning and living should interlace. As Louis Adamic, who spent three months at the school as a curious visitor, described the method in a breathless 1936 article for Harper’s: “At BMC there is no head-cramming. There education is experience that involves in action the whole person.”

To that end, Rice and his cofounders made art a core piece of the Black Mountain experience, in an effort to get each student to “put the same faith in doing that he has been taught to have in absorbing,” as an early school catalogue put it. Serendipitously (for Black Mountain, anyway), the year of the college’s founding, the Nazis closed down the radical Bauhaus art school in Germany. Josef and Anni Albers, looking to escape the rising tide of fascism, agreed to come on at BMC to teach art, despite the fact, as Josef wrote, that he did not “speak one word English.” In subsequent years, many Germans would follow.

The Albers’ arrival was a coup for the school. It immediately provided a strong artistic spine and influenced the pedagogy greatly: Josef was a champion of a humanistic approach to education, of art as a way to engage the world completely. So while art was central, everyone was not to become an artist, per se; instead, art looked more like the core of a liberal arts education today. BMC alum Will Hamlin described the result to historian Martin Duberman: “I think we had this in common with the painters and weavers and musicians, that we were trying to make some kind of order out of things, I mean really trying, not just pretending to be… I think we were—with a few exceptions—really working at creating our own universes of meaning.”

The decision to avoid any sort of administrative board cut both ways. The educational model was open as the sky. But the school was constantly scrambling for money, seemingly always on the verge of closing—although it still maintained a pay-what-you-can system (sometimes counterbalanced by accepting wealthier students for that reason alone).

The “precariousness, though deplored and decried at the time, may well have contributed to the community élan,” as Duberman writes. “The severity of the struggle for economic survival helped to knit the community together.” The upshot was a focus on collectively tending to the college: a work program was instituted early on, and students and professors alike worked a farm that provided food for sustenance and sometimes sale, constructed new school buildings, washed dishes, and maintained the grounds. This was cause for grumbling in some corners—it was work, after all—and romantic reverie in others. Rice, the school’s cheeky founder, perhaps summed up the ambivalent attitude best in his autobiography. “Untoiling poets may sing of the dignity of toil;” he wrote, “others know there is degradation in obligatory sweat.”

Nevertheless, there was definite communal buy-in among the Black Mountaineers. When psychologist John Wallen joined the faculty in 1945, he broadened the question of collective responsibility by reaching out to the largely bemused and distrustful surrounding community. (There was a bit of a cultural gap between the school and its environs. A maintenance man on BMC’s first campus described the student body to me as many contemporary locals would: “nothing to do but moonshine and sex.”)

In many ways, the experiment was successful. Students volunteered in town, worked in the Southern Negro Youth Conference, registered voters, gathered signatures for petitions. But it was also short-lived, as Wallen left BMC contentiously not two years into his appointment, taking his ideals with him.

Still, while insulated at times from its surroundings, the school tackled the social issues of its day. It offered a home to German Jews, artists and intellectuals during another era when immigration vexed the United States. In 1944, ten years before Brown v. Board of Education, Alma Stone, a Black musician from Georgia, attended BMC’s summer institute in the Jim Crow South. The following summer black artists began to teach, and Black students enrolled full-time, some back from the war on the GI Bill. When the students went into town, they abided by segregation laws; but when outsiders came to Black Mountain for concerts, theater productions, and the like, everybody sat where they pleased.

Democracy proved hard. Immediately upon BMC’s founding, a more powerful group of faculty emerged at its helm: John Rice, Josef Albers, engineer Theodore Dreier, a few compatriots. Soon, some of their colleagues began to resent the group’s authority as at odds with the school’s mission; when Rice had a very public affair with a student in the late ’30s, it provided a catalyst to put him on leave for a time. He never returned.

Sans affair (although that continued to happen every so often), this process repeated itself throughout the school’s history: groups of professors were forced out or resigned, sometimes taking significant portions of the student body with them. Eventually even Albers fell victim to such a dispute after a younger crop of professors decided that he and his ilk had become too stuffy.

The infighting shaped life at the school and gives a sense of the easy-come-easy-go nature of the work. Professors were appointed initially to two-year terms, and later to one-year terms; there was no tenure. Faculty could be asked to leave for the vaguest of reasons—complaints about classroom technique became shorthand for any number of nebulous collegial gripes. Yet because they were part of steering the college, because of their great freedom in implementing their visions of education, professors came. And they stayed.

Josef and Anni Albers, despite the consistently meager pay, taught at the school for 16 years. Co-founder Theodore Dreier, too. Poet Mary Catherine Richards stayed seven years and continued to be involved with the school after she left. The poet Charles Olson stayed six years, until the school closed. (Some students stayed about as long.) The pay was bad, yes. But to be architects of education, rather than grunts on its front line, was for many worth the shortfall.

Albers’s exit in 1949 began the last, most incandescent period of BMC’s history, under the rectorship of Olson, a six-foot-seven-inch whirlwind of a man. After a (comparatively) more staid period in the late ‘40s, the school under Olson lived up to its ideals of radical experimentation. Any semblance of traditional course structure was scrapped, seminars ran until the wee hours of morning, the lines blurred fully between students and faculty. The literary arts took central importance, and the “Black Mountain School” of poets emerged, buoyed by Robert Creeley’s publication of the Black Mountain Review, a journal whose contributors also included Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

The Olson years were BMC magnified: yet more cash-starved, yet more experimental, yet more soul-searching. Yet more famous alumni—painter Dorothea Rockburne emerged from this period as well—yet more piercing thought. But the lack of structure had its costs; dwindling enrollment meant emptier coffers, and finally, in 1956-7, the school’s closure. Professors and students spun off to more traditional universities, to new experiments in communal living, to Abstract Expressionist New York and the San Francisco of the Beats.

Black Mountain College’s troubles stemmed from staunch opposition to centralized hierarchical governance. The UNC system’s current issues lend credence to those fears. Early last year, after the NC Board of Governors reviewed 240 academic institutes and centers across the UNC system, they decided to close down three—the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, at UNC Chapel Hill; East Carolina University’s NC Center for Biodiversity; and … [more]
northcarolina  2016  sammyfeldblum  hierarchy  education  highered  highereducation  bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  johnandrewrice  charlesolson  democracy  art  arts  curriculum  openness  experience  experientialeducation  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  pedagogy  governance  politics  precarity  rollinscollege  authority  opencurriculum  living  lcproject  openstudioproject  louisadamic  martinduberman  precariousness  community  collectivism  responsibility  theodoredreier  marycatherinerichards  robertcreeley  history  horizontality 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Prospect of an Ideal Liberal Arts College Curriculum by Shane J. Ralston – BMCS
"Reconstructing the [John] Dewey - [Robert Maynard] Hutchins Debate"

...

"What happened at Black Mountain College was for the most part what Rorty conjectured would happen if students came to college prepared and faculty could fully exercise their academic freedom. “Faculty [at Black Mountain] were to select their own methods of instruction,” Katherine Reynolds (1988:124) explains, “which might include ‘recitations, lectures, tutorials, and seminars.’” So, pluralism in curriculum design is, and should be, an obstinate feature of any flourishing academic community. One of the first steps in achieving more collaboration between great books proponents and their critics in such a pluralist community, then, is for both sides to admit that there is no fixed ideal that should dictate the content of the ideal liberal arts curriculum. Indeed, we could go one step further and claim that there is no ideal liberal arts curriculum, if what we mean by ‘ideal’ is an ultimate destination, telos or final end. Second, the distinction between subject matter and method should not be treated functionally, not dualistically. To treat it dualistically, and to choose content over method, as Hutchins did, risks alienating those faculty members, such as Rice, who do not rigidly adhere to course syllabi, but make the classroom a space for free-ranging and open-ended discussion and dialogue. Dewey (1966:133) resisted what he called in his 1899 Lectures in the Philosophy of Education a “more or less hard and fast separation” between subject matter and method, seeing them instead as inextricably connected in any intelligently designed curriculum. In this way, Dewey’s twin emphasis on educational subject matter and method represents a bridge between those, such as Hutchins and Adler, who saw content as the preeminent concern of curriculum development, and those, such as Rice, who focused largely on method. Third, and lastly, we should heed Dewey, Rice and Rorty’s plea for tolerant pluralism in the design of college curricula, allowing faculty the freedom to develop teaching methods and content as they see fit. Having had two colleagues at different institutions who were great books proponents (indeed, both were former students of St. John’s College), I know from personal experience that such collaboration is possible, though it demands humility, diplomacy and hard work if both parties hope to craft and realize a shared vision."
blackmountaincollege  bmc  shaneralston  liberalarts  curriculum  highered  highereducation  education  johndewey  johnandrewrice  rollinscollege  jimgarrison  philosophy  pedagogy  democracy  katherinereynolds  greatbooks  robertmaynardhutchins 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Radical Experimental College in the Blue Ridge Mountains — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
“North Carolina is widely respected for institutions such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, both research-intensive and high-prestige schools. But it’s less known for a radically experimental college that was tucked away in the Appalachian mountains more than half a century ago.

Just east of Asheville, Black Mountain College (BMC) was founded in 1933 and survived for 24 years until closing due to funding issues and a lack of students. But before it did, it had a strong core of teachers to attract students, attracting artists like Josef and Anni Albers from Germany after the Nazis rose to power and, in its later years, architect Buckminster Fuller and poet Charles Olson, among others. A liberal arts school, president John A. Rice emphasized the importance of the arts in every student’s education.

The education it offered was extremely atypical. Black Mountain didn’t have a standard grading system or set of classes; professors and students determined the curriculum together. It was unaccredited. It didn’t have a board of directors. During its existence, BMC only graduated about 60 students of the 1,200 who attended. Yet, despite this lack of standardization (or because of it), its students enrolled in graduate school at elite institutions and looked back fondly upon their time at Black Mountain.

“I think we’re wild about it because it had so many soap opera aspects to it,” said Joseph Bathanti, an expert on Black Mountain College and the McFarlane family distinguished professor in interdisciplinary education at Appalachian State University. “It’s become its kind of myth.”

That myth serves as something unimaginable in today’s higher education environment. Higher ed has many roadblocks that prevent any sort of Black Mountain 2.0: Many students think of college as the first credential necessary for a good job; most colleges are too bureaucratized and regulated to allow such campus experimentation; and campus officials are too resistant to change for a decentralized education approach to take hold. Though various college programs and academics have been influenced by Black Mountain College, it’s questionable whether any college working within traditional higher ed today could recreate something like BMC.

While chaotic and sometimes questionable in its approach, the disappearance of experimental colleges like Black Mountain has left American higher education more uniform and rigid. Such oddball schools would be regulated out of existence today; the curriculum would be seen as too individualized or low-quality because it doesn’t meet the requirements of an accreditor. “We have basic education plans, we have five-year strategies, we have long-term planning, we have tenure, we have accreditation, we have so many checks and balances, we have all these things that are antithetical to Black Mountain College,” Bathanti said. A college today can’t operate without a master plan directing it.

Such a school would also have no chance of getting approved for federal aid. Accessing federal aid wasn’t a problem in the 1940s, though. During its existence, veteran students could pay for BMC with their GI Bill benefits. Rules about federal student aid were much less strict then.

Black Mountain had a niche; its chaotic style attracted a certain type of student. Bathanti described them as “the people who had had disastrous experiences with traditional education.” Charles Perrow, a sociologist at Yale University who attended BMC in the late 1940s, wrote of the student body that:

Almost everyone there at this period seemed a poster-child of some sort, representing a fragment of our culture—the closet gay, the civil rights activist, the communist, the avant- garde painter, the urgent truth-seeker, the parent-escaper. My poster was being about the only student from the West Coast (most were from the Northeast, particularly New York City); about being the only one without parents and siblings who had attended college (most students, but certainly not all, were from a well-educated upper middle class, or intellectual elite class).

Perhaps due to attracting nontraditional and well-off students, the college’s expectations for them were different. Black Mountain didn’t sell itself as the key to a good job or its professors as all-knowing sages who would shape and monitor students. “It was presupposed that those students had a work ethic, that they were there, that they wanted to work on their stuff and didn’t need a warden,” Bathanti said. “Students these days, I don’t know the proper adjective, but they’re shepherded so much.”

The independence and drive that BMC students had is rarely found today, partially because colleges do not encourage such self-driven learning. Students arrive on campus and the college tells them what classes to take, or what classes they can choose from to fulfill a major’s requirements. The students today who can avoid being shepherded have to jump through hoops to do so, or belong to an honors college or honors program that offers more flexibility. Academic independence is a privilege for a few, not an expectation for all.

The focus on the arts and expectation for self-disciplined students led to a certain amount of cultural influence: the American poet Burt Kimmelman wrote that “one direct outgrowth of the College was the jolt of energy and innovation that dramatically affected arts communities in a number of cities, San Francisco and New York especially.”

If Black Mountain didn’t give students a diploma, it made up for this oversight by giving them a community and a network that was important for their success. Those connections might explain why students were so loyal to the institution in a way that’s hard for most colleges to develop. Students will sacrifice for and invest in a community—but they won’t sacrifice for a bureaucracy or a job training program.

“Students these days, I don’t know the proper adjective, but they’re shepherded so much.”

The advantages Black Mountain College had doesn’t mean it didn’t have flaws, of course. With few grades and graduates, the college resisted measurement and a diploma was economically worthless. Without a laborious on-campus evaluation from accreditors, discerning whether the school wasn’t defrauding taxpayers for financial aid would be impossible by today’s standards. A decentralized order can be both a benefit and a cost, and BMC doesn’t nicely fit into today’s higher ed regulatory environment. Its utopian ideals, too, left something to be desired. As the journalist Daniel Scheffler wrote in a 2015 City A.M. article about an art show focused on BMC:
BMC embraced the utopian ideals of the progressive education movement, stating that the arts should be the centrepiece of the curriculum, whether it be weaving and knitting, painting and sculpting, or music and photography. The lofty—if rather fuzzy—ideal: to “better educate citizens for participation in a democratic society.”

If the campus climate on self-styled progressive institutions like Evergreen State College is any indication, an experimental progressive college today may become a threat to free expression and academic inquiry. Instead of an antidote to a corporatized and uniform college education, a similar approach might result in the suppression of individualized thought and art. A 1952 college bulletin that Scheffler noted, for instance, stated, “The way of handling facts—and himself amid the facts—is more important than the facts themselves.” A loyalty to a political conception of “progress” can undermine the value of an experimental approach today. Black Mountain College may have been lucky to exist in the 1950s that allowed it to avoid present concerns and preserve its mythical status.

Reflecting on Black Mountain, Jonathan Palmer of Mendocino College and Maria Trombetta of San Francisco State University asked, “Does the educational structure of the college system impede our learning?” College access has expanded greatly since Black Mountain College closed its doors. But so has the influence of state and federal governments. The direct and indirect government funds have also brought standards, regulations, and a bevy of strings attached to the money. Many students can now get a rigorous college education at an affordable price, and employers don’t question the quality of their diplomas. But Black Mountain College serves as a reminder that American higher ed has also lost a certain freewheeling, experimental approach that served students who didn’t find a place in the traditional system.”
bmc  blackmountaincollege  2019  anthonyhennen  progressive  highered  highereducation  howwelearn  learning  education  democracy  danielscheffler  burtkimmelman  experimentation  josephbathanti 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Back to School: Re-creating Black Mountain College – Art in America
“Black Mountain College founder John Rice believed that if the school could impose the correct set of conditions, an utterly unique, freeform and nonhierarchical flow of ideas between teachers and students would inevitably follow. What the above exhibitions all share with Black Mountain College—and with the new school—is the foregrounding of circumstances that might alchemically generate new and important art and thinking. Romanticized conditions like cheap rent in dense urban neighborhoods, the crucial balance between proximity to an organic artist community and isolation from the art market, and an art education that emphasizes intellectual inquiry and collaboration over individual financial success come up again and again as ideal conditions that are vanishing from the art world and academia. This summer, the organizers of the new Black Mountain School will seek to reconstruct a lost environment in hopes of yielding a powerfully new set of results. Only time will tell if an encounter between a hallowed site’s mythology and the students of a new era can spark a genuinely distinctive sensibility. Yet it is worth remembering that Rice decided to start his own school only after he had been fired from his tenured position at Rollins College in Florida for his radical ideas about pedagogy. The new Black Mountain School reminds us that new conditions can only be established when the old ones have become intolerable.”
blackmountaincollege  education  bmc  blackmountainschool  ericadawnlyle  2016 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Josef Albers: “open Eyes” By Brenda Danilowitz | The Chinati Foundation | La Fundación Chinati
"To coincide with an exhibition of Josef Albers’s paintings opening at the Chinati Foundation in October 2006, the following pages feature an excerpt from Brenda Danilowitz’s essay in Josef Albers: To Open Eyes, a study of Albers as teacher, and essays on the artist written by Donald Judd over a 30-year period.

At the very moment Josef and Anni Albers found themselves unable to imagine their future in Germany, the offer of a teaching position at Black Mountain College arrived. This surprising invitation, which came in the form of a telegram from Philip Johnson, then head of the fledgling department of architecture and design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, was an unintended consequence of three events: Rice’s resignation; the attendant dismissals and sympathetic resignations of a group of Rice’s colleagues; and the founding by this group of idealistic and disenchanted academics of a new college where they hoped to realize, independently, their educational philosophies and dreams."
bmc  blackmountaincollege  josefalbers  annialbers  brendadanilowitz  teaching  howweteach  pedagogy  art  arts  education  arteducation  2006 
september 2019 by robertogreco
College students think they learn less with an effective teaching method | Ars Technica
"One of the things that's amenable to scientific study is how we communicate information about science. Science education should, in theory at least, produce a scientifically literate public and prepare those most interested in the topic for advanced studies in their chosen field. That clearly hasn't worked out, so people have subjected science education itself to the scientific method.

What they've found is that an approach called active learning (also called active instruction) consistently produces the best results. This involves pushing students to work through problems and reason things out as an inherent part of the learning process.

Even though the science on that is clear, most college professors have remained committed to approaching class time as a lecture. In fact, a large number of instructors who try active learning end up going back to the standard lecture, and one of the reasons they cite is that the students prefer it that way. This sounds a bit like excuse making, so a group of instructors decided to test this belief using physics students. And it turns out professors weren't making an excuse. Even as understanding improved with active learning, the students felt they got more out of a traditional lecture."

...

"Explanations abound
So why is an extremely effective way of teaching so unpopular? The researchers come up with a number of potential explanations. One is simply that active learning is hard. "Students in the actively taught groups had to struggle with their peers through difficult physics problems that they initially did not know how to solve," the authors acknowledge. That's a big contrast with the standard lecture which, being the standard, is familiar to the students. A talented instructor can also make their lecture material feel like it's a straight-forward, coherent packet of information. This can lead students to over-rate their familiarity with the topic.

The other issue the authors suggest may be going on here is conceptually similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, where people who don't understand a topic are unable to accurately evaluate how much they knew. Consistent with this, the researchers identified the students with the strongest backgrounds in physics, finding that they tended to be more accurate in assessing what they got out of each class.

Whatever the cause, it's not ideal to have students dislike the most effective method of teaching them. So, the authors suggest that professors who are considering adopting active learning take the time to prepare a little lecture on it. The researchers prepared one that described the active learning process and provided some evidence of its effectiveness. The introduction acknowledged the evidence described above—namely, that the students might not feel like they were getting as much out of the class.

In part thanks to this short addition to the class, by the end of the semester, 65% of the students reported feeling positive toward active learning. That's still not exactly overwhelming enthusiasm, but it might be enough to keep instructors from giving up on an extremely effective teaching technique."
learning  perception  education  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  deschooling  unschooling  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  cv  stem  lectures  activelearning  2019  science  participatory  participation  conversation  progressive 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom | PNAS
"Despite active learning being recognized as a superior method of instruction in the classroom, a major recent survey found that most college STEM instructors still choose traditional teaching methods. This article addresses the long-standing question of why students and faculty remain resistant to active learning. Comparing passive lectures with active learning using a randomized experimental approach and identical course materials, we find that students in the active classroom learn more, but they feel like they learn less. We show that this negative correlation is caused in part by the increased cognitive effort required during active learning. Faculty who adopt active learning are encouraged to intervene and address this misperception, and we describe a successful example of such an intervention."
learning  perception  education  pedagogy  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  deschooling  unschooling  lcproject  openstudioproject  sfsh  tcsnmy  cv  stem  lectures  activelearning  2019  science  participatory  participation  conversation  progressive 
september 2019 by robertogreco
When Access to Knowledge Becomes a Weapon | Roca Gallery
"Education in general, including architecture education, has been a point of heated discussion for over a decade. The role of the university, now a commodified environment thanks to the objectification of knowledge, has changed from a place for discussion and learning to a place where knowledge and even empathy have acquired a material value. As described by the media activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, “the privatization of the education system and the assault of the media on human intelligence are lessening the critical ability of the social brain.” Students incur lifetime debts in order to obtain an accreditation that will supposedly get them a job and open the doors to a certain quality of life. Sadly, this is mostly a mirage, with social disparities and cultural anxieties a constant in daily life. Ivan Illich wrote about this already in 1971, pointing out that “School is both the largest and the most anonymous employer of all.

Indeed, the school is the best example of a new kind of enterprise, succeeding the guild, the factory, and the corporation.”

Faced with this reality, many unconventional experiments emerging all over the world are subverting this status quo by adopting approaches that aim to recover the spirit of the “schools under trees,” a reference to the old notion that the shade provided by a few trees was enough to shelter a classroom. It was also Ivan Illich who wrote about the revolutionary potential of deschooling, and it is possible to see this potential in the many attempts to challenge and propose alternative education models for what a school should be.

Perhaps the most interesting of these initiatives are those that have no intention of becoming an institution or university. Test Unit in Glasgow is a summer school and events program exploring cross-disciplinary approaches to city development by introducing concepts like play, memory, cooperation, and care as inspirations for new learning methodologies. The absence of hierarchy is at the center of this program, enabling a process of learning by doing that is horizontal and multilateral, and in which both tutors and students learn from each other."
ethelbaraona  2019  alternative  education  altgdp  lcproject  openstudioproject  testunity  glasgow  berlin  floatinguniversity  architecture  design  unschooling  deschooling  ivanillich  trees  schools  schooling  schooliness  theconcretent  campusincamps  palestine  lejardinessentiel  brussels  gillykarjevsky  judithwielander  alexanderroemer  forests  nature  learning  howwelearn  howweteach  teaching 
september 2019 by robertogreco
BMCM+AC Bookstore on Instagram: “The one idea most commonly agreed upon was that “living” and “learning” should be intertwined. Education should proceed everywhere, not…”
The one idea most commonly agreed upon was that “living” and “learning” should be intertwined. Education should proceed everywhere, not only in classroom settings—which in fact, at least as usually structured, are among the worst learning environments imaginable. A favorite slogan at Black Mountain was that “as much real education takes place over the coffee cups as in the classrooms.”⁠⠀
-Martin Duberman in "Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community"⁠⠀
⁠⠀
Photo: Professor Charles Lindsley teaches a chemistry class on the lawn of the Blue Ridge Assembly. Courtesy of Western Regional Archives/State Archives of North Carolina
blackmountaincollege  bmc  education  lcproject  openstudioproject  unschooling  life  living  howwelearn  howweteach  experience  experientiallearning  classrooms  martinduberman 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family | The New Yorker
"A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream."
caitlinzaloom  2019  capitalism  money  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
When Your Kid's College Education Could Wreck You Financially, Should You Pay? | Here & Now
"The cost of college has soared. But for many middle-class families, paying for a kid's education has become both a financial and a moral issue.

"We are in a situation where we've forced parents to choose between the values of financial prudence and the values of parenthood, says Caitlin Zaloom, author of "Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost," and New York University professor of social and cultural analysis.

Zaloom (@caitlinzaloom) talks with Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd about how families should balance their own finances with the desire to open doors for their children."
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | How Paying for College Is Changing Middle-Class Life - The New York Times
“Everyone knows that higher education is expensive. The average annual price tag for attending a private, four-year American college is now around $50,000. To pay that, most students receive some combination of financial aid and loans, but schools expect parents to reach into their bank accounts, too.

Paying for college, however, is taking a toll on American families in ways that are more profound and less appreciated than even the financial cost conveys. It has fundamentally changed the experience of being middle class in this country.

Although middle-class families have long labored to help their children get educated, only recently has the struggle to pay for it — which can threaten the solvency of the family and cast children in the role of risky “investments” — transformed the character of family life. It is altering relationships between parents and children and forcing them to adjust their responsibilities to each other.

As an anthropologist and professor at New York University, one of the world’s most expensive institutions of higher education, I’d long suspected that the cost of college — which has tripled at public colleges and universities in the past three decades — was affecting my students and their parents in more than just budgetary terms. But I wasn’t sure. Americans typically avoid discussions of personal finance, and parents frequently decline to discuss family finances with their children — until, too often, they have no choice.

So I embarked on a research project to better understand middle-class families who are taking on debt to pay for higher education. Over the past seven years, my research team and I conducted 160 in-depth interviews across the country, first with college students and then with their parents. I considered families to be middle class if the parents made too much money or had too much wealth for their children to qualify for major federal higher education grants, and if they earned too little or possessed insufficient wealth to pay full fare at most colleges.

As is customary with this kind of research, I offered the interviewees anonymity so that they would be more likely to participate and to be open and honest. Even still, gaining access was an arduous process.

Perhaps the central theme that emerged from this research was that for middle-class parents, the requirement to help pay for college is seen not merely as a budgetary challenge, but also as a moral obligation. The financial sacrifices required are both compelled and expected. They are what responsible parents should do for their children.

Indeed, shouldering the weight of paying for college is sometimes seen by parents as part of their children’s moral education. By draining their savings to pay for college, parents affirm their commitment to education as a value, proving — to themselves and to others — that higher education is integral to the kind of family they are.

The feeling of obligation is hardly illusory. Decades ago, when organized labor was strong and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, a four-year college degree was not needed to achieve or maintain a middle-class life. But now college is virtually essential, not only because the degree serves as a job credential, but also because the experience gives young adults the knowledge and social skills they need to participate in middle-class communities.

The result for middle-class families is a perpetual conflict between moral duty and financial reality. Again and again, the families I interviewed spoke of how hard it was to follow the steps that the federal government, financial industry players and financial experts advise, such as starting to save for college when the children are young. Indeed, I found that when experts instruct parents to economize, they force families into three common moral traps.

First, when their children are young, the parents face an impossible trade-off between spending on their present family needs and wants and saving for college. Few parents choose saving over spending on child development. Less than 5 percent of Americans have college savings accounts, and those who do are far wealthier than average.

For those with middle-class jobs, saving enough for college would mean compromising on the sort of activities — music education, travel, sports teams, tutoring — that enrich their children’s lives, keep them in step with their peers, deliver critical lessons in self-discipline and teach social skills. The paradox is that enrolling children in the programs that prepare them for college and middle-class life means draining the bank accounts that would otherwise fund higher education.

The second moral trap occurs when children begin applying for college. As nearly every family told me, the parents and the children place enormous value on finding the “right” college. This is far more than finding an affordable place to study; it is about finding the environment that best promises to help build a social network, generate life and career opportunities and allow young adults to discover who they are. With so much at stake, parents and children prioritize the “right” school — and then find ways to meet the cost, no matter what it takes.

An inescapable conclusion from my research is that the high cost of college is forcing middle-class families to engage in what I call “social speculation.” This is the third moral trap: Parents must wager money today that their children’s education will secure them a place in the middle class tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that this bet will pay off — for the parents or the children. And too often, I found, it doesn’t. Some parents’ saving plans were waylaid by crises — health emergencies, job losses, family breakups — that were common enough but impossible to foresee. Likewise, many children failed to land well-paying jobs out of college, forcing them to bear the weight of paying off debt during the most vulnerable decade of their adult lives.

Paying the high cost of college also means jeopardizing the long-term financial security of the parents. The more parents spend on their children’s education, the less they have in their retirement accounts. Here we find another paradox: Parents make huge investments in education so that their children can maintain or achieve middle-class status, but in the process, they increase the risk of falling out of the middle class themselves.

One popular tip financial advisers give parents is to spend on college the way they’re supposed to act in an airplane that loses cabin pressure: first secure their own oxygen masks (by saving for retirement) and only then assist their children (by spending for college). In reality, though, parents act just as they would on the airplane. They take care of their children first.

It’s no wonder, then, that family finances are so shaky throughout the country. The median American household has only about $12,000 in savings.

It’s also no wonder that as so many of my interviews ended, parents joked about their financial predicament by saying they might win the lottery. They have come to see outlandish luck as their best chance of dealing with their predicament. And in the absence of real changes to the current system of paying for college, what other hope do they have?

Such speculative, wishful thinking may seem irrational. But until we reform how a college education is financed, that is how countless middle-class families are holding on to the American dream.”
caitlinzaloom  2019  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  economics  finance  middleclass  precarity  us  education  moraltraps  morality  obligation  debt  studentdebt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
What Is the Cost of College Doing to Families? - The Atlantic
“Joe Pinsker: In the past few decades, what’s changed in how families pay for college?

Caitlin Zaloom: College used to be a lot cheaper for families, because there was more funding from the government. If you think about the biggest educational systems, like the University of California system or the City University of New York system, these universities were free or practically free for decades. That was in part because of a belief that higher education was essential for the national project of upward mobility, and for having an educated citizenry.

So middle-class families didn’t always have to pay for college with debt. The shift began in the 1980s, in terms of a changing political philosophy. President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman, said in 1981, “If people want to go to college bad enough, then there is opportunity and responsibility on their part to finance their way through the best way they can.” When those who argued that college is a private benefit framed it like that, it became logical to say that education should be paid for by the people that it benefits. And so in the 1990s, the vast expansion of loans for higher education began.

Pinsker: Many of the parents and children you interviewed about their college-related debt feared that they were being financially burdensome to their family members. Given the shift you just described, do you think that this represents people internalizing system-level problems as personal ones?

Zaloom: The families that I spoke with really feared the possibility that they would be a weight on each other. And that is very much a fear of failing under the terms of the current college financing system—people understand themselves as failing, but we give them unreasonable terms.

The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.

Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.

Pinsker: The middle-class parents in your book generally didn’t talk with their kids about the financial strain of paying for college. You note that this isn’t confined just to the subject of paying for college, but is the case with other financial matters too. Why do you think parents so often avoid conversations about money with their kids?

Zaloom: I think that one reason middle-class parents stay silent about their finances is that they feel vulnerable, in terms of their social standing. When families face financial difficulties, that makes them feel like they may fall out of the middle class and like they won’t be able to do what people like them are supposed to do—for instance, to be able to send their kid to a college that’s a good fit or to be able to retire securely. So that silence about money is a kind of last resort for shoring up a faltering middle-class identity.

Pinsker: What is the single change that you think would be most effective in making paying for college less fraught for families?

Zaloom: I think that it is essential to make public universities tuition-free or low-cost. That would do wonders for helping families understand that education is for them, and for opening up the imaginations of young people who don’t otherwise see college as a possibility. That is important in and of itself, but it’s also important because free tuition would take the pressure off families to reorganize their lives around trying to achieve this unmanageable financial goal, which is what we ask them to do now. And then ultimately, it would also benefit young adults, because they would be graduating without the kind of debt that would inhibit them from trying to figure out what kind of contribution they want to make to the world and what kind of job they want to have.

Pinsker: What would you say to people who would read what you just said and argue in response that money can’t just be given out to everyone like that?

Zaloom: Most of the economic arguments against free tuition are based on the notion that education is a private good—that a college education is like a house, in that it’s something you are buying and then hold the responsibility to pay back. I don’t dispute the calculations of those who support that argument. And I do understand that funding free or low college tuition would also benefit a lot of wealthier families. But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I see higher education as being a fundamental public good that we have somehow defined as a private one.

Even considering that economic objection on its own terms, I would argue that higher education is now necessary for a stable life and a good job, in the way that K–12 education and a high-school degree was necessary 40 years ago. We now have a system that requires K–16 education for financial stability, so it’s important to fund that—we wouldn’t ask people to pay for 5th grade, so we shouldn’t also ask people to be paying for sophomore year.”
caitlinzaloom  joepinsker  colleges  universities  highered  highereducation  studentdebt  middleclass  finance  education  economics  publicgood  precarity  inequality  2019  obligation  us  moraltraps  morality  debt  capitalism  latecapitalism  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
who cheats and why
“Every time I’ve gone away over the last three years, coming back to the news felt like jumping into a freezing body of water filled with stinging jellyfish. There’s the added stress of continually finding new articles (some of which are linked below) that demand inclusion/reference/consideration in the burnout book. (See also: this piece on how education debt is transforming the middle class [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/09/09/student-debt-is-transforming-the-american-family ]). And then there’s all the new ideas/phenomena that transform when placed within my newly developed framework of burnout.

Take, for example, this excellent piece from the NYT [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/us/college-cheating-papers.html ] on the continued expansion of “essay farms” which allow people from around the world to “bid” to get paid for writing essays for American college students. The interviews with the people writing these essays (in this case, mostly Kenyan) is what makes this piece exceptional — and highlights a very 21st century phenomenon, in which educated English speakers, unable to find work in their own countries, are paid relatively small amounts of money so that Americans (and some Chinese) can receive the credentials that will allow them to find full-time work. For example:
Roynorris Ndiritu, 28, who asked that only part of his name be used because he feared retribution from others in the industry in Kenya, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and still calls that his “passion.” But after years of applying unsuccessfully for jobs, he said, he began writing for others full time. He has earned enough to buy a car and a piece of land, he said, but it has left him jaded about the promises he heard when he was young about the opportunities that would come from studying hard in college.

Or:
Now Ms. Mbugua finds herself at a crossroads, unsure of what to do next. She graduated from her university in 2018 and has sent her résumé to dozens of employers. Lately she has been selling kitchen utensils.

Ms. Mbugua said she never felt right about the writing she did in the names of American students and others.

“I’ve always had somehow a guilty conscience,” she said.

“People say the education system in the U.S., U.K. and other countries is on a top notch,” she said. “I wouldn’t say those students are better than us,” she said, later adding, “We have studied. We have done the assignments.”

The piece is an incisive (and accurate!) take on the American educational system and its place in the global hierarchy. It’s explicit about how America’s general reluctance to crack down on these services has allowed them to flourish (in a way they no longer do in the UK or Australia) — and thorough in its exploration of how the supply of essays is generated. But it leaves the demand for those essays largely unexplored, a hazy vision of the unmotivated, unprepared, overprivileged college student willing to pay $30 a page for an essay three hours before it’s due.

Just to be clear, this isn’t a critique — no piece can do everything, I mean that. And significant regulation of these sites would temporarily solve a problem, as it seems to (at least temporarily) have done in Australia. But if the American demand remains, it’ll just find a different outlet. And that demand is far less rooted in entitlement than in fear. Which isn’t to say that this isn’t cheating: it is. But “catching” students with software like TurnItIn isn’t actually a deterrent when students are acting out of abject anxiety.

When I was in the classroom, the students who plagiarized were never the worst students in the class. To be sure, there were a handful of students who are exactly the douchey, rich, entitled asshole you’re picturing as the customers of these services. But most teachers will tell you that the students plagiarizing weren’t the laziest, or the most entitled. They were often the solid B students, desperate, truly desperate, for As. They’d do extra credit, they never skipped class. For some assignments, they were in my office, asking questions, talking over drafts, incredibly anxious about thesis statements, at a loss about how to craft the rest of the essay. And then something would happen with an assignment — not even necessarily a big one! — where they’d get super overwhelmed, panic, and copy something from the internet.

These students don’t cheat because they’re lazy; they cheat because they’re incredibly anxious, terrified of failure, and haven’t been taught to come up with original arguments (or trust themselves when they do). They’re the students who got into a desired college through sheer determination. They’re not dumb or stupid or anything close to it. But they’ve become convinced that any sort of failure (on an assignment, in a class) is tantamount to total life failure, and accumulate anxiety about each assignment accordingly.

If you’ve never experienced anxiety, then it’s difficult to explain how counterintuitively it works: instead of helping you plan out the steps to succeed at a given task, it makes the task seem so insurmountable that you avoid it entirely, which creates more anxiety, which makes it seem even more insurmountable. Hence: googling “pay for essay” three hours before the assignment is due.

Many of these students are natural people pleasers: it’s part of how they got as far as they did. Which is why the idea of emailing or coming in to talk to their teacher about their failure to start the essay ahead of time is anathema. And a lot of teachers — myself included, in my early days of teaching — tell students things like “no extensions, no question” or “I’ll only entertain extensions if requested a day in advance.” And simply not turning something in, or turning it in late for a docked grade — also anathema for the striving, anxious student. So they do some ethical self-bargaining, and spend the money intended for food and “expenses” on an essay.

(Another version of this phenomenon, and one that the piece addresses briefly = international students, frustrated or insecure in their English, desperate to perform at the level they did back home, terrified of bad grades sent to their parents, unable or reticent to articulate their concern to their professors, especially if they had a very different paradigm of education back home).

There are ways for teachers to help combat these tendencies — protracting the essay writing process, requiring students to turn in outlines ahead of time — but they’re often limited to small classes or classes explicitly focused on writing. And for already overworked teachers, they’re also incredibly time-consuming. The problem isn’t that professors aren’t attentive enough; it’s that the entire American educational system primes high school (and then college) students to conflate A’s with actual thinking, and the ability to exclusively get those A’s with personal value.

Whether the student is fifteen and terrified about what their sophomore grades will suggest on their transcript, or nineteen and desperate to maintain their GPA for their scholarship or for grad school, that attitude only grows more and more destructive. The result — a degree without the ability to think — only further evacuates that degree of actual value.

In the NYT piece, several of the Kenyan essay writers described general dismay that they’d put so much time and money and energy into getting college degrees — a promised ticket to prosperity! — only to find themselves forced to cheat for other students. They were disillusioned, and rightly so, with the value of a college degree. We’re getting there in America, too: a college degree may still up your wages for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t guarantee middle class stability, or intellectual edification. More and more, American education simply reproduces the de facto millennial condition: heavily indebted, almost comically insecure, and paralyzed by anxiety.”
education  highereducation  highered  cheating  essayfarms  anxiety  us  2019  middleclass  insecurity  colleges  universities  economics  kenya  grading  grades  highschool  pressure  howweteach  howwelearn  plagiarism  hierarchy  inequality  precarity  annehelenpetersen 
september 2019 by robertogreco
The Brief Idyll of Late-Nineties Wong Kar-Wai
"In the summer of 1997 I was living in London, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’d left college and had been in the city for a year, trying, like so many other twentysomethings, to write a novel. I’d given myself a year, but as the chapters took shape so did a curious tension about the way my life was playing out. Part of me was exhilarated and determined: I was writing about a country and people—my people—that did not exist in the pages of formal literature; I was exploring sexual and emotional boundaries, forming relationships with people who seemed mostly wrong for me, but whose unsuitability seemed so right; I was starting, I thought, to untangle the various strands of my cultural identity: Chinese, Malaysian, and above all, what it meant to be foreign, an outsider.

But the increasing clarity of all this was troubled by a growing unsettledness: I had imagined that the act of writing my country and people into existence would make me feel closer to them, but instead I felt more distant. The physical separation between me and my family in Malaysia, which had, up to then, been a source of liberation, now created a deep anxiety. All of a sudden I saw the huge gulf between the person I had been and the one I now was. In the space of just five or six years, university education had given me a different view of life, a different appreciation of its choices. My tastes had evolved, the way I used language had changed—not just in terms of syntax and grammar but the very fact that standard English was now my daily language, rather than the rich mixture of Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Malaysian slang that I had used exclusively until the age of eighteen. I was writing about the place I was from, about the people I loved (and hated), but felt a million miles from them.

All around me, the world seemed to be repositioning itself in ways that seemed to mirror this exciting/confusing tension within me. Britain was in the grip of Cool Britannia fever, and London—multicultural, newly confident after the Labour Party’s victory in the elections—seemed to be the most exciting place on the planet, a city where minority groups of all kinds suddenly found their voice and artistic expression flourished alongside capitalism. On the other side of the world, where my family and friends lived, however, the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis had just erupted, bringing the previously buoyant economies of Southeast Asia to their knees. On the phone with my parents, I heard news of one friend after another who’d lost their job or business. A new anxiety lurked in the voices of all those I spoke to in Malaysia and elsewhere in the region: an unspoken fear of civil unrest, of anti-Chinese violence that inhabited the passages of our histories in times of crisis. These fears were not unfounded: less than a year later, in Jakarta, where my father worked at the time, widespread anti-Chinese riots led to the murders of over a thousand people and hundreds of incidents of rape and burning of Chinese-owned property and businesses. Stay where you are, don’t come back, various friends cautioned.

On TV, I watched the handover of Hong Kong to China after one hundred years of British colonial rule, a transition that felt at once thrilling and scary: the passing of a country from one regime to another, with no one able to predict how the future would pan out. My sister, who had recently moved to Hong Kong to find work, decided that it would change nothing for her, and that she would stay.

I sank deeper into the world of my novel. I sought refuge in a place where I was in control—but even there, things weren’t working out. My characters were all divorced from their surroundings, trying to figure out how to live in a world on the cusp of change. They fell in love with all the wrong people. They didn’t belong to the country they lived in. I wanted the novel to be an antidote to the confusion around me but it wanted to be part of that mess. I was exhausted by it and by the end of that year, abandoned the manuscript.

It was exactly at that time that Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together found its way into the art house movie theaters of Europe. That summer he had won the Best Director prize at Cannes for the film—the first non-Japanese Asian to do so—and I’d seen the movie posters in magazines: Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung sitting dreamily in the back of a car, their faces bathed in a hypnotic yellow light. I’d grown up with these actors, iconic figures in Asian pop culture. I’d seen all their movies, and like so many of my contemporaries, knew the words to all the Leslie Cheung songs, which still take up several gigabytes of memory on my iPhone. I’d seen and swooned over Wong Kar-Wai’s previous films, Chungking Express and Fallen Angels, as well as a curious early work called Days of Being Wild, set partly in the Philippines and also starring Leslie Cheung. I thought I knew what to expect from Happy Together. It turned out that I had no idea at all.

It’s impossible to describe the intense rush of blood to the head that I felt on seeing these two leading actors—young, handsome, but somehow old beyond their years—in the opening scene. They are in a small bed in a boarding house in Buenos Aires. They are far from home, wondering what to do with their lives, how to make their relationship work again. Within seconds they are making love—a boyish tussle with playful ass-slapping that morphs quickly into the kind of rough, quick sex that usually happens between strangers, not long-term partners.

It was the end of the twentieth century; I had watched countless European movies where explicit sex was so much a part of the moviemaking vocabulary that it had long since lost the ability to shock me. But the people in this film were not random French or German actors, they were familiar figures of my childhood, spitting into their hands to lubricate their fucking.

The two men are partners in a turbulent relationship with extreme highs and lows. They travel to Argentina—as far away from home as possible—to try and salvage what they can of their love. Their dream is to travel to see the Iguaçu Falls, a journey which takes on totemic qualities as the movie progresses and their relationship once again falters. They break up. Tony Leung takes a lousy job as a doorman at a tango bar; Leslie Cheung—promiscuous, volatile—becomes a sort of rent boy, though the precise nature of his relationships with other men is never clearly defined. (Over the years I’ve developed a resistance to remembering the characters’ names, wanting, I guess, to imagine that Tony Leung and Leslie Cheung were actually in a relationship.) Leslie drifts in and out of Tony Leung’s life, sometimes bringing his tricks to the bar where Tony works. From time to time they appear ready to get back together again, but they always miss their chance to connect—often in a literal sense, for example when one goes looking for the other, but goes into one door just as the other emerges from an adjacent one.

Their relationship is a series of missed connections, but it is more tragic than two people simply being in the wrong frame of mind at the wrong time. It is impossible for the men to achieve intimacy because they are unable to carve out their place in the world—neither in Buenos Aires nor in Hong Kong, which is referred to often but never in comforting or nostalgic terms. Their new city is not welcoming, and neither is their home country. The same set of problems they escaped from home to avoid follow them to this strange foreign place. The Buenos Aires they inhabit is at once real and unreal, sometimes gritty, other times so dreamy it seems like an imagined city. The mesmerizing visuals that Christopher Doyle created for that film (and would carry into Wong Kar-Wai’s future works) make us feel as if the characters are floating through the city, incapable of affixing themselves to it.

Late in the film, a major new character is introduced—an innocent, uncomplicated young man from Taiwan played by Chang Chen, who works in the Chinese restaurant where Tony Leung has found employment. They form a close friendship, one that seems nourishing and stable. But Tony Leung is still preoccupied by Leslie Cheung, even though they are no longer together. Does Chang Chen feel more for Tony Leung than mere friendship? Almost certainly, he does. He goes to Ushuaia, the farthest point of the Americas, but Tony Leung chooses to remain in Buenos Aires. Those missed connections again: that impossibility, for Tony Leung at least, to figure out how he truly feels because he is too far from home, cut off from his points of reference. That intense separation should have brought him objectivity; he should have gained clarity of thought and emotion. Instead his feelings remain trapped in a place he wants to leave behind, but is unable to forget.

In the closing scenes, Tony Leung finally manages to leave Buenos Aires and travels not to Hong Kong but Taipei. He goes to the night market where Chang Chen’s family runs a food store. Chang Chen isn’t there, he is still traveling the world. “I finally understood how he could be happy running around so free,” Tony Leung says in his low, sad, matter-of-fact voice-over. “It’s because he has a place he can always return to.”

When I think of that period in 1997, when I couldn’t walk down the street or fall asleep without seeing Tony and Leslie dancing the tango in a squalid kitchen, or hearing Caetano Veloso’s featherlight voice hovering over ravishing images of the Iguaçu Falls—I can’t help but think that we were in a short era of innocence before the complicated decades that lay ahead. The Hong Kong that Wong Kar-Wai refers to in that movie no longer exists. The film’s original title is 春光乍洩, which means the first emergence of spring sunshine—or, more idiomatically, a glimpse of something intimate. But perhaps it refers also to that brief moment of openness and… [more]
wongkar-wai  tashaw  film  memories  memory  place  belonging  home  1990s  1997  2019  youth  identity  storytelling  unsettledness  separation  malaysia  education  highered  highereducation  langauge  english  malay  cantonese  mandarin  chinese  malaysian  change  innocence  london  capitalism  jakarta  southeastasia  hongkong  china  tonyleung  lesliecheung  chunkingexpress  happytogether  fallenangels  daysofbeingwild  buenosaires  relationships  intimacy  families  connection  nostalgia  comfort  cities  taiwan  changchen  taipei  vulnerability  openness  acceptance  victimization  divisiveness 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Meritocracy Is Killing High-School Sports - The Atlantic
"Obsessive competition in high-school athletics is inseparable from the gargantuan role that sports plays in college admissions.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education,” says Philip Smith, a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. (About 30 percent of Williams students are recruited athletes.) In the 1990s, Division I and Division II colleges annually distributed less than $300 million in student-athlete scholarships. Today that figure is more than $3 billion.

You might think most of that scholarship money is going to help kids from poor families who couldn’t otherwise afford college. That’s not the case. In 2010, just 28 percent of Division I basketball players were first-generation college students, meaning they likely came from low-income families. Five years later, that figure has fallen by nine percentage points. Today, fewer than one in seven students receiving athletic scholarships across all Division I sports come from families in which neither parent went to college. Farrey calls this the slow-motion “gentrification” of college sports.

This process starts in youth and high-school sports. Both historically served as a pipeline to flagship universities for low-income kids. But when they’re shut out from pricey travel leagues and the expensive coaching that early specialists receive, lower-income kids are denied not only the physical benefits of playing sports, but also the jackpot that is college recruitment and Division I and II scholarships.

Institutions that were meant to be opportunity-equalizers for the rich, poor, and everybody in between—community youth sports leagues, public high schools, the American college system—are being stealthily hijacked to serve the primary goal of so many high-income parents, which is to replicate their advantages in their children’s generation."
meritocracy  athletics  colleges  admissions  sports  scholarships  inequality  highered  highereducation  universities  games  failure  education  competition  economics  anxiety  parenting 
september 2019 by robertogreco
America Without Family, God, or Patriotism - The Atlantic
“The nuclear family, God, and national pride are a holy trinity of the American identity. What would happen if a generation gave up on all three?”



“One interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about the erosion of traditional Western faith. People under 30 in the U.S. account for more than one-third of this nation’s worshippers in only three major religions: Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This reflects both the increase in non-European immigration since the 1970s and the decline of larger Christian denominations in the latter half of the 20th century. It also reflects the sheer increase in atheism: Millennials are nearly three times more likely than Boomers to say they don’t believe in God—6 percent versus 16 percent. If you think that Judeo-Christian values are an irreplaceable keystone in the moral arc of Western society, these facts will disturb you; if you don’t, they won’t.

A second interpretation of this poll is that it’s mostly about politics. Youthful disinterest in patriotism, babies, and God might be a mere proxy for young people’s distaste for traditional conservatism. For decades, the Republican Party sat high on the three-legged stool of Reaganism, which called for “traditional” family values (combining religiosity with the primacy of the nuclear family), military might (with all its conspicuous patriotism), and limited government.

Millennials and Gen Zers have turned hard against all these values; arguably, their intermittently monogamous, free-spending Republican president has, too. Young voters are far to the left of not only today’s older Americans, but also past generations of younger Americans. Based on their votes since 2012, they have the lowest support for the GOP of any group in at least half a century. So it’s possible that Millennials are simply throwing babies out with the Republican bathwater.

But it looks like something bigger is going on. Millennials and Gen Z are not only unlikely to call themselves Protestants and patriots, but also less likely to call themselves Democrats or Republicans. They seem most comfortable with unaffiliation, even anti-affiliation. They are less likely than preceding generations to identify as “environmentalists,” less likely to be loyal to specific brands, and less likely to trust authorities, or companies, or institutions. Less than one-third of them say they have “a lot of confidence” in unions, or Silicon Valley, or the federal government, or the news, or the justice system. And don’t even get them started on the banks.

This blanket distrust of institutions of authority—especially those dominated by the upper class—is reasonable, even rational, considering the economic fortunes of these groups were pinched in the Great Recession and further squeezed in the Not-So-Great Recovery. Pundits may dismiss their anxiety and rage as the by-products of college-campus coddling, but it flows from a realistic appraisal of their economic impotency. Young people today commit crimes at historically low rates and have attended college at historically high rates. They have done everything right, sprinting at full speed while staying between the white lines, and their reward for historic conscientiousness is this: less ownership, more debt, and an age of existential catastrophe. The typical Millennial awakens many mornings to discover that some new pillar of the world order, or the literal world, has crumbled overnight. And while she is afforded little power to do anything about it, society has outfitted her with a digital megaphone to amplify her mordant frustrations. Why in the name of family, God, or country would such a person lust for ancient affiliations? As the kids say, #BurnItAllDown.

But this new American skepticism doesn’t only affect the relatively young, and it isn’t confined to the overeducated yet underemployed, either.”



“he older working-class men in the paper desperately want meaning in their lives, but they lack the social structures that have historically been the surest vehicles for meaning-making. They want to be fathers without nuclear families. They want spirituality without organized religion. They want psychic empowerment from work in an economy that has reduced their economic power. They want freedom from pain and misery at a time when the pharmaceutical solutions to those maladies are addictive and deadly. They want the same pride and esteem and belonging that people have always wanted.

The ends of Millennials and Gen Z are similarly traditional. The WSJ/NBC poll found that, for all their institutional skepticism, this group was more likely than Gen Xers to value “community involvement” and more likely than all older groups to prize “tolerance for others.” This is not the picture of a generation that has fallen into hopelessness, but rather a group that is focused on building solidarity with other victims of economic and social injustice. Younger generations have been the force behind equality movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, #AbolishICE, and Medicare for All, not only because they’re liberal, and not only because they have the technological savvy to organize online, but also because their experience in this economy makes them exquisitely sensitive to institutional abuses of power, and doubly eager to correct it. What Americans young and old are abandoning is not so much the promise of family, faith, and national pride as the trust that America’s existing institutions can be relied on to provide for them.

The authors of the paper on working-class men note that, even as their subjects have suffered a shock, and even as they’re nostalgic for the lives of their fathers and grandfathers—the stable wages, the dependable pensions—there is a thin silver lining in the freedom to move beyond failed traditions. Those old manufacturing jobs were routine drudgery, those old churches failed their congregants, and traditional marriages subjugated the female half of the arrangement. “These men are showing signs of moving beyond such strictures,” the authors write. “Many will likely falter. Yet they are laying claim to a measure of autonomy and generativity in these spheres that were less often available in prior generations. We must consider both the unmaking and remaking aspects of their stories.”

And there is the brutal truth: Many will likely falter. They already are. Rising anxiety, suicide, and deaths of despair speak to a profound national disorder. But eventually, this stage of history may be recalled as a purgatory, a holding station between two eras: one of ostensibly strong, and quietly vulnerable, traditions that ultimately failed us, and something else, between the unmaking and the remaking.”
derekthompson  us  culture  society  economics  generations  change  religion  patriotism  families  2019  suicide  middleage  purpose  meaning  community  anxiety  malaise  collapse  vulnerability  traditions  marriage  parenting  millennials  geny  genx  generationy  generationx  generationz  gender  work  labor  unemployment  hope  hopelessness  activism  skepticism  power  elitism  democrats  republicans  politics  education  highered  highereducation  ronaldreagan  reaganism  belief  diversity  voting  unions  siliconvalley  socialjustice  justice  impotency  underemployment  spirituality  capitalism  neoliberalism  genz 
september 2019 by robertogreco
Writing about "Slavery"? This Might Help - Google Docs
[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/B1cedakHkuU/ via Dorothy Santos on IG in a story]

“Senior slavery scholars of color community-sourced this short guide to share with and be used by editors, presses, museums, journalists, and curricular projects as well as with teachers, writers, curators, and public historians. Considering the legal, demographic and other particularities of institutions of slavery in various parts of the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and also considering how slavery changed over time, this guide is a set of suggestions that raises questions and sensitivities rather than serving as a checklist that enforces any set of orthodoxies.

This document is offered in the spirit of Laura Adderly’s response to it; all words we “know to talk about enslaved people of African descent in these Americas prove insufficient, both for the brutality against them, and for their remarkable overcoming.” This document helps us in our grappling to describe and analyze the intricacies and occurrences of domination, coercion, resistance, and survival under slavery. It complicates the assumptions embedded in language that have been passed down and normalized. Depending on context, some words clarify, some obscure. For that reason, as one contributor put it, this is a “worthy language struggle.” Those who have contributed to this crowdsourced guide include leading and upcoming scholars in the field of slavery studies. They come together to make this intervention in the spirit of building ethical community.

During the time of document generation, please feel free to add not only to the checklist but to its goals, objectives, organization, scope, etc. Afterward, please see contact below.“
slavery  language  teaching  howweteach  enslavement  education  history 
august 2019 by robertogreco
The Syllabus Search Engine | SyllabusFinder
"Our syllabus search engine helps you discover full details on courses that interest you. We believe that students should be allowed to know what material is taught in courses before registering at their schools."
database  syllabus  syllabi  highereducation  highered  academia  education  teaching  howweteach  instruction  search 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Open Syllabus Project
“Mapping the college curriculum across 6,059,459 syllabi.”



“What is it?

The Open Syllabus Project (OSP) collects and analyzes millions of syllabi to support educational research and novel teaching and learning applications. The OSP helps instructors develop classes, libraries manage collections, and presses develop books. It supports students and lifelong learners in their exploration of topics and fields. It creates incentives for faculty to improve teaching materials and to use open licenses. It supports work on aligning higher education with job market needs and on making student mobility easier. It also challenges faculty and universities to work together to steward this important data resource.

The OSP currently has a corpus of seven million English-language syllabi from over 80 countries. It uses machine learning and other techniques to extract citations, dates, fields, and other metadata from these documents. The resulting data is made freely available via the Syllabus Explorer and in bulk for academic research.

The OSP is based The American Assembly—an independent non-profit organization affiliated with Columbia University.

Tell me more. What is a syllabus?

For our purposes, a syllabus is any detailed account of a class or class section. Not every country represents classes in the same way. In the UK and Australia, we also collect reading lists. In India, a syllabus is a bundle of classes associated with a degree. We collect those too.

All of the syllabi in the current collection are English language documents – including from universities where English is not the primary teaching language. Eventually we will create workflows for the large non-English portions of the collection that we cannot currently analyze.

We have no means at present of mapping syllabi back to class size or enrollment. A MOOC and a seminar are treated identically. Nor do we know how representative the collection is of the larger universe of syllabi (although the collection is now large enough to permit the construction of representative subsets using various criteria). Our rough guess is 5% of the Anglophone curricular universe over the last 10 years.

Because the Syllabus Explorer focuses on assigned texts, it privileges syllabi that provide detail about class readings. These represent a bit over 50% of the collection.

The other 50% come either from classes that assign no texts (such as many studio, lab, and internship classes) or from curricular management systems that do not or only inconsistently list assigned readings. These contribute nothing to the citation rankings but are useful for other kinds of analysis, including work on skills and trends.

How does the OSP get its syllabi?

Primarily by crawling and scraping publicly-accessible university websites.

Faculty contributions make up a small but significant portion of the collection. They also form the basis of an emerging ‘full permission’ collection that we will display and make available for download in a later version of the Explorer. If you would like to contribute syllabi to either the public or non-public collections, please read more here.

We also have institutional contributors that we hope will form the basis of a larger Syllabus Commons.

The first step in the OSP data pipeline is to separate syllabi from other documents collected in the OSP’s internet crawls. The second step is to deduplicate these documents. As of May 2019, around 7 million documents passed these tests. The Explorer currently displays the roughly 6 million syllabi collected through 2017.

What are ranks, counts, and scores?

Citation counts–how often titles are assigned across the collection–appear throughout the Syllabus Explorer.

If a title appears on a syllabus, it ‘counts.’ If it appears 10 times on a syllabus, it counts only once. If it appears in ‘suggested reading’ or some other secondary list, it still counts. Our methods can’t distinguish primary from secondary reading (yet).

A title’s ‘rank’ is calculated with respect to all 1.7 million unique titles identified in the collection. The most frequently taught text–The Elements of Style–is ranked #1.

The ‘scores’ listed next to titles convert the frequency with which a title is assigned relative to other titles in the collection to a 0-100 scale. Our intention is to provide a number that is easier to interpret than the raw rankings and counts.

We think that providing these numbers gives faculty a way to gain recognition for scholarship with classroom applications. Syllabus counts privilege types of work that are underrepresented in metrics derived from journal citation, including more synthetic, accessible, and public-facing work that often represents a large part of faculty labor. We think that counting classroom use also creates a positive feedback loop for teaching-directed and public-facing scholarship, potentially leading to better teaching materials.

How are counts calculated?

The Syllabus Explorer has a master catalog of titles that it can identify within the syllabus collection. In OSP Version 2, this catalog is primarily a combination of The Library of Congress and Crossref—the latter a scholarly publishing catalog with records for around 80 million articles. We also incorporate the Open Textbook Library, which allows for tracking the adoption of openly-licensed titles.

The Syllabus Explorer identifies citations by looking for title/author name combinations in the raw text of the syllabi. The resulting matches are then run through a neural network trained to distinguish citations from other occurrences of the same words. This process is accurate around 93% of the time.

Some of the remaining 7% are cleaned through rule-based and hand-composed blacklists. The rest show up in the Explorer.

Why doesn’t the Syllabus Explorer show results for X?

There are many possible reasons but here are the most likely:

X is not assigned on the syllabi currently in the collection.
X is not in the master bibliographical catalogs that we use to identify titles (The Library of Congress and Crossref).
X was improperly merged with another title in building the master catalog. With nearly 100 million total records, some title/author combinations appear hundreds of times. The process of collapsing large numbers of variants and potential duplicates into single records is imperfect.
The original catalog data for X is ambiguous or incorrect. This is common. Records sometimes fail to list all of the authors for a title, list editors or translators in the author field, or have other erroneous information.
We’ve worked to minimize these problems but if you spend time with the Explorer, you will see them.

What about date, location, and field information?

The dates of classes are obtained by analyzing the date strings that appear in the syllabus text or the source URL for the document. This process is around 90% accurate, which means that erroneous dates will appear with some frequency. Some schools, too, use date formats that we have difficulty parsing accurately.

Fields are challenging because there is a great deal of variation in how different educational systems and intellectual traditions divide human knowledge. Also, these boundaries are constantly changing. We trained classifiers to identify—initially—117 fields found in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP 2015). For this round of OSP work, 62 were accurate enough to use (all can be mapped back to CIP codes). The attribution of texts to unusual fields in the Explorer (for example, The Prince to Public Safety) is most often a problem with the field classifiers and is common, especially, with syllabi obtained from non-Anglophone universities.

Institutional attribution is based on a mixed analysis of URLs and e-mail strings found in the documents, which are then mapped to Digital Science’s GRID database of research and teaching institutions. These methods resolve institutional location for around 94% of the syllabi in the collection.

What about people and publishers?

Unlike titles, schools, fields, and countries, authors and publishers do not have unique records in the database. An author search simply returns people who share a particular name. These results can be nearly unique for people with rare names, but are less reliable for common names. Additionally, our source catalogs often contain multiple versions of the same person’s name, and often duplicates based on the different citation conventions around initials. Our efforts to reconcile these variations are imperfect. Stable author identities remain one of the major challenges of library science. We can’t solve that problem, but we will try to adopt emerging solutions, such as ORCID (go on, get an ORCID ID).

Publishers data is structurally similar to authors but has some unique features. The quality of publisher data in the source catalogs is generally terrible, with no consistent representation of publisher names, ownership structures, or roles in publication. However, the finite number of publishers makes the data easier to clean. We have aggressively cleaned much of it, making relatively complete publisher records possible in many cases (at the expense of some of the complexity embedded in the records).

We also list academic journals in the publisher section.

In practice, a title can be composed of dozens of underlying records, with different publishers, publication years, and even authors. Where we have multiple records for a single title, we show (1) the most frequent (i.e., modal) title and subtitle; (2) the modal author or authors; (3) the dominant publisher (i.e, representing 70% or more of the records); and (4) the earliest publication date from among all the records. The result is a useful indicative record, rather than a ‘true’ representation of the title and edition assigned.

Are you exposing individual syllabi or teaching choices to the world… [more]
opensyllabus  education  data  syllabi  syllabus  teaching  highered  highereducation  database  search 
august 2019 by robertogreco
The 1619 Project: Pulitzer Center Education | Pulitzer Center
“The Pulitzer Center is proud to be the education partner for The 1619 Project, which is inaugurated by a special issue of The New York Times Magazine. Click here for our curricular resources, including a reading guide for the issue, activities to engage students, and more.”

[full PDF: http://www.pulitzercenter.org/sites/default/files/full_issue_of_the_1619_project.pdf ]
1619project  history  education  slavery  us 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Circle Forward - Living Justice Press
“Circle Forward is a resource guide designed to help teachers, administrators, students and parents incorporate the practice of Circles into the everyday life of the school community. This resource guide offers comprehensive step–by-step instructions for how to plan, facilitate and implement the Circle for a variety of purposes within the school environment. It describes the basic process, essential elements and a step-by-step guide for how to organize, plan, and lead Circles. It also provides over one hundred specific lesson plans and ideas for the application of Circles in the following areas of school life:

• Learning and establishing a Circle practice
• Establishing and affirming community norms
• Teaching and learning in Circle
• Building connection and community
• Promoting social-emotional skills
• Facilitating important but difficult conversations
• Working together as adults
• Engaging parents and the wider community
• Developing students as leaders in peer Circles
• Using Circles for restorative discipline”

[via: https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/1163200983456997376

See also: "2. They can get "Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline" edited by Bahena et al. It includes an essay that I co-wrote with others titled "Restorative Justice is Not Enough: School-Based Interventions in the Carceral State." Other useful essays too."
https://twitter.com/prisonculture/status/1163201422252531713 ]
books  toread  restorativejustice  discipline  schools  education  teaching  howweteach 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Kalabash School of Music and Arts
“Kalabash School of Music and the Arts is located in the beautiful seaside community of Bird Rock, La Jolla. We offer a variety of private and group classes in music and art to both local residents and throughout  the city of San Diego. Whether you or your child is interested in learning piano or painting, drums or drawing, we have the right program for you.  Please explore our site to learn more about our lessons and events.

MUSIC LESSONS
Kalabash’s core programs consists of group and private music classes for all age groups. We take a student first approach to learn about interests and passion before structuring a lesson.

ART CLASSES
The Kalabash Art studio offers group classes in a variety of art disciplines. From comic books to painting, drawing and mixed media, our art classes appeal to a wide range of interests.

COMMUNITY EVENTS
We love our community and offer regular events to include not only students, but family, friends and teachers. Student recitals, open mic nights and concerts are all offered.”

[See also:
https://www.instagram.com/wearekalabash/
https://vimeo.com/user96869411 ]

[via: https://www.instagram.com/laurienasica/ ]
sandiego  lajolla  art  children  music  education  birdrock 
august 2019 by robertogreco
William Gibson on Watches | WatchPaper
“William Gibson is famously credited with predicting the internet. Early works like Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive established him as a major voice in science fiction and the worlds he created still serve as a template for how popular culture views the future. If you’ve seen The Matrix or read any cyberpunk, you’ve seen William Gibson’s influence at work. Equally important, but perhaps less famous are his essays, collected recently in Distrust That Particular Flavour. Highly perceptive and suggestive, they span a range of topics from Singapore’s totalitarianism and Tokyo’s futurism, to the Web and technology’s effect on us all. The volume also contains his glosses on those essays, which were written over a span of 30 years. Brief afterwords, they are his reflections on the content, and on the person who wrote that content at a point and time, and what’s happened since. In his 1997 essay, “My Obsession”, William Gibson chronicled his interest in watches for Wired magazine. [See “My Obsession” https://www.wired.com/1999/01/ebay/ ] The essay is as much about the advent of the internet and sites like eBay as it is about watches, and his afterword to the essay reflects:
People who’ve read this piece often assume that I subsequently became a collector of watches. I didn’t, at least not in my own view. Collections of things, and their collectors, have generally tended to give me the willies. I sometimes, usually only temporarily, accumulate things in some one category, but the real pursuit is in the learning curve. The dive into esoterica. The quest for expertise. This one lasted, in its purest form, for five or six years. None of the eBay purchases documented [in the essay] proved to be “keepers.” Not even close.

Undaunted by his placing this interest squarely in the past, something he got over, I wanted to find out what had survived, physically or intellectually, of his obsession. It turns out, quite a lot. We corresponded via email and William Gibson shared his thoughts on collecting, how he got started, what “keepers” remain in his collection and why. We also talked about the Apple watch and what it means for traditional horology.”

...

"If “old” people, as you mentioned in our recent discussion, are concerned that what they’ve collected will be unwanted, how is that anxiety being manifested? Some watch brands like Patek Philippe use durability, inheritance and legacy as their explicit identity.

I was thinking of someone with dozens of rare military watches. Even if they have children, will the children want their watches? It could be difficult finding the right museum to donate them to, in order to keep the collection intact. I think Patek’s appeal to inheritance and legacy still has some basis, though the wristwatch itself has become a piece of archaic (though still functional) jewelry. You don’t absolutely need one. You do, probably, absolutely need your smartphone, and it also tells the time. Eventually, I assume, virtually everything will also tell the time.

Is there something authentic in collecting we as humans are striving for? What does the impulse represent for you?

I actively enjoy having fewer, preferably better things. So I never deliberately accumulated watches, except as the temporary by-product of a learning curve, as I searched for my own understanding of watches, and for the ones I’d turn out to particularly like. I wanted an education, rather than a collection. But there’s always a residuum: the keepers. (And editing is as satisfying as acquiring, for me.)

Do you think there’s anything intrinsic to watches (their aesthetics, engineering etc.) that make them especially susceptible to our interest?

Mechanical timekeeping devices were among our first complex machines, and became our first ubiquitous complex machines, and the first to be miniaturized. Mechanical wristwatches were utterly commonplace for less than a century. Today, there’s no specific need for a mechanical watch, unless you’re worried about timekeeping in the wake of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. So we have heritage devices, increasingly archaic in the singularity of their function, their lack of connectivity. But it was exactly that lack that once made them heroic: they kept telling accurate time, regardless of what was going on around them. They were accurate because they were unconnected, unitary.

How do you think the notion of collecting has changed since your preoccupation with watches played itself out? Scarcity (but not true rarity) barely exists any more.

The Internet makes it increasingly easy to assemble a big pile of any category of objects, but has also rationalized the market in every sort of rarity. There’s more stuff, and fewer random treasures. When I discovered military watches, I could see that that was already happening to them, but that there was still a window for informed acquisition. That’s mostly closed now. The world’s attic is now that much more thoroughly sorted and priced!"
watches  williamgibson  ebay  horology  fashion  collecting  collections  learning  howwelearn  2015  esoterica  research  researching  deepdives  expertise  obsessions  cv  immersion  posterity  legacy  analog  mechanical  durability  longevity  inheritance  jewelery  smartphones  understanding  education  self-directed  self-directedlearning  timekeeping  connectivity  scarcity  objects  possessions  ownership  quality  internet  web  online  wristwatches  things  applewatch  pebble  pebblewatch  smartwatches 
august 2019 by robertogreco
David Gooblar on Twitter: "I want to urge you to read @rtraister's extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more tha
[via: https://hewn.substack.com/p/hewn-no-316 ]

“I want to urge you to read @rtraister’s extraordinary piece on Elizabeth Warren as a professor. If you, like me, are very interested in both the future of this country and the discipline of teaching and learning, it’s more than worth your time.
https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/elizabeth-warren-teacher-presidential-candidate.html

Traister’s argument: although one might think Warren’s professorial manner might be a liability on the campaign trail, she’s actually a *really good* teacher, and the way that she’s a good teacher might be the key to her success, both as a candidate, and as a political leader.

The way teaching is talked about here—by Warren, but also by Traister—gets to the heart of what it means to be an inclusive teacher, and (to me) draws a thicker line between teaching for social justice and plain old political action for social justice.

For instance: Warren, as a law school prof, relied on the Socratic method in her classes. The Socratic method means different things to different people, but in a law-school context, it usually means the relentless grilling of students, one at a time, to reveal their weaknesses.

There are a lot of problems with this mode of teaching, like: what are all the other students supposed to be doing while the one unlucky sap is being questioned?

Traister refers to “the seeming paradox of a woman known as a bold political progressive adhering to an old-fashioned, rule-bound approach to teaching.” But it’s not a paradox, because the way Warren conceives of the Socratic method is actually deeply progressive.

She worried that “traditional” discussion, in which the professor only calls on those students who raise their hands, inevitably reinforced privilege. “The reason I never took volunteers,” Warren tells Traister, “is when you take volunteers, you’re going to hear mostly from men.”

Instead, she adopted a cold-calling approach that made sure as many students were involved in each class period as possible. Here, Traister quotes one of Warren’s TAs, whose sole job during class was to keep track of who had spoken, and who hadn’t yet.

[image: “In this position, Ondersma remembered, she had one job: to make sure everyone got called on equally. “The whole idea was that she wanted everybody in the classroom to participate.” Ondersma would sit with the class list and check off every student who’d gotten a cold-call question. Then, in the last ten minutes of the class, “I’d hand her a notecard with the names of all the students she’d not yet called on,” and Warren would try to get to them all.”]

(A few years ago I wrote about cold-calling as a way to invite students into discussions. It’s a weird thing: it feels old-fashioned and authoritarian to many of us, but it can actually help ensure your discussions are more democratic.)

In line with that emphasis on reaching everybody, whenever a student would come to office hours before an exam with a question, Warren would ask the student to write the question down, so she could send it (and her answer) to every student.

Traister quotes one of Warren’s students: “it was very important to her that people were not going to have any structural advantage because they were the kind of person who knew to come to talk to a professor in office hours.” What a great idea!

I often tell faculty that teaching is much more defined by their mindset than by whatever teaching strategies they adopt. From what this piece tells us, it’s clear that Warren gets that, and that her mindset is the right one.

Look at how she talks about teaching:

[images:

““That’s the heart of really great teaching,” she said. “It’s that I believe in you. I don’t get up and teach to show how smart I am. I get up and teach to show how smart you are, to help you have the power and the tools so that you can build what you want to build.””

"But she explained to him the thinking behind hers: 90 minutes, she said, is a long time to sit and be talked to. The Socratic classroom as she handled it forced everyone in it to pay close attention not only to what she was saying but also to what their fellow students were saying. She was not the leader of conversation; she was facilitating it, prompting the students to do the work of building to the analysis.

It’s a pedagogical approach that Warren sees as linking all of her experiences of teaching. “It’s fundamentally about figuring out where the student is and how far can I bring them from where they are.”"]

Her approach to teaching begins with students, with thinking about the students’ experience, with consciously altering her approach so that as many students as possible can get as valuable an experience as possible. That is, at heart, an inclusive teaching practice.

But maybe even cooler is the way in which Traister goes beyond showing what a great teacher Warren was. She connects Warren’s pedagogical approach with her political one, in a way that really gets me thinking about the role of teaching and learning in our public life.

We often talk about politics in terms of communication—how well a certain candidate is getting her ideas across to potential voters—but the task is more complex than that typical lens suggests. It’s less communication than it is persuasion—persuading people to act.

Persuading people to vote for you, yes. But also persuading people that they are capable of action. Persuading people that they have agency, that they can do more than they currently think they can.

If you want to succeed at this kind of persuasion, you’d be wise to learn from the scholarship of teaching and learning, which is precisely concerned with these questions. How do we help other people do things—for themselves?

If learning is the work of students—if we can’t *make* students learn—then how do we help them do that work? What conditions can we create that make that work more likely to happen? That is the teacher’s task.

Likewise, if real political change is the work of citizens—many, many citizens changing the political reality, not a single politician—then how do we create the conditions in which that work is more likely to happen? That, Warren suggests, is the political leader’s task.

Elizabeth Warren can’t make us do the work of banding together to defeat corruption, inequality, injustice. But maybe she can use inclusive teaching methods to help us come to the conclusion—on our own—that such action is necessary, and possible. That is a wild sentence to type.

Traister does great work drawing parallels between Warren’s teaching practice and her campaign tactics. She quotes Warren talking about the challenge of teaching people about her proposed wealth tax, and why it’s not so radical:

[image: "When she was first doing town halls, after proposing a wealth tax, she said, “I’d look at the faces and think, I don’t think everybody is connecting. It’s not quite gelling. So I tried a couple of different ways, and then it hit me. I’d say, ‘Anybody in here own a home or grow up where a family owned a home?’ A lot of hands would go up. And I’d say, ‘You’ve been paying a wealth tax forever. It’s just called a property tax. So I just want to do a property tax; only here, instead of just being on your home, for bazillionaires, I want it to be on the stock portfolio, the diamonds, the Rembrandt, and the yachts.’ And everyone kind of laughs, but they get the basic principle because they’ve got a place to build from.”"]

Elsewhere, Traister brilliantly points out that Warren’s habit of calling individual donors on the phone—regular people who gave $50 or whatever—mirrors her cold-calling in class, ensuring that *more people* are being heard from than the usual men raising their hands.

This is partly because I’m really inspired by Warren in general, but the piece really underlines for me the value of inclusive teaching, the importance of the work teachers do, in helping students remake themselves, and remake their worlds.

Inclusive teaching practices are based on sturdy research on how students learn best. But they follow, 1st of all, from a choice the teacher makes. We must choose to be committed to every student, to put their development first, to be led by them, rather than the other way around

That is, I’m sorry to say it, a political choice. Not because we’re trying to get our students to vote a certain way. But because we help students believe in their own possibility, in their own agency. I happen to think it’s hugely important.

Anyway, I should probably have just written this as an essay (and I don’t want to quote/screenshot from it any more)—go read the piece! https://www.thecut.com/2019/08/elizabeth-warren-teacher-presidential-candidate.html

Oh, and the companion episode of The Cut on Tuesdays (one of the best podcasts going, by the way), is delightful. You get to hear Warren herself talk about teaching, including a truly excellent rubber band metaphor that I’m going to use in workshops.
https://cms.megaphone.fm/channel/thecut?selected=GLT3342909803

Also also: [image of Elizabeth Warren with her dog]“
davidgooblar  elizabethwarren  teaching  howweteach  politics  elections  2019  2020  learning  howwelearn  education  highered  highereducation  inclusion  inclusivity  rebeccatraister  socraticmethod  instruction  pedagogy  via:audreywatters  cold-calling  lawschool  studentexperience  citizenship  participation  participatory  gender 
august 2019 by robertogreco
Shannon Mattern on Twitter: "From the August Harper’s Index: percentage change in women’s math test scores in a room that is between 80 and 90 degrees F rather than 60 and 70F: +27; in men’s math test scores: -7" / Twitter
"From the August Harper’s Index: percentage change in women’s math test scores in a room that is between 80 and 90 degrees F rather than 60 and 70F: +27; in men’s math test scores: -7"
math  mathematics  education  gender  girls  temperature  2019  environment  classroom 
august 2019 by robertogreco
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