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Adventures in lifelong learning: Towards an Anti-Fascist Curriculum
"Yesterday's Warsaw demonstrations were shocking in their scale (60,000 nationalists marched on Poland's independence day; many calling for 'a white Europe of brotherly nations'), but were also disturbing in the way that, whilst confronted with new displays of far-right extremism almost daily - we just don't seem shocked enough. Fascism is like that, of course. It is out-there in the Charlottesville marches, echoed in the words of Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, yet it is also insidious. It creeps into lives - and becomes normalised in our language and behaviours. As Umberto Eco wrote in 'Ur-Fascism' (1995, p.8), 'Fascism..can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – every day, in every part of the world.'

The warning signs

I won't use this blog to attempt to summarise important political discussions or try to analyse fascism in any detail; I am not a historian. But given the international rise of the far-right I believe that, as educators, we have a duty to be sensitive to these shifts and as a result should be reshaping our curricula and pedagogy to take account of it.

According to Merriam Webster, fascism is 'a political philosophy, movement, or regime... that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition'. Eco suggests a list of features that are typical of what he calls Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. As he states, 'These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it'. The first principle, that fascism derives from individual or social frustration, is enough in itself to set alarm bells ringing. Four other key features are:

1. The cult of tradition. The desire to return to a better age, and a fear of modernism: 'Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message'. (It should be noted that the first thing that fascist states seize is the curriculum).

2. Irrationalism, and the promotion of action over thought. 'Distrust of the intellectual world'.

3. Fear of difference (fascism is racist by definition). 'The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders.'

4. The fostering of a spirit of war, heroism and machismo. 'Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual 8 habits, from chastity to homosexuality).'

An anti-fascist curriculum

I suggest here that an anti-fascist curriculum should take account of warning signs such as Eco's, and should also pay heed to Lawrence Britt's 'Fourteen signs of fascism' which include Cronyism and Corruption, the suppression of organised labour, obsession with national security and identification of scapegoats as a unifying cause.

The word 'curriculum' here refers to more than just the syllabus; it incorporates all influences on a child (or adult's) education (buildings, pedagogy, classroom management, the implicit and explicit things that are taught). As teachers we often distract ourselves from the bigger picture; arguments about the specifics of practice give a sense that our classrooms operate as micro-entities, where children are unaffected by the social dysfunction surrounding them. Managing behaviour is seen as a battle of 'them versus us,' and the 'othering' of pupils causes us to neglect the development of our own self-awareness. For this reason, such a curriculum can only start with the teacher.

Below are a few ideas for what an anti-fascist curriculum manifesto might practically include. It can only ever be a guideline; wanting it to become policy or enacted in some way defeats the object of a movement that should sit outside the state. Likewise, it should not dictate the behaviour of teachers, only act as a stimulus that has the potential, not to make large-scale change, but to spark a 'line of flight' that disrupts the status quo. If any of the manifesto chimes with you or you want send any thoughts or ideas as I continue to extend it, please do not hesitate to comment or get in touch with me.

Towards an Anti-Fascist Curriculum - A Manifesto for Educators

1. We start by examining the 'fascist inside us all.'

“The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.” (Foucoult, 1983)

We recognise our own interior desire for power and accept our responsibility as educators to reflect on this with others in spirit of critical challenge. We undertake critically reflective processes that make us question our own assumptions and prejudices, such as tests of cognitive dissonance to expose gender, race, age, disability bias, and intersections of these and other identities. We examine our own values, as individuals and within our organisations and consider the roots of these and their influences on our practice. Our reflective activity extends to our roles as leaders; we aim to continually refine and develop ourselves as human beings, alongside our students.

2. We promote difference over uniformity.

This includes de-centring the Enlightenment idea of the 'perfect human' in order to augment the voices of oppressed 'others'. We celebrate the living knowledge of our students, and examine the genealogy of the subjects we teach to decolonise and diversify our curricula. We make efforts to connect with others globally to inform our practice and maintain perspective. We challenge the threat of toxic masculinity through deliberate educational approaches which liberate men and boys from the need to conform to 'gender-specific' ideals (which further male supremacy). We reflect on our own privilege.

3. We accept complexity and uncertainty.

Whilst welcoming research-informed practice, we reject the fetishisation of science and the search for the 'ultimate truths' of education theory, which can limit educational autonomy.

4. We resist the reduction of 'education' to instrumentalism.

We widen the purpose of education to take into account the socialisation and subjectification of our students (Biesta, 2010). We believe in education as the practice of freedom (hooks, 1994) and consider each subject we teach as a potential vehicle to promote agency and social justice.

5. We are pro-social, critical pedagogues.

We use teaching methods that place an emphasis on the building of community, togetherness and belonging, which have a strong critical and reflective focus. Specific teaching innovations may include philosophical inquiry, restorative practice and thinking environments (and would include the implementation of critical digital pedagogies)."
fascism  sfsh  2017  education  uniformity  difference  complexity  cv  uncertainty  instrumentalism  schools  learning  freedom  community  togetherness  belonging  criticalpedagogy  pedagogy  bellhoooks  teaching  howweteach  openstudioproject  lcproject  restorativejustice  thinking  socialization  agency  socialjustice  science  scienticsm  autonomy  truth  enlightenment  humansism  othering  others  decolonization  diversity  curriculum  masculinity  gender  race  reflection  disability  power  responsibility  canon  love  exploitation  xenophobia  irrationalism  action  machismo  war  heroism  nationalism  tradition  modernism  cronyism  corruption  classroommanagement  manifesto  foucault  supremacy  patriarchy  privilege  disabilities  michelfoucault 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Mow the Lawn - NYTimes.com
"She’s off to college in California, whence I suspect she will never return. As places to stay go, California is up there. Whenever I’m there I wonder why I leave. Unencumbered by too much past, it offers the sunlit tug of the future.

So, dear reader, you find me at a juncture. You put four children through high school, and you find yourself reflecting less on the collapsing Sykes-Picot order and the post-carbon economy than on the happiness whose pursuit America at its founding declared an inalienable right.

The founders were not wrong. It is a self-evident truth that people, whether in creating a new nation or simply beginning a new relationship, seek happiness. That they often go about it in the wrong way does not detract from the sincerity of their quest. Sure as there are acorns beneath the oak tree, people keep rekindling their hopes.

In this commencement season, there is inevitably much reflection on the nature of those hopes and how to fulfill them. These tend toward the mawkish. Life is a succession of tasks rather than a cascade of inspiration, an experience that is more repetitive than revelatory, at least on a day-to-day basis. The thing is to perform the task well and find reward even in the mundane.

I have no idea if Malcolm Gladwell is onto something with the “10,000-hour rule” — the notion that this is the time required for the acquisition of perfected expertise in a particular field — but I am sure grind is underappreciated in our feel-good culture. Don’t sweat the details, but do sweat.

I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done. Get the column written. Start pondering the next.

A few years ago, when my son Blaise graduated, I was asked to give the commencement speech at the American School in London. Among other things, I said:

“Everyone has something that makes them tick. The thing is it’s often well hidden. Your psyche builds layers of protection around your most vulnerable traits, which may be very closely linked to your precious essence. Distractions are also external: money, fame, peer pressure, parental expectation. So it may be more difficult than you think to recognize the spark that is your personal sliver of the divine. But do so. Nothing in the end will give you greater satisfaction — not wealth, not passion, not faith, not even love — for if, as Rilke wrote, all companionship is but “the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes,” you have to solve the conundrum of your solitude.

“No success, however glittering, that denies yourself will make you happy in the long run. So listen to the voice from your soul, quiet but insistent, and honor it. Find what you thrill to: if not the perfect sentence, the beautiful cure, the brilliant formula, the lovely chord, the exquisite sauce, the artful reconciliation. Strive not for everything money can buy but for everything money can’t buy.”

It’s not precisely that I would retract any of that today — well, maybe a little — it’s just that I’d put the emphasis elsewhere. I am less interested in the inspirational hero than I am in the myriad doers of everyday good who would shun the description heroic; less interested in the exhortation to “live your dream” than in the obligation to make a living wage.

When you think of Sisyphus — the Greek mythological figure whose devious attempt to defy the gods was punished with his condemnation to pushing a boulder up a hill and repeating the task through all eternity when it rolled down again — think above all that he has a task and it is his own. Rather than a source of despair, that may be the beginning of happiness.

In Camus’ book, “The Plague,” the doctor at the center of the novel, Bernard Rieux, battles pestilence day after day. It is a Sisyphean task. At one point he says, “I have to tell you this: This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”

Asked what decency is, he responds: “In general, I can’t say, but in my case I know that it consists of doing my job.” Later, he adds, “I don’t think I have any taste for heroism and sainthood. What interests me is to be a man.”

In the everyday task at hand, for woman or man, happiness lurks."
albertcamus  theplague  everyday  work  labor  heroism  sainthood  rogercohen  2015  california  happiness  slow  small  sisyphus  money  fame  peerpressure  companionship  solitude  repetition  decency  camus  ordinariness  ordinary 
june 2015 by robertogreco
The Pastry Box Project: Mandy Brown [Tuesday, 25 February 2014]
"In The Comedy of Survival, Joseph Meeker argues that much of Western civilization is modeled after the “tragic mode.” You’ll recognize that mode from the Greek and Renaissance tragedies you read in primary school. In the tragic mode, a larger-than-life character attempts to bend the world to his (and it’s always his) image. He succeeds, in part, by mutilating and murdering and generally dragging a swath of blood behind him. But his success is also his undoing, and at the end of the play, his head is carried off the stage. A eulogy praises his bravery while also issuing a caution against those who would follow in his path.

But Meeker proposes an alternative: the comic mode. As you might suspect, the comic mode takes its cues not from the great tragedies but from comedies. Whereas tragedies follow men who are determined to remake the world to suit them, comic characters remake themselves to fit the world. They are flexible and adaptable; they use their wits to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, rather than using their sword to make such opportunities appear.

Where tragedies end in funerals, comedies end in weddings — less blood, more drink.

The tragic mode is the one we slip into when we talk about men who’ve had an outsized impact on the world. We speak of the many things they’ve accomplished, the obstacles they overcame, their ambition, their disruption. We scoff at the companies or people left in their wake. If they fail, we praise their effort and courage. If they succeed, we eventually conspire to get at their throat, and the cycle begins anew.

But what of the comic mode? The comic mode eschews heroic acts. The comic mode pokes fun at ambition and celebrates leisure. The comic mode trades late nights for weekends off, empty savings accounts for day jobs, bravado for brains.

The comic mode lives beyond the curtain fall.

Less blood. More drink."
mandybrown  trickster  worldview  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  comedy  tragedy  2014  heroism  humor  ambition  disruption 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Not Your Father's School: In Which I Confess to Lacking Grit, Apparently, and Blame It on Family
"I didn’t ever know my grandfather terribly well, as he was in ill-health for much of my sentient childhood, and I never heard him say it, but he was quoted by those who should know (that is, by students and teaching colleagues, the folks for whom he saved his best thoughts) as having proclaimed that “A thing worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

What a shocking line from a respected educator! But yet, he had a point that I fully and completely embrace: that one doesn’t need to be an past master, a single-minded obsessive, a ninth-degree adept to enjoy doing something or learning about it. The Expert may be an American icon, but there is no reason that someone should have to be fluent in, say, Dutch to be interested in it as a language or to memorize the scientific names and characteristics of every apple in the Empire State to appreciate the glory of upstate apple-ness."



"
The point of my grandfather’s saying, I think, is that in the end a thing worth doing is a thing worth doing. Sometimes we may achieve full mastery, and sometimes we can only do the best we can. Whether we’re up for 10,000 repetitions, or whether we just want a taste and then to move on, his belief and mine are that curiosity and enthusiasm are felicitous starting points for the exploration of a world of wonders. I’d rather have my recollections of poking around in my grandfather’s library than be under the compulsion to prove how much grit I have. I think, old-school teacher that he was, that my grandfather would agree.

And as for the grit enthusiasts among us, let’s keep in mind that there’s a difference between persistence and heroism, and that we oughtn’t to be demanding heroism from every disadvantaged kid—at least until we’re ready, 24/7, to demand it from ourselves. Let’s focus not on heroism, nor grit, nor “accepting no excuses,” but rather on something we can all own to.

In response to yet another post on this grit business, Laura Deisley cites Chris Lehman’s call for an “Ethic of Care,” a response to what she beautifully describes at kids’ “yearning for relationship and purpose.”

An Ethic of Care just beats grit all hollow."
2014  petergow  caring  via:steelemaley  teaching  schools  persistence  heroism  chrislehmann  lauradeisley  irasocol  josieholford  grit  relationships 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Bradley Manning on Trial | Jacobin
"If Manning is ever released, he will re-enter a world ready to embrace him, advanced with the understanding to recognize his greatness."



"The enormity of his actions sits in contrast with the work-a-day procedure of the court martial. But that is Washington for you, a city where you might meet diplomats with sweat stains under the arms of their dress shirts and stateswomen in fraying stockings. Power appears unexpectedly accessible and deceivingly provincial. The prosecutors — representing the US government — seem guided less by iron fist than egregious technical illiteracy. The people who tortured Bradley Manning do not have horns. And that makes it all much worse."



"Manning was tortured in part because he signed a few letters from the brig as “Breanna Elizabeth.” Marine Corps Master Sgt. Craig Blenis defended his cruelty in a December pre-trial hearing. Coombs asked why the marine thought Manning’s gender dysphoria should factor into his “prevention of Injury” status. Blenis answered because “that’s not normal, sir.”

But it is normal. Manning’s gender identity is as normal as his computer use. Using Wget, believing WikiLeaks to be a reputable news source in 2010, listening to Lady Gaga, identifying as a gender different from your assigned sex— this is all normal. It just might take another generation to see this. What is out of the ordinary about Pfc Bradley Manning is his extraordinary courage. If Manning is ever released, he will re-enter a world ready to embrace him, advanced with the understanding to recognize his greatness."
bradleymanning  jaonnemcneil  2013  law  politics  crime  information  military  society  courage  heroism  greatness 
july 2013 by robertogreco
n+1: Pussy Riot Closing Statements
As Charlie says [http://basecase.org/env/Pussy-Riot-closing-statements :

"I’m not a Russia-watcher and don’t have enough context for this; I can’t take a stance with any depth. Mostly I have to believe what I read in the papers. But as criticism of some slippery problems in contemporary politics, and as rhetoric, the closing statements from Pussy Riot are wonderful to me."

[See also the translator statements: http://nplusonemag.com/pussy-riot-translators-statements ]

"Today’s educational institutions teach people, from childhood, to live as automatons. Not to pose the crucial questions consistent with their age. They inculcate cruelty and intolerance of nonconformity. Beginning in childhood, we forget our freedom. […]

A person can possess a great deal of knowledge, but not be a human being. Pythagoras said extensive knowledge does not breed wisdom. […]

We were unbelievably childlike, naïve in our truth, but nonetheless we are not sorry for our words, and this includes our words on that day. […]

Paying with their lives, these poets unintentionally proved that they were right to consider irrationality and senselessness the nerves of their era. Thus, the artistic became an historical fact. The price of participation in the creation of history is immeasurably great for the individual. But the essence of human existence lies precisely in this participation. To be a beggar, and yet to enrich others. To have nothing, but to possess all."

"“[H]ow unfortunate is the country where simple honesty is understood, in the best case, as heroism. And in the worst case as a mental disorder,” the dissident [Vladimir] Bukovsky wrote in the 1970s."
closingstatements  rhetoric  2012  trial  religion  music  politics  russia  pussyriot  honesty  heroism  vladimirbukovsky  vladimirputin  freedom  unschooling  deschooling  art  contemporaryart  guydebord  kafka  truth  christianity  blasphemy  integrity  bravery  courage  openness 
august 2012 by robertogreco
"Why the World Needs Heroes" by Dr. Philip Zimbardo [.pdf]
"Can thoughts ignite revolutions? How can one person’s imagination
empower millions to challenge tyranny and injustice in the name of
freedom and democracy?"

[See also: The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) http://www.HeroicImagination.org ]

[Related: "I Am Fishead" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUbjaI3X5Qk ]
resistance  bullying  bullies  gandhi  heroicimagination  liberation  mlk  martinlutherkingjr  danielellsberg  irenasendler  courage  behavior  heroes  heroism  nelsonmandela  vaclavhavel  philipzimbardo  psychology  democracy  freedom  via:joguldi 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The Good Show - Radiolab
"In this episode, a question that haunted Charles Darwin: if natural selection boils down to survival of the fittest, how do you explain why one creature might stick its neck out for another?

The standard view of evolution is that living things are shaped by cold-hearted competition. And there is no doubt that today's plants and animals carry the genetic legacy of ancestors who fought fiercely to survive and reproduce. But in this hour, we wonder whether there might also be a logic behind sharing, niceness, kindness ... or even, self-sacrifice. Is altruism an aberration, or just an elaborate guise for sneaky self-interest? Do we really live in a selfish, dog-eat-dog world? Or has evolution carved out a hidden code that rewards genuine cooperation?"

[Related: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/books/review/deWaal-t.html?pagewanted=all ]

[Update: in case the URL breaks, try this: http://www.radiolab.org/story/103951-the-good-show/ ]
radiolab  good  altruism  genetics  instinct  generosity  evolution  georgeprice  heroism  heroes  gametheory  math  selfishness  self-preservation  human  cooperation  niceness  kindness  survival  reproduction  darwin  charlesdarwin 
december 2010 by robertogreco
Save the Day | This American Life
"Act One. Midlife Cowboy: James Spring had hit his late 30s, and found his life utterly unremarkable. He needed to do something big. So James decided to try to rescue two kids who had been kidnapped by suspected murderers, and taken to Mexico. (29 1/2 minutes)"
sandiego  bajacalifornia  mexico  thisamericanlife  heroes  heroism  storytelling 
march 2010 by robertogreco

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