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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
Eduardo Galeano: 'My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia' | Books | The Guardian
"Most mornings it's the same. At the breakfast table Uruguayan-born author, Eduardo Galeano, 72, and his wife, Helena Villagra, discuss their dreams from the night before. "Mine are always stupid," says Galeano. "Usually I don't remember them and when I do, they are about silly things like missing planes and bureaucratic troubles. But my wife has these beautiful dreams."

One night she dreamt they were at an airport where all the passengers were carrying the pillows they had slept on the night before. Before they could board officials would run their pillows into a machine that would extract the dreams from the night before and make sure there was nothing subversive in them. When she told him he was embarrassed about the banality of his own. "It's shaming, really."

There is not much magical about Galeano's realism. But there is nothing shaming in it either. This septuagenarian journalist turned author has become the poet laureate of the anti-globalisation movement by adding a laconic, poetic voice to non-fiction. When the late Hugo Chávez pressed a copy of Galeano's 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent into the hands of Barack Obama before the world's press in 2009, it leapt from 54,295th on Amazon's rankings to second in just a day. When Galeano's impending journey to Chicago was announced at a reading in March by Arundhati Roy, the crowd cheered. When Galeano came in May it was sold out, as was most of his tour.

"There is a tradition that sees journalism as the dark side of literature, with book writing at its zenith," he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais recently. "I don't agree. I think that all written work constitutes literature, even graffiti. I have been writing books for many years now, but I trained as a journalist, and the stamp is still on me. I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world."

Those realities appear bleak. "This world is not democratic at all," he says. "The most powerful institutions, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, belong to three or four countries. The others are watching. The world is organised by the war economy and the war culture."

And yet there is nothing in either Galeano's work or his demeanour that smacks of despair or even melancholy. While in Spain during the youth uprisings of the indignados two years ago, he met some young protesters at Madrid's Puerta del Sol. Galeano took heart from the demonstrations. "These were young people who believed in what they were doing," he said. "It's not easy to find that in political fields. I'm really grateful for them."

One of them asked him how long he thought their struggle could continue. "Don't worry," Galeano replied. "It's like making love. It's infinite while it's alive. It doesn't matter if it lasts for one minute. Because in the moment it is happening, one minute can feel like more than one year."

Galeano talks like this a lot – not in riddles, exactly, but enigmatically and playfully, using time as his foil. When I ask him whether he is optimistic about the state of the world, he says: "It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic." I met him in a hotel lobby in downtown Chicago at 5pm, sitting with a large glass of wine, looking quite happy.

His world view is not complicated – military and economic interests are destroying the world, amassing increasing power in the hands of the wealthy and crushing the poor. Given the broad historical sweep of his work, examples from the 15th century and beyond are not uncommon. He understands the present situation not as a new development, but a continuum on a planet permanently plagued by conquest and resistance. "History never really says goodbye," he says. "History says, see you later."

He is anything but simplistic. A strident critic of Obama's foreign policy who lived in exile from Uruguay for over a decade during the 70s and 80s, he nonetheless enjoyed the symbolic resonance of Obama's election with few illusions. "I was very happy when he was elected, because this is a country with a fresh tradition of racism." He tells the story of how the Pentagon in 1942 ordered that no black people's blood be used for transfusions for whites. "In history that is nothing. 70 years is like a minute. So in such a country Obama's victory was worth celebrating."

All of these qualities – the enigmatic, the playful, the historical and the realist – blend in his latest book, Children of the Days, in which he crafts a historical vignette for each day of the year. The aim is to reveal moments from the past while contextualising them in the present, weaving in and out of centuries to illustrate the continuities. What he achieves is a kind of epigrammatic excavation, uprooting stories that have been mislaid or misappropriated, and presenting them in their full glory, horror or absurdity.

His entry for 1 July, for example, is entitled: One Terrorist Fewer. It reads simply. "In the year 2008, the government of the United States decided to erase Nelson Mandela's name from its list of dangerous terrorists. The most revered African in the world had featured on that sinister roll for 60 years." He named 12 October Discovery, and starts with the line: "In 1492 the natives discovered they were Indians, they discovered they lived in America."

Meanwhile 10 December is called Blessed War and is dedicated to Obama's receipt of the Nobel prize, when Obama said there are "times when nations will find the use of force not only necessary, but morally justified." Galeano writes: "Four and a half centuries before, when the Nobel prize did not exist and evil resided in countries not with oil but with gold and silver, Spanish jurist Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda also defended war as 'not only necessary but morally justified'."

And so he flits from past to present and back again, making connections with a wry and scathing wit. His desire, he says, is to refurbish what he calls the "human rainbow. It is much more beautiful than the rainbow in the sky," he insists. "But our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people."

And the most likely route to becoming blind, he believes, is not losing our sight but our memory. "My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated."

By way of example he cites Robert Carter III – of whom I had not heard – who was the only one of the US's founding fathers to free his slaves. "For having committed this unforgivable sin he was condemned to historical oblivion."

Who, I ask, is responsible for this forgetfulness? "It's not a person," he explains. "It's a system of power that is always deciding in the name of humanity who deserves to be remembered and who deserves to be forgotten … We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful.""
eduardogaleano  garyyounge  2013  memory  amnesia  latinamerica  history  dreams  globalization  journalism  writing  literature  realism  reality  despair  melancholy  activism  revolution  resistance  protest  pessimism  optimism  economics  foreignpolicy  us  uruguay  racism  politics  military  war  peace  context  present  past  nelsonmandela  terrorism  christophercolombus  humanism  humanity  compassion  machismo  collectivememory  small  canon  collectiveamnesia  robertcarteriii  forgetfulness  power  beauty 
april 2015 by robertogreco

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