Holiday Weekend Reading: President’s Day

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There is, as always, a lot out there worth reading. Here are several things we’ve come across lately.

“Why Teaching Civics in America’s Classrooms Must Be A Trump-Era Priority,” from Mother Jones. Kristina Rizga breaks down some of the reasons behind the vanishing of civics in the United States, signs of a possible resurgence, and why it matters.

The good news is that help may be on the way: The ideology of how to teach American history and civics might vary, says Ted McConnell, executive director of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, but there is strong bipartisan support for expanding social studies. If recent research is any indication, that support couldn’t come a moment sooner. When, in 2011, the World Values Survey asked US citizens in their late teens and early 20s whether democracy was a good way to run a country, about a quarter said it was “bad” or “very bad,” an increase of one-third since the late 1990s. Among citizens of all ages, 1 in 6 now say it would be fine for the “army to rule,” up from 1 in 16 in 1995. In a different national survey, about two-thirds of Americans could not name all three branches of the federal government or which party controlled the House of Representatives. In a third study, almost half of the respondents said the government should be permitted to prohibit a peaceful march.

Educator, author, and civil rights activist Jonathan Kozol has spent the past five decades writing about public schools. “Civic education should be empowering young people to ask discerning questions, and to feel that it’s okay to challenge the evils and injustices they perceive,” he said. But “civic engagement is being beaten out of kids by this tremendous emphasis on authoritarian instruction, and part of it is [the emphasis on] one right answer on the test. We need to empower young people to understand that the most important questions we face in life have limitless numbers of answers and that some of those answers will be distressing to the status quo.”

“20 Black Women You Should Be Following Right Now,” from Bitch Media, a list by Deeshaw Philyaw. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not following these women, remedy that. It makes the Twitter eggs worth putting up with.

In her book I’m Every Woman: Remixed Tales of Marriage, Motherhood and Work, Lonnae O’Neal wrote, “It’s not that I think black women have all the answers — only that we have struggled with the questions longer.” These words are as prescient and applicable to our present situation under the Despot-in-Chief as they are to the work-family life (im)balance O’Neal was writing about over a decade ago.

Since our foremothers were forced onto these shores, we’ve struggled with questions about freedom and survival, justice and equity, truth and lies. Long before we took to the streets and corporate boardrooms and courtrooms and classrooms and concert stages, the struggle lived in our bodies and in our children’s bodies, on auction blocks and in cold shanties.

No, we don’t have all the answers. But we’ve been living and loving and creating and fighting and figuring out how to make a way out of no way longer than anybody.

So listen up.

“Decolonization is not a Metaphor,” from the journal Decolonization, Indigeinity, Education & Society, by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang. An analysis of a term that is used more frequently than it’s understood. Abstract at the link; full PDF available for free.

Our goal in this article is to remind readers what is unsettling about decolonization. Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools. The easy adoption of decolonizing discourse by educational advocacy and scholarship, evidenced by the increasing number of calls to “decolonize our schools,” or use “decolonizing methods,” or, “decolonize student thinking”, turns decolonization into a metaphor. As important as their goals may be, social justice, critical methodologies, or approaches that decenter settler perspectives have objectives that may be incommensurable with decolonization. Because settler colonialism is built upon an entangled triad structure of settler-native-slave, the decolonial desires of white, non-white, immigrant, postcolonial, and oppressed people, can similarly be entangled in resettlement, reoccupation, and reinhabitation that actually further settler colonialism.

“Family Values: Mapping the Spread of Anti-Gay Ideology,” in Harpers. We read just about anything by Masha Gessen, especially post-election. If you don’t know her work, this exploration of the links between US religious conservatism and strains of the same in Eastern Europe and Russia. Gessen has left Russia for the US twice–most recently, due to fear of losing her children due to being gay–and so the subject is personal.

At the time, I think of myself as a journalist interviewing a marginalized political activist for a mainstream American magazine. I think I have the power. But in a few weeks, Brown will become president of the World Congress of Families, and in November he will both rejoice in the election of Donald Trump and begin hounding him on Twitter, demanding that he take a stand against same-sex marriage. In May 2016, the Russians are leading an international charge, with Komov at the U.N. Soon, we will witness how easily the balance of power can shift. The American president-elect’s pick for U.N. ambassador will be among his first announcements; it will be the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who has no international experience but does have a track record of opposing both L.G.B.T. and reproductive rights. If she takes office, years of painstaking progress on L.G.B.T. rights at the U.N. will be reversed, with Russia needing to play but a small part.

But in May 2016 it is a theoretical, even condescending, question I ask Brown at the conclusion of our backstage interview: “Do you see a way for you and me to live in the same society?…If we can negotiate,” I ask, “is there a way that my family and yours can live in peace in the same society?”

“I don’t know.” Brown smiles — I think it’s a smile of awkwardness — and presses his hand to his knee, which has been shaking for the past ten minutes. “No.”

“The Forgotten Work of Jessie Redmon Fauset,” by Morgan Jerkins in The New Yorker. We (well, one-half of our editing team, at any rate) is fascinated with inter-war lit, and this article added several titles to our to-be-read pile. Fundamental to the Harlem Renaissance, but mostly unknown, Jerkins begins to remedy this.

“The Harlem Renaissance as we know it would not have been possible without her participation,” Cheryl A. Wall, the author of “Women of the Harlem Renaissance,” told me recently. “I think we lose a bit of our literary history if we do not acknowledge the contributions of Jessie Fauset.” So why has her own work been forgotten?

A simple answer to that question is that she was a woman. In his 1981 book, “When Harlem Was in Vogue,” the scholar David Levering Lewis writes of Fauset, “There is no telling what she would have done had she been a man, given her first-rate mind and formidable efficiency at any task.” And from the beginning the women of the Harlem Renaissance were slighted in celebrations of the movement. In 1925, when Locke published “The New Negro,” his landmark anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays, which aimed “to register the transformations of the inner and outer life of the Negro in America that have so significantly taken place in the last few years,” only eight of the thirty-six contributors were women.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! Have a Swedish mud cake recipe. We can attest, having tried the real thing, that it’s worth your time parsing out some of the measuring oddities. No better way to end a long weekend.

#CharlestonSyllabus

Race relations in the US since the Civil War

The Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence (also here)*, coalesced in the wake of the mass murder of African American parishioners at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church, by a white supremacist, in South Carolina in 2015.

But despite its violent genesis and primary focus on college students (and above), the syllabus also has a section aimed at school-aged kids.

The creators of the syllabus introduce it like this:

Here is a list of readings that educators can use to broach conversations in the classroom about the horrendous events that unfolded in Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of June 17, 2015. These readings provide valuable information about the history of racial violence in this country and contextualize the history of race relations in South Carolina and the United States in general. They also offer insights on race, racial identities, global white supremacy and black resistance.

The suggested books mostly cover Reconstruction through the Civil Rights era, and they cater to a variety of grade levels and genres.

We invite you to take a look.

Young Reader Resources from the Charleston Syllabus

 


The Resource

Further information about the Charleston syllabus, as drawn from the AAIHS site:

#Charlestonsyllabus was conceived by Chad Williams (@Dr_ChadWilliams), Associate Professor at Brandeis University. With the help of Kidada Williams (@KidadaEWilliams), the hashtag started trending on Twitter. The following list was compiled and organized by AAIHS blogger Keisha N. Blain (@KeishaBlain) with the assistance of  Melissa Morrone (@InfAgit), Ryan P. Randall (@foureyedsoul), and Cecily Walker (@skeskali). Special thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions via Twitter. Please click here to read more about the origin and significance of #Charlestonsyllabus.

Resources for Black History Month…and All Year Long

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Allan Rohan Crite, School’s Out, 1936. Via Smithsonian Education.

Here are a few things that we’ve encountered lately that would be great additions to the classroom, whether during Black History Month or at any other time of the year.

The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an interactive online feature, Collection Stories,  curated by NMAAHC staff. Staff members choose an area of focus based on items in the museum’s collection. The resulting stories include images of the items, historical discussion, and thoughts from the curator on why these stories are so important to African American history and culture.

We especially enjoyed “Dress for the Occasion,” a story centered around the dress that Carlotta Walls wore when she integrated Little Rock Central High School in 1957 as one of the Little Rock Nine. Check it out get a glimpse of the school, her diploma, and the process behind choosing the dress that she wore for that first day of school.

From Smithsonian Education, we’d like to highlight two sets of lesson plans. Both include material appropriate for kindergarteners all the way through high school, available for download as zip files.

The Art and Life of William H. Johnson includes detailed information on how the curriculum meets Visual Art, History, and Language Arts standards. Younger students analyze color choices, subject matter, and older students conduct comparative analysis with works from other artists (including this post’s header image, by Allan Rohan Crite).

Finally, The Blues and Langston Hughes does just what you’d think: compares the poetry of Langston Hughes with blues rhythms, structures, and lyrics that most students are probably already familiar with, whether they know it or not. Younger students write their own simple poems; older students dig into the Smithsonian Folkways’ collection of blues recordings from The Great Migration.

And speaking of Smithsonian Folkways…we have one more recommendation after all. Check out Say It Loud for hours from their collection of African American Spoken Word recordings, whether from Langston Hughes himself, an interview with W.E.B. Du Bois, or a recording of Angela Davis.

Weekend Reading

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Bear with us–the news is moving fast, and we’re working hard! Check back in soon for posts re. immigration, students’ rights, and Black History Month. In the meantime, here’s some of what we’ve encountered this week.

From the Zinn Education Project, an article in advance of Presidents’ Day. Dr. Clarence Lusane’s post would fit well in a discussion of what is included (or not) when history is written.

One of the presidential slaves was Ona “Oney” Maria Judge. In March 1796 (the year before Washington’s second term in office ended), Oney was told that she would be given to Martha Washington’s granddaughter as a wedding present. Oney carefully planned her escape and slipped out of the Washingtons’ home in Philadelphia while the Washingtons were eating dinner. Oney Judge fled the most powerful man in the United States, defied his attempts to trick her back into slavery, and lived out a better life. After her successful attempt became widely known, she was a celebrity of sorts. Her escape from the Washingtons fascinated journalists, writers, and others, but more important, it was an inspiration to the abolition movement and other African Americans who were being enslaved by whites.

Lida Dianti’s 2016 piece on Black History Month in the Daily Trojan is worth a look if you missed it last year. Dianti makes the case for Black History Month in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In honor of BHM — and seeing that Black History is not taught from a black perspective but a predominantly white one — it is more than appropriate to use the history itself to explain how the past defines the racial injustices of today. There are two fundamental works conveniently left out of all levels of education: Slavery by Another Name and The New Jim Crow — the first, a documentation of the advent of industrial slavery in post-Civil War America and its criminalization of black people into second-class citizenry. At this time, the convict lease system relegated black Americans into forced laborers, imprisoned by the U.S. justice system as encouraged by states, local government, white farmers and corporations until World War II. The latter work traces the narrative of segregation and so-called integration well after the Civil Rights Movement, as seen with the mass incarceration of black Americans as a result of the disproportionate and skewed policing of the war on drugs. Since the 1980s, black Americans have been segregated through legalized discrimination and unfair prison sentences, which resulted in the inability to integrate in society after incarceration.

NPR Books reviews two YA novels that focus on immigration, Melissa de la Cruz’s Something in Between and Marie Marquardt’s The Radius of Us. Both have been added to our reading list.

De la Cruz’s protagonist, Jasmine, is devastated when learns that she and her family are living in the U.S. illegally: “I’m breaking apart, shattering,” she thinks to herself. “Who am I? Where do I belong? I’m not American. I’m not a legal resident. I don’t even have a Green Card. I’m nothing. Nobody. Illegal.”

The truth comes out after Jasmine, a classic overachiever, wins a prestigious scholarship. Like a lot of immigrant kids, de la Cruz says, Jasmine works hard to prove she can succeed in this country. “I wanted to, you know, put this all-American girl who happened to be Filipino … through the ringer. Like, what if you’re head cheerleader, class president, valedictorian — but then, all of a sudden, you’re not that special anymore because of how you came to this country?”

Magda Pescayne may be familiar to you as the woman behind Ask Moxie. These days she’s starting a column on parenting under Trump. Her emphasis on routine and predictability, to the extent that it’s possible, can also apply to the classroom.

Kids need routine and stability. You need routine and stability. In the middle of the world falling down around us, the only one who can provide routine and stability for you and your children is you.

You may be feeling like you can’t keep it together logistically, if things get any worse (and that may be true). You may be feeling like you can’t keep it together emotionally for much longer (or that you aren’t currently keeping it together emotionally). But you have to stick to routines, for your kids and for yourself.

Finally, at Teaching for Change, a little more information on protest for those of us new to it from someone who’s been at it a long time. Bruce Hartford was a civil rights worker for Dr. King in the 1960s, and he has a couple of techniques he’d like to revive.

I’ve recently participated in several protests aimed at building resistance to Trump and Trumpism. But from what I could see, there appeared to be little conscious effort to use those demonstrations as organizing tools in effective ways that were second nature to us back in the bad old days. So I would like to suggest two techniques that I think would be effective today…

Rest up, take care, and let us know what you’d like to see.