Mini Review: Michael B. Katz, “The Origins of Public Education: A Reassessment” History of Education Quarterly, (Winter 1976)

With the Japanese government finally undertaking more aggressive and widespread anti-COVID19 measures since the end of April, I have had a lot more time with the kids and a lot less time to read history of education journal articles like this one. However, in other recent news, I have learned that I will be teaching (or at least assistant teaching) an undergraduate class at UW in the fall. The class is a long-running elective for teaching licensure candidates called, “The Purpose of Public Education in a Democracy.” To be honest, I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity. To be teaching at a university is literally a dream come true. So, I have been all kinds of motivated suddenly in the past few days to do every little thing I can to make sure I will be the best graduate student teacher I can be come this September. All of this, of course, God willing, and I can make my way back to North America without succumbing to the current plague.

So, with all of that as a backdrop, I dug back in this week to some of the articles I had saved from the HEQ 50th anniversary retrospective, and found an earlier one– this piece by Michael Katz, who was the president of the History of Education Society in 1976. This piece about the origins of public education in North America, based largely on Katz’s own research in an industrial community in Ontario, Canada, gives a sweeping if perhaps over-general assessment of the field of History of Education with a focus on one of the major problems in the field at that time: how public education became an institution in North America. This seems like a particularly relevant article given the work assignment I just received this past week, teaching about the purpose of public education. As I read this piece, I kept wondering about the relationship between historical evidence for the ontological emergence of public education as an institution, and the normative or teleological roots of the institution. Is the class I’m going to be teaching more rooted in one or the other of these questions? And is the history of education as a field more concerned with one or the other, if not some third option?

Admittedly, I have little sense of how this question of the emergence of public education has developed, or to what degree it has been “settled” or perhaps continues to be revised in the field of history of education. But reading Katz, I have begun to get a clearer sense of the directions in which the field developed, what questions were central to its early contributors, and where my future research might fit in, interrupt, stand up and clear its throat. For instance, the first piece of history of education I read consciously as such was Duberman’s social history of Black Mountain College, which became central to my own M.Ed. research on Dewey’s influence there. But Duberman, who was writing around the publication of Katz’s HEQ presidency was responding to Cremin’s The Transformation of the School (1961), which Katz also recognizes as a starting point (with Paul H. Buck, et al. 1957; and Bernard Bailyn, 1960) for his work. Likewise, I see echos of Katz claims about the “feminization” of the teaching profession in my advisor, Nancy Beadie’s earlier work.

I think I’ll just leave this “review” there for now. I need to return to childcare duties. So, the content of Katz’s analysis will have to wait. But these “big-picture” concerns are just as exciting. I look forward to being able to formulate an even more detailed history of the field as I begin preparing to teach this survey course in the fall.

Eat a Pear for Peace!

Mao Zedong - Wikipedia

Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment… If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself… If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience.

Mao Tse Tung “On Practice” (July 1937), Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 299-300.

“Chinese Virus,” World Market by Andy Liu (n+1 magazine)

This is the best clarification of the global situation with Covid-19 I’ve read so far.  Is it a “Chinese Virus” a “Market Virus” or a “Value Virus” we have on our hands?  Andy Liu’s writing about China’s role in a global capitalist nexus is stellar.  This essay reminds me of David Foster Wallace in its attention to detail and moral clarity.  Excellent!

Source: N+1 Magazine, “Chinese Virus,” World Market by Andy Liu

 

Proverbs 17: 22 and Other Foolishness or: “Wipe Yourself with the Rich!”

My daddy sent me a link to this video, which has, I’m sure, made the rounds of the sometimes charming redneck circles he moves in ( currently sheltering in place) in Western N.C. The part that tickled me the most is the deadpan delivery of the line from the King James Version of the Book of Proverbs, which I had to look for online to recognize.

22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

The utility of this particular proverb, which goes on to countenance shutting up and letting the princes take care of things, is probably best left to the ancient Israelites who decided to write it down originally; but the genius and also the wisdom of the redneck duo quoting it in the present moment lies in their willingness to remind their listeners of a time in living memory when indoor plumbing (let alone toilet paper) was a luxury broad swaths of America couldn’t afford. After all, “there are all kinds of ways you can clean yourself,” including leaves, grass, or the coveted Sears Catalog. Less than a century ago, and perhaps now, once again, “toilet paper is for the rich!”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but these ridiculous (if somewhat talented) heehaws do what major network news media are all failing to do: they point out the class ramifications of the current global crisis.

Trump throws paper towels in Puerto Rico - CNN Video

Here Trump doles out paper towels in the wake of massive hurricane damage in Puerto Rico in 2017. I want so badly for this to become America’s “let them eat cake” moment– a symbol of the decadence of the current regime in the face of overwhelming poverty. I want people to finally connect Trump’s imbecility with the greed and bigotry that capitalism always foment. So, among the new rituals of hygiene we have all begun practicing– replace “social distancing” with SOLIDARITY and instead of toilet paper, maybe we can just wipe ourselves with the rich!

Micro Review: Joy Ann Williamson, Lori Rhodes, and Michael Dunson, “A Selected History of Social Justice in Education,” Review of Research in Education 31 (2007) p.195-224.

Jonathan Fisher

March 19, 2020

Micro Review: Joy Ann Williamson, Lori Rhodes, and Michael Dunson, “A Selected History of Social Justice in Education,” Review of Research in Education 31 (2007): 195-224.

I came down with a fever two days ago, which I was afraid might be the COVID-19 bug, but turns out to be just a regular cold. Anyway, on the advice of my family and coworkers I have stayed home these past two days, which has given me a good chunk of extra reading time in a quiet house. So, I’ve been able to dig into some of the pieces I downloaded connected to my matriculation at UW in the fall, my future advisers there, and the topics which I will pursue leading up to the research for my dissertation.

This piece, I am proud to say, was co-authored by one of my future advisors, Joy Ann Williamson-Lott (I am guessing she has gotten married since the publication of this piece 13 years ago, since her last name is hyphenated now). It appeared in the AERA Review of Research in Education while Dr. Williamson-Lott was still at Stanford University. And it is important to me both because of its scope, and the force of its concluding argument for the necessity of historical research to projects of social justice in education.

That this is a “selected” history of social justice in education, I suppose is meant to be a nod to other groups such as LGBT people or to other religious or cultural minorities such as Jews or Muslims whose stories are somewhat conspicuously absent from this narrative, which is inclusive of Asian, Native American, Latinx and Black as well as White ethnic groups in its discussion. But from the beginning, this piece, importantly sets the stakes as more than just an enumeration of identifiable sub-groups within educational jurisdictions of the United States, but as the struggle of what constitutes education for social justice in the first place, broadly education that promotes assimilation, or education for cultural maintenance (“or something in between”). Will it “give students skills to alter the social order,” or “enable students to fit themselves into a higher station in that social order?” (195). Also, citing Donato and Lazerson’s earlier essay on contemporary problems in educational history, the authors consider the ends to which history of education is deployed, and caution against flat historical arguments that employ unbroken chains of causality through time.

I suppose this last caveat is aimed at a Marxist critical historical view, although I need to dig more deeply into the pieces cited by Donato & Lazerson, as well as Franke, (2000), to be sure. And yet, the conspicuous absence of a specifically materialist critique in this selected history is perhaps its most intriguing fault. It is an especially glaring absence in light of the inclusion of W.E.B. Du Bois quote, resonant not only among Black people, but, as the authors acknowledge, across a range of ethnic minority communities in the U.S.: “The Negro needs neither segregated schools nor mixed schools. What he needs is Education.” I read Du Bois here as making the materialist (not identitarian) argument. For, as the authors of this paper show, in the case of the Chinese American community in San Francisco who revolted against a 1971 desegregation order issued on behalf of students in predominantly Black schools. Assimilationist arguments are not the be-all, end-all of social justice education. Indeed, assimilationist calls for social justice may be wielded just as easily as segregationist racism as a tool of capitalists to exploit minority groups.

Despite a possible blind spot in the area of class analysis, the authors rightfully see the duty of historians of education as one of making sure previously untold stories make their way into policy discourses. They rightfully characterize this discourse as a “battle over our national collective memory.” They also note the power of historical scholarship to bring out narratives of how racial and ethnic groups and individual members of these groups have thought about their own struggles, and “defined social justice for themselves” (215). This mode of intellectual history is particularly attractive to me, and one which I want to pursue in the future.

For instance, I am interested in the question of how teachers or activists in various educational movements/ struggles through history of held up or looked to figures from other movements for inspiration or guidance, despite their goals or particular ideological stances differing. The contemporary case I’m thinking of is Tsuru for Solidarity, survivors of Japanese incarceration, and others recalling the voices of members of those activist movements to fight against the incarceration of children at the US/ Mexico border. Or else, Black Lives Matter’s use of Palestinian Liberation movement, but in a more specific educational context. I need to go back and read that Angela Davis essay about Palestine and Black Power… But also, I imagine somewhere amongst imprisoned Japanese Americans during WWII there were those who saw their plight as of a piece with earlier oppressed groups– students at Indian Boarding Schools perhaps.

I’m rambling on a bit here, but this is illustrative, again, of the power that history of education has, as a mode of research to inform policy decision shape the narratives that define curriculum at a variety of levels– personal, community, regional, state, and international.

Micro Review: The Socialist Sunday School (Kenneth Teitelbaum and William J. Reese) The History of Education Quarterly

Micro-Review:  American Socialist Pedagogy and Experimentation in the Progressive Era:  The Socialist Sunday School, by Kenneth Teitelbaum and William J. Reese.  History of Education Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Winter, 1983), pp. 429-454.

This was another piece identified in the HEQ 50-Year Retrospective.  This piece jumped out at me, not because of any familiarity I had with the authors, but with the specific subject matter it dealt with—Socialism in American Schools.  In this case, this sweeping overview of a segment of the socialist movement in the United States (and the U.K.) outlines the foundation of and development of curriculum, as well as the impact of these relatively informal, small, niche institutions had on the culture of the United States in the opening decades of the 20th Century.

I suspect that there exists a much longer, more detailed book by Mr. Teitelbaum and Reese on this topic, but this essay provided an excellent taste.  This is much closer to the sort of history I envision myself writing, but with a stronger reliance on individual teacher data—a diary, or set of letters relating to the actual conditions “on the ground” so to speak at school.  But the way this essay foregrounds individual texts like excerpts from the Socialist Sunday School Songbook, against broader demographic data—numbers of schools, student enrollment figures, and the economic and government structures underlying the foundation of these schools is very much in line with the type of writing I’d like to do for my dissertation.

Ultimately, Teitelbaum and Reese are able to make a much broader claim about the influence of Socialist Sunday Schools by locating them in the broader cultural milieu of the time—figures like the progressive public intellectual and educationalist John Dewey, as well as Eden and Cedar Paul, who are new figures to me, but who seem to have been doing their part to agitate for communist education in the English-speaking world of the inter-war period.  Reese and Teitelbaum’s most powerfully resonant claim in the present day is that socialist education in the United States in the first half of the 20th century were something of a “counter-hegemony” in a “war of position,” as described by the Italian anarchist thinker, Antonio Gramasci in his Prison Notebooks.

Proletcult (proletarian culture) : Paul, Eden, 1865-1944 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Books, pamphlets and periodicals: p. 143-151

Source: Proletcult (proletarian culture) : Paul, Eden, 1865-1944 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive

Great resource from The Internet Archive, itself a great resource!  Looking forward to digging into this, which was referenced in a 1989 History of Education Quarterly Article by Kenneth Teitelbaum, and William Reese.  Reference to this work, or possibly to the Russian institution with a similar name (spelled, of course, with a K) lives on in podcast form under the auspices of The Antifada, which, I have to credit for making me aware of this particular portmanteau word, and the phenomena it points to.

休校対応中の学校を対象に Google for Education 遠隔学習支援プログラムを実施

In her 2009 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Kline described the propensity for capitalism to make use of the power vaccuums created by large-scale disasters to open new markets, coopt commons, and consolidate its hold existing markets.  The case of the closure of New Orleans public schools and the transformation of schools in that community to Charter Schools operating as private-public “partnerships” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is one outstanding example of the phenomenon she describes, “disaster capitalism,”  as it has applied to the educational sector of the economy.  And now, with the spread of COVID-19, Google seems to be acting quickly to promote its suite of apps for education with a “training program” specifically aimed at the school closure in Japan.

I had previously signed up for and partially completed one of the training courses Google offers on how to make use of its applications in educational contexts.  But it is a program that doesn’t really seem to work at the individual teacher level (at least in the Japanese public school context, where teachers can be transferred on a whim).  Use of these Google Apps in Japanese schools seems to require a school-wide or system-wide adoption for them to work.  Google is fighting against the dominance of companies like Microsoft and even Japanese hardware makers like Toshiba.  But they pounced on the recent school closure, offering lap-top PCs for rent, and a program apparently tailored to the current period of school closures.

Ideally, I suppose, an enterprising school principal or school board official would see this as an opportunity to increase the productivity of an otherwise student-less teacher/worker population, in limbo unti the start of the next school year in April.  They would sign their teachers up, or otherwise induce them to sign up, perhaps dangling promises of work-from-home, or more likely further rationalizing and increasing control over said telework.  This in turn, would give Google a leg up in marketing their various applications and subscription services (cloud computing, webmail, etc.) to schools and school systems across Japan.

3/11: Remembering Those Killed And Displaced by the Earthquake, Tsunami, and the Ongoing Nuclear Disaster in Tohoku, Japan

This Japanese documentary is about a Japanese man who sets up a phone booth in his garden as an invitation to those who are mourning family missing after the tsunami of March 11, 2011.  The public radio mainstay, This American Life, produced an audio version of this story in English in 2016, which I’ll link below

 https://www.thisamericanlife.org/597/one-last-thing-before-i-go

This is a really powerful story about the bonds of family tested by world-historic disaster.  Spoiler alert: family wins!  But you may need a box of tissues to get through these tear-jerker docs.

I want to say that the major theme of this story– a metaphysical connection that defies space, time and death– is one that appears in a lot of great Japanese pop culture as well, most recently, the animation and manga, “Kimi no na ha” is a teenage romantic twist that was very commercially successful.

Corona Virus School Closure Update: Teacher Leave Days

There was another letter in my letterbox at school this morning from the Superintendent of Hiroshima Schools regarding leave for teachers this month during the school closures.

I haven’t included the document itself here, but in summary, special leave is available for three general cases.

First, if the teacher themself falls ill due to Corona virus, or experiences symptoms that may be related to Corona virus infection, like running a fever, they are excused from work.  As usual this is all pending proof in the form of a doctor’s note.

Second, if a teacher’s family member becomes sick, that teacher may be excused to care for the sick relative, and out of precaution that they might already be infected given their close proximity to said family member.

Third, if, due to the school closures, young children who are at home require extra care, a teacher maybe excused for 5 to 10 days.  Unfortunately, this does not cover the entire duration of the school closures.  So, I guess the idea is that teachers with young children are simply expected to use their normal annual leave days in addition to these specially allotted Corona days to cover.  Why teachers haven’t been given more time off during this period is an open question.  We may very well get another backdated letter after a teacher gets sick…  The cover-your-ass mentality alone is enough to make me want stay at home for the duration.