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.

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: 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.

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.

From Teaching Tolerance:  Who Decides What’s “Civil”?

This is a fantastic short article geared towards teachers.  It’s also a great reminder of what a wonderful resource the website, Teaching Tolerance is.

In the piece, we are reminded of the intersecting meanings of being “civil,” meanings that may have to do with a mutual respect, but also may be couched in colonialist stories about “savages.”  So, in just one word, students and teachers alike might find a radical connection between Black History in the 20th century– the so-called “Civil Rights Movement”– and the anti-colonialist struggles of indigenous people in the Americas.  Brilliant!

I am reminded again of Wayne Ross’s  conceptualization of K-12 social studies curriculum in terms of a focus on “dangerous citizenship.”  My hunch is that this configuration of citizenship education has applications even more broadly across curriculums.  What I am trying to get at, I think, is the necessity of historicisation of curriculum, or the necessity of teachers’ bringing a historical awareness to their lessons– whatever they are teaching.  It’s a historicity that need not be confined to social studies, but one which includes things like etymologies (in the literal, linguistic sense of the histories of the meanings of words) as well as the historiographies of curriculum– the changing ways in which teachers and students have thought about their lessons over time.  Such a historicisation is the big first step in bringing the focus of public education back to the progressive as well as more radical social reconstructivist aims that have guided it since the beginning.

When acts of protest are met with calls for civility, it’s a good idea to give students some historical context about the concept.

Source: Tolerance.org Who Decides What’s “Civil”?

Analysis: Tracking the NEA’s and AFT’s $43 Million in Donations to PACs, Advocacy Organizations, Nonprofits — and the State Engagement Fund? (The 74)

The 74 Million is an independent news blog dedicated to the 74 million primary and secondary students in the United States.  A lot of their coverage tends to be skewed towards rhetoric around “school choice,” and so I’m a little bit skeptical.  But there also seems to be a strong racial justice core to their reporting.  The most interesting and useful coverage I’ve seen have been Union Reports like this one, which shed light on the connections between teachers unions (NEA, AFT) and shady groups like Democratic Super- PACs and the so-called “State Engagement Fund” described below.

I guess, what is so disappointing about characterizations of America’s largest Teachers Unions in purely vehicles for cashflow (not that this isn’t an accurate portrayal, because I think it is) but it ignores the humanity of the teachers these organizations purport to represent.  I don’t think the problem is with unions as such, but certainly the way the AFT and NEA seem to be operating at the highest levels is gross and tends to feed into the stories we have been told for generations about unions’ corruption, mob connections, racism, sexism and so on.  Do teachers need to remake their unions and union culture before they can remake their schools, communities and society?

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears most Wednesdays; see the full archive. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers are known as labor unions, advocates for teachers and public school employees, and political powerhouses. But they also are grantmaking institutions. During the 2018-19 school year, the two national teachers unions directly donated $43.1 million […]

Source: Analysis: Tracking the NEA’s and AFT’s $43 Million in Donations to PACs, Advocacy Organizations, Nonprofits — and the State Engagement Fund?

Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detained Asylum Seekers

Dream Action Oklahoma (affiliated with United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigration youth-led network) is organizing a coalition of groups in Oklahoma for a large peaceful protest at Fort Sill on Saturday, July 20, 2019. This past March, Tsuru for Solidarity, a direct action, nonviolent project of allied organizations within the Japanese American community, gathered in Crystal City, Oklahoma in collaboration with pilgrims from allied national organizations and networks. Crystal City, a former WWII internment camp in Texas, housed over 2,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. The gathering was to protest conditions at the nearby South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. 30,000 tsuru(origami cranes) were strung on the fences surrounding the detention center to demonstrate solidarity with those detained, including unaccompanied children separated from their families. Last month, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced that up to 1,400 unaccompanied migrant children would be transferred from Texas to Fort Sill, Oklahoma—another former WWII internment camp that held 700 persons of Japanese ancestry, including 90 Buddhist priests. Tsuru for Solidarity has been invited to participate and a Buddhist memorial service will be part of the day’s events. Fort Sill, a military site, is a historic concentration camp that was used to imprison indigenous people forcibly removed from their lands. It is a place where native children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in re-education schools. It is a site where over 700 American men from the Japanese American community, including 90 Buddhist monks, were imprisoned during WWII.  Concentration camps are used to indefinitely detain minority groups in violation of human and civil rights and without due process. Fort Sill is being prepared to once again become a concentration camp. Concentration camps are now being used across the U.S. on a scale not seen since the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. It’s time for us to reclaim our moral center and our human commitment to one another. We are interconnected. What happens to one of us affects all of us. Speak out, show up, and get involved. Please join us in this movement.

Source: Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detained Asylum Seekers

Tsuru For Solidarity June 2020 Direct Action in Washington DC

Tsuru for Solidarity is a non-violent, direct action project of Japanese American WWII camp survivors, descendants, and allies fighting to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities that are experiencing injustice and oppression.

Source: Tsuru For Solidarity June 2020 Announcement – Tsuru for Solidarity

It’s Register to Vote Day in the U.S.A.

What better way to celebrate the ongoing criminal investigations of the Trump Administration (now with Congressional support!  wow!) than by registering to vote/ updating my address for voting by mail?

One of the most encouraging facts I’ve absorbed recently about the charred and broken American political system is that the number of actual voters is increasing.  Obviously voting alone is not going to get us out of the mess we’re in, but it helps.  And voting by mail increases the likelihood that your ballot will actually be counted properly, since paper ballots cannot be hacked or otherwise altered without leaving some concrete evidence behind.

So, in addition to supporting your local labor union, joining a wildcat strike, worker action, be sure to register to vote and vote.

https://www.usvotefoundation.org

The High School Course Beijing Accuses of Radicalizing Hong Kong (NYTimes.com)

Pro-Beijing officials say a course that teaches critical thinking has created a generation of rebels. Students and teachers say it has made them more engaged with society.

Source: The High School Course Beijing Accuses of Radicalizing Hong Kong

I am just beginning to dive in to some of the details of this ongoing series of actions in Hong Kong.  But I am excited to have been able to use a bilingual interview with an activist (Agnes Chow Ting) spokesperson for the “Scholarism” group in Hong Kong for one of my English expression classes.  Scholarism eventually merged into the Demosisto group which is I believe at the center of the current actions.  It was a bit of a sensitive issue in class because there is one student who is Chinese in that class and I wasn’t sure how she would react.  Japanese media (and as a result, my students) tend to focus on the unrest as a means to criticize the Chinese government in a kind of superior jingoistic fashion.  And my Chinese student has often But I think I made it clear that the reason why I brought this text into the class was out of respect for the Chinese student activists and their connecting politics with their education in a meaningful and powerful way.

Exactly what is the connection between education and radical politics in this situation is still something I want to investigate.  Obviously the connection that this NYTimes headline suggests of a 1-to-1 process of “radicalization,” doesn’t ring true because it ignores the underlying contexts of that education as it takes place.  Anyway, more soon…