Preserving a More Honest History from Teaching Tolerance.org

Here’s another great, practical piece from Teaching Tolerance, which I was just reminded is affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The big thing that caught my attention and got me excited about this is the suggestion at the end that teachers should consider making their own classrooms historic sites:

Making Your Classroom the Historic Site

Funding, geography or lack of institutional support may prevent educators from taking students to an exemplary historic site—but you can still bring the best practices of historic sites into your classroom.

I think the author here was attempting to include teachers for whom field trips may not be an option, but actually, why shouldn’t ALL teachers make their classrooms historic sites?  It is an invitation to students to think critically about the institution they attend, the curriculum they study, the habits and routines they engage in.  This is actually a great way for teachers to think about their classrooms too– by deconstructing the phenomenon of the “field trip” altogether and engaging students historical minds daily in this fashion.

Source: Preserving a More Honest History

Exiting the Vampire Castle by Mark Fisher

We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must always agree – on the contrary, we must create conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication.

Source: Exiting the Vampire Castle

I kept hearing again and again about this 2013 essay on some of the socialist podcasts I subscribe to– The Majority Report family of podcasts, but also Chapo Trap House, and Best of the Left too.  The Antifada podcast has aparently created a vampire-centric spin-off inspired, in part, by this article as well.  I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it.  Though I am unfamiliar with the particular comedian and the imbroglio that was the impetus for the article, it certainly seems to ring true.  The final caution about how social media ought to be used for revolutionary aims is particularly clarifying.  And Mark Fisher’s call to resist the erasure of class in whatever form that erasure may take is essential.

八月六日 And America’s Cult of (Military) Superiority

August 6— It’s an overcast and windy morning. There was an occasional drizzle on my way into work.  The school and the city just observed the anniversary of the first nuclear carpet bombing.  74 years ago today this city was reduced to smoldering, irradiated rubble in carpet-bombing targeting civilians, designed to strike terror and hopelessness into the hearts of the Japanese population and win the Pacific War ahead of a Russian invasion of the Japanese mainland.  It was a unique bombing only in terms of the type of weapon used.  Otherwise, it is I think fair to say that bombings like these continue into the present day, initiated by the American Executive, left unchecked by the Congress and largely ignored by the American populace.  These bombings still target civilians and kill tens of thousands of innocent people every year in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.  End the American Capitalist Death Cult!

Portrait of Sadako Sasaki - a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II.  Artwork by Joëlle Jones.

Portrait of Sadako Sasaki – a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II. Artwork by Joëlle Jones. From Red Flag Magazine: https://redflag.org/magazine/issue-6/wish-upon-a-crane/

 

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This piece I found on consortiumnews.com was written in June by William J. Astore. It’s a great summary of America’s obsession with “air supremacy.”  Astore calls the American Military Industrial Complex a “cult,” as do the authors of the “Eyes Left” podcast, which I highly recommend.

 

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/06/10/the-american-cult-of-bombing/

 

It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration – Densho

Densho is a great organization engaged in archival work and political activism around the World War II Era Japanese-American concentration camps in the Western United States.  It’s based out of Seattle, where they have frequent events.  I look forward to learning more about this important organization and hopefully even using some of their archival materials on a future history of education project.

Another Japanese incarceration lead that I just became aware of is this novel, No No Boy by John Okada (Charles E. Tuttle, 1957).  Unfortunately I had to find out about this in a NYTimes article this week describing a copyright dispute between the Okada family and Penguin Books, who apparently treated it as part of the public domain when they published the latest edition (pictured below).

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Source: It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration – Densho: Japanese American Incarceration and Japanese Internment

Densho also has  a great article outlining the story of this book and its publication here.

Eyes Left is creating a socialist, anti-war military podcast | Patreon

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Source: Eyes Left is creating a socialist, anti-war military podcast | Patreon

This is the best new podcast I heard in 2018, and I didn’t catch it until the very end of the year, after one of its creators appeared on another show I love called, The Antifada.

I have gotten a lot of guff from my fellow lefties in the past about my pacifist views– pacifism is naive, it’s too idealistic, what about Hitler, Pearl Harbor, blah blah blah. . . or more compellingly, recently what about antifa– how can I square my desire to punch a white supremacist with avowed pacifism?  The creators of “Eyes Left” have done an excellent job of helping me think through these issues, by making some of the philosophical and historical underpinnings and context of socialist anti-war thinking available in convenient, timely audio packets.

I have now listened through their entire back catalog, and it is all superb– their voices are those of authentic, insiders.  But while they often specifically address their podcast to a military audience and don’t shy away from jargon, they give explanations when necessary and explicitly reject the macho bullshit veneer of the military.

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Spenser Rapone, one-time West Point cadet, now “Other-than-Honorably-Discharged” podcaster.  Solidarity!

Greatest Hits Vol. 2

about this site

I was working on this website beginning around the beginning of my first semester at UBC.  In particular, the quotations on the “about this site” page (linked above) are a good representation of the various voices in EDucational STudies that resonated with my own voice at that time.  Here again, you can see an evolution.

The purpose of this site has always been to be a of part of the public at the margins, less obviously dominated by capital interests.  Naturally, it takes time to maintain a blog.  There are long stretches when I was exclusively posting NYTimes headlines that I thought were important to remember at the time.  Looking back at some of those blog posts, you notice the arc of my political interests.  I’ll link to a representative sample here:

Early

The School Lunch Barometer – NYTimes.com

Alcatraz American Indian Occupation Graffiti Preserved – NYTimes.com

Mid-Range

Good Neighbors, Bad Border – NYTimes.com

http://www.jonathanbfisher.net/2012/05/01/the-imperiled-promise-of-college-nytimes-com/

http://www.jonathanbfisher.net/2014/07/22/its-another-perfect-day-in-tibet-nytimes-com/

Recent Past

Ideology Seen as Factor in Closings in University of North Carolina System – NYTimes.com

 

Greatest Hits from my Masters’ in Ed. Studies

The doctoral program application continues.  And as I dive back into the writing I did for my MEd. degree nearly five years ago now, I’ll be posting some of the writing I am most proud of from those heady pre- and immediately post-fatherhood days.

I am happy to find that, rereading these pieces, though I stand by their learning value to me personally, my thinking has continue to evolve.  And I am able to see much more clearly now some of the mistakes in thinking that I was making then.  For instance, in this introduction to my capstone MEd project, which I conducted mostly remotely (from Japan) after my son was born in October 2013, I identify the current U.S. political regime as a “neo-conservative” one.  Nowadays I’m pretty certain I would use “neoliberal” to describe the Obama Administration and Anarcho-Capitalist to describe the majority Republican Congress of those years.  I think this is largely due to a certain residual confusion I had then about the philosophies and projects underlying the American political parties.  And certainly, trying to see all of these categories through a Progressive, early 20th century lens adds to the confusion.  But I think now I’ve got a better grip on some of the things I was writing about then.

EDST 580: Course Blog Introduction

AP World History Is Worth Saving

Teachers are pushing back against proposed changes they say would reframe AP World History as Eurocentric. Teaching Tolerance stands with them.

Source: AP World History Is Worth Saving

The College Board, which makes these tests, should be coming out with a response to all of the teachers who have told them what a terrible, dishonest switcheroo this would be.

Also, one argument that I didn’t hear Teaching Tolerance making has to do with other existing AP history courses– namely AP European and US History (and to some extent AP Art History) which between them seem to duplicate most of the material that would be covered in an AP world history course from 1400 to the present.

Micro Review: Reading Japanese Education by Diane M. Hoffman

The opening Chapter, in DeCoker and Bjork’s Japanese Education in an Era of Globalization is a very helpful starting point for this collection of essays.  Hoffman begins with criticism of any “holistic” view of Japanese education which seeks to explain the entirety of a complex system by offering some “grand model.”  One such “grand model,” is the “Centrality of the Ministry of Education.”  Hoffman, doesn’t deny that their is some utility in for example a critical understanding of Japanese education in terms of a powerful centralized bureaucracy, but she is rightfully wary of any such account that mythologizes or adds excessive moral significance to such artifacts as political organization.  In this regard, Hoffman is somewhat skeptical of the genre of ethnographic research in general.  But she allows that research that seeks to understand Japanese education in comparison with other contexts is most useful when it neither erases diversity nor seeks to hold up Japan as a model.

The reminder of Hoffman’s essay describes four guiding themes or “tensions” in Japanese educational research.  She is observing patterns in existing research rather than suggesting areas for future study.  Likewise, her identification of themes or tensions don’t foreclose on alternatives.  Those four themes are as follows:

cultural versus structural effects

individual versus collective selves

education for belonging versus education for transformation

and homogeneity versus diversity.

In my experience as a teacher in Japan, and in my limited exposure to the literature on Japanese comparative education, I can see why these themes would present themselves as most evident or available means of analysis of the education system here.  First, as Hoffman echos in her essay, the Japanese nation and the Japanese cultural identity are conflated at every turn, both in and outside of academia.  But it is undeniable that “Japaneseness” is a cultural category that has had far-reaching effects even spilling over into political structures like citizenship and discourses in education like globalization.  I suppose this is the thematic substrate that I am most interested in accessing in my own writing about Japanese education, particularly in light of Hoffman’s closing salvo on “culture, power and difference in reading Japanese education,” but more on that in a moment.

The individual versus collective selves theme, is another one that I see becoming more prominent particularly in light of the neoliberal dominance of educational policy.  That is, the urge in neoliberal discourses of education to treat all aspects of educational systems as flows of capital has often bumped up against a deeper historical imperative for cooperation and a native democratic humanism that predates the arrival of liberalism in Japan from Europe.  Here again, though, the key is how best to use these categories of analysis without essentializing them or mythologizing unnecessarily.

Hoffman’s theme of education for belonging versus transformation is the one which I am least familiar with.  She mentions it specifically with regard to discourses of situated learning– from shellfish divers to violin teacher training.  This is an area of the literature which I will hopefully get a bit more exposure to as I read through Bjork and DeCoker’s collection.  It is also an axis along which it seems like it would be helpful to analyze teacher education in general.

Finally, comes Hoffman’s category of homogeneity versus diversity.  This one seems much more familiar and easily accessible to me, especially given my experiences as a foreign national working as a foreign language teacher in Japan.  But it also strikes me as a useful access point for criticism of ability tracking that is so prevalent here.

To return to Hoffman’s closing nod to “Japan and its Others” for a moment– here was another area where I thought the literature around linguistic imperialism might be usefully expanded.  Hoffman helpfully points out that power has long been undertheorized in the field of Japanese education.  I think this is particularly true when it comes to my particular professional corner of it: foreign language education, which in Japan typically means, EFL/ ESL.  It would be interested to trace the changing tides of EFL/ ESL education in Japan compared with the changing tides of the clout of Japanese Education in general in the world.  I wonder what patterns such a historical analysis might uncover.

Hopefully more to come in that vein next entry.  Now it’s time to pick up my son from Kindergarten.