There was a fantastic review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ouvre in the summer edition of Dissent by Sarah Jones. This was by no means the first time the author’s name has come up for me. She has been in the background of my political consciousness for some time, peeking out most recently with this piece and and the interview of Kim Stanley Robinson that was on the antifada earlier this year.
So, I was excited to dig into a copy of The Dispossessed, Le Guin’s 1974 SciFi classic last weekend after wrapping up the sometimes sentimental collection of short stories by Toshio Mori in Yokohama, California. It is always reassuring to me to be reminded that brilliant artists such as Le Guin have always been wrestling with ideas like the abolition of state-violence, sexual liberation, and radical forms of education and government. I expect to continue being inspired by what has started off as a genre-defying bit of genre-fiction.
Le Guin’s work is distinctive not only because it is imaginative, or because it is political, but because she thought so deeply about the work of building a future worth living.
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.
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.
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.
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. From Red Flag Magazine: https://redflag.org/magazine/issue-6/wish-upon-a-crane/
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.
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).
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.
Spenser Rapone, one-time West Point cadet, now “Other-than-Honorably-Discharged” podcaster. Solidarity!
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:
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.
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.