Sunday, September 7, 2008

ill doctrine

I really, really like these entries! Okay, so the idea is that this guy is a hip hop vlogger who offers astute social commentary on race, politics, etc etc. What's hot is that they're portable.

How awesome would it be to incorporate something like his Conversations About Race clip in a ResLife training session?

Friday, August 15, 2008

note to self

Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits is a follow-up to Samara O’Shea’s first book, For the Love of Letters. In both, she argues for a brief return to solitude, the very thing William Deresiewicz argues we’ve lost in “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” Unlike Deresiewicz, her thesis about the loss of this personal quietness isn’t linked to classist and sort of racist assumptions about who’s going to college. I actually had a great debate about this with some of the new Ron Brown Scholars, who quite rightly pointed out that Deresiewicz’ argument doesn’t allow for students attending elite colleges who are first in their family to go to school, attending on scholarship, or are people of color accustomed to having to be bilingual and bicultural because of their region, their social class, and the social class of their other family members.

Basically, what Note to Self does is provide a primer on keeping a journal. It’s a general primer; O’Shea offers writing prompts, topic suggestions, examples from her own journals (she’s been keeping one since she was 16), and examples from other authors (including Ana├»s Nin, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath, and Joyce Carol Oates). She suggests that journaling provides a way to know the self more intimately, to enforce personal honesty (one of her cardinal rules is that you should never lie to yourself), and to work through issues or concerns that are upsetting you. What I found especially interesting is that she argues that journaling provides a way to construct an empowered understanding of the self. In Chapter 5 (“Sense of Self” – I think this would be a particularly great reading for teachers) she argues that stream of consciousness writing in journals allows students to explore their own selves and voices, so that they can become more solidly realized individuals.

Note to Self struck me as an incredibly useful pedagogical tool. I’m envisioning using the examples described here as a way of developing and then reinforcing agency by free-writes and journal entries, particularly in math and science classes, where describing one’s own actions in problem-solving could make students feel more ownership over the subject. I wouldn’t assign the book (the entries on love and sex are deliciously salacious but perhaps not appropriate for the younglings) but I could see it being a useful book for developing a lesson plan, or using it yourself to keep your own awesome journal .

Cross posted from my book blog at Hathor (

Sunday, August 10, 2008

african americans in US history

The National Archives has a massively awesome listing of resources related to African American history. This listing includes images (there's a great series on African Americans in WWII here: )

and documents related to Amistad (here: )

I'm trying to find one related to US Latino studies, but the site's awkward to navigate. I have no idea how I found this! :P

Friday, August 1, 2008

teaching pocahontas

really great write up of the tensions associated with using images of pocahontas in the classroom. i found this quote especially interesting:

Again, we need to carefully review our historical past in order to understand the present, move on to the future, and not get caught up and trapped in old negative stereotypes of the American frontier past, freeze dried and recycled as modern cultural myths - all of which were mostly established by white inventors of Indian images. From experience I know that cartoons, movies and comics about Indians somehow find their way into the classrooms of America. Most common knowledge of Indians comes from the media and movies like Pocahontas, because the movies have a tremendous advantage in educating the critical masses of people. Therefore, in order for teachers to make the biggest impact on their general public, they must critically examine and screen out racism, sexism, and class bias in movie production. If left untouched, it remains a large body of culturally strip-mined material for another generation of American children to unlearn.

The transformation of indigenous spiritual knowledge, objects, and rituals into commodities, and their commercial exploitation constitute a concrete manifestation of the more general, and chronic, marketing of Native America (Whist, 1995). Indian people can perhaps be informed by what the Canadian Mounties did. They enlisted Disney to market their image in a more culturally responsive way. The Mounties spent a long time looking for licensing expertise, being fed up with exploitation of their image. The Disney corporation now oversees the licensing and marketing of the Mounties' image. What about Pocahontas? What about the images of American Indians?

My focus in the critical review of the movie Pocahontas is to stimulate teacher interest in the importance of the subject of American Indian images, particularly the paradox of many Indian heroines, images that too often have been marginalized in American history, and to raise the level of intellectual and cultural debate about Native people and their role in United States history. The overwhelming concern is how "accuracy" is defined, particularly how "historical accuracy. is defined, and by whom. Society must respond quickly with the complete eradication of such usage of stereotypic negative Indian images in public (Hatfield, 1996). As educators, we can all take steps to think about and counter the hegemonic images of racism that surround us all, committing ourselves to sorting out our collective multicultural heritage, past and present.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

images of BMI categories

This is a really neat photoset that, I think, would be useful in spurring classroom discussion on what it means to look unhealthy. I honestly had no idea what the different BMI categories looked like in "real life" and see the wide range of body types considered overweight/obese/morbidly obese really startled me.

reinterpreting superheroes

After September 11, the notion of the “hero” began to rear its head in the public consciousness more and more frequently. The notion served a necessity in a time of national and global crisis to acknowledge those who showed extraordinary courage or determination in the face of danger, sometimes even sacrificing their lives in an attempt to save others. However, in the whirlwind of journalism surrounding these deservedly front-page disasters and emergencies, it is easy to take for granted the heroes who sacrifice immeasurable life and labor in their day to day lives for the good of others, but do so in a somewhat less spectacular setting.

The Mexican immigrant worker in New York is a perfect example of the hero who has gone unnoticed. It is common for a Mexican worker in New York to work extraordinary hours in extreme conditions for very low wages which are saved at great cost and sacrifice and sent to families and communities in Mexico who rely on them to survive.

The Mexican economy has quietly become dependent on the money sent from workers in the US. Conversely, the US economy has quietly become dependent on the labor of Mexican immigrants. Along with the depth of their sacrifice, it is the quietness of this dependence which makes Mexican immigrant workers a subject of interest.

The principal objective of this series is to pay homage to these brave and determined men and women that somehow manage, without the help of any supernatural power, to withstand extreme conditions of labor in order to help their families and communities survive and prosper.

This project consists of 20 color photographs of Mexican and Latino immigrants dressed in the costumes of popular American and Mexican superheroes. Each photo pictures the worker/superhero in their work environment, and is accompanied by a short text including the worker’s name, their hometown, the number of years they have been working in New York, and the amount of money they send to their families each week.

This might be a good way to use popular culture to initiate a discussion of what it means to be a hero, and how immigrants are imagined in popular culture.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

REALLY great article in The American Scholar this week.

Highlights include:

One of the great errors of an elite education, then, is that it teaches you to think that measures of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. But they’re not. Graduates of elite schools are not more valuable than stupid people, or talentless people, or even lazy people. Their pain does not hurt more. Their souls do not weigh more. If I were religious, I would say, God does not love them more. The political implications should be clear. As John Ruskin told an older elite, grabbing what you can get isn’t any less wicked when you grab it with the power of your brains than with the power of your fists. “Work must always be,” Ruskin says, “and captains of work must always be....[But] there is a wide difference between being captains...of work, and taking the profits of it.”


When elite universities boast that they teach their students how to think, they mean that they teach them the analytic and rhetorical skills necessary for success in law or medicine or science or business. But a humanistic education is supposed to mean something more than that, as universities still dimly feel. So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students. Although the notion of breadth is implicit in the very idea of a liberal arts education, the admissions process increasingly selects for kids who have already begun to think of themselves in specialized terms—the junior journalist, the budding astronomer, the language prodigy. We are slouching, even at elite schools, toward a glorified form of vocational training.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dra. Antonia Darder's Website

I find Dra. Darder's website especially useful for the audio components -- her passion for teaching and her honesty about the difficulties of this are truly inspiring.

Uprising Radio

Uprising Radio is a weekly podcast devoted to linking the local with the global. The section on today's "Radical Day in History" includes stories on the Brown Berets, the establishment of Jamestown, and the first National Chicano Youth Conference. The stories include a brief write-up as well as an archived audio component.

Friday, May 16, 2008

MORE Ways to Incorporate Text into the Classroom

From the FLEFF 2007 Website:

Airport Security
The first in a series of news games called Arcade Wire, Airport Security offers a satirical critique of airport security practices circa early fall 2006, when security agencies in the United States and abroad changed their policies to prohibit common items, such as toothpaste and hair gel, on flights. Do knee-jerk reactions that limit our freedom of expression and travel make us safer? In Arcade Wire: Airport Security you inspect each passenger and his luggage and remove the forbidden items before allowing the passenger to go through-but the list of forbidden items changes on a moment-to-moment basis. Prohibited items may include pants, mouthwash, and hummus.

Ayiti: The Cost of Life
What is it like to live in poverty, struggling every day to stay healthy, keep out of debt, and get educated? Find out now in this challenging role-playing game created by high school students. In this innovative video game, the player assumes the roles of various family members living in rural Haiti. Over the course of the game, the player balances goals, such as getting an education, making money, staying healthy, and seeking happiness, while encountering unexpected events. The game was developed in an after-school program where youth leaders from Global Kids, in the Playing 4 Keeps program, worked in partnership with the game developers at Gamelab.

Bacteria Salad
Your goal is simple: Harvest mass amounts of cheap produce and sell it for as much profit as possible. But watch out for floods and animal waste, or your greens might turn, uh — brown — and your customers will get E. Coli. It doesn't take an MBA to know that killing people is bad for business! Which is safer, small family farms or big industrial ones? Is it possible to run large agribusiness safely? These are the salad days for big agri-business — play today!

Darfur is Dying
This online, viral video game puts the player in the shoes of one of the 2.5 million refugees fighting for survival every day in the Darfur region of Sudan. Players learn about some of the challenges refugees and displaced persons face-and they learn how to take action to help stop the crisis. The game was developed for the Darfur Digital Activist Contest that was launched by mtvU in partnership with the Reebok Human Rights Foundation and the International Crisis Group. Directors: Susana Ruiz, Ashley York, and Huy Truong.

A Force More Powerful
A Force More Powerful is the first and only interactive teaching tool in the field of nonviolent conflict. Developed by the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and the media firm York Zimmerman Inc., with design assistance from some of the Serbian resistance leaders who helped overthrow Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, the game simulates nonviolent struggles to win freedom and secure human rights against dictators, occupiers, colonizers, and corrupt regimes. It features campaigns for political and human rights for minorities and women.

Oil God
You are an oil god! Wreak havoc on the world's oil supplies by unleashing war and disaster. Bend governments and economies to your will to alter trade practices. Your goal? Double consumer gasoline prices in five years using whatever means necessary. Oil God is the second in an ongoing series of news games. The game explores the relationship between gas prices, geopolitics, and oil profits. Gasoline prices are affected most by possible or actual disruptions in oil producing regions, which might reduce supply without altering demand, thus driving prices up. One feature that characterizes the current fluctuations in gasoline prices, unlike previous ones in 1973 and 1981, are a multitude of simultaneous world events and geopolitical uncertainties: the Iraq war, missiles in North Korea, Hurricane Katrina, pipeline problems, the Iran/Korea nuclear, war between Israel and Lebanon war, and so forth.

PeaceMaker is a video game simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a tool that can be used to promote dialog and understanding among Israelis, Palestinians, and interested people around the world.

September 12, a Toy World
The game analyzes the current situation of the United States' war on terror. The game uses traditional videogame aesthetics to model a political paradox: current U.S. tactics on the war on terror affect the civilian population and generate more terrorism.

Tropical America
Tropical America fuses the new world of video games to a compelling past through a journey to unravel the mysteries of the Americas. Developed in collaboration with Los Angeles artists, teachers, writers, and high school students, the game features a bilingual, thematic game play, accompanied by an online database of educational resource materials, source texts, and imagery. Tropical America has been archived on the Rhizome ArtBase, though it no longer accepts new logins.

Vectors re-jiggers the academic journal through a productive encounter with varied forms of interactivity and intermediality. It maps the multiple contours of daily life in an unevenly digital era, highlighting the social, political, and cultural stakes of our increasingly technologically mediated existence and addresses issues such as globalization, mobility, power, and access. Vectors only publishes works that need to exist online, fusing old and new media, and melding form and content to enact a second-order examination of the role of technology in culture. The journal features peer-reviewed submissions and specially commissioned works composed of moving- and still-images; voice, music, and sound; computational and interactive structures; social software; and much more.

Ways to Incorporate Tech into Your Social Justice Classroom

The Fingerlakes Environmental Film Festival out in Ithaca provides links to some really great digital games to use to prompt class discussion.

These were collected by Ulysses Meijias, and have been really fantastically useful for me:

Homeless: It’s No Game
You’re homeless and alone. Can you survive on the city streets for 24 hours with your dignity intact?

Karma Tycoon
Learn what it takes to be a social entrepreneur, and maximize karma, not profit, while improving conditions in virtual communities across the United States.

McDonald’s Video Game
A business simulation that aims to demonstrate the social and environmental unsustainability of the fast-food industry.

A video game about the politics of nutrition. Explore the relationships between obesity, nutrition, and socioeconomics in the contemporary United States.

Stop Disasters!
A disaster simulation game from the United Nations and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, this game challenges players to create a safer environment for a population.

Food Force
This humanitarian educational video game focuses on the subject of world hunger and the work that goes into feeding people.

Peace Maker
Inspired by real events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this games challenges players to bring peace to the region.

World without Oil
This is an alternate reality game (ARG) that involves the collaborative imagining of how a global oil crisis might actually pan out.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change!

Classified: How to Stop Hiding Your Privilege and Use It for Social Change!
Karen Pittelman and Resource Generation, Illustrated by Molly Hein <-- you can download the ENTIRE BOOK here.

This handy text focuses on issues of class. The first few chapters discuss the way class "hides" through code words, issues of hidden privilege, and fear of being marked as the "oppressor." The later chapters move towards a more agency-driven analysis -- they discuss how one can use one's class privilege to act as an advocate for social justice.

Using comics, activites, and confessions, Classified is both a great resource on class and a useful way to model what being a good ally "looks like."


Over the last semester, I've done a lot of reading on the wonderful world of critical/radical pedagogy. I'm creating this blog to act as a standing resource for anyone interested in making the classroom a site of resistance and revolution.