The Jose Vilson | Teacher - Author - Activist - Father.+Add.Feed Info1000FOLLOWERS
Jose Vilson is a math educator, activist, father, and author of This Is Not A Test. This blog community consists of educators, activists, and intelligent allies from all walks of life. They respect the points of view of others, and try to find progress and positivity in a major way.
On Friday, the cafe con leche needed to be just right. The room needed to feel warm, but not blazing hot. The papers needed to work with the directions the students would be given. The prep time I had needed to feel uninterrupted and unbothered. The moon, the stars, and the energies needed to align accordingly.
On Friday, they didn't.
While my coffee tasted great, and my planning periods went according to plan, I spent a full three periods wondering what I did that didn't clique with the students. The task was for them to take the feedback they received and re-do their performance tasks. I had a usual flood of questions: should I have taught a lesson then given them time to revise their performance tasks? Should I have clamped down on seating arrangements? Should I have trusted the process less? Why am I so tired? What energies am I giving off that this doesn't feel right?
For a moment, I want to ask questions of students collectively and individually. For a moment, I want to admonish them for their arguments with one another, their inattentiveness, their lack of urgency, and their lack of cooperation. After the moment is gone, I stop. I take responsibility for failures without fail. As I am wont to do.
During lunch, I went through a few minutes of self-loathing. I hadn't looked at myself in the mirror, but I know my face. It must have looked dejected and disappointed. Before I ran out for lunch, a few students said on their way out that I wasn't to be trifled with at the moment. I ordered a chicken cutlet sandwich and grabbed a banana. I ran back upstairs to my classroom to re-strategize for the remaining two periods. I would take a little longer to set the expectation for the period. I would hold off on keeping myself busy until the students were settled in their own work. The materials they needed would have monitors so I could spend more time sitting with struggling students. I would point the early finishers to new work after they've finished revisions.
Fall down thrice, get up four.
At the end of last period, I felt like learning happened. It didn't need to happen as I dictated, but it gave me insight as to how I could improve the revision process. Before this blog gets published, no one but me will have learned that lesson. The expectation outside of my classroom is perfection. The priorities for everyone else still undercut my own. What does it look like for human beings to work in systems that ultimately dehumanize them, and all the mini-traumas we impart on one another? Why is the bottom of the barrel so seductive to adults who should know better? How much more do we need to negotiate our beliefs about the work of children before we've negotiated ourselves?
Whose world is this?
On days like Friday, educators with like minds and hearts see their own flaws and wonder whether to reveal them. They're doing what effective practitioners do: owning their practice, opening their doors, staying a few hours to grade and plan, reaching out to parents, and devoting their time to students even when they're not there. In a quest to rid schools of "bad" teachers, our operations also seek to wear down everyone's resolve. The flaws keep mounting. The dreams and nightmares fluctuate daily, nightly, thoroughly.
We keep rising, though, because this passion of ours tells us so. And on Monday, these sleeves will roll. We will learn. The world is ours, the world is ours.
Most teachers don't just teach at one school. They teach at multiple schools at once. There's the school we work in, the school that happens outside of our classrooms, the school that gets presented to any number of stakeholders for pomp, circumstance, and evaluations, and the school that shows up in the data sets somewhere in a dozen offices and "great schools" websites. These schools often come into conflict because we neither have common schools of thought nor common schools of action. While many schools have missions, visions, and agendas plastered all over their walls, guidebooks, and flyers, few schools have found a way - however imperfect - to articulate it to the point of reasonable integrity.
Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA is one.
The intentionality by which Chris Lehmann, founder and principal, and the team developed the school has given it a leg up in the way of imagining schooling in Philly differently. It has a few advantages over other schools that matter as well. It's a magnet school with some institutional (and, in some ways, financial) backing in a rented building with an energetic white male leader who has the clout to host and receive plaudits from tech billionaires, esteemed scholars, and even a former president of the United States. None of this sits well with critics to the left or right of the edupolitical spectrum, if you actually read the comments in their local paper. Even when we take into account their high percentage of African-American students and special needs students as compared to other magnets, the comments about their schools put outsiders on high alert before they walk into the school building.
But, upon pushing the glass doors of their building, much of those critiques dissipates. Legendary schools genius Deborah Meier, who visited last year, has smiled at her acolyte in prior years. The school feels less like the draconian containment units with rows, aisles, and adults in sharp-edged suits, but an ecosystem where students are expected to own the responsibility of making the school community better. Most administrative doors are left ajar, as are the classroom doors. Students don't seem to seek the approval of teachers nor Lehmann in the way one might feel at other schools with strong academic reputations. Instead, at any moment, the school allows for students to randomly spark conversations with the adults in the building. The power structure feels flatter on some level. The pressure to be the "smartest" in the room is near non-existent. Conversations are both programmed and impromptu, and expertise is in the form of questions, not direct answers. The tone set by the staff, students, and parents there gives little permission for vendors to outwardly promote their wares and bother us on our way to our next conversation.
Which is what makes EduCon, the unconference / fundraiser based on the ideas of the schools, one of the best conferences still going. Is this a trap?
Because the unconference is in a school building and an assemblage of students, parents, and teachers sacrifice their weekends to make the event successful, it strikes me how it has some levels of escapism for many of us, too. Those of us who believe in student choice, student voice, agency, curiosity, project-based learning and curiosity in a public school setting - and there are many - congregate at SLA. The principal seems to give little impression that the school(s) he runs have anything to hide, including its flaws. This contrasts with the seemingly endless bandages and corks so many of us want to throw at problems when we see them.
It's made me reflect about my experiences in the aforementioned schools, and how many of the schools we currently work for conflict with one another. Can students both excel in school and have some modicum of student agency? Yes. Does everyone believe that at once? That remains to be seen. Can teachers both create conditions for deep student learning and still allow for unorthodox lesson plans that innovate and respond to student needs? Yes. Does everyone believe? Still waiting. So many of our school systems allow for antiquated beliefs about schools to resurface in the name of looking coherent. They get to lecture about kids while wholly disconnected from the student experience and voice because some outside and decontextualized research said so.
Attendees of the EduCon conference come from a myriad of schools, some of which have it reasonably together. We intentionally learn that schools can have integrity and heart both on paper and in deeds. We unintentionally learn how our actions (and everyone else's) keep us further from the mutual cares these like-minded educators have. Trust: I don't need us to build more SLAs, though Lehmann and Co. would surely appreciate that. I would love to see more people invested in the intangible aspects of the schools, not as a hand-down task to a third-party vendor or a school counselor, but at the core of the school.
Our organizing largely depends on folks with good conscience, open hearts, and vibrant minds to make schools places that students want to go, not where they feel imprisoned and incapable of learning. Of course, we're supposed to take what we learned and spoke on and change how our schools operate on some level, not just assume someone will rescue us from oppressive systems, especially our students who often have little recourse and redress.
It's on all of us. Imagining is such a big part of this work and I don't dream asleep anymore. Let's do this.
Teaching up to that point felt like an exercise in organizing students who were mine, but not mine. I had each of them in 90-minute segments with 29 other kids to keep an eye on. Though I cared for them, I used words like "daughters" and "sons" too loosely. Part of it came from the way I felt so invested in them. Another part of it was my students' insistence on treating me like a surrogate father. At that point, I had taught hundreds of students over the course of my career and thought to myself, "If I ever have my own child, I'm gonna slide right into fatherhood."
W-w-well, yes and no. On the one hand, I wasn't ready for the long nights without sleep, the constant cries as alarms, the automatic measurement of ounces and cups, the best techniques for swaddling and his creative unraveling of the wrap, the rocking back and forth until it shut both of our eyes, and the balancing act between this new element and all the other elements already in my life. On the other hand, I remember being in the gynecologist office with Luz, who, upon arrival, handed me a set of magazines and said, "Get to reading!" with a mischievous grin.
Teaching taught me how to parent in the way my father and stepfather could never get themselves to do.
In the Latinx culture, we "celebrate" all 12 days of Christmas. Three Kings Day gets a passing acknowledgment by Catholics, but when I visited Santo Domingo during Christmas as I was wont to do. In America, my family and I didn't have the means to celebrate the last day of Christmas with any consistency. Alejandro's birth brought that back for me. He sparked a warmth in me that I must have lost somewhere, eroded by the environments and interactions around me. He forced me to rethink my principles and plant both feet firmly in them. While I get my students for 45 minutes at a time these days, I have Alejandro on my mind 24/7.
Oh, and he's way above grade level in school. They say he's gifted, but he keeps gifting me with revelations and affection.
I can't pretend we haven't had rough patches either. Tantrums haven't been specific to truisms about terrible twos and threes. He's had a couple of weeks where I wondered if he'd ever wake up from his flu-induced slumber. He has parents with new visions for parenting, so everyone has had to adjust to how he chooses to greet them. Or not. He has routines he prefers not to break, and obsession around Cars, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Sesame Street that the socialist in me winces about from time to time.
Luz and I love telling Alejandro how much we love him. We get nervous at the prospect of him ingesting negative influences at school, but, as educators, we've learned not to micromanage his every move, but to give him approaches and hope he learns from that point forward.
I already love him more than I thought I ever could. Maybe he'll teach me how much more love I have in me. There's one love, one life, and he's my only king.
You knew I had to zoom in on one section of the super-musical and my personal soundtrack of the year Hamilton: An American Musical.
For those unfamiliar, the character Alexander Hamilton - first played by Lin-Manuel Miranda - has a debate with the character George Washington - first played by Christopher Jackson - about the merits of not seeking re-election. We're led through the story of Hamilton and, by extension, Washington where they've approached politics ostensibly different lens. The mercurial Hamilton is seen begging the disciplined Washington to stay on for a multitude of reasons, then this part hits:
Hamilton: Mr. President, they will say you're weak
Washington: No, they will see we're strong ...
In this retelling of events, we're led to believe that Washington has such a strong belief in the people of the newly created United States that he worries less what his own standing with them. Of course, such a retelling elides a large body of knowledge of the actual Washington the obsessed slaveowner who punted on this new nation's greatest sin for innumerable and still unforgivable reasons. Nevertheless, Miranda's Hamilton's strength is the focus on legacy and how, even when we pretend to not care for it, we still enact it.
For whatever reason, I care about what I leave behind. Too much, some might say.
In the context of a President Trump, too much of what we do and leave behind matters. The assault on our consciousness started long before him, but his name as pejorative and person presides over the spaces we prefer not to discuss. How much of this work matters? Where can we get wins? Who's with me and my being? Who'll stand up / sit up / be up for the rally against? In education, the phrase "for the kids" kept intensifying in popularity, but 2017 showed us who was willing to get dirty when the murk was abundant.
What parts of us refuse to get messy?
A force larger than me decided it best to test my principles. It would delete friends, family members, associates, and passersby from all around me. It would get my son sick for weeks without recourse. It would concuss and injure my significant other. It would bestow new health conditions to my eyes, ears, mouth, head, and heart. It would cause me to forget instances and events I didn't want to, and temporarily dull my senses where I couldn't read and write without the whole world shaking in front of my eyes. It assured I'd be fighting institutions from within and from outside because it wasn't built for us. Rather, it was built to wear us out in a way that even people fighting these institutions could never recognize.
I saw fragments of myself in all these pictures and places I could have flourished. Yet, the wins came when I pulled the center away from me. I challenged a lot of important people behind conference doors and out in the open to reconsider the opinions of students, parents, and teachers in the work they do. I pushed organizations to do better by their members of color, and even cancelled on some engagements because I knew what it meant for education speakers of color after me. I co-lead the first EduColor convening at a time when others were skeptical about any number of reasons why we needed to convene. I ushered (and in some cases shoved) students through graduation and to high school. Yes, figuratively.
I watched my son rock his moving-up ceremony from Pre-K to kindergarten. Luz and I pour everything into the boy and he multiplied the energy. His enthusiasm could build a nation. We are grateful. Alejandro keeps teaching me that the more we all put our faith in him, the more he flourishes.
Washington with Hamilton vocal overlays: I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
We took to the streets, made calls, held meetings, and read as much information we could so we could build ourselves up for these horrible moments. The moments when our favorite people passed away. The moments where our friends and family could no longer come back. The moments when our families changed, our thresholds changed, our voices changed. The moments where we questioned our own personal constitution at a time when fundamental scrolls seem a few more degrees meaningless. We can't separate these waves. The hope isn't whether bad things will stop happening. The hope is whether we can withstand the putrid, the inflammatory, the awful, and the institutionally oppressive.
The faith that so many students, colleagues, and family kept me afloat this year while I struggled and while I persevered. I could have done better at apologizing for not being the person I needed to be in those moments. At times, quitting all of it felt best because my personal failings took center stage. Maybe one day, I will. But, if I do, it won't be under this administration, under these circumstances, under this influence.
Home keeps me going, and I'll keep going until home asks me to stay. There's hope out there, still.
On my newsletter, I succinctly suggest that schooling was never neutral. In recent times, I wrote about English Language Arts and all that comes with the term "literacy." I wrote about Math because I do this. What's the idea behind this writing? Simple. We can't talk about schooling without dissecting the ways we operate in it. Our policies and practices are written in thinly veiled language that suggests impartiality.
We keep using words like "achievement gap," "equity," and "growth mindset" to put the onus on the people on the ground level doing the most work (students, teachers, parents) and not on the system upon which the schools sits. At some point, if the results of the game never change, we have to critically analyze the game. We can talk about the players, the referees, the coaches, and the managers. But after all that's done, we may want to ask how the game gets played, what we're using to play it, and whether we need to play a new game entirely.
Also, this was my way of saying I've been busy writing. I hope you'll join me wherever you can:
In the last six years, few have pushed America to reconsider history the way that Ta-Nehisi Coates has. Yes, the thrust of his visions come from a specific lens of his black-male-from-Baltimore-ness, but this lens has offered many a new language by which to address the past decade and the harrowing present. The denouement of President Barack Obama's term, the ascension of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the new wave of public intellectualizing has given Coates an affirmed and awkward space to stand. Only three years ago did he point to Melissa Harris-Perry as America's foremost intellectual, much to the chagrin of countless (white) thinkers used to dead versions of who they diluted and aspired to. In many of my circles these days, the question "OMG, did you read what he wrote?" both for intellectual provocation and critical reading became commonplace. Criticisms are aplenty, but he's given some of the more memorable interviews specifically because he doesn't know what to do with the newfound power he's accumulated besides write and speak on that which he writes.
In the education space, his writing has been positioned with the likes of his heroes James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Between The World and Me gets placed on book lists with Go Tell It On The Mountain and The Bluest Eye with regularity. He's already headlined some of the biggest education conferences in the nation, and gets to use words like "white supremacy" in front of people who could otherwise have the rest of us fired. While the education zeitgeist has been pushed into conversation about educational equity [NB: action remains to be seen], it's important to note that the education space is usually disinclined to moving towards rising tides. However, the aforementioned movements along with many others have forced educators to face deeper conversations about their own complicity in our country's systemic oppression.
And who better than a person who's a MacArthur "genius," a New York Times best-seller, a person who's conversed and debated Obama on a number of occasions in The White House? And what if that same person happens to have been spurned multiple times by the same educational system we so often laud?
We Were Eight Years In Power as a title made a few of us snicker when we first heard it, too. My fellow educators voted for Obama to denounce the No Child Left Behind approach to educating students. Ramping up standardized tests, privatizing schools, and shutting down schools en masse has been an unequivocal disaster for many of our most vulnerable students. After we took notice of Obama's move towards doubling down on this formula, many of us built movements to defend public education, opt out of standardized tests, and protest public co-locations at every turn. Even when the former president finally leaned away from overtesting and education reformers finally got the idea that degrading teachers was an onerous path to recruitment and retention, the damage still felt done.
As a book, however, Coates' meta reader speaks directly to the sardonicism. He couches each of his chapters in an essay that speaks to the context of when he wrote it, its logical and technical flaws, and the trajectory that lead him to the man he is today.
Eight Years In Power is most effective not as a read (or, for many of us, a re-read), but as a reminder of the time from whence we came. To understand Obama's eight years is to understand Bill Cosby's - not Cliff Huxtable's - rendition of respectability in the early aughts. To understand the disposition of white people's rage towards Obama is to get the reverence we have for Malcolm X's oratory because of his flaws. To understand the debate over Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act debates is to understand reparations and any social programs that might even allude to it. To read this book is to ground an audience of well-meaning white people (and not so well-meaning) into reasons why our most vulnerable students don't come in happy to hear the stories we're telling them.
To understand that someone who's eschewed systems in his youth in the quest for his own intellectual enlightenment can have a knee-deep concentration on these systems, prodding and poking at America's sores is to know the work of Coates.
As Coates dropped Jay-Z quotes on his Twitter timeline recently (Jay reciprocates, of course), I couldn't help but look back at Mr. Carter's discography and hit upon the most apt CD to compare this to: The Hits Collection Volume One. If you only starting reading Coates since "Fear of a Black President," he's got essays to catch you up on. If you started at around his prominent treatise "The Case for Reparations," he's got pieces for that, too. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if he was listening to "Young, Gifted, and Black" and "My President Is Black (remix)" while conjuring up these ideas.
I don't normally like the way K-12 educators seek to extract expertise from non-educators in place of the folks doing the work right in our schools, but Coates is an obvious exception. The few educators of color in his audiences usually take comfort that he makes no apologies for what he's about to say.
Whenever folks hear code words like " ... regardless of zip code ..." they act upon it in multiple ways. Some want to create educational equity, and surely, there are plenty of groups that profess to want this. Some advocate for equity by hanging on to mythos of the one schoolhouse, segregated, destitute, and gritty all the same. Some simply yell to the rafters, but never hang with the commoners unless there's a photo-op and a hefty check at the end of a speech. Some say it, but follow the phrase with so many buts that you never get a sense of where the duplicity ends.
And some take that to mean that every single class in every single school in every single district in the country should operate exactly the same. Uniformity is the guarantee that margins of error don't interfere either positively or negatively to the learning experiences of children. This also goes hand-in-hand with adults looking at those "under" them as less than capable of making responsible decisions. The more regimented a program, the more comfort the regimenter feels about the environment they've created around them.
After stripping any level of autonomy and self-direction, the slide into fascism gets lubricated with test scores and cloudy results, sans the decimation of students' own confidence and safety.
Our society has been so swindled by the term "status quo" that we let a new status quo of institutional failure replace the one they spoke of a decade and a half ago. Our society has become complacent with high test scores with low self-esteem because we believe the achievement of dreams is synonymous with the ability to correctly assume what strangers think. We've conflated the perception of educational attainment with the irresolute promises of education reform.
It's not just a charter school issue, either. Too many of our citizens tried to vote away neoliberal cheerleaders only to see them betrayed in the form of "partnerships" and adages like "we have so much to learn from them." We have entire industry dedicated to "making our jobs easier" by culling the best - by their standards - teacher moves, the best - by their standards - resources, and the best - by their standards - assessments and influencing large sets of schools to have every adult do all of the things at a cost. Usually, it's financial, but also it's cultural as well.
We can standardize without standardization, but it's even deeper than that. We can fight fascism within our schools by having higher and better expectations of the systems that profess to have high expectations for schools they serve.
I don't buy the idea that standardization helps to eliminate bad teachers or bad teaching, either. Right now, until we have a common and agreed upon framework for good teaching, and we have a deeper appreciation for the profession, we'll keep using the same methods - like standardization - to root out anyone outside the proverbial "middle." Which means we need to crack the bell curve so everyone can win in their own way.
If the lesson our current set of overlords suggests that we must strengthen borders and suppress opposition by any means, then please let me skip that class. If the class is focused on telling me my students aren't worth an education that treats them like human beings, then please let me call out sick. If the person in front of us seeks to develop me professionally by enacting the same sort of pedagogy we promise we don't want in our classrooms, then excuse me so I can take the longest bathroom break ever. Send me the notes. Take off a few points. Write in my teacher evaluation that I'm ineffective in my professional responsibilities.
But I'm opting out of all of this. I fought to get in my classroom and to stay in my classroom. What makes you think I won't be fighting for my class and my classroom?
I never thought I'd say that within the first two days of school. But I did. Not only did I laugh, but I smiled often.
It was a random thing one of my students said. I couldn't hold it back. I didn't want to. He kinda stood there awkwardly, not knowing whether to laugh along or wait for me to flip into serious mode. I did neither. I just told him "That was funny" and kept talking while my cooperating teacher looked on. I sat at my desk shortly thereafter, wondering if expressing myself was the right thing to do only 10 periods into the school year.
This week felt like I got a 3/5ths do-over from last year and a 2/5ths fresh start. Three eighth grade classes, most of whom I've seen last year. Two seventh grade, many of whom have siblings who attended my classes before. I look around at these young faces, hoping for a new experience but doubtful about the school's changed. We have assemblies, but most of them whisper that they'd rather stay in my class than go downstairs. They're already knocking on my door during my lunch, staying a few minutes longer after the bell.
They look to me like an oasis. My people keep telling me they're lucky to have me. I'm trying to live up to all of these eyes.
Smiling hasn't been part of my repertoire. In the last 14 years, I've had a reputation for the serious face. In my first few years, it became a hallmark of my pedagogy. After a few years, it turned into part of my being. It unnerves most people, but the kids get used to it. But I also noticed how the lack of smiles as an external decision creeped into some of my inner workings. There were points last year where I seriously reconsidered whether any of this work was worth it, and these obstacles pulled me further from my purpose. At times, the teacher in that classroom felt like a sail holding then usually giving way to the gusts of wind in its direction.
I'm smiling to recover the boom of the ship before the boat tosses me ashore.
For weeks, I've been getting ready for the first day of school. Staplers, looseleaf, folders, erasers, rulers, Lysol wipes, and the eight pegs I used to fix some broken cabinets show up on my summer receipts. I emptied truckloads of garbage left over from a seemingly vacated classroom in the span of 48 hours. I thought of students who just graduated, and dozens of others who barely know me. This past Friday, these hands, the ones I'm using to currently write this, also move furniture to an aesthetic that hopefully makes children feel safe and welcome without a word from me. I left at 3:30 in the afternoon while the security guards jiggle their keys in anticipation of closing the school building.
All so when it's officially time for teachers to start on Tuesday, I can organize my lessons, assessments, and rituals. A head start clears my head.
On this Labor Day, I still wince at the idea that all of our labors are equal. They're not. Our pedagogies, our lessons, our delivery, our expertise, our style of dress all become fodder for our termination while a few miles out of our glorified squalor, teachers worry about their next home, the level of chlorine in their pools, and whether the next building on campus will be erected in three years or five years time. We might have similar tenets to our work: an objective, a warm-up activity, an adult standing in front of a number (greater than 10) children, and any set of behaviors that our students exhibit.
We as educators have a unifying call to action, namely to impart knowledge on a younger generation. Even in that, we start to see crevices open up. Who teaches in a school building, a prison corner, or a campus with sprawling grass fields? Who teaches a classroom outfitted with the latest materials versus a classroom with cracked walls and rats for classmates? How many students occupy the class? What does the teacher look like? What does their curriculum allow? Who gets pegged for someone ready to move away from the classroom and how long ago was that assumption made? What explicit and implicit values does the community hold? What does agency look like for the students in those classes?
What does their school tell them about themselves?
Because, while announcements about my doings hit everyone's inboxes, I go through serious bouts of insecurity. My lessons. My ratings. My fashion and the ways I convey my professionalism. My love for students, even when a few don't love me back. My rage and fury at adult decisions. My family. My friends, the ones that could have been, and never were. My gloomy disposition walking into the century-old building. My need to pulverize mediocrity in my works.
My ability to ask harder questions of myself than anyone else could.
Our work might have similar titles, but it's not all the same. As we construct new visions for our classrooms, schools, and communities, we ought to start from the places that breed trauma so easily. We ought to see how many people are compelled to double down on narratives around testing and rote pedagogy for the sake of job safety and scholarly fascism. We ought to subvert any narrative that says working in our most marginalized communities means working in lesser communities.
I can start from my very first day of school. For the 14th time in a row.
And really, on my first day, I'll already have the hundreds of dollars in supplies I bought for my students tucked under my desk, two tabbed planners, and a heart re-energized from a much-needed summer. When asked, I'll say "I can complain, but I refuse to." I'll give my whole heart and mind to those who either walk through my door, and those who choose to converse with me about this constant, beautiful profession.
I still believe that we will win. I just hope that, should folks see us in the same place at the same time as them, they shouldn't think we took the same route. Respect ours.
In my recent post on Medium, I decided to take a crack at the largesse we call "curriculum" and why textbooks have never been sufficient:
While I’ve appreciated the effort to collect resources (see#CharlottesvilleSyllabus from graduate students at the university), I’ve become wary of collecting resources for the sake of collection. Without a pedagogy that centers critical thinking, examination, inclusivity, and agency, history will repeat itself. (Xian Barrett does a great job laying out some of the tenets for good teaching here.) It’s not enough to just put a list and ask folks to just deliver in the era of Common Core State Standards and scripted lessons. It’s even more critical to insist on pedagogy, environment, and all of their manifestations. A curriculum is only as good as the accompanying approaches and the conscientiousness of the adults in charge of its intent.
At the end, I also posit that this textbook mess often leaves it up to the protestors, scholars, and other agents to clean up the mess as best they can. People who work under this umbrella know that the fruits of their labor will probably not be harvested in their lifetimes. America had a million chances to get this moment right, including but not exclusive to: 1776, 1863, 1937, 1945, 1964, 2001, 2009, and 2012. In those moments, however, "many sides" ideologies prevailed.