streets and classrooms as insitutions

earlier this week, i had a conversation with a young man who is preparing to graduate from his current court-appointed placement. one glitch: he has to be signed up at another program before the current program will grant his release. thinking that such support would be beneficial, especially as he has declared his intentions to pursue his education (GED, and beyond), i asked him why the prospect of another program had upset him. he responded by saying that he had experienced some unfavorable run-ins with some of the program staff and that he had, effectively, "checked out" a few weeks ago. he was ready, he said, to just have time to be; "not another program!"

what he said next was what has stayed with me over the last several days. when asked what he meant by staff run-ins, this young man responded by saying that the same interaction would never take place in the streets, and that no one at the program would talk to him the way they did - referring to being asked to remove his hat, pay attention, etc. implicitly, he was referring to the ways that institutions cloak adults' interactions with children and youth. i know - i, too, have masked myself behind that cloak from time to time.

today, i read about an egregious example of that institutional cloak. in short, a four year old preschooler was accused of sexually harrassing his teacher. yes, a four year old.
read more here
see more here


blogging from aaa, 2006

a couple of indigenous media program sites i learned about today, while hanging out inside a san jose hotel instead of enjoying the warmish-cool weather:

Chiapas Media Project

Video nas Aldeias

fascinating projects, and really amazing documentaries.


the 'sokal affair'

how could i not have known about this? the “sokal affair,” as it is known (apparently), refers to an event that occurred in academic history right here in new york city, where mathematical physicist alan sokal (nyu) submitted and had published an article titled, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in the journal social text. at issue was the fact that sokal’s submission was a “hoax” – that is, he submitted an article purporting to link quantum mechanics with postmodernism, but the entire thing was apparently a prank on mr. sokal’s part. at the same time that his hoax was published in social text, sokal announced his prank in the pages of lingua franca.

below are three perspectives on the issue. i encourage readers to read each version of the “truth” and gather all “facts” necessary to make “claims” about this event.

a brief note before you do so, though: (as taken from the first piece below, and an important distinction that is often missing from critiques of social constructionism frameworks)
“First, Professor Sokal takes "socially constructed" to mean "not real," whereas for workers in the field "socially constructed" is a compliment paid to a fact or a procedure that has emerged from the welter of disciplinary competition into a real and productive life where it can be cited, invoked and perhaps challenged. It is no contradiction to say that something is socially constructed and also real.”

Professor Sokal’s Bad Joke
- written by an english professor at duke, who is also (at the time) executive director of duke university press that published social text

A Mathematician Reads Social Text
- written by a mathematician from southern Illinois university and focuses exclusively on the entire issue of social text in which the sokal hoax was published.

Idiot Savants?
- a discussion of the ‘sokal affair’ two years after the fact, written at the time of the american release of sokal’s co-authored book that brings into question the very existence and work of the likes of jacques lacan, bruno latour, jean baudrillard, and others…



1 second of funding

two separate editorials and articles were sent to me this week, both offering a commentary of sorts on the current administration.

one was an article in the l.a. times which told of a company called Ignite! Learning, headed by neil bush, brother of the current president. at the heart of this company's educational product line are (purple colored) COWs - Curriculum on Wheels.

the other an op-ed in the n.y. times which discussed the cost of the war in iraq in terms of how much is being spent per second and where the money isn't going.

i will reserve extensive commentary for a later date, and for now will say only this:
i know a few handfuls of people (yours truly, included) who are doing good work, asking different questions and thus yielding insights beyond staid, easily categorizable nuggets who would benefit greatly from a few seconds of funding. 1 second ($6300) or a generous 1 minute ($378,000) would certainly go a long way in supporting inquiry into the in-between spaces and unspoken moments where learning really lives.

there may be a sucker born every minute, but for the many minutes' equivalent of national war expeditures that's being chewed up by COWs, there certainly ought to be more to report than just increased test scores. band-aids, purple or otherwise, will eventually fall off, and the laceration will still be visible. too often, the cuts are located in the sites that similarly bovine programs prey on: districts with large numbers of "economically disadvantaged students." COWs wouldn't get out one moo if they were grazing in the lush pastures of well manicured lawns, yet they are routinely set out to pasture and feed amidst the concrete playgrounds of our cities.

with 1 second of funding, i could set up a basic, semi-portable, video editing studio like the one i've cobbled together now - thanks to generous departmental "leftovers" and even more generous department colleagues - where youth can learn to compose in a new digital environment. with two seconds of funding, i could increase the portability of this studio, add some documentary equipment, and hire these new filmmakers as co-researchers. with a whole minute of funding... well, to start, i could better support my fabulous research assistants! :)

1 hour = $22,680,000. with one hour of funding, even i could come up with a clever product to market in a hideously annoying color... a nice, metallic green SNAKE (Storytelling and Networking Across Known Experiences) should do nicely.


insomia: blessing or curse?

i first learned the word insomnia while reading a nancy drew mystery in 3rd or 4th grade. in-som-nia. i loved to say it. think it. and wish for it to happen to me. it seemed like a super power, and i would imagine all the ways that i would use an additional 8 or 10 hours of awake time that i felt cursed to be denied given my penchant to sleep anywhere, at any moment, for copious amounts of time.

all that changed recently, and my wish, in all its perversity, has been granted. i can't sleep. i, who slept through birthday party sleepovers, final exams, and many a horrendous-sounding alarm clock buzzer, find myself unable to get a decent night's sleep, awakened while i'm already asleep by the supremely irksome plink-plonk of raindrops made of lead clanging down on my window a/c unit, and - horror of horrors - having the worst time trying to fall asleep in the first place! the other wicked truth: i can't drink caffeine after 9.

true, this probably has some connection to my recent bout of in-som-nia, but it's a side effect of aging about which there is nothing graceful. even up until two and half years ago, knee... err, eye-deep in dissertation chapters and revisions and edits, i could consume a venti double latte and be sound asleep within the hour. (how) could so much change so soon? so quickly? and how, in our youth, are we so unaware - or, at the very least, unappreciative of how quickly the little things we hold dear about who we are can change, nay, vanish...?

ok, this is all a bit dramatic, but i haven't come to the worst part yet. yes, there's more...

now, i've always known that very, very late and very, very, early times of the day are my most productive times, creative times, churn-out-writing times. but on the journey to those precious few times, i have, in the recent past, whilst researching (ahem...) the latest trends and phenomena in the evolving, shifting landscape of television, fallen victim to the evil, wicked ploy of abc to get suckers like me hooked on their television programs simply by making episodes of several shows available via free stream, at any internet accessible location, at any time.

tonight's double feature: ugly betty. chock full of "that life isn't for us, betty" (betty, is a young woman of mexican background living in queens, ny, who gets schooled by her older sister, but who persists in the high fashion, manhattan world where she works), and "if i have to - do i? - i'll change to fit in because this (running a magazine, albeit maybe not a fashion mag akin to vogue) is my dream!", this show approaches the border of cliche, but is addictive because of america ferrera's portrayal of the title character. at the risk of sounding too much like a television review, i'll also add that alan dale is on the show. i did love his portrayal of caleb nichol on the o.c., during which he was always and delighfully icy-cool.

so there you have it: insomnia, betrayal of caffeine, online tv victim, and chocolate's revenge in the form of a facial blemish complete today's personal reflection on "adult-escence"...


google literacy and other google news...

google's in the literacy game: see the new google literacy site, "the literacy project," and the cnn article.

and check out the latest re:

so what does this all mean?


inside voices

all around me, everywhere i go these days, people are exhibiting behaviors that are reminiscent of the lessons some of us learned about how to behave or perform ourselves in different contexts. though, truth be told, my immigrant upbringing didn't offer such options; i was told to "be good" no matter what the situation and was left to figure out which behaviors fell into that command, and which would earn me a stern talking-to from either of my parents, an acknowledgement of my transgression from an uncle or aunt, or, on the rare occasion, a look of disapproval from my grandmother. but i digress...

this afternoon, as i was listening to the soothing sounds of metallica's version of "whiskey in the jar" while climbing away on the elliptical machine at the gym, i was prompted to look up from my new yorker when a visual cacophony of gesturing became apparent in my peripheral vision. a young women, whose back faced me, was striding away on her arc trainer and she was approached by another woman whose face bore an earnest yet quizzical expression. i couldn't hear the exchange over james hetfield's dulcet tones crooning repetitions of "musha-rig-dum-a-do-rum-a-da" (or "musha ring dumma do damma da," depending on where you look), so i had to rely on their gestures and my interpretive abilities to make sense of the situation. it went a little something like this:
quizzical woman: motions to the arc trainer, smiles sheepishly, looks down, looks quickly back up, shrugs her shoulders, keeps smiling as she mouths something

strider: turns to face QW, keeps striding (or arc training - im still trying to figure out the new machines!), points to the machine that she is on, motions with her hand toward the doorway that leads to the upper levels, shrugs her shoulders

qw: nods, points in the direction of the doorway, shuffles her feet a bit, smiles and mouths a noticeable "thank you," walks toward the doorway

strider: returns her attention to the in style magazine opened in front of her and pauses on a layout featuring a variety of purses, continues to stride
at the end of this exchange, i found myself annoyed at the young woman who kept on striding. i read her like i read two other young women who i assumed to be freshman given their gym-wear and knowing-while-at-the-same-time-clueless attitudes. in this moment of (forced) observation, i found myself taking sides in the unfolding gym drama. but what if i had it all wrong? suppose the quizzical woman wasn't quizzical at all; instead, she was a nuisance who was trying the patience of a fellow gym patron. and perhaps the young woman in coordinated workout gear geniunely misread the time allotment sheet.

as i read elizabeth kolpert's commentary in the talk of the town section of this week's new yorker, i saw myself in her criticism of the bush administration's false optimism. she writes
"President Bush likes to portray himself as a man of unwavering optimism. ... Of all the many ingenious American things this President is optimistic about, technology is supposedly near the top of the list. ... [T]he technologies he supports are either those whihc were developed in the past - coal mining and oil drilling - or those which lie securely in the future: cars and buses that zip around on hydrogen."
she concludes the piece by noting:
"This is not the record of a technological optimist, of someone who believes in the 'ingenuity of the American people.' This is the record of a pessimist." (p.62) (see more here)
i was reading this commentary as i passively participated in the moment described above and as the moment passed and i resumed reading, i found myself wondering about the lines we draw between our theoretical frameworks and the way we write ourselves into the world. do i not have an optimistic perspective when seeking to understand how young people are making their way in the world - and interested in their innovations, and generally willing to give them the benefit of the doubt? so what was at play this afternoon? does my definition of youth or adolescent stop before college? not include students attending an elite private institution of higher education?

or maybe i just have a healthy skepticism of overly coordinated gym-goers. to whom this may apply, consider this fair warning for any and all theoretical framework transgressions i may commit heretofore...


knowing your audience

(image taken from No Child, a youth documentary noted below)

last night, while channel surfing, i saw an ad in which a young, african american man was talking to an african american woman who appeared to be his mother or caregiver. he was reassuring her by saying that he has his future under control, and she returned his confident look with a smile. at the end of the ad there appeared the url: www.boostup.org and a voiceover inviting the viewer to check out the website. then i saw it. small, but not too small, an icon, the unmistakeable star that signifies the us army.

upon visiting the site, a brief message about school appears on the screen as the flash site loads. statements that encourage the website visitor to stay in school by noting that staying school earns the respect of one's family; by providing provide statistics about high school dropouts' earning power; and suggesting the availability of choices that come from staying in school. the message of staying in school is reinforced when the site fully loads with the phrase, "Inside every one of us is a graduate" written in orange that sits to the right while images of black and brown male youth, up close tags, and high school hallways lined with lockers cycle through. below this rotating image gallery are three navigation options (several more navigation links at the top of the screen, as well), one of which invites the visitor to become a storyteller: "Tell us your story." other commercials, such as the one that just flashed on my tv screen, also feature minority youth either talking to adults to straight into the camera...

i'm reminded of a film that was featured in this year's Media That Matters film festival titled, "No Child" - a documentary that looks at the military's recruitment tactics. (choose film #16)


writing that does work in the world

"Girls, Social Class, and Literacy is a compelling and provocative look at the debilitating effects of classism on young girls, as well as a pragmatic and powerful examination of the transformative effects of sensitive, smart teaching on children whose lives and education are too often a reflection of their economic status. Stephanie Jones shares the insights of a five-year study that followed eight working-poor girls, offering you unusually sharp insight into what it’s like to be underprivileged in America. With critical literacy as her tool, Jones then helps you peel back your ideas of the poor—and of your own students—to see them, and your role in their lives, more clearly. Just as important, using reading and writing workshop as an instructional framework, she describes how to validate and honor all students’ realities while cultivating crucial critical literacy skills. You’ll find out why giving children the option to find and talk openly about disconnections with children’s literature (as well as connections) and to write on topics of their choosing (even difficult ones) can have a large, positive impact on students as they speak and write about their reality without shame or fear of judgment."

"Working in many genres and touching on many themes and issues, June Jordan was a powerful force in American literature. This biography reveals the woman, the writer, the speaker, the poet, the activist, the leader, and the educator in all her complexity. ... [Valerie] Kinloch offers a life and letters of this prolific writer, delving into both her biography and her contributions as a writer and activist. This approach unveils the power of language in Jordan's poems, essays, speeches, books--and ultimately in her own life--as she challenged political systems of injustice, racism, and sexism. Kinloch examines questions surrounding the pain of writing, the anger of oppression, and the struggle of African American women to assert their voices."

yet another interesting blog

just found this blog called Digital Video Guru, which appears to be about all things digital video-related. i was intrigued by one of their recents posts in which they ask: just who are you, and what do you want from us?

the entry begins:
Just who are you, anyway? Digital video is a burgeoning field involving many different professions, skills, outlets, etc. And it would help if we here at DVGuru got to know just who we are writing for, to help give us a stronger sense of direction. Are you an independent filmmaker? A camcorder hobbyist? A YouTube fanatic? An industry analyst? An editor? Cinematographer? Tech-head?



apples and trees

the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” – an idiom evoking an understanding between the user and interpreter of the phrase. visuals always help me, so i imagined the visual that emerges when one mentally illustrates this idiom. there is a tree, an apple tree presumably; the tree flowers, and then grows fruit – some hanging lower to the ground than others; apple trees bear fruit in the fall, some of which are picked by eager visitors to apple orchards with their intentions explicit and children in tow. i was such a visitor on several occasions, when my parents took me to an orchard near my childhood home. it was on one of these trips when, at the age of 6 or 7, i first learned the word “bushel” as we picked and purchased several bushels of apples… even if we assume that somewhere, where trees are not picked clean, the occasional apple falls…is buried by the earth…grows roots and sprouts a new tree, the apple and the subsequent tree, though not far in distance, may be quite far in similarity from the tree of origin given climate changes, precipitation oddities, disruptions in soil conditions, and a whole host of other external factors. in addition, these and other factors may impact the internal chemistry of the apple, the new tree and subsequent apple. physically, the tree may stand in the shadows of it’s seed bearer, but metaphorically it may be worlds apart.

at the end of a recent episode of “30 days,” in which morgan spurlock spent nearly a month in a minimum security jail, updates are given for some of the inmates who figure prominently in the episode. both men are remanded within weeks of their release. these updates could be seen to underscore the musings spurlock shares via his video diary about the need for rehabilitative programs and the indelible effects of punishment-oriented practices; or the data given could lead the viewer to a deepened conviction about arrests and incarceration. when the lives of court-involved youth are on the line – and, when corrections education programs stand as an intervening space of second chances and new educational and life possibilities– the idiom must be questioned, for so much of juvenile justice research and related policy is grounded in statistical probability regarding arrest and incarceration. patterns can be made to exist when questions remain stagnant and methodology staid. thus, a new challenge arises: how do we recognize the relationships between apples and trees, without constraining or overextending their reach; and how do we make room for crabapples and pluots?

*image taken from freakonomics cover


the internet is... a space of/for parodies

case in point: my cubicle.

enjoy (the video as well as the comments that follow)


while following a link to a news story about the effects of gun violence on youth (see below), i was introduced to New America Media.
from their website: "New America Media is the country’s first and largest national collaboration of ethnic news organizations. ... NAM’s goal is to promote the editorial visibility and economic viability of this critical sector of American journalism as a way to build inclusive public discourse in our increasingly diverse, global society. NAM produces and aggregates editorial content from and for the ethnic media sector and develops pioneering marketing services on behalf of corporations, foundations, and non-profits who are targeting ethnic media and ethnic communities." for more, click here
the article mentioned above is titled "Got Shot: The Series" - a four part multimedia feature that looks at the effects of gun violence on bay area (san fran, ca) youth through commentary, analysis, and description in the form of words and documentary footage. in addition to featuring youth as central sources, the feature was produced by youth media producers. the feature - and i keep using that word b/c article doesn't quite capture it, and document feels reductive - is inspiring in both form and content; frustrating for what is being shared and how few may hear and see it.

check it out and pass it on.


happy new year!

in addition to the uncanny ability of youtubers to make available most of what i seek audiovisually these days, another one of my favorite things is the start of a new academic year. perhaps being a virgo with an early september birthday triggered some kind of defense mechanism or survival tactic in me wherein i turned an inherent grossity - my birthday signaled the start of a new school year - into something positive: i was the kid who brought in popsicles and ice cream cakes to school in recognition of birthday and thereby extending summer ever so slightly, while others usually stuck with more traditional baked birthday treats. whatever the reason, i absolutely love the sights, sounds, and smells of a new school year.

more recently, this time of year - of not quite autumn and no longer summer vacation - has taken on new meanings, particularly with the start of new jobs and with them new identities and responsibilities... for the past fourteen septembers, i have been on a university campus and this year, like many before, a sidewalk poster sale outside of the campus book store from where i am writing this post that continues it's yearly tradition of making available a range of multimodal artifacts that incoming freshman - and some late-blooming upper classmen - can use to decorate, make statements, establish friendships and make like home their new surroundings.

six young men huddle around one display to determine exactly which humorous beer poster to hang in their living room; three young women, each clutching a poster bearing a different feminist saying, roll their eyes as they pass their male counterparts deep in beer thought; three other young women contemplate finances to decide who will purchase the wall tapestry and who will buy the movie posters they have settled on; and at least two-thirds of the hundred or so undergraduate students gathered along the 50 feet of posters and various other trinketry make themselves known via tee shirts with words emblazoned across their chests such as "cute and unattached" "cuz i like it that way" "yugo" "tommy hilfiger" "class of 2010" and on and on.

and there are packs everywhere - the traditional freshman pack of no less than 7, and often 10, new students clustered together as they move from book store to coffee shop and back to book store to attend the new student orientation ice cream social. a band has been hired, food and drink is provided, and the university is doing what it can to make these new students and their families feel welcome. the year is full of promise - academic, social, and otherwise.

i'm not one to make new year's resolutions - unless made to do so for a writing assignment in 4th and 5th grade - but i do make new school year resolutions. the promise and energy is contagious, and as much as i enjoy the restorative potential of summers, the new school years offers a chance for reinvention and new ventures. i'm still working on this year's resolutions, but i know any list i concoct will most definitely include finally sending out that article i've been tinkering away at for twenty-two months and finding a decent indian restaurant in new york city (to be fair, i've only eaten at one in the past two years - l'il help??)...

happy new year!


writing by hand

i received a thank you note in the mail today. it was handwritten. from the slant of the script on the envelope i instantly knew the identity of the sender, and the contents did not disappoint. inside were details, descriptions, and anecdotes that covered nearly all available blank space with the familiar script. the smile on my face remained for the duration of my reading and then rereading to be sure that i hadn't missed anything.

earlier today, while continuing a month-long conversation with a group students about the school-to-prison pipeline, i watched more writing happen. it's been some time since i took the time to watch people write - i indulged in the luxury of having someone else present who was taking fieldnotes - and in this indulgent space of close observation i became taken, once again, with the posture, breath, and sensuous of hand writing.

hands gracing sheets of paper, fingers caressing pencils and pens, eyes looking upward, then close to the table, and at once looking nowhere in particular. deep inhales and measured exhales. outward performance of an intimate conversation with oneself - the nods, rubbing the foreheads, hands on the side/back/top of the head. doing and undoing ponytails.

and laughter. as one person reads the note another has passed him. furtive glances full of guilt, immediately replaced with grins upon realizing that laughter is not out of place in this space, today, of scripting texts by hand.

i'm not usually one to feel nostalgic about the practice of putting pen/cil to paper - not as i try to live as paperless an existence as i can, edited books notwithstanding... - however, as i collected the latest revisions which built upon, extended, and reworked the previous hand-writing the students had done, i found myself handling the sheets of lined paper full of their words with the greatest care, letting my fingers linger over certain clusters of letters, most of which were written in pencil. almost at once i worried about the short lifespan of words penned in pencil and made a mental to scan the sheets when i got back to my office.



is this the best way we can think of to use the space of television in the year 2006?



what we exactly mean by adolescent literacies...

it's a thought/musing/dilemma that has arisen in a few pieces that i'm wrestling with at the moment, and among the questions that arise are:

which adolescents?
practices only?
(in what ways) are literacies spaces?
what happens when the literacies practices by adolescents are practiced by non-adolescents?
what are the bounds by which we discuss and delineate the literacies in the lives of adolescents?
how do we understand practices that exist outside of those bounds?

in the words of one young man who is no longer attending school and is enrolled in a court mandated GED program: [paraphrasing] the only time teachers or anyone says anything to us is to tell us we're doing something wrong.

where do we locate research about "new" literacies?

another young man in the same class uses his ipod nano to play solitaire - b/c it's helps him concentrate, and he wants to see how good he can get at it - while engaged in a social studies focused class discussion/lesson about social systems and forms of government.

my questions stem from the tension surrounding the dichotomizing of old/new literacies; digital/analog systems; and access/no-access to technologies. what questions do we investigate about the evolving landscape of literacies as it is played out in the lives of youth about whom little is written in the way of new literacies? writing, like that of of steve goodman and jabari mahiri, offers images of urban and inner city youth engaged in innovation, creativity, and discovery related to literacies and broader communicative practices. in doing so, they, and others, push our conceptions of where new literacies live, are embodied, and from where they emerge and are born. yet, so many of the questions we ask about new literacies don't seem to be situated in contexts determined to be technology-poor... and when literacies research is located in city contexts, there is often an underlying desire to prove existing deficit assumptions wrong. in doing so, do we not reify these assumptions? in spending time and word count on how/why something isn't, we lose space to tell what is and how... i've been a perpetrator of these practices myself, especially because i believe that dispelling erroneous assumptions can help to unravel some of the destructive practices that are currently in place in contexts where urban adolescents spend their time. but i find myself more and more wondering, and taking on the challenge of, describing "what is and how" - not as a counterpoint or counterstory, but as a story unto itself.

innovation as innovation.

and everyone is literate.


water falls, human flaws...

i fall. a lot. and often, this happens as i am either descending or ascending stairs. so i guess subconsciously i don't want to waste a fall on just any old flat surface. if i'm going to fall, it's going to count. that's also perhaps why i fall (a lot) in public. in public and at the mercy of strangers. strangers who, without fail, have been kind, have helped me up, and have let their gaze linger long enough to be sure that my hobble evened out into a steady walk. such an occurrence happened this evening as i was switching from the r-train - after an obscene and fruitless wait for the n- or q-train at the canal street stop - to the 2-train. i was ascending the stairs from the r when, two steps from the landing, i slipped - apparently on concrete! - and all at once banged my right toe/knee/elbow/other elbow/other knee. i only know this because of what hurt afterwards, and based on these injuries, can only imagine what a graceless mess i must have looked like. it probably didn't help the scene as i popped back up and it was a few seconds before i realized that a kind man was steadying me by laying a hand under my right forearm.

he asked me, "are you all right? you sure?" and i nodded, hurriedly, muttering, "thank you, thanks so much." and, in an almost paternal way he, who didn't appear to be much older than i am, encouraged me to "slow down, take it slow." but it wasn't in the condescending way people tend to tell each other to "slow down!" when they themselves are rushing and being a hazard to the entire free - and i use that word lightly in these odd times - world. it was more in the tone of one person reminding another that sometimes, you have to take it slow.

this relatively short moment in time caused me to spend the rest of my journey homeward in a reflective state and i focused primarily on the two hours i spent listening to presentations made by students enrolled in a career skills class in an alternative school where i do fieldwork for one of my research projects. the topics covered ranged widely: welfare, immigration, hip hop violence, corporate hustling, gay teens, black on black crime, and others... in attendance was the class, several other teachers and case managers, and a handful of students who participate in other classes throughout the program. it was an event marked with thoughtful critique, a spirited question/answer session following each presentation, and the courage to research and discuss complicated subject matter.

as i fell and stood up again, i thought about the presentations i had listened to and recognized that while falling is embarrassing, and while there will be people who laugh, there will also be people who will help you up. i thought about the alternative education programs i've been a part of over the last decade. corrections education certainly isn’t perfect, but in the past year i've spent time in two that work precisely because everyone has fallen and has been given the chance to stand again. during their presentations, these fourteen young men and one young woman stood tall behind a podium as their audience listened to and engaged them. and for a few minutes each, they were experts in their topic and commanded the attention of the room. these are the moments and triumphs that mark education beyond the traditional school walls, yet all too often we hear how young people must be feared, contained, and punished.

we all fall; some falls are more public, some are more long lasting, and only some of us are given a good hand to lean on as we stand back up.

*photo courtesy of yours truly


more youtube

it gives me great pleasure to know that i am not alone in my tendencies to get lost in youtube.com's links upon links upon clips upon videos...

Millions addicted to YouTube online video site

Great music moments found on YouTube.com


wiki this

while engaged in my latest favorite pasttime of wikipedia-ing tv while i watch - usually shortened in my head, and sometimes in my diction to "wiki this, wiki that" - i looked up the entry for malcolm in the middle. the episode i was watching featured the mom, lois, costumed and dancing around with her mom, played by cloris leachman, in outfits that resembled the ensemble that sandra bullock wears in the scene from miss congeniality where she is playing the water glasses at a pre-pageant talent showcase. (i'm not sure i can actually count all of this information toward my love/study of "popular" culture....) anyway, moving on... i was caught by the cluster of information in the entry for MITM that focused on how the show was intentionally anonymous, similar to the mystery surrounding the geographic location of The Simpsons hometown of Springfield. this mystery has certainly captured the imaginations, and observation skills, of many of the show's viewers and some of the wikipedia entry writers. for example, they write:
- There is also a good chance that the family lives in Arizona, as in the episode "Future Malcolm" when Dewey is being reprimanded for painting on the wall, a water bottle with the symbol for the NFL team the Arizona Cardinals is clearly visible.

- Also, in episode 110, "Stock Car Races", when Hal and the boys are entering the track the billboard behind the entrance displays the place as Irwindale Speedway (a real race track in Southern California).

- (my particular favorite of the ones listed): Oklahoma is a possibility. In later seasons, license plates display "Cherokee State" which is another name for Oklahoma. Despite that, the look of the plates intentionally made like California's, such as the font of the words "Cherokee State", and digits are in the format of "1 XXX 111", where 1 is a digit, and X is a letter. In episode 415, Otto was singing the title song from "Oklahoma!." In episode 313, Oklahoma Highway Police can be seen on the police car doors. However, in one episode, Hal comes to visit Francis at military school and upon seeing his father, Francis exclaims, "you drove eight hours just to see me!" The school is known to be located in Alabama, so Malcolm's family must live within an eight-hour drive of the state, perhaps in Florida. On the other hand there is also in episode 418 where Reese is sent to Whitehorse on a bus for at least 52 hours. Malcolm: "Reese, think about it. It takes 26 hours to get to Canada, and 26 hours to get back. Your bag is filled with food and nobody called Grandma!" Only Alaska is within a 26 hour drive of Whitehorse, Canada. However, in episode 43, Alaska is stated to be "5000 miles away and in the episode "Krelborne Picnic", Francis says "So I'm still a member of the family even after you sent me away to military school 1,000 miles away". In the series finale, Malcolm reveals that Harvard is 2,000 miles away. Triangulation using these distances puts the family's location somewhere in West Texas.

...and so on. what fascinates me about this is people's (viewers') collective desire to locate information they receive - via a television program, fictional sitcom notwithstanding - within shared schemes and experiential landmarks. where do they live? where is all of this taking place? throw me a bone!!! it's even noted in the show's wikipedia entry that the family's last name is never (or maaaaybe once) mentioned.

if we continue to understand literacies as local and situated and epistemologies as informed by experience, from a research standpoint, "placing" the characters and the show would seem to be of utmost importance... situating our own "reading" of how they move through their worlds would be significant for interpreting and anlayzing what it is they are doing - e.g., arguing as a family; planning the annual practical joke; ostracizing the kid who isn't a team player; etc... from my experience, it's the desire to understand the concepts that are emic to who or what i'm observing before i can make claims about it. but what if our observational capacity is limited? what if, as more of us are exploring realms where we have limited access, limited time to acclimate, and limited understanding of what questions we should even be asking, the landscape remains anonymous? i can still say that malcolm is a quirky character who has taken on some of his "real life" actor persona, but then that would be all; and it would be based on occasional viewings of the show, coupled with an unfortunate viewing of an old episode of Punk'd, and driven by a proclivity to analyze through comparison. wikipedia might just be on to something though - thanks to the collective efforts of my fellow inquiring minds, i can now add to my analysis that anonymity was not only the ethos of the show, but also something that malcolm strived for and lived out through his little brother as he "help[s] him stay in normal classes" (instead of the "gifted" classes like he put in by his parents. ok, it's a stretch, but it's my ongoing support for collaboration in research, especially acknowledging that the construction of new and diverse spaces yields not only so many more questions, but also many more limitations on participation, access, and inquiry...


reading worth reading and watching and listening

i just recently re-discovered the beat within, a weekly magazine written by incarcerated and recently incarcerated youth. the site includes writing, video diaries, and news related to juvenile justice.

(photo is part of a collection by joseph rodriguez titled "juvenile justice")


at the top of my gmail, i am daily treated to random bits of news and the occasional "word of the day" from dictionary.com. today's word, heterogeneous, is particularly poignant as i think about the recent After Words episode i watched in which congressman tom tancredo (r-co) was being interviewed by anne mulkern of the denver post. you can watch the whole interview here, so i won't summarize the whole thing. however, i will share one small tidbit that has got me thinking (again) about teacher education...

tancredo was on the show to talk about (read: promote) his new book in mortal danger: the battle for america's border and security. at one point, mulkern asks him to expound on his decision to include in his book the story of a public school teacher who was expressed frustration at having to celebrate black history month - apparently, such a comment was made in the context of having to diverge from necessary curricula... tancredo, smiling and almost a little eager, responded with the even tone he'd been using the entire time and explained that he felt that the teacher's story was indicative of a larger trend where there are celebrations of all kinds happening, while "american" holidays go unrecognized. he cited veteran's day as one example of one such forgotten holiday.

i exhaled slowly as i listened to this, and watched as he tancredo shook his head in disbelief that such adultering of the "american" curriculum was going on. earlier, mulkern had asked the congressman what "american" meant to him. he gives a litany of checklist-like qualities, but it is the second that stood out to me: [paraphrasing] speaking english, or expressing a desire to and being on the path to being a proficient english speaker.

so now i think of that school teacher who expressed her woes about having to indulge the district requirement to recognize black history month. and i wonder to what extent the tenets of plurality and, yes, heterogeneity are being engaged at the moments when not-yet-teachers are developing their understandings of not only pedagogy, but the historical context in which they are purporting to participate in the act of teaching and learning. we talked a good deal in the graduate classes i took about multiculturalism, critical multiculturalism, diversity, and occasionally, race and racism. but perhaps we need to talk more explicitly about the fact that history and sociocultural context matters not only in harlem or the delta, but, in fact, everywhere. could we ignore the heterogeneous history on which all of social life was founded and is based?

but what good is any of this musing to the teacher who feels burdened by what she considers extra to the curriculum? and, more to the point of teacher ed, how do we use the very short time that teacher ed programs have with pre-service teachers (as they strive to stay competitive with the rapidly growing numbers of alternative certification programs) to move from dialogue to action around principles of plurality (which undergirds so many connected discourses - e.g., literacies, positionalities, anti-racist pedagogies...)?


fears averted

when i first learned that a spoof of an inconvenient truth that had been circulating on youtube.com was really a commercially produced piece of media that was the work of a PR and lobbying firm whose client list includes Exxon Mobil, i admit, i was perturbed.

upon viewing said piece of media, however, i was reassured that commerically produced "amateur" video can't take the place of the real fake thing. case in point - check out some of the real spoofs based on gore's movie.

long live amateur video democracies!


latest from all4ed

a few different articles came out recently bemoaning (once again) the "low literacy rates" and "lower reading skills" of adolescents. there are references made to students' attitude toward education, downward spiral of interest in school given difficulty with decoding print, and the recognition that "it's not just the immigrants"... and platitudes about assessments, learning, and the achievement gap that maintain the focus of blame on students and teachers, who are unprepared to teach reading in middle and high school. if these are the discourses that are dominating the growing attention being paid to adolescent literacy, where (oh, where?) is the space for new literacies?

read more from an online chat with alliance for education's jeremy ayers


life is like a parfait glass full of ice cream

i loved to read as a child. it was my escape from what i understood to be a dull existence; a practice i could indulge without inviting the disciplinary actions that followed my excessive television watching; a solitary activity that filled up hours and hours and hours of time. for a class early in my master's program, i wrote a paper reflecting on my relationship with reading and detailed the distinguishable periods - e.g. american plays, teen angst, the russians, old south, new south, etc. - yet made one glaring omission: indian comic books. that's right, a collection of comics known simply as amarchitrakatha - three words slurred together to indicate the vast world of comics created for children (and presumably the occasional adult) to learn about indian history, mythology, culture and religion. i had stacks of them and to this day can recall specific frames from stories. my grandmother, who was my other primary source for all things indian mythology-related, and i would carefully go through the comics together - the only kind of book i would ever involve another person in the reading or experiencing of - and compare her version with the version in the text. often, the brief retelling found illustrated and captioned would prompt her to launch into more detailed and nuanced versions that would fill up the afternoon. her voice is often connected to story frames etched in my mind.

this evening, as i (once again) walked through the campus bookstore, i came across a text that i hadn't seen before. the title on the thin spine read "introducing cultural studies" and the image on the black, glossy cover is a cartoonesque old-time, parfait glass filled with an assortment of fruits, and colorful scoops of ice cream, and is topped of with sprinkles, a cherry, and lovely slice of pineapple. i couldn't resist, so i added it to the pile of books in my hand (including one on vegetarian grilling) and headed upstairs to the cafe. as i began to flip through the pages, that were light on text and heavy on the images, i felt a familiar sense comfort and pleasure. it wasn't that i hadn't read the work stuart hall or pierre bourdieu before, but experiencing the juxtaposition of a dialogue bubble coming out of a bourdieuian bust alongside no-frills commentary gave those earlier readings and discussions new life. it felt like the catalyst i've been wanting... and i am reveling in the form, perhaps more than the content at times - of this use of cartoon drawings, rules of comic engagement, and text that doesn't always stay within the lines. this is cultural studies that makes me laugh and think at the same time - not something i can (always) say for hall... and it's not that the issues being raised are always a laughing matter, but rather the irony that undergirds much of social life is sometimes better illustrated through the absurdity of image than pages of text. i'm only halfway through the book and will write more when i've gotten all the way through.


all's quiet...

there is something about the routinized expectations of the academic year that i sorely miss when summer hits. don't get me wrong - i love staying up until 4, sleeping in until 11 and leisurely moving between writing, editing, tv watching, old movie devouring, and recipe inventing... however, this summer is oozing with expectation and anticipated-moving-to-fully-realized frustration. this is the summer where so much was supposed to happen, and now, it's half over. i fully blame my lack of meetings, classes, and office hours, which i was itching to get a break from as may rolled around. this is about more than "grass is greener" syndrome - it's a harsh realization that perhaps...maybe...routine helps us be more productive.
ok, i don't mean this in quite the cheeky way it sounds. it's just that i spend so much of my waking time arguing for reduced structures, less rigidity, and more flexibility in the education of and for youth, yet i sit here secretly - although, not so secretly anymore - craving rigidity myself. it's not as if deadlines aren't looming - they are a'plenty! - and that todo lists don't exist - they do, in triplicate! - but rather, there is a camaraderie that exists during the academic year that i feel lost without during the summer. it is perhaps why i sought out not one, but two groups of fabulous women as writing groups to support the dissertation writing process; why i get a high after talking with colleagues and attending conference presentations (albeit, while not always paying attention) and get more focused writing down in the hours following these events than when i have hours, days, weeks, even months ahead of me where little time is structured. i am a poster child for the notion that learning is social...and perhaps that social, for me, needs to be put on my calendar and be in the midst of warm black tea - either blackberry sage or a chai blend will do nicely.
i have read other colleagues blogs and public declarations that there is never not enough to write, but just not enough time to write it all. i agree. and have notebooks and word documents filled with pages of thoughts, article starts, and commentaries to prove my allegiance to these declarations. yet, here i sit, in the bookstore of my alma mater, wishing i had less time so that i could get more done.


high school student's rwanda blog

Rwanda Journal

written by malika khandelwal, a 16 year old from pa who is writing about the aftermath of the rwandan genocide for the philly inquirer this summer.


devastating anonymity

i've given in to the media hype and am watching anderson cooper's special dedicated to world refugee day, during which he is spending much of the two hour show in conversation with angelina jolie. in one exchange that especially caught my ear, both cooper and jolie recounted the first children they had connected with while visiting refugee camps who died hours or days later. moments later, the screen was filled with a child, aminu, being fed some milk with a dark blue tin cup. cooper's voice tells the viewer that this may be the only photograph to exist of this child, who died hours after the photo was taken. while the ability to capture, duplicate, and disseminate images is a relatively new phenomenon in human history, in this age of camera phones, video ipods, and digital cameras, it's hard to imagine a time without (relatively easy) visual documentation. it's more difficult to realize that in this age when we rely so much on the audiovisual modes to communicate, these are not viable options in many parts of the world.

on this report, devastating images abound. rifles strapped onto the backs of adults embracing young children; bright colored cloth cloaking the bodies of women and children who are discussed as statistics of rape, beatings, genocide; tents, food rations, camps; images across africa and within the united states documenting undocumented youth living in the u.s. without family; all seeking refuge.

apologies in advance and for the previous post for incomplete thoughts, simplistic analyses...

"no community wants too many"


these are the names of some of the somalian refugees whose lives were portrayed in the film, "rain in a dry land," part of the human rights watch film festival going on from june 9-22, 2006 in new york city. the film follows two somali bantu families on their journey from refugee camps in kenya to their new lives in the united state, in springfield, massachusetts and atlanta, georgia, respectively.
several things struck me about these interwoven stories, but perhaps none as strongly as the role that linguistic communication plays in enabling or preventing these families' transition to their new surroundings. there is frustration at not being able to navigate forms, institutions, and new ways of doing things far from familiar homes. the children negotiate institutionalized schooling, teachers, classmates, tests, assignments, and dating. and we are shown the families' struggle to retain communal ways of life in a highly individualistic society.

one narrative cut particularly deep:
ali, living in springfield, drops out of high school after one year. the filmmaker, anne makepeace, shows ali's evolution as he goes from receiving verbal accolades in school to giving up on homework; the latter point is juxtaposed by text that tells the viewer that ali is too old to play on the high school soccer team. the interviewer underscores this by noting that ali is not able to do the one thing he truly loves. ali's face resembles his father, aden, but does not show the weight of war survival. he is often shown scratching his head from the back, with a soft smile on his face, which, by the time the film comes to a close, is not as constant as in the beginning. it appeared, from the images and vocals we were shown, that ali's reasons for dropping out were not so unfamiliar from the reasons that many native US high school students drop out - feeling disconnected from and frustrated by school. in ali's case, his teachers were supportive of him - the ones that talked on camera, at least - but it was his difficulty "getting it" (as one teacher put it) that hindered him from achieving his previously stated goal of focusing on and obtaining an education. he said he wanted to go to college to be a doctor. he imagined pursuing college on an athletic scholarship.

it feels naive to focus on language, and certainly the film's description and presumably the filmmaker would agree. there is more going on in ali's and the others' lives than a "failure to communicate." but as i bow my head in shame at the recent press my adopted hometown has gotten over the language requirements at a well known food establishment, i recognize that a failed congressional gesture isn't going to negate the reality that english not only functions as a national language in the linguistic sense - e.g., the language of forms, dominant media, restaurant menus - but in the visceral sense, as well. as an immigrant, i devoured the english language and prided myself on diagramming perfection, grammatical precision, and a laudable vocabulary. as a faculty member at an education school in a technology and ed program, i advocate for the wider use of multiple modes of communication - including multilingual, multimodal, and multiple literacies. however, at no time was mine a refugee reality.

as i exited the cool comfort of the theater, i overheard two women talking. one wondered aloud why the refugees were sent to different cities and her friend responded matter-of-factly, "because no community wants too many." ali's dashed dreams, aden's new found passion for gardening, arbai's daughter's wedding - all reduced in that phrase to the singular category of "too many." yes, language is significant - certainly, like gloria anzaldua notes, "ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity - i am my language." but, like anzaldua, who offers opportunities for language to flourish despite, and because of, linguistic barriers? where are the chances for these barriers to provide bridges to new understandings and relationships? there isn't time in the school day, in the trigonometry class, to slow down for one student who math acumen is evident but whose ability to comprehend a new linguistic code is not given sufficient nurturing. what happens to these adolescents? and what new ways of supporting refugee youth can we imagine and enact in the every day, moment-t0-moment decisions that inform the routinized practices of teaching, learning, and knowing...?


drop everything and go.see.now!

luckily, this command requires only your time - that is, dedicated time, attention, engagement. for what i am commanding is this: spend some time viewing the 16 films featured in this year's media that matters film festival.

i spent the evening at the opening of the festival which took place at the ifc theater here in new york city. there was something powerful, intangibly penetrating about viewing these films, all together, one after one, in dialogue, on a large screen. the filmmakers raise questions about the criminal justice system, fair use policies for media, the iraq war, army recruitment, impossible/unrelenting standards of beauty, gender, and sexuality, and more... they evoke not only emotion, but a sense of action, response, and, hopefully, the need to spread the word so that these films reach far, wide, and deep.

but don't take my word for it. view them now!


immigration sound byte - postscript

i accompanied erick to horizon academy at rikers island last thursday to help the young men practice reading their pieces out loud and to establish the reading order, etc. this was the first time i had spent any extended amount of time in the bilingual class. there were about ten young men in there whose average age seemed to be 20 years old. i pulled a chair and sat next to a young man wearing knee length jean shorts and a black t-shirt. i'll call him david - it was the name he said that he would have chosen for himself because there were already too many people in his family with his given first name.
david smiled briefly in my direction, shifted his feet slightly, and resumed his conversation with his classmate sitting next to him. after several minutes, david and i began talking. the following is a list of notables that i learned during our conversation:
  • arrived at rikers two months ago
  • arrived in the united states three years ago
  • is awaiting sentencing on a plea he just agreed to so that he can serve out his sentence before being deported back to the dominican republic.
my face must have registered my disbelief at this last point because david laughed quietly, shook his head, and said the thing that was going through my head, "can you believe that shit?"

the following day, david read for tito who was not present for the reading. it was clear that he had practiced and as he uttered the following words, i could almost see him writing them himself.

david, reading for tito:
"Advice comes from experiences that the person giving it to you already had, supposing a person that gives you advice already through those experiences or has seen then and doesn't want you to have to go through the same thing.
A lot of times I didn't follow the advice, but I did listen. But I didn't change, or I might for a month or so and then go back to doing the same things. ...
I don't want anyone to do the same things I've done, it's no good - look at where I am now. Do you understand the advice I'm giving?"


voices of immigration - beyond sound bytes

this past friday, 5/26, i sat in the gymnasium at one of the jail sites at rikers island listening to young men, who are there awaiting sentencing, share excerpts from published stories in the collection titled, Echando humo para siempre (Forever billowing smoke). of the six authors in the book, three were present for the reading. their stories, printed in both spanish and english in the eighty-one page book, were read aloud in both versions that made the gym reverberate with reflections about family, musings on inequity, observations about cross cultural survival - these words painted images that challenged the sound byte media culture about immigration.

raul: "In Mexico we don't treat [minorities] like they do here. Even Americans have a lot of businesses there - the best, I'd say - and we don't treat them like they treat us here."

jaime: "[My parents] brought me up with the music - the meringue, the bachata, the salsa - and they brought me up with the food, too. The brought me up with the culture from over there, like the people from there, like it was before for their gradparents, they they had been raised."

enano: "I miss my family so much - my parents, my friends. Here, you have friends while you have something to give, but if you don't have anything, they turn their backs on you. And over there, whether or not you have anything, they're your friends."

edwin: "...being out here in the United States there are always good chances, many opportunities here to come out ahead. Here I found out that I can draw - I started to draw here. ... I bought a tattoo gun and as soon as I leave here, if I ever do leave, I'm going to start tattooing."

in their words are "undeniable ambiguities and contradiction," (a point made in the introduction written by patricia cortes) that further call attention to the inadequate scope of the immigration rhetoric that dominates popular media discourses.

from a literacies perspective, we might ask what the implications are for how these young men make sense of their world through literacies as the move across national borders and cultural boundaries. lesley bartlett's research explores this and related questions about transnational literacies and resonates with some work that doris warriner is doing, as well. both of these literacy researchers, along with many others, are helping the field understand the life changing, sometimes threatening, experiences of individuals who are border crossing on a minute-to-minute basis. their work and the recently published Echando humo para siempre reminds us that we need stories that are not only rich in ethnographic detail, but that also are produced by those individuals whose crossings, negotiations, and balancing of transnational literacies, identities, experiences, challenges, and dreams too often become the purview of overused phrases and easily quantifiable categories.

this story was also filmed for the local news (new york city, abc) but i was out of town and didn't catch it. i'll report back on what story sound bytes made it to the small screen...


can you see me now?

to everyone who mocked my early musings about the feasibility of creating a real life invisibilty cloak (based on the key harry potter accessory): it appears that i am having the last laugh! check this out:

Theories see path to invisibility

this real-life version is made possible with "optical-camouflage technology." i wonder: can the marauder map be far behind? it's really only a matter of tweaks to the current gps technologies, if you ask me...


if a tree falls...

i was looking through some field notes on the bus today and came across some quotes
i had jotted down while attending the launch of EVC's Video Production curriculum titled "Youth Powered Video" (which i wrote about earlier). what caught my eye this time was a question posed by a woman from arts engine who - after the curriculum had been previewed for the audience and an EVC alum had talked about his experiences - wondered aloud, "if a film is made and no one sees it, does it make an impact?" she immediately acknowledged that the actual video production certainly had an impact for the participants involved in the process, but challenged the audience to consider the distribution and dissemination dimension of youth media. who views the films? engages with them? shares them? is aware they exist???

next week the sixth annual media that matters film festival will kick off here in nyc. the 16 films that were selected from hundreds (maybe thousands) of entries will be shown and also available online at the media that matters website. here's a link to last year's online film festival, which features a couple of films produced by youth. this is one of several spaces in which youth media production is being made visible, recognized for the contribution the stories contained in these films makes, and celebrated for the intentional attention paid in the films that are chosen to social action and justice.

in response to the challenge about impact, i offer the following list of sites as a first step in spreading the word about youth produced media, including film and radio documentaries, digital stories, and a range of texts:

youth media distribution
mnn youth channel
youth portraits

and in the real-world-like words of the opening voices on the youth radio site, youth media can show us "what happens when [youth] stop being stereotyped and start getting real."

fyi: ymdi also makes a youth video distribution toolkit available on their website.

a beer in the afternoon

recently, in recognition of the semester being over, i indulged myself and accepted an invitation to have a beer in the afternoon. or rather, a cider, to be precise. i sat oustide with two students in our program and watched people walk by as we discussed a range of topics and enjoyed the just-right warmth of a spring day. as i walked back to my office afterwards, i recall feelings of guilt. as if i had broken some unwritten rule... crossed yellow and black caution tape...

earlier this year, i experienced a similar feeling when i shared some ideas for research with some individuals whose support i'll need to move forward with my project ideas. i laid out a plan for engaging youth as co-researchers in exploring certain dimensions of the "school-to-prison" pipeline. i emphasized the role of young people as not only informants but as participants and collaborators in the research design. the questions that followed had less to do with the project and more to do with my sanity regarding this approach. as they raised questions about "safety" and "trustworthiness," i could feel my insides shriveling and slowly detaching themselves from my skin. i began to feel guilty for suggesting new methodology, but later realized that it had more to do with the disruption to business as usual and all of the ontological and epistemological implications such a proposal entailed. it was as if i had taken a swig from a flask right there in the middle of an otherwise civilized meeting.


a long road ahead...

my younger brother graduated this past weekend, which directly translates into: a lot of time with my family, namely my parents who live closeby but who i see not too frequently, and certainly not for two straight days at a time.

during a conversation with my father on the very long, rainy, and construction-ridden drive back, i found myself defending television... again. to the casual observer, i might have sounded a bit maniacal as i declared, with fervor, that it wasn't the tv watching itself that was the point, but rather the context in which the watching of tv occurred. that is, is tv seen as another text with which kids engage? and are parents motivated to ask them about the shows they watched in much the same way as they inquire about the stories found in the books they read?

in response, my father replied with a vignette starring the granddaughter of one of his colleagues who, he said, rarely, if ever, watches television and on a recent visit to his friend's house he witnessed the hypnotizing effects of television as this otherwise "bubbly and loving child" (his words) sat transfixed and immune to the happenings of the world around her. wouldn't we excuse that behavior, i asked him, if the same child exhibited the same reaction (or lack, as it were) while engrossed in a book? i reminded him of the hours and days i spent lying in my bedroom completely transported to other worlds as i read printed text, much in the same way as i was fully immersed when i watched television; yet i only ever got reprimanded when i watched tv.

i guess i need to order him a copy of steven johnson's book and hope that he, and others like him for whom reading trumps tv any day, recognizes that we live in a technicolor world - one that transcends the boundaries of black and white print on paper, and that to keep hierarchicalizing texts in this way is not only a waste of time, but delegitimizes experiences that some of us hold quite dear.


reading as wine tasting

there is a scene in the movie french kiss that, to me, personifies the experience of reading.

in it, kevin kline's character (luc) scaffolds the wine tasting experience for meg ryan's character (kate) by intentionally blending the sensations of smell and taste with the use of a box which has in it numerous smells including lavendar, rosemary, and other herbs and flavors used in winemaking. luc asks kate to taste the wine and asks her to describe it. she does, and her description is adequate, acceptable. she might score well on a test. he then asks her to close her eyes and inhale a scent he places near her nose and then asks her to taste the wine again. she does, and this time kate can taste more in the wine - flavors that were there the first time, but that are "visible" to her palette after her olfactory experience. her new response might risk fracturing the 5 paragraph essay format and she may fail...

i've been thinking about this scene a lot over the last several months as i've been delving back into research literature that explores (and often bemoans) the state of adolescents' literacies. on the one hand, there is little space for their interpretations, literacies, and lives in the space of the school day (or, too often, in adolescent literacy research...); and on the other hand, there is little space or time in the school day, or curricula to offer new scents and lenses for youth to read their worlds and to reread texts and to delve deeply into the history of the soil in which the grapevines grow.

i was also thinking about the art of wine tasting as reading after watching breakfast on pluto. i won't go into the plot details but will say that i loved it and think it's absolutely worth watching. which is why i want to forget some of it before watching it again. that is, in the act of rereading, or re-watching in this case, the experience is never quite like the first time, but i'm wondering what scents and flavors i can experience before watching this movie again, for the first time ... (the first again-time, that is)


what if you don't know what you're good at before you try it?

today's ny times had two articles that captured my attention, both for their content and mutual resonance.

freakonomics authors stephen dubner and steven levitt, in their monthly column for the paper, took on the age old question of whether practice really does make perfect. based on their review of anders ericsson's research, the answer is a resounding yes! few of us, the authors argue in their article titled "a star is made," are born with the inherent ability to achieve/perform/excel at high levels without additional practice thrown in. they note:
"This is not to say that all people have equal potential. Michael Jordan, even if he hadn't spent countless hours in the gym, would still have been a better basketball player than most of us. But without those hours in the gym, he would never have become the player he was."
in another article on the sims, titled, "welcome to the new dollhouse," the author, seth schiesel, notes that this game, and others like it, are replacing the role that dolls used to occupy in the lives of children. schiesel includes quotes from young players and older academics alike; among them, jim gee, who posits that, "[Video games are] a great resource for them to design and think about relationships and social spaces."

where the article begins to break down, and where these game researchers and psychologists could take a lesson from the freakonomics noted above, is when gender is addressed in all too simple terms.
"Modern girls are very interested in video games, but then when they get toward high school they start to gravitate away because they begin to think that boys don't like girls who play games," said Professor Gee. "They give up their interest in video games around the same time they give up their interest in science and math and that's a real problem because boys use video games to foster an interest in technology, and if girls give that up we're going to continue to see a real gender imbalance in these areas."
levitt and dubner begin their piece by revealing that over half of european professional soccer players are born in the first three months of the year. then, at the end, explain that since the cut off for most team selections is done by calendar year, the kids who were born in december of a given year as assessed on their skill level alongside kids born in january. as the authors write:
"Guess which player the coach is more likely to pick? He may be mistaking maturity for ability, but he is making his selection nonetheless. And once chosen, those January-born players are the ones who, year after year, receive the training, the deliberate practice and the feedback — to say nothing of the accompanying self-esteem — that will turn them into elites."
shouldn't we be asking, of video games, more about the kinds of possibilities these games open up for kids who might not have thought to explore or pursue various avenues prior to playing games? what kinds of practices, identities, and rabbit-holes do these games allow kids to discover and create in ways that other activities do not? and, from a pedagogical standpoint, knowing that practice - and specifically ericsson's notion of "deliberate practice" - can develop, nurture and challenge an existing skill or talent, particularly when there is immediate and sustained feedback, what can we ask about how the girls who play video games are encouraged and supported to pursue their practice?

and finally, from the dollhouse article:
Ms. Kelleher of Carnegie Mellon said her research with school-age girls made much the same point. "If you walk into a room full of girls and ask them, 'Who wants to learn to program computers?' you don't get very many hands," she said. "But if you ask them, 'Who wants to learn how to make a movie like Pixar or perhaps something like The Sims?', you get a very different response. And fundamentally, those two activities can be the same thing."
why? and is this always the case? if yes, if no - where? why? when?



check this out:

imagine the avatar-being, storytelling, world-creating fun you could have with this!

i really hope it's not a hoax... i always have this fear whenever something crazysuperfun is revealed to me. (thanks, ingrid!)


adolescent images

i love this image:

reminds me of what laurence fishburne was said in a wire image podcast interview - that there are possibilities for representing different images of the african american community and the movie he is currently featured in, Akeelah and the Bee, is an example of one such image. i haven't seen the movie, but am intrigued both by its premise and the lead actress, keke palmer.

the image above (it should change pics periodically) is taken from the website for the Youth Media Development Forum taking place this year in Mali. yes, i want to go; no, i'm not going. what's particularly interesting about this forum is that the organizers intend for this to be a forum for youth media producers from developing nations. there is tremendous potential, in an event like this, for new images to be produced and emerge. if anyone attends, or is planning to attend, do let me know!



it's true, we all seek a bit of self promotion here and there. (sidebar: thus, who could blame the opal author entirely for her 17 year old enchantment at the prospect of having fame and quite a hefty fortune, all for fulfilling the requirements for someone else's "concept"...?)

's most recent issue is the second part of a special double issue titled, "Learning in the Digital Age: papers from the second Ideas in Cyberspace Education symposium." i've been reading this journal for the past couple of years and have found that it has quickly become my source for getting a pulse on how online spaces, identities, practices, and politics are being conceptualized, performed, and explored. in the near future, the special issue titled, "Digital Interfaces," guest edited by the fabulous angela, will hit the shelves (so to speak). for a sneak peak, go here. (you'll notice that yours truly has contributed to this issue, along with wonderful notables in the growing expanse of literacy research for/in "new" times.)


is this news?

mathu alerted me to yesterday's ny times article on ny killings, by the numbers. it notes that there were 540 homicides last year, though only 519 were committed last year; the other 21 were deaths were initiated by a homicide attempt that occurred in years prior.
...at any rate, the article states some facts that feel redundant, yet important to note:
- men and boys were responsible for 93 percent of the murders
- they killed with guns about two-thirds of the time
- their victims tended to be other men and boys
- and in more than half the cases, the killer and the victim knew each other

these are important facts because they, along with recent data published by the bureau of justice statistics indicate that non-white, non-asian - and more specifically, black - males experience the greatest number of deaths due to homicide. the BJS also notes that especially among young, black males, ages 18-24, have the highest "homicide victimization rates," and often at the hands of other young, black males.

what becomes of utmost important at this point in the conversation is what we do with this information. that is, do we treat these numbers as self-fulfilling prophecies? do attribute experiences to identity - that is, how are the identities of young, black males (re)positioned in light of this information? if i read this article as a teacher would i fall into the practices of many of the teachers in ann arnette ferguson's study whose assumptions about who the black boys might become paralyzed them from taking seriously their roles as educators who might engage in intellectual partnership with their students?

on wednesday, as i was leaving a talk given by edmund gordon held at iume, i was accompanied by an older, african american woman who also attended the talk and was looking for company on the walk back to campus. as we walked, we reflected on some of what gordon had brought up, namely the continued inequitable educational circumstances of many children who are underserved (and, i would argue, who lives are underrepresented in the political rhetoric surrounding education). as we turned onto amesterdam avenue, she wondered out loud if the crisis call surrounding the disproportionate numbers of african american and latino young men who are incarcerated would still exist if the 9 to 1 (versus white males) incarceration rate were reversed. "wouldn't they just find a solution," she mused.

i understand that the ny times and the bjs and the ojjdp have to report "the facts" - by government contract they are legally required to, but so, too, by public opinion are they obligated to do so. however, it is the the combination of complacency and lack of creative thinking surrounding the interconnected realities of mass incarceration, atrocious school buildings and classroom conditions, lowered or non-existent or deficit expectations by teachers, and the rapidly bifurcating of the economy into high tech and service sector jobs.

when 9, 13, and 16 year olds, alike, consistenly claim that their teachers or other adults don't like them, don't understand them and that they don't like school or care about anything, it isn't merely childhood or teenage angst; it is a window into this web of realities that has become rapidly monolithic in stature. but if we look closer, this monolith is really comprised of several small decisions such as the one to give cyrus the benefit of the doubt when he doesn't have an answer ready; or the act of believing that a group of kids joking and having fun with each other in front of their home are doing just that; or giving angel the chance to convey his responses through his drawing, not necessarily to limit him but to give him an entry into the conversation, as well...

is this news? i'm not sure. but so long as small moments and individual decisions continue be overlooked by large brushstroke policies and unthinking mandates, i suppose i'll keep being redundant.