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.


performative disruptions - part 1

well, after the hoohah surrounding a fellow south asian (who is not - not yet - an engineer or doctor, tho she was perpetuating the dominant south asian narrative), i was intrigued to see another image of the creative south asian kid/adolescent emerge in the news, albeit under the frame of bollywood. still, this kid's voice is cute, if a bit coached.

Film director, 10, calls the shots
be sure to click on the audio link

he does note, however, at the end of his interview with the bbc that he wants to pursue his goal of becoming a 3D graphics engineer when he gets older (20 or 25)...


what exactly *is* the role of education (and i dont (just) mean schools)

the headline reads,

Death at Florida Boot Camp Draws Thousands of Protesters

a brief excerpt follows, but before that let me contextualize my reading of this article by saying that i saw this tagline on google news at the end of a long two day conference titled, "poor, young, black & male: a case for national action?" organized by elijah anderson, who i continue to revere and learn from and this conference was no exception. what was troubling/disconcerting/confusing/troubling was the persistence of images, stories, and dialogue about young, black males that continued to be framed by, or that responded to, narratives of pathology. that is, as my friend and colleague david wall rice and i discussed, when are we going to have (or take) the opportunity to render and explore more complex images of individuals whose lives are so often scripted under predetermined discourses, categories, and questions.

margaret beale-spencer called the audience to action by insisting that we do work that addresses and learns from the lives and strengths and assets that young, black men bring to the table, and not focus solely and repeatedly on pathological questions; another gentleman wondered why, at this conference, there wasn't greater involvement of and engagement with (there's that word with again...) young men who were at the focus of so much of the conversation. he poses a good question, not only practically - in terms of how we are to actually engage in social change and advocacy if we don't act collectively - but also methodologically - in terms of how young people, and especially young, black men are to be engaged as knowers about their own lives and as individuals who can and do imagine futures...

i will write more about this, but i offer the above as a frame for the following article which flashed tauntingly in front of me as i opened up a new homepage. while all of this dialogue is going on, young black men continue to be treated in terrible ways. the article details a recent response to an earlier atrocity that occurred in january of this year.

Death at Florida Boot Camp Draws Thousands of Protesters
The death of a teenager at a Florida boot camp for young offenders last January drew hundreds of protesters to the state capital today, where they called on state officials to finish an investigation and charge those responsible.

The teenager, Martin Lee Anderson, died Jan. 6 after guards at a Panama City juvenile boot camp repeatedly kicked, kneed and choked him, in an incident caught by a security camera. No arrests have been made and no guards have been fired.

Wearing t-shirts comparing the 14-year-old to Emmett Till, students from Tallahassee's three colleges joined a march led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. The march followed a two-day sit-in at the office of Gov. Jeb Bush.

read the rest of the article here.


out of school into schools

tonight i attended the launch party for EVC's curriculum titled: Youth-Powered Video: A Hands-on Curriculum for Teaching Documentary. the event was held at the midtown offices of listenup! - which, btw, is a wonderful and open space - and there were a variety of folks there including reps from EVC and listenup! and also the MediaRights org (which brings you the annual media that matters festivals). there were also several young people there, some of whom were featured in the clips that were shown which illustrated, a la case study format, the process of Documentary Workshop (one of the workshop strands at EVC).

once the clips were shown and a few of the staff offered explanations, one young man stood at the front of the room and talked about his experiences as an evc-alum. among the things he said (that i wrote down while jotting furiously) was (paraphrasing) that evc was a place where he could go and have something to show for the (extensive) time he spent there.

this made me think, again, about the hours spent sitting in desks... that are in rows... that are falling apart... with uncomfortable chairs... in which kids sit for hours... constructed as passive listeners... and prepped for tests... that many will not be prepared to pass... which will result in them being held back a grade... which will then result in many kids dropping out of school... which is often a place where kids go and have nothing to show for all the time spent sitting, listening, and being evaluated.

there's more to learn from the out of school worlds that youth seek out, but i wonder if in school spaces are ready to consider that wisdom... which includes, but is not limited to:
- co-constructed goals
- offering multiple spaces for young people to inhabit and perform multiple selves
- use of a variety of modalities
- ample opportunities to play, imagine, and express creativity
- relationships between adults and young people that are not entrenched in staid dynamics of power and authority, more characterized by with


cuz we are liv-ing in a gadgety world...

and i want to be a gadgety girl. therefore, i should be sure to avoid the classes of a prof johnston at penn law and prof entman at u of memphis who have banned laptops in their courses. in a recent article in the daily pennsylvanian titled, "Laptops nixed in some law classes," johnston claims, "In law school, everything is Socratic method." he goes on to say that law students "have to listen very carefully. Without laptops, it's easier to do that. People are more tuned in."

an astute law student, anita allen, responds to these policies by noting that: "I think that professors who ban laptops are insecure about their ability to capture and maintain their students' attention... A professor should be able to compete with a stupid machine. If you are good, people will listen to you."

so, apparently the fear of higher ed informing k-12 is alive and kicking - and not in the intellectual freedom direction, but rather down the "all-eyes-and-ears-on-me-b/c-if-you're-not-looking-at-me-
you're-clearly-not-paying-attention" path.


crossing over

everywhere i look, people are making their multiple and often hybrid identities public. my friend marc, for example, frames our reading of his website and blog as that of "professor.author.speaker.public intellectual" - not only one of those things, but all together at once. i recently learned that alicia keys is flexing her acting chops in the upcoming film version of the "nanny diaries." madonna, as i've noted below, continues to assume and perform varied identities. and angela blogs about the adventures of her alter/2nd life-ego.

so why, with all of the examples of multiple and hybrid identities that abound, do we continue box some people in? for whom is reinvention allowable or perceivable? and for whom is hybridity an unrealistic possibility?

this seems particularly insidious when video games, reality television - nay, books, even, demand of the reader/audience/participant the awareness and instantiation of varied positioning and fluidity of self. and yet, with all of these invitations, the good student and the good school continue to be pictured as:

i'm on this kick cuz as i was watching a late night rerun of yesterday's oprah, i was annoyed by a few things:
  • the images of supportive classrooms as having desks in rows
  • oprah's claim that bill gates had the original idea for making large, comprehensive high schools into small schools. um, wouldn't deborah meier and bill ayers be pissed to hear that? i don't blame oprah so much as i do her researchers; and i do blame bill gates for nodding emphatically (all will be forgiven if i were to, say, receive a gates grant :) )
  • once again, kipp was lauded as being the savior of black boys. ok, not explicitly, but that was the implication. i was happy to see that images of success included kids imagining futures and not solely limited to test performance, however i worry that the message of "knowledge is power" might get muddied if not situated within a more critical framework that includes questions like, "in what ways do we construct knowledge?" and "whose knowledge has what power where? and what can we do about that?"
oprah has a choice, and the power, to do both - that is, praise these approaches/programs and also create a space to continue to push the potential complacency by demanding a critical lens. that is, yes we need schools were there are small enough classroom populations where teachers and students can get to really know one another; and we need a variety of resources to be available that stimulate kids imaginations, and not just help them meet standards or pass tests; and opportunities to engage in collective projects that actually do something in the world... there's more, but i'm tired and need more chai. bottom line: ed researchers are (hybrid) people, too, and possibly could have some interesting things to say about the state (crisis...?) of education today - things that not only true to do the same ol' better but that propose ways of engaging and educating that recognize and create spaces for individual hybridity. thank you alicia, marc, madonna, and angela. :)


youth (voices) in adult dominated spaces

after i'd been soaked with surprisingly persistent san francisco rain for most of the five days i was out there, i walked into the marriott hotel on 4th street to a room where folks - youth, mostly - were sharing pieces of their documentary work. folks from YouthRadio and Berkeley High's CAS program talked, screened, and engaged in the process of doing a different kind of (re)presentation work in the world.

about a week ago at TC's Threat N Youth conference, i had the good fortune to chair a panel where, once again, youth were not only at the front of the room (figuratively), but were the ones who participated in the conversation about who represents what, when, how; and why it matters; oh, and, what exactly do we mean when we talk about race and gentrification and class and (in)equity...??

despite these brief moments of youth voices and presence in the adult-dominated worlds of academic conferences, the remains a skepticism on the part of some these adults about what it does to disrupt the adult norms in such venues. when i express support of these moments, i am met with responses such as "kids put front and center further isolates and sensationalizes their lives," or, "the value stands in the interpretation of their words, and not so much in their words or thoughts alone." i certainly don't want to put young people in hostile environments, but i can't help but wonder if the desire to "protect" young people is more about protecting them from adults have to say about them, than from what adults may say to them during a "live" discussion.

the take home message: check out YouthRadio and the work of lissa soep - ed director of youth radio - who was recently featured in tcrecord.



picture this: an 8 year old, whose parents emigrated from india only four short years earlier, is dancing around on the hardwood floor in her living room to the tune of "material girl." this is the song written on a piece of folded, white paper that she picked out of a hat and is now acting out. yes, that third grader was me and material girl was one of the first songs i knew all the lyrics to. i think it was all the pink in the video that got to me - that, and i couldn't quite figure out how madonna got her voice to catch or yelp or whatever it is she does in between some of the phrases in the song.

anyway, fast forward... 22 years (wow!) and madge is back on tour. and i have to say, im not sure how i feel about it. i like to work out to some of her tracks - particularly helpful for getting past stomach cramps while running is the crazy "ray of light" collection, interspersed with some old school janet jackson (clearly, i'm stuck in the 80s) - however, at what point is it enough? im not talking about the touring, or writing, or recording, but the extensive and expansive quality of the shows that she and other performers continue to put on. the lights, lasers, costume changes, extras... it adds up! ticket prices for "bad" seats in the $60-70 range? i clearly didn't choose the most lucrative profession... yet, even as i write this, i suppose the series of events that make up the tour are akin to the running of a play or musical that some people are willing to shell out big bucks for.

i guess my real question is: why is everything so damn expensive?
(says the 8 year old inside me itching to dance around to some madonna, live. maybe i'll go do just that...)


just for fun

(message rec'd from my sister via her friend)

On Wednesday of this week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1 o'clock the time and date will be:
01:02:03 04/05/06.

boys, not men

this past friday i was a part of panel titled, Teaching African American Males: What Educators Need to Know, which was held at Penn GSE. it was a privilege to be invited back to my alma mater and in the company of the other speakers on the panel: vivian gadsden and howard stevenson. i came away with two key points that resonate strongly with the work that i do.

gadsden shared statistics about the experiences of black males that should give more of us a strong call to action to make changes in how we "do" education. among them:
15% of black males are in special education - twice the number of black females.
she then noted that we should not be making comparisons between black boys and girls. she argued that both are being summarily dismissed by the educational system.

stevenson, drawing on his PLAAY project, began his brief response by asking the packed audience to repeat after him:
"boys not men"
he then showed a video in which images of adolescent african american males playing basketball, laughing, talking, and reflecting were cut with more staggering statistics that brought home the point that these young men, and many others like them, are being read by the world, at large, as men whose futures are already written for them. as one of the young men in the film notes "i'm only 16."

how do we get past the multiple mis-knowings that occur daily - in the media, in schools, in everyday interactions?