#HomesteadEd: Six Notes on Schooling, Home, and Homesteading

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“Awareness of the past is an important element in the love of place” (Tuan, 1990).

1. Schools in the U.S. operate on land maintained by settler colonial violence. Too, curriculum and the “grammar of schooling” reinforces the logic that makes this violence permissible (Tyack & Cuban, 1997).

2. Other kinds of relationships to land and to life (human and otherwise) are not only possible but have thrived in alternate contexts.

3. Playing in the park with my daughters, I am reminded of the ways collective space is shared, re-used, and re-interpreted. The lessons of taking turns on the slide, the informal pick-up soccer game, the organized martial arts class, the canoodling teens: this space flexes to the whims and demands of a fluctuating populace.

4. I’ve been thinking a lot about “home” lately. What is it, how does it feel, and for whom? If feeling free and safe might be associated with home, how might we move the practices of schooling closer to the sensemaking of “home”?

5. “Homesteading” is a centuries-old concept. It conveys notions of “back-to-the-land,” self-sufficiency, and collective action for a shared, common good. In the U.S., I think homesteading is usually seen as a new-age-y, off-the-grid movement. Importantly, this movement might be seen as overtly dismissive of the ways land and our purposed agency upon it are deeply intwined with race and power.

6. As a starting place for learning alongside young people, how might we re-center our relationship with the land? The carapace of American democracy is shedding at an alarming rate. Rather than relying on centralized forms of governance and control, perhaps localized forms of living and learning–a critical homesteading–might function as the central nodes for pollinating a freer approach to schooling.

Tamale as Metaphor (Some notes)

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Sitting in her smokey mobile home, my grandma called me a tamale once. I was a young child when her spatula pointed at me both accusingly and endearingly.

I didn’t learn to make them until nestled into Ally’s family decades later. Her grandma’s hands already shook by the time she showed me how to do it. Tremors on masa. Husks sometimes inside out, soaking in perpetuity. We are smeared and spread a little too thin sometimes.

A boy—16 and on fire—once passed out drunk and in tears in my classroom. Just up and fell out of his chair and into his dreams like in a movie. This was just a few months shy of the ubiquity of kids recording every outburst on cellphones, at least saving this brother the indignity of going viral while his heart was melting open.

When I visited him in the nurse’s office after class, he was penning an apology. “Dear Mr. Garcia, there are so many obstacles in my life that God didn’t foretell.” I remember that beginning. I remember it because a 16-year old who is so intimately familiar with how life doesn’t proceed along cleanly cut lines that he naturally wields “foretell” is someone you don’t forget.

We get tied up sometimes. All of us. Our husks maybe a little too rigid for the task of making sure we don’t lose our way. That fibrous thread has helped makes sure we maintain a semblance of normality, even if it cinches a bit too tight.

Learning, my fat fingers fumble with the shifting weight of making something coalesce. Easing the uncooked vessels into their place in that massive pot. They only seem uniform because their guts are all the same.

We all have promise and we all make of that promise with hands that remember, that slip, that shake, that tremor.

I was bothering our nanny last week, thinking about faith and agitated about the obstacles that she was facing that also hadn’t been foretold. I asked “Is this God’s plan?” She said God has a plan, but people have the capacity to act and to change it.

My clumsy thumbs, our foolish hearts, sixteen months of shutting off the world and sheltering in place: these are plan changers. They are amateur fingertips badly wrapping someone else’s meal.

Tamales are a messy metaphor. You squeeze too hard and you end up with a whole bunch of nothing. But there is an act of deliberate creation in making one ready for steaming, for wrapping it up with a bit of care and a bit of patience. They have an expected shape but some are just chueco.

I didn’t know what my grandma meant when she labeled me tamale. I hear it today as uncertain potential, packed by culture, by privilege, by at least a little bit of hope. Her words echo across time. That drunk child, a tamale. Lately I’ve been thinking about him, so earnest and confined as he wrote so clearly of how his life was a series of barricaded desires. How we all get tied up.

Every tamale, a minor gift-wrapped miracle. An act of love and a promise that nothing is foretold.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#13)

A triptych of covers:

  • Here’s the thing, I’m not a Springsteen fan. He’s fine.
  • I don’t even really love the original version of this song (although I think I could personally get down with it as a karaoke jam).
  • I do wonder what it says about my tastes that three artists I do like all offer drastically different takes on this song. Is “Dancing in the Dark” the indie-rock version of “My Favorite Things” or “I Got Rhythm” for jazz musicians? A familiar slate on which to do something innovative, meaningful, personal?
  • A few words on each of these versions:
    • The brattiness of the Downtown Boys in this song is just straight up jubilant. Also that… sax solo. The skronkiest of saxophone solos. It sounds both entirely out of place and imperatively necessary—something that could probably be said about every sax solo on the two Downtown Boys records.
    • Hot Chip does their Hot Chip thing adequately in this. I think it’s the interpolation halfway through of an LCD Soundsystem song that I love enough that I used it when I announced my first professor gig nearly a decade ago and that I also had a good friend perform a version of during my wedding ceremony. You just like it when things you like get combined into one (it’s the sonic peanut butter and chocolate model). I think it’s why everyone continues to love that damn cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World that gets played everywhere for everything in all contexts forever (we will have our culture collapse as a montage to Izzy’s, sadly, singularly memorable recording for most).
    • I guess Lucy Dacus offers the most conventional cover of the three. I think I get wrapped up thinking about how damn good of a songwriter she is. I mean, Night Shift. I dig the levity and the fun here and it’s a joy that, to these ears, goes beyond The Boss’s original.
  • I should note that, while I don’t really love Springsteen, I guess I appreciate the work in his wake. This cover aside, I am a big fan of dumb bombastic sax-heavy pop. The upcoming Bleachers album feels like it’s basically one big Springsteen tribute (he even shows up on the first single on the album). I am overdue to draft a dispatch entry on just how much I like Bleachers, btw. Also, in the same way that that solo feels like the entire reason My Guitar Gently Weeps was brought into reality, I kind of think one of Springsteen’s greatest accomplishments was paving the way for this Sharon Van Etten cover.
  • I think the line “This gun’s for hire” is one of the dumbest things ever written in a song.
  • And it gets immediately forgiven because I love belting along with “Even if we’re just dancin’ in the dark” right after it.

 

  • “I’m sick of sittin’ ’round here tryin’ to write this book.”

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#12)

  • An 80-minute joyful dance through crowded streets, parks, ferries, bridges, and ballet studios. I admit that I mainly watched this on repeat in the Winter of 2020/2021 on mute with an alternative soundtrack.
  • I think it was the idea of moving, interacting, and exploring a fully-populated world that was cathartic to watch in the months that the pandemic inched closer to a year in duration. Knowing that something as fun as Girl Walk All Day could happen … and can happen again. That was reassuring.
  • It helps that Anne Marsen & co’s dancing feels accessible and doable(?) for a schlub like me.
  • A decade old film that invokes Girl Talk and some of the more annoying aspects of early oughts culture (it feels flash mob-adjacent), Girl Walk All Day just works.
  • Sure seems like Pharrell was a fan too.

Invitation: The 2021 Speculative Education Colloquium

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The second annual Speculative Education Colloquium is happening on April 3rd from 1-3:30 ET. Free registration for the event is here.

We are absolutely thrilled that this year’s keynote is Dr. Marcelle Haddix. The title of her presentation is: “Are You Ready for Black Future Month? On Education, Possible Futures, and the Black Imagination.”

In addition to Dr. Haddix’s presentation, we will have a set of smaller spaces in the colloquium for intentional dialogue, for designing, and for dreaming. We will also be giving some updates on the future of the colloquium.

If you’re looking for information about last year’s convening, here’s the initial overview, some featured talks are here, and a post mortem is here. These events are co-created by Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia.

 

Why Another Colloquium?

Because things aren’t better.

Because “better” isn’t good enough when the purpose is freedom.

Because education still isn’t about dreaming.

Because the tools we have for this educational world are not just insufficient, they are designed for altogether different purposes than the educational world we are co-creating.

Because stimulus checks and vaccines don’t cure colonialism.

Because we’re tired of “allyship” and “fragility” and “mindsets.”

Because when do teachers and teacher educators and educational researchers actually center love and healing in their work?

Because how can you not center love and healing in a moment when more than half a million people are not with us as a result of willful, governmental negligence in the face of global pandemic?

Because, if we’re being honest, we don’t really know what NFTs are.

Because the portals we were promised a year ago have gone nowhere.

Because, even as we write this, schools have fully embraced “the new normal.”

Because “the new normal” is just “the old normal” with a new adjective.

Because, even though Zoom boxes are unfulfilling, they bring us that much closer to an analog connection with each other.

Because Black lives matter.

Because we also went to all of the amazing online talks and events over the past year and the world still doesn’t look much rosier.

Because your webcam and your Facebook account and your doorbell are all probably spying on you.

Because we are far too aware that dreaming is not simply a tool wielded for good and that white supremacist dreaming helped motivate ongoing violence in this country including insurrection and state-perpetuated murder of Black people. 

Because “learning loss,” “reading gaps,” and standardized testing.

Because George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the 1,127 other people killed by the police in 2020.

Because we are not on the verge of climate catastrophe.

Because we are in the midst of climate catastrophe.

Because our children are going “back” and there’s not a clear timeline of if or when they might be vaccinated.

Because if we do it again, I’m gonna freak out (so do it again).

 

Because we are still here.

Because last year had a lot of tomorrows and yet we are still here.

Because there are a lot of us that refuse to relinquish hope.

Because we have here and and we have now and we have each other.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#11)

 

  • “and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank”
  • The absurdly close, invasive camera that slowly eases off before closing back in on O’Hara in the final seconds.
  • I aspire to end something I write with the same thudding consequentiality as “which is why I’m telling you about it.”

Call for Chapters: Literacies in the Platform Society – Histories, Pedagogies, Possibilities

Phil Nichols and I are seeking chapter proposals for a volume we are in the midst of proposing focused on the possibilities of literacies in relation to platform technologies. This is related to our recent article in Phi Delta Kappan. The full call for chapters is below and abstracts are due April 15, 2021. Please share this call with any interested folks – we are hoping to hear from literacies scholars in varied, global contexts.

 

Call for Chapters

Literacies in the Platform Society: Histories, Pedagogies, Possibilities

Editors: T. Philip Nichols, Baylor University & Antero Garcia, Stanford University

Over the last decade, literacy teaching, learning, and practice have increasingly come to be facilitated by platforms — digital spaces where users engage in social and economic exchange. These include multipurpose giants — like Google, Facebook, and Amazon — that provide infrastructures for producing, storing, and circulating texts; as well as niche resources for designing, remixing, monitoring, assessing, sharing, and discussing them (e.g. TurnItIn, Voicethread, Nearpod, Epic Reading).

To date, attention to such platforms in education (when it exists) has tended to focus on the level of individual apps, and their opportunities and limitations for ethical, equitable, and justice-oriented pedagogy. However, a growing, multidisciplinary literature on “Platform Studies” has begun to recognize platforms not as discrete tools, but as an emergent organizational logic. This logic simultaneously (1) offers a range of consumer-facing services; (2) harvests data on the back-end of these transactions; and (3) interoperates with other platform-providers to share or sell this data, or use it in future product development. The steady creep of this logic, and its attendant datafication processes, into more and more aspects of social life has resulted in what some scholars have termed “the Platform Society.” For literacy studies, this view suggests that, while platforms can appear as ready-made tools for literacy instruction and practice, they are underwritten by sociotechnical architectures (e.g. code, data, algorithms, interfaces, governance structures, business models) whose inherited interests and assumptions may work with or against those of their users.

This raises significant challenges for literacy practice, teaching, and research. While there are rich lineages in literacy studies that explore the critical potentials of digital media for producing, circulating, and interacting with texts, platform technologies tether such activities to design constraints and commercial actors that delimit their form, content, reach, and impacts. Likewise, though there are powerful pedagogies that make use of digital connectivity, platforms enroll educators and students in regimes of surveillance and data-extraction that raise thorny ethical questions for schools. And because many of the mechanisms that drive the ‘platformatzation’ of literacies are hidden beneath-the-screen (e.g. in code, wiring, algorithms), it can be difficult for researchers to account for their roles in co-constructing acts of reading and writing.

This edited volume aims to confront these challenges by bringing together scholarship that examines the shifting meaning, place, and work of “literacies” in the Platform Society. In particular, we are seeking chapters that speak to one (or more) of three themes that will assist the volume in articulating an agenda for literacy studies in emerging platform ecologies. These include:

  • Histories — continuities with, and breaks from, past perspectives in literacy studies that can help us better frame and understand reading and writing in platform environments; 
  • Pedagogies — instructional considerations for teaching with and about platforms in diverse educational settings;
  • Possibilities — opportunities for moving beyond critique of platform technologies and into forms of usage (or resistance) that prefigure alternate relations to digital and data technologies in literacy education.

We welcome chapter submissions that engage such themes through any number of theoretical, methodological, or transdisciplinary orientations. Chapters may, likewise, be empirical or conceptual in nature (though we will aim for a balance of each in the final table of contents). Potential topics might include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • AI/machine-learning technologies in literacy instruction/practice
  • Civic learning and literacies within, within, or against platform ecologies
  • Social media, peer-production, and digital labor
  •  Algorithmic bias and educational justice
  •  Disinformation and ‘media literacy’ in platform ecosystems
  •  Datafication and ‘data literacies’
  • Surveillance/dataveillance in digital reading/writing
  • Reading/writing interfaces and their relation to practice
  • Platform capitalism and governance in- and out-of-schools
  • Intersections of code, coding, and literacies
  • Hardware and physical infrastructures of digital reading and writing
  • Environmental and global impacts of platform technologies

Submission Details

Interested contributors should submit a 500-word abstract to phil_nichols@baylor.edu by April 15, 2021. This abstract should detail the chapter’s contribution and fit within the edited volume, as well as the structure of the proposed chapter (including its argument, theoretical/methodological approach, and sources of evidence/data). The anticipated timeline for the book’s development is:

15 Apr. 2021 — Abstracts due

30 Apr. 2021 — Contributors notified

1 Sept. 2021 — First draft of chapters due

1 Nov. 2021 — Editorial feedback on chapters returned

15 Feb. 2022 — Revised chapters due

The volume will be submitted to Routledge’s “Expanding Literacies in Education” Series, edited by Drs. Jennifer Rowsell, Cynthia Lewis, and Carmen Medina. The anticipated publication date is late-2022 or early-2023.

Some recent media links: Civics and D&D

Nicole Mirra and I wrote an oped last month reflecting on the inauguration, insurrection, and the pathways for civic education.

Somewhat related, we gave a talk at UC Davis titled “I Hesitate But I Do Have Hope: Speculative Civic Literacies for Troubled Times.” The presentation and the links we mentioned are all available here.

I’ve also had a chance to talk about D&D, race, and contemporary culture recently. Here’s an appearance on KPCC, an article in Wired, and an article in the Los Angeles Times. Unsurprisingly, a handful of right wing publications have picked up on this (again). I try to share this research as broadly as possible and encourage folks to take a lot at what I actually wrote and the scholarship of other BIPOC gaming scholars.