Friday, May 9, 2014

My students do things

I've never been one of those teachers who had students write songs about history as an assignment or make tv commercials about events from before TV was invented.  I really hate The Week in Rap, in part because it's condescending and in part because the raps are terrible.


Back before spring break, my students challenged me to a rap battle on the history of the Ottomans.  A student who I'd been calling "L.L." all year came up with the following.  It's really pretty good.  And yes, she's conscious of all the gender stuff running around in here. 

Her rap name: Echidna- mother of all monsters.  And she laid down some monster rhymes.


Okay lemme tell y'all something about chapter 8
I spent all night working cuz this can't be late
Or my teacher Soc Sal won't give me credit
Now take a seat, listen up and watch where I'm headed

I'm going way back when to some intense penetration-
By European imperialism all across the nation
The people of the Middle East were discontented
So they took a look at their govt and decided to mend it

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
And once I've passed this class, this song just won't be needed

Now think of the young Turks as the voice of the people
From civil servants, exiles,
Students and military officials

Now more specifically
I'm talking the C U P
Cuz the whole idea of union and progress 

needs a specific committee

Their focus was reforms
And preservation
Tryin to make the empire stay just one nation

Once the sultan was gone
The young Turks they were powerful
Improving education
Attacking corruption
Everything was just wonderful

But what they didn't see coming was the break away
From the parts of the empire that weren't there to stay

Starting with
From Crete to Greece
The Italians taken Tripoli
And Rhodes went to Italy

Admittedly each country became smaller as they scattered
But you know what people always say:
It's not the size that matters

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" 

this rap is movin so fast, I haven't even breathed yet


Ottomanism's goal is a multi-cultural liberal state but it started getting harder what with all that European hate
Here's where the questions of race first got their start
When people identified as Turkish and took that idea to heart

Some other stuff went on that I probably missed
And WWI started at the end of all this

So that's basically an overview of the chapter that we coded
I didn't have a ton of time since my schedules pretty loaded
If the due date was later this might be more informative
But it's ballin as it is so there is no need for more than this!

 Of course, I had something up my sleeve for the win.  To Biz Markie's "You got what I Need"

Have you ever had a country in a bad situation
Trying to figure out how to build a nation
Should we be liberal or religious
The problem’s so tough that it’s egregious

We need to be like birds of a feather
People we gotta flock together
United by language, culture and thought
Turkish is pure, it’s not like you thought

There’s only one way you gotta be
You got get with the C-U-P

Oh baby you, it’s the C-U-P
Don’t wanna be a jerk
You just wanna be a Turk

Oh baby you it’s the CUP
Don’t wanna be a jerk
You just wanna be a Turk

But it was my Bust a Move rip-off FTW

My friend Emin
He’s been scheming
Thinkin’ bout a nation that he’s been dreamin
You join the movement if you can
Cause nobody wants to be Ottoman

We need culture
To stop western vultures
Carvin up our nation like robotic mulchers

Now you know what you gotta be
Gotta get with the CUP
(You want it, you got it) (You want it a nation you got it)

It was teacher ftw.  Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  (But somebody got extra credit).  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The allies you have vs. the allies you want

John Spencer got an earful from the twitterverse yesterday.  His blog post on the Louis CK twitter rant got picked up by Alec Couros and folks (led by ed tech writers Anya Kamenetz and Audrey Watters) started piling on.  I feel for John Spencer, who likes look a pretty good science teacher.  But the discussion quickly spiraled out of the narrow claim he thought he was making into much larger issues he left open in what was supposed to be a quickie blog post.  Always, looking for  a good fight, I piled on last night and I want to clarify my thinking here because Spencer's post deserves more than just a fisk.

Spencer's post argued that Louis CK getting up in arms over four inter-related issues obscured rather than clarified the various problems he and his child were facing.  Those issues are factory schooling, Common Core, homework, and testing.  Now, Spencer is of course, right about that.  Twitter is not a tool suited to reasoned debates over education policy.  The problem is that this isn't the time for reasoned debates over education policy.  You can point out until you are blue in the face(book) that Common Core and testing culture have nothing to do with each other.  There simply isn't a constituency for that at this moment and it's pointless to try to make one.  We are past the point of no return in terms of rhetoric and social policy, and media.  Common Core and testing are linked in people's minds.  If you are against testing culture, it makes political sense to align with people who are against Common Core.  After you beat back testing culture, you can take another stab at creating newer and better standards and do a better job selling them politically.

What Spencer doesn't realize is that policy isn't made by experts.  It's made by politicians and bureaucrats, and teachers, and parents and local school boards, and state elected officials and a dozen other constituencies.  It's a political process.  Attempts to depoliticize it aren't gong to work for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is that a reliance on "experts" to make policy leads to both administrative capture on the one hand, and calls for centralization and bureaucratization that dismiss the local and particular.  It's the type of high modernist approach that James C. Scott described in Seeing Like a State:  How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Fail

Quite frankly, we shouldn't have expected Common Core to have been so widely adopted as it first was.  And it's rollback should be expected.  It took at least four tries to pass an interstate highway bill that contained a funding mechanism (finally passed in 1956) and people, for the most part, like roads and highways and they especially liked them and needed them in the immediate post-War era.

The task now is to stop the privatization of public education, restore funding, clamp down on charter schools and the shifting of public moneys to private interests, and take another stab at raising standards without the baggage attached to Common Core.  You are not going to accomplish any of that by whining that Louis CK and Matt Damon make a big splash.  You do it by inviting them into the movement and then educating the hell out of them as to what the issues are and how the can help.

You don't go to war with the allies you wish you had, you go with the allies you do have.  And if along the way, you can turn them into the allies you want, so much the better. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Required Reading

Michaela Cross

Why I'm Not A Survivor

If something is defined by its purpose, its activity, what does it say about me when I define myself in the negative? When I become nothing but an action done to me and the actor becomes nothing but that action? At best as a “survivor”, I become “She that was touched”, “She that did not die.” What I do is irrelevant to my identity; my reward is my continuance, my not-death.

I have survived some terrible things, most of them Eagles games. But the hardest thing to survive has been the stories in my own brain. The only thing worse than what the little boy did to me in the basement is  what my brain does to me in the dark too many nights: it tells me that that’s all that I am, all that I’ll ever be.

I created the stories of both little girls, but I get to choose which one is me. The first story is what happened. The second story is the one I made.

Here’s the second. ....

Go read the whole thing as they say.