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Classroom “objectivity”?

From Eden Torres, Chicana Without Apology: The New Chicana Cultural Studies:

Like any teacher, I bring a specific subject position into the classroom (albeit a shifting and fluid one in many ways). This means I can teach certain topics with more than words, texts, or carefully memorized facts. When I speak about oppression, I teach with emotion, personal stories, body language, and fluctuating tones of voice that indicate some visceral response on my part. All of this grows out of my history (both personal and communal), as well as my day-to-day experiences in the contemporary world. I do not hide behind false objectivity because I want my students to understand the toll of racism, classism, sexism, and compulsory heterosexuality on real people. I want them to see the way in which intertwining, overlapping, intersecting, or simultaneously occurring forms of prejudice, and exploitation actually wound people. I want to show them my scars, to disrupt the socialization processes that have made it so easy for them to disconnect from the ways people are harmed by various oppressive systems. I want them to understand the difference between and the sameness of the physical devastation and the psychological damage caused by the increasing disparity between the wealthy and the poor.

This does not mean that I have to pretend to be objective. Being mainstream and expressing the norms of the dominant society is not being objective either. One of my favorite fortune cookie messages—one of very few I have saved—says, “Do not practice moderation to excess.” Part of what makes me an effective teacher is that I am open about my passions and politics. My agenda is not hidden. I own it. While I believe in much of what postmodern theory has to offer, I could never transmit the relativist assumptions that often come with it. Like most Freirean practitioners, I see teaching as a political act. Anyone who pretends otherwise is lying. Again, this does not mean I expect to convert all students to my way of thinking. My only objective is to teach them to be politically conscious, critical thinkers. If this means that conservative, mainstream students become acutely aware of power differentials and the meaning of their own social locations, and then decide to own that space and take responsibility for working diligently to maintain their power and privilege then I’ll be sad. But at least I’ll know that they are doing so consciously. Such an enemy is much easier to fight than the apathetic, well intentioned, but still supremacist student who claims to see (or do) no evil. What I do expect IS to be able to enter into discussions with them in which we will all test our assumptions and ideas. (82-83)

Red Line, Chicago, Part II


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Red Line, Chicago

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Three gatekeepers

Writing class, in-class writing

Depaul University, Fall 2015

Formalized curiosity

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.

— Zora Neale Hurston
 

From David Carr’s memoir, “The Night of the Gun”

Turning his life around through work:

Still, the fundaments of the [memoir] genre require me to run close and careful analysis on how exactly I reversed course from certain damnnation and came to a professional life beyond all expectation. So here goes:

I worked a lot.

Carr.

So much more

“The truth? I wasn’t familiar with the truth.”

“Back in 1982, I was working at Time Life in a department called Copy Process. It was dead-end, boring work. I worked one day a week, a graveyard shift, six p.m. to six a.m. I would get a two-hour supper break around midnight. Mondays were when the magazines that Time Life published came out: Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Fortune. There were always stacks of new mags lying around. It was good to get them free. Fringe benefit. I was tearing out all kinds of ads from the magazines. I’d been tearing since 1977, avoiding the editorial parts of the magazines, only interested in the psychologically hopped-up, art directed, “creative” pages…the pages that looked to me like some kind of cross between Rod Serling and Groucho Marx. Unlike the editorial parts, the ads didn’t have an author and seemed to suggest something I could believe in. I was struggling in those days with identity and truth and anger and the ads provided an alternative reality. Something comforting and exciting and close to what a movie experience does when the lights go down and a story is told. Who cares if Newport Lights was putting on a stupid, made- up show. I wanted a show. I wanted entertainment. The truth? I wasn’t familiar with the truth. Why would I have been? No one ever told it.”

Richard Prince

Paolo Freire

NYT: First Days of School Through the Decades

First Days of School Through the Decades
NYT / ELIZABETH A. HARRIS SEPT. 8, 2015

From the photo archives of The New York Times, here is a decade-by-decade look at city schools and moments in their history. Students return to the classroom Wednesday.

Mercedes Sosa: Gracias A La Vida (2009)

Spanish: Gracias a la vida

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro
Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco
Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado
Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado el sonido y el abedecedario
Con él las palabras que pienso y declaro
Madre amigo hermano y luz alumbrando,
La ruta del alma del que estoy amando.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la marcha de mis pies cansados
Con ellos anduve ciudades y charcos,
Playas y desiertos montañas y llanos
Y la casa tuya, tu calle y tu patio.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me dio el corazón que agita su marco
Cuando miro el fruto del cerebro humano,
Cuando miro al bueno tan lejos del malo,
Cuando miro al fondo de tus ojos claros.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto,
Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto
Los dos materiales que forman mi canto
Y el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto
Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto.

Gracias a la vida
Gracias a la vida
Gracias a la vida
Gracias a la vida.

English: Thanks to Life

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
“Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human brain,
When I see good so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes…

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me longing.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone’s song, which is my very song.

Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life.

With Joan Baez, 2008.

One-star Yelp Reviews of National Parks

For the past several years, an experimental genre of creative nonfiction has been quietly thriving online: one-star Yelp reviews of national parks. Don’t let the unsophisticated and often ungrammatical prose fool you; these works have taken the pulse of America. Read on as our nation’s treasures and all manners of natural beauty are cast aside as garbage: Death Valley is “the ugliest place I have ever seen,” Yosemite needs more parking lots, and Carlsbad Caverns appeals only if “you find big caves and rocks overwhelmingly fascinating.”

Via the Paris Review.

Homeless students

CHE: How to Help the Students With No Homes?

During the school year, Ms. Banjo, who is 20, lives in the dorms at Norfolk State University. But on summer vacation and during other breaks, she has no set place to go. There’s no room for her in the rooming house where her parents live, so she crashes with friends or sublets space in a cramped apartment. Most days, her only meal is the sandwich and fries she gets during her shift at McDonald’s. She returns there on her days off just to have something to eat.

Ms. Banjo says she tries not to dwell on her status but “to put it in a box and act like a normal person.” She avoids calling her parents, because she doesn’t like to be reminded that they’re still struggling.

Taking My Parents to College

… and a week into classes, I received the topics for what would be my first college paper, in an English course on the modern novel. I might as well have been my non-English-speaking grandmother trying to read and understand them: The language felt that foreign. I called my mom at work and in tears told her that I had to come home, that I’d made a terrible mistake.

She sighed into the phone and said: “Just read me the first question. We’ll go through it a little at a time and figure it out.”

I read her the topic slowly, pausing after each sentence, waiting for her to say something. The first topic was two paragraphs long. I remember it had the word intersectionalities in it. And the word gendered. And maybe the phrase theoretical framework. I waited for her response and for the ways it would encourage me, for her to tell me I could do this, that I would eventually be the first in my family to graduate from college.

“You’re right,” she said after a moment. “You’re screwed.”

NYT/Jennine Capó Crucet: Taking My Parents to College

Maria Martha, Managua

The brain was not designed for reading.

Adapting to read

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read.

Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. Sure, there might be pictures mixed in with the text, but there didn’t tend to be many distractions. Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout, researchers said. We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.

The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scroll­ing and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” said Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading. “We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Washington Post: Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

Mercedes Sosa – Sólo le pido a Dios (with León Gieco)

Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 19, 1984

Sólo le pido a Dios

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el dolor no me sea indiferente,
que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
vacío y solo, sin haber hecho lo suficiente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que lo injusto no me sea indiferente,
que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla,
después que una garra me arañó esta suerte.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el engaño no me sea indiferente,
si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos,
que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el futuro no me sea indiferente,
desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar
a vivir una cultura diferente.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que la guerra no me sea indiferente,
es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
toda la pobre inocencia de la gente.

English

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the suffering
That the very dried up death doesn’t find me
Empty and without having given my everything

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the wars
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people People…people, people

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the injustice
That they do not slap my other cheek
After a claw has scratched my whole body

I only ask of God
He won’t let me be indifferent to the wars
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people
It is a big monster which treads hard
On the poor innocence of people People…people…people

Morning commute

La Palma, Nicaragua

What is Interesting Writing in Art History?

Part of talking about writing in art history, theory, and criticism is therefore indulgence: writing is what people think about when they can, when they have leisure time, but it’s not a required subject. Another part of talking about writing is the plain style and its companions in classical rhetoric: direct speech, reasonably free of jargon, which pays attention to its argument. Both of these operate in university seminars, sometimes in succession, sometimes in opposition.

I have in mind both those ways of thinking about art historical writing, and two others. The third is a way of critiquing writing that pays attention the way one pays attention to a novel, a poem, or any other work of serious literature. This is close reading: attending to voice, pace, style, manner, word choice. Being patient and demanding about how the writing becomes expressive, how its message finds its form. Here I would want to apply the full arsenal of literary criticism from Empson to De Man, from Derrida to Perloff. This is an inherently unfair thing to do to writing that hasn’t been made for that kind of reading, but my criterion will always be that whatever is said about style, manner, and voice has to be connected to what the scholar meant to communicate. In other words: no carping about writing unless the writer’s choices have a nameable effect on what is being argued. In that way close reading, no matter how unusual it is in art history, is pertinent.

The fourth kind of reading is radical, and I will not be doing much of it, but it is presupposed in each of these three strategies. This is reading nonfiction as if it is fiction. It is probably not yet possible to do that with Krauss’s texts: they are still close to us in time, and their themes and dramatis personae are still largely our own. But a time will come, as it does for all writers, when Krauss’s concerns are more about her than about Picasso or Duchamp, and then her writing will exist as writing. Perhaps it is time to begin thinking about that possibility.

— James Elkins, What is Interesting Writing in Art History?

Little League All Star Game

Nicaragua All Stars vs. Managua All Stars, Nicaragua — Roberto Clemente Stadium.

Experimenting with TinType

Mérida, Nicaragua

Maderas Volcano

Ometepe

Layla & Concepción Volcano

WRD Awards Party

Emma K.’s writing award:

Best Undergraduate Project in Professional, Technical, or Digital Writing

“The University and Student Relationship: An Analysis of DePaul and its Students Through Digital Everyday Texts” by Emma Kolander

Accumulation (Brandt) and Acceleration (Keller)

Acceleration occurs in two related ways. First, in the smaller sense, literacy technologies and practices tend toward speed. That is, they aim to achieve some end faster. Second, in the large sense, literacies can accelerate: appearing, changing, merging with other literacies, or fading at a faster rate. For instances of literacies appearing, one must only think of the fact that MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter all arrived within a three-year span, 2003–2006, and quickly became popular literacy practices. A form of literacy can rise to importance and fall out of practice in a short amount of time.

For instance, knowing how to use hypertext markup language (HTML code) was an important aspect of electronic literacy in the 1990s, but is now fading. Some teachers may recall developing pedagogies around multiuser domains (MUDs), Second Life, and MySpace; these, too, have largely faded. An established form of literacy may remain but in an altered form. E-mail was a dominant form of electronic communication in various life domains, but has lost most of its social use to Facebook and texting, leaving it to fulfill the more formal communication needs of business and education. As literacies remain, they change: web browsers have moved from multiple windows to multiple tabs for multitasking purposes and continuously offer extensions to control more of the online experience; Facebook continues to update its functions and appearance; and cell phones have added keyboards for faster texting, application software (apps) for specific tasks, and speech recognition and activation software (e.g., Siri for the iPhone).

A significant effect of accumulation and acceleration is that what counts as effective reading and writing becomes a moving target—over time and from context to context. People in various situations must keep up with the latest changes, whether they involve using Facebook for social purposes, employing social media for workplace goals, or learning the latest course management software. Literacies are increasingly tied to contexts that value and reinforce speed and brevity. Much has been written to disparage “fast literacies” such as text messaging and multitasking, with the implied or openly stated conclusion that education should provide a bulwark against these anti-intellectual practices (Carr 2010; Edmundson 2004; Faigley 2006). I respond to some of these criticisms throughout the book and articulate a nuanced, productive relationship between “slower” and “faster” forms of literacy. If we take accumulation and acceleration as defining features of contemporary literacy, then a goal for educators should include helping students gain versatile, dexterous approaches to both reading and writing so they are prepared to navigate a wide range of ever-changing literacy contexts.

From Chasing Literacy: Reading and Writing in an Age of Acceleration 

Every classroom.

Every classroom is an act of making citizens in the realm of that room, and every room is a figure for the larger community. ~ A. Bartlett Giamatti, “To Make Oneself Eternal,” from A Free and Ordered Space.

fish-critical-thinking

Three gatekeepers

Cormorant, Belmont Seawall

Purdue workshop

I gave a workshop at Purdue-Calumet on teaching with the New York Times.

Chicago, Soccer, June

Charles Barsotti

NYT: Charles Branum Barsotti

Practice

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” — Jack Kerouac

A free school under a bridge in India.



Via Frenchchairs:

It is an unusual school in an unusual location and is run by an unusual teacher.

Rajesh Kumar is a shopkeeper by profession but spends hours every morning teaching around 80 children from the poorest of the poor in India’s capital.

The 43-year-old visited the construction of the Delhi transit station a few years ago and was disturbed by the sight of many children playing at the site instead of attending school.

When he questioned the parents working at the sites they all said there were no schools in the vicinity and no one cared.

Consequently, his open-air class room was born – between pillars and beneath the tracks of the Delhi transit system, known as the Metro.

Every few minutes a train passes above, the children unperturbed by its sounds.

There are no chairs or tables and the children sit on rolls of polystyrene foam placed on the rubble.

Three rectangular patches of wall are painted black and used as a blackboard.

Anonymous donors have contributed cardigans, books, shoes and stationery for the children, as their parents cannot afford them.

One unnamed individual sends a bag full of biscuits and fruit juice for the pupils every day – another incentive for the children to turn up for their studies.

Essays

“I tell college students that by the time they sit down at the keyboard to write their essays, they should be at least 80 percent done. That’s because ‘writing’ is mostly gathering and structuring ideas.” David Brooks, December 30, NYT.

The Sidney Awards, Part 1
The Sidney Awards, Part 2

“This year, many of these essays probed the intersection between science and the humanities. Links to all can be found on the online edition of this column.”

“Proper Spring”

some “proper spring”
this is!
snow at the gate
Issa

Spring

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
April
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

David Brooks on “The Practical University” (Excerpts)

“What is a university for?”

“Are universities mostly sorting devices to separate smart and hard-working high school students from their less-able fellows so that employers can more easily identify them? Are universities factories for the dissemination of job skills? Are universities mostly boot camps for adulthood, where young people learn how to drink moderately, fornicate meaningfully and hand things in on time?”

Technical knowledge is like the recipes in a cookbook. It is formulas telling you roughly what is to be done. It is reducible to rules and directions. It’s the sort of knowledge that can be captured in lectures and bullet points and memorized by rote.”

Practical knowledge is not about what you do, but how you do it. It is the wisdom a great chef possesses that cannot be found in recipe books. Practical knowledge is not the sort of knowledge that can be taught and memorized; it can only be imparted and absorbed. It is not reducible to rules; it only exists in practice.”

The Practical University April 4, 2013

Ireland

galway
Galway bus station


Sligo

“Substance, Shadow, and Spirit”

T’ao Ch’ien (365-427 CE)

This calligraphic version of “Substance, Shadow, and Spirit” — with black ink on rice paper — is by Rong Shang of Bejing, China, and San Francisco, 2006.

“Every one, noble or base, brilliant or dumb, clings tenaciously to life, which is nothing but a delusion. Therefore, I have given voice to Substance and Shadow to express their grief, and let the Soul or Spirit resolve their problems by following the course of Nature. Those who are concerned with this matter understand my intention.”

Substance to Shadow 

Earth and heaven endure forever,
Streams and mountains never change.
Plants observe a constant rhythm,
Withered by frost, by dew restored.
But man, most sentient being of all,
In this is not their equal.
He is present here in the world today,
Then leaves abruptly, to return no more.
No one marks that there is one man less —
Not even friends and family think of him;
The things that he once used are all that’s left
To catch their eye and move them to grief.
I have no way to transcend change,
That it must be, I no longer doubt.
I hope you will take my advice:
When wine is offered, don’t refuse.

Shadow to Substance 

No use discussing immortality
When just to keep alive is hard enough.
Of course I want to roam in paradise,
But it’s a long way there and the road is lost.
In all the time since I met up with you
We never differed in our grief and joy.
In shade we may have parted for a time,
But sunshine always brings us close again.
Still this union cannot last forever —
Together we will vanish into darkness.
The body goes; that fame should also end
Is a thought that makes me burn inside.
Do good, and your love will outlive you;
Surely this is worth your every effort.
While it is time, wine may dissolve care
That is not so good a way as this.

Spirit’s Solution

The Great Potter cannot intervene —
All creation thrives of itself.
That Man ranks with Earth and Heaven,
Is it not because of me?
Though we belong to different orders,
Being alive, I am joined to you.
Bound together for good or ill
I cannot refuse to tell you what I know:
The Three August Ones were great saints
But where are they living today?
Though P’eng-tsu lasted a long time.
He still had to go before he was ready.
Die old or die young, death is the same,
Wise or stupid, there is no difference.
Drunk every day you may forget,
But won’t it shorten your life span?
Doing good is always a joyous thing
But no one has to praise you for it.
Too much thinking harms my life;
Just surrender to the cycle of things,
Give yourself to the waves of the Great Change
Neither happy nor yet afraid.
And when it is time to go, then simply go
Without any unnecessary fuss.

Translation by Angela Jung Palandri, “The Taoist Vision: A Study of T’ao Yuan-ming’s Nature Poetry.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy. 15 (1988): 97-121.

Edward Said on travel books and travel expectations

“Travel books or guidebooks are about as ‘natural’ a kind of text, as logical in their composition and in their use, as any book one can think of, precisely because of this human tendency to fall back on a text when the uncertainties of travel in strange parts seem to threaten one’s equanimity.”

“Many travelers find themselves saying of an experience in a new country that it wasn’t what they expected, meaning that it wasn’t what a book said it would be. And of course many writers of travel books or guidebooks compose them in order to say that a country is like this, or better, that it is more colorful, expensive, interesting, and so forth. The idea in either case is that people, places, and experiences can always be described by a book, so much so that the book (or text) acquires a greater authority, and use, even than the actuality it describes.”

– Orientalism (1978)

State Street, Chicago

Managua and León, Nicaragua

Managua, Catedral Metropolitana de la Purisima Concepcion

León sidewalk
Managua barber
León bus


Las Peñitas fishermen and vultures

“In the Suburbs”

There’s no way out.
You were born to waste your life.
You were born to this middleclass life
As others before you
Were born to walk in procession
To the temple, singing.

Louis Simpson

DePaul University Writing Showcase

Lincoln Park, Chicago

Henry Rollins

Sunrise, Chicago


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