This blog is an ongoing celebration of ideas and people and an extension of my educational philosophy.
Here at Refreshing Wednesday, I’ve been holding the mic for students (i.e., learners and learning organizations) since November 2015. One thing that bothers me about my design is that some great ideas — and people — are folded into archives, five years deep, and forgotten.
Recently, I noticed a WordPress feature that allows me to format text blocks as tweets. I’m going to use it to “hold the mic” for the Refreshing Wednesday archives, making it easy for you to become a fellow mic holder, as well. You just have to press Tweet and then edit the text until it looks the way you want it to (this last part is really important because the Tweet text adds an extra URL and often other gibberish). I’ll start with five and we’ll see how this goes.
Here’s an ode to my teachers which is a book I should probably write. Its title pretty much says it all: The teachers who knew me best mattered most.
I watched the Other Music documentary last night. (Below is an image from the documentary website.) I can’t remember a time in the late 90s / early 00s when I didn’t stop at this store on my way into or out of New York City. Often, it was the entire reason for the trip.
In the Introduction to the Anchor Books edition of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood conducts a useful and enlightening self-interview. While talking about the origin of the text, aspects of its composition, and some key elements of the story, she weaves in the occasional question. After asking herself if the book is a “feminist” novel, she writes:
If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure, and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are feminist.
So now I’m asking myself a few questions: Was my last conversation feminist enough? Was my last email exchange feminist enough? Was my last meeting feminist enough?
But why feminist and why enough? Because of what Atwood’s explanation implies. To be feminist could mean to see more of a colleague; to listen to more of what a student is saying and not saying; to help one’s daughter build agency; to make sure a collaborator is an actual co-author, an actual co-creator, an actual and legitimate part of the story; to reject the mind’s insistence on categorizing or typecasting or shaving off the rough edges; to want, instead, all the variety of character. When you’re lucky enough to be in community with others, what happens to them is crucial.
One habit of mind I picked up along the way is to turn things over when I’m looking at them. If I’m stuck on a puzzle, I turn it — or myself — over. If I’m stuck when reading a poem, I read it from the bottom to the top.
So it goes with this quotation from the great Bong Joon-ho.
“I’m not making a documentary or propaganda here. It’s not about telling you how to change the world or how you should act because something is bad, but rather showing you the terrible, explosive weight of reality. That’s what I believe is the beauty of cinema.” (Source)
I’m teaching his film Parasite (as a companion piece to the film Get Out), and my colleague shared the quotation, which I then shared with my students. But outside of class, as I talk with colleagues or cook dinner or drive my son around or watch college basketball or pour silky milk froth into a coffee for my wife or tromp around in the woods or help a student with a paper or sort through the mail, I’ve been looking at Joon-ho’s quotation upside-down and asking myself, is reality — rather than just Joon-ho’s film version of it — truly comprised of a terrible and explosive weight? What, if anything, can be gained from looking at life’s unfolding reality, even in its simplest and most mundane form, in that way?