Hey there! Thanks for keeping up with me through my little newsletter. I’m back with some items to share after an extra week off. I hope you enjoy:
As always, holler back my way with anything that’s catching your eye or moving your feet.
This creative nonfiction piece by Tanya E. Friedman had me tearing up both times I read it. It’s about mathematics, teaching, and the wonder of infinity. I love it and continue to love it so much. It was published in Porcupine Literary, a great little creative writing journal that describes itself like this:
We publish fiction, nonfiction, and poetry about the hard, the beautiful, the exhausting, the outrageous, the moving, the maddening, the ugly, the loving, the grieving, the anything but-perfect teaching and teacher world.
My undergraduate education students are often floored when I introduce them to PL. Reading this piece by Friedman, I’m struck at how it captures the dear interactions in this small scene, which are often stripped soulless in education research.
A quick excerpt from a remembrance of educator and organizer Bob Moses, who passed away last month. I picked out this excerpt for what it says directly and indirectly about teaching and organizing.
He instructed without appearing to do so, disdaining the postures, presumptions, and pretensions of a teacher. While all around him men were adopting the messianic leadership style that Frederick Douglass, Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey had personified—and that white America knew well how to navigate—Bob redefined how radicals who were from elsewhere engaged with the communities where they worked and lived. In some measure, it was a deliberate rejection of the politics of respectability and the Black spokesman model: Important was not what you, the organizer, said—but how you helped the people you were working with say what they needed to say.
I spent a few hours combing through a new report on teacher licensure exams released by National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ). As some readers know, this is a topic I’ve thought a great deal about. I remain critical of NCTQ’s reports because they position themselves as advocates for a more racially diverse teaching profession yet, over and over, refuse to draw insights from the research on this topic that comes directly from aspiring teachers of color. I wrote about this point in rather scathing terms when their last report came out.
The problem continues in this report, but it is useful nonetheless for the data about licensure exam performance across states it now makes available to the public in an online dashboard. This is data I’ve wondered about for years. It’s great that scholars, the general public, and aspiring teachers themselves now have access to it.
I finished my essay on education research activist formations and submitted it for publication. Let’s hope for the best. I got some great feedback from a friend after the first draft, and that sent me back to the woodshed for a deep reorganization. She was able to see a through line I couldn’t, and the new organization brought it out.
I’ve shared a few evolving paragraphs in this newsletter as the piece was developing, and here is the one that remains my favorite and probably the most important. This is the paragraph I’ll go to the mat over.
Education research activist formations are entities that operate mostly separate from academic institutions but where education research or researchers play a role toward activism. Ranging from advocacy to abolition, these formations are not centers or institutes constituted by universities or tightly tethered to individual scholar’s professional trajectories. They exist largely outside of higher education institutions and the most controlling mechanisms of academic fields: academic publishing companies and journals, colleges and departmental hierarchies, top-down budget allocations, and intrenched hiring and promotional practices. They exist as such because, as products and extensions of ongoing settler colonialism, institutions on their own cannot bring about liberatory ends.
I’m holding onto this part (probably too tightly) because underneath or behind it is what brought me to write the essay. It’s a bit of a grievance, and part of the writing process was writing away from that grievance – because I think it’s hard to write a good essay under such conditions. But I won’t let go of it all. And maybe you can tell from what is above.
Here is a range of sounds I’ve been listening to the past few weeks. Click on the images to listen.
Mixes I’m playing
New jazz from saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis. A review of this album said “every solo is saying something specific.”
Left Lane Didon & Tha God Fahim, hip-hop from 2018.
Ways & Means by Rasheed Chappell & 38 Spesh. I heard the track “Rules and Conduct” on a mixtape recently and had to rewind it. (Well, not exactly “rewind,” but you get it). The track sent me searching for the whole album.
Detroit electronic from Sterling Toles.
Last year around this time I sent out issue #29, Cut & Paste, which shares some of my favorite collages from artist Lorna Simpson.