Here’s a myth I believed until recently: the long summer break of K-12 schools is a carryover from farming cycles that needed youth workers in the summer. I’ve stated this point as fact numerous times to education students. In fact, I used this point as an example of a larger phenomenon in an article I was writing last week. I figured, everybody knows this, but it probably needs a citation. Off I went to locate that citation. It didn’t take long to find out it’s not true.
By the late 19th century, school reformers started pushing for standardization of the school calendar across urban and rural areas. So a compromise was struck that created the modern school calendar.
A long break would give teachers needed time to train and give kids a break. And while summer was the logical time to take off, the cycles of farming had nothing to do with it.
The archival research for this take is from School’s In: The History of Summer Education in American Schools by Kenneth M. Gold.
Sometimes I’m wrong about things. So that’s not what matters here. It’s that I know enough information to be suspicious of this idea in the first place. I know “common” schools started in New England, a place not subject to strong agricultural demands. I know the development of US public schools was uneven, only becoming a uniform system after many compromises. I know urban districts held much power in these compromises, certainly enough power not to lay down to the desires of southern or central US rural districts. I know enough to be suspicious of the myth, but I wasn’t.
Sometimes a compelling explanation can make you overlook things you know, even when the explanation is wrong.
Shipping in a few weeks is the book Women Rapping Revolution on University of California Press. From the jacket:
Focusing on the Foundation, a women-centered hip hop collective, Women Rapping Revolution argues that the hip hop underground is a crucial site where Black women shape subjectivity and claim self-care as a principle of community organizing. Through interviews and sustained critical engagement with artists and activists, this study also articulates the substantial role of cultural production in social, racial, and economic justice efforts.
This book cover! As I’ve said before, I’m a sucker for some good lettering and strong typography, and the lettering on this cover is stunning – especially with the microphone cord wrapping throughout. But there’s something else about the design that is just right on. Each of the outlined figures on the cover is a Detroit hip-hop artist interviewed for the book. The bottom right? That’s Miz Korona. Above her? That’s Mahogany Jones. And so on around the entire cover. It has a “hidden in plain sight” quality that registers familiarity to people in the scene, but it still works for those who are not. Meaghan Berry at Unsold Studio is the master behind this proper design. Bravo.
My excitement for this book gets an extra bump since Kellie Hay (the second author) is my neighbor, and I crossed paths with her and Rebekah often in various hip-hop spots while they were conducting fieldwork for this book. I was happy to provide some words for the back cover:
This book is a vibrant portrait of an evolving, emergent collective of women responsible for a crucial thread of contemporary Detroit hip hop. Rebekah Farrugia and Kellie Hay show us that there is no movement toward racial, environmental, or any kind of justice today that is not led by women and powered by hip hop.
Reading: Distant Reading by Franco Moretti, a collection of 10 essays that reconstructs the emergence of a somewhat controversial branch of literary studies. Central to distant reading is the premise that the amount of extant literature now expands vastly beyond the time humans have to read it; so, we need to stop reading it and instead start studying it from a “distance.” Proponents argue data science and visualization techniques offer this distance. The book has me wondering if there is a similar approach of distant listening happening in ethnomusicology. The sample chains that some folks put together seem to operate on a similar premise.
Writing: The kind with scalpel in hand: editing an internal grant application down for external submission. Slicing a 623 word section down to 400 feels as good as publishing an entire book.
Listening: A mix of tracks produced by Mike Huckaby, a beloved Detroit DJ and producer who died this week. There is a certain cruelty to death when it coincides with a GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost of illness. But anyway. There is a certain phrase I associate with Mike Huckaby. I can’t remember if I heard him say it in an interview, read it in an article about him, or saw it on a shirt he was wearing. But I latched onto it – or rather it latched onto me – because it spoke to a deep commitment of my own I haven’t been able to shake for decades, even when I’ve tried. Here is the phrase:
Music education starts at home.
Each obituary for Huckaby mentions not only his extensive accomplishments as a musician but also the priority he placed on teaching – at home. He regularly taught music production in community spaces, especially to youth, in Detroit.
Viewing: Cloud Atlas, a 2012 science fiction film by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer that spans 500 years. I missed it when it came out and only found it from a list of 30 underrated films to watch while in quarantine.