We did not mythologize MLK as a passive radical, rejecting the whitewashing far too common with King’s ideas and life.

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

From 1984 until 2002, 18 years, I taught high school English in the town and school where I grew up and graduated, moving into the classroom of my high school English teacher, Lynn Harrill, where I had sat as a student just six years earlier.

My first few years were overwhelming and at times terrifying; I taught five different preparations — managing fifteen different textbooks — and several of the classes were filled to capacity, 35 students packed into the room.

Throughout those two decades spanning the 1980s and past the 1990s, I was a student-centered teacher who had a wonderful relationship with my students — lots of mutual love and respect. …


We know of course there’s really no such thing as the “voiceless.” There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.

ARUNDHATI ROY: THE 2004 SYDNEY PEACE PRIZE LECTURE

Labeled as “surreal” by Emilia Petrarca, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R — Georgia) wore as “censored” face mask while speaking from the floor on Congress.

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First, we must recognize that statistically no one in the U.S. has the sort of access to a bully pulpit that a member of Congress has (535 out of 330 million people), and then, we must consider whether Greene is incredibly dishonest, spectacularly ignorant, or both.

After the insurrection at the Capitol by rightwing domestic terrorists supporting Trump — and emboldened by Trump and many Republicans in office — conservatives and Republicans across the U.S. …


She was born in November 1963/The day Aldous Huxley died/And her mama believed/That everyone could be free

“RUN, BABY, RUN,” SHERYL CROW

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Original artwork from 1977

The summer of 1975, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and fitted with a form-fitting plastic body brace anchored with aluminum rods and spanning from my pelvic bone to my chin. This was a hell of a way to start my ninth grade at Woodruff Junior High.

I would wear that brace 23 hours a day, gradually weaning myself off the support as my vertebrae both (mostly) repaired their disfigurement and eventually stopped growing; this meant I wore the brace for much of my high school experience as well. …


The paradox of Trump is that he has become the embodiment of “there is no truth except what I declare is true” (even when those claims are baseless and repeatedly self-contradictory).

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

While it now seems like generations ago, in the spring of 2008, I joined other faculty at Furman University in an organized protest labeled “We Object.” Through the university’s connections with FU graduate and former governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford, George W. Bush was invited to speak at commencement.

Recent university tradition was to have two students speak, but did not include outside speakers. None the less, students and the community (overwhelmingly conservative) seemed to welcome the opportunity to have a two-term Republican president speak to graduates.

The protest took many forms, including reaching out to the media, posting an official “We Object” statement, and wearing a “We Object” shirt, revealed from beneath professor’s gowns during the speech. …


The boundaries in 2020 and 2021 of democracy, however, have now been crossed, and Republicans have made that decision for the political party.

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Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

As a part of the education community, I noticed two immediate responses to the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol by domestic terrorists seeking to disrupt the confirmation of the next President of the U.S.

One response anticipated that (once again) teachers would be on the front line of addressing trauma by suggesting ways that examining the riot in DC could be (should be) incorporated into the classroom — notably for those teachers dealing with history.

Another response, however, was the both-sides warning calling for no politics in the classroom.

Some educators received the identical email shared after the November elections, essentially telling teachers not to take political sides in the classroom. …


What strikes me about this aspect of A Man is that we rarely utter what Kido is confronting: you are your job (especially for those of us living in capitalism).

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Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

From “you are what you eat” to “when you have sex with someone, you are having sex with all of their sexual partners,” we seem obsessed with fear-mongering in order to shape how people behave, and thus, who people become.

About fifty pages into Keiichiro Hirano’s A Man, the reader experiences the first hints of what becomes one motif of the novel:

In the end, although Kido would only drift to law school in the grips of the fuzzy thinking that plagues many students of the humanities, his father’s words would contribute to his firm decision, while enrolled there, to try to see things through and become a lawyer. …


I’m Nobody! Who are you?

EMILY DICKINSON

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Our selective anger about the use of “Dr.” reveals a great deal about those who are angry. (Photo by Kilian Seiler on Unsplash)

Several years ago I was on a panel for a public forum held on my university’s campus. At the Q&A ending the panel talk, a colleague from another discipline asked a detailed question grounded in their discipline.

I watched their face and eyes as I navigated not only the arcane and somewhat navel-gazing elements of the question (we academics love to hold forth with questions that are thinly veiled opportunities to hear ourselves talk) but also that this conversation between the two of us was almost entirely alienating for 75% of the audience, which included several of my students. …


Candor is incompatible with freedom.

The Naked Eye, Yoko Tawada

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Photo by Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash
i am afraid
neither of poets
nor of polar bears

none of this
really has much
to do with fear

most of this
i think instead
is a matter of proximity

i will never be close
enough to a polar bear
to realize that fragility

i am terrified however
of never again being
mauled by poetry

you see i will never walk
across the snow covered ice
trafficked by polar bears

but i long to be
lured over and over
onto the thin ice of a poem

—P.L. Thomas

Normal people marry and have children. Normal people seek out careers and center the focus of their lives on those careers.

What is normal? Are you normal? Am I normal?

“Normality was contagious, and exposure to the infection was necessary to keep up with it,” explains Natsuki in Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings.

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If we accept that “normal” describes what is typical, and thus, what we may expect in any circumstance, then the novels of Murata are themselves not normal.

And the central characters in both Earthlings and Convenience Store Woman are certainly not normal either.


What popular and conservative attacks of higher education often miss is that academia is incredibly traditional, especially in terms of policies and practices that are sexist, racist, classist, and (often) petty.

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Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

I posted a fairly tame Tweet about the Wall Street Journal‘s recent Op-Ed attacking Jill Biden using “Dr.” and editorial doubling-down on negative responses to the Op-Ed (none of which I will link here):

About

Paul Thomas

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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