As we head into July (!) already, I realize I've been in my new apartment for a month now and still haven't gotten around to posting pictures. I could make excuses, but I won't . . . I'll just share a few with you now.
You can see the larger slide show if you click on this link.
Just heard this story from the StoryCorps oral history project on NPR this morning while riding to work on the T. It's best listened to on the audio, but you can read a partial transcript at the site as well.
. . . and I might just be driven into teaching out of sheer outrage.
Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle reports in his June 18 column Trauma Techniques:
One day last month, representative of the California Highway Patrol visited classrooms [in Oceanside, CA] to deliver some bad news: Some classmates of theirs had been killed in traffic accidents. Alcohol apparently was involved. The students, as might be expected, were stunned. Many wept. Some screamed. School stopped as people comforted each other.
Then, a few hours later, the administrators announced that it was all a joke. Well, not a joke - it was an educational experience. The administrators had set up the stunt to make the students understand how very sad death is, and how drinking booze and driving is a bad thing. It was something the students will never forget, the administrators said, and oh how true that is.
[. . .] These are professional educators, and they are comfortable with the following pedagogic theory: Trauma is good for kids. It's an effective teaching tool. Why not teach American literature the same way? Harpoon a real whale and watch it die - "Moby-Dick" brought to life! They'll remember that.
[. . .]Have we really forgotten our own teenage years? Grief and death and desperate unhappiness were not strangers to us then. Those dark feelings were fueled in part by a sense of powerlessness. So maybe the children of Oceanside thought they were getting a handle on things - bam, the teachers play a joke. Although, as school Superintendent Larry Perondi said, "We did this in earnest. This was not done to be a prankster."
Oh, like that makes a difference.
There are so many things wrong with this incident (to paraphrase Dianne Wiest from "Parenthood") that the more I think about it, the angrier I get. Exactly how many adults did this idea get run passed and approved by in order for this school-wide charade to play out? Even in a smallish school, it would take a fair number. That means there are a lot of grown-ups charged with caring for young people who hold a number of insulting assumptions about them beginning with the belief that unless they are put through false suffering children and young people, categorically, don't understand the reality of suffering and death.
I guarantee you that there were many, many kids in that school who had already lost parents, lost friends, faced life-threatening illness and injury, the violence of war, or other traumas. Teenagers don't need adults to playact "real life" for them--they're already living it just like the Big Kids (who in this instance exercised the sort of poor judgment our society often casually attributes to the young).
Instead of achieving their goal of teaching teens about the dangerous consequences of drinking and driving, I'm betting the adults in that high school taught their students never to trust another word that comes out of their teachers' mouths from now until graduation day.
Hi all! I flew in to Boston's Logan airport at 12:10 this morning, after long delays in the Chicago O'Hare airport on my way home from the 14th Annual Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. The conference was at the University of Minnesota (U of M to the locals although to this Michigander that abbreviation only means one thing). It was a beautiful weekend and the campus--which spans the Mississippi River in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul--was a stunning location, particularly coming as many of us did from the first sweltering heat wave of the East Coast summer. The building on the left is the Weisman Art Museum, designed by (who would have guessed?) architect Frank Gehry, and perched on the high Eastern bank of the river.
I attended a number of awesome roundtable discussions and seminars, including one on the history of childhood and youth ("Childhood as a Useful Category of Historical Analysis"), one on 1970s popular culture and gender, and one on the history of lesbian and gay families in the 20th century. I also got a chance to catch up with my undergraduate adviser, and enjoyed dinner in Dinkytown with my current program adviser. I even managed to wedge in a visit to the campus bookstore!
The conference gave me some good ideas about possible directions in which to take my thesis research--whichever body of primary sources I end up using, I will certainly be focusing on ideas of experimental education and educational theory (pedagogy) in the mid-twentieth century (1960s and 70s). I am interested in the relationship between new educational practices and political movements such as feminism, environmentalism, peace activism, and radicalism on both the left and the right. Home education is, of course, one form of this experimental education. There are some others--including early women's studies programs and the Oregon Extension program I attended as an undergraduate--that might also provide fruitful material to explore.
As much as I am resistant to formal academic environments, I can't deny that it is encouraging and exciting to be around such incredible group of (largely women) scholars who are all researching thought-provoking topics in women's and gender history. I was honored to have the opportunity to absorb their conversations and look forward to a time when I might more actively participate in the same.
Goslings grow up quickly! Here's a picture I took last week while out on a walk along the Charles river of a group of geese that look like they're at least several families worth of goslings hanging out together. Yesterday, Hanna and I saw what looked like the same crowd of them all swimming together in a little inlet . . . I imagine when you have that many geese children all the same age, it's useful to have other geese parents around to help out!