All posts by kdr

Be a Revolutionary Today, as well as Tomorrow

Don’t have the book yet? Get yours now! Visit www.kdreeves.com/books and snag your copy and join the revolution!

Insurrection is a big book about big change, and that unintentionally intimidates, scares, or dissuades some people from believing my ideas and work translate to immediate classroom application. I owe you explicit elucidation when I say that if you read it through, and get it, you can hit the ground running today with revolutionized ideas.

Let’s take assessment as an example.

We complain a lot about grading, both the amount of grading we have to do and the way we have to report grading. So what does the Insurrection-ist (or the Seditionist if you’re a fan of the videos I do with Rob Furman, or whatever other revolutionary badge of honor you prefer) do to make that better?

Stop grading things that aren’t ready to be graded.

When you give an assignment, it should be designed in a way that, no matter how big or small, your individual students are showing you what they really understand and can do with the unique knowledge and understanding they’ve developed. A multiple-choice quiz doesn’t do that, because it shows no significant comprehension or deep critical thinking about the subject, and show can’t really tell you anything other than a superficial snapshot.

Why bother with superficial fluff? Dump the quiz. Dump the multiple choice test. Throw ‘em out. Don’t waste time with Scantrons and that factory-model nonsense. (It’s literally a machine-grader. How much more industrial can you get?) Instead, offer students a genuine opportunity to show unique, individual skill mastery.

“But wait,” you might be saying, “I use multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank quizzes and such because they’re quick and easy. I thought you said you were going to lessen my work load?”

Even if you did use that method, just let kids opt out if they’re not ready to demonstrate mastery. We’ve all done this: “Did you do your homework?” “Yeah!” “Did you really?” “Well, no…” “So are you going to do well on the test today?” “Well, no…”

Why bother putting the kid through that, and while we’re at it, why bother grading it? If you both know it’s not a good evaluation, don’t grade it. In fact, by moving to an entirely voluntary, entirely un-coerced “hand it in when it’s ready” system of evaluation, you’ll be stunned by the amount of time you’ll save from having to chug through substandard materials.

What do you do with the kids who aren’t ready to hand anything in yet? Well, there are several options. The instinct of the traditionalist will be to give that kid a zero, because no skill mastery was demonstrated. While this may make strict mathematical sense, for me, I’m more interested in no grade at all: Why penalize a kid when we don’t really know what the situation is yet? There are a few variations on this theme that come to mind for me. One that stood out as I drove here was the idea of saying “these assignments and assessments need to be turned in by the end of this quarter,” and doing that for each quarter. At the end of quarter one, missing assignments go unpenalized: you evaluate what’s handed in, and the grade is calculated exclusively on those grades, with the other assignments being unweighted and unpenalized. At the end of quarter two, that “placeholder” grade becomes a 75%: you have a baseline in your score, but your being “behind” is starting to creep in, as an incentive to ensure that the prerequisite skill mastery items are being addressed. A kid has a lot of latitude here to still get a great grade, but has the flexibility not to freak out about things yet. Next quarter, 50, next quarter 25, and finally at the end, no skill mastery yields no credit.

Personally, I wouldn’t use this system, as I don’t believe in penalizing students for time-based phenomena: The only truly required mastery level benchmarks are, usually, at the End of Course (EOC), or in some jurisdictions or for some classes, at the Semester. For me, I say no penalty for having a brain that procrastinates and does everything at the last minute. That is a legitimate form of time management. There are innumerable articles floating around the literature right now saying that some procrastinators are brilliant, have a ton of skill mastery, and are fully capable in ways their more incremental classmates might not be.

Is it our right, is it our place, to punish certain kind of thinkers? I maintain that it is not, and if you’ve read Insurrection, you know this is one of the center-most themes and core pillars of my revolutionary proposal. (If you haven’t read Insurrection, but you agree that nobody’s thinking style is innately “better” or “worse” than another, you should definitely pick it up and power through to the midway point, where these themes really start to pick up!)

However, while it might not be my personal cup of tea, do I think that a teacher who implements such an incremental system is doing far, far better than those who aren’t?

Yes, I do.

Not only that, but I believe you could (if you were so inclined) cite some significant research to back up your position that there may indeed be justification for building such time management scaffolding into your curriculum and assessment methods, because the vast majority of students regardless of thinking style, aptitude, individual preference, or future plans, will be living in America after they graduate, and in America, there is a case to be made that executive function skills necessary in many segments of our society may benefit from such scaffolding. (See, I can be on your team on this!)

Do I want you to understand the etiology of the socioeconomic and psychosocial structural violence that has coopted our schools for two centuries? Yes, I do. But I also want you to help your individual kids, right now, and Insurrection will equip you not only with future-proof pedagogy, philosophy, and history, but with core principles that you can use right now in your classroom.

I’m going to continue to try to outline these Praxis in Practice skills throughout 2016, as I did in the latter half of 2015, as I genuinely believe that the real revolutionaries are already among us, the teachers “on the ground,” doing the work in our classrooms, for each one of our kids. I believe in you, and I’m here to help.

My Freire Moment Today

“The story emphasizes on the mechanically quantitative comprehension of knowledge, which is absurd. The girl could have asked, ‘Teacher: look how many envelopes of knowledge you have deposited in me today.’ This understanding of the act of teaching – and that’s why he says with humor – that what somebody can learn with Paulo Freire is exactly the opposite of this. I am the antagonic pedagogy. I am the antagonic epistemology. I am the opposite ethic. I am nothing of that because I am the antagonism of that. And I insist, I don’t like discourses. I am not a ‘good boy.’ I try to be a good person, but ‘good boy,’ God forbids. If somebody wants to hurt me, call me ‘good boy.’ I am an educated person, very educated, polite, disciplined, courteous, that I am indeed, and even more, I try to be even more respectful, but ‘good boy?’ For God’s sake, no. So I am antagonistic to all this. I am the contrary, the opposite of all this.”

– Paulo Freire, discussing education with Seymour Papert

Rock on, Paulo. Rock directly on.

Sex and Gender… Re-Unified? Fascinating Take from Lane Silas

My friend Jeannie linked me to a terrific blog post by Lane Silas called “Sex and Gender Are Actually the Same Thing (But Bear With Me…)” What a kick-in-the-pants title! I tore in, fresh off of Julia Serano’s “Excluded: Making  Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive,” so I was fired up from the start, super-excited to engage on this topic.

Here’s a link to Lane’s original post. You really owe it to yourself to read it!

Sex And Gender Are Actually The Same Thing (but bear with me…)

Also, I have to spoiler one of the best paragraphs in the whole thing, because I shouted a more-colorful version of “HECK YEAH!” out loud when I read it:  “It’s almost as if the gender/sex binary was invented by people who then manufactured artificial qualifiers to reinforce it, which then became woven into our study of biology, medicine and psychology. Huh. Weird.” – Lane Silas

“HECK YEAH!” ^_^

That said, I admit that I was initially alarmed at the big “NOPE” on the splash graphic, the Genderbread person, which I like. As a [ insert appropriate descriptor for me here ] person who experiences gender as a continuum, and as a person who has had the fortune to get to know of every rainbow stripe – trans*, genderqueer, nonbinary, etc – I like the disengagement of one element of gender from another, making them independent of (among other things) brutal social categorization.

I was thrilled to have that at least partially debunked with the explicit statement early on in Lane’s piece that this was not an “essentialist rant.” Thank goodness!

My first re-raising of my alarm flag, though, came immediately thereafter: I don’t think that the disengagement of sex and gender as (co)dependent aspects is “pro-trans.” Indeed (here comes a neologism for the ages), that strikes me as transcentric. (O, Irony!) The separation of sex assignment, biology, expression, identification, attraction, and the other elements of the multiple continuua that comprise what we all experience, variously, as gender is an effort to understand the individual. At least insofar as I as a person who cares about gender, sexuality, and sociopolitical empowerment am concerned, I’m not sure I am   on the bus that separating the two reinforces anything static. Indeed, I think discussing all aspects of gender as variables promotes fluidity. I’m a little unsettled   by the idea that fusing them back together into dependent elements would be less static, not more.

I suppose it’s because I already reject, out of hand, the idea of “immutable biological sex” as a fallacy to begin with, which I suppose is the same position that Lane takes. They seem to have a very clear understanding of the sociopolitical power problem created by cis privilege and the nightmare of what Vidal called the “ghettoization” of people into preconception camps, but I still take issue that multiple variables on a continuum could be static. One’s ignorant interpretation of those certainly could be, but isn’t that back to the core problem of cis privilege?

I completely agree that the concept of sex is a societal construct. I get the point being made and it resonates with me and I agree with it. I don’t want to sound contrarian: I really do think Lane is on to something. I mean, one in two thousand births is genitally atypical. Clearly the fact that anybody thinks there are “two and only two” versions of human genitalia shows that society has whitewashed over the complicated and I daresay (to reinforce my point!) continuum nature of all aspects of humanity. There are innumerable variations on human genetics and the expression (pardon the pun) of those genetics, and I take no issue whatsoever with calling the fallacious categorization of any aspect of humanity into “two bins” as “societally constructed.” It certainly is, and Lane is totally right about this, I think self-evidently so.

I also like that they call out “gender identity” as a “nicey nicey” form of invalidation. “I’m a woman” should stand of its own accord, and trying to in any way shade that by saying “you IDENTIFY as a woman” is an insult and an alienating form of verbal violence that has no place.

Lane cites the idea of sex assignment as “unchanging objective fact” as tremendously harmful. I completely agree, again, with this spot-on assessment. But is that not all the more reason why the promotion of fluid thinking as opposed to concrete thinking is preferable? Lane writes, “The concept [of] biological sex reinforces the homophobia and pathologization that are integral to upholding institutional transphobia and transmisogyny.” I could tattoo this on my ribcage it’s so true. It’s why I think the more elements of the human condition we can individualize, within the reasonable scope of using language to describe things as related at all, is important.

So I guess what I’m left with is, if we are going to refer to sex and gender as identical points of language reference, are we not also saying – we must say, yes? – that this is a multi-dimensional fluid continuum?

My  fear is that in fusing these ideas entirely we might   lose the variability, nuance, gradient, interstitial elements of any individual’s identity in the process. I understand the need and the desire here to combat transphobia and transmisogyny, but I’m always oriented to more gray, not less gray. I don’t think Lane is promoting anything binary; to the contrary it’s clear they desire precisely the opposite. I just have to do some serious thinking about the language part. Conceptually, I’m there: We must actively, vehemently combat the damnable and inaccurate social and political constructs around sex that are used as weapons against non-binary people, and must actively eradicate the binary-reinforcing  elements of language, psychology, and society.

I’m so on that bus!

This is a truly inspiring an thought-provoking post that I’m going to have to re-read many times to digest, but one thing is for damn sure: I’ve got a new blog to which to subscribe!

I’m also really looking forward to discussing this further with my trans* and non-binary friends, so if that’s you, hit me up!

From My Cold, Dead Thumbs

Please stop telling me that I am “too connected” to my devices. It is my sovereign right, as a free person, to learn, organize myself, process information, and experience the world as I choose, so long as I do not infringe upon your right to do the same. I have every right to supplement my naturally-lacking memory with a digital device that helps me remember things. I have every right to supplement my naturally-lacking sense of date and time with a digital device that provides this information on-demand. I have every  right to gain instant access to answers and information as I live my life even if you would prefer that I have those answers and that information available off the top of my head. I will live my life, and you may live yours.

I’d also love it if you’d stop telling children the same thing.

Prescriptions for “kids” as a bloc, as if they are all the same, nauseates me. The inherent oppression of categorizing all children as the same is repugnant to my sense of individualism, and is wholly incompatible with any thoughtful form of pedagogy.

Very few of the studies I’ve read on the subject of screen time, as one example, control for two major variables: the individual child’s thinking and learning modalities, and the content of the activity in question. I’ve seen pro and con on both sides published in respectable places, and think we must be very cautious as professional educators – especially those of us in educational technology – in making overgeneralized statements like “too much screen time is bad for kids” or “kids are too reliant on their devices.” In fact, some of the decent studies I’ve read on the subject that do control for content have found significant benefits to kids in the study, but not even that means it’s suddenly okay to say “X is true for all kids.”

There  are few things that are universally anything for all kids. Oxygen is pretty important… we’ve got some good data on that… Food and water, shelter and security, a sense of belonging and inclusion… things like that, we can probably safely generalize, because those are essential aspects of, yanno, living…

But you won’t find “the ability to recall names and dates off the top of one’s head” on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I’m not “too” reliant on my device. I do rely upon it, though, and I have every right to do so. Why is a child any different? I contend that attitudes that reduce children to lesser people or grant them fewer rights are inherently unloving and therefore anti-child attitudes. I also contend that the suggestion that just because a child is at an earlier developmental stage – intellectually, morally (vis-a-vis Kohlberg), or otherwise, as may be the case – that that child does not have enough knowledge of self to make decisions for self is also inherently misguided and inappropriate. In short, we must not require kids to learn, organize, and live as we do or as we would have them do, but instead must empower them to make decisions for themselves to be their best authentic selves.

Sure, there are basic social norms that our particular society does strongly prefer and expect: Don’t hit people, for example. But our society is not diminished by a kid using a smartphone to look up a date while learning about history. That child is not necessarily damaged or inherently disserviced by doing so. It is not hyperbolic to say that many teachers I know believe they must mandate conformity to an artificial and outmoded social norm of sitting up straight in a desk-chair, looking up, taking notes with a writing implement on paper, and giving other outward appearances of some idea of “paying attention.”

That act may very well be exactly the opposite of what that child needs, and we have a responsibility to respect, empower, and meet the needs of our individual learners.

That starts with not telling people what they should and should not do with their technology. It’s not your place to tell me how to  access, navigate, search for, and organize   information. It’s not our place to tell children how to do so, either.

Without constantly-connected digital technology, I would be largely lost as a person. I would have to re-invent new systems of learning and organizing to overcome such a loss. The idea that this makes me “weak” or “vulnerable” is absurd to me. It seems to presuppose   some kind of apocalypse… “Well, what if your battery dies?” Yeah, I figured out a long time ago I needed spare batteries, and I charge regularly. “Well, what if you forget it?” Then I go back and get it. People forget things sometimes. That’s part of the reason I need my devices. I also got a Tile and can GPS-track my devices if I misplace   them. “Well, what if you can’t find the thing you’re looking for quickly?” Then I need more time. Sometimes people need to give other people a little latitude. These are not reasons to deny me my right to organize my life as I choose. These are just things that happen in life. I could say basically the same thing about other non-digital tools, couldn’t I?

Let’s get over, as thinking people, the idea that everyone has to be the same. Sameness is not intrinsically desirable in the human condition, so I find. (And man, I was a marching band teacher, so trust me; I find some kinds of uniformity, especially artistic, to be valuable, but that doesn’t make me a homogenizing categorizer!)

You do you, and I’ll do me, m’kay?

Teaching and assessment that is fundamentally compromised by a student using a personal electronic device in a way that does not compromise the learning or assessment of others raises my concern level to astronomical heights.

Teaching does not require micromanagement of personal learning behaviors. Indeed, that philosophical and pedagogical shift is at the heart of the Insurrectionist’s individualized teaching.

My devices are mine, as is my use of them, and I’ll thank you to stop telling me I shouldn’t live my life as I choose, ’cause I’m certainly not going to tell you you shouldn’t live yours as you choose!

Safety versus Insulation in Discourse and Debate

I was listening to  an episode of The Diane Rehm Show recently, in which  the panelists were discussing free speech, honest debate, and  meaningful discourse on college campuses and the disservice some people   may be doing by actively avoiding    trigger warnings outright instead of confronting them actively and openly. The conversation also discussed the legacy of those who are memorialized in monuments and building names who may have questionable pasts.

I’m ambivalent on the topic, as  I am a deeply-flawed human being  who has a colorful past and who can certainly be offensive. In fact, to my genuine surprise, I was recently branded a “bigot” – granted, by someone who has some sociopolitical values that strike me as inhumane – but rather than saying “no, I’m not!” I have begun seriously questioning the circumstances that led up to that branding and what would have caused that person to react with such vehement verbal violence toward me when I have dedicated myself in many ways to fundamentally opposing bigotry. I’d like to think that generally speaking my words and actions are inconsistent with those of a bigot, but do I not have a moral imperative to  question that assumption, actively and transparently? I feel I must have the self-awareness and presence of mind to  know that I am a flawed person and need to respond to such critique in a prosocial, proactive, thoughtful way.

Thomas Jefferson intellectually and actually achieved something in the late 18th century to create a framework that has given us the necessary tools to uplift, celebrate, and recognize the criticality of diversity, free speech, egalitarianism, and human rights. It is ironic and worth discussing that Jefferson did not practice what he preached. We have some record that he struggle din some ways with this idea, but as one of the commentators said on the show, we should not pretend that “people are a product of their times” is a valid justification when we know there were people during that time that chose to act differently and more consistently with modern evolved understanding of equality. In places during the founding of this country, at the table, there were those who chose to act differently, who articulated that – for example – slavery was a scourge upon our species and should be actively eradicated. It’s worth us seriously questioning decisions to the contrary. Jefferson was certainly not a perfect person  – “Which of us is perfect?” asks DeVito’s Mickey Bergman in Mamet’s Heist –  but do we tear down the Jefferson Memorial?

Heist, (C) Warner Brothers

I don’t have answers in this situation, but I do want to participate in the debate. I want children and college students and the future generation to engage in this debate, because ultimately it’s their call. If symbols and characters and stories that I find benign or relevant, deeply and materially offend the future generation, I hope that they will have serious questions before they tear down elements of my present, but I also recognize that preserving something simply because it is old or a memorial is not worthwhile.

“Trigger warning” is being  abused. It refers to trauma stimulus, a situation or experience that is related, directly or superficially, in the mind of a person with post-traumatic stress. When the traumatized individual smells, for example, an odor directly related to an attack, the traumatized individual may experience  post-traumatic stress. This is a serious situation that deserves our compassion and understanding. However, being bothered by something that irritates or offends you is not the same as experiencing post-traumatic stress.  As educators, we do have some responsibility to raise awareness and help provide safety for individuals who may genuinely need assistance in avoiding unnecessary post-traumatic stress. However, as with all things educational, thoughtful scaffolding is not a barricade between the student   and learning. Students who are offended by racism, for example, as most any thinking person would be, cannot deepen their understandings of the source and nature  of racism without discussing and debating it. In the queer community, I sometimes   see social media admonishments that cisgender or heterosexual bias is a “trigger” followed immediately by raging statements of fury directed at cisgender people and heterosexual people. I sometimes see monotheists announce that bias against their religions are “triggers” for them, followed immediately by raging statements of vitriol directed at other religions or non-believers.

There is a difference, I believe, between building insulating walls around yourself and committing to your own narrow ideology and worldview, and honestly raising awareness about bias, prejudice, and discrimination.

I’m torn. I like controversy; hell I foment it, and I am the last person on the planet that is obsessed with the preservation of the extant on that basis alone. I write actively against that idea in Insurrection.  However, I do think we  academics have  an obligation to promote discourse. Several of the speakers on the Diane Rehm show indicated  that colleges are the ideal places for such significant debate. I cannot help but get a little Insurrectionist / Seditionist here: That’s why liberal arts should be the foundation of the academic tradition. It it insufficient to say at 18 years old, “this is who I am, I know what is right and wrong, and you all must conform to my world view.”

I find that this connects back to the last blog post I made about higher educaiton in which I excoriated the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan for saying “this is not a day care.”  Ironically, I’d wager thathe and I probablya gree that discomfort and discourse and debate are essential for growth and are needed more than ever and that every little offense should not be silenced. I don’t debate  that and if he had simply said that, I wouldn’t have had to take him to task. But that isn’t what he said.  He basically said “go pound salt”  to a kid, “I don’t care that you’re offended, I don’t care that you’re hurt.”

Discourse and debate is good for your growth. We shouldn’t insulate students   from controversy.  But as a good mama bear, he should know that in order for the cub to understand the big wide world, the cub can’t be caged or thrown off the cliff. Oppression and abandonment are extremes of pedagogy as well as cub-raising. These are   unloving acts and not a teacher response. What we say is “why?” What offended you? Why are you offended? What troubles you? What made you uncomfortable? Why? How? What biases exist? What conditions existed? What situations and ideas does this relate to? Let’s have a debate. Let’s have discussion.

President Piper didn’t appear the least bit interested in meaningful and thoughtful discourse about the student’s concern about  the pulpit proselytizing  based on I Corinthians. He didn’t seem the slightest bit inclined to validate the student and instead jumped to chastise and lower him. That is not consistent with the deeper discussion that can lead to better understanding that we’re talking about here. Did the student have a point? Was there a different interpretation? Was the student encouraged to read more? To research the origins of the passage? To analyze and compare? To engage with the original speaker? To develop a defense for the alternative position? Where was the teaching? Where was the learning opportunity? Where was the authentic acknowledgement of that student’s individual perspective as an aspiring scholar and the guidance to make him a more robust thinker?

A loving educator does those things. That’s entirely consistent with the message put forward in the Diane Rehm  episode: Debate, dissent, these are critical to growth.  Serious, meaningful roots in philosophy, pedagogy in my case, debates, discussions, psychology, sociology, reading, literature, art, culture, creating, analyzing… these are essential aspects to understanding the larger sociocultural questions we must face as scholars, as thinkers, as people, as citizens.

I want thoughtful  discourse in the context of safety and love and with the guidance of thoughtful pedagogues and meaningful scaffolding to ensure the best of all worlds, and I am discontent with extremes of abandonment to autodidacticism and autocratic oppression.

Turmeric Purple Potatoes

Took a little finagling, but I’m finally happy with this.

Makes two adult servings for people that like food. I’ve scaled this recipe pretty righteously, so just use this recipe as a two-person quantity and scale up accordingly.

  • 1 lb. purple potatoes, uncut
  • 1/2 cup almond milk creamer
  • 1 tablespoon minced organic garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped white onion
  • 2 teaspoons EVOO
  • 2 heaping teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • about a teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt

If you only want mildly spicy, reduce turmeric to 1 heaping teaspoon. If you’re alarmed by spice, cut turmeric to 3/4 teaspoon and cumin to 3/4 teaspoon, but don’t complain if it’s not tasty.

If you don’t have Himalayan salt, you may need to adjust salt to taste, as I find Himalayan pink has a particular mineral quality that keeps me using less even with greater effect.

Not responsible for sucky potatoes.

Mix all ingredients except potatoes in a small bowl, and mix carefully. Yes, including the onions.

Cook the potatoes correctly. If you don’t know how to cook potatoes, Google that separately, as I’m not explaining that here and some of the videos are kinda awesome.

Cut the potatoes into edible pieces after cooking, even if the skin comes off a little, ‘coz wotevah.

Put everything in the container of your choice, be it Tupperware for storage or scrapable ceramic for immediate service. I recommend a rubberized spatula coz after a teensy bit the coagulated deliciousness becomes super yummy.

Reheats ridiculously well for the first 48 hours. I dare you not to eat the sauce with your finger.

I’ve done shallots instead of onion with some success, and have experimented with vegan amino acids which seem to have NO effect on the recipe, so go for if if you’re supplementing.

The recipe is delightfully vegan, no butter or margarine, and there are so many good things happening in purple potatoes. Most importantly, of course, is that Turmeric is FABULOUS for SO many things.

Yeah, so eat this.

@ReevesKD at #VSTE15

Here are direct Sched links to each of my #VSTE15 events. Follow me at @ReevesKD and follow the hashtag #VSTE15 to keep up with the latest on the 30th annual Virginia Society for Technology in Education conference in Roanoke, Virginia.

Also, don’t forget that “Insurrection” and “Paperless Research Writing” are both available now! Click on Books on the top menu of this website for direct links to all the currently-available formats.

 

An Open Response to E. Piper’s Open Letter

This week, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Dr. Everett Piper, penned an open letter to students declaring that his university was “not a day care,” and that seems to be the message that the media is running with.

I don’t believe that’s the lesson to be taken away from Dr. Piper’s letter. Instead, re-read the third paragraph of his letter, which I excerpt here from his own blog:

“That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience. An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty. The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization.” – Dr. Everett Piper

Now, I have not heard the sermon. I’d be interested to, for context, but suffice it to say that if a student in a learning institution feels victimized by what Dr. Piper feels is an intentional and designed enterprise to instill shame, guilt, bad feelings, and confession of wrongdoing – all in the context of “love,” apparently – then I say that student has taken the first step in realizing that such phenomena have no place in learning, teaching, education, or a well-lived life.

I am appalled that a so-called educational leader would actively imply that a core principle of his university is the non-inclusion of self-actualization. Now maybe it’s just me and my liberal arts college commie pinko undergraduate music degree talking, but I believe that a college education is for  exactly that: to provide the environment, skills, inquiry, passion, resources, and opportunities to thrive in mind and ability, and take a critical and significant leap toward self-actualization. I find Dr. Piper’s flip, smug attitude about this student’s legitimate concern – because any student expression of victimization is legitimate, and if scandal after scandal about callous and inactive universities hasn’t taught us that, nothing will – to be entirely out of touch with the purpose of teaching.

Again, I was  privy neither to the student’s lamentation nor to the sermon that prompted it, but Dr. Piper cannot and must not claim to be interested and invested in learning and creating empathy and interpersonal understanding when he makes foolish and inhumane statements like, and I quote,  “Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a ‘safe place.'”

Perhaps a trip back to Educational Psychology 101 – or at OKWU, that’s Psychology of Education and Learning (EDUC 3003) – will help him understand that safety and feelings of belonging are critical foundations of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. One cannot achieve self-actualization without feelings of safety, security, and belonging, and this student clearly doesn’t feel those things at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Now, I do understand that the scaffolding involved in teaching comes away over time, and eventually students transition from being child learners to adult learners, and I certainly understand that controversy and conflict and failure are desirable characteristics in learning, as I write extensively in my first book on education.  However, those phenomena must occur in a student-centered space that does include compassion, safety, and understanding, lest true development, skill mastery, and indeed even social justice and interpersonal humanity be left behind in favor of brutalization, shame, and harm. Many institutions of learning seem to think it is their job to “toughen up” learners, and I say it is not. I say it is our place to listen and respond as thoughtful academics, and Dr. Piper let a golden opportunity to expand upon that student’s understanding of love sail right over his head.

Perhaps this student, like many others who may feel similarly that their individual learning needs and personal feelings and beliefs DO matter, should consider a less conservative institution that believes its brand of religion is to make you feel bad about yourself.

Not once when I studied at Ithaca College, George Mason University, or the University of Mary Washington, or taught at The George Washington University, did any professor or colleague intentionally attempt to make me feel bad about myself. That nonsense has no place in learning, at any age, at any institution, and Dr. Piper should know better. The fact that he doesn’t is embarrassing to me as a professional educator and should deeply concern any student of his, current or potential. Callous  insolence is not a loving response, and we educators and academics who are deeply concerned with the wellness and learning of the whole of every individual student should brook no such hypocrisy and ignorance as to say, effectively, “you should feel bad about yourself for not being more loving, so figure out how to love or go away.” I’d agree with Dr. Piper: If you want to be taught compassionately, OKWU would not be on my short list with leadership responses like that.

I’d be happy to write you a transfer recommendation, young man.

New Book in the Pipeline

I’m very excited that my second book,  Paperless Research Writing, is in the pipeline! My beloved friend, colleague, and co-author Dawn Moulen and I have been working with editors Diana Russell and Martha J. Axiotis to produce the definitive work on our paperless research paper model. We’ve instructed this model all over the place, and it’s finally time to put pen to paper. Er, ink to printer. Er, no, I mean, pixels to… Well,  you get the idea.

I regularly describe Dawn as “the best teacher I know.” She’s done it all, and I have never met a more consistently passionate, committed, reflective, and brilliant child-centered revolutionary-minded educator. She has been a steadfast compatriot in the battle to do right by every child, a phenomenal colleague when we were at the teacher level together, and has been a great source of   inspiration to me over the years. I’m very lucky to have had her at my side for so long, and I’m excited that we can share our model with the world in this form.

It will, OF COURSE, be available as an eBook. It is about going paperless for the writing process, after all! That said, even recognizing that many “print” resources do, in fact, end up on paper, the process is even valuable for ultimately physical projects, as the amount of paper actually used in the course of writing is zero until the finished product is produced.

We’ve finished editing and layout and anticipate availability very soon. I’ll keep you posted!