Category Archives: Academic freedom

The Courage of Hopelessness: Democratic Education in the Age of Empire [Video]

banner seminar for web

Dr. E. Wayne Ross | Professor, EDCP

January 15, 2016

Short Bio:
E. Wayne Ross is Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC. He has written and edited numerous books including: Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies and Social Education (Sense, 2010); The Social Studies Curriculum: Purposes, Problems and Possibilities (4th Ed., SUNY Press, 2014) and Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom (Peter Lang, 2016). He also edits the journals Critical Education, Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor, and Cultural Logic.

Abstract:
In this talk I argue there is a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of democracy in North America that subverts traditional approaches to democratic education. The tropes that have historically dominated the discourse on democracy and democratic education now amount to selling students (and ourselves) a lie about history and contemporary life. Our challenge is to re-imagine our roles as educators and find ways to create opportunities for students to create meaningful personal understandings of the world. Education is not about showing life to people, but bringing them to life. The aim is not getting students to listen to convincing lectures by experts, but getting them to speak for themselves in order to achieve, or at least strive for an equal degree of participation and a more democratic, equitable, and justice future. This requires a new mindset, something I call dangerous citizenship.

Educate. Agitate. Organize: New and Not-So-New Teacher Movements

Never a dull moment these days in Education activism! Parallel with the fallout from records regarding the governance and management of UBC and calls for accountability by our Faculty Association is the BCTF’s work in holding the government to account for its legislation of bargaining rights

Of course, our Institute for Critical Education Studies has provided extensive analysis and commentary on both cases.

Keeping activism in context, we are thrilled to launch this Special Issue of Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labour:

Educate. Agitate. Organize: New and Not-So-New Teacher Movements

Special Issue Edited by Mark Stern, Amy E. Brown & Khuram Hussain

Table of Contents

Forward: The Systemic Cycle of Brokenness
Tamara Anderson

Introduction to the Special Issue: Educate. Agitate. Organize: New and Not-So-New Teacher Movements
Mark Stern, Amy E. Brown, Khuram Hussain

Articles

Principles to Practice: Philadelphia Educators Putting Social Movement Unionism into Action
Rhiannon M Maton

Teaching amidst Precarity: Philadelphia’s Teachers, Neighborhood Schools and the Public Education Crisis
Julia Ann McWilliams

Inquiry, Policy, and Teacher Communities: Counter Mandates and Teacher Resistance in an Urban School District
Katherine Crawford-Garrett, Kathleen Riley

More than a Score: Neoliberalism, Testing & Teacher Evaluations
Megan E Behrent

Resistance to Indiana’s Neoliberal Education Policies: How Glenda Ritz Won
Jose Ivan Martinez, Jeffery L. Cantrell, Jayne Beilke

“We Need to Grab Power Where We Can”: Teacher Activists’ Responses to Policies of Privatization and the Assault on Teachers in Chicago
Sophia Rodriguez

The Paradoxes, Perils, and Possibilities of Teacher Resistance in a Right-to-Work State
Christina Convertino

Place-Based Education in Detroit: A Critical History of The James & Grace Lee Boggs School
Christina Van Houten

Voices from the Ground

Feeling Like a Movement: Visual Cultures of Educational Resistance
Erica R. Meiners, Therese Quinn

Construir Y No Destruir (Build and Do Not Destroy): Tucson Resisting
Anita Fernández

Existential Philosophy as Attitude and Pedagogy for Self and Student Liberation
Sheryl Joy Lieb

Epilogue

No Sermons in Stone (Bernstein) + Left Behind (Austinxc04)
Richard Bernstein, Austinxc04

Thanks for the continued interest in and support of our journals, Critical Education and Workplace, and our ICES and Workplace blogs. And please keep the manuscripts and ideas rolling in!

Steven Salaita – First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech (Talks at SFU & UBC)

First Peoples, Palestine, and the Crushing of Free Speech

Monday, January 12 at 7:30pm
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Segal Rooms; Vancouver, BC
Facebook EVENT

Wednesday, January 14 at 5:00pm
Coach House at Green College, UBC; 6201 Cecil Green Park Road (off NW Marine Drive, opposite Chan Centre and Rose Parkade)
Facebook EVENT

A talk by Professor Steven Salaita, who is at the centre of an international protest against academic censorship.

Salaita, author of six books and many articles, was “unhired” from a tenured position in American Indian studies at the University of Illinois when donors pressured the university because of Salaita’s tweets on his personal Twitter account about the Gaza massacre last summer.

Because this action is widely recognized as part of a broad effort to silence voices for Palestinian rights and justice, and as one incident in the long history of colonial treatment of indigenous peoples, the case has attracted international attention.

Salaita’s books will be available at this event.

Steven Salaita & Academic Censorship“: an interview on Voice of Palestine

Embarrassing recent events in Canadian higher education #cdnpse #GeorgeRammell #RobertBuckingham @usask

I’ll admit to a quaint hope that universities are still places where dialogue and dissent are both possible and desirable, but two incidents in the last week leave me scratching my head. The first is the theft of professor George Rammell’s sculpture by the Capilano University administration, and the second is the firing of Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan. The issues in the two cases are not the same, but what both share is an unbelievable authoritarianism on the part of the upper administration, a willingness to trample on academic freedom and the absolute intolerance of resistance or disagreement about program cuts and restructuring. The point is not whether each of these universities plans for budget cutting and trimming are appropriate (that would be a different post), but the response to faculty and middle management who DARE to disagree with the upper administration. If this doesn’t have a chilling effect on everyone in Canadian higher education, well we are all being just too polite.

THE CASE OF THE MISSING SCULPTURE

At Capilano University there have been severe program cuts. One program area in which cuts are deep is the arts. George Rammell, sculpture instructor, used his scholarly form of expression to comment on those cuts ~ he created Blathering on in Krisendom, a work in progress  depicting Capilano University president Kris Bulcroft wrapped in a U.S. flag with a poodle. The sculpture went missing last week:

“I immediately called security and the guard told me that orders were given by the top level of the Administration to seize it. I could hardly believe my ears. The Administration had ordered my piece removed off campus to an undisclosed location, without any consultation or prior discussion. I was shocked and not sure if this was Canada,” Rammell stated (as reported in the Georgia Straight).

Jane Shackell, chair of the Board of Governors, released a statement saying that Capilano was “committed to the open and vigorous discourse that is essential in an academic community.” But she had the sculpture removed because it was “workplace harassment of an individual employee, intended to belittle and humiliate the president.” A post for another time, but this might well be the most egregious, inappropriate use of respectful workplace rhetoric to create a workplace where dialogue, dissent, and discourse are not allowed.

Of course, Rammell’s work is easy for the University to steal, but the parallel for some of us might be an administration that comes to your office and wipes all of the files for that critical analysis of higher education book you are working on from your computer. After being AWOL for a week, Capilano University has agreed to return Rammell’s work, but has banned the sculpture from campus and Rammell calls that censorship. It is and it isn’t harassment either. So much for academic freedom.

THE SILENCE OF THE DEANS

Then comes the news, Robert Buckingham, Dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan was fired, relieved of his professorial appointment and tenure, and escorted of the campus ~ for disagreeing publicly with the administration’s restructuring and budget cutting plan, TransformUS.

In discussions of TransformUS, middle managers were ordered to get in line and on board with the plan, and threatened if they spoke publicly against it. Here’s the email from the provost:

 

That a University would want deans who are lackeys and submissive to the upper administration’s “messaging” says a great deal about that administration. Unlike the CapU incident, this is less about academic freedom and all about the importance of maintaining an openness to dialogue and disagreement within the University. Such a heavy handed administrative approach assaults our sensibilities about how even the modern, corporatized U operates. On top of all that, the termination of Buckingham comes a mere five weeks from his retirement and is amazingly mean-spirited.

CAUT director, Jim Turk said:

What the president of the University of Saskatchewan has done is an embarrassment to the traditions and history of the University of Saskatchewan and it’s an embarrassment to post-secondary education across Canada. It’s inexcusable.

He’s right about that!

BC Teachers Federation scores landmark victory in academic freedom and freedom of expression #bcpoli

Well, it turns out that Dr. Seuss’s initial impression during the war that you can’t achieve a substantial victory out of turtles turns out to be wrong! This past week, after 3 years or a decade, depending how its measured, the BC Teachers’ Federation scored one of the most substantial court victories in academic and intellectual freedom for teachers in the last thirty years. The victory provides a substantial defense of educators’ civil liberties and free expression, critical education methods of instruction. And what’s more, it is a significant victory for students’ rights to critical content in the schools.

On 21 May, the BC Court of Appeal released its decision on the BCTF v. BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) / Board of Education of School District No. 5.  The case concerned “the extent to which teachers’ expression of political views on education issues in public schools is protected freedom of expression under s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:”

The political expressions in issue were messages critical of specific government education policies, contained on posters posted on classroom doors and school bulletin boards, and on buttons worn by teachers. Pursuant to a directive from the school district that political posters and information should not be displayed in school hallways, classrooms, or on school grounds, some principals told teachers to stop displaying the posters and wearing the buttons.

This case dates specifically to January 2009, when campaign materials, such as posters and buttons, were circulated by the BCTF to teachers across the province. On 23 April 2009, the Director of Instruction and HR from School District No. 5 (Southeast Kootenay) forwarded a directive principals in the district advising them that the BCTF’s political materials had no place on school grounds other than the staff room. On 1 May 2009, the Cranbrook and Fernie Teachers’ Association forwarded a note to the Director advising that it disagreed with the 23 April directive.  Following a grievance filed by the BCTF, an arbitrator heard the case in March 2010 and denied the grievance, awarding in favour of the BCPSEA in October 2011.

The BCTF appealed the decision. Within Tuesday’s BC Court of Appeal decision is some of the strongest language for a defense of academic freedom for teachers and critical education methods:

There was no evidence in this case of any actual or potential harm to students from being exposed to the materials about educational issues, nor any facts from which an inference of harm could be drawn. On the contrary, Canadian jurisprudence, including Munroe, stands for the principle that open communication and debate about public, political issues is a hallmark of the free and democratic society the Charter is designed to protect. Children live in this diverse and multi-cultural society, and exposing them to diverse societal views and opinions is an important part of their educational experience.

Simply put, “the law supports the exercise by teachers of their right of free expression in schools.”

Court of Appeal Justice Hinkson provides a caveat:

I see no reason why students should receive less protection from the monopolization of the discourse of a societal issue than adults who are subjected to a flood of discourse on an electoral issue by proponents of one side to that issue. In the case of the students, the monopolization on the issue may deprive them of their right to be educated in a school system that is free from bias.

Where the issue upon which teachers choose to exercise their rights to free speech is a political one, their rights must be balanced against the rights of their students to an education that is free from bias. That brings into play, as it did in Harper, the concern that if a group is able to monopolize its message on any issue, competing views will be deprived of a reasonable opportunity to be heard…. However, the proportionality aspects of s. 1 of the Charter reserve for another case the evidence required to establish and the point at which teachers’ rights of freedom of expression in schools must yield to the rights of students to be educated in a school system that is free from bias.

This landmark decision  will certainly be put to test, as the case more generally dates back to over a decade of to-and-fro decisions over academic freedom for BC teachers and their right to free expression. Indeed, one of the best case studies of political speech and symbolic speech is that of the BCTF v. the BC Ministry of Education and BCPSEA from about 2002 to this present decision. Throughout this decade, BC teachers have progressively and systematically tested their rights to political and symbolic speech: posters on school bulletin boards, black arm bands, buttons, letters to parents, t-shirts, bumper stickers on cars in the school parking lot, and wearing black clothes.

“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

In April 2012, amidst another round of disputed bargaining practices and the government’s imposition of the controversial Bill 22, teachers raised questions: “A Prince Rupert elementary teacher has been told a quote from Dr. Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle is a political statement that should not be displayed or worn on clothing in her classroom. The teacher included the quote in material she brought to a meeting with management after she received a notice relating to union material visible in her car on school property.”

Eight teachers in the Prince Rupert district received letters warning of “discipline for displaying political messages.” Joanna Larson, president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers’ local said “the administration doesn’t want students to see the messages.” “We feel very censored here right now. We have feelings that our rights to freedom of expression have been violated.”

To accent the 11th anniversary of BC government’s oppressive bills 27 and 28, which prevented the teachers from bargaining on issue such as class size, the BCTF and teachers organized a protest for January 28, 2013– a “Dark Day for Education” and “Wear Black Day.” Teachers wore black in their classrooms while the BCPSEA cautioned that “regardless of the colour of attire worn, teachers should not engage students in discussion about their political views.” Some teachers in Prince Rupert responded with new black t-shirts, this time remediating Shakespeare and quoting section 2(b) from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But three teachers  were told to remove or cover the shirts.

The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) weighed in on 4 February 2013 by forwarding a letter to the Prince Rupert School Board and arguing that the ban was unconstitutional: “The school district’s decision to ban free speech about free speech reminds us of a badly-written comedy sketch. But this isn’t an Air Farce skit, it’s a troubling violation of teachers’ constitutional right to free expression,” said Lindsay Lyster, President of the BCCLA. “The School District has an obligation to respect free speech, and there is no lawful justification for the District to ban these t-shirts.”

Of course, quoting or paraphrasing one’s civil liberties in defiance has been part and parcel of protests throughout the past 300 years. And arguably one of the best political works in the Dr. Seuss catalog, Yertle the Turtle has for five decades been used for purposes of instruction in the classroom and symbolic and political speech, inside and out. Notoriously, the Red Hot Chili Peppers first rocked their expressive version of Yertle the Turtle in 1985. Most recently leading up to the Prince Rupert teacher’s utilization of parts of the text, Yertle the Turtle was used in the protests at the Wisconsin legislature in 2011 and the Occupy movement beginning in September 2011.

ICES colleague E. Wayne Ross recently articulated the necessity of “dangerous citizenship”— “critical citizenship, or social justice oriented citizenship” and civil liberties citizenship— in opposition to liberal notions of “good citizenship” that somehow pass for education in the schools. “There is a misguided and unfortunate tendency in our society to believe that  activities that strengthen or maintain the status quo are neutral or at least non-political,” Wayne observes, “while activities that critique or challenge the status quo are ‘political’ and inappropriate.”

A breath of fresh air, Tuesday’s decision from the BC Court of Appeal changes the tide for teachers. BCTF President Susan Lambert was buoyed by the decision, noting that

it’s about the right of teachers to express their concerns about the working conditions that they teach in and the learning conditions the students are taught in… It’s very important that we as a society encourage teachers to express their views and that we take those views seriously…. You don’t discuss and encourage critical thinking in children by shielding them from diverse views.

New Issue of Workplace Launched

Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor has just published Issue #20, “The New Academic Manners, Managers, and Spaces.”  This issue includes key conceptual and empirical analyses of

  • the creation and avoidance of unions in academic and business workplaces (Vincent Serravallo)
  • the new critiquette, impartial response to Bruno Latour and Jacques Ranciere’s critique of critique (Stephen Petrina)
  • the two-culture model of the modern university in full light of the crystal, neural university (Sean Sturm, Stephen Turner)
  • alternative narratives of accountability in response to neo-liberal practices of government (Sandra Mathison)
  • vertical versus horizontal structures of governance (Rune Kvist Olsen)
  • teachers in nomadic spaces and Deleuzian approaches to curricular practice (Tobey Steeves)

We invite you to review the Table of Contents for Issue #20 for articles and items of interest. Thanks for the continuing interest in Workplace (we welcome new manuscripts here and Critical Education),

Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES)
Workplace Blog

Workplace Issue #19 Launched

The Institute for Critical Education Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Workplace Issue #19, “Belonging and Non-Belonging: Costs and Consequences in Academic Lives.” The new issue is accessible at Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.

This special issue represents powerful narrative analyses of academic lives– narratives that are sophisticated and sensitive, gut-wrenching and heart-rendering. “Belonging and Non-Belonging” was guest edited by Michelle McGinn and features a rich array of collaborative articles by Michelle, Nancy E. Fenton, Annabelle L. Grundy, Michael Manley-Casimira, and Carmen Shields.

Thank you for the continuing interest in Workplace and Critical Education.

Institute for Critical Education Studies
http://blogs.ubc.ca/ices/

Horton Hears an Idiot

This story in the Globe and Mail gets the story wrong, but the fact that a school administrator is sneaking around snooping in teachers’ cars to see what written materials they possess makes this story quite noteworthy. This Prince Rupert teacher wasn’t using Dr. Suess’ Yertle the Turtle in class, but instead was using a quote from Yertle in a meeting with management. Perhaps, by extension, the director of instruction for the Prince Rupert School District judged Yertle’s political message would creep into the classroom. Well, the question this begs is why wouldn’t one want kids to consider Yertle’s claim: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.” Equality is now ‘political’ and should not be a ‘value’ that we would want everyone to seriously consider? Theodor Geisel’s work, like many children’s book authors’ work, is not apolitical, nor should we expect it to be. Teaching about politics, discussing political ideas, developing political perspectives is what teachers ought to be doing… where else do children learn about ‘citizenship?’

Anarchist scholar to speak at RF@AERA denied entry to Canada

Abraham P. DeLeon, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas, San Antonio was refused entry to Canada today. He was scheduled to deliver a papers at the American Educational Research Association meeting and the pre-conference meeting of the Rouge Forum @ AERA, both which are being held in Vancouver, BC this weekend.

DeLeon, who holds a PhD from the University of Connecticut, does research in the areas of cultural studies, anarchist theory, post-colonialism, and animal studies in educational theory. His articles that have appeared in The Social Studies, The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Educational Studies, Equity & Excellence in Education, and Theory and Research in Social Education. He is associate editor of Critical Education, which is based at the University of British Columbia. He has also co-edited two books: Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy (Routledge, 2009) and Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education: Towards New Perspectives for Social Studies Education (Sense Publishers, 2010).

DeLeon was scheduled to deliver an AERA paper titled: “Lured by the Animal: Rethinking Nonhuman Animals in Educational Discourses” and he was also scheduled to speak at the pre-conference Rouge Forum @ AERA on “What might happen when teachers and other academics connect reason to power and power to resistance?”

Canada Border Services Agency refused to give a reasons for denying DeLeon entry to Canada. CBSA has also repeatedly denied entry to American educator Bill Ayers, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. The CBSA’s actions raise serious concerns for Canadians and Americans who value free speech, open debate and academic freedom.