Cultural Logic is a journal of marxism, literature, and radical politics, which has been an open access journal since it was founded in 1997.
The new issue, Cultural Logic 21, features the following articles and poetry.
“1932, A Pseudo-Revolutionary Poem”
Cultural Logic 22 will be a massive 20th anniversary triple issue on “Schol-Activism” produced in collaboration with Works & Days. Look for it in the coming months.
Ron Evans has written an impressive series of books that critically examine school reform in the United States, with a specific emphasis on the impact of those reforms on social studies, civics, and democratic education.
In January 2015, I had an opportunity to interview Ron about his latest book Schooling for Corporate Citizens and this month, in Washington, DC, the College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies sponsored a symposium on the book, below is the text of my remarks at the symposium.
Remarks for Book Symposium on Schooling Corporate Citizens (Ronald W. Evans)
College and University Faculty Assembly of National Council for the Social Studies
December 1, 2016
E. Wayne Ross
University of British Columbia
Why are things the way they are?
In Schooling Corporate Citizens, Ron Evans has written a compelling history of how bureaucratic, outcomes-based accountability reforms have “damaged” civic education and undermined democracy. Evans notes that social studies education is haunted by two ghosts, the first neoliberal capitalism and neo-conservative cultural warriors and secondly the progressive politics, philosophy, and pedagogy of 20th Century icons such as John Dewey and Harold Rugg.
Evans argues the dilemmas that define social studies at the moment are found (1) in classroom practice (drill and kill/content coverage, driven by testing versus inquiry- or social issues-oriented teaching); and (2) in curriculum politics, which encompasses the social studies wars, but more broadly has elevated a capitalist social efficiency conception of teaching and learning to hegemonic status in combination with an essentialist philosophy of education that focuses on content at the expense of pedagogy.
I agree with Evan’s analysis, but as Chris Hedges recently wrote about the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, “it’s worse than you think.” Evan’s book is an indispensable history of what has happened to social studies and civic education from the inside-out, but stepping away from the history of education reform and considering a much broader, messier, but real life question about relationship between what is taught in social studies and the political, social, economic, and cultural circumstances of the US (and the world) today, then it’s clear that in terms of social studies and civic education things are obviously much worse than the already dismal state of social studies as described in Schooling Corporate Citizens.
Perhaps it’s a professionally narcissistic question that implies too much import to what we do as social studies educators, but when he majority of people either actively or passively support destructive systems of power—white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy—we should be asking: What hath social studies wrought?
Mass ignorance. In explaining how it is that the Republican Party now rules a nation that hates it, Paul Street points to the “supreme ignorance that the nation’s dominant ideological and cultural authorities and institutions have bred in much of the U.S. populace.” The “double-whammy” of “infantilizing and unreal media” and the education students receive in capital’s schools that creates “millions of dumb-downed people” who know little to nothing about relevant issues of the day, like climate change or the nature and history of fascism. Hedges describes of the current cultural moment as celebrating ignorance—political discourse, news, culture and intellectual inquiry replaced by celebrity worship and spectacle. And social studies and civic education is far from blameless for this sorry state of affairs.
The distortion of democracy, or how democracy is taught in schools versus the really existing form of governance in so-called democracies. As research by Gilens and Page demonstrates the United States not a functioning democracy, rather it is a plutocracy. As social studies educators we need to stop teaching a mythic democracy and start teaching the real everyday political realities. Gilens and Page provide the empirical evidence that illustrates average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence on what their government does.
In our illiberal democracy (or what has been called inverted totalitarianism) the people, the electorate, are prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state. Our governing system has elections, yes, but citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power as a result of lack of civil liberties and a massive publications/propaganda machine that includes highly concentrated media corporations that project the illusion of a free press.
Authentic political participation can be found – look at movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock – but the version of democracy long taught in most social studies classes is a victim of political cleansing. As Sheldon Wolin argues, US electoral democracy is now a “political form in which governments are legitimated by elections they have learned to control.”
As Huxley wrote in Brave New World, the old forms remain – elections, supreme courts, parliaments and all the rest, but the underlying substance is a new kind of totalitarianism.
All the traditional names, all the hollowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.
Corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy – capitalism trumps politics – every natural resource and every living being is commodified and exploited to death as the citizenry is lulled and manipulated into surrendering their civil liberties and their participation in government is reduced to excessive consumerism and sensationalism.
There are two main totalizing dynamics in the US, according to Wolin, (1) the war on terror; and (2) neoliberal, free-market, economics, which subjects the population to economic rationationalization (e.g., downsizing, outsourcing, dismantling of the welfare state) destroying the commons and creating a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that makes it even less likely people will engage politically, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle of illiberal democracy. All the while social studies continues to teach faith in the system, nostalgically looking back to the past, unthinkingly maintaining a corrupt system while stuck in the mire of the unholy apocalypse that is now.
Disconnection between what the people want and reality of everyday life. As Street argues in his book They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy, Washington runs on corporate and financial cash, connections, reach, and propaganda, not public opinion. The “unelected dictatorship of money” is not interested in crafting policy that responds to public opinion polls that show:
- Two-thirds (66%) of Americans think that the distribution of money and wealth should be more evenly distributed among more people in the U.S.
- 61% of Americans believe that in today’s economy it is mainly just a few people at the top who have a chance to get ahead.
- 83% of Americans think the gap between the rich and the poor is a problem.
- 67% of Americans think the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be addressed immediately, not as some point in the future.
- 57% of Americans think the U.S. government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S.
- Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents say that large corporations have too much influence in the county, about the double the amount that said the same of unions.
- 68% of Americans favor raising taxes on people earning more than $1 million per year.
- 50% of Americans support limits on money earned by top executives at large corporations. (Street, 2015)
The disconnect between public opinion and reality of government’s (non) responses to inequality and injustice and its attacks on civil rights, is a direct challenge to our work as social studies educators. We can no longer rely on the old tropes of democracy and freedom that have dominated the curriculum and classroom discourse; to do so to sell students a lies about history and contemporary life.
Obedience. Why are things as they are? Part of the answer, a big part of the answer is consent, we’ve let things become this way. We need to learn, practice, and teach disobedience, in the name of social justice, in the name of trying to achieve the visions of democracy that are so often glibly taught in social studies classrooms.
In an open letter posted on Susan Ohanian’s website by Omaha lawyer, Rob Bligh writes:
I think that I understand the political malice that guides the Republicans. I think that I understand the political correctness that guides the Democrats. I think that I understand the arrogant ignorance that guides the Gates crowd.
What I do not understand is the deafening silence of nearly all … teacher-training faculty employed by America’s colleges and universities. They are allowing their graduates to be roasted slowly over a flame of lies and they are doing nothing about it. Perhaps the professors think that they will escape to early retirement before Gates and the politicians come for them. Some profession!
Ohanian herself writes, in an article that amounts to a call to arms for critical educators titled “Against Obedience,”
When teachers stoically keep their silence while corporate politicos shovel shit on them, they really can’t expect that tomorrow they’ll get roses. Or even less shit. I’m thinking of getting cards printed so I can distribute this message: You deserve what you accept. We can see the stages of teacher reaction to Common Core Standards: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression … But please, please, we need to skip ‘Acceptance’ and move to resistance. Real resistance, not just Twitter/Facebook/blog complaint.
Whining is not the same thing as doing something. Whining is whining. Action is something else. …. Not to resist is to become what you do. …. There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolution or you stand against the needs of children, and you aid the destruction of your own profession, not to mention democracy.
We MUST build a mass movement. Revolution is the only answer.
Believing in and teaching faith in the system is a fool’s errand for anyone claims to claims to be working for democracy, justice, and equality given present circumstances – a world plagued by climate change, species extinction, imperial war, and systematic violence against women, people of color, and the poor, and the rise of 21st Century fascism. If as social studies educators we are serious about working for democracy, then our work requires practicing and teaching disobedience and resistance, which would be an about-face for the field. The old tropes of democracy have failed us as social studies educators and have failed the public. Here’s a workout plan for anyone who’s ready to challenge totalitarianism:
Start with a warm up: protests, strikes, and public events. Push your boundaries and find out what your skills are. Then comes the cardio: organizing, the long distance running of the movement. Weight training is composed of civil disobedience and low-level hit-and-run techniques, gaining experience with each strike. Finally comes the competition itself: the revolutionary confrontations, sabotage, undermining, hacking, and other actions necessary for dismantling empire. (Max Wilbert, Counterpunch, 2016)
No magical thinking. Warming our own and our students’ hearts with myths of democracy is a dangerous practice. In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, Chris Hedges warned that societies in terminal decline often retreat into magical thinking. The reality is just too much to bear so people are susceptible to “fantastic and impossible promises of a demagogue or charlatan who promises the return of a lost golden age.”
These promises, impossible to achieve, are no different from those peddled to Native Americans in the 1880s by the self-styled religious prophet Wovoka [aka Jack Wilson]. He called on followers to carry out five-day dance ceremonies called the Ghost Dance. Native Americans donned shirts they were told protected them from bullets. They were assured that the buffalo herds would return, the dead warriors and chiefs would rise from the earth and the white men would disappear. None of his promises was realized. Many of his followers were gunned down like sheep by the U.S. army.
We need a revolution in our thinking and the courage to act in politically and pedagogically in revolutionary ways to build mass democratic movements to combat totalitarianism. We must not allow social studies to become a ghost dance of democracy … or perhaps we already have.
Vancouver faces stark contrasts between funding for K to 12 and university
October 7, 2016
Vancouver, the city of disparities, is faced with polar opposites in its educational system.
The contrast between K-12 schools and the university in Vancouver could not be more stark: The schools sinking in debt with rapidly declining enrolments and empty seats versus the university swimming in cash and bloating quotas to force excessive enrolments beyond capacity.
With central offices just 7km or 12 minutes apart, the two operate as if in different hemispheres or eras: the schools laying off teachers and planning to close buildings versus the university given a quota for preparing about 650 teachers for a glutted market with few to no jobs on the remote horizon in the largest city of the province.
There is a gateway from grade 12 in high school to grade 13 in the university but from a finance perspective there appears an unbreachable wall between village and castle.
Pundits and researchers are nonetheless mistaken in believing that the Vancouver schools’ current $22m shortfall is disconnected from the university’s $36m real estate windfall this past year.
The schools are begging for funds from the Liberals, who, after saying no to K-12, turn around to say yes to grades 13-24 and pour money into the University of British Columbia, no questions asked.
There may be two ministries in government, Education and Advanced Education; there is but one tax-funded bank account.
At first glance, the cheques suggest parity across the Vancouver system. For 2016-17, the schools, with about 49,000 students get a base operating grant of $436m and the university, with about 42,000 students gets a base of $420m. So what’s the problem?
One is left to birth and migration rates while the other is manipulated with enrolment quotas. For each decrease of enrolment in the Vancouver schools the University ironically matches with an increase of teachers for the job market.
UBC’s Faculty of Education, which could be financially assisting the schools to meet this historic shortfall, is instead bloated with a $2.6m deficit partially to maintain a quota for a steady flood of new teachers into Vancouver.
With the building boom at UBC, in March the Faculty of Education occupied a floor and a half of the new Ponderosa Commons building, despite about two floors of unoccupied or underutilized space in its Scarfe building. Education’s share of the $57m building is $18m.
At the same time 21 Vancouver schools were scheduled for closure or demolition to meet a shortfall the government gave a $19.5m windfall to renovate UBC’s Life Sciences building.
Wheeling and dealing, the Liberal government is robbing Peter to pay Paul, demoralizing Petra to pump up Paulette.
UBC appears to be throwing money around like it grows on Endowment Land trees. With the Vancouver real estate boom, it does.
The short history of UBC at 100 years is that it was born spoiled with a sizeable estate in 1915-1916 and remains spoiled in 2016-2017.
Through the stroke of a pen in 1858, Queen Victoria created the colony of British Columbia and transformed First Nations traditional territory into Crown Land. In 1907, an amendment to the BC Land Act granted 3,000 acres (5 sq. miles) to a University Endowment.
UBC property sits precariously on unceded Musqueam territory aggressively developed by settlers into prime Vancouver real estate over the past century and most aggressively since 1988 when the UBC Real Estate Corporation (Properties Trust) was established. In 1994 UBC converted 200 acres of its campus and Endowment Lands into condo and shopping centre development.
By 2003, as University Hill Secondary school was crammed and the urban plan expanded, so flush with cash was the university that its Properties Trust offered to bankroll renovations to its National Research Council (NRC) building and charge the busted VSB a monthly lease. In 2008, the Liberals stepped in, effectively saving the university from a $37.9m renovation.
The Vancouver Schools have had to defer $700m of building maintenance costs while UBC has announced plans for an $822 million building boom on it campus, with generous commitments from the Ministry.
As in real estate goes demographics: from boom to bust, the empty seats in Vancouver schools will inevitably be empty seats in the university. Like the VSB, it won’t be long before UBC begins to schedule the closure or demolition of empty academic buildings, that is, if someone opens the doors to realize there’s no one inside.
With more and more faculty members preferring to work at home, save for staff, empty offices are making hollow buildings the norm.
The Ministry is now threatening to fire the School Board for suspending school closure and demolition plans but when the University Board colludes to hide decisions from access and scrutiny the Ministry looks the other way.
Vancouver is now desperate to resolve the deepest school finance crisis and worst university administrative legitimacy crisis in 100 years. False distinctions between the two or the success of one at the expense of the other are at the root of the crises.
It’s the story of Vancouver: Broke and barely making it versus fixed, rich, and laughing all the way to the bank: 99% versus 1%.
Stephen Petrina and E. Wayne Ross are professors in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
UBC Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
2016-2017 Seminar Series
(Un)Learning Anthropocentrism: An Ecocritical Framework for Teaching to Resist Human-Supremacy in Curriculum and Pedagogy
John Lupinacci, PhD
Cultural Studies & Social Thought in Education
College of Education
Washington State University
October 28, 20106
In this talk, I will call attention to—and critically question—the epoch now referred to as the Anthropocene in relationship to Western industrial assumptions rooted in the understanding of human-beings as separate from and superior to all other life-forms and the environments upon which they depend. Drawing from an ecocritical framework in education, I emphasize that because anthropocentrism is cultural rather than inherently natural, it is amenable to social change. As a scholar-activist educator, I take the position that (un)learning anthropocentrism as radical change is imperative in light of environmental degradation, climate change, and the multitude of social and ecological problems that follow as a consequence. The stakes are high and the capacity of the planet for sustaining life depends upon future generations learning to live in harmony and at peace with the diverse ecosystems within which they reside. More than a critique of anthropocentrism, I work to challenge this worldview and seek ways of engaging educators and educational researchers in doing the same. Drawing from ecocritical projects in education—including critical animal studies, anarchism, and ecofeminism—while recognizing centuries of wisdom in indigenous epistemologies, this talk shares a pedagogical process aimed at helping educators to recognize an anthropocentric worldview, to examine how this worldview is implicated in maintaining human (and male, white, able-bodied) supremacy, and to rethink anthropocentrism in favor of ecological alternatives that are socially just and encompass all living systems.
John Lupinacci is an Assistant Professor at Washington State University. He conducts research and teaches in the Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education (CSSTE) program using an approach that advocates for the development of scholar-activist educators. His ecocritical work in education is interdisciplinary and draws from critical social theory through anarchist philosophy, critical animal studies, new materialism, and queer-ecofeminist philosophy while recognizing that many of these Western frameworks are entangled with colonial cultures and thus ought not take precedence over—or appropriate—diverse indigenous knowledges. Drawing heavily from critical conceptions of environmental education, Dr. Lupinacci’s research focuses on how people—specifically educators, educational leaders, and educational researchers—learn to both identify and examine destructive habits of Western industrial human culture and how those habits are taught and learned in schools. His experiences as a high school teacher, an outdoor environmental educator, and a community activist-artist-scholar all contribute to his research, teaching, and development of interdisciplinary research projects open to the (im)possibilities of unexpected spaces with(in) education and educational research.
Special Issue of Workplace
Karen Lynn Gregory & Joss Winn
Articles in Workplace have repeatedly called for increased collective organisation in opposition to a disturbing trajectory in the contemporary university… we suggest that there is one response to the transformation of the university that has yet to be adequately explored: A thoroughgoing and reflexive critique of academic labor.
Table of Contents
- Marx, Engels and the Critique of Academic Labor
Karen Lynn Gregory, Joss Winn
- Towards an Orthodox Marxian Reading of Subsumption(s) of Academic Labour under Capital
- Re-engineering Higher Education: The Subsumption of Academic Labour and the Exploitation of Anxiety
Richard Hall, Kate Bowles
- Taxi Professors: Academic Labour in Chile, a Critical-Practical Response to the Politics of Worker Identity
Elisabeth Simbürger, Mike Neary
- Marxism and Open Access in the Humanities: Turning Academic Labor against Itself
- Labour in the Academic Borderlands: Unveiling the Tyranny of Neoliberal Policies
Antonia Darder, Tom G. Griffiths
- Jobless Higher Ed: Revisited, An Interview with Stanley Aronowitz
Stanley Aronowitz, Karen Lynn Gregory
The Institute for Critical Education Studies is please to sponsor two upcoming seminars on curriculum issues in Latin America and Spain.
Curricular Discourses with Practical Implications:
Perspectives and Experiences From Spain & South America
September 22, 2016
11:30am – 1:30pm
University of British Columbia
This seminar brings together scholars from Spain and South America working within a variety of curriculum studies traditions to discuss curriculum issues in contexts ranging from elementary education to higher education. The seminar will be an opportunity to explore how curricular discourses have implications in educational practices in local, national, and global contexts.
Panelists include Dr. Renato Gazmuri (Universidad Diego Portales, Chile); Sandra Delgado (Colombia), Fernando M. Murillo (Chile), Breo Tosar (Spain), and Héctor Gómez (Chile).
Curricular Ideologies in the Discussion and Negotiation of the Chilean Social Studies Curriculum
Monday, September 26, 2016
Noon – 1:oopm
University of British Columbia
Renato Gazmuri, PhD, Assistant Professor at Universidad Diego Portales (Chile).
Dr. Gazmuri will discuss his research on the construction of the social studies curriculum in Chile. The Chilean social studies curriculum has been defined through processes of discussion and negotiation between diverse actors and institutions with different views on the subject. In order to identify and describe these ideologies, a sequential and recursive methodological device was designed and applied in three stages of production and analysis of information: a documentary compilation around three curricular events of debate and negotiation, application of questionnaires, and interviews. At each stage a content analysis was performed. Five curriculum ideologies are identified and described, considering their assumptions about how the curriculum should define the subject matter, as well what its aims, contents and its guidelines for teaching.
These seminars are free and open to the public.
The Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES) was formally established in October 2010 to conduct and support cultural, educational, or social research within a critical education or critical pedagogy tradition. The ICES network consists of two flagship journals (Critical Education and Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor), two primary blogs (ICES blog and Workplace blog) and an array of other social media.
Radical Departures: Ruminations on the Purposes of Higher Education in Prison
Erin L. Castro, University of Utah
Mary Rachel Gould, Saint Louis University
Higher education in prison is experiencing a moment of increased attention throughout the United States. The Second Chance Pell Program, an Experimental Sites Initiative facilitated by the U.S. Department of Education, has helped to propel access to education inside prisons into mainstream discourse. The commonsense justification provided for increasing access to higher education in prison, a bipartisan language spoken across the political landscape, hinges on a compelling rationale: access to higher education in prison reduces recidivism, lowers cost, and increases safety and security. Departing from conventional logic regarding the rationale for higher education in prison, this special edition considers possibilities and futurities regarding postsecondary educational opportunity made available inside prisons.
The series aims to explore how various educational theories and theorists can inform understandings of and desires for higher education in prison. We invite manuscripts that provide imaginative and theoretically grounded visions for postsecondary education inside prisons that are disentangled from the logics of the carceral state and the afore mentioned commonsense rationales for higher education in prison. Authors are invited to put on hold narrow discourses of recidivism to explore higher education inside prison through conceptual, empirical, theoretical, pedagogical, narrative, and poetic articles that approach this topic from a variety of perspectives, frameworks, and positionalities.
In considering higher education in prison, we especially seek manuscripts authored and/or co-authored by currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, co-written essays among diverse stakeholders, and other creative configurations.
Manuscripts may examine, but are not limited to, the following questions:
- What does it mean to teach and/or learn on inside prisons?
- How can educational theory inform possibility inside prison classrooms?
- What does/should education mean inside prisons during hyperincarceration?
- What should be the purposes of higher education in prison?
- How can/do various educational theories take root inside prison classrooms?
- Which theoretical bodies are useful in (re)imagining and (re)engaging higher education in prison?
- How do examples in practice provide potential for re-theorization?
Manuscripts due: May 1, 2017.
For details on manuscript submission see: Critical Education Information for Authors
Additional questions can be directed to Erin L. Castro: firstname.lastname@example.org