American Literature, American Learning Recap 3/16

American Literature, American Learning

Wednesday, March 16



6:30- 6:45 Announcements?


Assignments for next class (Wednesday March 30): Games & Active Learning/Formative Assessment


Agenda March 16


  • Index cards: what’s your #1 project? #2?
  • History game (Iris and Arinn)
  • Electromechanical sculpture on educational models (Arinn)
  • Class project like the one in Democracy film (Lisa)
  • Create an old-fashioned, oppressive, hierarchical class/lesson (Lisa)
  • Published handbook of teaching ideas (Mike)
  • Game (Mike)
  • Published handbook – formative assessment for faculty observations (Erica)
  • A game for remedial writers (Erica)
  • Published handbook – chapters organized around class themes (Josh)
  • Professional development workshops for CUNY campuses (Josh)
  • History game (Nicky)
  • Published handbook based on smaller projects (blogs, sculpture, ELL student resources) everyone contributes to larger handbook (Nicky)
  • Published handbook (Kelly)
  • Activities handbook for the classroom, things to implement (Kelly)
  • Two part thing: essays and practices, history of educational structures that reproduce inequalities, pedagogies to counter these (Zeb)
  • Reacting to the past game – educational history – can be book chapter (Iris)
  • Digital archive on history / primary sources related to course (Iris)
  • Something that draws practices together (interviews) involve students and teaching, how game functions in a classroom (Jeff)


Essays and practices


Practice                                                                     Essays

Reacting to the past (history of education) (Iris)        Inequality in education (Zeb)

Bifurcated classroom (experiment)    (Lisa)               History of CUNY dev. Workshops (Nicky)

Action: liberation!         (Jeff)                                       Rethinking faculty observations (Erica)

Movement in higher ed —- (Kelly)———————> Movement in the classroom (Mike)

Multilingual sensitivity workshop for faculty (Josh)   Multilingual sensitivity

Visual essay? Educational models? (Arinn)







Part One:   Go around the room and each person reads their favorite quotes out loud–no commentary.

Part Two: Pair up and each person chooses one quote and reads it to the other person while the second person listens. Then reverses. Each person interviews the other about why the person chose that quote.

Part Three: Fishbowl: Two people talk out loud about their quotes, each representing the others’ quote. Then switching. Then inviting questions from the class.




“Suppose a man–a civilian and student of hanging–should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Farquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”


“The examination,” or the finished story, or the perfected blog post, or the correct answer, or the ‘authority of experience,’ “as the fixing, at once ritual and ‘scientific,’ of individual differences, as the pinning down of each individual in his own particularity… clearly indicates the appearance of a new modality of power in which each individual receives as his status his own individuality…” (D&P 192)


“Then there are times when personal experience keeps us from reaching the mountaintop and so we let it go because the weight of it is too heavy. And sometimes the mountaintop is difficult to reach with all of our resources, factual and confessional, so we are just there collectively grasping, feeling the limitations of knowledge, longing together, yearning for a way to reach that highest point. Even this yearning is a way to know” (Teaching to transgress 92)




“Fifty percent of black faculty in traditionally white research universities received their bachelor’s degrees at an HBCU.”


“School was the place of ecstasy—pleasure and danger. To be changed by ideas was pure pleasure. But to learn ideas that ran counter to values and beliefs learned at home was to place oneself at risk, to enter the danger zone”.

bell hooks

Teaching to Transgress—Education as the Practice of Freedom


“Classroom as cell—unit–enclosed and enclosing space in which teacher and students are alone together

Can be prison cell commune

trap junction—place of coming together

torture chamber

But also part of much bigger nationwide cultural revolution”.

Notes, Statements & Memos on Seek, Basic Writing & The Interdisciplinary Program (1969-1972).



“His features were good—a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat.” An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

I picked out this quote for it’s irony among the other readings.

“They do not expect that the free right to vote, to enjoy civic rights, and to be educated, will come in a moment; they do not expect to see the bias and prejudices of years disappear at the blast of a trumpet; but they are absolutely certain that the way for a people to gain their reasonable rights is not by voluntarily throwing them away and insisting that they do not want them; that the way for a people to gain respect is not by continually belittling and ridiculing themselves; that, on the contrary, Negroes must insist continually, in season and out of season, that voting is necessary to modern manhood, that color discrimination is barbarism, and that black boys need education as well as white boys.” W.E.B. DuBois Critiques Booker T. Washington

“Although these institutions were called universities” or “institutes” from their founding, a major part of their mission in the early years was to provide elementary and secondary schooling for students who had no previous education. It was not until the early 1900s that HBCUs began to offer courses and programs at the postsecondary level.” Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Higher Education Desegregation

While it makes sense, I didn’t realize this, it is quite something.

“To begin, the professor must genuinely value everyone’s presence. There must be an ongoing recognition that everyone influences the classroom dynamic, that everyone contributes. These contributions are resources.” Teaching to Transgress

This Bells-Hooks piece was overall super powerful and hit very close to home, but this quote particularly is powerful and made me take a step back and think of my own classroom.



“Professors who expect students to share confessional narratives but who are themselves unwilling to share are exercising power in a manner that could be coercive” (21).


hooks also struck a nerve when she related how disappointing it was for her to encounter “male professors who claimed to follow Freire’s model” but their actual pedagogical practices were “mired in structures of domination, mirroring the styles of conservative professors even as they approached their subjects from a more progressive standpoint” (18).



Engaged pedagogy necessarily values student expression. In her essay “Interrupting the Calls for Student Voice in Liberatory Eductation,” Mimi Orner employs a Foucauldian framework to suggest that:

Regulatory and punitive means and uses of the confes­sion

bring to mind curricular and pedagogical prac­tices

which call for students to publicly reveal, even

confess, information about their lives and cultures in

the presence of authority figures such as teachers.



bell hooks, “It is appropriate for [students] to hope that the knowledge received in [the classroom] will enrich and enhance them.”




“The superimposition of the power relations and knowledge relations assumes in the examination all its visible brilliance.” The Means of Correct Training, Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault.


“It was hard for individuals to fully grasp the idea that recognition of difference might also require of us a willingness to see the classroom change, to allow for shifts in relations between students.” Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks.



To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn. That learning process comes easiest to those of us who teach who also believe that there is an aspect of our vocation that is sacred; who believe that our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.(hooks, 13)​


The success of disciplinary power derives no doubt from the use of simple instruments; hierarchical observation, normalizing judgement and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it, the examination. (Foucault, 170)


The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation; an apparatus in which the techniques that make it possible to see induce effects of power, and in which, conversely, the means of coercion make those on whom they are applied clearly visible. (Foucault, 170-1)



Here are some quotes that interested me:

“I was afraid that I would be trapped in the academy forever.” –bell hooks

“It surprised and shocked me to sit in classes where professors were not excited about teaching, where they did not seem to have a clue that education was about the practice of freedom.” –bell hooks

“One form of damage shows as mistrust of the written word as a genuine article–in the papers of students who simply fill-up a page without really believing that their words can and should convey anything they are really thinking and feeling.” –Adrienne Rich

“Others less shrewd and tactful had formerly essayed to sit on these two stools and had fallen between them.” –W. E. B. DuBois on Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise (1895)

“The success of disciplinary power derives no doubt from the use of simple instruments; hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it, the examination.”– Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish

“The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age.” –“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” [it’s that passive voice that intrigues me about this whole belated occurrence of learning]



“…it may be to their [the students’] far greater advantage for us to re-examine all that we’ve been doing, try untested things, put ourselves on the line, be willing to take risks. These risks will be as much with ourselves as with them.” — Adrienne Rich


“Our ability to meet the needs of our students, depends to some extent on the remediation of our own education, which in most cases was patchy or inadequate in the above areas…Too often teachers fail–through inexperience, blind spots, human fragility, personal fatigue, the pressure of public stresses. The experimentation we do needs much more shared coherence–we need much more time in which to thrash out our methods and aims to each learn what is being done in other pilot programs, connect with our colleagues teaching SEEK students in other fields” — Adrienne Rich


“Attending school then was sheer joy. I loved being a student. I loved learning. School was the place of ecstasy–pleasure and danger. To be changed by ideas was pure pleasure. But to learn ideas that ran counter to values and beliefs learned at home was to place oneself at risk, to enter the danger zone” — hooks, 3


“Excitement is generated through collective effort” — hooks, 8


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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