Draw what you read

Ran across this on LinkedIn (don’t laugh; it was my once per 6mo jaunt through old messages and eyerolls because LinkedIn’s ad structure is just so …. obnoxious) and ran into Jeremy Waite’s brilliant book sketches. He reads and then draws visual notes and representations of concepts to help him remember what he read.

I like to say “All good ideas are stolen” — by that, I mean that we’re always borrowing good ideas we see out in the world, adding them to the ideas we already have, and remixing them into new things. I enjoy visual notetaking.

What I like about Jeremy’s style:
– it’s very neat and readable; he can save these and refer back to them or share them with others, and they’ll instantly be useful
– the colors truly help because the whole page isn’t color; he uses the color to draw his eye back to headings or ideas
– the mix of text and visual elements is much more text-heavy than what I usually see in people’s visual note-taking, but it’s more in line with what my visual notes look like (except mine are a hot mess compared to this)

Personal goal

I don’t think I should commit time to anything new right now, but I might try sketching a few more visual notes as I read core books and posting them here. No promises on this one; my bandwidth is mostly claimed and I’d lose myself in the joy of colored pencils rather than slaving in the salt mines of reading articles from my Zotero pile. 😀

teaching inside the box

Lessing: Teaching as indoctrination (and Lori on what that means for pedagogy)

Rios 2018* offers this stunning quote from Doris Lessing’s novel The Golden Notebook:

It may be that there is no other way of educating people. Possibly, but I don’t believe it. In the meantime, it would be a help at least to describe things properly, to call things by their right names. Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do.  What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgment. Those that stay must remember, always and all the time, that they are being molded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society (p. xxi).

Rios 2018 p175

Cultural pedagogy (my definition, based on Freire etc) is a pattern of teaching which prioritizes social justice above knowledge transfer so that learners can understand the larger and often invisible systems in which they live and act. When teaching members of typically oppressed and marginalized populations (and that definition is fluid; it depends on the local and larger contexts), teachers need to surface and discuss ways in which systems and institutions can propagate discrimination, whether people mean for this to happen or not. In doing so, students can learn to navigate those systems more to their advantage, and they can also choose to try to change them.

But what Lessing says here, and I cannot escape the sense that she is right, is that teachers cannot get away from the moral and political elements of education.

Either you are complicit or resisting.

Either you acquiesce to dumping information into learner’s heads so they can show competency on some standard or end of course test, or you build educational experiences to expand the learner’s understanding of the moral, political, social, cultural, and cognitive dimensions of the universe. And that kind of learning is incredibly hard to measure.

I took a cultural diversity & awareness course in my doctoral program this summer, a remarkable experience really – one of the best courses I’ve had. Perhaps the 2020 context gave that course an unfair advantage, but I’d like to think that it was also a well-crafted course by an outstanding professor who was careful to give us opportunities to “surface the systems” while not placing us under an undue burden of “activities.” We met voluntarily for Zoom sessions every Thursday, and at least 1/3 of the class showed up every week for some of the best discussions I’ve had in a while.

This is the forum post I submitted a few days ago, my final one for the course:

After posting Lessing’s quote above, I wrote the following:

What was lost to me in many ways within my education up to this point was the realization which so many Black educators have always had (and it’s my fault for not listening, and somewhat the fault of my White professors for never telling us): all teaching is political. All education is a moral act, one which says to students, “This is how the world ought to look!”  And as soon as you make any statement about the “oughts” of the world, you are on moral ground.

I think back to the Kincheloe* reading from the very first week of this course, where he reveals the inadequacies of most attempts at multiculturalism and pluralism because they either iron out all differences in the name of unity or all differences are placed on the same moral ground and given the same weight. Kincheloe’s assertion of critical multiculturalism is a rallying call to a particular moral viewpoint: that individuals deserve freedom from oppression arising out of class, race, or other demographic markers. 

What attracts me to critical theory at least in a general sense (I don’t always like the particular applications that I read) is this emphasis on being able to stand on a box and say, “This thing about the world right now is bad, because it hurts people, and we would be better people if we changed it.”   It’s hard to find other research paradigms which not only enable but also encourage the researcher to have a moral position without also demanding that the morality be linked to a particular religious viewpoint. The readings in PLP830 have deeply expanded my understanding of the issues related to critical theory, critical race theory, culturally responsive pedagogy, and diversity in general.  If anything, I am more likely now to see lack of diversity as a moral failure (perhaps a forgivable one, depending on the situation, but still a failure).

Returning to the quote by Lessing at the top of this post, we educators would serve our students much better if, like a good qualitative researcher, we surfaced our biases at the very outset and laid them before our students for examination — at some point. (Depends on the students, the class, the level of education, the goals of the teacher.)  But if we ourselves do not take time to parse out our values, if we are not willing to discuss openly with students how the American systems uphold racism while refusing to talk about it, then we are likewise part of the problem.  If we are not actively pushing against the System, then we teachers are serving as willing agents of the behemoth American Culture which would prefer us all to quietly acquiesce to whatever makes power-holders more powerful and more wealthy and more comfortable.

To educate well is to produce students who ask uncomfortable, awkward questions that force us to see when the emperor’s clothes are missing. American Exceptionalism is a myth unless you’re talking about America’s exceptional success at brutalizing indigenous peoples, taking land from people, building wealth on the backs of slavery, and expecting everybody to just “get over it” so we can get to the NASCAR race on time.
Yeehaw! I can already hear the phone calls from angry parents once they realize the history teacher had the audacity to teach the kids actual American history and not the family-friendly, Jesus-thick, Rated-G version we were raised to love.

Every education is indoctrination into a particular way of thinking. PLP830 does not escape. It’s likely we’re blind in ways we cannot see because our group’s collective experience is limited by its membership, circumscribing the diversity we’re able to experience here. 

But I do believe that we, like good critical realists, can look at the evidence, we can surface the hidden values and biases, and we can make judgments about which values seem more in line with a moral arc of the universe that promotes health and equity and flourishing for all people, not just the people who are already lucky. 

Sources mentioned

Kincheloe, J. L., & Steinberg, S. R. (1997). Changing multiculturalism. Open University Press.

Rios, F. (2018). The legacy and trajectories of multicultural education: Recognition, refusal, and movement building in troubling times. Multicultural Education Review, 10(3), 165–183. https://doi.org/10.1080/2005615X.2018.1497876

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

A few good reads on critical race theory and culturally responsive pedagogy

These articles arise out of my current summer course in Cultural Diversity & Awareness, one of the best courses I’ve had in a long time. Shout out to Dr. Jack Knipe, whose excellent instructional leadership in this course has enabled us to read thoughtfully and discuss even at a distance (hello, Covid-19 and everything being online).

on Critical Race Theory and Culturally Responsive Teaching in Teacher Prep

Hayes, C. & Juarez, B. 2012. “There is no culturally responsive teaching spoken here: A critical race perspective.” Democracy & Education (20)1. Article 1. https://democracyeducationjournal.org/home/vol20/iss1/1/

Hayes & Juarez tear into the way teacher education (preparation) prioritizes Whiteness as the default and continues to send many teacher candidates into the classroom without any equipment to 1) recognize the systemic and inherent racism / bias in American society and schools; 2) challenge future teachers to confront their own quiet biases; 3) identify the problem of White-as-normal and how it permeates educational spaces; 4) restructure programs within a critical theorist (critical race, critical pedagogy) frame to surface these issues.

Key quotes:
– teachers who practice Culturally Responsive Pedagogy tend to be “warm demanders” – they are adept at connecting to all kinds of students (“warm”) because they have a critical pedagogy framework to understand oppression and actively work against it, and they create a safe learning community where students are expected to rise to their full potential (“demanders”) pg 4

-“Part of this social justice commitment must include a critique of liberalism, neutrality, objectivity, color-blindness, and meritocracy as a camouflage for the self-interest of powerful entities of society (Tate, 1997).” pg 5

Page 6, under the heading “Whiteness, Power, and Knowledge Practices,” has a great explanation of what white privilege is, how Whiteness affects everyone and operates as a racial category and lens for reality.

-“The obstruction of culturally responsive teaching and social justice in teacher education requires no hate or racial conspiracy of Whites against racial minorities…. The daily business of teacher preparation and schooling is, rather, already set up to perpetuate the systemic privileging of Whiteness in U.S. society…”

Hayes & Juarez 2011, p 6

Weilbacher, G. (2012). Standardization and Whiteness: One and the Same? A Response to “There Is No Culturally Responsive Teaching Spoken Here”. Democracy and Education, 20 (2), Article 15. Available at: https://democracyeducationjournal.org/home/vol20/iss2/15

A response piece to Hayes & Juarez, Gary Weilbacher writes eloquently in this article about the undeniable and bad connection between Whiteness, systemic racism, and educational standards. He also points out that the CAEP accreditation standards for teacher education programs have commodified diversity, turning into a box students can check by spending “enough hours” visiting the margins of the Other (to echo Hayes & Juarez) and coming back with stories, but remaining essentially unchallenged and unchanged. Good read.

I believe that rich, complex notions of diversity that were being explored toward the end of the last century (Connell, 1993; Delpit, 1995; Nieto, 1999) have been gutted by the Common Core and other teacher-preparation standards, much like thick forms of democracy have been replaced by schools of choice and charters funded by some of the same conglomerates that write the standards and tests taken by all of our students. If we unquestionably accept standards, we also unquestionably accept White dominance, as the standards are the voice of White dominance. By contrast, challenging the standards calls into question White dominance by putting a target on an inequality that is very visible everywhere.

Weilbacher, 2012, p. 5

Classic foundational text: Ladson-Billings

Ladson-Billings, G. (1992). Liberatory Consequences of Literacy: A Case of Culturally Relevant Instruction for African American Students. The Journal of Negro Education, 61(3), 378. https://doi.org/10.2307/2295255

In addition to being one of the central founding articles in Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, I *love* this article’s rich description of a teacher’s classroom where she moves the experiences and voices of minority children to the center of their learning experience. The teacher prioritizes Black boys, helping them see themselves as leaders and planners, not slackers or slipping under a radar with low expectations. “Anna” (her pseudonym) eschews the praxis that Ladson-Billings calls “assimilationist”: she does not reproduce the discriminatory experiences of the broader American culture within her classroom.

Instead, as Ladson-Billings enumerates in her article (starting on page 386), “Ann” practices Culturally Relevant Pedagogy by:
— making sure the students most likely to be dismissed or “lost” in the majority-White American school system are those who take leadership and get a lot of attention and value;
–forming a learning community where students learn to learn, rather than relying on simplistic and repetitive teaching (worksheets, pre-digested content);
–incorporating students’ lived experiences into the discussions and curriculum content, helping the children see that they have knowledge to offer even if it doesn’t look like “traditional” written texts of a White school;
–viewing “literacy” as both written and oral — AND literacy for liberation (see below);
–working together with students toward liberation from oppression, and making that discussion explicit;
–seeing the work of teaching as political at its core.

About Literacy — Ladson-Billings talks about the contrast between literacy education as Freire used it to empower and liberate, and American literacy education and discussion, which is fairly neutered by comparison. No one is asking “literacy for what?” Filling that blank with “job attainment” or some other simplistic, commercial, capitalist answer demeans the power of literacy education (see discussion pages 380-81).

What set these teachers apart from those I term “assimilationist” teachers was their desire to prepare students to effect change in society, not merely fit into it. They supported this attitude of change by capitalizing on their students’ home and community culture. These teachers were practicing culturally relevant teaching, that is, a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

Ladson-Billings, 1992, page 382


Weilbacher, G. (2012). Standardization and Whiteness: One and the Same? Democracy & Education, 20(2), Article 15.

Ouch. Let’s get real about how standardization, the arrival of Common Core, the push to iron out all the differences, and trying to test everything to death is just…. racism. That might sound radical, but Weilbacher builds what I consider a strong case. At least, if you’re willing to accept central tenets of critical race theory. And I do.

Smalling, S. E. (2020). Overcoming resistance, stimulating action and decentering white students through structural racism focused antiracism education. Teaching in Higher Education, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2020.1725880

Smalling’s excellent article reviews the core issue with trying to teach people “not to be racists”: it activates White defensiveness which tends to neutralize the project. Smalling argues instead that anti-racist education needs to focus on retelling the history to help White students see that they have a racial identity, and then focusing on the effects of the history (rather than the causes of racism). I thought it was a really good read.

Harbin, M., Thurber, A., & Bandy, J. (2019). Teaching Race, Racism, and Racial Justice: Pedagogical Principles and Classroom Strategies for Course Instructors. Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice, 4(1). https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/rpj/vol4/iss1/1

The layout of this file makes it look unscholarly, but the information is fantastic. Harbin et al line out a number of practical teaching techniques for those working especially in higher education to surface issues of race and counteract racism in the classroom. Very useful.

Book: The Quest for a General Theory of Leadership. Goethals & Sorenson, eds

Goethals, G. R., & Sorenson, G. J. (Eds.). (2006). The quest for a general theory of leadership. Edward Elgar.


A group of scholars from a wide variety of fields meet to attempt to define a unified theory of leadership which could serve as a foundation for studies in org theory, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, etc. They failed. lol But they wrote a very interesting volume to detail their attempts and to delineate several good ideas that emerged out of their cross-disciplinary conversations.

Turns out, finding common ground for ontology, epistemology, theory, and especially methods and definitions was hard! Each of the disciplines brings its own baggage to the discussion. But the academics involved realized they had common ground as well.

Early chapters review the actual project, their discussions, and some of the foundational questions they wrestled with.

Most helpful:
– the chapter on various learning theories, from which the above image was taken. It’s a “periodic table of leadership theories” and it gives some structure to people’s understanding of the field… tho it’s limited (see below) by being 15 yrs old.
– the chapter on what a theory is and what it’s supposed to do anyway
the excellent chapter on Power, its various types and how it’s defined across various disciplines
the chapter on a constructionist approach to doing leadership theory, meaning that leadership is seen as a community project to accomplish a goal, and the “role” of leader moves around among various people. Implications for a qual not quant approach to methods.

Applications to my research

I can use the chapter on leadership theories and taxonomies as a broad base for reviewing leadership theory. Downside: this book was published in 2006, so most of the collectivist and relational leadership theories, or even complexity theory, are omitted.

I will review the chapter on Power. I’m not convinced that my dissertation needs to be grounded in full-on critical theory, but this chapter points me to a number of theorists who ground an awareness of power relationships relevant to my study.

I am chewing on the extent to which I can take a constructionist and collectivist approach to my research. I want to focus on the thoughts and actions of academic middle managers (department heads, deans) and I do not think I have access or time to fully review the entire department when I interview the manager. I would love to do a fully constructionist look at how a department reforms its teaching approach. If a case study emerges for my project, this would be useful.

The story thus far

I have been reading in summer 2020 about practice theory (Ortner 1984 was very helpful) thanks to an article by Sophia Ospina, who’s a qualitative sociologist and org theorist. She and her colleagues at NYU (and elsewhere) wrote a great article grounded in a constructionist view of relational leadership theory + practice theory to investigate how social justice organizations work to share power and get things done.

Ospina, S., & Foldy, E. (2010). Building bridges from the margins: The work of leadership in social change organizations. The Leadership Quarterly21(2), 292–307. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.01.008

Since reading that article in June, I’ve been working through a pile of reads about critical realism, relational leadership theory, practice theory, and complexity leadership approaches.

My goal is to get the literature review for my dissertation drafted and in my advisor’s hands by August 7, 2020. Wish me luck. lol