Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Natalie Avalos on Insurgent Pedagogies: Decolonization is For All of Us

June 2017's Teaching Resistance column in MaximumRockNRoll deals with the educational imperative, at ALL levels, of decolonization and how we can facilitate this process as teachers in a world where literally no one is exempt from the structures and processes that have kept colonialism and oppression intact. The column is by Natalie Avalos, an ethnographer of religion whose research and teaching focus on Native American and Indigenous religions in diaspora, healing historical trauma, decolonization, and social justice. She is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Connecticut College. She was born and raised in the Bay Area and cut her radical consciousness teeth in its underground music scene.

Insurgent Pedagogies: Decolonization is For All of Us

We hear the word decolonization often in resistance circles but what does it mean? Some of you may dismiss it as irrelevant by thinking “I’m not a POC, I haven’t been affected or constrained by colonialism?” Bad news, buddy. We are ALL affected and constrained by colonialism, not just in the U.S. but around the globe. The parallel logics of modern colonialism can be seen more readily in 20th c. U.S. interventionism such as in El Salvador or Vietnam, but its contemporary expression, contingent on racial hierarchies (where whiteness sits atop as the ideal locus of humanity), religious persecution, and “economic development,” have been replicated in places like Tibet, by China. The strains of empire that transformed the Americas hundreds of years ago have morphed into a global, multi-national system of neocolonial players that subjugate less powerful nations through economic bullying. We are still in the throes of colonization. Whiteness does not preclude you from decolonizing projects. If you are descended from European settlers, the social and economic privileges of whiteness contribute to your individual social capital. My constraint and dispossession have directly supported your access to wealth and prosperity. We are deeply linked through these overlapping histories and so share their legacy. Although they shape and constrain us in different ways, the ideological and material structures (racialization, patriarchy, heteronormativity, neoliberalism, the objectification of the earth) produced in their wake act as the foundation of our social life. And thus, we have a collective responsibility to undo them. Together.

We can think of decolonization most simply as the undoing of colonialism, not only its structures (see above) but also the amelioration of its affects, like historical trauma and internalized colonialism. For instance, in a material context, it can mean deconstructing settler states and redistributing lands back to Indigenous peoples or even organizing against racist policies. In an affective context, it can mean personal empowerment, healing, and cultural regeneration. These two contexts are contingent—one necessitates and supports the other. Decolonization is the driving theme for many of my classes, meaning my primary pedagogical objective is for students to not only understand specific histories of colonialism, whether in the Americas, Oceania, or Asia and their correlating structures, but also learn about the many paths of resistance, material (boots on the ground organizing) and immaterial (developing a radical consciousness). As a religious studies scholar, I emphasize that we cannot decouple the material and immaterial dimensions of life because they shape one another. Ideas, ethics, and belief are a major component of this resistance. We cannot transform our material conditions without deconstructing the ideologies and affective drives that have forged them. We cannot transform our material conditions without naming the multiple forms of our dispossession and claiming our existential rights to live in our full humanity. We are whole beings that have been subject to ideological/structural violence for generations. Even those of us who have benefited the most from these injustices are still affected and disfigured by their horror. It will take time and effort to undo this doing. First we have to understand what we’re resisting, why were resisting it, what forms of resistance have been effective and why.

My approach to teaching decolonization projects, since they are multiple and diverse, is exploring how at heart they are about transforming our relationships to power. Franz Fanon noted that colonization estranges the colonized from their own metaphysical worlds—their cosmologies, knowledges, and ways of being. Multiple forces of power (institutional, epistemological, religious) collude over time to produce this estrangement. Decolonial scholar, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, describes coloniality as a matrix of knowledge, power, and being. Naturally, a decoloniality that addresses these three dimensions of human experience is necessary. I agree with Fanon and Maldonado-Torres that understanding the nature of coloniality is critical to its intervention. However, we can’t stop there. We need to consider (and celebrate) real and existing solutions. The exploration of power is a generative starting place for understanding how to decolonize projects because it is often a catalyst for resistance. Although colonial dispossession of power (material and immaterial) has appeared totalizing, the dispossessed have found creative entry points to take back power. For example, individuals and communities may begin to take back their power by regenerating their ways of being through revitalized religious traditions and other forms of traditional lifeways or by researching their own institutional histories and forming a new locus of governance. The simple but powerful refusal to be complicit in racism or homophobia is a tacit way to take back power. Thinking through these possibilities de-naturalizes hierarchies of power, forcing us to consider what more lateral forms of power look like. A framework of decolonization also forces us to see social life as deeply interconnected. When a constellation of social change in line with decolonization is taking place, whether through movements for Native sovereignty or Black Lives Matter, our web of relations is forced to continually shift and accommodate these new rules for living and being. We are forced to consider our relationship to unjust expressions of power and respond in kind. You may think “well thas cool, but how do we negotiate decolonization in our everyday lives?”

Many of us in the underground music scene were intuitively resistant to normative social structures and expressions. For me, and likely many of you, I remember feeling distrustful of social norms that appeared to be rooted in unjust relations of power, whether this was traditional gender roles, racial hierarchies, or even normative beauty standards. I found myself reveling in social critique. It was a way for me to take back power. This critique motivated me to learn more about these structures of oppression and eventually understand them as complex expressions of empire. But after awhile (years) of criticizing these structures, I found myself longing to believe in something, for a kind of social analysis that could both deconstruct and construct and maybe even instruct. I was drawn to working as a scholar because it provided me with unique opportunities to be critical but also generative. As an educator, I am invested in helping students develop their critical voices, which is fundamental, but also explore solutions to social problems. Why is this important? Because we need direction. Colonization has stripped many of us of our ethical and political systems and left us with a hollowed out social world that has exchanged consumerism for ethics and meaning. We need alternative visions for living and being. And we need to remind ourselves it is possible to live in a different kind of world. To remind ourselves that we have so much more power than we realize. To remind ourselves of the possibilities beyond all those oppressive structures shaping our lives, such as misogyny and racism, when they seem totalizing. To recognize that we have internalized these structures in ways that may take us a lifetime to unravel and to be gentle with ourselves when we feel defeated by our own shortcomings (not being “aware enough” “having the right analysis” etc.). To recognize that needing community (and direction) doesn’t make us flawed, it makes us human.

Yes. I love me some good social critique. Here, here, y’all woke boo boos around the world. But we can get stuck there. Our love of critique may be rooted in our natural inclination to scratch beneath the surface, to act as dialecticians, seeking the antithesis of the thesis. But we often struggle with synthesizing our new insights into a coherent worldview that allows us to step into a better future. One of the problems we face teaching radical forms of resistance is that we can never come up with perfectly objective solutions. One community’s decolonization is going to look different than another’s. One individuals’ relationship to power, depending on their social position will determine how they decolonize. We often have to feel our way through particular scenarios of injustice in order to understand our options for resolution. This is highly contextual and a lot of work. But teaching students to both critique and be generative allows us to see that this is not only possible but that the macro structures constraining our lives are replicated in the micro relations of our everyday lives. We may not be able to eliminate Racism as a structure in our everyday but we can recognize and challenge our internalized assumptions about others, and ourselves, enabling us to build stronger happier communities. We may not able to eliminate the settler state overnight but we work towards building functional communities from the bottom up. The fact that we intuitively seek to improve upon our social world is a sign that we want to improve it. Many of us in this struggle are idealists that want to see and live in a better world. But sometimes we lose track of the trees for the forest. We forget that when we transform the micro relations in our everyday lives—relationships with our families, co-workers, friends, partners, etc.—we are actively transforming our social world. --Natalie Avalos

Radicalizing Classical Western Education

Few subjects demand modern revision and de-centering/de-prioritizing in schools as the broad range of topics under the umbrella of “The Classics” and “Western Civilization” - the study of Greek and Roman antiquity, and the Roman Empire's Latin language. This field of study has a long reputation as stale, regressive, and Eurocentric/colonialist in focus, a reputation that literally stretches back hundreds of years. However, as with the teaching of any historical subject, the key for radical educators is to encourage resonant critiques of the dominant narratives; to find the cracks in the historical façade, help students in their efforts to widen and examine them, and then plant seeds so beautiful subversive weeds can grow from these static academic monoliths as they crumble. Additionally, when it comes to Latin, understanding this ancient language can help students to understand the root elements and grammatical conventions of most Western European languages, very much including English, and can thus serve as a powerful tool in promoting literacy.

May 2017's Teaching Resistance column in MaximumRockNRoll is by Tom Oberst, a Latin teacher in London. In the context of the United Kingdom, the study of the Classics has long served to reinforce strong class divisions. Tom has dedicated himself to helping upend and update this system by making Latin accessible and resonant to all students, especially those who have had to deal with the business end of colonialism; a task that implicitly includes critiquing and deconstructing the Classics from the ground up. Tom can be reached at

Latin is not often seen as the basis for a radical approach to education. Historically it has been the preserve of the elites, and as a result ancient Italian, Greek, Egyptian, Tunisian, Spanish and Arabic men and women are presented to most Latin classrooms as straight, white men. It's normally seen as a privileged or elite subject which supports colonialism, racism, totalitarianism and other damaging hierarchies. On top of this, the new history curriculum in the UK is whitewashing Britain’s past and the Classics is at risk of becoming a part of this. However, myself and many of my colleagues fighting to keep Latin and the Classics in state schools see it quite differently: as a liberating subject which young students can use to deconstruct and critique modern assumptions and orthodoxies.

In the early 20th Century, as the state began to take responsibility for providing education to all children, Latin was taught at around a quarter of state maintained schools. A large reason for this was the desire to allow the highest attaining students to prepare for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams for which you needed to know Latin or Greek. This changed in 1960, when both universities dropped this requirement in a bid to widen access. This significantly diminished the amount of state schools which taught Latin, as it was seen as surplus to requirements. In a bid to counter this trend, a group of Classicists, influenced by Noam Chomsky’s new theories on universal grammar, made extensive efforts to open the Classics up to all. Even now, despite being taught in more state schools that private schools (although there are more students in private schools studying the subject), it’s an uphill battle. There is a definite movement of teachers, lecturers and enthusiasts who are working towards this goal, but lack of funding from the last two governments has caused schools to sideline non-core subjects.

There are many misconceptions about Latin’s usefulness which have been challenged by research over the past 40 years. New textbooks and methods of teaching, new programmes, exam boards, theories and approaches to the Classics have allowed Latin to be taught in a way that benefits all students rather than just an elite few. However there are barriers on the ground. A lack of governmental funding for schools has meant that Latin is often only used by school leaders to entice middle-income parents or to stretch ‘Gifted and Talented’ (G&T) students. Below I’ll outline a few ways in which we can, and are, keeping Latin and the Classics interesting, critical and subversive in state education.

If Latin is taught in state schools it is often taught to those deemed G&T. Whilst the term in general does not take into consideration the broad range of factors contributing to students’ academic proficiencies or attainment, it has been seriously detrimental in opening access to the Classics. As a direct result of state funding stagnation, schools like my own often have only one Latin teacher or a few non-specialists taking it in turns to offer lessons. This naturally divides students into two camps often based upon their primary school English results. Not only is this a weak determining factor for determining proficiency in an ancient language, it also arbitrarily decides who is perceived as “clever” and who is not. In a bid to combat this, I run after school and lunchtime clubs for students who are interested. Last year we focused on Ancient Greek, learning the basics of the language and mythology, then we designed and made pottery depicting characters from these myths. Although only a small step, it’s important to show students that the school setting does not have to determine who they are and what they can achieve.

This setting also ignores the benefits of Latin for students whose first language is not English (English as an Additional Language) or who are dyslexic. EAL students may not feel comfortable in modern foreign language classes, as there is a performative aspect to speaking and listening, neither of which are usually taught in ancient languages. Similarly, dyslexic students often find Latin simpler to break down with little instruction which can build confidence in other written subjects. Unfortunately, these students are often not given the chance to explore classical subjects, as many head teachers see Latin as a way to entice middle-income parents to the school with the hope of increased grades and do not open the subject up to all.

One of the benefits of knowledge of ancient history is the ability to look back and analyse the past without directly critiquing anyone’s moral, political or philosophical viewpoint. This provides us with a safe space to examine complex topics such as race, identity, gender and religious beliefs at a relatively young age. This is very important in state institutions, which often fail to address or facilitate the exploration of such vital ideas. It also allows us to challenge the presupposed orthodoxy of mainstream classical thought: that the Romans and Greeks were great peoples, and that this is the reason why the subject has persisted. Whilst that’s obviously bollocks - Athenian women were widely oppressed from (what they were forced to wear to their social responsibilities), both societies were highly colonialist, slavery was accepted by the majority of Greeks and Romans etc. - it is the pervading thought. Challenging this allows us, as teachers, to encourage young students to critique ancient structures and ideas and their modern counterparts. In monthly sessions with my Key Stage 3 (Years 7-8, ages 11-13) students, we deal with a different topic from slavery to race to elections to religious beliefs.

My most recent discussion stemmed from an 11 year old asking if the Romans were racist. From this, we went into examining the difference between racist language and structural/institutional racism, and how people may not perceive their actions, words or even lives to be racist but they can still be. The students contrasted the concept of the Roman use of the word ‘citizen’, civis, (by the 1st Century AD this meant being a free, adult male Italian), and the divisive use of the term to justify aggressive military expeditions, as well as today’s concept of nationality, tied to modern rhetoric about immigration, asylum seekers and race.

As a result of the Romans’ aggressive imperial expansion, there are many tales of oppressed groups resisting. To allow our students to learn about this resistance, we studied the de facto leader of the Iceni (a tribe in East Anglia), Boudicca, who led a rebellion against the Roman occupying forces in Britannia in 60/61AD. We took a group of 30 Year 9 students (14/15 years old) to the Museum of London to learn more about this resistance, writing speeches from her perspective before the Battle of Watling Street - where the rebellion was at its peak, but subsequently defeated. With the majority of the class coming from Afro-Caribbean heritage, this exercise allowed students to explore and articulate their own frustrations with colonialism, racism and oppression, and encouraged solidarity with other oppressed groups through empathising with Boudicca and the Iceni. The speeches were incredibly moving, and the students spoke with a passion that they are rarely able to express in our usual lessons about grammar.

Many of the students had previously only had a few reference points for slavery, oppression and colonialism, those taught to them in schools: the transatlantic slave trade, apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany. My 6th Form students baulked when I informed them that Hannibal the Great, one of the greatest military commanders of the era, was not white. Despite knowing he was from Carthage (near modern Tunis), they had assumed he was white like every other historical military leader they have studied. Too often, no mention is made of the revolutionary secessions of the plebs, the importance of multiculturalism in the success of the Roman Empire, the critique of authoritarian power in Virgil’s Aeneid. Not that Roman culture should be held up as a model for others to follow. It is rife with examples of colonialism, racism, sexism, totalitarianism and many other damaging hierarchies.

The Greeks and Romans were excellent orators and spent hours pouring over speeches. Modern speech writers mine the likes of Cicero and Lysias for techniques with which to embellish their ideas. Most recently we have seen Donald Trump, whose campaign used all the classics techniques of ancient and modern demagogues: the art of repetition, colloquialism and verisimilitude. As a result, he has provided excellent subject material to analyse when teaching A Level students about the power of Ciceronian rhetoric. Analysing the rhetorical techniques used by ancient orators gives students the ability to demystify and critique modern politicians and social leaders, and empowers them to navigate the boundary between what they are saying and that they mean.

There are many ways in which Latin, a subject perceived to be elite, can challenge modern orthodoxies. As teachers it’s important to redefine mainstream attitudes towards the study of the language and culture of the Greco-Roman world, and in doing so allow it to be used as a tool for students to critique and deconstruct the social hierarchies around them.   --Tom Oberst

“Capitalism Plus Racism Breeds Fascism:” The Black Panthers Exhibit and the Hopes of a Better History Class

The Teaching Resistance column is normally from the perspective of primary and secondary-level teachers (K-12) and other community-based educators, like free school and community college teachers, who have to use a lot of specific pedagogy – teaching practice and methods designed to reach as many students as possible, and to genuinely help them academically grow. Many (not all!) professors at the university level take the standard professorial approach of talking at their students, then making them read something they (or their friends) probably wrote, then leaving them to their own devices and grading them based on how prepared they were for their class prior to entering it – it is often a competitive environment for students, not built for educational nurturing as primary/secondary education is, and that is why there are not a lot of punk professors writing for this column.

However, one class of teachers at the university level does have to engage in robust pedagogy, and that is the Teaching Assistant. The TA sits down with students, constructively assesses their work, and helps make difficult material accessible. The teaching assistant should probably get paid at least as much as a tenured professor, but that's a subject for another column. April 2017's Teaching Resistance is from Keith Riley, who is a teaching assistant at a college in Philadelphia, and combines a story of the struggle to help college students understand a powerful, complex subject (The Black Panther movement) that is distant from many of their own life experiences, with a review of the educational potential of one of the most well-designed museum exhibits the bay area has ever seen – the Black Panther exhibit at the Oakland Museum. Keith can be contacted directly at

Capitalism Plus Racism Breeds Fascism:” The Black Panthers Exhibit and the Hopes of a Better History Class

By Keith Riley

All the men who work the land / Should evaluate themselves and take a stand / Can’t they see beyond the rhetoric? / The lies and the promises that don’t mean shit / And all the men who learned to hate them" – Minutemen, "Themselves," 1984.

"Makes me wanna holler / The way they do my life" - Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues," 1971. 

I spent the last six months employed as a Teaching Assistant for a class on protest movements throughout U.S. History at a college in North Philadelphia. While I did occasionally develop passing relationships with the students, the job mostly consisted of a lot of Friday nights huddled over a stack of one hundred and twenty of their papers in a dimly lit library. Grading papers can switch from tedious to nauseating pretty fast, but it does have its occasional moments of clarity. By reading stacks of these student papers, I found out how they conceived of the past, what they latched onto and how they applied it to their own lives. It all had a weird type of mythos attached to it. No matter what was stressed in the class, the kids’ papers reflected their own conclusions. A sort of mismatch of ideas and sometimes fabricated events that reflected what they wanted the past to be. A lot of the time, what they wanted they wanted history to be was over with quickly, so they could leave class and move onto stuff about which they actually cared. But, sometimes, their renderings had deeper, more confounding implications.

One place I saw this a lot was with the students’ discussions of the Black Panther Party. Unfortunately, the class only briefly covered them, but they somehow kept coming up in these papers. They were fascinated by the Panthers. For many students, the Panthers became a changing mechanism, a foil of sorts, to speak to their own feelings about protest and race relations. “The Black Panthers were founded by Malcolm X, they staged riots across the country after MLK’s assassination, all their protests ended in violence, they hated white people, and they remained unable to attract a significant following,” they repeatedly argued. They got it so wrong. Their fascination was misdirected. As someone also fascinated by the Black Panthers, I perhaps futilely tried to convince them otherwise them by scribbling comments on the side of the page. “The Panthers favored self-defense not violence in and of itself.” “The Panthers collaborated and formed coalitions with other left groups of numerous ethnic communities,” I would write. But, there’s only much marginalia a student will actually read before flipping to the final page where the grade is written.

I didn’t have much say in the curriculum of the class last semester, but I wish I could’ve redirected this interest in some way that the students would actually find meaningful. I wish they had been to the Oakland Museum’s exhibit All Power to the People: The Black Panthers at 50 staged in Oakland, California – the Black Panthers’ birth place – that is set to end in a few weeks. The exhibit tackles these common negative perceptions aimed at discrediting the Party’s many successes and redirects society’s obsession with the Party to a place that reflects the successes that emerge from a leftist political model like the one that the Panthers implemented. Rather than focusing on the political turmoil between Party leaders Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton like PBS’ documentary Vanguard of the Revolution or fixating on their militant, gun-touting image as the mainstream news so often did, All Power to the People focuses on the legitimate community grievances that the Party responded to, the programs they developed, the coalitions they built, and the real progress they made. All this mixed up with some solid analysis of J. Edgar Hoover’s evil plans to destroy and discredit the Black Panthers’ good intentions and you’ve really got a pretty radical telling of history presented in a fun, approachable manner, a history that many have tried to ignore or deliberately malign. Sure, for leftists, residents of black neighborhoods around the country who experienced the Panthers’ impact, historians, and the occasional Berkeley resident who listens to Democracy Now! on their way to work, this stuff is old news. It might be easy for many to critique the exhibit for not including this or overlooking that. But, if the analysis of college freshmen's final exams is any indication of how people view the Black Panther Party, the information in this exhibit really has the potential to re-frame history in important ways for many people. An important teaching tool – to say the least. 

The exhibit opens with the context of the Black Panther Party’s formation. Maps that show the government-funded, real estate red-lining present in the black neighborhoods of the East Bay – measures that prevented families in North, West, and portions of East Oakland (East Oakland was mostly white until the 1950s/60s), North Richmond, South Berkeley, and other neighborhoods from receiving government loans to fix up their homes and move to new neighborhoods, line the gallery walls. Newspaper articles detailing the 1965 Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles and the 1966 Hunters Point neighborhood uprising in San Francisco appear as well. The room also features the remnants of ornate, intricately designed columns, door knobs, and front doors that formerly adorned West Oakland Victorian homes owned by black families. These structures were later destroyed by city government in the Oak Center Redevelopment Plan of 1965 - a year prior to the Party’s formation. This urban renewal project destroyed thousands of historic homes – some of the oldest in the city – to make way for the high-rise Acorn housing projects that now overlook the city’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood. As the exhibit eludes, these governmental initiatives aimed at perpetuating white supremacy made the Bay Area’s lower income neighborhoods, mostly housing immigrants and people of color, ripe for insurrection and leftist organizing. In this context, the Black Panthers’ formation no longer seems radical or dangerous, but efficient and necessary. 

In the next room, the culmination of this context proverbially beats the viewer over the head in the form of giant black walls that lists the Party’s 1966 Ten Point Program in luminous white font. The Program called for decent housing, an end to police violence, an end to war, furthered social programs, prison abolition, black self-determination, among other initiatives aimed at improving black neighborhood conditions that still undoubtedly resonate today. As I looked upon the wall, I overheard a mother explaining Point Five – “We Want Education For Our People that Exposes the True Nature of this Decadent American Society. We Want Education that Teaches Us Our True History and Our Role in the Present-Day Society” – to her small child. I remembered reading the Ten Point Program for the first time in High School and how excitingly radical the wording of that statement sounded at a young age. (This kid was way younger.) Yet, in the spirit of the exhibit, the mother explained the point to the child in a manner that stressed how essential black historical representation was during the mid-1960s. The Point was not a radical one, but one dear to the hearts of students and teachers alike across the country who wish to see their communities represented positively and honestly in school curriculums. “Back then, black people were often portrayed as not as good as white people and teachers didn’t tell kids about the bad things the United States did to black people and a lot of other people too. The Black Panthers wanted to change that,” the mother said. I’d imagine the next moment was one that every leftist educator dreams of. From the look on the child’s face, it seemed like they understood. The kid got it. This was the interaction I wanted to have with my students after I read their final exams. I wanted them to get it too. I wanted them to see the merit embedded in the Panthers' Ten Point Program. It seemed like everyone in that gallery certainly did.

The exhibit continued and the myths perpetuated in these aforementioned papers were continually disproven in various panels and displays. The Panthers were not racial separatists, but black activists who wished to partner with other leftists across ethnic lines. They formed coalitions with groups like the American Indian Movement, the White Panthers, the Brown Berets, I Wor Kuen, the Red Guard, the SF-Mission District’s own Los Siete de la Raza, among other radical groups. Two thirds of the Party’s members were women. They served breakfast to children in low-income neighborhoods across the country. They provided free ambulance services, allowing community residents to avoid the steep medical fees associated with these expensive rides. They provided sickle cell anemia testing and set up free-medical clinics, some of which still exist in cities like Berkeley and Oakland. They even set up schools for children that adhered to Point Five of the Platform, like the Oakland Community School in East Oakland. Above all, they demonstrated the many successes inherent in a leftist political model when organized correctly and the need for community-driven social programs to benefit society’s most vulnerable. And - for this - the U.S. government brutally dismantled them.

The Black Panther Party is undoubtedly the United States’ most important – not to mention successful – leftist political organization of the last fifty years or more. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, no large-scale history exhibit has given them much of a fair shake until the Oakland Museum’s recent renderings. In the age of a Donald Trump presidency, the example of the Panthers represented in this exhibit could not be more important. The phrase “Capitalism Plus Racism Breeds Fascism” printed on the cover of 1969 Black Panther newspaper reads like a recipe for our current predicaments. This paper was, in fact, featured in the exhibit. I’m sure that many others took note of the slogan’s unfortunate timelessness.

It is because of this that I hope that those involved in presenting the past – teachers of all levels, historians, writers, museum curators, and activists who print catchy slogans that evoke the past on cardboard signs – remember the example of All Power to the People and its attempt to showcase the strengths, essentialness, and even modern applicability of the Black Panther Party’s politics. Our work should have a political purpose. It should aim to undermine and de-legitimize racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and all capitalist-driven structures of oppression. Our analysis must reject the police and the prison industrial complex that their occupation perpetuates. Renderings of the past should reveal the benefits of community-driven social programs and the left’s historic investment in these programs’ creation. Let’s convince our students and those who will listen to us of a better way of doing things, of the moral bankruptcy of Donald Trump. A knowledge of the past can not defeat fascism on its own. Yet, as the All Power to the Power exhibit shows getting everyone on a similar page certainly aids in eventual progress. -- Keith Riley

"We're striking back baby and you can find me in the vanguard."
- Sheer Mag, "Can't Stop Fighting," 2016. 

Prisons and Schools: Institutional Education and the State

Miles of ink have been spilled debating and dissecting the fabled school-to-prison pipeline, a problem endemic to the U.S. education system that almost-exclusively affects its most socioeconomically disadvantaged students; students for whom realistic options for survival and resistance were always slim and high-risk. Less commonly discussed, however, is what options exist for these students' educational attainment following their likely incarceration at the hands of an oppressive capitalist state – and what options for survival and resistance remain in this most-restrictive of environments. March 2017's Teaching Resistance column in MaximumRockNRoll features some powerful reflections from Lena Tahmassian, a PhD researcher and teacher living in Oakland, CA, and a perennial MRR reader as well as contributor in more recent years. Her column focuses on the importance of not-for-profit prison higher education and solidarity in the post-reason era. Lena can be reached at

On February 1, 2017 inmates took over a wing of the Vaughn Prison in Delaware, protesting Trump and demanding better conditions and “remedies conducive to reform and rehabilitation” with education at the top of their list. A guard who was taken hostage died and there is now, at the time of writing, a civil rights coalition asking for a transparent federal investigation. Little more than that information was made known to the public. While most prisons are public institutions, there is not much common knowledge about what goes on in them. Whether or not there will be a further degradation of prison conditions under Trump (there could easily be), this act holds symbolic weight: members of the most marginalized group in society (most can’t even vote) protest an administration that will more than ever place private profit over people, an administration that has already made explicit that various (disproportionately nonwhite) sectors of the population are essentially disposable.

Returning to the prisoners’ demands, this column is in defense of not-for-profit higher education in prisons, not only because I believe that people are not disposable, but also that teaching and learning go both ways. My higher education teaching experience to date has been split between graduate student teaching at an elite university and volunteer teaching for the accredited college program at San Quentin State Prison. I got involved in the latter because there was a need for my particular skills, I wanted to do something less self-serving than just getting a PhD, and to expand my teaching skills. In general, I was up for the challenge of teaching people whose experiences would mostly be very different from my own.

While I’ve taught in two radically different learning environments, my basic objectives are fundamentally the same: to teach them to create meaning out of texts and to critically think and rethink the basis of knowledge production. One notable difference of prison higher education, other than the technological lack (only pen and paper are available), is that when your everyday reality is the very definition of confinement, the classroom acquires a new liberating dimension. Students are eager to speak and share their experiences, and the classroom is, unlike their cellblocks, racially integrated. For us as instructors, being a volunteer in a free program is also in itself liberating (provided you can make time for it). This dynamic does seem to partially inform the students’ attitudes which shift more towards “Thanks for teaching us!” rather than the “Hey, I’m paying for this!” vibe of the increasingly neoliberal academy. That said, I’ve had many considerate and inquisitive students at the traditional university, but some do treat education like a product to be consumed. I suppose in defense of the student-as-consumer mindset (from their perspective), one must recognize that the astronomical cost of higher education and the fact that many students will be indebted into the foreseeable future places increasing pressure on them to see learning as a serious financial investment on which they must see a return.

In my experience, incarcerated students tend to ask “is this how they do things at… (Stanford, Berkeley, etc.)?” They want to know that they are being challenged and not patronized. It’s also a good practice for me to always question and reflect on my methods by having to explain why we assess learning a certain way. I’ve come to believe strongly however that it’s not just about importing and adapting methodologies from the elite academy for those who in many cases were never afforded the opportunity of higher education, but that prisoners also have a lot to teach us. Bringing all of their diverse life experiences to the table opens up new possibilities for discussion. Also, many of us tend to slide through life avoiding our problems, burying our traumas, making the same mistakes, and never facing our insecurities head on. For those seeking rehabilitation, self-reflection is unavoidable and often involves identifying and extirpating the markers of toxic masculinity. I’ve seen how the various programs offered, including college education, help develop self-awareness, discipline, resolve, and a spirit of cooperation that I have not seen anywhere else. For prisoners it can be a matter of life or existential death. Those who go through the rehabilitation process have accomplished the very difficult task of confronting their issues head on and facing those whose lives they have potentially damaged. To thrive within the walls for the time being, you have to be able to imagine something better beyond them. Perhaps this is something we can all learn from.

Upon advocating for prison higher education, I know that on ethical grounds maybe I am mostly preaching to the choir in this column. But for the naysayers (maybe they’ll be at your next family function), it also makes a lot of sense from a utilitarian standpoint. Even though most of us don't have much of a clue what goes on in prisons, we nevertheless fund them through our taxes. Like it or not, most prisoners are eventually released, and access to education while incarcerated dramatically decreases the rate of recidivism. Yes, there are dangerous people who are probably incapable of not harming others–those who fit this profile are not typically eligible for rehabilitation programs in the first place.

Thus higher education in prison is good for both prisoners and society, and those who initiated the Vaughn prison uprising surely knew that. But the current rise of corporate fascism is indeed a double whammy, as it seeks to designate enemies of the state and profit off of their subjugation, which can take the form of public prison labor and private prison contracts, border walls, armaments, etc. Now more than ever, electoral political discourse is beyond logic and reason, with no longer even a semblance of concern for others (unless you’re white and poor, then there is just a semblance of concern for you, but seriously, wake up people: those industrial jobs are not coming back and its not brown people’s fault).

However, on a positive note, there is a whole new generation of resistance cropping up who is questioning what they’ve been told about who the “bad guys” are in the first place. The consensus has fallen out. Let’s hope that sliding back to corporate liberalism is not the best we can do. Specifically, on the topic of issues that impact incarcerated people directly: last year Obama did bring back Pell Grants for prisoners for the first time since 1994 when Bill Clinton pulled the plug on all federal funding for prison higher education by signing the Violent Crime Bill, which was actually written by the then senator Joe Biden. The democrats of old may have reversed their stance on that disastrous bill, but the damage is surely done. Also, I can’t say for sure, but my best guess is that Pell Grants for prisoners will be going away again. (Is the incoming Education Secretary seriously a semi-illiterate billionaire and advocate of for-profit education and arming schoolchildren?)

These days, a lot of people seem to be asking a variation of the question: “What is our responsibility to people we disagree with?” (“Is it ok to punch a Nazi?”) I don't claim to have all the answers (Yes, it’s ok to punch a Nazi). I think there’s actually a simple formula for this: if your worldview is defined by exclusion and denying people’s humanity, then you’re actually the one shutting down the possibility for discussion. Aside from the more extreme examples (unfortunately, I think they’ll be increasing), should we try to change people’s minds? We need to build our resistance, but is there a tool to measure the distance between our ideas, to determine when it’s no longer worth our breath? I think teachers are in a privileged position to promote dialogue, expand minds, and also build empathy bridges in the classroom, but also way beyond. A lot of the students share my worldviews, many don’t. In light of the current reality, I’m all for increasing the possibility of encounters with people you would probably otherwise never engage with. Sometimes I feel like our social media echo chambers will be the death of us. I’ll carry on contemplating the limits of our responsibility.

On a final note, I highly encourage grad students, graduate degree holders, and faculty to get involved with prison higher education in your area. There are also organizations that take book donations to send to incarcerated people–I’ve met inmates who have accessed important literature this way! If you live in the Bay Area, I can point you in the right direction. You will talk to a lot of interesting people, learn about the prison system, and subsequently become a prison abolitionist or at least an advocate for the humanity of those who deserve a second chance, or even an actual first chance at a decent life. Compounded by the fact that American reality is now producing marginality at a rapid rate, it has been reassuring to hear the marginal voices growing louder and more plentiful in the last weeks. We must continue to also defend the basic rights of those who have no voice at all. -Lena Tahmassian

Lesson Plans for Community Self-Defense in a time of Resurgent Neo-Fascism

January 2017's Teaching Resistance is written by John No, the editor of the Teaching Resistance column / blog

It is late 2016, and by the time you read this Donald Trump will likely be president, "elected" by championing a platform of unequivocal neo-fascism. As fascism does, this appealed greatly to the voters who chose him (46% of the popular vote), in a year marked by the suppression of marginalized/minority votes at levels not seen since Jim Crow “ended”. While the neo-fascist ideas he (and his movement) personifies are not by any means new and have been present to varying degrees in our government, economy, and society at large for centuries, Trump's open embrace of them will almost certainly usher in a version of reality that will be several shades darker than before. That is a reality we have to fight, tooth and nail, and we can start in our own communities.

I am a social studies teacher at an adult school (Adult Equivalency Diplomas/GEDs) and a high school as well, both in the Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda area. In an effort to help get the ball rolling on self- and community-empowerment among my students (many of whom are pushing that ball hard and have rolled it quite a distance already) in this increasingly-dangerous macro reality, it seems that sharing advocacy resources is a good way to start.

This month's Teaching Resistance presents a basic lesson plan for anyone who cares even remotely about social justice and advocacy, and who is in a position to help teach and collaborate with others (it does not have to be restricted to a classroom). There are many documents to be found on the internet (and otherwise) that contain a breakdown and list of legal and community-based resources for marginalized people in the United States to find support and advocacy during the coming years of drastically-increased state-, economic- and street-level oppression.

In the endnotes of this lesson plan/column are just a few resource bases/documents that I have been pointed to, I'm sure you can find many others – and PLEASE share them with me so I can share them as well, These documents (and ones like them) could have useful potential in many situations, including workshops/community spaces/etc. Please consider lending your skills to these resources, or begin new ones. As an educator, my lesson plan with this document (or similar materials) is the following:

1) Prior to class: Print whole document (with a link to the original document on top and emailed to all students as well - they will need to access it online to use the hotlinks)

2) Briefly introduce the general concept of legal and community-based advocacy resources to students (ask them first if they know what these things are because someone might have a way better answer than me!) and have the whole class do a silent brainstorm/quickwrite on what some of these resources (or functionally-similar institutions) are that they can think of in their communities/neighborhoods and what they do (if they know). Make sure everyone has a chance to write down their ideas, then do a 5-minute small group/pair share discussion on what they came up with, followed by a structured but student-centered full-class discussion on community and legal advocacy is and can be, to their understanding.

3) Pass out the document. Go through introduction of document with them, flip through together and introduce different topics (when taking questions, give students a chance to answer them first in case someone has a better/more personal understanding of the topic than the teacher), if students are working on reading/comprehension skills have them do read-alongs for first couple of numbered items on each section then go to next topic.

4) Go into independent or small-team research time. Have students do more in-depth research on at least one of the topics of interest or pertinence to them or other people they are connected to. Ideally, distribute laptops or other online electronics (if available - chromebooks are available at my adult school and many high school worksites) so they can investigate links. If no (or limited) school-provided electronic resources are available, encourage students to use their cell phones and/or team up and pool their information technology resources with other students to work together to look for common resources (if relatively comfortable for them - a previously-established strong classroom community helps in this). The teacher can also look up stuff with students on their own computer/laptop. Circulate and help with legal and academic language as needed.

5) Have students write a brief summary of the specific resources they researched and how these can be accessed in their community. If these resources cannot be accessed in their community, they can write about what IS available as an alternative (if anything) and/or what they think can be done to help make these resources accessible to them (there is no right or wrong with these answers - make sure they know that!). Also, let students know they can talk/write about why they chose their particular topics if they wish but they don't have to - everyone has the right to privacy.

6) If there is time, have a structured full-class discussion on what they came up with, and especially their ideas for helping make legal and community-based advocacy resources available in their own communities - let them build on each others' ideas, and the teacher should not be afraid to lend their own expertise or applicable guidance as is appropriate. Try to compile a good list of these ideas for future sharing in broader online community building.

7) REVISIT and REPEAT this at least once every couple of months to build a broader resource base, and share it!

Endnotes: Here are a few of the resources I have had shared with me thus far. Sorry for the lengthy web links in print, but no one said data entry in the service of justice was going to be easy:

Concrete Suggestions in Preparation for January 2017’s change in American government, a broad and highly-descriptive list of advocacy resources assembled by Kara Hurvitz (and the document I originally designed this lesson plan around):

Resources for Intervention and Deescalation, a resource base of bystander intervention and deescalation strategies separate from the oppressive state, assembled by Mimi Thi Nguyen

Post Election Immigration Resources from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, shared by Jeffrey Ow

INCITE!'s Resources for Organizing - INCITE! works to produce educational resources that support grassroots organizing to end violence against women of color and create safer, more liberatory communities.

As mentioned before, please do share any other resource bases that you know with me at (you will def be given credit for any shares I make!).

 --John No, Teaching Resistance editor

Monday, January 9, 2017

Yvette Felarca: Building the Movement to Stop Trump

December 2016's Teaching Resistance is written by the one and only Yvette Felarca, a bay area-based educator, activist, and tireless voice of anti-fascist resistance who is an inspiration to radical teachers everywhere.

Building the Movement to Stop Trump
Lessons From Victory in Berkeley by an Anti-Fascist, Civil Rights Educator

Donald Trump has used the presidential election in the U.S. to build a movement modeled on the semi-fascist ultra-right wing immigrant bashing parties of Europe, like the Le Pen National Front, and the historical experience of the rise to power of Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s Nazi’s. With Donald Trump’s assumption of the presidency, the first step would be taken in the creation of a fascist power over the American government and the American people. The feeble electoral tactics of Clinton’s Democrats have failed to prevent this disaster for democracy in the U.S. and around the world. Both the Democratic Party and the American news media have proven bankrupt in defeating Trump or even in speaking the plain truth about the threat he presents and the real character of the movement he heads.

Trump and his movement can be defeated, but only by a new mass movement committed to the principles of democracy, equality, diversity, and openness. Only such a movement can defeat Trump, his billionaire club backers, and his mass lynch-mob followers’ struggle to undermine those principles in order to carry out draconian attacks on immigrants, organized labor, and all oppressed communities. Trump’s movement is at war with the new majority-minority America with its progressive commitment to diversity, tolerance, and internationalism. Trump’s demagogy and even his personal image promises a return to a reactionary utopia of white-skin privilege and male power over women.

To defend the democratic gains of the past, and realize the potential for a fully human liberation in the future, and to avoid the destruction of both Americans’ most cherished principles and a world of increasing division, hate, and violence, we must build a new mass movement to defeat Trump and everything he stands for. The building of such a mass democratic movement is the greatest and most urgent challenge of our times. Our new mass movement, by mobilizing everything that’s best in us, can defeat Trump and his ugly mob, which concentrates everything that is worst in American history.

I know this first hand, because I just won my own victory against Trump’s Nazi and KKK backers. My name is Yvette Felarca. I have been dedicated middle school teacher in Berkeley, and longtime civil rights and trade union activist. I came under attack from the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) administration for my work as a progressive teacher and for my political activity. I teach ELD (English as a Second Language) and Humanities at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley, where I’ve taught for 10 years. I consistently received strong teaching evaluations and support from students, co-workers, and parents. As a teacher and a political activist, I believe in engaging young people in their education by encouraging them to connect their learning to their own lives and struggles for social justice.

On June 26, 2016, during summer vacation, I protested self-identified neo-Nazi and KKK Trump supporters who scheduled a rally on the steps of the capitol in Sacramento. Instead they violently attacked us, and nine anti-fascist protesters, including me, were stabbed by the Nazis. These same fascists had already stabbed and almost killed black and Latino protesters in Anaheim earlier in the year, and had gone to Sacramento to try to do the same thing. The day after the Sacramento rally, violent threats were made by Nazi and racist Trump supporters against me and against my school if I was not fired.

Instead of defending me, the neo-liberal BUSD administration attacked me and began their witch-hunt. Four days after I was stabbed, the District issued me a formal discipline, then later, on August 31, they took my entire August paycheck. On Wed. Sept. 21, three weeks into the school year, the BUSD administration removed me from a faculty meeting, escorted me to my classroom to collect my personal belongings, and then marched me out of the school. I was placed on administrative leave.

Every witch-hunt includes a shameful round-up, and Berkeley was no exception. I found out that the same day I was placed on administrative leave, several of my immigrant and ELD students were removed from class and questioned about me by the school district’s lawyer, without their parents being notified or present. They were also questioned about their off campus, outside of school political activities and activism. They were forced to answer questions in English, which is not their native language. My other immigrant and international students, and only my immigrant and international students, were rounded up and questioned on a variety of days during the time that I was on administrative leave. Even Latina students who had been my students years earlier, but who had spoken out in my defense at school board meetings, were also interrogated by District officials. And just when it seems like it couldn’t be more shameful, students were told by BUSD lawyers and administration to keep their "interviews" a secret and to "tell no one."

The initial shock and fear that I and my students experienced from this victimization soon gave way to anger, and that anger galvanized me and my students to take action. Before I even left the school on the first day I was suspended, I asked my co-workers to announce what happened to the rest of the staff, and to urge them to get to the school board meeting that evening. Teachers, school support staff, students, and parents filled the school board meeting to speak out in my defense, and even shut down the meeting to demand the right of one my students’ parents to speak. The following school board meeting we had twice as many people there and shut down the meeting again. Me and other teachers, school employees, students, parents, and community members attended every school board meeting since then, and held mass organizing meetings where we voted on demands and a plan of action from week to week. Students, in particular, were incredibly courageous and inspiring—making speeches at School Board meetings, writing and circulating their own petition, wearing stickers and buttons, even organizing each other internationally to call in to the School Board meetings to make speeches from Mexico City. I spoke to the media every chance I got. And even though there were days where the pressure and uncertainty certainly took their toll on me, the movement sustained and bolstered me far more than anything else could have. I knew that I had to speak up, because if I didn’t, not only me, but other good teachers would get run out of teaching if I didn’t.

I am a union and civil rights activist. I am member of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) Executive Board, a founding member of the Equal Opportunity Now/By Any Means Necessary (EON/BAMN) Caucus in both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). I am a national organizer with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). If not for my experience as a political organizer, and the support of my national organizations, I would have felt too isolated to fight the way I did. Thanks to EON/BAMN and to teachers in my school and others who supported me, I got my union to file a grievance to restore my pay and to also advocate for my swift return to my classroom. My lawyers in BAMN also filed lawsuit on my behalf against BUSD for discrimination, violations of free speech, due process, and academic freedom. They also filed a lawsuit on behalf of my students and their parents for discrimination, racial targeting and intimidation, and for violating the students’ freedom of speech.

It’s a huge mistake, however, to rely on either the union bureaucracy or the court system to win justice. By far, credit for our Berkeley victory goes to the movement that spread nationally and even internationally with each passing day. Building that movement would not have been possible without the backing and movement organizing methods of EON/BAMN. Despite the best efforts of Trump’s racist threats and policies, our movement won, and I was returned to my classroom after six weeks.

The outcome of my struggle was and is vital to the rights of other teachers and to the struggle against racism and the growth of American fascism. In the context of growing violent racist and far right-wing attacks being waged across the globe, and by the racism and xenophobia of Donald Trump’s cabinet, the decision of BUSD to discipline and suspend me for my off duty political activities and political affiliations and activism place Berkeley on the wrong side of the historic struggle to stop the rise of the far-right wing and their violent attacks. That, in turn, discredited that neo-liberal school board members with each passing day. More importantly, I urge more teachers who face the same kind of threats and attacks in the future to stand up and wage a public fight, too—and to contact me and BAMN. We beat the neo-liberals who rolled out the red carpet for Trump. Now let’s defeat Trump! Se se puede! --Yvette Felarca

Liner Notes for the MRR Radio "Teaching Resistance" segment

---You can download or stream the MRR Radio broadcast featuring Teacher Punks (co-hosted by John No, editor of the Teaching Resistance column) right here:

Cops and Teachers: Both have been the subject of shit-talking by punk bands since the first day some zitty kid from nowhere decided to pick up an instrument they didn't know how to play and immediately sing songs about how and why things suck, especially things they have to personally deal with. Both teachers and cops were and are worthy targets of hatred – cops always, teachers frequently. Both serve as instruments of coercive authority that is often institutionally supported, and both can act as lethal agents of oppression in that capacity (often in tandem). Both tend to treat their 'charges' in very different ways depending on the levels of structural privilege said 'charges' have from their individual circumstances and specific context, with highly dissimilar personal outcomes based on race, gender, sexuality, class, and other factors being the norm. In their modern form, both policing and teaching sprang from colonialism and capitalism, and both are subject to overwhelming, relentless top-down pressure from those who explicitly support those toxic practices/philosophies.

The difference between teachers and cops, however, lies in their basic functions on the social and individual level, and in the methods by which they work. Philosophically, the difference is simple and stark: Teachers are (at least on paper) expected to nurture, support, and protect their students as human beings, while the function of police is to protect private property and enforce law by capturing and punishing those who they suspect of breaking it. On the surface of it, these professions should not share any common ground. In practice, in the modern world these professions often dovetail into interconnected mechanisms of social control that explicitly and implicitly (quietly) maintain established hierarchies of structural inequality and injustice. We ignore the history of these institutions at our peril, and the history of both policing and modern state-directed teaching practice are full of stark disparities that forcefully (and often lethally) marginalize many while others benefit from levels of structural privilege carefully calibrated to maintain the status quo.

Punks are (and have been) right to go after both teachers and cops, as both have long track records of serving as agents of oppression. Yet we need to keep in mind that the basic function of these professions is different at the core. There is no way that policing can be utilized in a liberatory fashion for marginalized people who have to come into contact with police, and almost always ends up as purely toxic to those people who are being “policed”. In contrast, it has been shown time and time again that teachers who are genuinely dedicated to the core (non-institutional) philosophies of their profession can, through radically innovative practices and active subversion of the institutional aspects of their jobs, play a major role in helping empower their students to take greater control over their own lives and potentially become catalysts for affecting real structural/social change.

This difference is why there are punks who are teachers, but there are no cops who are punks, at least not by any definition of “punk” that makes any sense at all.

In celebration of the 20th entry of the Teaching Resistance column (this one), I (John No) recently hosted a segment on MRR Radio on the theme of radical teachers in punk, with a focus on songs from people who happen to be teachers and play in bands. These people also combine their teaching practice, radical principles, and the aesthetics+ethics of punk (the smart kind) into a deliciously flammable cocktail to lob at the nearest cop car or shitty administrator, all while simultaneously teaching students how to make a similar cocktail to lob at whatever they like. You can find it at, and here's a breakdown of some details on what songs were selected. There will be more of these in the future!

1. SEEIN' RED: “Resist” (Marinus 7", Ebullition 1996) (tough choice between this one and "It Must Fall" from the Critical Pedagogy comp 12”, 2000)

Probably the most obvious choice of bands to lead this comp off with, Dutch HC legends SEEIN' RED are the first band punks usually think of when they imagine teachers in bands. Jos from SEEIN' RED is a teacher in Holland, and has been since before LÄRM morphed into SEEIN' RED in the late 80s. Radical politics are woven deeply into their music and life practice. SR continued to be really good through the 90s, which is when “Resist” was recorded. Though I didn't play it on the show, the song "It Must Fall" is also great, from the same period, and was the crucial “Critical Pedagogy” 12" comp put out by longtime teacher punk Athena K. on her label Six Weeks Records in 2000...a worthwhile record indeed.

2. THE OVENS - “Bureaucrats Know Best” (from "Settings", a cassette- and bandcamp-only release, 2012)

The OVENS are a queercore band who play early KRS-influenced, distortion-saturated punk with catchy vocals, and this song also has the distinction of being the only song in this set that is actually about specific issues that teachers face in our line of work. I think both Heather and LB from the OVENS are public school teachers in Chicago, and LB also writes the excellent, radical teaching-focused zine TRUCKFACE. . Chicago has become one of the most embattled school districts in the country under neoliberal overlord mayor Rahm Emmanuel (a former Obama administration official, natch). Under Rahm's forceful attempts to privatize public education, he has closed dozens of schools deemed to be "underperforming" in standardized tests, mostly in the poorest districts. This policy has forced students from these closed schools to either travel huge distances to go to the nearest public schools, or to attend private charter schools where profit motive is the main administrative priority and students can get kicked out for pretty much anything if they are threatening to bring down the school's test score or behavioral metrics. Here is some writing in TRUCKFACE a little while back from LB, talking about what was happening:

"Today I spent 8 class periods in the library, dressed as a zombie for our world war z book festival. Over 600 students came to the festival to play games about the book (bingo, zombie musical chairs, jeopardy) and get their faces painted. We dressed as zombies while other schools heard their sad fate.

We will survive, while other schools will not. Though we have received repeated threats this year and have begun to wither due to the excessive stress, our school was spared. We still remain on probation, an arbitrary designation when our test scores are higher, our attendance levels are higher, and graduation rates continue to move upwards, we still have that label affixed to our beloved school as a way to scare us, threaten us and control us.

Five years ago, i got a job at at a school that will be spared while thousands of other hard working teachers, just like me, will no longer have jobs. and thousands of students out there will no longer have passionate teachers. It was luck to get a job at a higher performing school. And as many words that the politicians will spill about resources and test scores, they are unwilling to admit that they are driving good teachers away either through school closings or excessive bureaucratic control.

To say it plainly, businessmen and women are destroying public education.

After an exhausting day of celebration with my students, I mourn the losses around the city and know that anyone of us could be next if we don’t do something first." --LB in TRUCKFACE

3. STRANGE FACES - “No Peace” (off their 2016 demo, also on the “Frequency of the Truewave Volume II” tape comp from Nervous Intent Records *shameless plug*)

Ben from this killer new bay area darkwave band (he also plays in KAPITAL and formerly of NEW FLESH) is currently inching his way closer to a masters' degree and doing a lot of teaching along the way, and I believe April is a health educator for at-risk youth. They are also recently played a benefit for the striking teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, who have come under extreme government repression (including murder) for standing up for their own rights and those of their students as they battle pretty much exactly the same neoliberal forces of public school privatization and related "accountability" issues (i.e. union-busting) that we are dealing with as teachers in the US. The violence and repression that these teachers have faced, however, is markedly worse, and solidarity right now is super important. Also see the Teaching Resistance column in issue #401, which is dedicated to the subject of the teacher revolt in Oaxaca from first-hand perspectives.

4. DIAMOND GLAZE - “Diamond Glaze”, streaming on bandcamp, 2015

-Nani, who lives in London and recently visited here in the bay area, is a teacher who has worked at a school for students with severe learning difficulties for 13 years. She focuses on expressive arts there, helping students figure out a way to express themselves via art and music. I think she works with Richard Phoenix as well (with whom she also plays in the raging teacher-centric punk band KICHIGAI). Some of the most recent work Nani and Richard did was helping the students (all high school and junior high ages) form and record two band projects, ROCK PENGUINS and DIAMOND GLAZE - this is a powerful, snotty and noisy early postpunk (ala RAINCOATS) jammer from DIAMOND GLAZE!

5. SCHOLASTIC DETH – “Killed By School”. From the 2002 “Killed By School” 7” on 625 Thrashcore

-You really can't fuck with short-lived thrashcore legends SCHOLASTIC DETH, who formed in 2002, put out a bunch of music, and broke up that same year because B (of the crucial JUD JUD) was going off to graduate school – thus the song “Killed By School”, duh. B came back after a bit and has played in numerous innovative hardcore combos since including CONQUEST BY DEATH, NO STATIK, and REPLICA. In the latter, Julianna and Alicia are both teachers in Oakland, B is now a professor, and Dharma just schools everyone anyway. Just gonna go ahead here and say it's a crime that I didn't also include such a teacher-centric bay area modern band as REPLICA on this playlist, but I will get them in on the next one.

5. LOS CRUDOS - "Tiempos De La Miseria". From the 1993 "La Rabia Nubla Nuestros Ojos..." 7”.
Martin of Crudos, Limp Wrist, etc. was a teacher for many years. As is evident from this CRUDOS song and many others, just because you work as a teacher does NOT mean you have to act as an agent of a fucked-up government and structurally racist, capitalist system. If you are a teacher, resist that system and help your students acquire the tools to do the same. And while you are at it, teacher punks/punx/ponx/puunx/etc, submit a guest column to Teaching Resistance and let us know what is going on! teachingresistance[at] --John No, Teaching Resistance Editor