#WeStandWithQueerYouth

We Stand With Queer Youth (Short Documentary)

There is power in reading. Books take us places, introduce us to people, and uncover things. Reading literature can show us who we are or who we want to and can be. This documentary, brought to you by authors of young adult literature and faculty and students at the University of Colorado Boulder, reminds us about that power. Please take less than ten minutes to watch it.

Teaching Social Justice stands with queer youth.

Smagorinsky on writing: Put your money where your mouth is

Rick Diguette wrote an op-ed titled, “Has freshman year in college become grade 12½?” on Sunday. His piece addresses the lackluster writing habits of college freshmen, and suggests that professors are having to teach writing skills students should have learned in high school. What Peter Smagorinsky said in return, though, is an argument everyone needs to hear:

If you want kids to learn how to write, then put your money to work to provide teachers the kinds of conditions that enable the time to plan effective instruction, guide students through the process, and assess their work thoughtfully and considerately.

Otherwise, you may as well add yourself to the list of reasons that kids these days can’t write. (Smagorinsky, 2014)

Throughout the op-ed, Smagorinsky attacks the policies in place that do damage to our classrooms, instead of attacking our teachers. It is worth a read, and needs to be shared. More people need to see arguments like this — ones that defend our teachers and the public school system. 

Weird Al Gets Critical with New Parodies

Sometimes a person in power does something surprising; instead of making us cringe, weep, or shake our heads, s/he uses that power for good. Weird Al Yankovic surprises us regularly. 

Sure, his parodies are meant to make us laugh, but often they do much more. Take, for instance, “Word Crimes:”

Weird Al’s interpretation of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is informational, educational, humorous, and, well, not sexist. I loved “Word Crimes” so much that I included it on my syllabus for Teaching Writing in Secondary Schools this fall, as I think Yankovic took a problematic song (“Blurred Lines”) and turned it into something good

After all, isn’t that part of what teaching social justice is: taking something prejudiced and transforming it? Or, using something biased against itself to raise awareness for the cause? By reconstructing Thicke’s sexist track into an educational tool, Yankovic removed some of its harmful power, recreating it into something positive. 

Another one of Weird Al’s newest projects, “Foil” parodies Lorde’s “Royals:”

While the beginning of the video is light-hearted and funny, it takes an odd, serious spin toward the middle, which is the part I appreciate most. People — especially young people — are heavily influenced by their musical icons. It is dangerous for them to believe something just because their favorite musician says so.

“Foil” forces us to think about conversations regarding conspiracy theories critically. By making fun of the illuminati, Yankovic removes some of its commercial power, allowing us to see it for what it is: a fictitious money maker

Weird Al Yankovic is set to release eight songs in eight days — five of which have already made their appearance. I appreciate his craft and hope others will join him in not taking things too seriously. 

From the field: Creativity

Too many classrooms offer too few opportunities for imagination, innovation, engagement, and stimulation. Even if students and teachers don’t drop out physically, they frequently stay in school only to get the credentials or salary, and not the intellectual enrichment.

The above quote can be found in a beautifully-written article in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution by University of Georgia professors Bob Fecho and Stephanie R. Jones. I wish I had time to write a full response to it, but I wanted to make sure it at least got shared. Enjoy!

“Kids” doing big things…

“Kids” doing big things…

A while back, I received the following email from Zak Kolar, a high school senior, asking me to post his website on my blog. Although it took some time, I am living up to my promise — check it out; he is doing some great things for a person so young. Here is his message:

Dear Ms. Whitley,

My name is Zak Kolar and I am a senior in high school. Over the past few months, I have been working on a website called “How many is that?”: http://www.howmanyisthat.org. The purpose of the site is to take large numbers associated with social justice issues and compare them with local information to put them into perspective. For example, there are 66 million girls in the world who do not have access to education. Athens, GA has a population of 116,084. 66 million people would be about 569 Athenses. The goal of How many is that? is to make it easier to see how these human rights violations have affected people as individuals, and not just faceless statistics, ultimately inspiring action to prevent them from happening in the future. I think that How many is that? is a good educational resource because it can be used to get people’s attention about human rights issues when they realize the magnitude of these tragedies. I was hoping that you would consider posting a link to “How many is that?” on your “For students” or “For teachers” pages. Also, I have many social and historical issues presented on my site (e.g. bullying, domestic violence, genocide), so if there are any issues that you would like me to publish on my website, please let me know and I would be happy to add them.

Thank you!

Zak

Wow. I am definitely inspired.