Thursday, October 30, 2008

Marcel O'Gorman: Oh Canada!

I've seen Marcel O'Gorman's name around, but finally read his chapter "From Mystorian to Curmudgeon: Skulking Toward Finitude" in The Illogic of Sense. Really enjoyed reading about his process, his working through of Ulmer and related ideas. Then I checked out his website:

Oh Canada!! He says in the essay that he was frustrated by Ulmer's theory-heavy classes, and that he sought better integration of theory and art. I wasn't expecting him to now be a bona-fide performance artist! Great projects, worth a visit, and definitely worth further reading.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Breaking the Silence: Congo Week Oct 19-25

The NYT ran a story on the terrible problem of rape in the Congo. The story doesn't mention it, but this is "Breaking the Silence: Congo Week 2008."

On Wednesday, anybody can participate in The Cell Out.

At NDSU, we are running a general "Refugee Experience" simulation on Thursday. I've never tried to organize a simulation; should be interesting.

On Friday, I am participating in a more focused consciousness raising presentation.

Breaking the Silence: A Congo Week Presentation
Dr. Kevin Brooks, Department of English, will share information about
devastating wars that have resulted in nearly 6 million deaths in the
Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996. He will show clips from three
films that can start one’s education about the DRC, and he will
provide a guide to further resources. This presentation is part of a
global awareness initiative called Congo Week: Breaking the Silence.

The purpose of the Break the Silence Congo Week is to raise awareness
about the devastating situation in the Congo and mobilize support on
behalf of the people of the Congo.
Memorial Union, Gallery

What's happening at your school?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Guns, Germs, and Stealing

One point that came up a few times at the Human Rights Conference I was attending this weekend was that some American Indians had been acculturated into the emerging American culture and economy, but from 1890-1940, most were stripped of their property and wealth and sent to reservations. African Americans on the path to the middle class often lost their jobs to the European immigrants of this era. I heard this primarily from James Loewen, but also my brilliant colleague Kelly Sassi.

A similar pattern was being played out in Africa--the imperialist Europeans were exploiting the people, stripping of them of wealth they had, and stealing their resources.

So, in addition to Jared Diamond's ambitious explanation of why some parts of the world developed more quickly than others, and why some populations acquired more wealth than others, it struck me today that "stealing" might have been almost as significant a factor as steel (and in fact the two are related).

Hmmm, that seems like the first note for a choral mediation, a first note for a new MEmorial.

International Human Rights

Participating in Greg Gordon's "Brining Human Rights to Life" session. Referenced to movies of interest: The Interpreter (a Syndey Pollack film) and The Ghosts of Rwanda (a PBS Frontline documentary).

I should also comment on James Loewen's keynote last night. Covered some of the same ground as his workshop, but made a really compelling argument that the South won the Civil War in 1890, 35 years after it ended. Supporting evidence: the Republican party stopped supporting human rights, allowing white supremacy to grow unchecked. A state like Kentucky built something like 70 Civil War monuments between 1890 and 1940, 65 of them celebrating the south, only 5 the north. He also pointed out that the Republican party, since 1964, has pursued a white agenda by targeting the southern vote and heartland votes where lingering racism (and other issues) appeal to white voters, even though the Republican party does not generally help the working class and middle class white voters.

Friday, October 10, 2008

ND Human Rights Conference

I'm attending the North Dakota Human Rights Conference this afternoon. Listening to James Loewen, author of Lies MY Teacher Told Me and Sundown Towns. This afternoon he is talking about how to do local research, and specifically how to ask "what written and unwritten laws did your hometown devise and practice to discriminate based on race and sexual orientation."

Loewen identified the period 1890-1940 as the nadir of race relations in America. He then showed us that North Dakota had more counties in 1930 without African Americans than it did in 1890. He gave us other data points to show that the pattern was pervasive, as was racism in America. Great resources on his home page.

He also identified the Montana Indian Education for all Act, which seems like progressive education for K-12 but not embraced by colleges and universities in Montana, according to this article.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Blogging and learning?

I've been away from this blog most of the semester because my online time is spent at The Virtual Peace Garden. My students are responding to the course material, their projects, the world, which seems like a formula for a decent course, but some Sunday morning anxiety hit me--I've really abdicated my responsibility to give focused, detailed feedback.

Flash back: I was engaged by my undergraduate classes that used journals or other means of eliciting regular engagement with the material PLUS I was given substantial feedback, including a grade.

This semester, and really whenever I try to use blogs, even if my students write substantial entries (never an easy response to elicit), my own responses are probably less detailed and focused than they would be if I were writing only for that student, writing on his or her journal entry or real response assignment. I do less teaching and more commenting. Doing less teaching can sometimes be a good thing for a variety of reasons, but in this case, with this genre of the journal or response, I'm loosing my faith and perhaps cheating my students--assuming I would actually have constructive feedback to give.

Anybody else wrestling with the paper journal vs. blog dynamics? Anybody else feeling nostalgic?