Friday, September 13, 2013

My Classes for Fall 2013

I've just finished my second week of classes, the first week of a full schedule.  Last week, Monday was a holiday for Labor Day, and because we miss more Mondays than Tuesdays, Tuesday became a Monday.  I've no classes Monday, so I had no classes Tuesday.  Wednesday was a normal day, and I attended my first class at the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 4-7 pm in Longfellow 319.  Thursday was Rosh Hashanah, so my Thursday class was canceled.  This week, however, was pretty much normal.  Here's the breakdown:

1. Philosophy of Education with Catherine Elgin.  A course I had to take (and didn't even shop).  Tom and I are in the class, and both agree after the first session that it's exactly what we'd hoped for.  Elgin is brilliant.  The readings will be Plato, Wollstencraft, Dewey, and others.  She apparently described the readings as, "only the hits," which means we'll likely not address Heidegger, Marcuse, Rorty, Derrida, Foucalt, least not directly.  I initially lamented the scope of the course, but this is exactly what I need, and she is clearly hip to talking about any and all of those folks.  Our first reading was The Apology by Plato, which was absolutely lovely.

2.  Education Sector Non-Profits with Jim Honan.  Perhaps the most genuinely excited professor I've had in a long time.  This class is my earthly course, and will provide a framework for building, maintaining, and expanding a non-profit.  Honan's diction is unbelievable.  He's incredibly personable, and really seems interested in working with us.  My largest class, at about 25.  Case study method, which is new to me, but will be a good experience.

3.  Critical Race Theory with Kim Truong and Daren Graves.  The only class I've been to twice.  I have already read some incredible things in this course, and the discussions have already gotten much better (as we loosen up a little, and as the auditors drop the course).  Not the easiest content to just blab about, but I need this to be difficult.  I absolutely need to address my whiteness and understand what it affords me, especially in a teaching context.  Critical race theory, as a lens through which we see the world, seems like a very interesting way to be a racial person.  This class, in concert with Gender and Education (Spring 2013), lay a foundation for a lifetime of teaching with race and gender in mind.

4.  Teaching and Learning - The Having of Wonderful Ideas.  This is perhaps the most famous and most polarizing class at HGSE.  Taught by Lisa Schneier, who apprenticed with Eleanor Duckworth, who apprenticed with Jean Piaget.  The class functions based on a Freirian ideology, which will be interesting to see.  We're not directly reading much Freire, so hopefully I can begin to bring that into the classroom experience.  Schneier is wonderful, and has an incredibly knowledgable demeanor, which is comforting.  We'll be mired in experience in the course, and will use these experiences to understand our thinking, as well as begin to explore the thinking of others.  We're also doing a moon journal, an observational record of the earth's moon which is meant to have us interact with the natural environment, time, ourselves, observation, our fellow students, etc...spanning the length of the course, it aims to have us engage in an extended process of learning with our fellow students.

That's all for now.  I've reading to do.

What I'll Do With My $5.00 Coupon

With my ticket from the Dr. Kennedy talk (aforementioned), I received a $5.00 coupon to the Harvard Book Store (unaffiliated).  The affiliated book store, called the Harvard Cooperative Book Store, is colloquially called the "coop," pronounced like the chicken habitat.  This drives me batty, along with "piggyback," "hugsie," and "pushback," the unofficial terminology of HGSE.

I've only a month to redeem my coupon, which shouldn't be too difficult.  Aside from the moisture (either from rain or sweat - it's been uncharacteristically hot), I haven't found it all that difficult to make it over to the bookstore, and when inside, to buy at least one book.  Spending five dollars is something I've managed to do about 18 times thus far.

I've spoken with Tom (Preston) a few times about literature (along with other topics, of course), and I've passed on the name David Foster Wallace.  Perhaps because I'd just purchased and started reading a new collection of not-so-new essays by DFW, he was firmly on my mind.  I decided, probably on Tuesday afternoon, to buy another copy of Infinite Jest.  After having read "The Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory" by Margaret Beale Spencer, I'm feeling a new level of confidence to take on difficult and labyrinthine texts.  On a side note, I'm absolutely loving Omensetter's Luck, by William Gass.

Anyway, I've yet to actually make it to the book store, as there are so many things to get done.  Today, I printed out about 16 articles for next week's reading, including Meno by Plato, some Gloria Ladson-Billings, a massive Randall Kennedy piece from the Harvard Law Review, and some Pinar and public pedagogy things.  I've also discovered (or learned from Karla in the library - in the interest of frankness) the concept of the "Handbook of..." whatever.  For example, I've discovered in the LC 196's, The Handbook of Critical Pedagogy and The Handbook of Public Pedaogogy.  These tomes typically comprise 40-60 pieces around the topic, attempting to present a survey of the field and the research directions that its practitioners are taking it.

Again, I plan on buying Infinite Jest, and ideally I'll find a used copy, though we both know how difficult that can be.  In the meantime, I was watching a ridiculous youtube channel the other day, and the show is sponsored by  They offered a free audiobook for anyone who signs up for a 30-day free trial. offers an unabridged (although without reading the footnotes, unfortunately) version of Infinite Jest.  I started an account, downloaded the $75.00 audiobook, which comprises something like 56 hours, and I will be canceling my subscription momentarily.  

Regardless, I plan on going today to see if the HBS has a copy of the book, as I won't rely on the audiobook to do the text justice.

Dr. Randall Kennedy

I'd like to start with a review of a talk I heard a few days ago, actually nearly a week.  Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law Professor, esteemed, spoke about race and affirmative action.  Describing himself as an "affirmative action baby," Dr. Kennedy laid out quite directly, humorously, and logically, the arguments for and against racial affirmative action, specifically in the realm of higher education.  In his discussion, he mentioned the tension between "intent" and "effect," something I assume is a massive component of a law program.  In addition, he used the term "pedagogical hunch," with emphasis, which I appreciated.  In all, Kennedy laid out (complete with autobiographical, statistical, and anecdotal perspectives) his argument in favor of racial affirmative action in higher education in the US.  He mentioned Fisher vs. UT.  He spoke, in this case, of whether or not the intention of the UT system is to discriminate against white applicants, which, if passed in the Texas State Senate, would not fly.  He received questions, some of which went on way too long.  Kennedy handled them deftly, as much as was possible.  In response to the question from a white African-American from Angola, Kennedy essentially stated that the policy should lean towards greater inclusiveness than exclusion which comes with strict policing.  It seemed to satisfy the young lady somewhat, and we were left with the notion that we may have the power in these instances to choose how we identify, given the circumstances and potential consequences for that choice.  

All in all, I was incredibly pleased with the talk.  Dr. Kennedy is incredibly solid in his explanations, and is a wonderful speaker.  Probably not the most radical fella in the world, but a great experience nonetheless.  

The talk was sponsored by the unaffiliated Harvard Book Store (thus far my favorite), and the $5.00 ticket earned me not only the talk, but also a $5.00 coupon to the book store.  How's that for a deal?

Intention of This Blog

These writings have the singular purpose of documenting pieces of my graduate school experience, moments extraordinary and banal, useful and trivial.  It is my intention to have, as a smattered record, this blog, without any real hopes for future utility.  There is, however, a burning sense that allowing these moments to come and go without some documentation is remiss.  Of course, this text will be coupled with class readings, assignments, notes, journal entries, photographs, videos, tattoos (potentially), ticket stubs, scars (likely), audio recordings, and other artifacts both physical and otherwise.  Ideally, reflection will mean relish, although I'm not confident this method will spurn either deeper or broader remembrance of anything that wouldn't have already been remembered in the natural way of doing so.