What if we renamed ADHD “cognitive nomadism”?

20 Oct

I recently read an interesting article on ADHD which suggested that the genes that cause it are a legacy of nomadic ancestors:

One genetic variation that causes ADHD-like traits is more common in the world’s nomadic peoples. Researchers think that traits such as impulsive behavior, novelty-seeking, and unpredictability might help nomads track down food and other resources. So the same qualities that make it challenging to excel at a desk job may have been an advantage to nomadic ancestors.

I am skeptical about this,  given the long history of empires attempting to dominate  nomadic peoples, and the roles of education and medicine in this domination.  Will this research be used to further stigmatize and pathologize the descendants of nomads who have migrated to the US because their peoples and cultures were destroyed by U.S.-backed wars?

US Empire claims to be orderly, organized, and efficient.  It encodes these characteristics as normal, able-bodied, white, sane, male, straight, professional, and healthy.  People of color, queer people, gender non-conforming people, indigenous people, and people with disabilities are coded as the opposite of these traits.   The system deems them a problem that must be contained like an Ebola epidemic so that they don’t contaminate the body politic.

When schools suggest students with ADHD should be medicated and taught to conform, are they helping students navigate daily life in the empire, or are they playing into this system of control, cutting off potential creativity and rebellion?

I’m wondering what the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari would say about ADHD.  They are strong advocates of nomadic ways of thinking and living, and argue that nomadic practices are part of contemporary struggles for freedom. They claim nomadic tendencies exist not only among indigenous peoples but also in the heart of empires, destabilizing them.  They say that all human beings have a tendency to deterritorialize, to roam outside of the settled concepts, routines, traditions, and institutions that shape us; they argue this is a crucial part of creative cultural production.  Their work has been extended by decolonial, Marxist, queer, and anarchist theorists who aim to destabilize borders, empires, and fixed / frozen social identities.  It  has also been extended by people who see migration and the creation of diasporas as potential ways to break down and move beyond the constraints of capitalist nation states.

To be clear, I’m not trying to romanticize nomadic life, ADHD, or migration.  All of these involve real struggles and real human longings for consistency, commitment, community, and self-organization.  Deleuze and Guattari also recognized this when they said that every deterritorialization is also potential reterritorialization. I also don’t mean to deny the practical strategies people with ADHD use to survive day to day life in our society, or the importance of giving youth  chances to learn these strategies.

I’m just saying that those genes that express traits labeled ADHD are not vestiges of  savagery that must be remolded in the name of progress.  They are important expressions of human biodiversity and neurodiversity that  could help create new futures.  Saying they are not adaptive to modern desk jobs implies that cubicles  represent the end of history, humanity’s final resting place. What if nomadic  impulses might help us all collectively wander and fight  our way to something better? What  if they are remnants of courage and curiosity that enable a future exodus from our overstressed, boring  society?

The postmodern liberal arts education I received at a particularly progressive Ivy League university gave me the privilege to explore, to roam through concepts,  genres, and discourses at will.  There were a lot of things about this school that also tried to force me into alienation, despair, careerism, and anxiety.   But I did get to  spend four years reading what I wanted to and staying up late in the dorms discussing it.  If I said something off topic or showed up late it was seen as a mark of an eccentric intellectual, not a problem to be controlled.

Most working class students of color have none of these privileges.  They are expected to learn what the system tells them to learn and if they get bored or restless they are punished and stigmatized as defective.

Given that, I wonder:  is there a connection between schools’ attempts to keep students on task and the state’s attempts to police and limit the movement of human bodies, especially bodies it encodes as black and brown?   Should we be teaching students with ADHD to adapt to the routines of the capitalist empire, or should we be adapting the ways we learn so that youth can unleash their positive forces of deterritorialization? Maybe they’ll end up creating social movements that transform reality  and free all of us from cubicles.

——————>>>

I explored some ways to embrace cognitive nomadism in a previous blog post, Freestyle Learning in the Rhizomatic Cypher.  This includes suggestions for how to organize learning activities that build on the power of curious tangents, rather than attempting to herd students into fenced-off fields of study.

Culturally incompetent cultural competence trainings

6 Oct

I recently had an insightful conversation with a coworker and mentor who has deep roots in communities of color in Seattle. We were discussing cultural competency and how a lot of trainings around that focus on formalized social service techniques and objectified cultural knowledge, rather than informal relationship building, caring, and networking.

This implicitly downgrades the importance of the already existing informal networks among communities of color. It downgrades the agency people have to produce and reproduce culture and resilience in the first place, e.g. the ways in which my coworkers of color know our students’ grandparents, aunties, friends, etc., which builds trust between us and our students.

Instead of teaching people how to honor these relational networks and how to earn a place within them through showing respect, many cultural competency trainings focus on teaching white people objectified sociological knowledge about communities of color; they impart this to white people through a kind of banking-model pedagogy that encourages white people to treat everyone else like characters out of a sociology textbook, as if people of color only exist as the opposite of white privilege. A certain social and emotional distance is maintained.

This results in white people who are hypervigilant about their privilege and are versed in calculating techniques of social interaction with people of color, but don’t know how to actually build mutually caring relationships that could challenge that privilege.

As Andrea Smith talked about, this also ends up reinforcing the white colonial subjectivity, the anthropological mind. People with this mindset are self-critical and self-reflexive, but from a distance. They continue to use people of color as mediums for their own self-reflection, as if people of color exist only to help white professionals check their privilege and overcome their biases.

As a result, cultural competency training never gets to a decolonial process of creating knowledge and selfhood together, through collective power and love.

It also implicitly assumes that people of color cannot overcome their own biases, and that the informal relationships among them are possible sources of corruption or inappropriately emotional connection. It values abstracted, reified, homogenous, and unchanging “cultures” rather than the millions of different ways in which people constantly change their cultures through relating to each other in creative ways.

In this sense, many of the methods through which cultural competency is taught are themselves Eurocentric and culturally incompetent.

MORE 4 MANN COALITION CHALLENGES SCHOOL DISTRICT’S BAN OF AFRICATOWN ARRESTEES

25 Jul

There was a hearing this morning concerning Seattle Public Schools’ decision to ban several people from district property because of their involvement in the More4Mann movement.  This coalition attempted to challenge the school to prison pipeline by taking back a district school and setting up educational programs attuned to the needs to Black youth.  Here is the press release from More4Mann

9 a.m. Friday, July 25, 2014 Judge Kimberley Prochnau

King County Superior Court, 516 3rd Ave., Seattle

Courtroom E-201    Supporters and journalists encouraged.

 

The More 4 Mann Coalition of Historic Africatown (in Central Seattle) is continuing to challenge the unconstitutional “EXCLUSION NOTICE” imposed upon three of our members by the Seattle Public School District since last November, in direct violation of the First Amendment.

The three members, Omari Tahir, Greg Lewis and Leight J-K, appealed this decision to the King County Superior Court.  Judge Prochnou will hear the appeal at 9 a.m. Friday, July 25, in Courtroom E-201, at 516 3rd Ave..

The Exclusion Notice bans the three members of the More 4 Mann Coalition from any and all public meetings and community events held on any SPS property for one year.

Former Seattle Public Schools social studies teacher Omari Tahir has served as the elected co-chair of the Seattle Alliance For Black Education since 1970. Greg Lewis is a martial arts and fitness instructor. Leith Jasinowski-Kahl  is a local longshoreman and community activist who has served as a member of SPS’s Horace Mann-African American Community Partnerships Task Force since August 22, 2013, at the request of outgoing Superintendent Jose Banda. In September, that task force reached overwhelming joint District-Community agreement on thirteen (13) clear recommendations (attached), which the More 4 Mann Coalition continues to support.

We believe this perverse and backward “Exclusion Notice” to have been concocted by loyalists of SPS General Council Ron English, and his old-guard faction within the School District. This is the same School District (and Ron English faction) that has always welcomed the infamous former Urban League chief James Kelly into its facilities, even after he brought a firearm onto Rainier Beach High School campus and publicly threatened people with it in May of 2002 (http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/City-right-to-bring-charge-in-gun-case-1091852.php ).

Last Autumn, Ron English sabotaged the Superintendent’s pragmatic efforts at multicultural dialogue, and abruptly shifted the District’s tone and policy. In early November, the District suddenly and unilaterally began addressing the More 4 Mann Coalition as “tresspassers” instead of Partners. The District also sent a letter to task force member Leith Kahl, threatening to exclude him from Board meetings if he so much as mentioned Ron English by name, title, or pronoun (also attached). 

The Ron English machine is using District Exclusion Notices and Seattle Police to silence its critics because it does not want Seattle’s taxpayers to pay attention to the record of Ron English’s involvement in the 1986 through 2005 process of privatizing Queen Anne High School (http://seattletimes.com/html/education/2002440838_queenanne15m.html ), the illegal 2003 “transfer” of the African American Heritage Museum & Cultural Center’s Coleman School Building to the Seattle Urban League (http://www.aahmcc.org/a-brief-history/ ), the theocratic 2010 giveaway of MLK High School to a religious institution (http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2015242396_mlk06m.html ), and the Seattle Public Schools Small Business Contracting Program Scandal of 2011 ( http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2014375410_potter03.html ). A thorough review of this long related train of abuses and usurpations would lead most taxpayers to conclude that Ron English is not a good steward of public resources, and that he should, at the very least, be let go from his job at SPS.

The District still had yet to implement any of these task force recommendations by November 19th, when a Seattle Police SWAT Team raided the Mann building at Ron English’s desire, arresting Leith, Omari, Greg and one random bystander who was not a Coalition member. They were each issued the District’s one year Exclusion Notice at the time of their release the same day. Not a single task force recommendation had yet been implemented by December 12, when we appealed the Exclusion Notice within the District’s internal Kangaroo “appeal procedure”, where it was of course upheld by THE SAME PERSON WHO HAD WRITTEN IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.  Not a single recommendation had been implemented by December 19th, when we appealed this matter to Superior Court.

Since then, we are happy to report that at least ONE important task force recommendation was achieved, when SPS signed an interim re-location lease agreement with one of the More 4 Mann Coalition’s affiliated organizations. However, to date, less than four out of the thirteen task force recommendations have been achieved. 

The programmatic and visual presence of ALL Africatown activities have been, at least temporarily, displaced from 2401 E. Cherry Street, the historic heart of Africatown. This was the opposite of both the letter and spirit of the task force’s recommendations, and of the School District’s stated intent in convening that task force.

Our attorney will therefore ask the Superior Court to quash this unlawful exclusion notice.

 

12

Don’t deport our students; classrooms should be sanctuaries

29 May

A few years ago, one of my students told me something that made me furious at the U.S. government: she said she was afraid to come to school because she thought ICE might show up in the classroom to deport her.  We strategized together about what to do if this happens.

I was left outraged that we even had to have this conversation. The classroom should be a sanctuary where all students can learn, without having to worry about being kidnapped by the state and removed from their families and communities.

This was just as heartbreaking as when another student asked me if you need to purchase a password in order to become an American citizen, as if the United States is a VIP club that is simply too expensive for people from his community.

These kinds of situations are becoming increasingly common; students will come in to class depressed, worried their parents or siblings are about to be deported.  Many are from working class immigrant communities that are slated to be left out by all of the comprehensive immigration reform proposals tossed back and forth in Congress.  They are the ones the Democratic Party is willing to jettison and the Republicans are ready to demonize as the “bad immigrants”, not the good Dreamers.  Many of them have gotten entangled in the criminal justice system because of racial profiling or because they had to hustle to get by since they can’t access legal jobs.  They can’t afford college because of rising tuition.  They are marked as gang members simply because of the neighborhoods they live in.  When congresspeople talks about increasing security, they mean kicking out people like them.

But where are they supposed to go?  Many Mexican youth can’t find jobs in either the US or Mexico, and are facing violence in both places.  They are a generation that is getting squeezed out of both countries, and have nowhere to go unless they fight back.  They are the North American cohort of millennial youth, children of the economic crisis who are facing a precarious future.  This generation is rising up all over the world, from the Arab Spring to the migrant worker strikes and riots in China’s Pearl River Delta.

Many of the mainstream immigrant rights groups don’t want to take up their cases because it is seen as too difficult to convince the government that they “deserve” to stay.  But when I talk with them, I don’t see threats to national security, I see intelligent, caring, creative young people who are active in their communities and are trying to build lives here.

As a teacher, I feel blessed to be connected with undocumented activists who are developing innovative organizing strategies for stopping deportations.  The National Immigrant Youth Alliance is at the forefront of an emerging movement of undocumented folks who have been reuniting families torn apart by deportation, particularly through the recent Bring Them Home actions. 

If I weren’t connected with these folks I’d be depressed and helpless when my students share these stories.  But now I can suggest some ways they can build solidarity to stop deportations, and I know there are skilled activists who can support them in this, people who come from similar backgrounds and have faced their fears together.

For this reason, I strongly encourage readers to support NIYA’s current efforts to free four young people from immigration detention.  One of these youth was deported right from his high school classroom, and has been imprisoned in detention for 71 days after trying to cross back into the U.S.

As a history teacher, I often facilitate conversations among students about past social movements such as the civil rights movement and Chicano/Chicana labor struggles.  Students will debate whether or not things have gotten better since then.  I think that 40 years from now we will remember stories of students being deported from our classrooms and will see ICE’s practices as barbaric, analogous to the oppression communities of color faced before the 1960s.  But that will only happen if we all take action to prevent the state’s ability to kidnap, deport, and imprison youth today.

Zine version of Reading For Revolution

18 May

Originally posted on Black Orchid Collective:

Reading for Revolution is a three-part series of short articles that I wrote on collective learning and the struggle for a new society. 

The first article, “ Steal the the Ability to Read this Book ,” makes a case for seizing the reading skills that slave-masters and capitalist bosses have systematically denied oppressed communities. 

The second article, “ Clowns to the left of me, Leninists to the right, here I am – Chillin and reading with you… ,” argues for developing a learning praxis (reflective practice) that can break from the alienated and oppressive dynamics of capitalist classrooms.

The third article, “ DIY Study Strategies,”  is more practical, offering suggestions for how to start your own revolutionary study group.  I argue that  how  we read to make a revolution is different from how we are taught to read in school. I attempt to outline some of the more revolutionary…

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Billions of Dreams, Not Billionaires’ Dreams

10 May

Billions of dreams, not billionaires’ dreams
Billions of plans, not billionaires’ plans
Billions of thoughts, not billionaires’ thoughts
Billions of gifts, not billionaires’ gifts

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On Saturday, May 10, folks organized a “Gates Foundation Truth Squad” outside the Gates Foundation Visitor Center to engage with young people attending their “Teen Action Fair”.  We engaged with a large number of attendees to support their volunteerism while asking their own questions about the role of wealth and power in Philanthropy.

 

Here is the content of a flyer that folks were handing out:

 

GATES FOUNDATION

Fun Facts

  •   Much of the Gates Foundation funds are in Berkshire Hathaway stock, which owns Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) and Canadian Railway (CN).  BNSF and CN are now profiting from explosive tar sands oil trains.  This expanded rail capacity will bring tar sands oil to Asian markets, even without Keystone XL.
  •    Gates Foundation has significant investments in the GEO Group, which operates the immigrant detention facility in Tacoma.
  •    Gates Foundation invests in G4S, a private security firm that operates detention camps in Palestine and has been accused of human rights abuses.
  •    The United Nations recently reported that small-scale, organic farming is the best way to eradicate hunger, yet the Gates Foundation continues to support GMOs and agro-business giants like Monsanto and Cargill.
  •    They preach nutrition, but invest billions in McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Burger King, etc.
  •    They preach support for the working poor, but invest billions in Walmart
  •    They preach about fighting climate change, but invest billions in fossil fuels like Exxon Mobile, Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, etc.
  •    Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project failed miserably at validating their preconceived belief that teacher effectiveness can be scientifically measured.    (This study won the National Education Policy Center’s 2013 Bunkum Awards, recognizing lowlights in educational research).
  •    Gates has been a key driver of standardized testing, which is being rejected by parents and teachers nationwide.  These standardized tests were originally created by the Eugenics movement in attempt to prove the ‘genetic superiority’ of whites and to apply assembly line models to classroom.
  •    Gates admitted their Small Schools Initiative produced “disappointing” results AFTER districts spent millions redesigning buildings based on Gates direction (eg, Cleveland HS).
  •    Gates brags about the quality of his own relevant and relationship-based education at Lakeside, yet pushes Common Core and treats schools as education factories to produce more workers.
  •    The Gates Foundation post-secondary program was severely criticized by the Chronicle of Higher Education for being “designed for maximum measurability, delivered increasingly through technology, and…narrowly focused on equipping students for short-term employability.”

Sources:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/12/gates-foundations-24-most-egregious-investments

http://www.schargel.com/2009/01/27/bill-gates-admits-that-small-schools-are-not-the-answer/

http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-MET-final-2013

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Gates-Effect/140323/

 

Fair Questions

  •   Why do they claim to fight climate change, yet profit from fossil fuels?
  •    Why do they profit from immigrant detention?
  •    Why do they profit from private prisons?
  •    Why do they profit from shipping tar sands oil to Asian markets via the rail lines it owns (via Berkshire Hathaway stock)?
  •    Why do they profit from Palestinian detention facilities?
  •    Why do they support GMOs when there is no long term data on possible negative health effects?
  •    Why do they support industrial agriculture when the UN claims it is less effective than small-scale, organic farms?
  •    Why do they push charter schools, when the results are often mediocre at best and fraudulent at worst?
  •    Why do they drive using test scores to determine teacher salaries?  (even MSFT recently dropped the link between $ and employee ratings)
  •    Why do they want to replace college with online ‘worker training’?
  •    Why do they believe that the most important dimension of a human being is their contribution to the economy?  (See the vision statement for their post-secondary education program)
  •    What is the proper role of wealth and power in Philanthropy?  Does the Gates Foundation have too much influence, and does this distort research?
  • Is the Gates Foundation only treating the SYMPTOMS of our inequitable system, but ignoring the fundamental CAUSE?   Does the Gates Foundation benefit from and perpetuate injustices in the system

For more info, please check out this post from last month.

 

 

Zapatista teacher dead, 15 seriously wounded in deadly Chiapas ambush

9 May

from www.schoolsforchiapas.org:

Jose Luis Solís López, a teacher in the Zapatista’s “Little School” (La Escuelita) was murdered, and at least 15 Zapatistas seriously injured, in an ambush by members of an anti-Zapatista organization known as CIOAC-H on Friday, May 2, 2014.  The same attackers damaged or destroyed both the autonomous Mayan school and the local health clinic at the Zapatista caracol of La Realidad.

Read more, and find out what you can do here.

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