Jeff Duncan-Andrade - Growing Roses in Concrete

“1 in 3 urban youth display the symptoms of mild to severe PTSD. And when you compare that data to the military data what you find is urban youth are actually twice as likely as soldiers returning from Iraq to get PTSD.”

This presentation is crucial to educators interested in the future and empowerment of urban youth of color. View the entire video here

Linguistic Intimidations...

Today I had an educational experience that I’ve never had before: my entire class this morning was in Spanish.

It was a class on religion and politics in Latin America where it just so happened everyone in the room was a Spanish speaker. So the Professor asks if we could hold our discussion in Spanish. Everyone is cool with it (and I’m, admittedly, thrilled because this has never happened before for me). As folks talk, though, I realize I’m the only Spanish speaker in the class from the United States. That is, there are folks from Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico, Spain and I’m the only one who grew up here. And I must admit, I was a intimidated for a good while and it took me a few minutes to jump into the conversation.

I wasn’t intimidated because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish (I am), nor because Spanish isn’t my first language (it is), nor because I wasn’t understanding my colleagues (I did), but because I was worried about my accent. My Spanish is unique. It’s grounded in Puerto Rico, forged in the Diaspora, and influenced by Central America (especially Guatemala, El Salvador, and to a lesser extent Honduras). It’s a blend of saying “coño,” making “r” sounds into “l’s,” dropping letters, using “vos,” adding “eis,” and indicating a question by saying “va” at the end. Meanwhile I’m hearing colleagues speak “pure” Spanish from their respective lands and I start doubting myself.

Will my Spanish be understood? Would it be accepted? And why do I think their’s is “pure” and mine is not? In short, why am I intimidated to speak the language my mother and father taught me?

Then I began realizing my own experiences with being bilingual in the United States. When I was growing up (and still today) some Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans would make fun of my Spanish as “too Gringo” (interestingly, some who learned Spanish in Latin America would say my Spanish is “too Puerto Rican,” which meant too influenced by English, which meant “not good Spanish”). Simultaneously, English speakers would make fun of things like my name or pronunciation of certain words or my parent’s accents because they were too “Spanish.” So this linguistic space formed around me where I (supposedly) wasn’t fully Spanish speaking or fully English speaking. This “ni de aqui, ni de aya” makes it intimidating to enter spaces where your speaking is what defines your participation.

In this particular instance I got over it and just jumped in with a “whatever” kind of attitude, if they understand me they understand me and if not I’ll write it down! And I’m glad I did because it was powerful to hold a class in the language I feel most emotionally connected to (I feel more intellectually connected to English). Nonetheless, it was an interesting couple of minutes of feeling intimidated and needing to figure out why before jumping in.

Language has power in how we are shaped as people and communities. It can be a source of liberation or marginalization, colonization or freedom. In this way language can be an imperial force, one used to intimidate folk or make them feel less than in order to maintain power. It’s what caused some indigenous languages to be wiped out, what empowers nativism and xenophobia, and what can cause students to remain silent for years in and out of classrooms. Yet language can also be a site of empowerment, of pushing back, or refusing to submit to supremacy. Indeed, language has power, perhaps more than we realize…..

Positive Narration?

My principal wants me to utilize more positive reinforcement in my teaching. Example phrases like “I really like how Dave, Bethany and Max are working…” Stuff like that.  

I KNOW that this is nothing new for teachers. But I am struggling. My upbringing wasn’t very “outward expressions of positivity”, it was more “no news is good news.” Plus, it sounds SO FAKE to me; I teach 8th graders, are they likely to respond to this kind of obvious scripting? 

Edchums, how did you find your style? How do I incorporate this in a way that doesn’t feel super forced and fake?



Trying to improve my note-taking skills and  stay ahead of vocal ped before the semester starts. Also featuring an attempted bullet journal spread based on Die Fledermaus.

Pack up what you cherish and carry it on your back to the future.

charles l. mee, jr., as quoted in anne bogart's and then, you act: making art in an unpredictable world

(she asks him: “How are we supposed to function in these difficult times?  How can we contribute anything useful in this climate?”

and he says: you can give up.  or, you can believe that there will be a better time.  and then, “If that is the case, your job in these dark political and social times is to become a transport bridge.”)

Further thoughts on Scorsese’s ‘Silence’

My first post (not really a review as such) was just a few initial impressions hurriedly typed up as soon as I returned from watching Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ on Tuesday. I was rather overwhelmed, therefore, by the positive response to it – almost 900 shares on social media so far. Thank you! 

Once again, in what follows, there will be ‘spoilers’ so do not read on if this bothers you.

Since then I’ve had a chance to talk to my Dominican brothers about it, have a few online discussions, and in between working on my STL thesis I’ve had time to reflect a bit more. Part of what I really enjoyed about this movie is that it engenders lots of discussion and it’s of sufficient complexity to warrant several interpretations of its themes and ideas over a multitude of disciplines. A friend of mine, an anthropologist who I met in Oxford, made a particularly astute observation which I’ve since developed a little bit, and I thought it might resonate with other people’s observations of the film perhaps.

This time my focus is on the main character of the story, Padre Rodrigues, who is the antihero of this movie for me but his story highlights an area of Christian spirituality and moral theology that is seldom talked about. It seems to me that the story of Rodrigues could be seen as a parable of God’s pedagogy; a story that tells of how in the mystery of divine Providence one is led through sin by grace from vice towards virtue. 

St Thomas Aquinas in his Commentary of 2 Corinthians notes that “pride, properly called, separates from God and is the root of all vices and the worst of them”. And we see how Padre Rodrigues was in danger of falling deeply into this vice. Firstly, a certain arrogance led him to Japan – he was very sure of himself and confident that he would be able to rescue Padre Ferreira. He was also very sure of his faith and his fortitude. But faith is a gift from God, and fortitude even to the point of suffering martyrdom is an infused virtue. In other words, these virtues do not come from our own efforts but are received in humility from God. Pride, however, as St Thomas says is “an inordinate desire for one’s own excellence” and if one seeks such excellence independently of God, then, St Thomas says, “he can even fall into other vices, such as ambition, avarice, vainglory and the like”. Hence, for example, Rodrigues exhibited ambition – he longed for the glory of finding Ferreira – as well as vainglory – he loved too much, perhaps, to be revered and be indispensable to the villagers and so he easily succumbed to being lured out of hiding because he believed he was needed. I grant that he may not have acted out of these vices but as a priest I recognise how subtle and prevalent these spiritual vices are for us. 

Certainly, Padre Rodrigues’ vice of pride becomes evident in his contempt for Kichijiro. As an aside, let me observe that Kichijiro is presented as a somewhat comical figure but, as I think about it, he is an interesting figure of the habitual sinner and I can recognise myself in him. Through weakness and habit, many will fall into the same sins repeatedly, and each time we go to confession with regret and contrition. However, if we step back and look at ourselves, I think we will also recognise something comic in this. And the ability to laugh at oneself and one’s stupidity when falling again and again into the same sin can be a good thing. It can lead to a certain humility for it is said that the Devil never laughs because he takes himself too seriously; he’s too full of pride and self-regard. 

In any case, as Kichijiro comes to the priest for confession yet another time after having stamped on the image of Christ again, we hear Rodrigues’ interior monologue. Shockingly, just before giving absolution to Kichijiro, Rodrigues expresses his prideful disdain for the Japanese apostate. And yet, humility would remind us that any good we do comes about because of God’s grace, including our avoidance of sin and preservation in virtue. His grace prompts, sustains and brings to perfection every good work, and we are co-operators but without Christ we can do nothing (see John 15:5). Therefore, St Paul says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). It is in this moment that we see the height of pride that grips Padre Rodrigues. And so begins the divine pedagogy in which God applies a remedy against pride.

As we say, “pride comes before a fall”, and so, Padre Rodrigues falls into apostasy. Many people have commented on the apostasy of the priests in ‘Silence’ but I do not think that the movie encourages it, even though it might provide an apologia for it. Rather, it seems to me that Padre Rodrigues is allowed to fall into the sin of apostasy - for which he had once held Kichijiro in such disdain - and they become, as it were, kindred spirits. Indeed, they become friends and companions. Padre Rodrigues is thus humbled by his fall into apostasy and in taking on this sin, he begins to empathise with the tragicomic figure of Kichijiro. And empathy is the first step towards friendship. 

Now I say that God allows Rodrigues to fall into this sin because it is by God’s permissive will that we sin. God doesn’t directly will that we sin, of course, but because he desires that we have free will and so learn to love the good and the true, so, in his Providence, he permits sin. Moreover, God desires that we learn to love and so there is an intriguing thread of Christian spirituality that recognises that sin is part of the divine pedagogy because we learn from our mistakes, so to speak. I first came across this idea as a novice and it has stayed with me. In ‘The Way of the Preacher’, Simon Tugwell OP observes that “sin itself is a form of suffering, which, paradoxically, purifies a man”. This teaching he traces to St Irenaeus, “for whom sin is an important aspect of divine pedagogy – not that God actually instigated sin directly, but he set up the world in such a way that sin was extremely likely to take place, and could be treated as one possible way of making Adam realise his dependence on God. It comes to be fairly standard doctrine that God permits people to fall into the more obvious kinds of carnal sin as an antidote to pride”. Hence, St John Damascene says in ‘De fide orthodoxa’ that in God’s Providence, a man might be “allowed to fall at times into some act of baseness in order that another worse fault may be thus corrected, as for instance when God allows a man who takes pride in his virtue and righteousness to fall away into fornication in order that he may be brought through this fall into the perception of his own weakness and be humbled and approach and make confession to the Lord.”

So, too, St Thomas in his Commentary on 2 Corinthians says that “God sometimes permits his elect to be prevented by something on their part, eg: infirmity or some other defect, or sometimes even mortal sin, from obtaining such a good, in order that they be so humbled on this account that they will not take pride in it, and that being thus humiliated, they may recognize that they cannot stand by their own powers”.

It seems to me that Rodrigues is definitely humiliated and humbled by his sin of apostasy. For he effectively loses his priesthood, and as a notorious apostate he becomes something of a freak show for Japanese and Europeans alike, whose only friends are his fellow apostates. From the moment of his apostasy, we see him in a bit of a daze, practically speechless, and totally dispirited; unenthusiastic and robotic in his censorship of imported Christian materials. It seems he descends into a death-like silence and in this silence perhaps he finds the One who he once accused of being silent. This idea of the kenosis of Christ whereby he encounters the sinner in the depths, in any event, is proposed by the theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar, who had been a Jesuit.

It is from the depths of this nothingness, it seems then, that Rodrigues can learn to depend once more on God and his grace. This is what his clinging to the little Crucifix appears to symbolise. In the end, finding himself to be weak and undependable, he depends totally on the Crucified One, or at least, clings to him for mercy. And, if we think about it, isn’t that the one great spiritual lesson each one of us has to learn? For as St Benedict said: “we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility. And the ladder thus set up is our life in the world, which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled”.

Students do not become critical thinkers overnight. First, they must learn to embrace the joy and power of thinking itself. Engaged pedagogy is a teaching strategy that aims to restore students’ will to think, and their will to be fully self-actualized.
—  Bell Hooks, “Critical Thinking,” from Teaching Critical Thinking (2010, p.8).
In my department I have always taught a course on race, which foregrounds how race emerges through histories of European imperialism. I teach the work of black writers and writers of color, especially black feminists and feminists of color. Every year I have taught this course, black students and students of color have come to my office to tell me that was the first time that they had been taught materials that they could relate to their own experiences. This is in a department shaped by the intellectual traditions of British cultural studies and in particular the legacy of black British theorist Stuart Hall. Here whiteness is still business as usual; education as usual. We are still doing diversity work here because the foundation upon which the house has been built creates strangers; those who are passing by at the edges of social experience; those who, when they meet themselves in the materials, feel grief for not having met themselves before.
—  Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life

Ever since President Annoying Orange von GrabbyHands came into office, there’s been a lot of chatter about Orwell, and 1984, and whether this or that is Orwellian. Amazon was actually sold out of copies of 1984 for a few days after Kellyanne Conway said that falsehoods being spread by the administration were “Alternative Facts.”

So today I want to talk about 1984, what “Orwellian” actually means, and how Orwell explores the impact of language on thought and dissent with NewSpeak in his novel. And, at the end, we will look at how these concepts do and don’t apply to today’s political climate

Transcript below:

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