A Letter of Apology to My Daughter

Dear Evie,

When I laid you down in bed tonight, I made you a promise. “When I wake you up in the morning, I’m going to tell you I love you and that Hillary won.” When you wake up, you’ll know by the sound of my voice and by the tears in my eyes, that I was wrong.

Tonight you were so sweet to your momma. You gave her hugs and told her not to worry. In the morning, I bet you’ll do the same for me. You’ll tell me it’s ok and give me a hug and ask to watch a cartoon. You will be in your morning routine, as sweet and innocent as you were this morning, unaware of the change around you.

But the world will not be the same tomorrow as it was today. A few hours ago, while you were in the bath, I told you that a woman was going to be the most powerful leader in the world. We talked about how the current President was black and how your friends are black and brown and white, and none of that matters. Tomorrow, you’ll ask why Hillary lost, and I’ll have a hard time coming up with an answer more intelligible for you than sexism and racism.

Before you were born, before you were even conceived, we picked out the name Evelyn for you. It was my grandmother’s, name and she was a strong woman. We would call you Evie while you were our little girl, and Evelyn when you were a professor, a CEO, or the President.

But tonight a woman who’s worked her whole life as a public servant, who has more experience than anyone who’s ever run for this office, lost. What’s worse is that Hillary didn’t lose to a well-spoken, charming leader. She didn’t lose to a smart, determined thinker. She didn’t lose to a humble man-of-the-people.

Tonight, Hillary lost to a man who has made a fortune swindling people. A man who has bragged about adultery and sexual assault. A man who has stoked the flames of racism and nationalism. A man who cannot forgive a slight and who knows no humbleness. A businessman whose very election will bring the economy crashing down as we wakeup.

I am so sorry that a woman cannot be president. I’m so sorry that our country, that you love, would rather elect such a man. I am so sorry for the horrible things you will hear on the playground tomorrow from kids repeating the words of this president-elect. I am so sorry that we have failed you.

I hope one day the world will again be as full of hope and opportunity as it was when I laid you down to bed. I hope we have not failed you as badly as I fear. I hope that when you’re old enough to realize the enormity of our failure, of my failure, that you will still be as sweet, as kind as you will be in the morning, and that you will again hug me and tell me not to worry.

I love you,

A ListServe of One’s Own

OU Create has over 3500 users and 4000 web sites. In a single week we might see 400 blog posts from the users. But until today, it was not complete. Create had not fulfilled it’s potential.

Email is a section of the cPanel that you’ve likely never noticed before but has always been there, as if it has been obscured by magic. Few have ever crossed the threshold into this mysterious place, but today, I helped someone set up a List Serve.

Screen Shot of the List Serve general options screen through OU Create

The List Serve is an ancient, wondrous beast, that few have ever configured. Many of us may have stumbled into subscribing to a List Serve, may have even requested that IT set one up for a project, but to jump through the mirror oneself and standup (to) such a thing is a truly harrowing experience.

First one must generate a set of administrative email accounts tied to this subdomain of OU Create, solely to appease the beast. Then, averting your eyes from the Medusa that is the public interface, you must find the public URL that is hidden like a Golden Egg in the configuration options panels.

Screen shot of the public interface of an OU Create list serve

After finding still more email accounts to sacrifice to the Scylla and Charybdis of configuration, a pious one may return home to the golden desk chair from whence they came.

So for those critics who complain that Domain of One’s Own projects are just carrying the water for WordPress, know that OU Create has spread it’s wings a little wider today and soared ever closer to the sun. Today we have unleashed the List Serve.

Leadership Schools and Digital Literacy

In Bonnie Stewart’s latest post for #HortonFreire, she introduced us to the Antigonish Movement, “a Maritime adult education, cooperative, and microfinance movement of the 1920s and ’30s that led to the development of local credit unions that still dot the landscape around Maritime Canada.” Bonnie suggested this movement as both an historical parallel to Horton’s Citizenship Schools and as a model for our network to improve digital literacy.

In thinking about Bonnie’s call to action, I see parallels with a program that may provide some of the organizational scaffolding for such an educational program. About six months ago I participated as a student in a program called Software Carpentry. This non-profit group teaches faculty and grad students three basics of programming literacy: linux command line, version control (usually with GitHub), and a broadly applicable programming language (usually Python or R).

These skills and the correlated literacies are great, but what is interesting for this conversation is the model adopted by Software Carpentry. After completing the program as a student, they encourage participants to consider going through the instructor training. Participants can earn certification which confers the right to use the Software Carpentry branding and materials in their own workshops. The multi-stage training looks something like this:

  1. A 2-day instructor training focused on pedagogy
  2. Watch and give feedback in a video conference debriefing for a new instructor
  3. Participate as the junior-partner in a team-taught session of Software Carpentry
  4. Debriefing in a video conference
  5. Contribute to the GitHub repository of course material

It might be useful for the #HortonFreire group, along with our broader professional circle, to think about developing a similar GitHub repository of course materials. One of the things I particularly like about this technological model is how it would allow us to create a pool of common resources, and also our own forked versions of the repository that are fitted to our particular cultural environments, the needs of the local students, and our varied pedagogies. These GitHub materials could then provide the jumping off point for local workshops.


My previous posts in the #HortonFreire book club:

Organizing and Educating around Open Ed

Organizing and Educating around Open Ed

In reading We Make the Road by Walking, I am struck by the magnitude of Myles Horton’s work. His educational and organizational efforts were targeted at (among other things) improving literacy in order to help people secure their right to vote. This is so obviously important and world-altering that I was having a hard time relating to it. How could I hope to learn anything from what he was saying when I don’t have that type of motivational tool, either for my audience or myself.

I do not, on a daily basis, lift people from illiteracy to building their own schools in an effort to end historical oppression. I never worked with Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr or the thousands of others that Horton influenced. And, it occurred to me today, in a rare moment of humility, that I need to stop trying to compare myself to Myles Horton. That is a path to feelings of deep inadequacy.

However, my motivation to promote “Open” publication, research, pedagogy, etc. comes from a similar, if more approachable place. I think everyone has the right to share in both the use and creation of human knowledge.

Open access publication is usually the starting point in my conversations about open. Those faculty not yet onboard are at least aware of the concept. Conversations that start with affordability of open textbooks can quickly morph into the absurdity of having to purchase research articles that were written, reviewed, and usually edited by researchers who are not-compensated from the revenue generated by the article. The more “radical challenge” is to help them see that locking articles behind paywalls creates a divide between academics with rich libraries and those without, and between academia and the rest of the world. We should not be “neutral” about allowing the knowledge that we create to be withheld from the vast majority of people.

Open review seems like a much newer concept. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities is making great use of GitHub and the MLA Commons to integrate open review into their workflow. After an initial open review by the small circle of editors on GitHub, each article goes up for public review by anyone who visits the site. This feels novel and disruptive, but every reader, in every medium critiques and analyzes the text as they go. This simply gives the reader a chance to contribute their feedback into the refinement and improvement of the work.

And yet, open review is not an entirely novel invention of the digital world. In a graduate course I took on academic publishing, the professor, Ronald Schleifer, told us that he signs his peer-reviews for monographs and journals. He explained, “It forces me to make my review as constructive as possible so that even when — especially when — I recommend rejection of an essay, I demonstrate the seriousness of my concerns with constructive suggestions. In these reviews, in part because I know the author will know it is I who am writing it, I do everything I can to suggest how an author can make it publishable. This policy, I find, forces me to assume the point of view of an author and ask myself what would make the argument I am encountering the strongest it might be. Occasionally over the years I have even received thank-yous from people whose work I recommended against.” What Ron’s saying here goes to the larger point that open communication and cooperation in the writing and refinement of knowledge accelerates advancement and should be a goal in and of itself.

Taking this a step further then, I have been advocating for open research, or perhaps more precisely open notes, with my work on a project called Situating Chemistry. While having access to the printed work of my fellow historians of science is great, what about all of the notes and research that never gets printed. Pooling together our hard-won facts about historical figures, transcriptions of rare documents, and bibliographies of resources is allowing us to build a web of information that will both accelerate our individual research and open new questions for comparative and collaborative projects.

While I haven’t seen the phrase open pedagogy in We Make the Road by Walking, Google n-grams suggests that the term was in use in the late 80s. Nonetheless, the conceptualization and multiplication of Citizenship Schools offer an operational definition of open pedagogy. Both Horton and Freire noted that theory is a guide, but you have to meet students where they are and understand why they want to learn before you can start educating. In many ways my day-to-day job is to help faculty understand student-centered education and the negotiation of  learning goals for both the individual and the class.

Myles story about meeting a woman in Mississippi who had so internalized the concept of the Citizenship Schools that she thought she had invented them demonstrated both the promise of open pedagogy and the humility needed on the part of instructors. Rather than feeling that he had somehow lost ownership over intellectual property, Myles was excited about this success.

As Horton says in chapter three, there is a difference between organizing and education. My activist instinct is to tell people the answers and push them into open practice. I would love to tear down the institutions of academic publishing and replace them with open, online technologies. But I am an educator and not an organizer. I will help people to understand the technologies and philosophy behind open while still respecting their concerns about challenging the long-standing system. I can “challenge the weakness of the culture,” but ultimately I must leave it up to those I work with and educate to decide for themselves whether to pursue open paths or remain “neutral” about the status quo.

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