More Bad Journalism about Bad Edu-Books (and Why the New Media Can Rock)

So Ed Boland wrote a really bad edu-book that all the mainstream media adores because, well, you know, nobody gives a crap what a teacher thinks, but let ANYbody dip a toe in education who isn’t an educator and then everyone is all gaga.

Like our old reliable bad journalism source, The New York TimesThe Myth of the Hero Teacher (note the very serious and pensive opening photo).

But this will be a short post, one that simply notes that I have told you so, again and again—mainstream journalism about education is godawful.

I also want to turn your eyes to the promise of the New Media, where two posts have addressed the bad journalism and bad edu-book very well, I think:

My fear is that this will book will be used as another weapon in assaults on public schools and teacher certification programs. I have no question there are public schools that are not functioning and should be closed, although it would not be fair to make a judgment based on Boland’s report. Boland says he is in no way blaming the students, they are the victims of poverty. He claims the book is about his personal catharsis and is an indictment of the conditions that produce this kind of student behavior. But that is not how it comes across in interviews or what sells books. The focus in “The Battle for Room 314” is on the horrors Boland feels he experienced because of the students and he offers a detailed description of their behavior, at least as he understood it.

The desire for “control” runs through all of our education saviors. Mark Zuckerberg’s well-meaning $100 million gift to the Newark public schools assumed that they could move teachers and families out of the way to make room for his version of “reform.”…

People like Ed Boland and these other reformers are not saviors. They are education tourists. Boland has used his year as an education tourist to launch a book that’s been reviewed everywhere, and is now a sought after public speaker, a supposed expert on education and our educational system.

This is like a student pilot who crashes on his inaugural flight being asked by the FAA about aeronautical safety.

More and more I’m starting to think we need someone who can save us from the saviors.

If you must continue your relationship with mainstream media, add the habit of seeking out the much more nuanced and well informed New Media, please?

Navigating a “No Zero” Policy

A “no zero” policy is receiving media attention and stirring controversy and resistance in Greenville, South Carolina.

Establishing a “no zero” policy is counter-intuitive for most people since it seems to work against a sense of fairness, and as those who oppose the policy typically respond, a “no zero” policy seems to encourage laziness and even passing students along who do no work.

However, a “no zero” policy is the right thing to do both statistically and academically—but only if that policy is part of wider assessment practices that support dropping zeroes as part of the grading system.

First, I recommend reading carefully an analysis that shows why assigning zeroes is flawed in a traditional A-F grading system in which the F range is often 50-60 points while all other grade ranges are 10 or fewer points. As Cristea explains:

The flaw in the system is that a 100-point grading scale does not mathematically equalize zeros to have the same weight as other scores. This paper presents the view that zeros are not fair to anyone including students, parents, teachers, and society as a whole.

The statistical flaw of zeroes and a disproportionate F range lead us to the equity problem. As Rick Wormeli has noted, fair isn’t always equal. So let me lay out briefly the broader assessment practices and concerns that must be in place when a “no zero” policy is adopted (and the “no zero” policy and these issue below should be implemented).

Schools, teachers, parents, and students must set aside grading as a system of rewards and punishments, and begin to see grading as a subset of assessment, which must be used as a system of feedback and student revision to support student learning.

In other words, assessment, tests, and grades must become part of learning and not the conclusion of learning.

In that context, student assignments, tests, and performances must be viewed as obligations by the students; in short, they must be done.

Ideally, all students would complete all assignments with mastery at the same rate, but in the real world, that will never happen. Thus, everyone must begin to worry more about students learning than at what rate they learn or if they learn simultaneously with other students.

Here, I must emphasize that assigning a zero for incomplete or skipped assignments is fundamentally no different than simply passing a student along because both practices prove that the assignment never mattered. The analogy I offer here is student assignments are similar to medicine prescribed by a doctor; neither the student nor the patient benefits if the assignment/medicine is simply ignored. In short, the only option is to do the assignment.

My alternative to the zero is that students must complete fully all work assigned or no credit can be assigned for the course; this approach addresses the problems with both assigning zeroes and simply passing students who do not complete the work.

That said, a key practice supporting all of this is requiring and allowing student revision without belaboring over trying to keep every student at the same pace or number of revisions.

I have implemented this in writing courses for over three decades, and students quickly learn that the sooner they try and the more fully they participate, the sooner they can move on; this is a much more authentic and academically positive and intrinsic motivation than punishing/rewarding with grades.

In the context of so-called content courses (wile problematic, many see writing as process, not content, although I disagree on that point), allowing zeroes or even low grades on assessments of acquiring content sends a message to students that some content simply doesn’t matter—if a student makes a zero or 63, and the class simply moves on to the next topic.

This traditional practice, I believe, has a much more negative impact on learning than any downside to “no zero” policies.

A “no zero” policy, then, is not an isolated issue, but it one important reform within a larger revision of how assessments, tests, and grades can and should be used in formal education to support the learning of all students—a messy and unpredictable process that should not be shackled to a traditional system of grading that is neither statistically nor academically sound.

For Further Reading

Rick Wormeli’s Responses to a Parent of a High-Achieving Student with Concerns About Grading Changes

Are Zeroes Fair?: An Analysis of Grading Practices, James Cristea

The Gray Areas of Grading, Rick VanDeWeghe

More Thoughts on Feedback, Grades, and Late Work

Baldwin’s “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel”: “We made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over”

At first, I think, most relatively reasonable people believed the 2016 Republican field for president was amusing, a harmless opening act to the very serious politics that would befall us when the time came.

But toward the end of February 2016 with Donald Trump winning primary after primary, and with many very serious pundits now conceding that Trump could be the Republican nominee, this harmless opening act has turned decidedly ugly.

A testament to his genius as well as a damning statement about the recalcitrant nature of the U.S., James Baldwin’s work offers disturbing commentaries on our present, especially in the context of Trump’s blatant fascism and bigotry along with the so-called mainstream Republican candidates’ coded fascism and bigotry.

Baldwin’s “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel” proves to be one such insightful work.

In this address, Baldwin admits early, “I’m certain that there is something which unites all the Americans in this room, though I can’t say what it is.” Then, he launches into speculating aloud about a hypothetical novel.

“[B]ecause I am an American writer,” he explains, “my subject and my material inevitably has to be a handful of incoherent people in an incoherent country,” setting up his explicating more carefully later “incoherent.”

This novel, he poses, would be grounded in his life, the people and places he knows, starting with his birth into the Negro [Harlem] Renaissance:

This Negro Renaissance is an elegant term which means that white people had then discovered that Negroes could act and write as well as sing and dance and this Renaissance was not destined to last very long. Very shortly there was to be a depression and the artistic Negro, or the noble savage, was to give way to the militant or the new Negro; and I want to point out something in passing which I think is worth our time to look at, which is this: that the country’s image of the Negro, which hasn’t very much to do with the Negro, has never failed to reflect with a kind of frightening accuracy the state of mind of the country.

“Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” Jame Baldwin 

Baldwin refutes writing a typical coming-of-age novel before delving deeper into race and Harlem itself: “Because, remember that we’re projecting a novel, and Harlem is in the course of changing all the time, very soon there won’t be any white people there, and this is also going to have some effect on the people in my story.”

Next, Baldwin comes to terms with the white world. “Now this white world which I was just encountering was,” he explains, “just the same, one of the forces that had been controlling me from the time I opened my eyes on the world”—building to his larger realization:

Anyway, in the beginning I thought that the white world was very different from the world I was moving out of and I turned out to be entirely wrong. It seemed different. It seemed safer, at least the white people seemed safer. It seemed cleaner, it seemed more polite, and, of course, it seemed much richer from the material point of view. But I didn’t meet anyone in that world who didn’t suffer from the very same affliction that all the people I had fled from suffered from and that was that they didn’t know who they were. They wanted to be something that they were not. And very shortly I didn’t know who I was, either. I could not be certain whether I was really rich or really poor, really black or really white, really male or really female, really talented or a fraud, really strong or merely stubborn. In short, I had become an American.

“Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” Jame Baldwin 

As relevant today as then, Baldwin answers “What does it mean to be an American?” with race, noting “[t]he fact of color has a relevance objectively and some relevance in some other way, some emotional relevance and not only for the South.”

To be American, it seems, Baldwin confronts the power of race and the paradox of being an American (which he argues joins black and white)—all of which comes to his concern with our genuine selves, the risk of being our genuine selves: “I mean that in order to have a conversation with someone you have to reveal yourself.”

Along with “the fact of race,” Baldwin argues “to try and find out what Americans mean is almost impossible because there are so many things they do not want to face.”

To be American is to live with delusion:

[I]t seems to me that the myth, the illusion, that this is a free country, for example, is disastrous….

There is an illusion about America, a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead and I don’t believe that anybody in this country who has really thought about it or really almost anybody who has been brought up against it— and almost all of us have one way or another— this collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.

“Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” Jame Baldwin 

And as we face in the U.S. during the 2016 presidential campaign the rise of a candidate more outlandish and nastier than a cult-classic film, Baldwin’s concluding comment could not be more apt: “A country is only as good— I don’t care now about the Constitution and the laws, at the moment let us leave these things aside— a country is only as strong as the people who make it up and the country turns into what the people want it to become.”

And as Americans choose Trump, we must realize: “We made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over.”

See Also

The Weight of James Arthur Baldwin

Welcome to South Carolina: Where “Bless Your Heart” Means “Go to Hell”

I zipped through John Saward’s Keeping It Casual: A Day with South Carolina’s 21st Century Racists, and then posted the article on Facebook with “Painful but real about SC.”

Little did I know that a former student was involved in Saward’s interview and even captured in the article’s main photograph. Luckily, she explained to me that Saward came off as looking to paint as negative a picture of South Carolinians as possible, prompting me to consider more carefully what I had posted and why.

I did add this NYT’s analysis of who supports Trump in the South, confirming, I think, my larger point—even acknowledging that Saward had an agenda regardless of what he found.

So my much more careful point is two-fold:

  1. Outsiders coming to the The South in order to make us look bad is wrong and upsetting for those such as me from The South.
  2. But the ugly, ugly truth is they don’t even have to try to make us look bad because bigotry, nastiness, and racism/sexism are still proudly embraced by way too many and tolerated by way too many more—and that ugliness is usually all justified by Bible thumping, making it all the worse.

This brings me to the two disjointed stereotypes about the South—one that praises us for Southern Hospitality and the other that demonizes us as cross-burning, toothless rednecks.

These caricatures are partially grounded in truth, but the cartoonishness of both makes the mistake that Ta-Nehisi Coates addressed about “oafish racists”:

The problem with Cliven Bundy isn’t that he is a racist but that he is an oafish racist. He invokes the crudest stereotypes, like cotton picking. This makes white people feel bad. The elegant racist knows how to injure non-white people while never summoning the specter of white guilt. Elegant racism requires plausible deniability, as when Reagan just happened to stumble into the Neshoba County fair and mention state’s rights. Oafish racism leaves no escape hatch, as when Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond’s singularly segregationist candidacy.

Elegant racism is invisible, supple, and enduring. It disguises itself in the national vocabulary, avoids epithets and didacticism.

The South broadly and South Carolina specifically are not uniquely a region and state that represent the corrosive impact of virulent hypocrisy, but both are significant breeding grounds for hatred, racism, classism, homophobia, and sexism shielded by a nasty veneer of Bible thumping.

So if you are just visiting, “Bless your heart” may mean “Bless your heart,” but it may also mean “Go to hell” (or possibly more accurately, “You are gong to hell [and I’m not]”).

With SC Republican’s supporting Trump as they did Newt Gingrich, as a native South Carolinian and an unabashed redneck, I am forced once again (and this is a daily, if not hourly, experience) to note that Trump is exposing that the so-called Religious Right is neither religious (in the moral/ethical sense), nor right.

Trump uses brazen lies and lies that are grounded in hatred to attract a legion of voters who once called themselves the Moral Majority; and in fact, those iterations—Moral Majority, Religious Right, Evangelicals—have always been as nasty as they are currently being by aligning themselves with Trump—a cartoon in a suit and a wig who is even more outlandish than the imagined future in Idiocracy.

Trump, in fact, is the perfect lightning rod for the very worst the South has to offer—the uneducated fundamentalists who cling to conviction even when it is self-defeating. The brutal irony of the South is that the tired Republican ploy of making Americans afraid of terrorists (non-Americans) and whites afraid of people of color is that one need not live long in the South to know first-hand the reality of what is immediately dangerous for anyone—your own damn family, and people like you or that you know.

As I examined during the most recent debate about finally removing the Confederate battle flag from state house grounds, if you really want to understand the South, investigate the nonsensical rallying cry of flag supporters, “Heritage, not hate.”

But I want to return to the point raise by Coates because it is not the KKK defenders who are the problem in the South (and this appears to be the narrative Saward was going to right regardless of what he found), but the same ideologies resting in the breasts of working class, middle class, and affluent Southerners who, like Emily in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” cannot and will not let go of our tarnished traditions in order to build a more perfect union.

The problem is that many in the South passionately wave the flag and thump the Bible without a clue to what either means, and without a moment of their lives spent honoring either.

Instead, the flag waving and Bible thumping are used as weapons to smear good people and to deny others life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Again, this is not unique to the South, but as a Southerner, it kills my soul that this is too often the South and none need come here to make any of that up.

See Also

Eternal Fascism and the Southern Ideology, Jeremy Brunger

On Southern Heritage and Pride

The Self-Defeating South, Words Not Spoken: Racism as a Scar and Cancer

John Warner Swears Off Essays, and Students? (Yes, And So Should Everyone)

John Warner, writer and visiting instructor of first-year writing, posted yesterday the provocatively titled I’m Never Assigning an Essay Again [1]. And kept the ball rolling this morning on Twitter:

That’s right, it appears Warner is swearing off essays and students in his role as a writing instructor for first-year college students.

I immediately pounced on Warner’s post and Tweets by sharing a key article I come back to often—especially in my work at a selective liberal arts university: The Good Student Trap by Adele Scheele.

“The odd thing about life is that we’ve been taught so many life-less lessons,” Scheele laments, and then hits the key point about how school creates the “good student trap”:

We were learning the Formula.

• Find out what’s expected.
• Do it.
• Wait for a response.

And it worked. We always made the grade. Here’s what that process means: You took tests and wrote papers, got passing grades, and then were automatically promoted from one year to the next. That is not only in elementary, junior, and senior high school, but even in undergraduate and graduate school. You never had to compete for promotions, write résumés, or rehearse yourself or even know anyone for this promotion. It happened automatically. And we got used to it.

Until the formula doesn’t work, of course. “All that changes once you find that studying history or art or anthropology can be so much more than just jumping through hoops,” Scheele explains. “Your academic pursuits can lead to new experiences, contacts, and jobs. But so much disappointment has resulted from misusing college, treating it as school instead of life [emphasis added].”

And here is where my work as an educator significantly overlaps with Warner’s two assertions: (1) the need to end the template-approach to essays that exists almost exclusively in formal classroom settings, and (2) the inherent failure of training young people in student behaviors, which are like the canned essay, unlike human behaviors in the real world.

So in most of my classes, we start by having frank discussions about behaviors of students and how they appear if we step back from them. For incoming first-year students, I typically start with the need to use the restroom during class.

K-12 formal schooling has equated normal human urinary and bowel needs with something just short of a high crime. In K-12 schooling, your restroom needs must be conditioned to the school’s schedule, and when that fails, you must raise your hand and ask permission.

In college, however, you simply get up and go to the restroom.

This transition away from the K-12 dehumanizing of students to normal adult behavior helps my students begin to investigate how we (professor/students) behave in class settings, how they should view their roles in learning (doing assignments instead of “homework,” and completing the learning experiences for themselves and not the professor), and what scholarship means instead of “being a student.”

I have linked the end of the school essay and the call for my students to drop student behaviors as essential for the sort of education I believe all young people deserve, a liberatory one.

These goals merge in my writing-intensive courses in which I ask students to stop behaving as students and to begin to behave as writers (and what that entails is a long process we explore throughout the semester)—so that we can learn to write together in ways that serve their personal, academic, and career wants and needs.

I hope more educators follow Warner’s lead—although these sorts of transitions I ask of my students are painful—and that we can all soon come together by swearing off essays and students.

[1] See his post from the next day also: Kill the 5-Paragraph Essay

Investigating Zombi(e)s to Foster Genre Awareness

My initiation into the fiction of Roxane Gay was a wonderful moment of disequilibrium when I read her short story “There is No ‘E’ in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You Or We.” The opening of the story is a staccato tease that sets the stage for even greater disorientation:

[A Primer]

[Things Americans do not know about zombis:]

They are not dead. They are near death. There’s a difference.
They are not imaginary.
They do not eat human flesh.
They cannot eat salt.
They do not walk around with their arms and legs locked stiffly.
They can be saved.

“So what were zombies, originally?” asks Victoria AndersonVisiting Researcher in Cultural Studies, Cardiff University, explaining:

The answer lies in the Caribbean. They weren’t endlessly-reproducing, flesh-eating ghouls. Instead, the zombie was the somewhat tragic figure of a human being maintained in a catatonic state – a soulless body – and forced to labour for whoever cast the spell over him or her. In other words, the zombie is – or was – a slave. I always find it troubling that, somewhere along the line, we forgot or refused to acknowledge this and have replaced the suffering slave with the figure of a mindless carnivore – one that reproduces, virus-like, with a bite.

The zombie narrative has captivated pop culture in the U.S. now for several years, notably the AMC series The Walking Dead and the comic book it is based on and novels such as World War Z. With the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Anderson expects this popularity to continue—along with the reimagined but mischaracterized zombie conventions.

For the classroom—especially when we are addressing reading and writing—the zombie narrative in its many iterations is an ideal entry point into investigating genre. Zombie narratives are a specialized sub-genre and blending of horror and science fiction.

Since zombie narratives in print and film have been in U.S. pop culture for about 8 decades, teachers can expect students at all levels to come to class with some existing assumptions about what zombies are and what zombie narratives entail—in other words, the conventions of zombie narratives as a genre.

As a writing teacher, I ascribe to Johns’s emphasis on building genre awareness (as opposed to genre acquisition) in developing writers and readers. Here, then, I want to outline briefly how to use zombie narratives as part of fostering genre awareness in students.

First, I would have students in small groups identify their own experiences with zombie narratives—naming what they have read or viewed. From that, students would then construct “what we know about zombies.”

This focus on starting with what conventions students already possess helps generate engagement and context for the larger lesson on genre awareness.

Next, I would ask students to read Gay’s short story (or another that is age appropriate since Gay’s story is for older readers) as a model text for comparing how that story matches or contrasts with the “what we know about zombies” list each group has created.

Finally, I would share Anderson’s article above in order to have a discussion about the concept of conventions—how expectations for a certain type of writing (or film) are shifting but bound to a time and place. The concept of zombies is much different now than in its origin.

Since superhero films are now also all the rage, a companion activity to support helping students investigate the concept of conventions and genre is to allow them to research the many different versions for key superheroes—such as Spider-Man or Batman—that have existed over the 50-70 years of mainstream comic book superheroes.

Some key caveats about fostering genre awareness are helpful for designing and implementing many lessons such as the one above:

  • Fostering genre awareness as part of the writing and/or reading curriculum is an ongoing process. You can never “finish” that process, and all students at all levels need to be engaged continually with the questions of genre, form, and mode. Above, for example, asking: What makes a short story, a short story, or what makes Anderson’s essay, an essay, and how might the public piece of hers compare to a scholarly essay on zombies?
  • Genre awareness helps students build their own emerging and developing “rubrics” about how to tackle a writing project or interrogate a text. For example, a student learns to start with “what I know about X,” and then while writing or reading to use that to inform how she/he proceeds in making meaning through composing or reading.
  • Conventions serve communication as fluid frames that texts conform to or break; in other words, the structure helps create meaning, but the specifics of that structure are not as important as the structure itself.

“It’s a call to memory because the zombie – the actual zombie – reminds us of something very important,” Anderson concludes:

It reminds us to remember – who we are, and where we came from, and how we came to be – individually and collectively – especially for those of us whose personal and community histories are caught up in the blanketing fog of cultural amnesia. The zombie reminds us to taste salt.

Anderson’s meditation on the shifting conventions of zombies, I think, speaks to the power of conventions themselves since how we construct our genres and what genres we embrace in pop culture are as much about us as about the narratives themselves.

Ultimately fostering genre awareness is about helping students know who they are as well as about the world in which they live.

What We Teach, and How: Updike, Vonnegut, and Kendrick Lamar?

“The politics of hip hop education are complex,” explains Brian Mooney in his discussion of teaching Kendrick Lamar, adding:

Students are assigned Vonnegut for summer reading, complete with multiple uses of the word “fuck” and a voyeuristic sexual scene that makes many adults uncomfortable, but we allow this, and in fact require it, because Vonnegut is white. He’s been accepted into the literary canon, and thus, his writing is considered “high art.” Hip hop is still the subject of intense, misdirected hatred and discrimination in schools. We aren’t protecting students from vulgarity when we forbid hip hop in the classroom. We are protecting ourselves from our fears about race – while simultaneously robbing our students of authentic opportunities to think critically about the media they consume. Literacy in the 21st century means bringing all different kinds of “text” into the classroom – especially hip hop.

As a sometimes Vonnegut scholar, an avid Vonnegut reader, and a teacher, I paused at Mooney’s incisive confrontation of the whitewashed canon while also smiling at the thought of Vonnegut being the exemplar since Vonnegut himself struggled with being marginalized as only a genre writer, science fiction.

Mooney is interrogating what we choose to teach and how, but he is also situating teaching within the locus of authority belonging to students. Canonized profanity juxtaposed to pop culture profanity—reminding me of wonderful and animated discussions with my Advanced Placement students about the use of “fuck” in a key chapter of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, conducted without laughter or any real controversy or complaints.

Teens and young adults have heard, used, and even done these words we have tabooed except when they fall within whitewashed contexts rendered acceptable by some authority.

Mooney’s well argued detailing of his teaching Lamar now sits in the wake of Lamar’s 2016 Grammy show performance and Beyoncé’s 2016 Super Bowl halftime show. As well, I found Mooney’s post just after blogging myself about the female as allegory and then reading Emily Ratajkowski’s Baby Woman, in which she offered:

I think of John Updike’s short story “A & P,” in which a young girl in a resort town wears a bikini into a grocery store and is asked by the store manager to leave. She enters the store in her new sweet bathing suit, excited for a summer day, and exits with a crushed spirit and an uncomprehending feeling of guilt. I think of women in their workplaces worrying about how their sexuality might accidentally offend, excite, or create envy. I think of mothers trying to explain to their daughters that while it wasn’t their fault, they should cover up next time.

As with Mooney’s piece, Ratajkowski’s reference to Updike catapulted me back to my A.P. classrooms where we annually dissected “A&P.”

“In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits,” the story begins—and it was here that what we teach and how becomes much more disturbing in the context of Mooney and Ratajkowski.

Updike’s story is canonized in literature anthologies, particularly the ones designed for A.P. courses and first-year or introductory college courses. In those anthologies, typically, stories are identified by how they lend themselves to teaching some aspects of literature: Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” for irony, for example, and then Updike’s “A&P” for mythological allusion.

With that first sentence, students were duly told that Updike has written a precise modernist work ripe for a New Critical approach to uncovering the sustained allusion to the three graces (or charities) in the form of teenagers in bathing suits.

And thus the story is reduced to a machine and our analysis, a mechanical drawing showing how all the parts work together: the three girls inspire a teenaged boy to quit his checkout job, leaving him in the parking lot facing “some young married screaming with her children.”

“A&P” as a story of maturation, a universal tale in all its middle-class whiteness left mostly unspoken, unacknowledged.

What was disturbingly absent in all those many years of dissecting “A&P” like surgeons-in-training, however, was that simple but biting insight shared by Ratajkowski above—how the story included young females with whom she could identify because of her own experiences under the male gaze: “She must have felt in the corner of her eye me and over my shoulder Stokesie in the second slot watching, but she didn’t tip,” the story’s narrator, Sammy, recognizes.

In her personal response to “A&P,” Ratajkowski concludes:

I refuse to live in this world of shame and silent apologies. Life cannot be dictated by the perceptions of others, and I wish the world had made it clear to me that people’s reactions to my sexuality were not my problems, they were theirs.

And so, like Updike’s Sammy (who while quitting argues, “‘You didn’t have to embarrass them'”), I stand staring at my own harsh realities—although not yet another female allegory (“some young married”)—in the form of Moon and Ratajkowski who pose powerful questions about what we teach, and how.

“Educators can learn a lot from [Lamar’s] album,” Mooney ends, “and its relationship to the young people in our classrooms.”

And if we reconsider what we teach, and how, we educators have a lot to learn from those young people if they are given the time and space to teach us about that which matters in their own lives.