“Science of Reading” Media Advocacy Continues to Mislead

Here is something you will never see:

But here is an actual headline:

Both studies (not-yet peer reviewed reading recovery study here, and peer-reviewed UK study here), by the way, are extremely important to anyone genuinely concerned about reading instruction. As a matter of fact, Reading Recovery has issued a thoughtful response to the research in the second, real, headline.

Since Emily Hanford established herself as the “science of reading” journalist in 2018, one would imagine that she would be fully invested in the full story of research on teaching reading. And of course, one would be wrong.

The “science of reading” movement is an ideological movement, not concerned about evidence or even reading achievement by students. There are phonics programs to sell and careers to boost.

When people complain about bias, one aspect of bias often ignored is that all media determine what to cover and what not to cover (Hanford covers anything that seems to further the “science of reading” propaganda, and ignores anything that challenges it). In the case above, the research on reading recovery is easy to twist into the “science of reading” agenda, but the research from the UK is a whole different matter.

To be fair, both studies raise some important questions, but probably do not prove any agenda conclusively. Why is reading achievement in the UK stagnant despite mandating systematic phonics for all students since 2006? Why do students receiving reading recovery intervention seem to score lower than other students over time (in similar ways to grade retention outcomes) in longitudinal studies?

These are damn good questions. And simply asking them is a step in the right direction—recognizing there are no simple answers to teaching or learning how to read.

Yet, they are questions that media and political leaders are unlikely to ask much less answer. Because too many people are invested in the “science of reading” propaganda machine, including Hanford.

Her recent co-authored piece, New research shows controversial Reading Recovery program eventually had a negative impact on children, follows a predictable pattern found in her New York Times mis-reporting on Mississippi’s 2019 NAEP scores: Make an overstated implication about the “science of reading” while including a slight hedge in the article after the Big Claim. See my unmasking here.

We can learn a few lessons from all this.

One is that if you have to lie or distort, you may not have a credible argument (see Hanford’s “science of reading” propaganda).

But a more valuable lesson is that we must have a much more nuanced and complex awareness about what it means to teach and learn reading. While I think many reading recovery teachers are doing important and effective work, we cannot have a simplistic faith that something with the “reading recovering” stamp is universally perfect.

As much as we would hope otherwise, there is no silver bullet.

That realization, however, should temper our understanding of the “science of reading” movement, an agenda that is paralyzed by its missionary zeal—and its persistent misinformation campaign that puts its agenda ahead of real concerns about effective teaching and learning.

Media advocates for the “science of reading,” Hanford and Natalie Wexler, for example, are doing far more harm than good because of their blind advocacy.

Journalists and politicians should not be determining how children learn to read. However, the public is often mislead by sensationalistic media coverage, such as that by Hanford—Mississippi Miracle! (well, “There’s no way to know for sure”), and Reading Recovery is a failure! (but … who knows?).

Here is a lesson: Don’t believe everything you read.

Here is a much harder lesson: Worry about what you don’t get to read.


The Friends We Never Had

While I am more than deeply skeptical about the supernatural world, I had a few weeks ago what I can call only a premonition.

My partner and I were sitting at a local brewery, and I had this sudden and random thought: A former more-than-friend contacting me more than a decade after ghosting me to tell me a mutual friend had died.

Both people in that thought are people I have had no contact with for many years, although I once considered one of them (the one I imagined finding out had died) my best friend.

In no more than thirty minutes from that thought, I had a chilling real experience: I put down a book I was reading, glanced through Facebook on my phone, and saw a post that the person I had once considered my best friend had just died.

I was quite disoriented, and shared the whole event—premonition—with my partner, who asked how I was feeling.

To be honest, it took several days for me to work through and confront how I felt, both about the premonition event itself and of course the death of a person I had once considered my best friend.

There is more, of course, to why this entire situation bothered me, disoriented me.

The person who ghosted me made a statement to me that would prove to be about the last thing they ever told me; they said about the person who I once considered my best friend: “He is not your friend.”

Among the many parts of our parting that were messy and painful, even though that was over ten years ago, I remain haunted by the sincerity of that message despite the layers of doubt about that relationship I had to navigate.

Being ghosted means being left without full closure, but this ghosting also left me with a puzzle I never was able to piece together.

Without any real evidence, I believe that warning—that he wasn’t my friend. However, I can’t shake the need to understand that even as I have made complete peace with both the ghosting and the reality that someone I considered my best friend was in fact a friend I never had.

I am not religious and I have a very strong aversion to tradition and formality (anxiety reflexes, I think); therefore, death always puts me in awkward public corners.

My parents died within 6 months of each other only a few years ago. Being the dutiful son in the way people expected, the normal way, added to the weight of their deaths for me. Their deaths overlapped my mother’s sudden stroke and debilitation so by the time they died, I was drained in ways that were far beyond simply having to live through the sudden health decline and deaths of your parents.

I was completely at peace with what I wanted and could do during those months with and for my parents in terms of I know that my parents were and would have been the very first people to understand and not judge my abnormal responses and behavior.

I don’t play expected roles well. I am deeply attracted to people who do not expect or want me to play roles as a result.

That brings me back to friendship.

My partner has noticed that I am prone to referring to several people as “someone I used to consider my best friend.” In fact, my life’s highway seems to be littered with those folk.

That phrase is not one of bitterness but one of an awareness that comes with having lived into my sixth decade.

Today, I still stumble a bit when I refer to someone and tag that with “my best friend”—even though I have come to a place where I have created a space for embracing that designation in a way that resists idealizing and seeks to honor how someone has demonstrated to me their degree of friendship.

The path to resenting someone you once called your best friend is paved with your own projections, your own hope or want for that person to be your “best friend.”

The best kind of best friend is one that you realize after “best friend” has already just happened naturally over time.

I think I am in a place where I can enjoy someone else for who they are, without expectations of them being anything other than who they are. Some of that, again, comes with age and can only occur when we are as comfortable with ourselves as is humanly possible.

I suspect no one can ever be entirely comfortable with themselves, but we can come close if we are willing to look hard at who we are in our bones and still like/love ourselves.

Idealism is a delusion. Blunt recognition of Self and others is a gift, a liberation, an opportunity to recognize someone as your “best friend” without the traps of either word—”best” need not be exclusionary and “friend” must not be an obligation.

I have again and again over the years found a sort of solace in the work of Kurt Vonnegut, someone who too seemed out of kilter with this world but gleefully willing to look hard at himself and that world. Vonnegut always felt like he was able to provide some soothing but dark words of wisdom, almost as if he were an old soul all his life.

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is,’” he wrote in A Man Without a Country, quoting his Uncle Alex.

The more I think about friendship, the more I believe this is the key to happy friendships—enjoying all the nice in the moment regardless of anything else.

I sit here left with a quandary about whether I did, in fact, have a premonition. Could the person who I once considered my best friend cast himself into the universe in such a way that something like my soul sensed it?

Is there something beyond our traditional awareness that keeps some of us forever intertwined?

Once ghosted, are we forever haunted?

And just what in the hell do we do with those friends we never had?

Resisting Efficiency in Literacy Instruction

“Third grade reading proficiency matters—enormously,” declares Mike Schmoker in How to Make Reading Instruction Much, Much More Efficient for Education Week.

When I saw this piece from 2019 pop up on my social media feed this week, I immediately noticed the subheading: “Scaling back small-group instruction would have dramatic improvements in literacy.”

Since Schmoker’s article fell solidly in the current “science of reading” crisis rhetoric and misguided reading policy being passed across the U.S., it certainly was poised to create even more harmful classroom level decisions for students and teachers.

Two aspects of this argument are compelling and misguided—the standard but false appeal to “third grade reading proficiency” and the prioritizing of “efficiency” for making instructional decisions.

Of course there are well documented correlations between third grade reading achievement and later negative educational outcomes for students (low reading achievement correlated with dropping out and low overall academic achievement, for example), but the traditional response to those correlations has resulted in over-reactions that do far more harm than good.

One of the worst over-reactions has been states adopting grade retention based on third grade reading assessments—despite grade retention having a causal relationship with students dropping out.

Doubling down on practices that increase students dropping out to address misunderstanding the research on third grade reading achievement is a profound failure in logic.

Some of the motivation for making these policy mistakes is that U.S. cultural norms are too often grounded in punishment. Many affluent and privileged people embrace the concept of grade retention as a way to insure that children are taught lessons about achievement and effort, but they also embrace punitive measures because they suspect grade retention, for example, will only impact “other people’s children.”

There is more than a little bit of racism and classism in the urge to embrace punitive schools and aggressive policing and legal systems.

But another source of making terrible policy decisions, especially about reading, is the core of Schmoker’s argument—determining instructional practices by prioritizing efficiency.

Although an enduring Urban Legend criticizes U.S. public education as essentially progressive (which it isn’t, and has never been), scholar Herb Kliebard detailed that by the early twentieth century U.S. public education had become driven by efficiency.*

One powerful example of that commitment is the use of standardized testing, primarily multiple choice tests that can be quickly scored, such as the SAT and most state-level accountability testing.

Despite decades of research showing that standardized testing is often a weak measure of learning, is most strongly correlated with status (socioeconomic, racial, gender), and creates inequity, standardized testing has persisted in the U.S. because it is more efficient than what we tend to call authentic assessment—essays, performances, projects, etc.

In fact, our blind commitment to efficiency is so strong that when we do use authentic assessment we now demand highly structured rubrics to insure that the grading is efficient (which erases the authentic nature of the assignment).

Formal education in the U.S. has structures that, of course, create the need for “efficiency”—grade levels around biological age and courses provided through a format that requires one teacher to serve the largest number of students possible (in K-12, typically 1 to 25-35, but university-level ratios can be 1 to hundreds of students).

Although universal education is a public good, we are bound by market forces when providing education for all children.

I do recognize that efficiency must be one concern for instructional practices, but I have witnessed across five decades of teaching since the 1980s that we overemphasize efficiency, especially in literacy instruction.

For 18 years as a high school English teacher, I struggled within a system demanding efficiency while attempting to teach writing authentically—a workshop method requiring students to write multiple drafts that I provided ample feedback on throughout the process.

This experience was physically and mentally exhausting; I left K-12 education with my right wrist in a brace from writing on about 4000+ essays per year for almost two decades.

Could I have implemented something identified as writing instruction more efficiently (and less taxing for me)? Of course.

But that would have been a lie (many efficient approaches, such as direct grammar instruction, is simply not writing instruction) and would have cheated my students.

Teaching first-year writing at the college level has further cemented my awareness that efficiency is extremely harmful for writing instruction effectiveness.

For example, teaching 100-125 students at a time (more efficient and the reality of high school English teaching) is far less effective than my current obligation to classes as small as 5 students and semester loads including no more than 3 or 4 dozen students (less efficient, more effective).

So this brings me back to the misguided “scaling back small-group instruction.”

As long as we are committed to current teacher/student ratios (one-on-one tutoring/mentoring is, of course, the ideal teaching/learning context), the best instructional approach to managing effectiveness and efficiency is balancing the whole-class, small-group, and individual instructional practices.

If anything, most K-12 teachers need to reduce whole-class instruction and increase small-group and individual instruction.

Why? Whole-class instruction is often the least effective of the three, particularly with writing instruction. For example, my first-year writing students continue to struggle with whole-class assignments and instruction but thrive in our face-to-face conferencing (even in comparison to the individualized instruction they receive from my comments on their essays).

But also, small-group and individualized instruction can often be, ironically, more efficient because that instruction is targeting identified need and allows student choice (instead of the teacher making all decisions for students).

Even the best whole-class instruction is addressing only some students’ needs. And another irony of whole-class instruction is that it tends to more effective after students have submitted authentic artifacts of learning that they are then required to revise (as opposed to giving great deal of instruction up front before students perform).

The ugly truth about prioritizing efficiency is that we are valuing coverage of prescribed instruction over student need or student learning.

Finally, we must acknowledge that teaching conditions are learning conditions. Current teacher/student ratios of 1/25-35 are cheating teachers and students. Yes, we should address those teaching/learning conditions.

But until that political commitment occurs, we must support teachers managing well the tension between effective and efficient. The trick, despite Schmoker’s claim, is maintaining our commitments to small-group and individualized instruction that targets identified student needs.

In fact, we we pull aside the curtain of efficiency, we discover that whole-class instruction as effective is a mirage.


Callahan, R. E. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency: A study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Was There Really a Social Efficiency Doctrine? The Uses and Abuses of an Idea in Educational History, Thomas Fallace and Victoria Fantozzi (2013) (H/T Jennifer Binis)

*NOTE: From Fallace and Fantozzi: “For Callahan (1962) and Kliebard (1995), social efficiency educators diverted progressive education away from the democratic ideas of John Dewey and Harold Rugg” (p. 145). As a critical scholar of the history of education (curriculum and instruction), I think we must make distinctions between the scholarly world (philosophy and theory) and the “real world” of day-to-day education. While I agree with the claim above, I also understand that nuanced and complex philosophy/theory often finds its way into practice in reductive and distorted ways (consider “behaviorism,” “whole language,” “progressivism,” etc.). My argument here is not about the actual social efficiency movement, but that some of the elements of that movement have manifested themselves in powerful and enduring ways (consciously and unconsciously) in how we “do” education in the U.S., one of which is prioritizing “efficiency” in harmful ways. My best example, again, is standardized, multiple-choice testing.

Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Book Two): Women and Children, Goddesses/Gods and Mortals

Stories matter.

Throughout my childhood, my father told the stories of him growing up, and life before my sister and me, so many times, with so much detail, I can retell them myself today—several years past his death, many decades since I was a child.

Not a literary person, my father returned again and again to telling us about his courtship with my mother. They married in secret during her lunch break from her job working at a Winn-Dixie checkout counter.

We tell stories, often over and over, in an effort to understand better our lives, understand better what it means to be human. But I think, especially for my father, we tell stories of our lives to hold onto those moments and years that slip farther and farther into our past, fading.

As I read Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons (Book Two), Kelly Sue DeConnick’s telling and retelling of mythology grounded in the Wonder Woman universe, I thought about my father’s storytelling as well as why we have myths. I explained that Book One, with artist Phil Jimenez, offers not just a beautiful and compelling superhero narrative, but also vivid and urgent messages for our lives today.

DeConnick joins artist Gene Ha in Book Two. Ha’s “Behind the Panels” shares DeConnick’s charge for Ha and her as co-creators of Book Two: “The scripts that follow should be considered more of a roadmap than a set of blueprints.”

Cover: Gene Ha.

DeConnick continues: “I’ve beaten this metaphor into the ground but my point is this: this is a collaborative process.”

This continuing story of Hippolyta and the Amazons, then, begins with the tensions of stories told (lies) and stories not told (truths).

Book Two: DeConnick, writer; Ha, artist; Wesley Wong, colorist; Clayton Cowles, letterer.

Amazons demonized as monsters overshadows Amazons as savior-warriors: “No one speaks of the dead girls we avenged. Nor are there portraits of the ones we saved.”

Representation matters also.

This narrative tension speaks, of course, to the cultural tensions in the U.S. in 2022—an aggressive political Right running roughshod across the country decrying manufactured threats (Critical Race Theory) and demonizing educators as “groomers” in their Holy War against LGBTQ+ humanity.

Stories matter. But power matters more.

Hippolyta’s story is a story about stories, but it also is a story about another tension between Goddesses/Gods and mortals. When she comes upon Artemis, Hippolyta confesses her ultimate goal: “I need to be an Amazon.”

Book Two: DeConnick, writer; Ha, artist; Wesley Wong, colorist; Clayton Cowles, letterer.

Marked by Artemis, Hippolyta is left to confront enslavers, introducing central themes of Book Two—the conditions of being women and children. Saved by Amazons, the enslaved children and Hippolyta are set free. However, Hippolyta challenges that freedom—not just for this moment, but “There is nowhere in this world of men for a woman to be free.”

Book Two: DeConnick, writer; Ha, artist; Wesley Wong, colorist; Clayton Cowles, letterer.

Hippolyta’s outburst echoes Queen Hera’s anger earlier in Book Two: “There will be no justice for women. Not now. Not a hundred years from now. Not a thousand!”

Book Two: DeConnick, writer; Ha, artist; Wesley Wong, colorist; Clayton Cowles, letterer.

Goddesses and mortal women, women and children—for them, Book Two establishes elements of shared existential realities around justice and freedom.

The plot of Book Two builds to a new Seventh Tribe of Amazons with Hippolyta as the leader, chosen by “consensus,” fitting seamlessly into the “collaboration” commitment from DeConnick in Ha’s “Behind the Panels.”

The new tribe, mortals, train and then experience their own mission against enslavers. Those who were freed now free others, but also confront the weight of “great power,” the ability to take life. Tarpeia, however, is restrained from killing a boy. “But he is one of them. He would have killed me!” she argues.

The Amazonian response is powerful and haunting: “He’s just a boy. He shouldn’t die for the sins of his father.”

In terms of contemporary relevance, I find this focus one of the key moments of Book Two.

Book Two: DeConnick, writer; Ha, artist; Wesley Wong, colorist; Clayton Cowles, letterer.

A cultural and political narrative in the U.S. in 2022 involves centering parental rights over their children, an idealized view of parenting paired with denying the autonomy and humanity of children. States are passing legislation directly pronouncing that parents have primary authority over their children’s education.

However, as Book Two dramatizes, “Children only know the world they’ve seen, the world their parents have shown them. To be an adult, they think, is to do as they’ve seen done. It feels like a choice to them, but it isn’t.”

The fate of the boy becomes the ominous final conflict of Book Two, harkening Book Three with “Unleash hell upon them.”

Here, I come back to my father, and mother, and the “world” they showed me. As I have written about often, I was told many wrong stories, corrupting stories, and I could have been trapped in those narratives of racism and ignorance.

Until I learned otherwise—in science fiction and comic books, in comedy albums, and in classrooms where teachers were free to teach.

Again, stories matter.

But who controls them often matters more.

Academic Freedom Isn’t Free

My poem The 451 App (22 August 2022) is a science fiction/dystopian musing about the possibility of technology providing a comforting veneer to the creeping rise of totalitarianism—a simple App appearing on everyone’s smartphone before erasing all our books.

The point of the poem is less about technology and a dystopian future (alluding of course to Fahrenheit 451) and more about another work of literature: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity” (“The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats).

For me, this unmasking of the human condition has always been haunting; it also has become disturbingly relevant in the Trump/post-Trump present in which we live.

Real life is always far more mundane than speculative fiction—and far more shocking.

The “worst,” “full of passionate intensity,” launched an assault on academic freedom in the final months of the Trump administration. The initial wave seemed poised at The 1619 Project and a manufactured Critical Race Theory scare.

By January of 2022, a report found that educational gag orders passed in states across the U.S. were having a significant and chilling effect:

We found that at least 894 school districts, enrolling 17,743,850 students, or 35% of all K–12 students in the United States, have been impacted by local anti “CRT” efforts. Our survey and interviews demonstrate how such restriction efforts have been experienced inside schools as well as districts. We found that both state action and local activity have left many educators afraid to do their work.

The Conflict Campaign (January 2022)

As bills have increased since this report, the number of teachers and students impacted are certainly higher.

Concurrent with educational gag order legislation, book banning has increased dramatically, as reported by PEN America:

• In total, for the nine-month period represented, the Index lists 1,586 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,145 unique book titles. This encompasses different types of bans, including removals of books from school libraries, prohibitions in classrooms, or both, as well as books banned from circulation during investigations resulting from challenges from parents, educators, administrators, board members, or responses to laws passed by legislatures. These numbers represent a count of cases either reported directly to PEN America and/or covered in the media; there may be other cases of bans that have not been reported and are thus not included in this count.

• The Index lists bans on 1,145 titles by 874 different authors, 198 illustrators, and 9 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,081 people altogether.

• The Index lists book bans that have occurred in 86 school districts in 26 states. These districts represent 2,899 schools with a combined enrollment of over 2 million students.

Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights

Republicans and conservatives have steadily created an environment of fear around teaching and learning, which is being detailed now by teachers experiencing that fear (with many leaving the field):

Last year, I was quoted in an article in the School Library Journal about how I discussed toxic masculinity with my high school students when we read Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”togetherWithin days, far-right publications twisted my words to denounce “woke liberal indoctrination in schools.”

Strangers sent me messages on social media accusing me of indoctrinating students, of being unprofessional and unintelligent. I received a handwritten letter addressed to me at school. The letter accused me of being a “low-life, pseudo-intellectual, swallow-the-lib/woke/b—s— koolaid a — h—-.” [The hyphens were added to replace letters because of Washington Post style and not in the original].

‘Educators are afraid,’ says teacher attacked for ‘Romeo and Juliet’ unit, Sarah Mulhern Gross

This movement is driven by lies and fear mongering, but it depends on the missionary zeal of the liars and fear mongers as well as the passivity of “the best” among us.

My childhood and adolescence were profoundly shaped by books and movies—often the science fiction loved by my mother.

Along with The Andromeda Strain (film adapted from Michael Crichton’s novel), two films based on Ray Bradbury’s work remain with me today—The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451.

There is a profound darkness and fatalism in these works, but in Fahrenheit 451, I was struck by the optimism and power of the individuals who walked around repeating the books they had become.

These people, the best among us, seem to suggest Bradbury held on to some sliver of hope.

It seems overwhelming to consider that as sentient creatures we are doomed to not recognize that things matter until they have been taken from us—taken from us with almost no resistance, with almost no recognition of the book being gently slipped from our hands and then our minds.

Academic freedom isn’t free, but without free minds—freedom to teach, freedom to learn, freedom to read and consider—we are no longer fully human.


National Days of Teaching Truth

My 31 texts for 31 days in May

Freedom to Teach: Statement against Banning Books (NCTE)

Banning Books Is Un-American

Banned in the U.S.A. Redux 2021: “[T]o behave as educated persons would”

Censorship and Book Burning: A Reader [Updated]

Furman faculty pass resolution rejecting pending state legislation aimed at academic freedom

Educators’ Right and Responsibilities to Engage in Antiracist Teaching (NCTE)

Lehre Ist Tot

This past week an early career teacher, highly regarded in the classroom and very accomplished in the field of education, received a parental request that a student not be required to read The Great Gatsby. That parent, however, had signed a consent agreement with all texts, including that novel, identified as required reading at the beginning of the course.

The parent then reached out to the administration, who confirmed that the teacher had to assign a different work. This, of course, undermines the teacher and the process established, but it also creates more work for teachers already under incredible strain.

While parental oversight of assigned reading has been common in education for decades, this situation comes as states are increasingly passing parental trigger legislation, which moves the parental power from each parent’s own children to parents being able to ban works for all teachers or students to explore in classes.

That same teacher, frustrated and disillusioned, later that day read aloud their resignation letter to me in the context of telling me that much that they had taught in the first three years of teaching could no longer be taught in the last couple years—and increasingly will be directly banned in the coming year (as my home state is poised to pass its own educational gag order this spring).

The teacher cried while reading the letter aloud, and added that the resignation was depressing; this, you see, was a career they had been working toward since high school—and within 6 years, teaching is dead.

The current anti-teacher climate in the U.S. is incredibly harsh and driven by orchestrated false narratives:

Right-wing media are creating parental trigger structures even without the concurrent legislation:

While teacher and school bashing (notably as “liberal indoctrination”) has a long history in the U.S., reaching back to Catholic schools fighting for market space as public schooling increased in the 19th century, the current anti-teacher climate has its roots not in Republican politics but in the Obama administration’s education agenda.

Obama’s appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education heralded an era of education reform that actually doubled-down on the worst aspects under George W. Bush, and that doubling down feed into a growing media attack on “bad teachers”:

Time was a repeat offender in terms of media bashing of teachers.

Instead of rejecting the standard approaches to education reform begun under Reagan and federalized under W. Bush, the Obama administration turned their blame to teachers and teacher quality. During the Obama years, the great experiment in value-added methods (VAM) devastated the teaching profession.

The perennial paradox of education has always been that teacher quality matters but it remains a very small part of measurable student achievement (only about 10-15%). Therefore, the Holy Grail of the VAM experiment—identifying “good” and “bad” teachers through standardized test scores of students—was always doomed to fail.

But it did accomplish planting the seeds of today’s multi-pronged attack on teachers—the “science of reading” movement blaming teachers and teacher educators for student reading achievement and the anti-CRT/educational gag order movements being linked to parent trigger laws.

Throughout the education reform era over the past 40 years, many of us in education have argued that education reform initiatives are less about improving education and more about killing public education and the teaching profession—charter schools and voucher schemes, Teach For America, VAM and merit pay, demonizing and dismantling unions and tenure, etc., to name a few.

From Fox News lies to parental trigger laws and education gag orders, the evidence is very clear now that this current wave of teacher bashing is definitely about killing the profession, and not about student discomfort.

Let me return to the opening teacher story.

When the parent was asked for reasons why they wanted their child not to read The Great Gatsby—so the teacher had context for choosing an alternate text—the parent responded that they did not want the child (a high school student) to read about inappropriate relationships and sexual content. So here is a point of fact about the insincerity of these challenges; that student had already read and studied The Crucible, without any complaint, a play grounded in adultery.

I am certain some parents challenging what their children are being taught are sincere, but I am also certain the larger political motivation among conservatives is to completely dismantle public education.

Just as I have explained that there simply is no CRT propaganda agenda in K-12 schools, there is no liberal indoctrination/grooming occurring in K-12 (or K-16) education either.

The Ingraham rants are simply political lies.

And these lies are not improving education.

They have one goal and it seems to have been effective: Teaching is dead.

WandaVision: Pastiche, Past, and Present (A Course)

Below I am sharing my MayX (2 credit undergraduate) course I will be offering in about a month.

The course grew out of the following post based on the series WandaVision: Teaching WandaVision: A Textset on Pastiche.

See Also

A Vision of Being Human: “Am I normal?”

EDU 116 – WandaVision: Pastiche, Past, and Present

“The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer.” — James Baldwin. The Nation. July 11, 1966.

Equity, Anti-Racism, and Anti-Bias Statement


In my teaching, scholarship, public writing, and life, I am fully committed to racial, gender, and all forms of equity not yet realized throughout the U.S. and world. While academic spaces are often intellectually challenging and even uncomfortable, I will not tolerate in any aspect of this course language, ideas, or behavior/symbolism that are hostile to marginalized/oppressed groups (racism, sexism/misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc.).

Academic freedom for students and professors is tethered to consequences, and is not license. (See Free Speech and Diversity of Thought?

Students uncertain about what language and ideas are not acceptable because they are hostile or offensive are invited to discuss those questions with me privately and are guaranteed those exchanges will be treated confidentially and respectfully. I am eager to share evidence, research, and reading to help anyone better understand goals of equity, anti-racism, and anti-bias (see materials in Box, Race and Racism).

If you witness or experience any form of bias, please report here:

Bias Incident Report

Title IX syllabus statement

Course Overview

Catalogue Description

This MayX will explore reconsidering the past through the present by viewing the 9-episode series WandaVision (and other texts), which incorporates pastiche as a technique to reflect and challenge the sit-com genre. Students will apply critical media literacy strategies to explore pop culture and apply those strategies to understanding public and popular controversies in K-12 education. An active subscription to Disney+ during MayX is required.

Course Topics

Critical media literacy/ K-12 educational controversies


History/teaching history

Pop culture/Marvel Cinematic Universe/sitcoms


Course Texts

Vision: The Complete Collection (graphic novel)

WandaVision (series)

Pleasantville (film)

Sitcom episodes (TBD)

Brief readings (TBD; see schedule)

The 1619 Project

Course Objectives

  • Understanding and application of the concept of “pastiche” in media and pop culture
  • Understanding and application critical media literacy strategies
  • Awareness of educational controversies (for example, Critical Race Theory, the 1619 Project)
  • Understanding of the field of history (relationship of past and present) and the teaching of history
  • Understanding of the essential aspects of liberal arts education
  • Reconsideration of race and gender in history and pop culture


  • Read Vision (before class sessions) and submit reflections* per schedule below
  • View WandaVision episodes (before class sessions) and submit reflections* focusing on pastiche technique in each episode
  • Independent Project – critical analysis of one episode of a classic sit-com referenced in WandaVision after series viewing (PP and class presentation)
  • Group Activity – viewing Pleasantville (film) for in-class critical analysis in groups
  • Final Portfolio Submission (all assignments resubmitted in Box folder)

* Written reflections should be submitted per the daily schedule below. Submit each reflection pasted into email (not attached) and include the reflection number (see schedule) in the “subject” line of the email. Due before each class session by schedule.

Schedule (Meeting 9 am -12 pm)

Week 1

May 11

Course Overview and Assignments

Read Vision (before class sessions) and submit reflections per schedule below

View WandaVision episodes (before class sessions) and submit reflections focusing on pastiche technique in each episode

Independent project – critical analysis of one episode of a classic sit-com referenced in WandaVision after series viewing (PP and class presentation)

Group activity – viewing Pleasantville (film) for in-class critical analysis in groups

May 12

Intro – Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); Sitcoms; Pastiche (Postmodern Use of Parody and Pastiche, Nasrullah Mambrol)

Critical Media Literacy – Teachable Moment: Fake News and Critical Media Literacy

Rethinking the past through the present? – Dismantling Monuments: History as a Living Document

May 13

Intro – Wanda and Vision

Teaching WandaVision: A Textset on Pastiche

Week 2

May 16

Vision 1-3 (reading and reflection DUE before class) discussion

May 17

Vision 4-6 (reading and reflection DUE before class) discussion

May 18

Vision 7-9 (reading and reflection DUE before class) discussion

May 19

Vision 10-12 (reading and reflection DUE before class) discussion

May 20


Week 3

May 23

WandaVision E1 – Filmed Before a Live Studio Audience

WandaVision E2 – Don’t Touch That Dial

(Viewing and reflection DUE before class)

May 24

WandaVision E3 – Now in Color

WandaVision E4 – We Interrupt This Program

WandaVision E5 – On a Very Special Episode…

(Viewing and reflection DUE before class)

May 25

WandaVision E6 – All-New Halloween Spooktacular!

WandaVision E7 – Breaking the Fourth Wall

WandaVision E8 – Previously On

(Viewing and reflection DUE before class)

May 26

WandaVision E9 – The Series Finale

(Viewing and reflection DUE before class)

May 27


Week 4

May 30 Memorial Day Holiday

May 31

Pleasantville (DVD Collection PN1995.9.C55 P63 1999) in-class viewing/discussion

June 1

Last class – final portfolio/exam DUE (submit in Box)

Presentations shared in class