"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, April 16, 2012

From Occupy the DOE: Teach-In Continues with Shor and Naison

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1:30 p.m. – Mark Naison and Ira Shor: The Occupy Movement and the Struggle to Save Public Education in the United States

Mark and Ira will discuss the intense attack on public education while connecting it to larger policy campaigns in a class war underway in America. Further discussion will focus on the banning of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed in the MAS program at Tuscon.

Mark Naison is Professor of History and African American Studies at Fordham University. He is the author of four books and over 100 articles on African American politics, social movements and American culture and sports. Dr. Naison is the Principal Investigator of the Bronx African American History Project, one of the largest community based oral history projects in the nation and has begun work on an book of oral histories from the BAAHP, with Robert Gumbs, entitled Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1030’s to the 1960’s. His articles about Bronx music and Bronx culture have been published in German, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese as well as English. When not doing historical research, Naison likes to play tennis and golf, post commentary on his blog “With a Brooklyn Accent” and make periodic forays into the media. He has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, the Discovery Channel’s Greatest American Competition (as Dr King’s advocate), and on the Dave Chappell Show, where his “performance” has been preserved on that show’s Second Year DVD. Most recently, he has begun presenting historical “raps” in Bronx schools under the nickname of “Notorious Phd” and was the subject of stories about his use of hip hop in teaching in the Daily News, and on Bronx 12 Cablevision, and Fox Business.

IRA SHOR works with Prof. Mark Naison of Fordham University on starting “99% clubs” affiliated with the Occupy movement. Shor is a Professor of Rhetoric/Composition at the City University of NY’s Graduate Center(Phd Program in English) and in the Dept. of English at the College of Staten Island/CUNY. Shor started the new doctorate in Rhetoric/Composition at the CUNY Grad Center in 1993. There, he directs dissertations and offers seminars in literacy, Paulo Freire and critical pedagogy, whiteness studies, composition theory and practice, and the rhetorics of domination and resistance. At the College of Staten Island/CUNY, he teaches first-year writing, non-fiction, coming-of-age narratives, multicultural literature, and mass media.

His 9 published books include a 3-volume set in honor of the late Paulo Freire, the noted Brazilian educator who was his friend and mentor: CRITICAL LITERACY IN ACTION(college language arts) and EDUCATION IS POLITICS(Vol 1, k-12, and Vol. 2, Postsecondary Across the Curriculum). Shor’s work with Freire began in the early 1980s and lasted until Freire’s unfortunate passing in 1997. He and Freire co-authored A PEDAGOGY FOR LIBERATION in 1986, the first “talking” book Freire published with a collaborator. Shor also authored the widely used EMPOWERING EDUCATION(1992) and WHEN STUDENTS HAVE POWER(1996), two foundational texts in critical teaching. His CRITICAL TEACHING AND EVERYDAY LIFE(1980)was the first book-length treatment of Freire-based critical methods in the North American context. That book grew out of Shor’s teaching for Open Admission students in the City University in the 1970s, where he helped build an experimental writing program recognized as one of three successful efforts in higher education. Coming to the CUNY in 1971 after a PhD at Wisconsin, he experimented with critical literacy, taught Basic Writing for 15 years, and now offers doctoral courses.

Born into a working-class family in 1945 in the South Bronx of New York City, Shor attended mediocre local public schools until he was selected for the premier public high school then in the nation, New York City’s Bronx High School of Science. There, he saw how differently education for the elite is managed compared to the education for the majority he took part in before. In the Jewish South Bronx of the 1950s, he grew up in a rent-controlled apartment among Eastern European families, his being Russian. Shor’s father, a son of immigrants, became a sheet-metal worker after he dropped out of school at 15. He learned his trade from a family friend; during World War II and the Korean War, he built battleships and aircraft carriers at the old Brooklyn Navy Yard. Shor’s mother, also first-generation, was a bookkeeper for small businesses who finished high school but could not afford to go to college, which broke her heart.

After graduating from Bronx Science High School, Shor attended the University of Michigan(BA, English, 1966), then the University of Wisconsin(MA, 1968, and Phd, 1971), both sites of vigorous student activism in the 1960s. Shor joined the antiwar, civil rights, and students’ rights movements of that time. His dissertation was on Kurt Vonnegut whose fiction stood for equality, peace, and kindness. After finishing his Phd, Shor started teaching comp and basic writing at Staten Island Community College, then a 2-year unit of CUNY. He joined the CUNY faculty when the democratic policies of Open Admissions and Free Tuition were under attack. Shor joined the long defense of democratic rights at CUNY, 1971-1976, while also experimenting with critical literacy for his working-class students. He worked with Paulo Freire in the 80s and 90s, when Freire and he co-authored A Pedagogy for Liberation.

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