Gwyneth Paltrow Isn’t Going to Kill Anyone

There is a video going around the Internet that previews Gwyneth Paltrow’s new show on Netflix. She and her company get a lot of grief from academics. And those academics had a lot to say about her new show. The posted comments on academic twitter express either disdain or are fully loaded with expletives. I mean, more than once I saw a tweet that mirrored this statement, “This is how people die.” This is not only ridiculous, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

This arrogance of academics comes from a privileged state of mind that believes academia is the sole source of credible knowledge. I suspect that’s where most of this venom toward her is coming from. Just so we’re all on the same page, let me be clear, we don’t own knowledge. I wonder if these academics think that Indigenous ways of knowing have less value, or worse, no value. I doubt there are many willing to admit this but that’s what they’re saying when they see a video of someone doing something differently, that they likely know nothing about, and decide it holds no value.

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How Did I Choose My Research Topic You Say?

Here’s a bit I wrote about my educational history after I got a nasty comment from someone on Twitter. The person assumed I didn’t have a trauma history and was challenging my opinions. I owe nothing to this person who I subsequently blocked — I intentionally carefully curate my twitter feed. But maybe I do have something to say about why I chose the research topic I have chosen for my phd, which focuses on how college instructors approach trauma-informed online learning. Here is what I wrote about how trauma affected my educational experience.

As a child, when I wouldn’t get up fast enough in the morning, my dad would pick me up and take me outside and drop me in the horse trough. When my parents divorced, it was a mixed blessing. I no longer had the physical abuse of my dad, but mom had her own unresolved trauma issues and was an emotionally and physically absent parent. For all intents and purposes, I was on my own. At some point before age ten I developed ADD, anxiety and depression – the sequalae of the trauma of having to essentially raise myself. I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings and my mom rarely made me try. I missed a lot of school. I got bullied at school by both boys and girls from fourth grade all the way through high school. I was overweight, and they didn’t let me forget it. I got my first D for the semester in seventh grade but there wasn’t anyone at home who cared so the Ds turned into Fs – still no one cared. While all this was going on, I had some teachers who did care. Mrs. Branson, my junior high school counselor, was a loving adult presence when I didn’t have that at home. But teachers can’t replace the presence of a parent. I first tried to commit suicide when I was sixteen, but again, it did little to grab the attention of the adults at home. School was excruciating. Sitting still for all those hours on end with ADD was the worse kind of torture I knew. I became promiscuous. I would go to parties and sleep with the boys from my school. I could come home whenever I wanted, as drunk as I wanted, because nobody was up waiting for me. By my senior year I have failed so many classes that I wasn’t allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony. It didn’t matter though. Nobody was paying any attention.

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How We Interact with Students Matters

It’s hard for me to distinguish among the many traumatic events that I experienced in grad school which was the most traumatic. But thus far, it was probably the interaction I had with the professor in my seminar class. In the middle of one particular class, I had an emotional flashback so overwhelming that I left the room and didn’t return until class was over. I didn’t feel safe returning, and I felt deeply ashamed of being so emotional in front of my classmates. On my way out of the building, I saw my professor and knew he wasn’t going to allow me to simply go on my way, which I desperately wanted. He walked up to me and started demanding answers about what happened to me, answers he wasn’t prepared to receive. My response was this, “I can’t talk about this right now. I just calmed down.” He totally ignored my request and continued questioning me, pushing his agenda which had nothing to do with my well-being. When he was done talking, he instructed me to thank my classmate for collecting my belongings and turned on his heel and walked away.

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FAQs about PhDs

What I wish my friends and family knew about my PhD. I strongly encourage anyone reading this to start with the previously hyperlinked article. The title is self-explanatory, and I’ll leave it at that. As I was read it myself, it reminded me that I’ve been wanting to write something about this for some time now. As far as I’m concerned, Kate Samardzic got it exactly right.

To give you some idea of what this pursuit has been like for me, within the past couple of weeks I came to realize that this past year was the hardest I’ve had since I went through cancer treatment nearly fifteen years ago. And to be entirely honest, cancer treatment was significantly less traumatic – or at least what I remember of that painful time. To be clear, it’s not the content of my PhD program that is so challenging. It’s negotiating the expectations I have for myself, trying to navigate the emotional side of an extremely competitive environment, as well as a situation populated by highly intelligent people many of whom do not have my best interest at heart. Or, if they do, their idea of supporting me is unequivocally wrong regardless of how well intentioned they may be.

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Equity Unbound Weeks 5 and 6 Equity

#equality but I still don’t know what ba” (CC BY 2.0) by  leighblackall 

This section of Equity Unbound looks at equity. It’s a hard one. Don’t go into Weeks 5-6: Equity thinking you’ll breeze right through them. Space them out.

I’m especially interested in access to online resources. And the first activity for this section is the article we were asked to read and annotate called Digital redlining, access, and privacy by Chris Gillard. The point the article makes about not all schools having access to the same online resource materials seems bizarre within the context of high education, as I mention in my annotation below. Isn’t that the point, to allow exploration? I also had a few thoughts about my time at Divine Word College.


Next we read Please Keep Your American Flags Off My Hijab  by Hoda Katebi. Just a few sentences into this I knew where it was going. Not everyone sees the flag as a symbol of hope and freedom. It is also a symbol of hate and war, especially if you are on the receiving end of many of our political actions in certain parts of the world. As an American that is hard to write. The American flag is hardly the pure expression many U.S. citizens assume it is. It holds as much, if not more, negativity than the freedom we see it symbolizing. I would feel better about addressing this if the current administration wasn’t steeped in violence, hate and psychopathologic dysfunction. I’m not sure if we can come back from it.

I feel slightly better reading the Paul Gorski article called Imagining Equity Literacy. I have lived abroad so have learned through concentrated effort about the culture that some of my students come from. Having just said that, the next line I read in the article says this: I wonder whether we have become so focused on culture in education that we have failed to address inequities like heterosexism, ableism or racism sufficiently. Yes, I need to do better here.

At this point I’m feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I’m falling short in all areas in my pursuit to bring more equity into my actions and how I interact with the world. While I am expanding my understanding of equity, it’s still deeply emotional and in that sense draining. There is research out there encouraging self-care for people doing social justice work. I’ll have to look into it.

To be honest, I have limited time, and even though I would like to take a break, I’m pushing through it. I’ve chosen to look next at The urgency of intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw. I’ve heard the word intersectionality quite a bit lately. Based on what seems like common sense, I can make some assumption about what it means. But I didn’t know explicitly, and I wanted a better understanding.

This was a lot to process. I wish I had time to spread it out some over the two week period of this section of the class. Time made that difficult though. There were a couple of other videos in this week’s block, but I’ve reached my limit for the time being. Even though I only saw a couple of seconds, the videos of assault in the Kimberlé Crenshaw video were too much. The rest of the day I will work on self-care. Here is a helpful article I found on taking care of ourselves Self-Care for Warriors of Social Justice. by Katie McBeth in case anyone else is feeling like I am.

Equity Unbound Weeks 3 and 4 Empathy and Bias

#equality but I still don’t know what ba” (CC BY 2.0) by  leighblackall 

I am leaving in exactly two hours to drive to the airport and board a plane for Hawaii. I’m giving my first official presentation on my research. The conference is called the 8th Conference on Social Justice in Education. I write about my research work extensively in this blog, if you’re interested. In the meantime, I’d like to describe my experience with Weeks 3-4: Empathy and Bias of the Equity Unbound class.

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Equity Unbound Week 2 Introductions Continued

#equality but I still don’t know what ba” (CC BY 2.0) by  leighblackall 

This week in Equity Unbound, we are looking at the “open web for the vulnerable.” One of the activities was a Twitter scavenger hunt. We were asked to tweet a mystery object and respond to someone else who posted an object.

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Equity Unbound Week 1 Introductions

#equality but I still don’t know what ba” (CC BY 2.0) by  leighblackall 

Here’s where the fun starts. When I’m online I often run across some incredibly progressive and inspiring teaching tools and resources, usually through the people I follow on Twitter. (This most often happens when I’m supposed to be doing homework or cleaning my house. Like exactly what is happening this very minute.) Regardless, I intended to take a second class this semester, or to find a research assistantship but nothing materialized for me. What I have found though, is an open source class called Equity Unbound which describes itself as, “an emergent, collaborative curriculum which aims to create equity-focused, open, connected, intercultural learning experiences across classes, countries and contexts on equity.” I’m grateful I ran across this class and finding it couldn’t be more precisely timed. I honestly miss the pragmatic application of what I learn, like the work I did in my master’s programs. Research is a different animal entirely. I enjoy it immensely but not in the same way. I’ll be participating in this class from here on out and posting on my assignments and reflections of what I’m learning.

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I Don’t Expect the Change the World, I’m Going to Help in Whatever Small Way I Can Part III

It’s August and now is the time for me to recover from stats class and get a few projects done before school starts in a few weeks. That means I’ll share the last section of my literature review. In the meantime, you can save the date on your calendar – in case any of you want drop by Hawaii – to see me speak at the 8th International Conference on Education and Social Justice in Honolulu.

This lit review should now be published on Open Praxis! (It’s not though, but it should be soon. Keep your eyes open for it.) It’s my first published journal article, so it’s very exciting. You can read my blog posts which are an earlier version of the article or the much-refined version all in one place here Vol 10, No 3 (2018) — just kidding, it’s not on their site yet.

This post is the third and last section that I’ve published on my blog and is part of the earliest version of this lit review that I submitted for my class. It took a few turns along the way and is a different paper now than what I started with. In Part I I began with an introduction to education for refugees. In Part II I addressed the importance and benefits of this much neglected aspect of refugee life. Here I discuss online learning and the programs that are the forerunners of this spectacularly innovative way to address education for refugees.

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I Don’t Expect to Change the World, I’m Going to Help in Whatever Small Way I Can Part II

Before we do anything else, I’d like you to do a visualization with me. I’m about to throw a bunch of numbers at you, and I want you to get a sense of what these numbers really mean.

Imagine standing on the fifty-yard line of a football field. Now imagine if that football field were covered in one-dollar bills. How many would it be? According to the Internet, it would be 517, 254. Now multiply that by one hundred and twenty, and you have about how many displaced people there are in the world. That number is not all refugees but because of either civil unrest, environmental disasters or famine, these people have been driven from their homes. That is a lot. And many of these people are not getting their basic needs met.

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