by Brian Michael Foote
Years ago when I came to work for the Commons, my first real idea for the site was Footenotes. A lot of good writing would get buried in the news feed and I thought it’d be great to pull out some gems every week for posts that might have otherwise missed their audience. In reading almost all of the blogs each week I learned that one of the things bloggers on the Commons loved (and continue to love) was the news. I started spending the first paragraph or two talking about national or local news before moving on to the Commons, and about the time Footenotes hit its stride I started to get cute about how “crazy” the state of Arizona was. You can search the ‘Arizona’ tag and see I was on a tear for a while about Gov. Jan Brewer and her policy decisions regarding immigration and women’s reproductive rights. As all good blogging usually is, these little missives turned into petite exercises in catharsis. Then a young man shot Congresswoman Giffords.
I think that moment was pretty sobering because a lot of us realized what was happening in Arizona was far more sinister than we had imagined. After that shooting I felt like maybe opining on the news when I was supposed to be unearthing great posts around the Commons was best left to others so I backed off a bit. But if the Commons is anything, the Commons is a conversation CUNY has with itself and the world. Over the months talking about the news robustly worked its way back in and it’s always a pleasure of mine to sit down Sunday evenings and read what Tony Picciano or Helldriver or any of the Commons’ 640-something bloggers have to say about New York, America or the world.
Lately though I’ve been at a loss about how to talk about the news briefly, meaningfully, and with humor because events like the shooting in Colorado or today’s terrible tragedy in Wisconsin deserve more than a glib two sentences on the way to something else. I think that there’s a point of intersection between events like these very real nightmares and the function of education, and most especially the noble tradition of public education, in society.
If I’m being frank, “point of intersection” is too weak: The state of affairs in public education is indissociable from our current and very real state of public violence.
I’m not suggesting that we can educate our way completely out of tragedy. Illness is a consequence of life and will always require tending. I do, however, think that at some point in our lives choosing education, and being in the service of it, as a profession is the realization that if it’s not this — it’s nothing. If it is not the transmission of knowledge, new perspectives and new ways of thinking and solving problems for society’s sake then we’re inevitably left with slings and arrows.
Michael Smith found this wonderful picture of Richie Havens at Staten Island Community College. Michael notes that this would have been a few months before Havens played Woodstock. For the trivia minded it’s worth noting that Havens was the first act to play at Woodstock and went on by popular demand for nearly three hours. If you watch the video of his seminal “Motherless Child” you’ll notice by the end he’s down to three strings on his guitar.
George Otte returned to Tributaries this week with two great posts. At the heart of his posts are questions about what technology is going to do with professors and educators as we know it. George points towards the shrill New York Times piece that was circulating recently and catches some lazy writing and research. One of the perks of being on the Commons is actually _enjoying_ technology.
The GC’s new students blog was thinking about more urgent matters: Caffeine. I’ll let you read the post and get their take on the best cup of coffee around the Graduate Center. However, I’ll go ahead and second their vote for Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I’ll also confess here that sometimes I just really love Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee. I know, I know…I’m sorry.
Brooklyn Zine crew had their debut last week and sent thanks to everyone involved. I didn’t get to make it out there but I saw it posted on the very hip “nonsense list” that went out. Congrats again! Post pictures!
Till next week.