Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Defining Pedagogical Consciousness

In May I was honored with the opportunity to speak at the commencement ceremony of the College of Education at UIC as the winner of the Dean's Merit Award for doctoral students.  The content of my speech was directed at the idea that all of us possess and obligation to develop our own consciousness about what we do as educators.  Below is a transcript of my speech.

     I am honored and humbled to be a part of this overwhelming commitment to the education of young people.  It is also exciting to have the opportunity to address future and current teachers, administrators, university faculty, researchers, parents, and community members all in this arena.  An arena that highlights the many integral roles that are vital to the education of young people.  While ceremonies like these highlight the wonderful individual accomplishments during our own educational journeys, they also provide an opportunity for us to envision how our individual knowledge bases, experiences, and passions in the field of education can be coalesced to create powerful and transformative educational spaces for our youth. 

     While we graduates have acquired a vast repertoire of knowledge, skill, and practice throughout our time here at UIC, we also now have a critical and ethical responsibility to use our individual talents collectively to serve our educational communities.  I refer to this responsibility as the need to develop a pedagogical consciousness that informs our practice as educators and researchers.  A pedagogical consciousness that causes us to be intentional and thoughtful about our shared work and the exponential impact it has on classrooms, schools, and communities.

     If we are to be stewards of research, teaching, and learning, then we as a profession possess an obligation to raise the consciousness of ourselves and others about the purposes, ways, and means of harnessing the power of education for the good of all of our communities.  An obligation to develop a pedagogical consciousness that fosters an ownership of the educational system that is intended to serve as an indispensable part of our democracy.  Together, in our many different roles, we have been granted the privilege to work to provide our youth with transformative learning opportunities. With that privilege comes the responsibility to develop a consciousness that guides each of our pedagogical decisions that we have the fortune to make each and everyday.  Decisions that can inspire, transform, and empower young people.  Our youth trust us to develop that consciousness.  A pedagogical consciousness that binds us in the commitment to the cultivation of educational spaces that are truly for the public good. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Over the past weekend as I listened to the Beastie Boys in homage to Adam Yauch, I reflected on the impact he had on me as a young white kid from the suburbs. In 1987, License to Ill blasted until the cassette tape wore out on my crappy GE one speaker boombox as I played countless hours of basketball in my driveway.  I became enthralled with that hip-hop/punk hybrid and the wanton attitudes of Adrock, MCA, and Mike D.  But it was MCA with his could give a fuck demeanor, 5 o’clock shadow, disheveled hair, and gravel road voice that was especially appealing.  He rapped about “stealing your honey like he stole your bike”.   The perfect juxtaposition to my sanitized life as an eighth grader.  He held the swagger that spoke to any shred of rebellion that existed in my 13 year-old self.  And despite the Fight for Your Right to Party anthem that played over and over, it was several other tracks from the album that peaked my curiosity and led me to listen to more hip-hop.  MCA and his crew opened the door to a world of hip-hop and music that was not on the radio.  So much so that by 2004, I went more to see A Tribe Called Quest who opened for the Beasties, than to see the Boys themselves.  But the Beastie Boys put on an amazing show demonstrating their ability to capture an audience.

Over a 25 year period the Beastie Boys have been a steady part of the soundtrack of my life.  By the time I was in high school, Paul’s Boutique released a cacophony of samples that were mind numbing with lyrical cleverness to boot.

Once I was in college, Check your Head became a staple in my musical diet like Ramen noodles and beer.  At any party, a Beastie Boys track got people singing and on the floor dancing. It was the bridge between rock-n-roll and hip-hop.  In my 20's, Ill Communication became the definition of cool.  Teri and I chose Sabrosa from that same album as the intro track for us and our wedding party.  As I aged and sometimes matured, it was clear that Beastie Boys had matured as musicians.  Forging ahead of the curve, their act became epitome of showmanship, and behind the scenes they were becoming political, opening my eyes to issues in Tibet.  And for MCA, “what’s was running in his mind came through in his walk.  True feelings were shown in the way that he talked”.

To me, MCA was always "cooler than a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce”.   While Adrock clowned and Mike D acted as sidekick, it was MCA, lurking in the background, who would deliver the well-timed line and banter in seamless wordplay with his counterparts.  He didn’t rap as much as Adrock, but when he did, he commanded your attention.  He was the guy you wanted to hang out with because he was in the know.  Adrock might have acted like the life of the party but it was MCA who brought you there. 

I celebrate the life of MCA, an artist who brought me joy through his music from grade school through grad school.  An artist who infected my musical consciousness through my headphones and rocked many a party through tower speakers for the whole block to hear.  And so, "Give it up, the maestro.  All three cheers for the maestro".