Researcher’s Journal – Coming up with a question

This is my third journal entry. I think I am getting close to a question, so it makes sense to keep a record of this here. I am not sure what happens next, but this is my thinking and the resources I have collected so far.

A start.

Developing a National Identity through the teaching of history

What is history education for?

What are the elements of the master national narrative taught by Ontario teachers through the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum? 

Who remains invisible in this narrative? (ethnic, transnational, diasporic, and Indigenous—)

How do Ontario teachers develop students’ national identities through the teaching of Grade 10 Canadian History?

What role does the teaching of Historical Thinking Concepts play in deconstructing these national narratives?

How do teacher candidates perceive their role in teaching the only required Canadian History course in Ontario high schools?

How is this master national narrative disrupted by some teachers?

Given that scholars agree that state-sponsored history classrooms are complicit in perpetuating the master national narrative templates, how is history education in Canada responding? (Anderson p.5)


The Stories Nations Tell: Sites of Pedagogy, Historical Consciousness, and National Narratives Stephanie Anderson

Introduction

What is the purpose of teaching history? What is our intention when we teach national narratives to students in our schools? Is it possible to explore our motivation when we develop a standard curriculum for the teaching of Canadian history? Barton and Levstik (2004) write that one of the considerations we must make when choosing what historical topics to teach is how this selection promotes the enhancement of the common good. One could ask – whose common good? Is there a common good or as Kendi (2019) writes there is no real mainstream world or school system. There are instead multiple real worlds and perspectives that need to be respected.

What are the stories that we tell? What goes missing? How has this statue changed over the years?

When it comes to teaching Grade 10 Canadian history – the only history course Ontario high schools students are required to take – how do we do this in a society that is made up of multiple world views? How do we engage students in such a way that the telling of the national narrative does this in a way that encompasses the multiple perspectives that make up our pluralistic society?

This is what I want to explore – What are the elements of the national narrative taught by Ontario teachers through the Grade 10 Canadian History curriculum? Who remains invisible in this narrative? How do Ontario teachers develop students’ national identities through the teaching of Grade 10 Canadian History? In this paper, I plan to do this by surveying the research on the teaching of national narratives to students. There are a variety of approaches to dealing with this challenge and various calls to change the way we teach a course that plays such an important role in developing students’ evolving sense of nationhood. In my conclusion, I will point out some practices that offer the most hope for ensuring that the telling of our national narrative(s) respects the diversity and multiple world views of our students.

Reading Themes and bibliography

These are the articles I can use for my bibliography. I will read all of this and much more. The section on teaching national narratives will grow, this is the latest category I have added. Each category is linked to a google doc. For this piece, the links are unactivated. If you have any ideas for resources please let me know!

Historic Agency and Consciousness

This is a complex subject that I don’t really understand, but I do have some good resources

10 articles

Methodology

15 articles

Teaching National Narratives

Depending where you are, who you are we tell different stories

8 articles

Teaching Historical Thinking

I don’t think teaching historical thinking skills is enough anymore

10 articles

History teaching methodology – teachers and teacher candidates

17 articles

Students’ ideas about history

To this category, I should add teacher candidates’ ideas about history – this would be interesting!

5 articles

Continuity and Change

1 article

Alternatives to historical thinking concepts

2 articles

Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretation

1 article

Cause and Consequence

2 articles

I think you can tell just by my collection of articles what areas interest me

Kent Monkman is a Canadian artist of Cree ancestry who works with a variety of mediums, including painting, film/video, performance, and installation. He has had solo exhibitions in numerous Canadian museums have including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. 

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A Cosmopolitan Classroom and Mixed-Race Identity: Challenges and Proposals for Change

It is a fallacy to believe that any school system is equitable and fair. As state institutions, schools reflect the society in which they exist. The picture Karis Campion and Remi Joseph-Salisbury paint in Bringing Black Mixed-Race Pupils into Focus in British Schooling (2022) shines a harsh light on the challenges mixed-race students face in British schools. While this is a rapidly growing population, there is yet to be an in-depth study of their lives and the effect of schools on those lives (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022). Their research sets out to chronicle the experiences of mixed-race students as recorded in three separate collections of qualitative interviews from 2013 – 2018 with 71 mixed-race people.

Campion and Joseph-Salisbury (2022) focus on mixed-race students. There is a limited amount of research in relation to this growing population of students across the British schooling systems. As classrooms become more diverse, they call for a more nuanced view of mixed-race students that focuses on their needs and experiences. Mixed-race students are often racialized as Black students. However, as Campion and Joseph-Salisbury stress, their experiences of racism and prejudice differ and remain underexamined.

Their findings are troubling. For them, the British system continues to put Black/White mixed-race and Black students at a considerable disadvantage. Especially by the time Black and mixed-race students reach the secondary school system, they face overt racism and prejudice from three sources – their peers, their teachers, and the curriculum (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022).

Mixed-race students face prejudice from all sides. In some cases, Black/White mixed-race students are wrongly associated with a wider racial population that includes Asians and Pakistanis. This leads to incidents of name-calling that wound and further alienate mixed-race students. In other instances, they are set apart from Black students who have difficulty understanding they have a White and a Black parent leading them to be labelled in derogatory terms like ‘zebra’ (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022, p. 75).

The prejudice these students face also comes from their teachers who have little or no training or understanding on how to work with mixed-race or Black students. Comments like “in this country, we dot our i’s” are a particularly hurtful example of the racism exhibited by teachers (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022, p. 79).

The prejudice of their peers and teachers is degrading and demoralizing for these students, and such racism also extends to the curriculum. For me, this seems the worst – here racism is embedded and sustained by the state through the curriculum that all students are subjected to. The curriculum continues to celebrate a White “British” mindset that has little to do with mixed-race and Black students.

Consequently, Black and mixed-race students are invisible in the curriculum. They are not included in what is called “fundamental British values” (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022, p. 80). In an earlier article, Joseph-Salisbury (2017) focuses on the unique impact of the history curriculum in Black Mixed-race Male Experiences of the UK Secondary School Curriculum. The teaching of the standardized history curriculum, for him, brushes out any mention of mixed-race or Black people apart from the abolishment of slavery in 19th century England.

The combined effect of systemic racism in the curriculum, teacher indifference and ignorance combined with peer antipathy results in lower grades and higher levels of suspension and expulsion for Black and mixed-race students (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022). Lower teacher expectations and overall dissatisfaction with the curriculum paints a very glum picture of school life for these students. 

This research introduces the problems faced by mixed-race students. Campion and Joseph-Salisbury (2022) outline that there are differences in the experiences of Black and mixed-race students and more research needs to be done to get a complete picture of their lived experiences. Mixed-race students face prejudice from both White and Black students. Students also talk about the inability of their peers to fathom interracial relationships (Campion & Joseph-Salisbury, 2022). This reminds us of the ongoing systemic barriers; there is little written here that suggests an overall solution. Consequently, more qualitative research is needed.

As mentioned earlier, Joseph-Salisbury writes about the impact of a Eurocentric history curriculum, especially on Black and mixed-race students. In the British curriculum – (there is no differentiation offered here; Scottish? Welsh? English?) these students simply do not exist. What does this do to the student whose story is not told? How can they possibly combat the sense of inferiority that comes from not being in the picture? 

Joseph-Salisbury offers some ideas on curriculum modification by featuring mixed-race role models like Malcolm X and Bob Marley. However, I am not convinced that these insertions go beyond token offerings in a curriculum that ultimately supports White hegemony.

Moving away from the study of mixed-race role models, Joseph-Salisbury proposes a different solution. He refers to Black Saturday Schools as a way to supplement what students are missing in the regular curriculum (Joseph-Salisbury, 2017). This is one solution to the White hegemonic curriculum that all his interview subjects agree does not serve Black and mixed-race students. Consider, Jake, one of his participants:

As long as Black schools would take into account the needs of mixed kids, then yeah, I think that’s the future for us. Mainstream isn’t working. While responses and proposed interventions were varied among participants, the underlying dissatisfaction with the current curriculum was unanimous. (Joseph-Salisbury, 2017 p. 458)

Black Saturday Schools are part of the 50-year-old Black Supplementary School Movement in Great Britain.  This is one response to the racist nature of the regular British school system. In some ways, these schools sound similar to the language schools run by both English public-school boards here in Ottawa. Language schools in areas like Somerset West cater to Chinese and Vietnamese students offering instruction unavailable in local community schools. While the British schools have less support than their Canadian counterparts, there is real interest in studying this movement to better understand how these schools could be a solution to a problem that is plaguing British schools (Andrews, 2016). Black Supplementary Schools do offer the possibility of building resilience in Black and mixed-race youth. This additional training can support students in their efforts to succeed in a public schooling system that was and is designed for White communities only (2017).  Joseph-Salisbury & Andrews continue that Black Supplementary Schools must find ways to recognize Black mixed-race students within the curriculum.

When Black British children faced endemic racism, Saturday school was a necessity.

While the Black Saturday Schools offer an avenue for reform in Great Britain, Dunn, Spaulding, & Love, (2021) suggest that in the United States the time for reform is over, that the White, Eurocentric school system must be destroyed and worked over to better reflect the lives of Black Students. For example, they state:

Educational reform has never been enough; thus, now is the time for abolition. It’s imperative that we tear down the corrosive, racist and inhumane practices and policies to rebuild our educational system to value the multiplicity of our students and diverse communities. (p. 215)

Bettina Love, the founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network in the United States, has written extensively on the need for a new type of teaching for Black, Brown, and Indigenous students. She advocates for a new pedagogy that teaches these students to thrive, not just survive (Wall, 2021).  Love and others are using the disruptions caused by Covid to propose a new system of education for racialized students. First, a critical consciousness needs to be developed so that students can recognize the racist nature of the current school system. Second, schools need to move away from indoctrination towards a system of critical analysis that empowers students. Finally, racist policies, practices and educators need to be called out and sidelined (Love et al, 2021). While this might seem much more radical than the Supplementary School Movement, the goals are similar. In both cases, there is a call for new institutions and new spaces that supplant White supremacist institutions that are incapable of providing an equitable education to racialized students.  Both decry the inability of their school systems to develop an inclusive, non-racist curriculum.

An excellent panel discussion on Abolitionist Teaching including Bettina Love

Kendi (2019) supports this desire for something different and more equitable in his research about Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. For Kendi (2019) HBCUs reflect the reality in America where Black Americans “live in majority-Black neighborhoods, work in majority-Black sites of employment, organize in majority-Black associations” (p. 171). The establishment of new systems that empower racialized students recognizes that there is no real mainstream world or school system. There are instead multiple real worlds and perspectives that need to be respected.

Campion and Joseph-Salisbury have revealed a world that is unjust and inequitable. They offer important research into the lives of mixed-race students and how they sometimes intersect with the world of Black children. The story is nuanced and complex. While this book chapter presents a problem with vague solutions, it builds on research that calls out the negative impact of curriculum that marginalizes these students.


While Joseph-Salisbury and others propose the Supplementary Schools to enhance White schools that are resistant to change, others like Love and Kendi advocate instead for spaces apart from the White Eurocentric school culture. It is a powerful argument and a logical extension to Joseph-Salisbury and Campion’s reform-minded proposals. The world of the mixed-race student differs in important ways from that of Black students; the nature of racism and prejudice is unique and no study of the multiracial cosmopolitan classroom is complete without careful study of the challenges that make up the daily lives of this rapidly growing ethnic group.

A final word from Remi Joseph-Salisbury speaking about racial microaggressions in higher education

References

Andrews. (2016). The problem of political blackness: lessons from the Black Supplementary School Movement. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39(11), 2060–2078. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2015.1131314

Campion, K. and Joseph-Salisbury, R. (2021). Bringing Black Mixed-Race Pupils into Focus in British Schooling In Schecter, S. & James, C. (Eds.),

Critical Approaches Toward a Cosmopolitan Education (p. 69-85). Routledge.

Dunn, Chisholm, A., Spaulding, E., & Love, B. L. (2021). A Radical Doctrine: Abolitionist Education in Hard Times. Educational Studies (Ames), 57(3), 211–223. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131946.2021.1892684

Joseph-Salisbury, R. (2017). Black Mixed-race Male Experiences of the UK Secondary School Curriculum. The Journal of Negro Education, 86(4), 449–462. https://doi.org/10.7709/jnegroeducation.86.4.0449

Joseph-Salisbury, & Andrews, K. (2017). Locating black mixed-raced males in the black supplementary school movement. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 20(6), 752–765. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2016.1248838

Kendi. (2019). How to be an Antiracist (First edition.). One World.

Love, & Muhammad, G. E. (2020). What do we have to lose: toward disruption, agitation, and abolition in Black education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(7), 695–697. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2020.1753257

Wall. (2021). Review of Love’s We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. The Professional Educator, 45(1), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.47038/tpe.45.01.02

 

Researcher’s Journal – Looking for a question

It is time to get back to my researcher’s journal. The semester has been so busy with assignment work that there has been little time to think about anything else. Now after a great session with one of my profs – Dr. Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, I have some great material to work with!

First – I need a question. This is certainly a challenge, you would think this would be easy, but for my comps exam, I will need three questions and I write on two of these. The point here is to choose something that your committee will agree with and it is also important to come up with questions you can actually answer.

Where am I now?

So, I am starting with this – What would a poststructural or critical theory approach to examining grade 10 history teachers’ classroom practices look like?

This is probably the most challenging question that I am going to come up with. There needs to be something on epistemology or methodology so this is a theme to explore. But it is also grounded in reality – I am most interested in cataloguing how teachers are teaching the only mandatory history course in Ontario high schools. How is our national story being told in the classrooms of this province?

Two authors to look at – Petra Munro and Ania Loomba.

Thanks to VoicEd Radio and Dr. Ng-A-Fook there is an interview with Petra Munroe. This might help me with this first question.

Dr. Munro Hendry draws on curriculum studies, history, and philosophy to share her wisdom on the practice of history in relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic, curriculum history, and a history of education from a transatlantic perspective.

Nicholas Ng-A-Fook Twitter August 9, 2021
Fooknconversation Episode 29 on VoicEd Radio – this is where I will start

So far, I have a collection of reading themes where all the articles I have found so far have been organized – this is what it looks like now:

Historic Agency and Consciousness

(7 articles)

Lévesque, S., & Croteau, J.-P. (2020). Beyond history for historical consciousness: students, narrative, and memory. University of Toronto Press.

Teaching Historical Thinking

(9 articles)

Allender, Clark, A., & Parkes, R. J. (2020). Historical thinking for history teachers : a new approach to engaging students and developing historical consciousness. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

History teaching methodology – teachers and teacher candidates

(17 articles)

Use these 10 tips to make your lessons engaging and relevant to your students.

Students’ ideas about history

(5 articles)

Continuity and Change

(1 article)

from the Historical Thinking Project

Alternatives to historical thinking concepts

(2 articles)

Understanding the ethical dimension of historical interpretation

(1 article)

Cause and Consequence

(2 articles)

Cause & Consequence – from Historical Thinking Projects ppt.

Methodology

(1 article)

There is a bit of a pattern here. The methodology of teaching history and more specifically, the teaching of historical thinking concepts are the two themes that are of the greatest interest right now.

Posters are still available on the historical history concepts – you can order them here.

My next step will be to look for more articles from Canadian researchers like Heather McGregor, Lindsay Gibson, Carla Peck, Stéphane Levesque and Dwayne Donald.

What I need to work towards is a comprehensive knowledge of a particular topic. The topic revolves around the teaching of history in Ontario schools and the impact (if any) of historical thinking concepts. The question will be something like this – What are current history teaching methodologies used by history teachers and taught to teacher candidates? How are historical thinking concepts beginning to enter the school system?

This is probably still too unwieldy, but this is what I have right now. The next step – spend the next two weeks adding to the articles I have found and honing my question!

In all this I need to remember to keep this practical, make this something that is useful to teachers. For me this is essential. If I am eventually going to create something of value, it has to be situated in the classroom, it has to be grounded in reality.

Year One of Graduate Studies – Finding My Way

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

In the first year of a doctoral program, one of the most important things to learn is who your supervisor(s) are. I am very fortunate to have two people working with me – Dr. Marie-Hélène Brunet and Dr. Cynthia Wallace-Casey. Marie-Hélène was suggested to me by Dr. Lindsay Gibson, a professor at UBC. I had messaged Lindsay to get some ideas about starting a Ph.D. I don’t know Dr. Gibson all that well, but I have read some of his work and I take part in the Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future project where he is on the executive committee. He suggested I contact Marie-Hélène and ask her to be my supervisor. Here, I have to stop to note what an incredible academic community I am now a small part of. I had only spoken to Marie-Hélène over Zoom, but she agreed to be my supervisor and carefully coached me on my letter of intent for the University of Ottawa. Pretty wonderful.

Incredible what one conversation on Twitter started!

I love this graphic from the Historical Thinking Project!

This year, Marie-Hélène introduced me to Cynthia Wallace-Casey, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa; she is now supervising me with Marie-Hélène. Dr. Brunet started out as a high school and CEGEP teacher in Montreal and after four years went back to school to get her Master’s and Ph.D. She has been an Assistant Professor of social studies and history education at the Faculty of Education since 2018 and her current work focuses on understanding the historical consciousness of teachers and students. Her work enriches the literature on Historical Thinking Concepts (2014); she is currently a co-investigator on the Thinking Historically project (2020).

Dr. Wallace Casey

Dr. Wallace-Casey has worked in the field of public history and heritage in New Brunswick for the past twenty years. For her Masters, she studied the contributions made by women weavers in 19th century New Brunswick and how they contributed to the economy of Queen’s County (2011). Cynthia also has an incredible blog – Cynthia’s Heritage Education Blog – A View from the Picture Province… (2022) started in 2009 and updated on a regular basis. Her latest post includes a webinar (2021) outlining ways to bridge the gap between educators and museums to facilitate student learning.

Dr. Marie-Hélène Brunet

Both of my supervisors have a keen interest in Historical Thinking Concepts, as do I. This is a methodology for teaching history that focuses on key concepts like cause and consequence, historical significance, ethics and the development of a historical perspective (Seixas et. al., 2013). They both write about this methodology and I am looking forward to working with them; there is a great deal I can learn. Dr. Wallace-Casey writes about the development of the Canadian History Hall in Constructing Patriotism: How Canada’s History Hall has evolved over 50 years (2018). She has also written about how students can develop historic consciousness through work with adult volunteers at community museums (2017). Dr. Wallace-Casey has followed up on this inquiry with a recent piece that investigates student learning at the Museum of History and their development of ‘Big Ideas’ in Canadian history (2019).

Tracing the story of the History Museum is reveals the evolution of our historical consciousness

Dr. Brunet writes about historical consciousness and students’ and teachers’ sense of agency. In a collaborative piece with high school teacher Scott Pollock, they analyze the historical understanding of feminism held by different groups of female high school students. The surprising results of their research led them to examine why girls were hostile to feminist ideas. Their inquiry examines the students’ sense of historic consciousness and their personal theories of agency (p. 12). They conclude that in the mind of the students, the past has no connection to the present. While past struggles for the vote and legal recognition by women were understood by the students, these struggles have no present-day meaning. 

Both of my supervisors see this concept as the key to understanding how people understand history. Both also reference Jörn Rüsen who writes about historical consciousness:

The basic category for understanding historical learning is that of historical consciousness. Its widespread definition sounds as follows: a mental activity of interpreting the past for the sake of understanding the present and expecting the future. Thus it combines past, present and future along the line of an idea of what temporal change is about. (p. 523) 

Forming Historical Consciousness – Towards a Humanistic History Didactics. Antíteses. 5(10), 519–536.

After conducting separate studies, Brunet and Scott concluded that most of the students were operating at a level of historical consciousness that views history as a steady progression towards the good. The past battles for justice, are now over; there is no need for a feminist movement  (p. 18). This in turn leads to a false sense of agency where the individual believes the past has no impact on the rights and privileges they currently enjoy. 

The works of Drs. Wallace-Casey and Brunet are linked by the concept of historical consciousness. In Dr. Wallace-Casey’s research, she recounts a narrative describing the development of an inclusive Canadian consciousness through the slow evolution of the Canadian History Hall. In this piece, it is important to remember that the weaving of Canadian Indigenous stories into the main narrative only happened in 2017 (2018). 

Historical consciousness – a mental activity of interpreting the past for the sake of understanding the present and expecting the future

Both Drs. Wallace-Casey and Brunet agree that a sense of the past is something that must be developed over time. Both use the same categories of historical consciousness to situate the students and teachers with whom they work. Dr. Wallace-Casey sees a strong role for local museums in helping students to develop personal relevancy to the past – something that was lacking in the high school students in Dr. Brunet’s study.

Dr. Brunet also examines ways to develop a greater sense of historical consciousness through teacher-candidate workshops that examine how traditional male-dominated narratives are still told in our current textbooks (Brunet & Demers, 2018). By analyzing the stories that are missing from our current historical narrative. Dr. Brunet attempts to deconstruct the traditional narratives still held by new teachers. In doing so, there is a chance that these educators will be able to develop new narratives in their classrooms. In this sense, both of my supervisors are examining how we perceive our stories and what can be done to develop a more inclusive look at the past.

Author’s Note: This video explains a lot about Dr. Brunet’s work

a great interview with Dr. Samantha Cutrara and Dr. Brunet – all about agency, teaching history in meaningful ways and the progress narrative. Part of the series Pandemic Pedagogies: Imagining a New We

Referenceswhat I read to put this together. Yet another challenge, figuring our APA!

Brunet, M., Demers, S., (2018). Deconstructing the history textbook to (re)construct more accurate knowledge: account of practice in initial and continuing teacher training. Erudit. 31(1), 123-140 https://www.erudit.org/fr/revues/rf/2018-v31-n1-rf03912/1050657ar/

Cutrara, S. (May 20, 2020) In conversation with Dr. Marie-Hélène Brunet {Pandemic Pedagogy convo 21} Imagining a New ‘We’. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJVgrBH3g9s

Cynthia’s Heritage Education Blog – A View from the Picture Province (2022) http://nbheritage.blogspot.com/

Pollock, S., Brune, M., (2018). “When it became equal”: How Historical Consciousness and Theories of Agency Can Explain Female Students’ Conceptions of Feminism. 

Canadian Social Studies, (50,1), 11-24.

(Rüsen. P., 2012). Forming Historical Consciousness – Towards a Humanistic History Didactics. Antíteses. 5(10), 519–536. https://doi.org/10.5433/1984-3356.2012v5n10p519

Seixas, P., Morton, T., Colyer, J., & Fornazzari, S. (2013). The Big Six: Historical Thinking Concepts Toronto: Nelson Education.

The Historical Thinking Project (2014) https://historicalthinking.ca/about-historical-thinking-project

The History Education Network (2011)

http://thenhier.ca/en/content/cynthia-wallace-casey.html

Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future. (2020) https://thinking-historically.ca/

Wallace-Casey, C.  (2017). I like to take everything and put it in my own words: Historical Consciousness, Historical Thinking, and Learning with Community History Museums. Canadian Journal of Education, 40(1), 1–28.

Wallace-Casey, C. (2018). Constructing Patriotism: How Canada’s History Hall has evolved over 50 years. History Education Research Journal. 15(2), 292–307. https://doi.org/10.18546/HERJ.15.2.10

Wallace-Casey, C. (January 20, 2021). Museum Collections and N.B. Social Studies: Bridging the Two. Association Heritage New Brunswick

https://amnb.adobeconnect.com/p2x51jb1n1g1/

Wallace-Casey, C. (2019). ‘I want to Remember’: Student Narratives and Canada’s History Hall, Yearbook of the International Society of History Didactics. (40), 181-199. https://jhec.wochenschau-verlag.de/back-issues/#40

When researching the lives of people

When I think about qualitative research, I remember a group of Salvadoran teachers sitting on the floor talking about the challenges of teaching in a rural setting. They talk about their frustrations with the younger ones who have never lived in a time of war and all the loss and violence that was so much a part of their lives. They talk about crossing the Sumpul River to get away from the soldiers and their makeshift classrooms in the forest where they went to school.

Sumpul River Massacre – “there were so many vultures picking at the bodies in the water that it looked like a black carpet,”

I haven’t thought about these stories for a long time, but I am thinking about them now. The memories have been stirred up by the reading I have been doing on qualitative inquiry and what it means to use a narrative approach to conduct research. For me, the only meaningful study of the lives of these people would be through a rigorous qualitative study. Using the criteria that exists to conduct qualitative research we could learn a great deal from these people’s stories.

This was not what I was imagining when I started my courses in the fall. Now I am thinking about John Creswell and what he says about listening to the participant in the study and working to understand the lived experience of those you are talking to Creswell (2015).

I am also thinking back to the first article I read, Tracy’s ‘Big-Tent’ criteria for excellent qualitative inquiry (Tracy, 2010). The first criteria – Worthy topic –  really struck me and this is challenging me to think in a different way about my own research.

Studies of worth excite interest and go places that are unexpected (Tracy, 2010, p. 841). That is what I want to do and this is certainly what good qualitative research should do. I have read and reread Samantha Cutrara’s book Transforming the Canadian History Classroom: Imaging a New We (Cutrara, 2020) and I now understand why this book is having such an influence on me. In my opinion, this is excellent qualitative research. It tells the story of four classrooms where the author attempted to turn conventional history teaching on its head.

Rather than teach the standard curriculum revolving around the two founding peoples, Cutrara allowed students, mainly from urban racialized schools in Toronto, to develop their own narratives. She calls this methodology Historic Space, and it focuses on deconstructing the historical narratives that are meaningless to the students she is working with (Cutrara, 2020, p. 168). The richness or rigour of her research comes from the stories she tells of her conversations with different students and also the pushback she experiences from some of the teachers she works with.

Cutrara is a very reflexive writer who has taken the time to write about the anger and frustration she encountered while doing this work. She wrote this book because after four years, she felt compelled to honour the voices of the students she worked with and to ensure that their voices were heard (Cutrara, 2020 p. ix.).

The research really resonates with me, not just because at one point I was a history teacher, but because she is telling the stories of the voiceless, another key component that Tracy identifies as good qualitative research (Tracy, p. 844). 

Tracy also writes that good qualitative research should make a significant contribution. I do need to read more about how Cutrara’s arguments are being received. She goes against conventional thought on the use of historical thinking concepts in the classroom so while I consider this excellent qualitative research there may not be many academics who share my belief.

Returning to the classroom in El Salvador, I can imagine a researcher using Tracy’s model and Cutrara’s story-telling ability to get at the heart of good qualitative research. What an exciting challenge to bring such important stories into the light.

References

Creswell., J. (2015). Doing qualitative research [Video]. In SAGE Research Methods Video https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781506363448

Cutrara, S. (2020)Transforming the Canadian History Classroom: Imagining a New We. UBC Press.

Tracy, S. J. (2010). Qualitative Quality: Eight “Big Tent” Criteria for Excellent Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry 16(10) 837-851. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800410383121

My Researcher’s Journal – an introduction

This is a different type of post, it may go on for years.

One thing I have been charged to do is to write every day. One of the writing challenges is to start a researcher’s journal. Everything in a Ph.D. program focuses on the end goal, the completion of a dissertation. There are many layers to this process, I am unpeeling one of them here.

I am very grateful for the writing prompts I have been getting over the past two weeks. My writing had dried up and while I love to write, I really did not see much to write about. Now I have a focus and I need to reserve time every day for writing.

I have two supervisors which is wonderful. I met with both of them last week to start work on this journey. Very slowly I think, I will develop some ideas on what I should focus on in my research.

What do I know so far?

I got into all of this because of historical thinking concepts. I love the idea that as teachers our first task is to help our students to think.

While much has been written over the past 20 years, some areas like the ethical dimension have received less attention. This gives me a clue on where I can start.

One of my advisors told me to read everything by Peter Seixas, the preeminent writer on historical thinking concepts in Canada. So, I need to go back and follow the train of his writing for the past 20 years. I can’t see how I am going to truly understand the philosophy and epistemology behind historical thinking without this deep dive.

Peter Seixas

As I learn new things and read more articles, I will have to find a system for keeping a record of all this. Over the summer I used this chart along with summary notes to start documenting the articles I am reading. The chart is a good way to clarify my thinking so I will start using this again with some modifications.

content or topic with matching
photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy,
methodology, epistemology
text – big ideas/concepts
  ← relates to my thesis?
← applications for own teaching/inspirations
I have added epistemology and Methodology to the chart, also changed other resources to relates to my thesis
I have to look at articles critically – what is the epistemology, the methodology? the method?

The chart will continue to change and eventually there will be hundreds of articles, but putting down something here helps me to commit.

Apart from historical thinking, I am really interested in how we choose the stories we are going to tell our students and how this changes over time. This week, I am going to work on Reverberating Echoes: Challenging Teacher Candidates to Tell and Learn From Entwined Narrations of Canadian History (2011)
by Kent Den Heyer and Laurence Abbott. Narrative is something I am really interested in, so this is another clue.

I am learning about qualitative research, and this is something I want to understand better. There is more of a story-telling approach in qualitative research and this immediately appeals to me. I am also learning about oral history which is fascinating.

Can I combine oral history with qualitative research?

I also have to work on my academic writing and how to do citations and references properly. The only way to do this is to keep writing and listen carefully to all the advice I get.

These are early days, so my journal is a collection of random ideas. I have decided to put this out on my regular blog so that I can keep this process visible. I also hope that along the way I will get some sage advice that might help.

This is the introduction, the next post will be a chapter 1.

Searching for an idea – whose stories need to be told? 

I am putting my ideas out there now because I want to make my academic journey as transparent as I can over the next four years. I am trying to get into the discipline of writing every day, my next post will probably be the start of a research journal that I need to keep over the length of my Ph.D. I am hoping some people will find this interesting and that I will get some helpful feedback as well! Who knows maybe I will get on Doug Peterson’s show on VoicEd Radio.

I am looking forward to doing this writing every week. I love to write, but academic writing and APA ( a style guide for writing) are new to me. When I post my writing now, I will adapt it so some of the course-specific material is omitted. This post is part introduction, a search for a research topic and my reactions to reading bell hooks.

I did my B.A. at Queen’s University, my M.A. at York University and my B.Ed at the University of Toronto. In between my Masters and Education degree I took a break from studies to work for Katimavik, a national work experience for Canadian youth. I grew in this program and I wanted to find more ways to work in this non-traditional learning environment.

I taught for 31 years in several positions. None were as interesting as working in Katimavik, but after seven years in a traditional classroom, I had the opportunity to work in an alternate classroom at my school. My students didn’t fit into the regular stream. Some had mental health issues, some were dealing with addiction and some simply didn’t fit in. In some ways, I was like many of them. I felt comfortable in this learning environment, and it was a unique privilege to help them through some of the life crises they experienced while in our classroom.

I find now as I take my graduate classes that my mind is growing again. No one really grows when they are comfortable, and it is a relief to again be in that zone. Now I am searching –  what can I write about that will make a difference for people?  Last night in the middle of our methodology class, an idea came to me. Maybe I need a bolder focus. Is there a way I could study a different education system outside of the Canadian context?

Years ago, I spent a good deal of time talking to educators in a northern village in El Salvador. The educators in this town all grew up during the war and were survivors of massacres that took place in their region. We talked about these experiences and it seemed as if they were back in the river fleeing for their lives. They are teachers because they want something better for their children, they are trying to build a society out of the chaos of war. It occurs to me that going back to the village do some form of qualitative research could be what I am looking for. What would it be like to tell their stories? Has anyone tried to do this?

 talking to teachers in San Jos las Flores

I love the bell hooks book. There is so much that speaks to me. I am thinking of the discipline and passion that went into her writing. She writes a great deal about anger and loss, but I think her real message is love and understanding. It is interesting to watch her interview and what she says about speaking freely and teaching courage (Freedom Forum, 2016). The book was dark in many ways and she seemed to lack the confidence to write and publish, but here in this interview I can see how she developed her dissenting voice that welcomes conflict as a normal part of our lives.

It seems like a whole new generation of writers has been influenced by her power and honesty. We do a book study with our year 2 students on How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi mentions bell hooks in his book, she was one of the writers he turned to as he worked to overturn his own gender and queer racism (Kendi, 2019, p.198-199). Kendi uses a style that reminds me of bell hooks. In each of his chapters, he gives us a taste of his own story. He uses these stories to write about gender, colour, power and what it means to be an antiracist. This book has a great influence on our students, but would this have been possible without the truth-telling of bell hooks?

this is not long and it is a wonderful interview!

My Academic Life (so far)

When I put things down on paper or in a blog I make a public commitment. Right now I am working on developing an academic schedule that will take me through the next four years. Yes, this is an assignment for one of my courses, but this is really a letter to myself. I understand the importance of committing to a plan. When I was working as a  principal I would plan ahead all the time, even though the job by its very nature, was unpredictable. Despite the chaos in running an elementary school, every week I would write weekly plans in a school blog to parents so that they would know what was intended to go on at the school. On some Sunday afternoons, this writing would take hours. I never resented the time. This was an opportunity to reflect on what had happened the week before and plan for upcoming events.

My last school blog post – December 2016

I never worried that the school schedule did not follow what was set down on Sunday. Writing was a  way for me to take a longer view and celebrate what was going on with our parent community. This also made the learning more visible for the community.

Six years later I find myself planning again: this time for a Ph.D. which will consume my time for the next four years.  The first year in a Ph.D. program is probably the most straightforward. I am in the process of taking six courses – two last semester, three right now and one in the spring. After this I will be starting work on my comprehensives. This begins with the development of my bibliography and continues on following the schedule below:

StepsExpected completion
Courses completed Spring, 2022
Committee Member List 
Comprehensive Exam: Bibliography
Written component
Oral presentation
1) October
2) spring
3) fall 2022 
Thesis proposal  winter 2023
Ethics approval spring 2023
Recruitment and data collection summer – fall 2023
Thesis winter 2024
Defense December 2025
my first draft at a long-term schedule

To get to 2025, I need a detailed schedule. I am sure this will evolve as I learn more about the Ph.D. process. However, on this cold January afternoon in 2022, there is comfort in editing a draft schedule that sets a future path and supposes order to a very busy four years.

The challenge will not only be managing a busy writing and reading schedule, it will be finding ways to balance this work with many other interests. The foundation of the week will remain exercise. If I have learned anything through the Pandemic it is the importance of keeping body, mind and spirit healthy. The activity can change from the Peloton to hiking to biking, but this is where I have to start, I simply can’t afford to let this go no matter how busy things get.

one thing we did regularly during Covid was to take walks and photos

At the heart of all this will be the thesis and defense. These are the end goals and I have to keep these in mind all of the time. Over the past summer I started to collect articles and write summaries of what I was reading. This has fallen off with the amount of work I have been doing, but now I need to get back to the process of preparing for my end goal. To do this, I will reserve one morning a week – Wednesday for reading and summarizing articles that I can start using for my comprehensives and beyond. It is a challenge to block out time for a goal that is so far away, but by the fall I plan to produce a bibliography of 20-30 pages that will prepare me for my comprehensives.

Every article – one-page images – can be single entry or represent a folder with hyperlink; text in different fonts – synthesized big ideas; icon for connections – your own and/or other articles or sources; photo scan – original written notes; ideas – applications for your own teaching.


content or topic with matching photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy
  




 text – big ideas/concepts


                   ← other resources







applications for own teaching/inspirations
the summary chart I started using last summer – designed by Heather Swail

The summary chart above was really helpful last summer and I plan to start using it again this Wednesday. I have known for a long time that I write best in the morning, especially after an exercise session, so I am going to reserve time every day for writing – summary notes, assignments, reflections, and revising.  I plan to put in two hours in the mornings each day to get something down. This semester, my goal is to improve my academic writing. Last semester I learned that while I write well, I am a little careless with my grammar and I need to brush up on my APA and academic style.

This leaves afternoons free for reading –  a highly necessary Ph.D. activity. Right now, I am working through Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life by bell hooks (hooks, 1997). She writes that when researching her first book hooks would read up to three books a day, sometimes getting only one line she could use for her own writing (p. 102-103). That will not be me. I am a slow reader; sometimes I need most of the day to absorb one article. I will read every day, otherwise, I will never keep up.

bell hooks (Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

It is one thing to write a schedule, it is another to live it. I will need to weave in the work I continue to do at the university and for Discovery Education. I won’t give up my work with Discovery, I love working with them. The assignments are always different and interesting. Whether I am writing or editing for one of their digital science books, there is a great sense of accomplishment in getting this work done. Without doubt, they are the most positive and affirming people I know, so why would I leave that behind? It is hard to add this work to my growing schedule as I never know when another contract will come up. When it does, I can easily put in 15 hours a week working on their material. Because there is always a deadline, I will have to estimate and portion out my hours throughout the week.

Right now I have one meeting a month with the graduate student committee for Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future. I am definitely the junior member of this group, but I am starting to meet some great people, so I need to find ways to become more involved.

I also want to keep up my teaching at the University of Ottawa. Right now the responsibilities are light: we work as faculty advisors to second-year teacher candidates, but we haven’t been able to visit their schools since the beginning of the Pandemic. Next year I hope to get either another section of this course or even better, a section of the history methodology course that I taught three years ago. I am certain that this experience led me to this PhD journey. I can’t really schedule this time yet, but when the fall comes I will have to restructure my days. For now, I will reserve one morning a week to work on our current course.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
exercisexxxreading for
comps
xxx
writingAMAMAMAM
readingPMPMPMPM
DEwhen
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
University
work
AM
classes5:30 – 8:30pm11:30 – 2:30 pm
free
time
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – 6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –
My schedule – first draft

There will be adjustments to this schedule over time, but the daily reading and writing will remain the foundation of my schedule. I am leaving some events out like meeting with my supervisors and committee work, but as these become more frequent I will have to find space.

My schedule is seven days. Since my days as a principal, a seven-day schedule made more sense. There is less pressure and at times when there is no Discovery work I can get ahead on my assignments. I really hope to keep my nights free – there needs to be time for fun, just as bell hooks said (p. 122).

What is missing right now is something I love to do. If I mention it here I know I will get back to it – our regular radio shows – Old Fellas New Music. Bob Kennedy, a very long-time friend and I started doing this show in the spring. Work took over and we gave the show a bit of a rest. We got two episodes done over the holiday break and we hope to get another one in next week. This is a great creative outlet and I am determined to work this in, let’s say Wednesday afternoons for now.

You can find our shows on Mixcloud – https://www.mixcloud.com/paul-mcguire3/

What is also missing are some of the activities that were so important to us before Covid. In 2017 Heather and I developed a fundraising campaign for Christie Lake Kids, an Ottawa foundation that provides recreation programming for children throughout the year. Our campaign – Climb for Kids has raised over $100,000 over a three-year period. We raised this money by carrying out group climbing trips in Peru and the Alps. Our next trip was to be Mt. Kilimanjaro, but this has been on hold because of the Pandemic. Our whole family has been involved in this venture and all of our children have worked for Christie Lake Kids. The family is not on the schedule, but in all things, family comes first.

Our first Climb for Kids trip – The Ausangate Region of Peru

If I write it down, I will do it. If I publish this, I have to do it! Thanks professor for giving me the push to get all this down. I am writing again and it feels great!

References

hooks, b. (1997). Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. Holt.

A reset for 2022

I did a really challenging Petoton class today with Denis Morton. He is tough and I really got a great workout from him. His theme was resetting in a new year and it resonated with me. I think I have been on a mental and emotional reset for most of this year and it is good to look at what this means to me as we enter 2022.

Dennis Morton

A reset is a good thing. To me, it means recasting, rethinking, and learning from experiences that are unique to me. The first reset for me has been the struggles I have had as a result of Covid. I have written about these in the blog and I am still in the process of recovery, but I am writing now to tell you that recovery is part of the process. It does come and we need to persevere.

This whole period of pronounced anxiety is not a loss, there is so much to learn while you are in such a state. For one thing, I am much more mindful of how I am doing and what I can do to further my recovery process. So many people go through periods like this, it is really important to take these opportunities to learn. Learning seldom happens when everything is going well – there is little motivation for reflection. There vis little real growth.

One of the infographics I made that record some of the wisdom I have gained through conversations with my therapist. Good to read this on a regular day.

The resetting process has many components. One big one for me has been the work I have been able to do on my Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa. I have completed two graduate courses and am beginning to start work on three more. This has been such a wonderful learning experience and I find new vistas are opening up all the time as I begin my training as a researcher. Maybe this semester I will find the time to write about what I am learning – reflection through writing is a great way better absorb the experience.

I have also gained much through Noom. I started this last January and have kept at it throughout the year. The psychology behind the program is what keeps me with them. So much of what they write can be applied to other aspects of my life. This is a very positive approach to examining life and how you want to live it. I have also lost 30 pounds and am much more aware of what I need to do to stay healthy.

I have returned to daily meditation practice using another app, Headspace. I have taken a bunch of their courses and am working on the Pro level. This is now part of my daily practice. It is only 10 minutes a day, but I feel like I am learning more about the benefits of the practice.

An on again off again part of the reset has to be Old Fellas New Music. If you read this blog, you will see a number of posts having to do with the music show my friend Bob Kenndy and I have done since the spring. The latest episode is a New Year’s Eve edition. The show had to take a back seat for a few months as I worked through my assignments, but I am hoping in the new year that Bob and I can do this on a regular basis.

Our latest poster – you can listen to our entire playlist here

So, where does the resetting process take me in 2022? All these elements plus a few others will remain important. Another part of the process has to do with learning to live post-pod with my wonderful partner Heather. Our children are all again on their own with one daughter now in the Maritimes – lots of learning here and having time together is a wonderful reset.

After a challenging year, it is important to reflect on what one is learning. No experience is wasted, everything we do has its purpose. Resetting for a new year means reflecting on the old and setting sights on what comes next. It has been a remarkable year in so many ways; we honour the time by pausing to reflect on all this.

The family in 2021 so many experiences, so much to learn

New Years Pop Up Old Fellas New Music

This week’s Promo

This week, we are getting out our blog early so you can read up on the bands we will be playing. Again, we will try to live stream through Mixcloud using OBS software this time – last week, the live stream dropped all the time so I am hoping this will work better. Here is the link to use if you want to hear and see the broadcast – https://www.mixcloud.com/live/paul-mcguire3/

here are our selections for this week – some of this year’s best songs

Kiwi Jr – Only Here For a haircut
Jenna Esposito – The Other Side of Forever  – Guardian
Quivers – Gutters of Love
Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U – Guardian – Best music of 2021  # 6
Wet Leg – Too Late Now

Low – Days Like These – Pitchfork # 3

James Clark institute – Little Powder Keg
Mitski:  Working for the Knife – Pitchfork # 7
Silk Sonic – leave the Door Open

Kiwi Jr – Only Here For a haircut


Kiwi Jr.
 is a Toronto-based band.  This is the third song from the album “Cooler Returns” that has been featured on this podcast twice already.  Released in Jan. 2021, this hasn’t left  Bob’s turntable since he bought the album.

   

More info on Kiwi Jr here from their website

Jenna Esposito – The Other Side of Forever

I thought this was a great song, but when you read the incredible story below from the Guardian, I think you will agree we needed to include this one.

The best songs of 2021 … that you haven’t heard

It’s the heartbreak and hopefulness of a turbulent 2021 from the mind of a songwriter who knows them all too well. Ernie Rossi, owner of century-old gift and music shop E Rossi and Company in New York City’s Little Italy, was sidelined by health problems after reopening following the long city-mandated shutdown. Margaret, his wife of 51 years, knew the neighborhood icon might not stay afloat if doors closed once again and solely took over duties with the couple’s best friend, Freddy. Then this past spring, both Margaret and Freddy caught and died of Covid-19. In the wake of their consecutive deaths, Rossi wrote The Other Side of Forever, a heartfelt tribute to the bond the trio shared and the immense loss he feels. Recorded by the New York indie artist Jenna Esposito, the earworm ballad with a momentous opening and climatic finale was produced in the Italian folk style the store was known for being a chief importer of nearly 100 years ago. And today, Rossi is continuing his fight to stay in business.

Rob LeDonne

Quivers

Quivers – Gutters of Love

This Australian band via Tasmania are an absolute delight.  We had to be satisfied in listening to this album on Spotify as it is darned near impossible to snag a physical copy unless one is willing to pay a ridiculous price.  The NME calls “Gutters of Love” an instant classic.

From NME

As the 2010s drew to a close, Quivers found themselves on the ascent. They’d established a new lineup, and permanently relocated to Melbourne from their native Tasmania. They’d released two acclaimed singles, ‘You’re Not Always On My Mind’ and ‘When It Breaks’, which balanced a summery jangle-pop exterior and melancholic inner turmoil. American broadcasters NPR and KEXP co-signed their music, while at home they crossed a rare divide by getting played on both Double and triple j.

Olivia Rodrigo – Good 4 U

This is another one from the Guardian. I hadn’t heard of Olivia Rodrigo, and this really isn’t my type of music, but this is a really great song. So, why not. More from The Guardian below. They rated her album Sour the 8th best album of the year.

Having essayed one end of heartbreak with the piano lament Drivers License, Rodrigo’s mood swung like a wrecking ball towards this equally massive hit (between them, they spent 14 weeks at UK No 1). From its sarcastic title downwards, Good 4 U’s recrimination has the kind of bitterness that softens with age and only a teenage palate can truly appreciate, as Rodrigo rages against her blithely happy ex. The ways the chords shift through different shades of hurt is riveting, as is Rodrigo’s delivery, as if writing in a journal with the nib piercing the paper. BBT

Released in January, Drivers License sprang (almost) out of nowhere like a heaved sob. Four days later, it broke Spotify records for the most single-day streams (Christmas songs exempted). The next day, it broke that record again. After 10 weeks at No 1 in the US and nine in the UK, it has been streamed 1.9bn times. Next Tuesday, the California-born songwriter makes her live debut at the Brits; the following weekend, she does Saturday Night Live; a week later she releases her debut album, Sour, a grippingly well written – all by her – collection of balladry, pop-punk, bitter diatribes and euphoric taunts that dwells on this romantic treachery. Even in an era when virality powers pop, Rodrigo’s is a fast rise.

The Drivers License singer reflects on turning her first big breakup into the year’s biggest hit – and how songwriting saved her from the anxieties of being a Disney star

My second source for the best music comes from Pitchfork Magazine. I chose their #3 and #7 choices – both great songs by artists that are new to me.

By Pitchfork

December 6, 2021

In another trying year, many of the best songs—from “Like I Used To” to “Pick Up Your Feelings” to “Hard Drive” to “Good Days”—were about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and trying again. These tracks gave us a shoulder to cry on, but also, crucially, a kick in the pants when we needed it most. They were the soundtrack to our 2021, and we have a feeling we’ll keep turning to them in better times yet to come. These are the 100 best songs of the year.

Wet Leg

Wet Leg – Too Late Now . 

Old Fellas featured Wet Leg’s catchy “Chaise Lounge” a while back which is one of four single releases in their small but impressive output.  An album released is anticipated for spring 2022 so listening to the last single release “ Too Late Now” will have to do until then.  Great bathrobes! 

Low – Days Like These

Alan Sparhawk spirals through a series of escalating horrors as he offers a summary of his mindset over the past five years: “Holy crap, this guy’s going to be our president. Oh crap, he’s our president. Wow, things have been horrible for a long time, and it’s getting worse. What, we’re sick? We’re all going to die now?” Eventually, the Low singer and guitarist shifts from a cartoonish hysteria into a gruff acceptance as he makes a broader point about American life in 2021 as well as his band’s combustible new album, HEY WHAT. “Look at where we are,” he says, zooming to the present tense. “We’re still looking in each other’s eyes and going, What the hell?”

Along with his bandmate and wife, Mimi Parker, Sparhawk has long found inspiration in this type of unlikely perseverance. Nearly three decades into their career, and on their 13th album, Low are making their strangest, strongest, and most fearless music to date. On HEY WHAT, the duo is once again joined by producer BJ Burton, known for his work with Bon Iver and Charli XCX, who helped them explore abrasive digital effects and alien vocal manipulation on 2018’s Double Negative. The new album presents these abstract textures with even more intensity, as Sparhawk and Parker’s gorgeous harmonies pierce through a vertiginous landscape of glitches and static that may make you wonder if your speakers are imploding while you listen.

“Days Like These” is a song in the form of an eclipse: the first half made of blinding light, the second an uncanny, disembodied stillness. Singing into a static blur that sounds like wind noise on video, or like someone’s sawing through the tape, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker describe a vast and subtle longing, a desire for a kind of transcendence not found on Earth. “Know that I would do anything,” they cry, their fried-out vocals taking on the call-and-response pattern of a hymn. But in this strange, desaturated grief, there’s no action to take. Even the song doesn’t end, really; it just stretches out, twinkling in the distance, a lone satellite pressing on toward the edge of space. –Anna Gaca

James Clark Institute

James Clark institute – Little Powder Keg

To quote The Pursuit of Happiness’ Moe Berg, ““James takes the power pop traditions of The Beatles, Jellyfish and Split Enz and combines them with the high IQ lyrics of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The result makes him one of Canada’s greatest unsung songwriters”

Also, here’s great version of the Badfinger classic “Baby Blue”

Mitski: “Working for the Knife”  #7

The saying goes that if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Mitski would like to have a word on that. After a long and grueling world tour supporting her breakthrough album Be the Cowboy, the singer took time off in 2019, saying she needed a break from the “constant churn” of performance. “Working for the Knife” is her brooding, melancholic first major single back from this respite, and acts as an incisive warning about how much of our identity we give to our life’s greatest undertakings, and who we’re giving it up for. The song unfolds as a balancing act of vulnerability and expectation, of altruistic self-expression and the vanity of wanting to be seen, or even adored. There’s some humor to it all; forlorn, she recognizes that the world never stops turning, and that it’s fine to lie to ourselves if it helps pass the time. It’s a one-act play of existential malaise and a sardonic anthem for those who can’t help but seek out the spotlight. –Puja Patel

Pitchfork  

Silk Sonic

Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open

Silk Sonic is an R&B superduo composed of singer Bruno Mars and rapper and singer Anderson .Paak. The duo released its debut single, “Leave the Door Open”, in March 2021, and its debut album, An Evening with Silk Sonic, in November 2021.  This song veers close to a parody of 70’s soul but it’s just too good to be considered so. 

 You can hear all our music right here on Spotify