How it went down at this year’s ACTC 2012: “Preparing for and Living in the Real World through Core Texts”

This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel

“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:

Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”

Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University

Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:

Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-

  • China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
  • self in search of self
  • self as social institutions
  • Liberal Studies as training for life
  • introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory

From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-

  • argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
  • more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
  • Rational thinking limits
  • “When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
  • Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith

From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”

  • education as a cultural mission
  • educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
  • seeking harmony not sameness
  • having a sense of appropriate conduct

From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)

  • one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
  • alienation requires confrontation
  • those who create new values need an audience to receive

This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.

Speaking on Love & Labor for Barbara Jane Reyes’ class “Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at USF

Thanks to professor and poet Barbara Jane Reyes and the sponsorship of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program and Asian Studies Program, I was able to guest lecture for Reyes’ Spring 2012 course “YPSP 195-01/ANST 195-02: Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Before my presentation, sixteen savvy students read my short personal essay “Barbie’s Gotta Work,” published in Doveglion. The essay was included in the course’s unit on “Work and Domesticity.”

Reyes recently discussed this very same class and its inception in her recent post on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet The Blog:

One day, I’d casually asked our program chair whether he was interested in an all Filipina/Pinay (Filipino women) literature course, and he said, yes, draft a syllabus, and we’ll get it approved by the curriculum committee. It was approved. It was quickly filled. This is the first semester I am teaching the course, and I’m still in disbelief. All Pinay Literature. I always think, wow, where was this class when I was young, and when I needed it most. It seems a lot of people have been asking this question too, as I have been asked by more people than I can count, for my syllabus and reading lists. So, in this space, I will be talking a bit about some of the items from my syllabus, in the hopes that it will prompt readers further.

Read entire post here.

For my guest lecture, after giving a brief power point presentation, featuring pictures of my family, my maternal and paternal grandparents at work and at play in their youth, the students asked challenging questions about the superficiality of Barbie and how that was complicated in the essay and what it was like to be a professor of color. Another student broached the gap between generations, wondering how to relate with family members who might not share the same  educational experiences. This brought on the idea of exploring the roots that hold us together and the stories family members share no matter where their paths in life take them.

We discussed looking at life and literature through a prism of lenses, much like looking through a kaleidoscope; we can shift the angles. We also talked about family memories that shape who we are. Some of the students shared their own experiences, remembering the work of their mothers, fathers, and grandparents.

Below is a sneak peek at the writing exercise students worked on, sifting through their past and their parents’ and grandparents’ pasts to uncover half-forgotten memories concerning love and labor, two themes that I keep coming back to with my own writing.

Love & Labor Writing Exercise

  • How do your parents and/or grandparents use their body at work?
  • How did work define your parents and/or grandparents?
  • What sense of self and purpose did they find through their labor?
  • Describe one of your parents or grandparents at work: What is the setting? What are their hands doing? Explain the actions of the body and mind.
  • How are they interacting with their setting? With other people at work?

Teaching two brand spanking new courses for L&CS this spring semester

Reading the likes of Azedah Moaveni’s Lipstick Jihad, Fareed Zakaria’s Post-American World, Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and revisiting Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for two new classes I’m teaching within Saint Mary’s College’s Liberal & Civic Studies Program. Students are coming to me in class proud about how conversant they’re getting concerning world politics, global matters, and environmental issues. I must confess, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut during class discussions. Its hard to keep silent when the readings and subjects are so stimulating.

122 Environmental Responsibility in a Global Community 

Taken the semester immediately following L&CS 121 whenever possible, this courses focuses on the natural world in which we lie, and the complex interrelationship between human activities, the values which determine these activities and their consequences for the environment. Different societies’ belief systems along with their responsibilities and attitudes toward the environment are examined. Students are required to devote time each week to a service-learning project, write essays, intellectual integrations and a self-assessment. Class sessions are supplemented by a biweekly activity lab. Prerequisites: L&CS 121, English 5, Collegiate Seminar 20/110. 

123 Modern Global Issues

The purpose of this course is to gain broad-based exposure to some of the cultural, political and economic issues related to and arising from the processes of globalization. Students will study recent critical dialogues and philosophies of globalization, including issues of ethnicity/race, gender, identity, urban culture, post-nationalism, multiculturalism and post-colonial studies. Students are require to participate in class, lead discussion, write essays and news articles responses, give an oral presentation and complete a midterm exam.   Prerequisite:L&CS 121 or permission of instructor.

We’ve watched some of the following videos to supplement subjects and texts recently covered:

Slajov Zizek on “Cultural Capitalism:

Hans Rosling on “The Magic Washing Machine”

Saving the Bay Documentary

Now that we’ve woken from colonial dreams and post-colonial nightmares of imagined communities,what comes after post-colonial theory?

   Heart of Darkness.jpg

Excited and honored to be presenting at the 18th Annual Conference of ACTC: Association for Core Texts and Courses. This year’s theme is “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for and Living in the Real World Through Core Texts,” taking place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Yours truly will be presenting the paper: “We’re All Others Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Abstract:

In 1977, Chinua Achebe, through his essay, “An Image of Africa” tried and sentenced Joseph Conrad for being a “bloody racist,” charging that his novel, Heart of Darkness, captured Western imagination at its worst. In light of post-colonial theory, every culture and nation affected by Empire, both colonized and colonizer, was then shackled to a shared and brutal past. Post-colonial theorists like Achebe sought retribution and used discourse as a means of justice. Now that we’ve woken from colonial dreams and post-colonial nightmares of imagined communities, how do we read and critique a text like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? And, if “multiculturalism has failed,” or if we believe it is possible to “transcend race,” what comes after post-colonial theory?

For more info on post-post-colonialism, check out the following source:

Guest Lecturing for Interpersonal Communication at Ohlone College

On Wednesday, 16 November 2011, I had the pleasure of guest lecturing for an evening session of Interpersonal Communication at Ohlone College. The students prepared for our class by reading the previously published post “Digital Citizenship: Cultivating an Online Presence, Part I.” After a quick introduction, they broke into small groups to review the text and come up with discussion questions where we dived into what it means to be a digital citizen, how and why we use social media sites. For reference to digital citizenry check out the NY Times recent article “Protestors Look for Ways to Feed the Web,” which is about social media’s role with the Occupy Movement where Jennifer Preston writes:

The movement counts more than 400 Facebook pages with 2.7 million fans around the world. On Tumblr.com, the “We Are the 99 Percent” blog continues to publish the personal stories of hundreds of people struggling with student debt, health care costs and foreclosure. There are also dozens of new wikis and Web pages, including OccupyWallSt.org and HowToOccupy.org.

Interpersonal Communication is the study of how we communicate with self and others. Relationships remain an essential component of human existence. We must ask ourselves: How well do we function in our relationships, and how might we improve our relational competencies? The class was wonderfully diverse, with students from all over the world sharing  insights about their experiences with social media. We discussed the following topics:

  • citizenship vs. consumerism
  • digital community vs. face-to-face community
  • what’s expected of citizens online
  • what’s expected of digital communities
  • how do different digital communities interact. For instance, Tumblr is for showcasing individual work and Facebook is for catching up with friends and family

The students then drafted group contracts between online users and online communities to determine what the community can do for digital citizens and what digital citizens can do for their community. Some of the policies they wished to implement included:

  • no kids ten-years or younger should be on Facebook because they don’t have much to contribute to the community
  • need to have expectations on what people can and should post
  • users need to understand that sites like Facebook are not games
  • time limits to ensure productivity at work and in school
  • cut unlawful browsing

We concluded the evening with two writing exercises to help students become more conscious of how they present themselves online and how they interact with others:

1. Self- Evaluation from the Point of View of a Friend or Family Member

(This proves highly relevant to course content as the class discussed ‘Significant Others’ and how the relationship(s) affects our perception of ourselves. ‘Perceived Self’  / ‘Presenting Self’, Ego Boosters and Ego Busters along with Perspective Taking.) 

For this freewrite you will want to assume the point of view of a friend or family member who knows you well. You will be writing from their perspective to give a critical evaluation of yourself. Imagine that they’ve been asked to give an honest and thoughtful assessment about your self. Your friend or family member must give a truthful evaluation about your character, your motivation, and your ability to follow through with action. In addition, they are required to support their opinion with concrete experiences, memories and events that illustrate their assessment.

To assist with this exercise you may want to answer some of these questions, again from the POV of a friend or family member who is evaluating you:

  1. How would you describe your personality?
  2. What motivates or inspires you?
  3. Who has influenced you and why?
  4. What past events demonstrate your strongest skills and traits?
  5. What are your weaknesses?
  6. How do you handle your weaknesses?
  7. If you could make changes to your life, your drive, your behavior, what kind of changes and why?
  8. When are you at your best? When are you at your worst?
  9. How well do you work with others?
  10. How well do you take direction?
  11. What kind of a leader are you?
  12. How do you inspire others?
  13. Other questions???

2. Personal Ad for Dating Agency

(This proves highly relevant to course content since the class addressed both mediated (digital) communication and the dynamics of ‘self-concept‘.)

 Where did you grow up?

Basics:

Appearance:

Background/Values:

Lifestyle:

Interests:

Get To Know Me:

About My Date (Describe who you’re ideal date is):

In My Own Words (give a paragraph description to entice potential dates):

===================================

If you could draw up a contract between digital citizens and digital communities what would be the roles each play for what purposes, and what policies would regulate the relationships?

For kicks, here’s a take on the internet from two favorite digital citizens:

Quick Recap of SMC’s Parents & Family Weekend Session “Classroom as Kitchen Table” with a shout out by author Mitali Perkins

On Saturday, October 22, at SMC’s Parent & Family Weekend, “Classes Without Quizzes,” I got to meet 25 parents and family members who were eager “to see Saint Mary’s through their kids’ eyes.” In my session, titled “Classroom as Kitchen Table: Education Through Conversation and Feeding Hungry Minds,” we read aloud Sandra Cisneros’ deceptively simple short short “Eleven.” As always this bittersweet narrative got the packed classroom buzzing and was the perfect inspiration for us to dive into our own childhood memories for a little creative writing exercise of our own. Here’s a quick review from one of the parents I met at the session, author Mitali Perkins:

I’m back from parents’ weekend at Saint Mary’s College of California where we attended classes without quizzes. I, of course, signed up for a writing class taught by Rashaan Meneses, who led us through a brilliant workshop on enhancing voice with detail.

You can read the rest of her recap along with her creative exercise from our class session in her post “Writing the Empty Nest at Parents’ Weekend” at her blog Mitali’s Fire Escape.

Presenting “The Classroom as Kitchen Table” at SMC’s Parent & Family Weekend’s “Classes Without Quizzes”

Along with my fellow SMC colleagues, I’ll be presenting my class without quiz, “The Classroom as Kitchen Table: Education Through Conversation and Feeding Hungry Minds” where we’ll be reading Sandra Cisneros “Eleven” discussing and analyzing the text, and, if there’s time, we’ll do some creative writing of our own. Should be fun!

Parent and Family Weekend 2011

NOTE: Schedule subject to change

Saturday, October 22nd

8:30am                        Parent and Family Check in

9:00 – 10:00am         Breakfast

10:15 – 11:15am      Classes without Quizze- Families take 1hr long classes from
various academic disciplines

11:20am – 12:20pm Student Support Mini Seminars – Staff share ways to support your student                                          regardless of class standing

12:30 – 1:30pm         Lunch

1:30pm                        Day in the Bay – Enjoy your afternoon with your students!

Excerpt from “Recap on ‘The Places We Call Home’ Literary Event at Eastwind Books of Berkeley

"The Places We Call Home" at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, September 29, 2011

Here’s a sample of what went down at Eastwind Books of Berkeley on Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thanks to Veronica Montes, Bea & Harvey, Eastwind Books managers, who organized the event taking place Thursday, September 29, 2011, which kicked off the International Filipino Book Festival, where Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Oscar Bermeo, Veronica Montes, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sunny Vergara Jr. and myself read to a packed house.

Bea had a pot of adobo to greet everyone, and the reading commenced with Oscar Bermeo reading from his chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn. Some lines that struck bone include the following:

…those born near the sea carry a sense of salt…

born near the Pacific Ocean

…mother and aunt clean the ocean harvest…

the Atlantic tried to wash its taste out of me

For a full report, check out Ruelle Electrique’s post here.

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, September 29, 7-9pm at Eastwind Books, Berkeley

September 29 not only happens to be my birthday, but this year Eastwind Books in Berkeley kicks off the Fil Am International Book Festival with a literary extravaganza:

“THE PLACES WE CALL HOME”

 a literary event in celebration of the upcoming Filipino American International Book Festival

 at Eastwind Books, Berkeley, Thursday, September 29, 7-9 pm,

So come out and celebrate!

Authors and Poets reading will include:

Oscar Bermeo was born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and Vigan and Other Stories.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California’s Creative Writing Program, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction.

Veronica Montes
is the co-author of Angelica’s Daughters, as well as a short story writer whose work has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Growing Up Filipino, and Philippine Speculative Fiction 5.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and the author of Diwata, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. was born and raised in the Philippines. He is the author of Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippines and Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City.

For more information about the October 1 to October 2, 2011 Filipino American International Book Festival visit http://www.filbookfest.info/

If you love literature, like supporting local authors and independent booksellers, and fancy celebrating my commencement into this world, please mark you calendars.

photo

Revving up for the APASA Keynote Graduation Speech at Saint Mary’s College

Honored to be delivering the keynote speech at Saint Mary’s College of California’s for the following ceremony:

Asian Pacific American Graduate Celebration
Saturday, May 14th
2-4 p.m.
Hagerty Lounge (Please note the change in location; it was originally scheduled in LeFevre Theater.)

Here’s a taste of the speech, an excerpt from an essay written in response to a call for Fil-Am literature:

“Barbie’s Gotta Work”

Unlike my mother who grew up in an old Army barrack tacked to the dusty farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley or my father who sometimes had to sleep in the chicken coop because his family’s house off of Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento was over-crowded with six other siblings, not only did I enjoy a spacious suburban room of my own, but I also had full governship of a pink and white miniature estate. At four feet, the Barbie Townhouse towered over my seven-year old frame. First released in 1975, my three-story edition boasted a blush bedroom suite with a lace canopied bed and matching pink armoire on the top floor. The second level living room afforded Barbie and her friends a cozy space to converse and enjoy tea while lounging on white wicker furniture. On the bottom floor, Barbie hosted small dinner parties and cooked in a cramped kitchen that lacked a stove, an oven, and a sink but offered instead a mini-refrigerator. The townhouse also featured a canary-colored pull-string elevator, which ended up stalling dramatic storylines. Between unspooling the pulley and positioning Barbie just right so her limbs wouldn’t catch as she was towed between floors, she eventually bypassed the elevator, so she could continue her arguments or flirtations uninterrupted.

***

Inspiration for this particular essay was partly borne out of that plastic pink dream we call Barbie. Before I fell hopelessly in love with Louise Erdrich’s tales or stumbled trying to follow the footsteps of Woolf, I wove stories and created characters using the most pink and most traditional of mainstream narrative tools.

Image from Celebrity Baby Blog

The Barbie Townhouse circa 1970’s release was my cardboard and plastic play-stage where I could re-enact and revise plot-lines from One Life To Live and All My Children with an ethnic twist. Instead of Barbie as the lead her friend, Island Fun Miko, was lady of the house and the center of all my Barbie narratives.

Image from Jemboy’s World

“Tropical Island Fun with Barbie and Miko” January 26, 2009

The Barbie Travel Agent Set was a surprise gift from Santa who, ironically, had designs to usher and initiate me into Third Wave Feminism:

Image from The Henry Ford Museum, “Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!” March 2009