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Dispatch #3: And so it began.

The Radical Pragmatist
Dispatch #3: And so it began.
By Dr. Andy • Issue #2 • View online
New year, new day, same snarkiness.
Now…since your still reading…why don’t you forward it to an unsuspecting friend that you think might enjoy it.
You could also buy some merch. If that’s your thing.
My Patreon is now live, so you could support me there and get some neat totally exclusive perks—I’m talking major FOMO opportunities.
You could also unsubscribe. I won’t be mad.

“Learning is in essence self-directed by nature. But rather than harnessing children’s natural ability to learn, we stifle it through the assumption that children must be forced to learn. We design schools for the very purpose of containing children in a gridlock where they can’t escape, while force-feeding them information, and then we wonder why children are so reluctant to swallow and regurgitate what they are taught.”
― From the Forward of DIY Punk as Education by Rebekah Cordova
So, I began writing this newsletter back in September…yeah, I know…the last two semesters hit with a reckless abandon. I’m still struggling to reconcile how we’ve already reached April and the end of yet another semester. I’ve tried to take time to sit with the wild emotions of the last few month but I rarely seem to find the moments in the day.
I started these past semesters at a deficit; perhaps, you did as well. I was, and still am, exhausted. I’ve battled a hydra of to-dos and never seem to make a dent. What I noticed, though, was how many of my students were in a similar place as I was…or worse. As a former public school educator, teaching is and remains one of my greatest joys in academia. Witnessing students grasp new concepts and having the privilege to push their thinking is what fuels every other aspect of my scholarly activities. The student’s creativity fuels my own thinking and drives my service pursuits.
I had not fully realized just how much so until starting this semester back in January. The first weeks were fill with joy of being in the classroom and being able to engage with students face-to-face, even with social distancing and masking.
What I had not expected was just how palpable students joy and exhaustion would be present. Over the summer, I was able to spend a few moments reflecting on what being an educator has meant during the pandemic, and what lessons I could take forward into whatever the university experience will be like in future semesters. I have found that vulnerability has been my greatest tool as an educator. I have been honest with my students and have seen their reactions to such honesty: students have shared their struggles, yet, they’ve delved into the topics even more deeply than in the past. They’ve found connections in ways that I had not thought possible. I don’t know what future semesters will bring but I know that I will continue to be open and be as flexible as possible, for that is what my students need.
It has become clear to me that our institutions, even those that consider themselves “progressive”, care little for individual needs. Institutions are unrelenting in their need for outcomes and will continue on long after we have left. Compassion has been sidelined in pursuit of “progress”. Institutions of learning have, as the quote above suggests, centered compliance over learning and growth. I can’t control that, at least not yet, but I can control my classroom. For now, that is what I’ll be focusing on. How about you?
At the end of April, I’ll be attending the annual SHAPE conference in NOLA. This will be my first in-person conference in nearly two years. I’m looking forward to seeing colleagues; if you’d like access to my presentation materials, register here and I’ll send PDFs shortly after the conference (even if you aren’t attending in person). There is also a chat, so ask any questions you like.
In May, I’ve been invited to the Symposium on Innovative Solutions to Improve Quality of Life for Individuals with Autism that is being held by the University of Calgary. I’ll share updates in this newsletter, so stay tuned!
Also, in May, I’ll be submitting my materials for tenure here at the University of North Texas. If you’d like to share any helpful hints, encouragement, or support, I could really use it.
In getting back into the flow of this newsletter, I’ve also started two separate writing projects: reckless(ish) abandon, and we. are. here.
  • reckless(ish) abandon will be a space for sharing my thoughts on the word and how I am reconciling those thoughts. There will be long-form essays, daily narratives, and poetry; it’s basically my journal laid open for all to see.
  • we. are. here. is a weekly, no context photo from my week that is shared most Fridays. I’ll also include what I’m reading over the weekend.
My first co-edited book, Not Playing Around: Intersectional Identities, Media Representation, and the Power of Sport, will be released later this year. We are finalizing the last few items, look for Not Playing Around this fall from Lexington Books. If you’d like to read the introduction of a chapter that I wrote with Dr. Suzanna Dillon on the rampant ableism in sports and leisure activities for disabled persons, head over to my Patreon.
I have a bad habit of trying lots of productivity tools and new tech, among other things. Good news—that means you don’t have to! Below are just a few of the things that I’ve been using; I am an affiliate for these companies, meaning if you sign up, I get some benefits. I only share things I use, these are not spam.
  • I’ve been live-streaming my lectures this year for students that are not yet comfortable being in person or have conflicts. Melon has made this super easy, even if you aren’t tech-savvy. Try today.
  • I’ve been taking notes on an iPad since the second year of my doc program—it was an iPad 2 if that gives you a reference to how long it’s been. This year, I started using Paperlike and it has changed my experience for the better. Writing on my tablet is more responsive and replicates (as best as it can) the feedback you get from drawing or writing on paper. Try it for yourself, you won’t regret it.
If you’ve been following along, you have heard of the live show that I ran last year called Disability, Movement, Etcetera. I am working on a new set of lectures for this fall, but in the meantime, you can rewatch past live shows on my YouTube channel (don’t forget to subscribe) or listen to shows that have been re-released as podcasts. The most recent released episode features Syren Nagakyrie, founder of Disabled Hikers—listen wherever you find your podcasts.
I am also starting a new show called ACADEME in a few short weeks. In each episode, I will have a conversation with fellow academics about their identity as an academic, how they balance life, and how we can work to make academia a better place. Discussions will be shared as podcasts and on YouTube. My first conversation will be with Dr. Sam Logan from Oregon State University—look for it to be available in mid-May.
I recently read about a group of scientists trying to “inoculate” people against depression and trauma. It is an interesting approach; however, I worry about what unintended outcomes there may be from suppressing what is a very real response to our experiences. Inoculation can be potentially helpful but it is a bandaid—we need to be proactive and shift society away from the harmful practices we have normalized.
Scientists need to start using better dissemination tools and being more transparent as they share information. Unfortunately, social media and the internet has given rise to “fake scientists”. We must shove off the ivory tower mentality and eliminate our gatekeeping tendencies; if not, our hubris will be the end of us.
As more and more states enact laws against the open discussion of gender, sexuality, and race, how these policies impact higher education is unclear at best. Make sure you know the conversations that are happening in your state and arm yourself to combat the bad faith talking points; here is a good primer.
It’s been a tumultuous past few months and years, thanks for hanging with me. There’s lots coming up for me and I look forward to continuing to share with all of you.
Happy 4/20.
Until next time…stay safe.
- A
P.S. I’ve decided to release a special mug for newsletter readers; see the image below. I think it captures how I am feeling with everything else going on in the world. Get yours at That Hippie Store. To show my gratitude, subscribers can use the code ‘RadPrag10’ for 10% off.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Dr. Andy

A semi-regular, non-serious, mostly snarky snapshot of academic and non-academic information on disability, physical activity, & accessibility.

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