This week, everything is falling apart: Syria; the Canadian environment; the Times’s coverage of Honduras and Venezuela; higher education as we know it. But if activists’ creative roasting of neo-philanthropic tycoon Carlos Slim is any indication, the best response may be laughter.
Alleen Brown focuses on education.
“The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform,” by Aaron Bady. The New Inquiry, May 15, 2013.
In a lengthy essay, Aaron Bady describes the speed at which higher education has been smacked by MOOCs. His piece hints at the ways the rhetoric of “innovation,” especially in education, masks practices that serve to reproduce hierarchy.
James Cersonsky focuses on labor and education.
“Oaxacan Teachers Challenge the Test,” by David Bacon. Truthout, May 9, 2013.
Mexico’s education system is awash with the same neoliberal orthodoxies that rule the United States, and in both countries there are pockets of organized resistance and refusal. While this piece falls short in critical ways—it doesn’t implicate students as agents in Mexico’s political economy of education, and it says that “the national union in Mexico is an entrenched part of the power structure,” as if the United States is categorically different—it does highlight Mexican alternatives that should be taken seriously. The Program for the Transformation of Education in Oaxaca, for one, “sees a teacher as an agent of social change…someone who has roots in a community, is interested in all the problems of the children, is familiar with the culture of the people, who can promote education projects with parents. In other words, a teacher the ruling class doesn’t want.”
Catherine Defontaine focuses on war, security and peace-related issues, African and French politics, peacekeeping and the link between conflicts and natural resources.
“Infographic: Africa’s natural resource wealth.” Al Jazeera, May 12, 2013.
The annual Africa Progress Report released on Friday highlights the dubious attitude and “unconscionable” practices of some foreign companies involved in the exploitation of natural resources in Africa. Indeed, as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan points out, “Some companies, often supported by dishonest officials, are using unethical tax avoidance, transfer pricing and anonymous company ownership to maximise their profits, while millions of Africans go without adequate nutrition, health and education.”
Andrew Epstein focuses on social history, colonialism and indigenous rights.
“What if people told European history like they told Native American history?” by Kai. An Indigenous History of North America, May 9, 2013.
If this counterfactual seems far-fetched, dig around for your high school textbook and look at the chapter titled “the Americas before 1492.” Little-known fact: the city of Cahokia, located near present-day St. Louis, had the same population as London and Paris in 1250.
Luis Feliz focuses on ideas and debates within the left, social movements and culture.
“Is laughing the mic check of 2013?” by Laura Gottesdiener. Waging Nonviolence, May 14, 2013.
This, my last article of the week, is a call to up the ante. In the post-micro-credit business model era—which supposedly will save Africa and Africans—various business venturers with pseudo-altruistic hearts surfaced. In the same way that The Nation has published essays about how NGOs in Haiti have been undermining the state and ultimately the sovereignty of the nation, the magazine, thanks to people like Laura Gottesdiener and others reporting, can also assess critically neo-philanthropic yet for-profit business expansion projects extending not only into Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America but also into online education.
Elana Leopold focuses on the Middle East, its relations with the United States and Islam.
“The Syrian Heartbreak,” by Peter Harling and Sarah Birke. Middle East Report Online, April 16, 2013.
Harling and Birke offer insight into the horrifying violence and suffering so vividly described in today’s front-page New York Times article. Arguing, ultimately, that the conflict is “the product of international standoff,” the authors refute sectarian explanations for the violence, in part by outlining the disintegration of a strong Syrian national identity.
Alec Luhn focuses on East European and Eurasian affairs, especially issues of good governance, human rights and activism.
“I Heart Syria,” by Gary Brecher. NSFWCorp, May 13, 2013.
Gary Brecher breaks down the video of the Syrian rebel cutting out his victim’s heart and taking a bite out of it. Rather than taking this as a smug affirmation of Western values in the face of the horror of the Middle East, we should see this for what it is, Brecher argues: a recruitment video aimed at recruiting 17-year-olds for an undermanned Al Qaeda–inspired brigade. And a PR boon for the Assad regime.
Leticia Miranda focuses on race, gender, telecommunications and media reform.
“Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform,” by David Kravets. Wired, May 10, 2013.
Wired looks at mission creep in the immigration bill that has privacy advocates up in arms.
Brendan O’Connor focuses on media criticism and pop culture.
“Ask Polly: Jesus, My Struggling Writer Friends Never Shut Up!” by Heather Havrilesky. The Awl, May 15, 2013.
This doesn’t fall so much into the Advice For Writers category as it does the Advice For People Who Have To Talk To Writers, Whether They Are Writers Themselves Or Something Else Altogether category. There’s a lot here worth keeping in mind, although—as ever—it all seems to boil down to this: “Calm down… and get back to work.”
Anna Simonton focuses on issues of systemic oppression perpetuated by the military and prison industrial complexes.
“When drone strikes collide with stop-and-frisk,” by Natasha Lennard. Salon, May 11, 2013.
As a landmark trial challenging New York’s notorious stop-and-frisk policy begins, Lennard connects the criminalization of young black and brown men through policing and incarceration in the United States to the military targeting of the same demographic overseas.
Cos Tollerson focuses on Latin American politics and society, and United States imperialism.
“Noam Chomsky, Scholars Ask NY Times Public Editor to Investigate Bias on Honduras and Venezuela,” by Keane Bhatt. NACLA, May 14, 2013.
Keane Bhatt, a Washington-based activist who blogs for NACLA, is spearheading an effort to demand accountability and accuracy in the mainstream media’s often errant reporting about Latin America. For months he’s used social media and his platform at NACLA to call attention to inaccuracies in John Lee Anderson’s New Yorker article “Slumlord: What has Hugo Chávez Wrought in Venezuela,” and has compelled the magazine to run two corrections (hopefully with a third forthcoming as pressure mounts). Now, expanding his critique from individual errors in a single article to habitual mischaracterizations in one of the country’s most widely read newspapers, Bhatt has brought together a group of experts who specialize in Latin America and media studies to sign an open letter objecting to The New York Times’s biased coverage of Honduras and Venezuela.
Sarah Woolf focuses on what’s happening north of the US border.
“B.C. election: Christy Clark pulls off an upset for the ages,” by Tim Harper. Toronto Star, May 15, 2013.
It was a disappointing Tuesday night for progressive voters in British Columbia. Center-right premier Christy Clark bucked the pollsters and their predictions to pull off a shocking victory—a majority government, no less—retaining the premiership, while losing her local race for member of Parliament. American environmentalists: take note. Clark’s re-election all but guarantees the approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline.