Making metaphor from scratch

Mary Reufle begins at the beginnings. She offers “Metaphor as time, the time it takes for an exchange of energy to occur … if metaphor is not idle comparison, but an exchange of energy, an event, then it unites the world by its very premise.”


When we make metaphors in literature, we do so to convert the abstract into the concrete, the sensory, and the tangible—how loneliness is sometimes a human-shaped crater (Haruki Murakami), and the classroom is sometimes a jail of other people’s interests (Ta-Nehisi Coates). And with matter as with language we only have so many elements at our disposal from which to incite an event, to make something happen. So many letters in the alphabet. So many noble gases on the periodic table.

But what about when, as it happened back in January, whatever committee decides these things votes to add four new elements to the table? How does language adapt, balloon to meet a world—or even a universe that becomes more knowable, and simultaneously, less familiar, or even viable, the longer people live in and of it—the more we name what these elements are and what they can be used to make, what they can be used to fuel, and who they can be used to burn?

Brian Harnetty is asking some of those same questions in Shawnee, Ohio.

What does fracking sound like?

When I was sixteen, fracking was not yet accounted for in my reservoir of words. By the time my grandfather was twenty, “atomic” and “bomb” became indelibly fused in his. Bomb for every generation thereafter as something it had never been before: building block, integral, elemental, necessary.


Material changes in the environment, technologies dividing that which was previously sutured, necessarily transform our metaphors. What students in an Ohio classroom have sensory or emotional context to add tangible meaning to fracking? To deforestation? Nuclear power plant? These concepts for many of us despite increased access to almost instant definitions remain cloaked in abstractions. We know, but do we know?

This week, I asked my roommates (who are assuredly NOT poets) to be guinea piimg_0012gs for an exercise in knowing/not knowing. I asked them to listen to four sounds I found online, a minute a piece. Each participant knew the origin for half of the sounds, but not the same half as the other participant. While they listened, they freely associated on notebook paper. I asked them to try to avoid writing “about” the sound, and instead, to write inside of it, using whatever they heard and what it evoked to fill in the gaps of sensory information. The four sounds I played were:




After the four minutes were up, we talked.

Everybody agreed that they felt their writing had “better direction” when they knew ahead of time to what they were listening. For instance, Lane, who was told that the latter sound was a recording of the atom splitting, wrote about a lesson he once sat through on Chernobyl.

Lizzie, who didn’t, wrote,

“Running rampant, earth can’t speak.”

Taking those words, voicing them aloud over the track of the detonation, sets hair on the back of my neck on edge.

A living metaphor.image1

Now, imagine having the chance to extend this lesson further, to take the knowing and the not knowing and fuse them together in the classroom.

What events could we co-conduct, I wonder?

Looking forward to your thoughts.


Students Answer Life’s Messy Questions Together

We don’t always have the answers to life’s messy questions.  Through the PAGES program, English I students had the opportunity to experience Girlhood and consider how one teenage girl attempts to answer these questions.  With very few resources or reliable people guiding her in the right direction, Marieme makes a chain of “bad” choices.

2016-01-29 13.48.38During our post-visit, the following messy questions were printed and cut into strips:

What is on the other side of this choice?
What if I dare to dream?
What does my voice sound like?
Whose life is this anyway?
How do you know it’s love?
What if I make “the wrong” decision?
Who do I think I am?
Who is in control of this situation?
What do I do now?
To get to tomorrow, what do I need to do today?

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Students chose one question that interested them and formed groups based on that question.  Within their groups, they discussed and wrote about the following:

    • If Marieme had asked herself this question at different moments in the film, what would have been her answer? At the beginning, the middle, the end?
    • Think about moments in your own lives. What do you need to know to be able to answer these questions?

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Students selected a peer from their group to report their answers to the class.  The resulting discussion proved that while small, these young students had big things to say! They were able to effectively analyze a film as a text and make connections to their own lives:

Even when she made a bad decision, it was HER decision, and she was in control.”

Showing love is love; it’s about what you do versus what you say. “

I picked this but I didn’t know what this meant until they helped me.”

You have to consider every outcome, not just the good.  You cannot ignore the bad effects of your choices.  You need to think critically about your choices.”  

“She lost everyone because of one bad choice.” 

“I don’t think the door was locked for her. I don’t think doors are locked forever.

“Don’t doubt yourself.”


In the Classroom: Seven Ways Into The Media Arts Experience

We will screen Girlhood, a film by Céline Sciamma, in a matter of days, and we are busy in the classroom engaging with this upcoming experience in myriad ways. When encountering a text, or a large body of work in Pages, we try to avoid considering that text as the end all, be all, the grand moment, the point to reach, and then we’re done. Instead we cultivate conversations between the main text and other texts, sometimes, unlikely ones or weird ones; we stretch and stretch some more, the content and themes. We ask: How many different ways can we get into this work, and make connections beyond it? Below are some examples:


What’s in a name? –with Kim Leddy, Mosaic

Mosaic students are beginning a big folklore project, and with that we began to think about the narratives of our lives. We considered these tales that wave and warn our curiosities into wonder and at other times into submission.

We began with the folklore of names, entertaining why we name things, especially inanimate objects, and that led us into two nonfiction texts, excerpts of text-based journalism, about the folklore around how Apple’s iconic Siri got her name. We read two excerpted versions of the story (tech folklore if you will), then had students turn to writing their own coming-to-name narratives, a play on the idea of coming-of-age, a central theme in the film, Girlhood.


Whose life is this anyway? – with Kim Swensen, Westerville North

Students are in the thick of Toni Morrison’s Sula, so we paired that text with the children’s book, also by Morrison along with her son Slade, The Big Box, and a song in the front yard, by Gwendolyn Brooks. In those pairings we discussed identity, boundaries, oppression, and choice. Students found the characters in each of the text were seeking something, but in that seeking there were obstacles, interventions, and consequences.

After a rich discussion making connections in all three texts, students wrote in the voice of the character in the Gwendolyn Brooks piece, seeking beyond what is immediately before in plain sight. Students asked themselves what they were curious about, what spaces, boundaries, or mindset did they want to break open or expand, theme explored at length in Girlhood.


2016-01-15 10.14.16


Why don’t students read more poetry? – with Thomas Hering, Delaware Hayes

Students are reading The Yellow Wallpaper, and thinking about ideals around feminism, oppression, and voice. We wanted to explore more poetry (because students do not get a lot poetry in the curriculum), so we paired that short story text with a few poems, one we read in the pre-visit, Letter to a Friend Unsent, by Rebecca Lindenberg. We also began with a short video clip of Naomi Shihab Nye on the civic responsibility of the poet, a case for poetry to move and stir the senses, a permission to be human and to feel emotion and vulnerability, to engage with empathy.

We pulled the texts in conversation with each other, as students made connections to safe and unsafe spaces, boundaries and oppression, the stillness or the coming to voice, something the main character in Girlhood grapples with throughout the film, and themes running through The Yellow Wallpaper.


What can we learn from the artist and why is that important to our writing? – with Aaron Sherman, ACPA

We used our session to slow down and learn from the artists, using two different texts: film and poetry. We wanted to explore time and space, and as the lesson developed had the chance to explore so much more than we anticipated. We watched a scene from the high suspense film Day Night Day Night, by Julia Loktev, then listened and read the poem The House with Only an Attic and a Basement, Kathryn Maris.

Watching the film we entertained three ideas: a question for the excerpted work, what information we could gather from the scene, and considerations of before and/or after [the scene}. The point was to take an extended, close look at the film and gather ideas on what the artist was doing to pull us through the narrative. Students identified uses of color, light, sound, long close-ups on the character, limited dialogue, and the placement or use of objects in the scene to create suspense, slow down or speed up time, tension, and to build the narrative.

After the film clip, we listened to a reading of the poem by both the author and a student in class. Listening to at least two different versions of the reading is an ideal entry to the poem. Following the readings, we used the same extended looking to peel away what the writer was doing in the work. In both cases with the film and the literature, we stayed away from meaning (it’s a good challenge for students), to examine the art and what the artist is doing to convey that meaning as practice for watching a film with subtitles: following the narrative as it unfolds, and looking for clues in the imagery and context, even as the dialogue flies across the screen (this practice especially essential for slower readers of text).

Often students get stuck in only knowing how to seek out meaning, analyze the text in a way that is tunneled and limited. In this exercise we create boundaries for students to slow down and look at the work, not just for meaning (though you can build that in later), but for technique, artistic devices, choices the artist is making. Students can become better writers by learning what a writer is doing in their work, not just what the work is saying or means (though that’s important too!).

In the end we wrote for a short time taking what we learned and trying to transfer that into the writing.


2016-01-22 14.43.15


So you want to make a documentary? – with Andrea Patton, Whetstone HS

Students want to make coming-of-age documentaries. Again, the coming-of-age theme is central in the film Girlhood. However, as I’ve learned from a range of visual media artists, documentaries just don’t happen, in other words, you turn on a camera and just film. Documentaries need a premise, intention, and could use some pre-writing as a way to organize ideas, the stance, or the narrative.

We watched the documentary They Call Me Muslim Diana Ferrero, and gathered as much information as we could, forging the meaning or premise of the film (though that was tempting to many students), but rather what the filmmaker was doing to deliver or convey that meaning or premise. We considered that if they want to make documentaries, they should watch a few to learn to the craft.

With help, students did a nice job keeping their opinions of the subject matter of the film to themselves, and keeping a sharp focus on what the filmmaker did to highlight the varying points of view of the subject matter. It was important to not get burdened by whether or not we agreed or disagreed with the opposite stances of the film, but rather to consider whether or not those stances were in balance. We watched the film to learn from the filmmaker and what she did or did not do in conveying the perspectives and subject matter, resisting chiming in with our opinions on said subject matter (there will be plenty of time to debate that later).


Mastering the Argument – with Elise Allen, Central Crossing

Students will inevitably have to write persuasive pieces, argument essays, works that try to convey a notion to the reader. But before students can do that they need to know who that reader is, make a few assumptions, and then on to the persuasion of said reader. However, if students never learn to write to, or at the very least consider their reader or audience beyond just the teacher grading the essay, students will get stuck repeating the same ideas over and over again without bringing in any evidence or fact to support the stance. We encouraged students to think beyond just writing to the teacher. Who is your audience, and how will you convey your stance to that audience? If the only assumption is your audience is your teacher; that limits the risks a writer will take to convey an idea or stance.

We watched a short documentary film, They Call Me Muslim, by Diana Ferrero. The film explores two sides of an issue, and students, while watching (with subtitles – more practice for the film Girlhood), gathered information. What is the thesis or stance? Who is making the case? How is the filmmaker making that case? Who is the audience? Watching an argument reveal itself on screen, allows students to see how an artist can “show and tell”. It also allows students to have a critical eye for bias, something that will help students curb bias in their own writing.

In the end, we explored the visual argument as practice for text-based argument writing. The documentary is a good resource for exploring how-to tackle persuasion.


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All the World’s a Stage (and we wonder what it sounds like) – with Laura Garber and Sarah Patterson

With Shakespeare in our pocket and Girlhood on our mind, we explored coming-of-age in a slightly different medium – music. After viewing and listening to the BBC’s beautiful visual mash-up, BBC a lifetime of original dramaof the text All the World’s a Stage, by William Shakespeare, we annotated ideas and discussed our ideas about the themes of the piece and looked to understand the seven stages both literally and figuratively.

Students then took to creating their own seven stages, interpreting the premise of that text using musical selections to represent their understanding of each of the seven stages. Students will also do some research on coming-of-age in France, grounding them with cultural context for the film. But the pre-visit, inspired by the Shakespeare piece, enabled students to not just read the piece, but create their own stages of lyrics and sound, an engaging way to explore the text and relate to it in the contemporary. Check out the Pages Twitter feed, @pagesprogram, to see examples of songs from students’ playlists.



-Dionne Custer Edwards


A Take On Speaking and Listening

ELA teachers sometimes gloss over the CCSS’s Speaking and Listening standards. Based on conversations with friends who employ 18-25 year-olds, this is evident in some graduates’ job performance. Our task is to help students work through problems with diverse partners in and out of class, assess information and data from a variety of media in a variety of formats, judge speakers’ use of rhetorical devices and their success or struggles therein, build and share presentations that go beyond [yawn] simply clicking through a PowerPoint, use technology for an authentic purpose in their talks, and adapt their speech to a given context at hand.

Many ELA teachers have received little or poor training for these standards. At one institution I know, almost every single professional development session in the last three years has been structured around collecting and using data to inform instruction; that’s useful, of course, however informed and interesting PD built around mastering the CCSS’s Speaking and Listening standards would likely spurn a sharper understanding of how and why we’re collecting said data and ultimately how to improve our students’ ability to articulate their thoughts, use their voice to elevate their places in the world, and give authentic attention to other communicators.

It’s essential we value our students’ skills in speaking and listening and it’s essential we structure class time to speak to these skills beyond merely a presentation or speech a year. After all, how can our graduates get what they want out of life if they can’t speak fluently and cogently to those that can facilitate opportunities for them? Even the professional literature falls short of a thorough discussion of these standards. Pathways to the Common Core (Calkins, Lehrenworth, Lehman) devotes a meager 5% of their book to aiding teachers foster success with these skills. Provided we remedy our lack of attention here, we can grow effective communicators, but any other course of action seems flawed. Having students sit quietly and zone out to our lectures isn’t the same thing as building sharp listeners, though in my observations this can sometimes be what some teachers think. Below are some of the key power standards in this strand:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric (CCSS, 2014).

Above, we are shown to be responsible for a comprehension of the nature of sound itself: how it persuades us and can be used in presentations to great effect. I suggest using Julian Treasure’s work as a starting point here. To introduce yourself to some of his work check out: The Four Ways Sound Affects Us and Sound Health in 8 Steps

Additionally, we are held to show students the importance of image selection and how images tell a story and are needed to aid human memory of key issues and details. I like Nancy Duarte as a resource to help me here. Check out her free digital book Resonate:!page0.

We even have to discuss the nature of film: scene construction and choice, cinematography, and how these artistic choices can alter a message. Having students make propaganda films for and against an issue of their choice can really make this point come alive and the film festival you have with your students will make a great (and often humorous) impression.

The third strand above asks ELA teachers to employ tactics for students to use rhetoric and students can’t be left isolated to use strong metaphors, sound reasoning, and to avoid logical fallacies like ad hominem attacks without our guidance.

Speaking is about more than formal presentations or speeches. We need to value developing oral communication skills for all verbal communication situations our students might face. See below:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5: Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6: Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate (CCSS, 2014).

Having students conduct a speaking project is not the same as modeling to students how to do that project efficiently and effectively. And even if we do model speaking and listening behavior and show examples, students might not see the importance of these skills in school as they’re rarely valued in their other classes either. I take a term score to assess their speaking as a form of active learning and participation in the construction of our class knowledge using this rubric:

In some ways, I wonder if Speaking and Listening might be the most important skills for students to hone. I think of powerful and successful people like former President Lyndon Baines Johnson who basically never read a book in his life and yet achieved an immense amount for himself, his family, for Texas, and for civil rights in this country (obviously, Vietnam tarnished his legacy). JFK wasn’t much of a congressperson or Senator (achieving little) but he rose to the presidency out of nowhere, in part, due to his gifted orations and ability to listen and connect with others. I think of the multimillion dollar businessperson Keith Ferrazzi whose writing skills aren’t much to be admired, but whose business acumen (listening for what matters and ignoring what doesn’t) and speaking skills (quite seductive to audiences and customers) rival anyone’s. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was an incredible writer and thinker, but his inability to connect with others and speak confidently about his ideas relegated him to obscurity in his own lifetime. I suppose my point is immense success and financial stability can follow simply if one knows how to listen, what to listen for, how to speak well, when to speak, and to whom you should speak to get what one wants out of life.

Ultimately, I suggest students listen to people who have what they want and then borrow ideas as they build their own path to wellness. I suggest speaking like the people who have what they want in life and seeing if that edges them down the road to whatever it is they seek. And, since many students—and adults for that matter—don’t know what they want, listening out for what they might want and using their voice to get closer to finding what they might want seem essential skills we should take better care to nurture.

–Mr. Aaron Sherman, ELA Facilitator of Educational Opportunities

Girlhood Cont.

There’s never enough time, and who knows that better than educators. So in an effort to offer up a few larger themes to think about and potential pathways, here is a summary of some of the ideas we talked about (briefly) today. Remember, the key is not necessarily writing “about” the art or “studying” only the art per se, but rather leveraging content, context, concept, and even techniques of a work or works of art as an alternative point of contact or engagement with a particular theme or idea. I might also add, that experiences with contemporary art are bursting with bits of sensory input, emotional space, and sophisticated contexts. Engagement with art expands avenues or pathways to learning, or exploring a particular idea, concept, or theme. Think of these experiences with art as additional texts. Though these terms are important, it helps not to get hung up on the words “art” or “creative”.

image source:

‘Girlhood’ presents a host of themes that include:
-explorations of identity (cultural, gender)
-implications of socio-economic circumstance (class, access or lack of access to resources, education)
-coming-of-age (in a modern world, in another country)
-choice and intention

Ways into the work include exploration of:

“I” / “Me”- Meet learners where they are, searching self, looking into self, but encourage some stretching into more awareness, some vulnerability, honesty, authenticity.

Writing might include some creative nonfiction or memoir, recalling a time, a moment (from childhood) when everything changed, when nothing would ever be the same?

Further thinking might move into just beyond “I”, an exploration of “I” among choices and circumstances  (I want, I wish, I wonder)

‘a song in the front yard’ – Gwendolyn Brooks
Check out this recitation by Alfre Woodard at the Aspen Institute  (3:56-5:07)

Many of the scenes in ‘Girlhood’ also offer opportunities to explore time, choices, implications of circumstance, character, empathy, and point of view.

Pathways may include first or second person writings, research opportunities and critical thinking on socio-economic issues and how certain circumstances might impact life outcomes, explorations of identity (gender, cultural), and discussions on intention and choice.

I like your idea about a group screening session, but in the meantime, if you can’t wait, ‘Girlhood’ is available for download on Amazon and Netflix.


image source:

“When it comes to free speech, journalists should be activists”

Dan Gillmor writes an interesting piece on issues pertaining to Forbidden Voices in an article you can find here:

He starts by discussing how The New York Times recently took what appears to be a strong stance against government intrusion in their work by asserting in an editorial that they had, “no intention of altering its coverage to meet the demands of any government — be it that of China, the United States or any other nation.”

The above stance doesn’t seem to jive with CBS, as a CNET (a subsidiary of CBS) reporter Greg Sandoval recently tweeted: “Hello all. Sad to report that I’ve resigned from CNET. I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.” He went on to suggest CBS had interfered with an editorial decision.

One of the issues the reading calls to my mind is whether or not an English class should enter into and teach issues surrounding Net Neutrality. This certainly seems to be an ever-emerging issue that students may have to continue to confront and/or fight on behalf of. The Internet as it looks today may become a different place if legislation like SOPA and its sister bills ever comes to pass.

In some ways, the Internet is the new town square. It’s a place where our voices can be heard and our ideas shared freely. If this global town square ever closes on us all, I’m not confident such a decision would bring happier and more educated people into being.

Human Rights and Free Speech: Integrating ‘Forbidden Voices’

Human Rights and Free Speech: Relating your Curriculum to Forbidden Voices

Many of you are doing great work integrating the PAGES media arts experience, the documentary film ‘Forbidden Voices’. Listed below are a number of organizations that deal with similar themes to the documentary and the subsequent panel discussion. Please take a look at these multi-disciplinary organizations as you continue forming curricular connections with this this experience.

MadLab– “A Theatre and Gallery is a non-profit organization in Columbus is a laboratory where individuals and ensembles are free to experiment without censor.”


Conflict  Kitchen– “Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant in Pittsburgh that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.”


Freedom of the Press Foundation- ”Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to helping support and defend public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government.”


Global Gallery – “Global Gallery is dedicated to promoting Fair Trade handcrafted products from around the world while developing cultural enrichment through educational programs. Global Gallery currently has two locations in Clintonville, and on the campus of the Ohio State University. Global Gallery has also grown its sales, annually supporting more than 1,500 artists and producers from more than 45 countries.”


Creative Commons– “Creative Commons helps you share your knowledge and creativity with the world. Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and

Media Arts Experience: Meet Our Panel

Meet our panel of for tomorrow’s program.



Anisa Gandevivala 

“Anisa is a physician turned manager, turned consultant, turned writer, poet, artist, connector and educator living in Columbus, Ohio. She tries not to be attached to labels and feeds her soul instead with creative projects and writing about obscure ideas, identities and hidden social forces. Anisa hopes for societies and people to actualize, learn and grow; she runs a workshop event called, ‘The Connection Experiment’, that explores important themes through ‘Creativity, Community and Consciousness’. She enjoys encouraging people to take creative risks, to be open to possibility with themselves and others, and, to listen to their soul. She also supports writers by hosting creative writing-poetry-art workshops and by working with the ‘Columbus Creative Cooperative’, a local publishing house, to make resources available to writers and artists.”











Robin Post

“Robin Post is the supervisor and creator of InterACT, the director of the Shakespeare and Autism program and the coordinator of newly developed teaching artist program. InterACT is a community engagement theatre program, established in 2006, whose mission it is to devise and perform interactive theatre with socially conscious content. Robin established InterACT as a service learning course which has developed partnerships across disciplines with university departments, colleges, and administrative units as well as with organizations and institutions within the greater Columbus community. The partnerships have resulted in dozens of interactive performances offering hands on training to university instructors in the areas of diversity inclusion and social justice.” — 











Mark Lomax

“Inarhyme Recording artist Mark Lomax II has spent a lifetime in music. His mother, a composer of gospel music, introduced him to both gospel and jazz at an early age. He continued his study of gospel music with Dr. Raymond Wise, founder of the Center for the Gospel Arts, where Lomax currently teaches… He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music Art’s degree in composition at The Ohio State University. His myriad experiences have allowed him to create a wonderful blend of styles in his music. Whether he’s interpreting the Negro Spiritual through jazz, arranging gospel music for a symphony orchestra, or performing his original works, his music is relevant, probing, and inspiring.” —Jazz Columbus












First Amendment Cases: From the Courtroom to the Classroom

i-heart-boobies-405d36cba55437e9As a Government teacher, I am in the midst of teaching the Freedom of Speech aspect of the First Amendment. I have a number of courts cases that might be of interest for my fellow teachers, depending on how much time you would want to devote . All illustrate the strength of American traditions of freedom of expression. The first is Texas v. Johnson(1989)  which reaffirmed the right of symbolic speech in allowing the burning of an American flag in protest . The second deals with the Westboro Baptist Church; the court case that is the focus of their first amendment right to demonstrate is Snyder v. Phelps(2011). The video that I show in conjunction with this group is “OFFICIAL Video: Russell Brand interviews Westerboro Baptist Church” on If you would like to focus on issues that have arisen in schools, the foundational case for student expression is Tinker v. Des Moines (1969 )when students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. Subsequent cases always look back to Tinker as a precedent. In  Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser (1989),  the court retreated from Tinker by finding that schools could censor and punish students for “lewd, indecent, or offensive” speech after a nominating speech described a fellow student thusly: “I know a man who is firm-he’s firm in his pants, he’s firm in his shirt, his character is firm…” But what is construed as offensive in one school can have a different interpretation in another school in another state. The finding Pyle v. South Hadley School Committee (1996) allowed students to wear t-shirts with sexual subtexts (Coed Naked Civil Liberties [front] Do It to the First Amendment [back]. Another case that I use to wrestle with the concept of free speech in schools is Morse v. Frederick (2007). During the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay, Joseph Frederick unfurled a banner (across the street from the school) that read “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS.” His suspension and appeal led five years later to a Supreme Court ruling that gave educators the right, at a school-sponsored event, to suppress a message promoting illegal drug use. The most recent case I used and just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is one in which the Supreme Court declined this past March to hear a case in which middle school students in Pennsylvania fought for the right to wear “I (heart) Boobies!” bracelets. The high court rejected the 2010 case from the Easton school district.  I have found that students really enjoy discussing these issues, and they don’t all think that school should be a free-for-all of opinion. I think our own court cases should provide an interesting lens through which to view “Forbidden Voices”.

What will your art do?

What will your art do?

Below are a variety of artists creating art as a catalyst for social change. Their work reflects contemporary social justice issues, coming from a place of action. Students will encounter a few of these artists (Robin Root, Mark Lomax, and Anisa Gandevivala) at our media arts experience next month. They will join us as a panel to discuss the film Forbidden Voices, and their work as it relates to themes in the film. 


Robin Post

“Robin Post is the supervisor and creator of InterACT, the director of the Shakespeare and Autism program and the coordinator of newly developed teaching artist program. InterACT is a community engagement theatre program, established in 2006, whose mission it is to devise and perform interactive theatre with socially conscious content. Robin established InterACT as a service learning course which has developed partnerships across disciplines with university departments, colleges, and administrative units as well as with organizations and institutions within the greater Columbus community. The partnerships have resulted in dozens of interactive performances offering hands on training to university instructors in the areas of diversity inclusion and social justice.” — 








More Information :


Stephanie Rond

Rond is a street artist from Columbus, Ohio whose “work blurs the line between outdoor and indoor spaces, and seeks to challenge the traditional gender roles associated with each.” — 










Along with creating visual art, she is the founder of S.Dot Gallery, “a dollhouse sized gallery in Columbus Ohio… specialized in contemporary tiny sized artwork.” —

 Residency Website:


Ai Weiwei

“Weiwei infuses his sculptures, photographs, and public artworks with political conviction and personal poetry, often making use of recognizable and historic Chinese art forms in critical examinations of a host of contemporary Chinese political and social issues.” —Art 21





Informational Video:


Zadie Smith

“Zadie Smith is not merely one of Britain’s finest younger writers, but also one of the English-speaking world’s best chroniclers of race, class, and identity in urban confines. Smith remains fearless, and there are moments [in her books] that astonish. Her ambition and talent continue to awe.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

Interviews and book reviews:

Zadie Smith is speaking at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Thursdsay, November 13th, 2014 @ 5PM:


Mark Lomax 

“Inarhyme Recording artist Mark Lomax II has spent a lifetime in music. His mother, a composer of gospel music, introduced him to both gospel and jazz at an early age. He continued his study of gospel music with Dr. Raymond Wise, founder of the Center for the Gospel Arts, where Lomax currently teaches… He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music Art’s degree in composition at The Ohio State University. His myriad experiences have allowed him to create a wonderful blend of styles in his music. Whether he’s interpreting the Negro Spiritual through jazz, arranging gospel music for a symphony orchestra, or performing his original works, his music is relevant, probing, and inspiring.” —Jazz Columbus











Jenny Holzer

“Whether questioning consumerist impulses, describing torture, or lamenting death and disease, Jenny Holzer’s use of language provokes a response in the viewer. While her subversive work often blends in among advertisements in public space, its arresting content violates expectations.” —Art 21








Informational Video:


Kerry James Marshall

“The subject matter of his paintings, installations, and public projects is often drawn from African-American popular culture, and is rooted in the geography of his upbringing.” —Art 21







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“Grrrls Rock Columbus builds self-esteem and empowerment through musical and creative expression, education, and performance. By providing workshops and technical training to female-identified individuals, trans, and gender variant youth ages 12-18, we create leadership opportunities, cultivate a supportive community of peers and mentors, encourage social change, and foster the development of life skills.” — 




Sharon Hayes

“Sharon Hayes cross-disciplinary artwork and research mine the intersections of history, politics, and speech, eliciting a response between public and private historical realities and raising questions about the complexity of today’€™s collective affiliations around gender. Her conceptual and methodological approaches borrow from artistic and academic practices including theater, film, anthropology, linguistics, and journalism.”






2014 Sculpture X Symposium Keynote Speaker:

More info:


The Beehive Collective  

“The Beehive Design Collective is a 100% volunteer-driven non-profit arts organization that uses graphical media as educational tools to communicate stories of resistance to corporate globalization. The purpose of the group, based inMachias, Maine, is to ‘Cross-pollinate the grassroots’ by creating collaborative, anti-copyright images that can be used as educational and organizing tools. The Beehive Collective is most renowned for its large format pen and ink posters, which seek to provide a visual alternative to deconstruction of complicated social and political issues ranging from globalization, free trade, militarism, resource extraction, and biotechnology.” —Wikipedia 


Informational Video:


Marina Abramovic

“A pioneer of performance as a visual art form, Abramovic has used her body as both subject and medium of her performances to test her physical, mental, and emotional limits—often pushing beyond them and even risking her life in a quest for heightened consciousness, transcendence, and self-transformation.” —Art 21








Informational Video:


Anisa Gandevivala 

“Anisa Gandevivala is a writer, poet, artist and connector living in Columbus, Ohio. Having spent most of her life in and around healthcare, Anisa wants to spend some time feeding her soul; she co-organizes a monthly workshop called ‘The Connection Experiment’. As the CCC Community Coordinator, Anisa is responsible for managing our Community Partners — local businesses that offer resources, discounts and incentives to CCC members. She also actively seeks new esources for CCC members.” —Columbus Scoop 


‘The Connection Experiment’ monthly workshop:


Need Ideas, We’ve Got ‘Em


Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images and Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press

50 Ways to Teach With Current Events is a mega idea list compiled by the New York Times to engage students in literacy and writing using current events. The news is a timely beginning resource for research, discussion, and writing. There are not only great examples of good nonfiction writing in journalistic publications, but there are myriad topics of interest for students to thematically intersect with what’s going on in the classroom.


Egyptian Blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah on Hunger Strike

Egpytian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was sentenced to fifteen years in prison this June for “for spurious accusations made in connection with his longstanding and influential activism.”

I’ve been to prison. (It was on a tour, but it was enough for me to know it was a place to be avoided.) I imagine an Egyptian prison would make the Lucas County Correctional Facility look like the Four Seasons.

Below is a link that will take you to a brief article from the EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation) that outlines his case and what little help  organizations like the Media Legal Defense Initiative can lend to imprisoned bloggers.

Fattah has said, “”I will no longer play the role they’ve written for me.”

Such a statement makes me wonder how often we all play roles others have written for us. Maybe we should all try to be the screenwriter, handle the casting, direction, and editing of our own life story–at least as much as we can. (I suppose editing would imply the ability to go back and fix mistakes, but for me it’s more about editing out people, ideas, attitudes, and debates that do not serve my psychological well-being.)

Blogging is just writing online. Saying what you see, think, feel, and claim to know. How could such a seemingly minor act cause so much fear? Answers of course are found in the so-called Arab Spring and in nations like Russia–where Vladimir Putin has essentially ruled in a quasi-fascist society for most of my life.

Tim Berners-Lee (the man who basically invented the Internet and gave it away for free) has recently called for a Magna Carta for the Internet. Perhaps–in the interest of all human being on this Earth–we should consider participating in his project, or at the very least listening to his TED talk on the subject.