Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Forthcoming: Politics, Participation and Power Relations (Sense)

Forthcoming from Sense:

Politics, Participation and Power Relations: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Critical Citizenship in the Classroom and Community, R.C. Mitchell and S.A. Moore, Eds.

from intro:

"A contribution from US-based Paul Thomas of Furman University in South Carolina presents his theoretical reflection from the standpoint of growing up and teaching in the rural south arguing for the need of critical literacy, specifically in the writing curriculum, to foster critical citizenship."

Writing community: Composing as transformation and realization
Paul L. Thomas

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The CQ Researcher Online

The CQ Researcher Online

Should schools use as much digital technology as they can afford?


Technology represents the essence of American consumerism by feeding our popular clamor for acquiring the current hot thing. Yet the ever-increasing significance of technology in our daily lives and its contribution to powerful advances as well as a widening equity gap place education in a complex paradox.

Author Kurt Vonnegut quipped, “Novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex.” As with novels, so with schools, I believe, but we must take one step beyond “whether schools should address technology” to “how.”

Two experiences from my 18 years teaching high school English inform my belief that schools should not incorporate as much digital technology as finances allow. I began teaching in the 1980s during the rise of MTV and witnessed my field make a claim that text was dead, and thus English teaching had to shift to the brave new video world-failing to anticipate instant messaging, email, texting, blogging and the text-rich social-media boom.

The intersection of technology’s unknowable future, its inflated costs, and its inevitable obsolescence must give us pause as we spend public funds. Let me suggest simply looking into the closets and storage facilities at schools across the United States, where cables, monitors and other artifacts costing millions of dollars lie useless, replaced by the next-best thing we then had to acquire. In fact, just think of one thing, the Laserdisc video player (soon to be joined by interactive “smart” whiteboards in those closets).

Chalk board, marker board, interactive board-this sequence has not insured better teaching or learning, but has guaranteed greater costs for schools and profits for manufacturers.

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau offered two warnings that should guide how we approach technology: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate,” and, “We do not ride on the railroad; it rides upon us.”

The foundational principles of public education for democracy and human agency must not fall prey to preparing children for the future by perpetually acquiring new technology because we can never know that future. Thus, we must not squander public funds on ever-changing technology but instead focus on the human interaction that is teaching and learning as well as the critical literacy and numeracy every child needs. We can anticipate only one fact of our futures — change.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NEW at Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics

------. (2011, December). Adventures in genre!: Rethinking genre through comics/graphic novels. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 2(2), 187-201.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"[N]ot the Time. . .to Follow the Line of Least Resistance" | National Education Policy Center

"[N]ot the Time. . .to Follow the Line of Least Resistance" | National Education Policy Center

New volume under contract at Sense

My next volume in my series at Sense will be:

-----. (under contract). Challenging genres: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction. Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Details (draft/updated):

Series: Critical Literacy Teaching Series: Challenging Authors and Genres

Volume: Challenging Genres: Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction

P. L. Thomas

Final draft submission: December 15, 2012


This introduction addresses the value of critical pedagogy and critical literacy for all students in any courses addressing literacy as a foundational introduction for both the series and this volume. Further, I will explore our assumptions about genre—how we assign and teach genre in our literature study, and how we assign and teach genre in our writing instruction. Finally, I will briefly introduce sci-fi/speculative fiction as a marginalized genre in comparison to literary fiction. In this introduction, I will define sci-fi, speculative fiction, and dystopian fiction along with confronting the problems posed by genre and medium

Chapter One
“A Case for Sci-Fi and Speculative Fiction: A Brief History”

Sci-fi as a genre of fiction has often been marginalized, with a few works and writers allowed into the official canon, almost begrudgingly—Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood. But those sci-fi works tend to be embraced when the writers are also considered literary, leaving works and writers dedicated exclusively to sci-fi to a second-class status. This chapter examines what constitutes sci-fi as a genre and discusses the complex debate surrounding that classification, focusing on Atwood’s arguments about sci-fi, speculative fiction, and dystopian fiction. This chapter will also introduce a consideration of sci-fi/speculative fiction across several mediums—novels, short stories, film, and graphic novels.

Chapter Two
“Sci-Fi and Speculative Novels”

This chapter will discuss sci-fi/speculative fiction novels by focusing on major works representing the genre: Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451,Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I will examine both how these major works represent the genre as well as how to utilize these works in classrooms focusing on critical literacy and exploring multigenre/multimedium texts.

Chapter Three
“Sci-Fi and Speculative Short Fiction”

This chapter will discuss sci-fi/speculative fiction short stories by focusing on major works representing the genre—such as LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” and Vonneguts short stories, such as “Harrison Bergeron”—and works often taught in ELA courses. I will examine both how these major works represent the genre as well as how to utilize these works in classrooms focusing on critical literacy and exploring multigenre/multimedium texts. I will present and discuss how to use sci-fi short stories to build multigenre units of study.

Chapter Four
“Sci-Fi and Speculative Films and TV”

This chapter will discuss sci-fi/speculative fiction films and TV by focusing on major works representing the genre: Star Trek, Star Wars series, Blade Runner, Solaris, Alien series. I will examine both how these major works represent the genre as well as how to utilize these works in classrooms focusing on critical literacy and exploring multigenre/multimedium texts. Film and TV series as elements of adaptation of texts will also be examined.

Chapter Five
“Sci-Fi and Speculative Graphic Novels/Comics and Young Adult Literature”

This chapter will discuss sci-fi/speculative fiction graphic novels/comics by focusing on major works representing the genre: superhero comics (Superman, Batman, Spider Man, X-Men), American Flagg!, Ronin, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I will examine both how these major works represent the genre as well as how to utilize these works in classrooms focusing on critical literacy and exploring multigenre/multimedium texts. Graphic novels/comics as elements of adaptation of texts will also be examined.

Then, I will explore the sci-fi/speculative fiction works within the broader young adult fiction genre, focusing on YA classics and the more recent rise of the Hunger Games trilogy.

Chapter Six
“The Enduring Power of Sc-Fi, Speculative Fiction, and Dystopian Fiction”

Drawing from Atwood’s In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (2011), I will discuss contemporary works of sci-fi/speculative fiction such as Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, Perrotta’s The Leftovers, and Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go to detail the enduring power of the genre.


Sci-fi/speculative fiction as adaptation units will be the final discussion of the book, discussing the use of mutltigenre units in courses focusing on literacy and composition instruction.

Working References

Atwood, M. (2011). In other worlds: SF and the human imagination. New York: Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday.

Thomas, P. L. (2011, October 30). Le Guin's "The ones who walk away from Omelas”: Allegory of privilege. Daily Kos. Reposted at The Daily Censored (2011, November 3).

-----. (2011, January 3). Calculating the Corporate States of America: Revisiting Vonnegut's Player Piano. OpEdNews.

-----. (2007). Reading, learning, teaching Margaret Atwood. New York: Peter Lang USA.

-----. (2006). Reading, learning, teaching Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Peter Lang USA.

Vonnegut, K. (1974). Wampeters, foma & granfalloons. New York: Delta.

CQ Researcher: December 2, 2011

See my commentary on technology in education (direct link posted when available):

Thomas, P. L. (2011, December 2). No. At Issue in CQ Researcher.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daily Kos: Action v. Inaction: The Scholar-Teacher Imperative

Daily Kos: Action v. Inaction: The Scholar-Teacher Imperative

CALL for submissions: Speaking Truth to Power (EJ)

Speaking Truth to Power (English Journal)

Column Editor: P. L. Thomas

“If education cannot do everything, there is something fundamental that it can do. In other words, if education is not the key to social transformation, neither is it simply meant to reproduce the dominant ideology. . . .The freedom that moves us, that makes us take risks, is being subjugated to a process of standardization of formulas, models against which we are evaluated. . . .We are speaking of that invisible power of alienating domestication, which attains a degree of extraordinary efficiency in what I have been calling the bureaucratizing of the mind.” (Freire, 1998, Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage, pp. 110, 111)

Twenty-first century education in the U.S. has included a bureaucratic muting of teacher professionalism, autonomy, and voice. Additional features of current reforms involve scripting the ideas and expression of students through external accountability measures, standards, and high-stakes testing.

This column seeks to explore the experiences and possibilities that arise when educators speak Truth to power. It is also intended to be an avenue for teachers to speak Truth to power through teacher narratives about the “the bureaucratizing of the mind,” about best practice in critical literacy against scripted and tested literacy, and about creating classrooms that invite students to discover, embrace, and develop their own voices and empowerment.

Submit an electronic Word file attached to your email to the column editor, P. L. Thomas, at Contributors are encouraged to query the column editor and share drafts of column ideas as part of the submission process.








Monday, November 7, 2011

Call For Manuscript Proposals: Critical Literacy Teaching Series

Call For Manuscripts

Series Editor: P. L. Thomas, EdD, Furman University

Publisher: Sense

Kincheloe (2005) offers a foundational argument about the role of critical pedagogy in our classrooms:

[P]roponents of critical pedagogy understand that every dimension of schooling and every form of educational practice are politically contested spaces. Shaped by history and challenged by a wide range of interest groups, educational practice is a fuzzy concept as it takes place in numerous settings, is shaped by a plethora of often-invisible forces, and can operate even in the name of democracy and justice to be totalitarian and oppressive. (p. 2)

This series will explore major authors and genres through a critical literacy lens that seeks to offer students opportunities as readers and writers to embrace and act upon their own empowerment. Further, the volumes in this series are guided by Freire (2005) as well:
One of the violences perpetuated by illiteracy is the suffocation of the consciousness and the expressiveness of men and women who are forbidden from reading and writing, thus limiting their capacity to write about their reading of the world so they can rethink about their original reading of it. (p. 2)
We are seeking book-length manuscript proposals for volumes in this new series. Volumes may address individual authors or genres/media/modes of literature/texts; and may be either edited or single-author volumes.

Volume proposals may include (but are not limited to) the following:

Sandra Cisneros (being drafted)
Louise Erdrich
Rachel Carson (in press)
Alice Walker
James Baldwin (under consideration)

Comics/ graphic novels (published)
Young adult literature (being drafted)
Science fiction (in process)
Children’s literature

Send proposal ideas or questions about potential volumes to the series editor, P. L. Thomas, by email

Series Editorial Board:
Karen Stein, PhD, University of Rhode Island
Shirley Steinberg, PhD, McGill University
Jeanne Gerlach, EdD, University of Texas-Arlington
Leila Christenbury, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University
Renita Schmidt, PhD, University of Iowa
Ken Lindblom, PhD, Stony Brook University

Schools Matter: Our Problem Is Civil Obedience

Schools Matter: Our Problem Is Civil Obedience

Thursday, November 3, 2011

De-Testing and De-Grading Schools (Peter Lang USA)

De-Testing and De-Grading Schools: Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization
Joe Bower and P. L. Thomas, editors

Peter Lang USA

Counterpoints Series


Alfie Kohn
Introduction: “The Roots of Grades-and-Tests”

Part I: Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education

Lisa Guisbond, Monty Neill, and Bob Schaeffer
Chapter One
“NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from this Policy Failure?”

Fernando F. Padró

Chapter Two
“High-stakes Testing Assessment: The Deus Ex Machina of Quality in Education”

Anthony Cody
Chapter Three
“Technocratic Groupthink Inflates the Testing Bubble”

Lawrence Baines and Rhonda Goolsby
Chapter Four
“Mean Scores in a Mean World”

Julie Gorlewski and David Gorlewski
Chapter Five
“Degrading Literacy: How New York State Tests Knowledge, Culture, and Critical Thinking”

Morna McDermott
Chapter Six
“The aesthetics of social engineering: How high stakes testing dehumanizes/desensitizes education”

Richard Mora
Chapter Seven

Brian Beabout and Andre Perry
Chapter Eight
“Reconciling Student Outcomes and Community Self-Reliance in Modern School Reform Contexts”

David Bolton and John Elmore
Chapter Nine
“The Role of Assessment in Empowering/ Disempowering Students in the Critical Pedagogy Classroom”

Part II: De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform

Alfie Kohn
Chapter Ten
“The Case Against Grade”

Joe Bower
Chapter Eleven
“Reduced to Numbers: From Concealing to Revealing Learning”

John Hoben
Chapter Twelve
“Assessment Technologies as Wounding Machines: Abjection, the Imagination and Grading”

Peter DeWitt
Chapter Thirteen
“No Testing Week: Focusing on Creativity in the Classroom”

Hadley Ferguson
Chapter Fourteen
“Creating an Ungraded Classroom”

James Webber and Maja Wilson
Chapter Fifteen
“Parents Just Want to Know the Grade”: Or Do They?

P. L. Thomas
Chapter Sixteen
“De-grading Writing Instruction in a Time of High-stakes Testing: The Power of Feedback in Workshop”

Brian Rhode
Chapter Seventeen
“Demoralizing, Disengaging, Non-Actualizing Education”

Lisa William-White
“Striving Towards Authentic Teaching for Social Justice”

BBC News - Newsnight - REM: Why we decided to split after 31 years

Radical Musicians. . .

BBC News - Newsnight - REM: Why we decided to split after 31 years

“Click, Clack, Moo”: Why the One Percent Always Wins | Truthout

“Click, Clack, Moo”: Why the One Percent Always Wins | Truthout

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”: Allegory of Privilege

Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”: Allegory of Privilege

CALL for submissions: Becoming and Being a Teacher (Peter Lang USA)

Becoming and Being a Teacher:
Confronting Traditional Norms to Create New Democratic Realities

Editor, P. L. Thomas
Furman University
3300 Poinsett Hwy
Greenville SC 29369
864-294-3368 (o)
864-590-5458 (c)

Critical Studies in Democracy and Political Literacy series (Peter Lang USA)
Paul Carr, Editor

Becoming and Being a Teacher: Confronting Traditional Norms to Create New Democratic Realities

P. L. Thomas, editor

P. L. Thomas

Part I
Thomas Robertine
Chapter 1
“Continuous Becoming: Fieldwork as a Mutually Transformative Experience” (3000)
Ana L. Cruz
Chapter 2
“Becoming A Teacher: Fostering a Democratically Conscious Citizenry Through Critical Pedagogy” (3000-4000)
Katy Crawford-Garrett
Chapter 3
“Teach for America, Urban Reform and the New Taylorism in Public Education” (5000)
Lisa William-White
Chapter 4
“Becoming a Teacher in an Era of Curricular Standardization and Reductionist Learning Outcomes: A Poetic Interpretation” (5000)
Anthony Cody
Chapter 5
“Learning to Teach: Values in Action”  (3500-5000)
Brad Porfilio
Lauren Hoffman
Chapter 6
“The Corporate Takeover of Teacher Education: Exposing and Challenging NCTQ’s Neoliberal Agenda” (5000)
John L. Hoben
Chapter 7
“Right Thinking People: Becoming a Teacher Educator in The Age of Austerity” (5000)
John Elmore
Chapter 8
“Neo-Liberalism and Teacher Preparation: Systematic Barriers to Critical Democratic Education” (4000)
Julie A. Gorlewski
David A.  Gorlewski
Chapter 9
“Too Late for Public Education? Becoming a Teacher in a Neoliberal Era” (5000)

Part II
Lawrence Baines
Chapter 10
“Ignorance is Strength: Teaching in the Shadow of Big Brother” (5000)
Ann G. Winfield
Alan S. Canestrari
Chapter 11
“Beware Reformers Bearing Gifts: How the Right Uses the Language of Social Justice to Reinforce Inequity” (4000)
Gord Bambrick
Chapter 12
“Spotlight on Failure: The Mythology of Corporate Education Reform” (4000)
Amy Flint
Eliza Allen
Tara Campbell
Amy Fraser
Danielle Hilaski
Linda James
Sanjuana Rodriguez
Natasha Thornton

Chapter 13
“More than graphs and policy mandates: Teachers working against the grain” (5000)
Dana Stachowiak
Chapter 14
“Not Bound by Stupid Binaries: Dismantling Gender in Public Schools through a New Consciousness and Claiming of Agency” (?)
Galen Leonhardy
Chapter 15
“So This Is America: A Narrative of Living Realizations and Democratic Non-Realities” (3000)
Regletto Aldrich Imbong
Chapter 16
“Neoliberalism and the Filipino Teacher: Shaking the Standards For a Genuine Democracy” (3000-4000)
Katie Stover
Crystal Glover
Chapter 17
“Mandated Scripted Curriculum: A Benefit or Barrier to Democratic Teaching and Learning?” (3000-4000)
A. Scott Henderson
Chapter 18
“Schools as Battlegrounds: The Authoritarian Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas” (3500)
Rainiel Guzman
Chapter 19
“School Reformers’ Common Enemy: Teachers and Their Unions. A Historical Perspective” (3000-4000)
Melissa Winchell
Patricia Chouinard
Chapter 20
“Troubling Traditional Notions of ‘Prepared’:
Two Urban Teachers Ignite the Boundaries of Progressive and Critical Theories” (3000-4000)
Dawn Mitchell
Chapter 21
“Why Accountability Measures Fail… 
Practitioner Perspectives on the Role of Teacher Efficacy”
Michael Svec
Chapter 22
“Empowerment through classroom cultural inquiries” (3000-3500)


Author Biographies


This volume will seek to examine the tensions among economic, political, and educational goals and dynamics, specifically related to U.S. universal public education broadly and becoming and being a teacher narrowly, in the context of critical and postformal paradigms (Freire, Giroux, Kincheloe), confronting the assumptions driving capitalism, Western norms, partisan politics, consumerism/materialism, and corporatism in order to establish a more robust, critical and meaningful form of democracy that honors human dignity and agency.

Essays should present a wide variety of genres, including personal narrative, critical analysis, commentary, scholarship, and research. Essay lengths may vary from about 3000-5000 words, depending on the focus of the author(s). Please frame each proposal within the current climate attacking both teaching as a profession and teacher preparation—highlighting political literacy, teaching, and the state of the empire.

Please submit essay proposals that address the following, or suggest a focus you believe will enhance the project:

• Explore founding principles and justifications for public education in the U.S. (Jefferson), progressive tradition (Dewey), and critical alternative (Freire) as silenced and marginalized possibilities within a corporate paradigm for education, teaching, and teacher preparation. Unpack the contradictions and masking inherent in claims of normative democratic ideals as they flourish in public and political discourse. The question will not be how does universal public education contribute to a thriving democracy, but why do we maintain the traditional (normative democratic) workings of public education (Kohn) if education is primarily designed to perpetuate critical democracy for human agency?

• Examine and confront traditional norms of schooling and teacher preparation that maintain a stated allegiance to normative democracy (masking a deeper commitment to neoliberalism) as an avenue to recognizing and advocating for a commitment to critical democracy that honors student and teacher agency as essential for universal public education fulfilling its promise as central to a free people.

• Challenge the value of both traditional/authoritarian paradigms and normative democratic values as suitable for the justification or goals of universal public education. Argue that individual empowerment and agency are more suitable justifications and goals than neoliberalism masked by traditional normative democracy. Critical democracy may be discussed in the context of the problems posed by expertise within the simplistic claim that everyone deserves an equal voice (for example, does it benefit a culture or a field if the voice of laypeople has the same weight in the evolution debate as biologists and evolutionary scientists?) and the pedagogical norm that teachers must be unbiased, objective, and non-political.

Establish the failures public education as enculturation and consider critical reforms for schooling and becoming/being a teacher, confronting the preparation and careers of teachers by examining the corrosive impact of certification and accreditation on teachers as well as students with a particular focus on NCATE and NCQT/ U.S. News and World Report. In short, certification and accreditation processes reinforce neoliberal norms by centralizing authority in bureaucratic organizations and by reducing learning to mere compliance and teaching to mere transmission (for example, in traditional schooling, U.S. history and history teachers are characterized as factual and objective even though U.S. history courses perpetuate a skewed advocacy for U.S. mythologies, policies, and norms).

• Present either personal narratives of experiences in teacher certification (as certifier or as teacher educator) and being a teacher—and placing those experiences in any or all of the contexts discussed above.

• Frame becoming and being a teacher in the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality as they all remain marginalized and normalized within corporate and neoliberal norms masked by narratives endorsing democracy and personal freedom.

• Explore and present specific alternatives to traditional and “new reformer” (Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan) calls for education reform and teacher preparation.

Important Dates:

(1) Essay proposals due to P. L. Thomas ( December 9, 2011 (earlier encouraged).

(2) Full draft of invited essays due to P. L. Thomas (—attached as Word file—April 15, 2012.

Please submit invited essays in APA format using the provided sample as a guide.

(3) Editing/revision process: April 15-May 31, 2012.

(4) Final manuscript due to Lang June 1, 2012.


Editor, P. L. Thomas
Furman University
3300 Poinsett Hwy
Greenville SC 29369
864-294-3368 (o)
864-590-5458 (c)

Critical Studies in Democracy and Political Literacy series (Peter Lang USA)
Paul Carr, Editor

Re: Invitation to submit essay

I am extending an invitation based on your proposal for a full submission to be considered for Becoming and Being a Teacher; this submission is due April 15, 2012, attached as a Word file following APA citation format (see a sample essay attached for consistency of submissions).

Currently, I have 26 proposals that I believe are all potentially suitable for an excellent collection. However, once I have all submissions, due to word-count limits, focus of the submitted works, and variety of voices and perspectives, I will likely limit the final selection to about 18-22 pieces. This invitation, then, is not a guarantee of inclusion in the volume—although I will work to include as many of the authors who commit to this project as possible.

I need you to accept or reject this invitation by December 16, 2011, so I can confirm for all the needed word count for each piece. I am attaching an inclusive document of all proposals FYI; each proposal has a suggested word length based on what you proposed and/or my own assessment of what would best fit the volume. Ultimately, the word count of your submission is your choice, but I ask that we all stay within 3000-5000 words (I will consider a few longer pieces if requested, and within the context of how many invited authors choose to submit a full piece).

Please review the call (attached to email) that explains the focus of the volume. It is essential that each piece maintains a focus on the failure of corporate mandates for education as that impacts becoming and being a teacher committed to democratic and critical goals.

I will send a confirmation email after December 16, 2011, and I am eager and willing to view and respond to submission drafts throughout the coming months if you want.

See attached to the email:

• Invitation letter
• Compiled proposals
• Original call revised
• Sample essay (for formatting guide only, not content)

Do not hesitate to contact me at any time with questions or clarifications.

I am excited about this project, which I believe is needed and highly relevant in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

I hope that each of you will consider and share, as well, the call for another volume on de-testing and de-grading schools (proposals due January 15, 2012):

Hope you all have a peaceful and fulfilling end of the fall semester (for those of us in academia) and the best of holiday seasons.

Thank you,

Paul Thomas


(1) Essay proposals due to P. L. Thomas ( December 9, 2011 (earlier encouraged).

(2) Invitation acceptance due December 16, 2011.

(3) Full draft of invited essays due to P. L. Thomas (—attached as Word file—April 15, 2012.

Please submit invited essays in APA format using the provided sample as a guide.

(4) Editing/revision process: April 15-May 31, 2012.

(5) Final manuscript due to Lang June 1, 2012.