I really didn’t want to but I relented and did– I bought an overpriced digital copy of editor Kevin Jennings’s third installment in the “One Teacher in 10” series. I knew that I should have bought it but I couldn’t resist. I wanted to read it ASAP and without waiting another whole academic year. So I shelled out the cash. Goodbye (almost) twenty-bucks.
So, what were my thoughts? Mostly positive.
As for the book, and as you can tell by the lengthy title, this entry is a little different than the other two entries in this series; even though the emphasis is still on Queer educational personnel, there is a greater emphasis on the idea of progress. Stories in this edition tend to paint a bigger picture than in the first edition in order to focus on the legal and social ramifications of teaching while Queer.
This isn’t a bad thing, per se, since stories written during the last decade are obviously going to be hugely different from stories written during a time when society and the law were much different. Like, literal decades ago. All the same, I have some grievances.
The real thing I want to rant about is how a lot of the stories seem… unremarkable? That isn’t really the right word but I am having a difficult time finding that right word. The point I wish to make is that a lot of the narratives here brush over the personal in favor of the big picture painted in those broad strokes I mentioned just a couple of paragraphs ago.
I am not saying these educators aren’t remarkable for coming out but a lot of them write as though they were on a TV program. Many narratives here seem almost written in the same style as a TV drama. You will often see a lead-in followed by a cursory attention to detail, then some meaty biographical material, before the story ends with some zinger. It feels very commercial. (Yes, that is the right word– commercial.)
Honestly, I do not think it needed to be commercial. Because all though I am glad that the series has continued (and will hopefully continue), in an age of increasing (political) reaction, there is a lot to unpack if Jennings reaches deeper to people in the trenches of radical pedagogy. All the same, since Trump is now president, I expect a lot more resistance and radicalism come to the next entry.
All the same, whether my insights here are off or I am overreacting to stories without “substance” since– *gasp* anti-discrimination laws have been passed, this edition still had a good handful of powerfully moving narratives alongside the more everyday narratives.
When I read the first edition, the one published in 1994 (!), most of the contributors were White males residing in the United States. Now, almost 25 years later, we have stories from non-White educators; we have stories from Transgender educators; we have stories from Bisexual educators as well as international educators. In short, the pool of stories has been bettered and it shows since the stories from these educators provide the “most” food for thought by a long shot.
Like when I read the first edition of this series, I enjoyed this most recent iteration. And because I understand that peoples consciousness are linked to their material and social reality, I will continue to be fascinated by how Queer education professionals conduct themselves in a time of decaying capitalism. Reading these stories and then parsing out the changes between now and when edition one was published, is great and helps demonstrate the power of collective change. In all, I look forward to reading the second edition of the series, the book set during the Bush years and bridging my understanding of the whole series from two books set apart by decades, into a unified whole covering those decades. One thing is for sure, though– education remains a challenging field and always will be, Gay or Straight, but especially if you are Queer.