Teaching As A Subversive Activity: My Favorite Education Radicals

teaching as subversive activity cover I don't remember who gave me my first copy of Teaching As A Subversive Activity (TASA); but I do remember it sitting on my office bookshelf for at least a decade before I ever cracked it. Presciently landing in my suitcase during a move to Buenos Aires, Argentina, it slipped onto yet another shelf. Soon after learning that checking my cell phone on crowded commuter collectivos in the Paris of South America wasn't the best idea (I watched at least a dozen phones stolen right out of people's hands during my two years there), I read books; the kinds printed on real paper. I read an hour every morning and an hour every evening standing up with sweat trickling down my back and a heavy backpack strapped to my chest. Having finished all the fiction I brought down with me, I desperately plucked TASA off the shelf. Published the same year I was born, 1968, TASA promotes such outlandish ideas as "requiring every teacher to provide some sort of evidence that s/he has had a loving relationship with at least one other human being" and "limiting each teacher to three declarative sentences and 15 interrogatives per class." I suppose every year in human history can be described as radical...but 1968 seemed to really go for it. The authors, Drs. Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner, serious academics and men of their time (Postman an English professor at NYU and Weingartner a lecturer at Queens College), entitled their apple bomb's first chapter "crap detecting." What??!! This was NOT the book I was expecting at all. And I loved it. On page 60 (opening the "What's Worth Knowing?" chapter) the authors challenge their readers to "suppose all of the syllabi and curricula and textbooks in the schools disappeared...Suppose you decide to have the entire 'curriculum' consist of questions... What would you do?" Page 61 is blank. I have to hand it to the authors to offer us physical space to conceive of questions before providing some of their own. Radical at the time.

What is 'change'? • What is 'progress'? • How do you know when a good or live idea becomes a bad or dead idea? • What are the greatest threats to all forms of life? • What's worth knowing and how do you decide?

Nearly 45 years later, a young teacher named Sergio Juárez Correa was called "radical" because he dared to implement inquiry-based instruction and other outrageous practices straight out of TASA and the Hole in the Wall experiment in a very traditional Mexican school culture. His students soared - even measured by traditional tests. Where are the radical ideas in education today? Are they all focused on "edtech" disruption? Are they radicals with fires in their bellies about equity and excellence or are they savvy entrepreneurs just making things easier and more efficient for everybody? Who are your favorite radicals calling for specific, actionable major changes in education? Are the egg-breakers of 1968 still out there?