John Mink's Blog

Ultra-radical punk teachers!

By John No
Maximum RockNRoll

SHAMELESS PLUG: This column has blossomed into a new book: Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom, coming out this October on esteemed imprint PM Press! Check out the slick promo video (with a soundtrack from THE MINUTEMEN, thanks Mike Watt) and presale link right here!

Ultra-radical punk teachers! Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous to many of you. School, especially primary and secondary school (before college) has not been traditionally designated as a place where punks have flourished. A quick tally of the number of punk and hardcore songs that mention school can reach easily into the hundreds, almost always describing it as a cursed place that inspires alienation, conflict, misinformation, abuse from authority figures, and utter hatred. It is precisely because of these passionate feelings about school that more punks need to become teachers.

Teaching, especially in the United States, is one of the most overwhelming, under-compensated, and difficult jobs a slightly-overeducated person can do. It is also potentially one of the most inspiring and life-affirming jobs that exist, one of the few “professional” jobs (outside of professional activism) where actual political radicals can make a genuine difference in the lives of many people. Those who hated school as an oppressive, alienating environment often tend to make the best teachers, teachers who have a strong urge to make learning stuff suck less for students who feel like they are being stepped on and left out—students who are like they were. As a subculture literally built from alienation, punk has proven to be an excellent recruiting ground for the kind of teachers who want to teach their students—especially those who are marginalized and have experienced systemic oppression—how to deconstruct the living shit out of everything, speak up, and fight back.

When Teaching Resistance started in 2015, I was pretty aware of the dirty semi-secret that there are many highly-educated punks, but I never realized how many of them—particularly the politically-radical ones—are teachers, from preschool up through the loftiest levels of Universities. Many work in the humanities, especially English and Social Sciences, which affords them excellent opportunities to indoctrinate the living hell out of kids with wild ideas about things like radical autonomy, destruction of hierarchies, radical critiques of identity and the construction of knowledge, critical class/gender/racial justice studies, and so much more.

Being a Social Studies teacher in a high school (and formerly an adult school), I am fortunate to be able to have incredible conversations every day with a bunch of wily, sassy, angry, beautiful young minds who are just itching to tear everything down and build an entirely new world in its place—sounds like the kind of punk I like. I feel lucky to have this job, and lucky to have heard so many stories from those who are like me and also do this insane thing.

So—with the launch of this newfangled all-online MRR, this is the official inaugural re-launch of the Teaching Resistance column, and a big open call for all radical punk teachers all over the world to send me your stories, your lesson plans, your reflections, your rants, your reportage of important labor struggles, anything you—as a teacher—feel needs to be heard! And so, here’s the old-school pitch from the magazine; get it together, punk teachers and send me some stuff so we can hear your voice!

The Teaching Resistance column is designed to provide a platform for radical, punk-affiliated, subversive teachers/educators to share their ideas and draw attention to important issues around education; particularly compulsory- and community-based education. If you are a teacher (anywhere in the world) for students of primary or secondary school ages (K-12), Community Colleges, or alternative learning arrangements such as collectivist free schools, and you want to submit an idea for a column, please write an email to [email protected].
—John No, Teaching Resistance editor

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