Marine is back, baby! She and Mexie have a wonderful discussion about her journey into facilitation work with high school students. We discuss how facilitation differs as an educational tool from conventional lecturing or teaching, how she began her own anti-oppression facilitation program, and everything she’s learned along the way. We cover a lot of ground and end by shouting out her upcoming facilitation workshops, which are open to all! Send us an email if you are interested in participating (July 5-7 2021). They’ll be of interest to any activist or educator wanting to help facilitate dialogue to advance liberatory politics.
Sources and Links
- Race Dialogues: A Facilitator’s Guide to Tackling the Elephant in the Classroom: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43568628-race-dialogues
- Learning For Justice: https://www.learningforjustice.org/
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F1: [MUSIC] How can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet?
F2: There’s an us before the wound, there’s an us before oppression, and to me pleasure is the way that we tap down into that.
F3: We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.
MEXIE: Hello, lovely people. It is Mexie just jumping on pre-intro to the podcast to let you know that Marine and I don’t actually get to talking about the workshop that she is hosting next month until the end of the podcast, so if you are interested in that, stay tuned until then or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested. It’s going to be a facilitation for social justice workshop series, held July 5th through 7th. It’s going to be fantastic. Stay tuned to the rest of the episode to hear all about it, but we just realized that maybe not everyone’s gonna listen all the way to the end, and this is important to say upfront. I also want to apologize because there is a very yappy dog in a apartment that is close to mine and so, you can hear this little dog for quite a bit of the episode, but luckily Marine is the one who was talking more in this episode.
So, there’s not too much of yappy dog and Mexie speaking. Anyway, with that said, let us dive into the real intro to the podcast. Hey everyone, welcome to the Vegan Vanguard. It is Mexie and…
MEXIE: So excited to have Marine back on the show. How are you doing?
MARINE: I’m good. I’m excited to be back. As you know, I’m kinda nervous too ‘cause I have not recorded a podcast in many moons, but…
MEXIE: A bit out of practice but I’m sure…
MARINE: A bit unpracticed.
MEXIE: …you’re gonna be super great.
MEXIE: Yeah, I’m sure it’s gonna be wonderful. Our audience always asks about you in the sweetest way. I know that all of you listening have been really interested to hear how Marine’s doing and what she’s been up to. I guess out of respect for your privacy, I always kind of act like it’s something I can’t talk about, it’s super-serious, or — sorry, not super-serious.
MARINE: What? Super-serious? Okay…
MEXIE: It’s super-secretive.
MARINE: Oh, it’s super-secretive.
MEXIE: I meant secretive. Yeah.
MARINE: Oh my goodness, you’re — I’m getting a bit of stagefright now. It’s not super-secret.
MEXIE: No, it’s not super-secret. But I guess, yeah, when people ask me, I’m like oh, should I just tell them or what? So, I’m always just like oh, she’s doing something really cool but I can’t say what it is. It’s very mysterious.
MARINE: Mexie. Oh, man.
MEXIE: So, anyway, the suspense is built and people are…
MEXIE: …gonna be really excited to hear this.
MARINE: Cool. Well, I’m excited to be here with you.
MARINE: It’s true; I sort of ghosted the internet, yeah.
MEXIE: Which I completely respect you for. I recently deleted Twitter and it’s been…
MARINE: Oh, you did!
MEXIE: …the best decision I’ve ever made. Oh, yes, yes.
MARINE: Oh, you didn’t tell me about this.
MEXIE: Oh, I didn’t?
MEXIE: Oh, yeah. No, it’s gone, yeah.
MARINE: Oh, it’s gone.
MEXIE: It’s been so liberating. I felt like while I was on there and just kind of participating in the #discourse, I — honestly, I felt like it was hemming me in. I felt like there was a lot of things that I was saying or content that I was making because I was I guess expected to speak to this quote, unquote “community” that I was supposedly a part of but just increasingly didn’t want to be a part of ‘cause I’m like, I don’t want to be part of this discourse; I don’t want to be a part of this. So, it’s been great. I very much, very much respect you ghosting the internet and just moving on to do these amazing things.
MARINE: Yeah, I’ve never been on Twitter and I don’t know — I don’t really know how it works but I know that once you’re in it, it’s like a — it kinda sucks you up.
MARINE: But I remember just so many times talking to you where you were really upset by something that had happened on Twitter that was, quite frankly, very violent and discredited all your work all of a sudden or there was drama that was going on with another creator, and kinda zapped your morale understandably.
MARINE: I think…
MEXIE: It definitely did.
MARINE: …we’ve even had a conversation where I was like, this is happening. The only times when I hear you being so distressed is when something has happened on Twitter, you know?
MARINE: Yeah, I’m sure you’re not alone in that scenario.
MEXIE: Definitely not, and it’s just — it’s so silly, right? I was embarrassed to actually feel so distressed over something that is seemingly so insignificant. But it always felt really violent and significant, right? So…
MEXIE: …just glad to be out of that space.
MARINE: I mean, it is. We’re not wired to be able to handle hundreds of hate comment at a time. No one can weather that. It’s like, yeah, I get the whole argument that oh, it’s not — or feeling shame; oh, it’s not really a part of real — quote, unquote, “real life”. Why is it getting to me? But it is part of real life. That’s what — yeah, totally. Anyway, so…
MEXIE: Exactly, and just having so many eyes on your every word is just not healthy for anyone, I think.
MARINE: Right. Yeah. Congratulations.
MEXIE: Yeah, thank you very much, and congrats on everything that you’ve been doing since ghosting the internet.
MARINE: Thank you.
MEXIE: Yeah, so, should we dive into it?
MARINE: Sure. Are you just interviewing me?
MEXIE: Yeah, I’m gonna basically interview you but yeah, we’ll have a back-and-forth conversation as well so it won’t be super dry and awkward. But, what Marine has been doing that I’ve been very secretive about for this whole time has been facilitation and starting her own facilitation business, I suppose, but really just organization and, yeah, she’s been on a journey from I guess a few different organizations that she’s been spearheading, so let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about your journey into facilitation. We’re not gonna name the names of the organizations that you created just for your privacy, so I’m not sure what to call them; maybe Alpha and Beta.
MARINE: Sure. Which is which? No, I mean, it’s essentially just one — I don’t know. The project has morphed into something slightly different now, but we can just go with one name. It doesn’t matter which name we pick. We can call it Bob.
MEXIE: Okay, Bob. So, Bob as a project has evolved.
MARINE: Bob as a project has evolved; indeed.
MEXIE: But I thought we could start maybe with talking about facilitation in general as a teaching style. So, for people who aren’t really aware of what it is, why is facilitation so effective at getting students to really reach these a-ha moments around social justice issues in particular?
MARINE: Well, facilitation is — I would say it’s — there’s a spectrum with maybe facilitation on one end and then lecturing on the other, and then teaching would be somewhere in the middle. I go back and forth between facilitation and teaching. It’s essentially — there’s so much overlap, right? But facilitation is — the intention is to have students or participants in a group really have agency in driving the conversation and asking open-ended questions so that students can actually — open-ended questions that have an element of allowing them to talk about their personal experience with a topic.
Then from that personal experience and from hearing other perspectives in the group, being able to make connections between the different testimonials or the different opinions and then using what we have observed in this space with all of us in order to extrapolate larger insights about what’s going on in society. Sometimes that is also reversed; we go from a theme that is in — we go from exploring a topic that’s out there in the big world and then seeing how it affects us. But it really is empowering students with the understanding that what they bring to the conversation is themselves and that they have — that their point of view is valued just because no one has had their own — like, their specific experience. So, really speaking, I also always tell my students to speak in I, like in I-statements from their own personal experience, and really ridding ourselves of the illusion that there’s some kind of neutral narrative that we just need to learn and then parrot back. So, yeah.
MEXIE: Mm-hm, yeah. Yeah, I think it’s really, really powerful, and shout-out to our common, dear friend Alexis Fawn who brought some of this stuff up on our episode around radical education for youth and radical education in general. Yeah, I think there’s so much power in that because I guess I come from a sphere — like, I come from academia where it is very focused on lecturing. So, you’re basically — in my academic career when I was a student, I was basically lectured at. Of course the professors would ask really challenging and open-ended questions, or maybe we would kind of work out those things in tutorials and things like that, but it really was kind of like ‘kay, here’s the information and then you’re absorbing it. I would come to a-ha moments myself, but I’m not sure that every student necessarily did.
Then also, I’m a lecturer now and I guess it’s just difficult with the format, but I definitely am wanting — I have been trying to work in more of these open-ended questions and allowing the students to actually dialogue themselves and come to their own conclusions, ‘cause I feel like that is really where you do internalize things so much more. I feel like if I want to teach people — I think the most important thing is teaching people critical thinking skills so that they can take that into any scenario that they’re in and still have a really great critical perspective, because if they’re just listening to me speak and then internalizing that but not really internalizing how to think critically, then they’re just gonna go out into the world and then someone’s gonna give them some other information, then they’re gonna be confused.
So, they’re gonna be like oh, well, I don’t know what to think now. But it’s like, that’s the whole point. It’s teaching people how to think, I guess, or helping them to realize the knowledge that they already have and how to put that together, if that makes sense. I don’t know if that does.
MARINE: No, that makes perfect sense. I think that there absolutely is a place for lecturing and for more traditional teaching in some cases because the thing is, students don’t know what they don’t know, right? They very much do sometimes need that information that — ‘cause it’s like, we can do a lot for countering dominant narratives just in the classroom listening to each other and sharing our experiences and being challenged with open-ended questions, but at some point there also needs to be some historical facts laid on the table, or some — you know. So, I’ve actually — yeah, I’ve somewhat departed — like, I definitely facilitate but I also — some of my classes are structured more like mini-lessons where we watch videos or I’ll present some kind of historical fact especially around, for example, my unit on whiteness and white supremacy and colonialism.
You have to go back and look at that history for how race was created in the 17th and 18th century because students have never been taught this information. So, they have all these ideas about racism especially because it’s very much in the current discourse, and they have stances; they think they know where they stand but I think asking them a simple question like, so, what is race, they’re like uh…you know, even a question like that can start to get at the confusion that people have around how it was constructed. So, yeah. Just to say that I think that both are necessary.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. I guess a lot of my lectures are really — it wouldn’t — I definitely need to deliver a lot of content and history and context and stuff to them before we can have any kind of meaningful conversation about it. But yeah, I am still really interested in learning from you and from others like Alexis Fawn about how to incorporate more of these kind of activities that really, yeah, empower them to come to their own conclusions about things ‘cause I think that’s really, really powerful. But yeah, so, maybe let’s talk about Bob, specifically.
MARINE: I was like, who’s Bob?
MEXIE: Right; who’s Bob? So, what inspired you to start Bob and how did you work towards that? How did you develop your facilitation skills in order to get that off the ground? I guess maybe describe what Bob is.
MARINE: Sure. So, I would say that it started back in college — was the main inspiration for it. I was part of this group called — it was called FemSex. Now it’s called AllSex and it was essentially a group of twelve to sixteen — I think I — my group was on the smaller end. Let’s say twelve students that came together. We came together twice a week for two hours a week which is a huge commitment in college. Now when I think back to that, I’m like wow, that was a very long time. It was just a student-led group where we would come together each session and each session had a different theme. It was all around female sexuality, so it might be menstruation, masturbation, boundaries, kinks. There was also a lot about power and identity and gender expression.
I came into this — I think I was — it was during my second semester of college, and the only reason I signed up for FemSex is that a couple people on campus just told me oh my god, you need to do FemSex; it completely changed my life. I was like well, what is it? They were like, I don’t know. I can’t even really describe it. It’s just like, you get in a room and you have conversations, and it’s just life-changing. You have to do it. So, here I was, a very basic — I had — like, basic person. I had never interrogated anything about gender or sexuality or capitalism or power and privilege. All those words were completely foreign to me, especially because I went to high school in France. So, yeah, words like heterosexual or whiteness weren’t even words in my vocabulary.
So, going into this group was really life-changing because all the — so, it’s facilitated by two students who have done FemSex before and who now have a curriculum that’s pretty loose. You go into this room and usually you’ve had a homework assignment. Like, let’s say the session on body image, it might be like, draw your body image or taking some kind of object that has been really important in shaping your viewpoint around your self-perception or whatever, and then we go around the room and we share what that object or drawing or poem or whatever is and how it relates to us. I just remember being completely blown away by — I mean, so moved by hearing the testimonials of — it happened to be all women. Men and non-binary people could also join FemSex, but they — anyway, it was all women in my group.
But hearing their experiences and the commonalities of our experiences even though they presented so incredibly differently was just, yeah, really life-altering to me. I just remember thinking wow, I haven’t even gotten this deep with any of my friends and I barely even know these women’s names in the class. It wasn’t like a group therapy situation; it wasn’t like we would come in and just spill our guts about all the — our past trauma or whatever. It was really — the topics were pretty curated but the empathy that it built, the connection that it built between me and these people, I was — honestly I had the thought like, if everyone could go through an experience like this, we’d have world peace. It was just amazing. After being in FemSex, I became a facilitator for FemSex for a couple semesters.
I loved going through that experience too, being a facilitator of these conversations, and also realizing that every single conversation looks different because it’s all centered around our experiences and every conversation is with different people. I loved doing that so much and I really believed in what was going on in this little tiny room. I was like, this is — I mean, I can’t stress just how different it was than the conversations that I had been having elsewhere. Also, I was learning so much and I was like, I’m learning way more in this room than I am in my classes, and I genuinely think if we had had an experience like this in high school, so much of the shit that I went through in high school would not have happened. So many of the people that I know wouldn’t have gone on to do business school or corporate law.
Like, they would be trying to change the world. Then I facilitated in different organizations. I did this organization called [CENSORED] which is pretty present on college campuses. I have a lot to say about — which is not that interesting to our listeners, probably, but it was facilitating health ed to under-funded schools like high schools in the New York area. I taught about abusive relationships and healthy nutrition, I think is what it was. When I look back on that curriculum and what we were told to say, I’m just like, I really hope we didn’t cause eating disorders or nutritional malpractice. It was actually really messed up when I think back to it.
MARINE: But yeah, there’s just so — I was like, it’s so irresponsible to get people from a college campus to go into schools with high schoolers and talk about calories, you know?
MEXIE: Wow, yeah.
MARINE: Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t be saying this on-air ‘cause I — they have probably revamped their curriculum. But anyway, and then I did — anyway, I did this other — I was part of this other organization called [CENSORED]. That was like, civics education for high schoolers. Yeah, that was a great experience for the most part also. Anyway, this is such a long-winded answer to your initial question.
MEXIE: That’s great, yeah. No, this is important back context.
MARINE: Okay. Well, then I went on this research grant and lived in Argentina for a couple of years and started my YouTube channel and started the podcast with you, and sort of stopped being in a relationship with high schoolers or — but still doing a lot of education through my channel. I really do love that, but being much less in conversation with actual, real people. I just started to really, really miss that. I reached a point of burnout on my YouTube channel where I realized I loved making the scripts for my videos and I love the research that goes into it and I love the process of articulating an idea so that people get that a-ha moment. But I don’t really like being in the spotlight.
I don’t really like — I always hated getting behind the camera and just having to edit the video and put it out there and get so many comments on me as a person when I was like, I want these ideas to be engaged with more. I always had this feeling of like, oh, I really want — I’m so passionate about getting this information out there but I sort of hate that I have to be the person who delivers it. To some extent, I feel like that with podcasting, too. I get kinda nervous and I’m like, oh, I wish I could just say all my ideas through someone else and I wouldn’t have to be the one saying them, you know? Anyway, this will tie into Bob shortly. But yeah, so, I was kind of stuck on what to do. I was doing a lot of tutoring for test prep with high schoolers. Ew, gross, I know, but you know, a girl’s gotta eat.
Yeah, I was just realizing I love to be in conversation with these high schoolers. I was doing some SAT tutoring at some point — I know, I’m gonna get canceled for this, but anyway, yes, the SATs are horrible. But I would use these tutoring sessions to, at the same time, have conversations with the kids about the texts. Actually, the SATs have some pretty okay texts, you know? Like, some very capitalist — some introductory poly-sci stuff which we’re — was fun to engage on and have conversations with the students about, or some introductory texts about the Suffragette Movement or things like that. So, they were kind of the very tiny redeeming experiences I would have doing that tutoring.
Yeah, and I just really have this realization; I love to be in contact with students and I think it’s because also during high school, I had such a — my mind was so colonized that I’m like, I just feel like if I was in contact with someone who had presented to me these ideas earlier on, the course of my life would have changed. I’m so, so privileged that I got access to all of those ideas later on and through college and stuff. But yeah, I think I strongly identify with high school students because of that reason. Just because also high school — puberty and stuff, it’s such an intense time. I remember that time so, so vividly. Everything just felt so important. It was also the peak of when I really internalized everything about patriarchy and became so incredibly concerned with how I looked and the sexual experiences I had and, yeah. Looking back to it, it’s like, I wish I had had someone who had explained to me what bisexuality was, you know? Or what the male gaze was.
MEXIE: Yeah, no, absolutely.
MARINE: I mean, I think that students — kids — I call them kids, but — have so much more access to that now with social media. It’s just wild how much everything has changed. But again, actually, I think some school — some students do have access to that but there’s a lot of students who still don’t, you know? I’m always — the algorithms are made in such a way that a lot of them don’t actually get that kind of information and they get information that’s reiterating really, really harmful norms. So, I had this idea of — basically I was like, I loved facilitating in college and I have also become newly passionate about all of this information to do with animal rights and environmental justice and capitalism.
I’ve been doing all this education through my channel, so why don’t I try to combine the two and make a program that — where I can talk to high schoolers about all this stuff and have conversations with them and basically do what I did in college but just save these kids a few years of pain by trying to bring these conversations to them sooner. So, yeah, it started pretty small. I just made a website. It was bad but I was just trying to get something up on WordPress. Then when I — I first started by just constructing three different days of workshops and reaching out to high schools, seeing which ones would be interested in me delivering the workshops at their school.
Well, no, actually at first, I thought that I was gonna rent a room and just be able to get students that way, to sign up to workshop, but that’s not actually how things work. The learning curve is so steep. It really is. I tried so many things that just did not work. But eventually it started to work and I notably gave those three workshops at a high school. It was terrifying, if I’m perfectly honest. At first I just went in and — yeah, was having all these, yeah, these — drawing from my experiences with AllSex and with these other organizations and with what I knew, I really constructed — had my lesson plan for those three days where it was so structured just because I think that’s very common of new teachers; they will pack their classes with fifteen activities and twenty-five different readings and conversation prompts because they’re really scared the students won’t engage.
MEXIE: Yes. Yeah, or that it won’t take up as much time as I think it will, and then it’s gonna fall flat.
MARINE: Yeah. It’s like well, now that I’ve been in the classroom a lot, it’s actually okay if your class ends early and you’re like okay, now you have ten minutes of study hall or whatever. That’s fine. Honestly, that never happens in my classes though because we all talk a lot. But yeah, it’s really not horrible if that happens. But I think that’s so scary as a new teacher.
MEXIE: Yes. Yeah.
MARINE: So, I structured those three days just — I mean, it was filled to the brim with activities. I spent so long researching online different activities and making games. The thing is, once you get in the classroom, everything is different than what you expected it to be. So, that happened, but the three days went well. I look back now and I’m like whoa, I’ve learned a lot. Yeah, I think back to some experiences and I cringe but that’s also what being a teacher is, is there’s some days for me where I feel just elated with how well everything has gone and I feel like the students have had so many a-ha moments and I’m just like, I’m the shit, this is so great, I love doing this. Then there’s other days where I walk out and I’m like, I am never gonna teach again. I have permanently messed up these students. They were so bored and they hate me or, you know.
MARINE: It’s a lot of ups and downs.
MEXIE: Yeah, it’s really soul crushing…
MARINE: It really is.
MEXIE: …if a session goes badly. Oh, god. Yeah.
MARINE: It really is.
MEXIE: It just makes me spiral.
MARINE: Me too, me too.
MEXIE: But yeah, but what — so, maybe tell people what were the sessions — the workshops oriented around. Like, what were the topics that you wanted them to engage with?
MARINE: In those first workshops — so, I remember one activity that I started the class with which is still to this day, remains one of my favorites, is just asking the students to introduce themselves and to tell us the story of their name. This activity is — I didn’t come up with this. I read this somewhere and I think it’s fairly spoken about, but asking the students — like, for example, my name, I have a Spanish last name so I always talk about how actually my family moved from Spain into Algeria in the beginning of the 20th century during the colonization of Algeria, and that actually Spanish immigrants were not — I mean, they were still above — they were still considered — I think they were still considered above Algerians, like European — because they were European settlers and Algeria is being colonized.
But they were still kind of bottom-of-the-barrel immigrants. There was such a hierarchy amongst Europeans who came to Algeria, and I think it’s in 1905 that France started getting kinda nervous that all of these other European immigrants were coming to their colonizer land, and there was a naturalization act whereby everybody who was European — or, there was a list of nationalities, became French. Yeah, so, they were just declared French from one day to the next. This is actually…
MEXIE: Oh, colonialism.
MARINE: …yeah. Yeah. Oh, colonialism and oh whiteness, right?
MEXIE: Oh, white supremacy.
MEXIE: All settlers are now French.
MARINE: Yeah, they’re all now French which as a Spanish immigrant was definitely a step up from being Spanish and also allowed you all these privileges in this colonized French Algeria. Yeah, it’s even — we could do a whole other podcast on this, but actually when my grandfather was born, the schoolteacher forbade or strongly advocated against his parents teaching him Spanish because now he was in a French school and actually Spanish was a dirty language and that it would just confuse him to be taught Spanish, so all of his brothers and sisters spoke Spanish and they spoke Spanish at home, but he never learned it. He only ever learned French.
MEXIE: That’s really bizarre.
MARINE: Yeah. Anyway, but so, it allows me to tell the story of how my family and how a lot of French families — like, my dad grew up in Morocco until he was fifteen. In French, we call them [French] people who then — anyway, it’s also fascinating because obviously people who were colonizers were given land and a set of resources. Even though their family was not rich by any means, obviously they escaped famine from Spain by — but, anyway.
MEXIE: By settling.
MARINE: Yeah, and so, it allows me to tell that story of why I have a Spanish last name. But everyone has such fascinating stories about their name. I remember in that first class, actually, I had — in the class there was a trans student who shared the story of his new name and the fact that his father had helped him pick out this name because he thought it was really beautiful, and he just told this really moving story that was such a gift for the class to hear. We had — there was another student who shared that her name — I think her name was Allegra — that it sounded like ‘vagina’ in her home country and that all these people had made fun of her for it. Anyway, it starts to build a lot of empathy.
Yeah, a small activity like that is just really interesting, and then making connections amongst the names too, and making the point that historically, the people who have been able to keep their names are usually the most privileged, like how men get to keep their name and just — their wife takes on their name. Or obviously how enslaved people were stripped of their name. When you strip someone of their name, it’s one of the first things you do to take away their dignity. Same thing in the Holocaust. The way that I usually construct activities is starting with a basic activity like that where everyone is able to share on the same level or on the same kind of playing field and then really using that to make connections and guide the conversation to a place where we’re actually reflecting on topics that are larger than us.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. So like, generally getting people to think about, yeah, history, power, privilege, systems of oppression and that kind of thing.
MARINE: Yeah. Yeah, and then — I tried a lot of things in those three days. I also — we did a unit — the third workshop was around social activism and sort of a workshop where we were talking about issues and social change around those issues and trying to design a solution. That was such a learning moment for me too because honestly, there — it’s good to be — to think creatively about how we want to shape the future, but when you tell people who are really colonized into a mindset, like, come up with a solution for social inequality or for whatever issue — environmental issue they pick. They will design an app, you know? Or they will talk about — oh my god, I once did a really depressing activity. I got this activity from Adrienne Maree Brown in Emergent Strategy, so, she talks about generating Hablends of the future, and we…
MEXIE: Yeah, we did that.
MARINE: …did this on our podcast.
MARINE: Yeah. It’s like, do you know this activity? Then I was like yeah, of course. Oh my god, generating headlines of the future with high school students; literally, one out of two of them will talk about colonizing Mars and having Elon Musk elected for president. Elon Musk; is that his name? It sounds weird. Elon Musk?
MEXIE: Yeah, that is his name and it is weird, and he’s weird.
MARINE: He’s weird. Yes. Not weird because he has Asperger’s Syndrome; weird because his ideas are…
MEXIE: Weird because he’s a horrid fucking…
MARINE: He’s a horrid fucking person.
MARINE: Capitalist. Anyway, so you know, we get a lot of that. A lot of things are about also electing someone that has a solution to — a tech solution to a problem.
MARINE: Anyway, so just, the headlines of the future — they’re not in a place to really generate that. Maybe after — now I have the entire year with them, so it can lead to much more interesting conversations if it’s done at the end of a semester. But if you have a day with students and you’re trying to have conversations that revolve around anti-oppression and social justice, my advice; do not generate headlines in the future right away.
MEXIE: ‘Cause you have to pick apart everyone’s headline and be like okay, well, that sounds like, you know, ethical capitalism. Let’s talk about that.
MARINE: Right, exactly. You’re like, thank you; I really, really appreciate your contribution that we’re gonna have an army base on Mars that’s gonna be able to bomb nations that have terrorism or…
MARINE: Great. Okay, now we need six classes to undo the fact that that was just said in the classroom.
MEXIE: Yeah, like, let’s do just a quick biography of Elon Musk.
MARINE: Yeah, yeah. Anyway, so, or, you know, solutions that Apple is gonna come out with…
MEXIE: Oh, good.
MARINE: …some kind of product or — anyway, so, I’ve learned differently now. I don’t do that activity quite so often. It’s really — if I have a very, very progressive or enlightened class, then I will venture into that territory.
MEXIE: I actually did that with my class which was first-year university students, and it went really well. But it was basically at the end of a full year of time with them, so, yeah, that worked out.
MEXIE: Yeah, but in one session I could see that not going very well.
MARINE: No, no. But I could — I mean, if you want, I can tell you a little bit more about the classes that I do now.
MEXIE: Yeah. Well, okay — okay, so that was Bob. Then, how did Bob evolve into New Bob that is the Bob now?
MARINE: I see. Well, so, after those three days of workshop, luckily they did go well enough that I was able to keep working with the school and they were like, why don’t you come in and do several units? So, I started working with them for three months. Then, that went so well that they were like oh, do you only have a month’s worth of classes or would you have a year’s worth of classes? I was like oh, I could 100% do a year’s worth of classes. So, that’s been what I’ve been doing all year, is — I’ve just been in the classroom a lot and working on curriculum all the time, and really figuring out what works, what doesn’t. I’ve just been learning so much and designing new units around — my first unit really delves into the complex — I mean, how to have a dialogue. How is dialogue different than debate?
What are some of the ways that we’re — that we can generously listen to each other? What does that mean? What does it mean to listen to someone without formulating a response in your mind before actually answering them? Then really going into cognitive dissonance and identity protective cognition. That’s essentially the little ‘eh’ that we get when we receive a piece of information that conflicts with our sense of identity. I mean, ‘eh’ is the best case scenario but usually it’s like, outright anger or denial. Just priming the students with the understanding that that’s gonna happen; I do a few activities just around cognitive dissonance too, so where they get to experience little pieces of cognitive dissonance throughout the class and reflecting on what that means, and thinking through re-framing conflict or disagreement in the classroom as a jumping off point.
So, I say we’re not gonna shut off conflict or try to stamp it out and move it onto something else when it does arise, but rather try to get curious around why is it that you think like that? When I have a student that makes a problematic remark, I’m never like no, that’s not right; here’s the fact. I’ll be like, I really appreciate you sharing that and actually, a lot of people think like you. First step, does anyone else have a different point of view in the classroom? ‘Cause so many times, someone else will actually take care of that comment for you. It sounds like I have such an agenda. I’m not saying take care of that comment for you, but…
MEXIE: The agenda is liberation.
MARINE: The agenda is liberation, exactly. So, if somebody says oh, poor people are lazy or if they just worked harder, they would be able to accumulate wealth. Not that they really use that vocabulary, but you know, they would be able to get rich. I’ll say oh, that’s an interesting point. I’m sure — I know that a lot of people think like you. Does anyone in the classroom think differently about this? Or say like, have you had a personal experience that has led you to think that way? Or oh, okay, it sounds like you’re talking about hard work leading to professional success. How much do you know about mobility, like social mobility and social class in this country? Like, how — ‘cause then you can talk about how actually — like, if you’re born into a certain social class, statistically, you are much more likely to stay in that social class than to quote, unquote “move up the ladder”, right?
So, there’s a lot of different questions that you can ask and student input that you can get to actually — not shame the student for thinking that way, but really asking them why they think that. Also, every time you’re — just a question like oh, do you have a specific example of that or like, oh, in your own life, can you tell us about the story of someone who matches that description? ‘Cause a lot of times they’ll be like well, I don’t know; that’s just common sense, you know? Or, we just see that in the movies, or everyone knows. Oh my god, the ‘everyone knows’.
MEXIE: We just see that in the movies.
MARINE: Yeah. The quote “everyone knows that this is what happens” is super common, and that leads me to my third unit which is around the assumption of neutrality and dominant narratives and what is a dominant narrative. It’s, right, something that’s been said over and over so many times that we just think it’s neutral when in fact it’s not. Yeah, I have this character who I’ve — I’ve impersonated dominant narratives in my classroom as a person named Professor Culture. I got the inspiration from reading Ishmael and in Ishmael, they talk a lot about Mother Culture. Mother Culture? Yeah, that’s what — that’s what she’s called. So, Ishmael, if you’ve read Ishmael, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
But if you haven’t, it’s a great series of books, but it’s a gorilla called Ishmael who asks his students — so, in the first book he’s asking his student can you tell me what Mother Culture has told us about why you go to school, for example, or why school is important. So, the dominant — and Mother Culture is just the background music to our lives. You might say oh, what — well, you have to go to school because that’s how you learn to read and that’s how you can get a good job and that’s how you get smart or whatever. So, in my class, Mother Culture is named Professor Culture and I present them with many different visuals for Professor Culture. Sometimes he’s just like a little clipart of a white male scientist.
I really stress, this person — he’s not the embodiment of sex — of like, extreme sexism or racism; you have to think of Professor Culture as the narrative that is — that we bathe in. If you went out on the street and did a man-on-the-street interview and you asked somebody why do we go to school or what should we eat or why do we have to buy food? It would be what they say, the reasons that they come out with. That is a master narrative. That is the dominant narrative. A lot of times I’ll ask my student — I’ll start a conversation by saying what would Professor Culture say that race is, for example, or what would Professor Culture say that disability is?
It allows them to say what they’ve heard about it without being potentially embarrassed about saying something that is quote, unquote “problematic” or — and then — and it also — I can ask them like oh, what would Professor — if the question is why would Professor Culture say that heterosexuality is normal? They might say well, that’s — it’s because you need a man and a woman to procreate or it’s, that’s how you — women and men are psychically — psychologically different, so the most complete unit is with a man and a woman. Then I can say oh, what would Professor Culture — how would he react if I said that actually, homosexuality is natural because we see it everywhere in nature? They might say well, he’s — he might tell you that, like, why are you trying to confuse everybody? Everyone knows that’s not true.
It’s very fun to dialogue with this person, this hypothetical person. Then also later on in the units, that means that if my students say — or get really defensive and say that well, everyone knows that X, Y, Z, or that’s just common sense; dude, why — I’ll be like oh, interesting, what does that phrase remind us of? Because we’ve studied exactly how master narratives are reproduced. I would say that those are really the foundations; what is dialogue, what is cognitive dissonance, what is a master narrative? Then really getting into structures of oppression like ableism, white supremacy, patriarchy. I’m working on a unit right now on speciesism and animality. I would love to work on a unit with you about…
MEXIE: Hell yeah.
MARINE: …environmental justice.
MEXIE: Hell yeah.
MARINE: Yeah, anyway, I could talk about pedagogy all day and night, ‘cause it…
MEXIE: I love it.
MARINE: …it’s very exciting to me.
MEXIE: I love hearing about it as well because I’m like oh, that’s such a great and powerful tool to use, and thinking about how I can incorporate that into my own work and my own teaching. I think that’s incredibly powerful and I agree; when I was in high school, I wish that I had learned about dominant narratives and cognitive dissonance and all of this other stuff because I was really uncomfortable in high school. I remember — ‘cause that’s — that is when you learn viscerally about your place as a woman under the patriarchy, that that’s how you learn; viscerally, by absorbing it, absorbing the male gaze and what that does to you. I remember being really angry all the time and just really depressed. I was very counterculture. I was — I don’t know if you have Adbusters there, but it’s kind of like this counterculture.
It was anti-capitalist but it didn’t really explicitly talk about capitalism. But it was like, anti-war and stuff like that. I was really into that stuff and whatever was counterculture, I was really into because I didn’t have language for it, but I knew that all of the stuff that I was absorbing from the dominant culture or society made me feel terrible and really uncomfortable. But it wasn’t until university that I started learning about the social construction of everything, basically, and that just blew my fucking mind. It just, I don’t know, it made me feel so amazing because it was just kind of validation for all the stuff that I felt internally but that I had no language to express and I didn’t — yeah, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I just feel like giving that to students in high school is incredible. That’s where it needs to start.
‘Cause if people don’t go into — if students don’t go into social sciences or anthropology or whatever, they’re not gonna learn any of this stuff. They’re just gonna go from high school absorbing all the shit from our oppressive systems and then just go into business and then just never question, never learn critical thinking, and never learn about dominant narratives and just end up parroting this shit on man-on-the-streets or whatever. So, yeah, I just think this is so powerful. I could absolutely listen to you talk about pedagogy all day because I’m like yes, more of this. I also think it helps activists in general of when you’re talking to people who aren’t necessarily your students, right? Just talking to people about leftist issues and social justice issues, right, and being able to use some of these tools around cognitive dissonance and dominant narratives to help them reach their own conclusions, you know?
MARINE: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Yeah, I think even having a classroom space where you’re telling your students the master narrative is not going to have — it’s gonna be your opinion and people can — we all have been influenced by dominant narratives but it’s not going — your argument or your opinion is not gonna be what — is not going to be stronger just because it’s a dominant narrative. That means that every single person in the classroom can share something and it’s not just because what you’re saying aligns with common sense or with the way we’ve always done things, that your opinion is gonna be the right one. That’s something I talk about right away too, in dialogue versus debate. The point of a debate is to win an argument, and the point of a debate is to prove another person wrong.
You listen in a debate just because you’re waiting for a weakness in someone’s argument that you can counteract. You don’t actually add your knowledge just because you’re adding to the common pot of knowledge and you’re trying to get a better perspective. You have to go in it being convinced that you have the right answer. Kids have learned to debate their entire school career. This is something else that I’m baffled by, that schools talk about social change and collaboration all the time, yet concretely, the education the students receive is about debating.
It’s about pitching ideas to one another and learning effective presentation skills to get by in, and then the grading system which just pits students against each other and just makes them — how are you expected to think creatively when thinking creatively could lead to you getting an F and potentially then not getting into the college you want or something. You know? For these kids, the stakes of grades is huge. At one point we need to start really aligning our assessment practices with what we want the kids to come out of school knowing how to do, because if we’re just teaching them to pitch ideas and debate the entire time, that’s what we’re gonna get.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean, my creativity was thoroughly beaten out of me by my time in academia because it was like no, that’s not gonna get you published. That’s not gonna get you anything. You can’t take risks. That’s what you learn, basically; you can’t take risks unless you’re an entrepreneur, that kind of a risk, you know? Which isn’t really a risk anyway.
MARINE: Right. Oh yeah, mm-hm. I was thinking about — sorry, go ahead. Yeah.
MEXIE: Oh no, I was just gonna move on unless you want to keep talking about pedagogy at all or maybe how you design your activities and what your process is for that.
MARINE: Sure. Well, I answered that a little bit by saying I always try to put components of empowering the students to share their personal opinions of things and then actual — some historical nuggets or whatever you want to call them that actually presents to them some kind of alternate narrative. I really try to — students love — and adults too, right, but when you feel like you have agency over an activity, any little bit of agency goes so far. So, one thing that I did in the beginning of the year is I — and this took me a long time, so I know that not all teachers are going to be able to implement something like this, but I did a Coronavirus mixer. I got this idea from a book by rethinking schools that did — what was it called?
Environmental mixer or something like that that staged different environmental activists and had them talking to each other. But so, the Coronavirus mixer, I inspired myself from that and every — I created twenty profiles with the help of a few other people. I created profiles where one of them was the profile of a health worker working in North America. Another one might have been a child living in India and having a — and going through the first lockdown. A kid in a suburban area outside of Paris, a kid in a very wealthy school inside of Paris, a disabled person who’s at home in lockdown, and just realizing that everyone is experiencing the same — a life that is similar to them and being able to telework, and all the accommodations that are being made for non-disabled people to adapt to this pandemic.
Anyway, there were a lot of different profiles. Then I had — every kid was one of the — a different person, and then the whole thing was about answering — kinda like a speed dating round where they had to meet each other and answer different questions, so like, ask each other about their experience in lockdown, ask each other what would help them, what would help them through this time. It was very interesting. Jeff Bezos was one of my characters, too.
MEXIE: Oh, shit.
MARINE: Yeah. He was like, you know, it’s been hard but he was talking about the billions that he’s gained from the pandemic and the fact that he’s saying — he’s congratulating himself because he’s paying his employees like, thirteen bucks an hour now due to — and bitching about unions or something. You know. Anyway, and it’s really interesting too; after that hour — so, anyway, I had all of them talking to each other and answering questions and then we debrief as a large class. It’s very interesting to see how much they’ve impersonated their character. Like, they’ve taken on their character. Jeff Bezos literally becomes outraged that anyone thinks he’s not doing everything that he can to fight against the pandemic.
Oh, I had an indigenous activist from a tribe in Brazil who directly speaks in his testimony about what Jeff Bezos is doing to the Amazon, so it’s very interesting to see them be in conversation with each other. Yeah, any activity like that where — I really like theatre and I like assigning characters to my students because it makes the conversation a lot more interesting and it gets them much better engaged. Anything that has to do — anything that is lightly competitive, too, I hate to say it, but it’s very effective. I designed an activity recently where it was in our ableism unit where the students had to circle — so, we have a big talk about what disability — what Professor Culture say disability means and what the dictionary definition is. Then I pass out a sheet where I’ve compiled seventy different differences, like human differences.
Some of them are illnesses, some of them are just different physical traits and personality traits. Some of them are what students would consider obvious disabilities whereas other ones are much more unknown. I tell them you have ten minutes with your partner to talk through which ones are considered disabilities. They’ll ask me well, what do you mean by that? I’ll be like, that’s it; that’s the only — we’ve analyzed the dictionary definition, so according to this definition, what is considered a disability? Then at the end of the activity, they have to count up how many that — how many they’ve selected, how many they’ve circled. I pretend like there’s a right number to circle. I’m like, whoever gets the right number is going to win this competition or whatever.
MEXIE: It’s a jar of jelly beans.
MARINE: Yeah, exactly. It’s just so interesting ‘cause after that activity — first it’s great ‘cause it makes them learn about all these disabilities that we never talk about. I have fibromyalgia on there and endometriosis and — but then I also have different traits like extroverted versus introverted or nearsighted, farsighted, black, white, Asian, autistic, dyslexia, ADHD, things like that. Then at the end of the activity, I go around and ask them how many they’ve circled, and almost every time they’ve circled — their numbers are completely different. In my last class they went from, I think, twelve to fifty-eight or something. Then we have this really cool conversation about why are the numbers so different? What conversations did you find yourself having with your partner to determine if this was a disability or not?
How would this exercise — and then after, further on — ‘cause the conversations can last the entire hour. After a good, powerful activity that’s made them really — given them substance for reflection, you can ask them how would this activity look different if we did it a hundred years ago? How would it look different if your parents filled this out? What terms would they be confused about? What would be considered offensive to be circled as a disability? Now, that was considered a disability fifty years ago, things like transgender and homosexuality and homosexual, and how would this vary if we did it outside of the classroom here? Is anyone from a place where this would look really different? How about if there were certain accommodations that this person was able to have? If this dictionary definition — literally, the dictionary definition, by the way, of the Merriam Webster is something along the lines of a disability that is notable enough that the person can’t engage in gainful employment.
MEXIE: Wow. What?
MARINE: Yeah. Yep.
MARINE: Yeah, that’s I think the second definition. I mean, I have them…
MEXIE: Gainful employment?
MEXIE: Fuck that.
MARINE: It literally — okay, so it’s an impairment such as a chronic medical condition or injury that prevents someone from engaging in gainful employment.
MEXIE: What the…
MARINE: So, that’s really interesting, right? We’ve seen how that has shifted with the Coronavirus. It’s like, well, all of a sudden all these people who couldn’t have engaged in gainful employment before can now engage in gainful employment, you know? Obviously there’s so many other barriers than a physical illness that will keep someone from being able to engage in gainful employment, like the fact that capitalism is structured to have a class of unemployed people at all times. But anyway, I don’t bring that in quite so soon.
MEXIE: But yeah, that’s brilliant, a brilliant way to talk about social model of disability and stuff like that. I love the covid — the acting activity that you just talked about. I just think that’s so incredible. I love it. Yeah, those are brilliant activities.
MARINE: Yeah, the ableism one is really interesting because — and I pull on the work of great activists that have educated me on the social model of disability and how — the Merriam Webster just defines it as it’s the condition that keeps you from doing all this stuff, but actually, a worksheet like that allows us to see that conditions like being nearsighted would not qualify someone as disabled now, but it would a hundred years — or five hundred years ago. Yet, the condition hasn’t changed, right? It’s remained identical in those two scenarios, so it’s actually like they’re so — disability is socially constructed and that your ability to participate in daily traditional activities is determined by how the medical field diagnoses you and how — and what accommodations are available to you and if society considers you normal or not. It really is all about that, our cultural definition of normal and how that shifts.
MEXIE: Yeah, I love those.
MARINE: Yeah, so, that one has been good ‘cause — any time you give them a handout and they can engage in an activity, I just find that — it’s really important, I’ve found, in my classes to switch up what they’re doing often, but especially the medium that they’re engaging with, so it might be a handout, it might be watching a video, it could be having a dialogue, it could be doing a movement activity. I have a whole activity too with pennies and picking up pennies. Anyway; it’s been hard, actually, this year with Coronavirus because kids can’t get up from their seat.
MARINE: So, yeah, I’ve had to rework a lot of the things that I do, but…
MEXIE: Yeah. Oh, I just love that, yeah. These are brilliant, brilliant activities. I feel like it’s kind of a skill in and of itself to get in that head space to be able to create an activity that will get people to reflect on the things that you want them to reflect without you having to teach them. Yeah, I think that’s really an art. So, just congrats on designing really amazing activities.
MARINE: Thanks. It’s so much trial and error, you know?
MARINE: You do it and then…
MEXIE: I guess that’s true.
MARINE: …and then it either works or it doesn’t. I’m always like oh, that would have been a really good follow-up question. Luckily too, since I have FaceTime with like, a hundred — like, the entire grade which is like, a hundred students, I get to do an activity several times. It’s always so much better by the time I’m on take four than…
MEXIE: That makes sense, that makes sense.
MARINE: …the [inaudible] first.
MEXIE: Yeah. It must be so rewarding, though. Yeah, I want to talk about how it’s landing with students. But yeah, it must be really awesome. ‘Cause I think I’m kinda feeling — I’m feeling similar to the way that you felt when you were kind of like, I need to get away from my YouTube channel. Not that I necessarily want to get away from my YouTube channel, but that it has felt I guess less rewarding and I feel like engaging with people in real life is feeling more rewarding. Leaving Twitter was great and I think it’ll — it’s gonna help me maybe move in a different direction with my channel, or to not really care so much about being seen or getting clicks and views as part of this BreadTube thing. But anyway, it must be so rewarding, I don’t know, seeing their little light bulbs go off in their heads and hearing their feedback. Yeah, what has feedback been like? How are people receiving it? Are there certain things that are landing a lot better with students than others, or…?
MARINE: That’s a great question. The short answer is yes, definitely. There’s some topics that land more easily than others. I’ve actually found that one of the hardest dominant assumptions to challenge is capitalism, the fact that they are so ingrained with this notion that capitalism is progress and that capitalism will get us out of the crisis that we’re in. Also, really this assumption — Ishmael is so relevant again because — this assumption that like oh, it’s just human nature to be destructive, is a really big roadblock and it’s one that we tackle. We also tackle logical fallacies. I want to build on that unit more for next year too, but that’s a really big logical fallacy, that human nature is just designed to be competitive and destructive and selfish.
Yeah, those things come up time and time again but I think that through experience and through designing new activities, I’m getting the students to think about that more critically than I was able to in the past. It’s also been a really interesting time to teach about race because of everything that’s happened with George Floyd and I feel like it’s really been catapulted in the mainstream discourse. I go into that class — that’s something that I need to remind myself of constantly too is like, everyone has an opinion on that. They’re all following — I don’t know, if we’re lucky, they’re following really critical leftist thinkers about all of this, but there’s also people who are following Candace Owens and Sam Harris and…
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MARINE: Yeah, so it’s like, I really have to try to not — I don’t use any buzzwords. Not that even they’re necessarily buzzwords, but there’s just words that will trigger for them an association where I’ve lost them. That is for sure important to do later because I — my goal is to give them tools to engage in the conversations as they’re being had in contemporary life. It’s not interesting if they can’t engage with — I don’t — something like Black Lives Matter, right? But I think posing that issue in these really politicized terms right away I’ve found is less effective. But yeah, it’s been interesting to teach about race also as a white teacher. I think a lot of teachers are afraid to talk about race for that reason. They’re like well, you know, I don’t — who am I to talk about it? I’m white. But it’s like yeah, so, you should definitely talk about it ‘cause you know one thing you know a lot about is whiteness. Well, actually, no, maybe they don’t know a lot…
MEXIE: Maybe they don’t, yeah.
MARINE: …about it because we’re not taught about it. But I do think that — and I do think we receive a lot of really conflicting messages around that as white allies. It’s like oh, am I taking up space that I shouldn’t be taking up by talking about racism, or is it someone else who should be talking about this? Or is it actually my duty to bring this conversation to the forefront? I totally had all these — I’m still constantly asking myself questions along those lines. But one thing that I’ve become very convinced of is that a lot of schools — I teach also in a very privileged high school for now. I do not think I will be teaching there forever. We can talk about Bob’s evolution in a second. But yeah, one thing that I have become really convinced about is that it is not productive to have a consultant coming in and talking about an issue once or twice and then having them leave and the school can just give themselves on — a pat on the back like okay, I’ve done my work now.
It’s like, when we talk about racism, we need the one black person to come in and talk to us about racism and talk to our students about it, and then they leave and then we can be like okay, all good, really glad that we took care of racism. Or same thing with homophobia. Are we gonna have that one consultant who’s like, visibly gay come in and talk about queer oppression in our classroom and then have them leave; what message does that send to our students if the only time that they see people with different identities — ‘cause let’s face it; the overwhelming majority of teachers in this school are white, and in a lot of schools. I’ve read a statistic in the US that — I don’t know, just a lot, a lot of school teachers have the identity that I have, are white women.
MEXIE: Which is something that should change as well, systemically, right?
MEXIE: ‘Cause it’s like well, you should just hire more diverse teachers as well.
MARINE: Absolutely. Yeah. But I think that when kids — what message are they receiving if the one time they see a black educator in their classroom, they’re here to talk about racism, and then that black educator leaves and then they can go back to the way things were? It feels very performative. I’m absolutely not saying that — yeah, I think there is so much value to black educators doing this work. I’m definitely not putting any of that into question but I think that one of the ways that I really talk about race is I say that I’m a white teacher, that they might be wondering what is this person — why is this person here to talk to us about race because she’s white? I talk about how that’s a part of — that’s a huge part of white supremacy and the fact that we think whiteness is not a race, that — talking about racism is just in the lane of other people because other people have a race. Maybe a Chinese person has a race or a African-American person has a race, but a white person doesn’t have a race, and I share that I didn’t even realize that I had a race until I was like, twenty, because I just thought of myself as human, right? It doesn’t matter if I…
MEXIE: Isn’t France post-racial or whatever?
MARINE: Yes, yes. We’ve solved racism here. I’m so glad you’re asking me about it. But that actually since I’m a white educator talking about race, my — I want to talk about whiteness and what is whiteness? What would Professor Culture say is whiteness? He might say things like skin color or being of European descent, or that it’s about genetics, but actually it’s about none of those things. We go through all the arguments and look at pictures, articles, whatever that disprove that whiteness is about those three things. Then we’ll have a conversation in the next session about the construction of race and how race was actually invented to legitimize colonialism and slavery and that we think of it as common sense. I asked them how many races are there and without fail, they always say four or five.
Latin X people, white people, black people, indigenous, and Asian. I say oh, that might seem like common sense to you, right? You might just think like well, that’s — I mean, that’s just the easiest way to group people that’s not deliberate in any way, but actually, no, let’s go back and study how race was constructed, looking at scientific racism in the 18th and 19th century. No, those categories were absolutely deliberately created. They really are the pillars — our entire West — all of our institutions have been built on this pillar of white supremacy and on granting this category of humans that we ascribe whiteness to as being the only people with full humanity and full access to rights and how people move in and out of whiteness all the time essentially so that whiteness can continue to perpetuate itself.
MEXIE: Yeah. If white teachers are not talking about this, that’s a huge problem. That’s why it just keeps…
MARINE: They’re not.
MEXIE: …it just goes under the radar and everyone doesn’t think that it’s a thing. You know what I mean? ‘Cause it’s just like no, we need to deconstruct whiteness. We can’t have black people deconstruct it for us. They’ve already done all this work educating us, but we need to do this.
MARINE: Right. If they can deconstruct it without us, don’t you think they would have done that?
MEXIE: Right. Yeah.
MARINE: I mean, you know, the structures of oppression isn’t just for marginalized people to deconstruct, because whiteness gives you so much access to power and resources and it’s been used as a category that’s synonymous with power for hundreds of years. But at the same time, race is not — race is like, 250 years old, right? It’s not — the construct of race is relatively recent. So, that’s also a really important thing to learn because I think a lot of students are really confused about what race is and if we created it, we can also imagine something different, right, and create something different.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, that’s really interesting. I was wondering if you notice — and I’m sure this is true, but — how things land with people based on their subject position and then also, I guess you talked a bit about people maybe reading you as a white teacher talking about race and having some feelings about that. But I was wondering if you noticed — ‘cause I think you talked before about how you’re received in the classroom on certain subjects versus how Mike is received in the classroom as a male educator. Yeah, I was just kinda wondering about those kind of things.
MARINE: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. For the race one, I think a lot of people, since they — I mean, I benefit from a lot of privilege in that conversation just because of the assumption of neutrality. It’s like oh, well, why is she even mentioning that she’s white and disqualifying herself from talking about it? There are different reactions for sure, but I think it’s rare for white people to situate themselves as white in the conversation about racism or at least in these — not at all in activist spaces, but I think in classrooms and history courses, because we have this idea that history is just neutral, right, and we’re just teaching them. I make that very clear; I’m not neutral. None of you are neutral.
But yeah, in the case of teaching about patriarchy and sexism, yeah, I mean, I’ve noticed a huge — and it’s funny because — so, yeah, I deliver a lot of these lessons with — well, sometimes my co-facilitator is male. You brought up Mike; he also teaches about this topic in his own classroom. We just get such different reactions. Yeah, I’m like oh, this is what it must be like on some level to teach about white supremacy when you’re a black teacher constantly having — being perceived as having an agenda or being overly dramatic about things that don’t actually affect you. The way that I teach about patriarchy is — I really focus on masculinity too, because in all my units I’m like okay, just in — just how I talk about whiteness when I have conversations about race, I also — are — men aren’t just the default.
Masculinity is a construct. Patriarchy and sexism doesn’t just affect — it’s not only women who have a gender, right? It’s men also. I’m kinda going all over the place with your question. I have found myself — I show a lot of videos by men that talk about masculinity, and that’s something that I’m always going back and forth between thinking like oh, well, this is kinda problematic; maybe — am I erasing the voices of the feminists who have educated these men about these topics? I try to pick videos about men who really — who definitely talk about the fact they didn’t come up with this themselves, you know? But yeah, I think I’m questioned a lot. Interestingly enough, I’m — some of my fiercest opposition in the classroom has been from the young women in the classroom who will say I’ve never experienced sexism, sexism is a problem elsewhere but it’s not a problem here, you know, I don’t feel oppressed by these sexist norms.
MEXIE: Yeah. That was so me in high school, too.
MARINE: I know, I know, and I try to have empathy. I’m like, maybe this is karma because this is exactly what I — how I would have reacted in high school.
MEXIE: Yeah; feminism is bullshit, we don’t need feminism, I don’t need any help, I’m fine on my own, I can do anything a man can do, and shut up.
MARINE: Exactly. Yeah, and so, one of the things that I — one of the conversations that we talked about recently is the cool girl trope.
MEXIE: Ugh, yes.
MARINE: I do feel like that takes the wind out of their sails a little bit because when you introduce the cool girl trope early on as basically just a male construction, like a male fantasy, it’s just like a man in a hot girl body that’s not supposed to think any of this stuff has any legitimacy and isn’t difficult and is one of the guys and blah, blah, blah, I feel like — I’m thinking of this one class which I think I told you about ‘cause I was really distraught by how the women were reacting to the unit. But yeah, in the following class, I decided to scrap what I had planned and talk about the cool girl trope. We generated ideas of — we looked at different characters in movies and talked about what it’s — what the cool girl trope is. Yeah, I think that’s so present in these young women’s — ‘cause that’s what they’ve been taught, right? Like, the way that I’m going to be a feminist is to pretend feminist doesn’t — is to say that feminist doesn’t actually — isn’t necessary anymore and to just try to be one of the guys and assimilate to that.
MEXIE: That was so me. I wish I had somebody teaching me about the cool girl trope when I was — ‘cause it’s like, on one hand I felt like this is just me, like, I am being myself, but I was so — oh, god, I was so misled.
MARINE: Oh, yeah.
MEXIE: You know? Ugh, god.
MARINE: Yeah, me too, me too. I was the ultimate cool girl in high school for sure.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, me too.
MARINE: Yeah, but it’s like, what? I don’t know. Those girls have — patriarchy just leaves so few options for women. It’s like, either you’re not conventionally attractive or you don’t invest in that male gaze and you’re treated like shit and really just not considered. In high school, the social dynamics were so intense.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. I think that was actually my issue because it was like, I was the cool girl in that I didn’t identify with a lot of what was expected of me under femininity, but I was overweight, so I didn’t fit into the male gaze. So, it was like, I was a cool girl but also treated like shit which ended up radicalizing me because I was just like — then I started to realize that no, I actually do need feminism because this is so horrible. But yeah, I think that’s really, really common, the cool girl in high school thing, because you’re so put off by what society expects of you, but then you don’t even realize that what you’re playing into is undermining your own liberation.
MARINE: Yeah. Yeah, and I think if you are conventionally attractive, it’s just — the huge irony of the cool girl, right, is that if any of those characteristics are done by a woman who’s not conventionally attractive, they’re ridiculed. Like, if you’re eating hamburgers all the time and not wearing makeup and playing video games but you’re overweight and don’t have perfect skin and don’t have male attention, you’re a loser; you’re considered a loser. It’s like, yeah…
MEXIE: And that feels terrible.
MEXIE: It feels so terrible. Yeah.
MARINE: Totally, and you and I were talking about this before, too; I had this — I was just thinking in high school how horribly women who were not conventionally attractive or fit into the male gaze were treated, and I was like yeah, I mean, our assimilation — our desire to be validated by men isn’t a vanity thing, or it’s not just about wanting that male attention. It’s a matter of survival. Oh my god, I just — now I cringe so much.
MEXIE: It’s our only value.
MARINE: It’s our only value; thinking about all the jokes that my male friends made in high school and me just laughing along with them because I knew — I mean, not only did I not realize that it was fucked up ‘cause my mind was colonized, but I also knew that the second I didn’t think that was funny anymore or wasn’t one of those girls anymore who was validated by male attention, I would be the butt of rape jokes and…
MEXIE: Exactly, yeah.
MARINE: …and of constant degradation and mockery. It’s like — yeah.
MEXIE: Oh, man.
MARINE: So mad.
MARINE: Yeah, anyway…
MEXIE: Anyway, yeah, that’s all super, super interesting and I’m really glad that you introduced them to the cool girl trope at that age, because hopefully that’ll set them on maybe a different trajectory that will be much less painful than the one that you and I went on.
MARINE: Yeah, oof. Definitely. I can talk a little bit about the new evolution of Bob, if you want to wrap this up, but…
MEXIE: Yes, please tell us about the latest iteration of Bob and then…
MARINE: But I know I just…
MEXIE: …the workshop.
MARINE: Yeah, I realized we did not talk about the workshop. But hopefully some people will make it two hours into the episode.
MEXIE: Oh yeah, we can splice it in at the start if we want.
MEXIE: Just be like, by the way, stay tuned to the end if you want to join an exclusive workshop.
MARINE: Yeah. So, along with my realization that I had with YouTube where I was like, I love scripting videos, I love doing the research, I love the pedagogy. I don’t really like to present it, though. I’ve come to a similar realization with teaching, where I like to be in the classroom but I don’t need to be there every single day. My true passion is in pedagogy. I think all night and day about what games I can design and what new ways I’m gonna package an idea for my students, like what activity is gonna be most powerful for them. I get so excited just being like oh my god, I just had a great — this is what we’re gonna do, and then spending hours and hours designing my lesson for tomorrow. Then I’m like oh, damn it, then I actually have to go and deliver it now? Can’t someone else do it?
I get a lot — yeah, I think the public — being in the public eye is not — I can see myself doing classes from time to time, like maybe speaking at conferences from time to time, but I have actually had a really tough year in terms of how taxing this has felt physically and mentally to be in front of the — in front of thirty students at 9:00 in the morning. Yeah, and it’s funny; I know that we were talking about Mike earlier and he’s a person who doesn’t really like to lesson-plan all that much but loves delivering the activities and loves being a facilitator. I felt like oh great, I can design these lessons and you can just go and give them because I don’t need to be there, or I want to observe what’s going on, but — yeah. I still do like to be in the classroom and see the a-ha moments of the students and I do like connecting with them but yeah, all this to say that I really like the pedagogy. I really like the research, and I like to be in the classroom essentially just because it allows me to upscale the curriculum and make it better. But I’m like, do I — it’s interesting; I’m like, do I like to be in the classroom ‘cause I genuinely like the experience or is it just because then I can tweak the activity in a way that I think is better?
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MARINE: So, my long-term vision with all of this is to create facilitator guides that are really comprehensive for all of these activities and put them out there for other educators to use. I really struggled to find good facilitator tips and guides going into this. There are not that many resources out there. There are some great resources like Learning for Justice, for example, that are — but they’re for content-specific lessons. If you’re a history teacher or an English teacher, there’s such a wealth of resources for what texts you can use and what activities might be very relevant to that type of classroom. But in terms of just dialogue facilitation for a class that is not graded, that doesn’t — that isn’t really academic in the traditional sense, I really feel like I had to learn everything from start to finish.
Yeah, I just think it would have been — it would be really amaze — and I think a lot of teachers also want to do this work but don’t have the time. I was very privileged to have all that time beforehand where I could do a lot of research and still my teaching hours are manageable. I have a lot of — I can spend a lot of time crafting good lessons and I know that teachers are super overworked and might very understandably not want to spend their few off hours that they have to survive and take care of themselves coming up with a Coronavirus mixer, you know? Or doing all — doing work that — doing the work that these activities would take to craft and educate yourself on before going inside the classroom. So, I just — I really want that to be my full-time job at some point.
I’m working on guides to really put these activities into writing. Full disclosure; they take forever. One guide for this disability activity that I’ve — I mentioned; I mentioned that one because I work — I’ve been working on the guide and it’s taken me two full days, basically, writing up a guide for an activity that takes an hour. But it’s because I don’t want to just be like oh, here are — here’s what you need to do, ‘cause I’ve know that — I’ve seen that curriculum out there and it’s useful for sure, but I want to put all of the follow-up questions that you might get from the students. I want to really have facilitator notes in there for how you can redirect a conversation or probe further learning if one aspect is raised or, yeah, I want to make them really complete.
Honestly, I look at this guide now and I’m like wow, if I had been given this, I would be kissing the floor that this person walks on just because it’s so useful. I really would like to — yeah, I just have such a vision for a website where there would really be a lot of different really rich and well-explained activities that are — that have different tags and that are different lengths. Yeah, so, anyway, that’s where Bob will be at some point.
MEXIE: Yeah, honestly, I — yeah, I’m so excited for this project because I would love to have guides like that. Sometimes if I’m designing my lectures or whatever, I’ll try to go online and see like oh, what are other people doing around this topic? It’s impossible to find or it’s impossible to find usable pedagogy, honestly. Yeah, I think this is a really fantastic project and I’m so excited to see where it takes you. Did you want to talk about the workshop that you were hosting?
MARINE: Oh, yes. Yes, yes. By the way, just one thing before we move onto that; I also am working with other educators who — I have a vision where they would really help me co-create some of the units that go into these facilitator guides. So, I think that’s important that I’m not coming up with everything myself and just drawing from my own knowledge. A lot of the activities also spotlight and name other educators and other activists, and we watch a lot of videos and, yeah, all of that so that it’s usable for all different kinds of educators too in all different kinds of settings. So, yes, I’m doing a workshop that Mexie will also be joining on July 5th, 6th, and 7th. The workshop will be the basics of facilitation.
It’s three ninety-minute sessions, so if you enjoyed this podcast and what I spoke about, there will be some more concrete activities for — it’s for educators who want to be facilitators in the classroom no matter what you teach. It’s really not just about — it’s not just for teachers who have an advisory type of classroom where they can do these activities. It’s also really the basics where if you’re a science teacher or a math teacher or an activist and you facilitate a group, like group discussions about something, it’s really applicable also. It’s going to be about the basics of dialogue and listening, like empathetic versus — like, generous listening versus predatory listening and some basics concepts about trigger responses and cognitive dissonance, some very practical facilitator tips of how to deal with resistance in the classroom, what kinds of questions are good questions, ways to connect student comments. Then, the third session is about that dominant assumption of neutrality that I was talking about and some of the tools that I’ve found useful and my co-facilitator has found useful in terms of tackling master narratives in the classroom. So, yeah, if you’re interested in joining, e-mail us.
MEXIE: Yeah, send us an e-mail at email@example.com and let us know that you’re interested in joining the workshop, and then we will send you the information. There is a cost to it; however, Marine can maybe fill this about the sliding scale.
MARINE: Yes. This is exactly the — what I was about to interrupt you with. The cost for three ninety-minute sessions is €185. It’s going to be me and another very experienced educator, and every person will also be getting a facilitator’s guide at the end of the workshop. However, if you cannot afford that price, the price is on a sliding scale and really, we’re operating on a basis of pay what you can. We want this workshop to be accessible to the most number of people and especially the most passionate people, so definitely don’t let cost be a barrier. If you’re committed and wanting to learn about this, please e-mail us and we can definitely work out — work something out. Yeah.
MEXIE: Yes. So, yeah, I can’t wait for this. I can’t wait to join these sessions. I think it’s gonna be awesome. Yeah, my partner’s gonna join as well, so we’re just super stoked. Yeah, everyone e-mail us if you want to join the workshop. I think it’s gonna be fantastic.
MEXIE: Yeah, well, thank you so much for coming on. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about at all in relation to all this?
MARINE: I think that’s it. I think I’ve been blabbering on for quite a while now.
MEXIE: Well, this was awesome. Yeah, thanks so much for sharing all of this. I know everyone’s gonna be super interested in what you’ve been doing and really excited about all of this, so…
MARINE: Yeah, thanks for listening and thank you for interviewing me, Mexie.
MEXIE: Yeah, I’ve gotten really good at interviewing.
MARINE: You really have.
MEXIE: Kind of soloing the podcast. I’m like yeah, I’ve really worked on my interview skills.
MARINE: Yeah, you are such a good interviewer. I always think about that when I listen to the Vegan Vanguard episodes.
MEXIE: Oh, thank you so much.
MARINE: What a privilege it is to get to experience that as an interviewee.
MEXIE: Amazing. Okay, well, yeah. I love you so much. Thanks…
MARINE: I love you so much.
MEXIE: …for coming on the show and we will see everyone next time.
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