Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Interregnum Mile Chapter Twelve

Posted: December 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

The Last Chapter

The little boy yawned and stretched his arms wide as if he were a bird atop the tallest oak preparing for a long journey. Then he lowered them gently and wrapped them around his mothers’ waist. Forming a half-smile from the edges of his mouth, trying not to appear too eager, he said in his softest voice, “Daddy, tell me again. Tell me the story again about Grandpop, and you, mommy, uncle Deacon and great-uncle Kelly. About how you defeated the colonizers.” He waited in the silence of the late evening. “Please?”  he added. The story never grew tiresome, no matter how many times in his five years he had heard it.

Ryder could never say no to his son’s pleadings. It didn’t matter that nearly 17 years had passed by. Every morning he woke up, it all felt as if it had happened only the day before. The constant retelling of the story was also his way of keeping the memory of his father alive as well. Ryder sighed. But Keesha interrupted before he could start. “Now, don’t go telling that story again! It’s late. This little boy has to go to sleep.”

Ryder feigned disappointment and replied, “Listen to your momma now. Maybe tomorrow. Uncle deacon will be coming over dinner. Maybe he can tell you the story.”

“Noooooooo,” the little boy wailed, and scrambled down off his mother’s lap in protest. Ryder looked over at Keesha as if to say, “Just one more time?”

“Ugh…” she grumbled with exasperation. “Fine! I’ll go turn down his bed covers and get his room ready for bed.” She leaned over and gently kissed the heads of her son and husband. “The quick version, now! Okay?”

“Yes m’amm,” they said in unison.

The little boy clambered up the large overstuffed chair beside his father and nestled himself.

The little boy knew the story by heart. But he delighted that every time he heard it, his father, or Deacon or great Uncle Kelly would add some twist or detail that he not heard before. It was an ever-changing tale. And it was one that every member of their community knew as well. This story was like an origin story, one in which they could identify how they came into be-coming, into a new world free of centuries of domination. And free from having to look over their shoulders. It had been a rebirth.

Ryder asked, “Now. What part of the story should we begin from? Momma says to keep it short, so let’s pick just one part for tonight, okay?” The little boy frowned but complied with this demand.

“Well …” He paused and wrinkled his forehead. “I like the part where you saw grandpop for the first time. At the grand dinner. You know, where you all tell off the guys from Romer Onyx and turn the tables?” The little boy still wasn’t clear on how tables had anything to do with birthing a revolution, but he liked the way the phrase sounded. It made him feel older and clever. Ryder gave a soft laugh and stroked his cheek. “Yes, we turned the tables. Okay … so there I was at the grand dinner. Now remember, the businessmen and scientists all thought this grand dinner was gonna be a celebration for the success of their plan to begin phase one bio-colonization of our community. And we were just the start. They were launching that same tactic all over the world eventually.”

“What’s that mean again, Dad? Bio …whatever you said?”

“Bio-colonization. It’s when the people who are in control, you know, who have most of the power, and who want to own and control others, use our bodies and minds for that control. For centuries, colonizers relied on external methods of control. External means things around the people, like taking our land. Or making laws that kept us from being truly free. Colonizers had to control us from the outside, using schools, and work, and prisons and money to keep themselves in power. When the data pods collapsed, thanks to great uncle Kelly and the other black hatters, Colonizers realized they could use technology a different way. Generations of resistance had proved their efforts messy and unwieldy. What I mean is, they didn’t work because eventually people found a way to resist.”

The little boy jumped in. “By making the nano sensors that would be inside each and every one of us? So, they could control us from the inside?”
“That’s right,” Ryder replied. “That’s the bio part.”

“Uncle Deacon says that you all realized that the first wave of resistance, the ones that destroyed the data pods, were so busy looking outside that they forgot to start looking inside.”

“Me, your momma and Uncle Deacon knew, from the moment our community started having those odd explosions that were destroying our food and water supplies, that Romer Onyx was thinking differently. So we started thinking differently, too. We weren’t totally sure what they were up to. But we knew that the fight was beyond the data pods themselves. It was us they wanted all along. Then, that night when English fainted at the RO dinner event, I stood looking over all those long tables of fancy foods, that it dawned on me what they were doing.” Then Ryder corrected himself, “Well, I had an intuition about it. It was your grandfather who developed the tools for our true liberation from it. All those years in disguise, working for RO. They never saw it coming.”

Ryder’s throat tightened. It was still hard, knowing his has lost his father twice.  Once when he was even younger than his own son was now, and then again as an adult, a short time after their counter-colonization. At least his father had a few brief years to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and to be the best man at his son’s wedding, before the cancer took him.

“Five more minutes, you two!” Keesha called from the bedroom.

The little boy bounced up and down, “Hurry, Daddy!!”

“Sorry. Yes. So back at the neighborhood, shipments of RO water and food were being shipped to the stores, ready for distribution to all our families and neighbors. But with English, through Pops and Deacon and the tunnels where we could pass messages, word had gotten out to everyone not to eat the food or drink the water. Instead, my mother, your grandma, along with everyone else in the community, coordinated with other decolonized zones like our friends from Arizona who were able to deliver for us everything we needed from their supplies. Sure, everyone had to have a little less for the time being. But our very survival was on the line. Meanwhile, Grandpop, and the rest of us were back at the RO headquarters. Grandma Susan sent out the invitations to all the elite guests that Mr. Parks had on his list. Remember she worked for RO and they had no idea she was working against them. Mr. Parks thought he was going to show off his latest innovation. I guess you could say we spoiled the party.” He laughed but the little boy remained serious.

“Get to the part where you see Grandpa for the first time!”

“Ok, ok. So English and I are all set up behind our food stations just as we planned. I worked up my best poker face. You know, where you don’t show any emotion. And these old fat cats linin’ up to enjoy English’s finest cooking.” He gave a wicked smile. “Not knowin’ all the while what they were really eating. Turning the table, as it were” Ryder laughed again, bemused by his own play of words.

The little boy nodded.

“I didn’t know yet, who had made the nano-sensors, or how they had gotten into the food. English just told me we had a spy scientist on the inside. Then Mr. Park’s calls for a toast. You know, the thing where they want everyone to listen to something special they have to say.” In his best imitation, Ryder lowered his voice with mock authority, “Everyone. May I have your attention! Thank you for coming tonight. We have something very special to announce. Romer Onyx, always on the cutting edge of innovation, has finally broken through the barriers that have prevented us from lasting success. Technology has finally caught up with our intentions. Think of it. Imagine the similarities in language in technology and the way we use language for our own bodily systems. Computers run on codes and we are made of DNA codes. We have a neurological system and computers have a system. We get sick with viruses and computers can also be attacked by viruses. The coding of data is nothing compared to the coding of DNA in terms of what potential lies therein for our benefit.” He breathed in deeply and puffed up with anticipated triumph. “And now, my friends, we have moved from metaphor to metonymy. What do I mean? I mean, we have finally discovered a way for the ultimate surveillance and control. Bio-colonization! The latest tech allows us to conduct surveillance and control without the mess of data pods, or policing, or messy regulations that can be refused. Imagine a world of total compliance without the violence of resistance!”

“And everyone liked that idea, daddy?”

“Well, everyone in that room did. At least until…”

The little boy popped up excitedly and interjected. “Until Grandpop walked out into the center of the room!”

Ryder pulled him back down into a seated position. “Yes, that was what happened next. Grandpop walked out from behind on the large staging areas in the back of the room, where all the tray and carts had been stacked. At first, I didn’t recognize him. Remember, it had been about ten years since I had seen my dad. I was younger than you when he left. And I thought he was dead so it didn’t occur to me that it could even be him.”

Ryder pulled his fingers up to his eye and pushed the beginnings of a tear away.

“It’s okay, Dad” the little boy said softly.

“He struts out into the center of the room. Right in the middle of Mr. Park’s speech! Before he says anything, he looks at right at me. I braced myself against the wall. The moment he looked right into my eyes, I knew it was him. I couldn’t believe it. But somehow it all made sense. I can’t explain it. I guess a part of me kept him alive, hoping for a moment like this. And the way my mom, your grandmother, was never grieving the way I knew she would have if she really believed him dead. It was like she was just waitin’ all those years. Like she knew something. “

At that moment, Keesha came back into the room. “You’re gonna just drag this out, aren’t you?” She chided him. “Ryder, let me finish this story so this young man can get some sleep!” She sat on the couch beside them and continued, “So your daddy is so much in shock, seeing his father for the first time. I was in the kitchen with English taking the tiny nano- sensors and fixing them into the food. Grandpop showed us how. They were invisible to the eye. And we had to be careful. But we did it. When I walked out, I saw Grandpa in the center of the room explaining to all those folks exactly what had just happened. Mr. Parks, he was too stunned to move, or to do anything. And then Grandma Susan came out into the center of the room holding a video recorder. She fixed the camera on Grandson. ‘People of Interregnum Mile’ he began, ‘It’s me, Reverend Booker. I have been working undercover here at Romer Onyx for ten years, uncovering their plan. People in decolonized zones everywhere. We are again under attack. Once upon a time, they brought diseased blankets to the indigenous people to kill them-using their own biology against them. Now, hundreds of years later, they have found way to again colonize us through our bodies. Our community resources have recently come under attack very strategically by Romer Onyx. They created a crisis so that they could then swoop in and provide so-called salvation. But of course, their help comes at a price. See this in my hand?’ He held up his fingers but you couldn’t really see the tiny chip in his fingers. ‘Of course you can’t. Its invisible. But I am holding something called a nano sensor.”

Ryder jumped in excitedly, saying “So then your grandpop announces in his most commanding voice, ‘We need to counter-colonize them!”

“Everyone in the audience just gasped,” Keesha added. “The guards were waiting for the signal from Mr. Parks, but he knew enough to hear out your grandfather first.”

Ryder said, “So then your grandpop says, ‘While we avoided the virus infecting us thistime, subverting their tactics to create a crisis by which we were forced to comply with their ‘help’ which amounted to an attack, not unlike how water in Flint MI was deliberately poisoned destroying generations of families in the process. From there, they got an idea. They got the idea for bio-colonization.   What started as GMOs and the ways food are genetically modified began to affect the human body, the coders knew they were on to something. The relationship between DNA coding and computer coding went from metaphor to metonymy. The coding of each were interlaced.”

“They wanted to poison us?” the little boy asked. Keesha and Ryder looked at each other, sadly. “They didn’t want to kill us, honey. We were more like …” she searched for the right word, “… a product, or a resource, to them.” The little boy frowned. His face looked tired. “He’s gotta go to sleep, honey” Keesha insisted to Ryder.

“Ok. So let’s hurry!” Ryder said to the little. Boy. “I wanted so badly to run to your grandfather. To hug him. He looked like he might just pass out right there on the floor. I had to help. I said to everyone in the room as Susan turned the camera on me, ‘We could fight and refuse but they’d keep coming.’ I looked at everyone in the room, my face hot with fury, ‘You’dkeep coming. Youwon’t stop! You’ll find one way since we had refused the last.’ Then your Momma came into the center of the room.”

“That right,” Keesha said, “I spoke right into the camera and said, ‘We had to think more strategically. What could ensure our safety better than parity? Or equity? We facilitated an arrangement of mutually assured survival or destruction. Now, theyall have nano sensor data pod coding in our bodies.” A loud murmur rose through the ballroom, people turning left and right examining one another’s bodies as if they could detect a physical change. ‘You can’t taste it. You can’t smell it. But it’s there.  In that fine meal Mr. English prepared for all of you.  And now, wehave the means for surveillance and control-thanks to Reverend Booker. We co-opted all of your programming since it was the programming he helped build. We all hold the power now. The only thing that matters more to men who want to take away the freedom of others, is the right to their own freedom. You will forgo this new effort toward bio-colonization because we now have that same leverage over you. We own your data. We can track your bodies. Your movements. We will take from you, or give to you, that which you take or give to us. It is counter-colonization.’”

“So what happened?” the little boy asked, although he knew the answer. He yawned. Ryder stroked the side of cheek.

“Well, RO lost all of its investors practically overnight. Investors are the people with money to make the company run. With no money, RO couldn’t continue its work. Those investors had ingested the nano-sensors. And we had not. They were now as powerless as they had tried to make us.  But RO’s plan had backfired. They destroyed themselves.”

Keesha lifted the little boy, and he fell limply into her arms with sleep.  Ryder had to wrap up the story. “Your grandfather shared the technology he had created with every other decolonized zone we knew. We shared knowledge and we shared our resources. After the fall of RO, the most powerful corporation in the world, all other companies were too afraid to attempt to use bio-colonization either. RO had been a warning to them all, that we too had power. And we had no need for them. They’re still out there. Running their little schemes and plots to run the world. And they do, in their own way. We can’t change that. But that’s their world. And we stay clear of it. We don’t want world domination. We want freedom…for ourselves, and for anyone else who seeks it. And we no longer have need of their world.”

Ryder sighed, feeling exhausted himself. “The powerful have always used sneaky techniques to lure the powerless into a system owned and run by them, with the false promises that all the powerless need to do is play by the rules of the colonizer, and that somehow they too can aspire to power. But those who make the rules always design the rules to keep others in their place, no matter what they say otherwise. The system was designed in their image. And there is no room for us. There never was. The system isthe power. So, we designed a new system for arranging ourrelationship to the rest of the world. One in our likeness. One that is equitable and sustainable on our terms. We own our narrative now.”

The little boy wasn’t sure what all of that meant. His parents had done what they often do toward the end of the story, fall back into using grown up terms that he couldn’t understand. It was as if they were retelling the story for themselves. Which, in a way they were. The new narrative must remain alive for future generations. The little boy fell asleep, safely in world where he would never have to worry about his safety, health, security, or freedom. Was it too good to be true? Anything is possible, if we direct our attention to the right things, and the right people.

We are a creation of the stories we tell ourselves, about who we are, and what we can be.  We read and write the world. And we can re-write the stories that others tell about us. Action begins with voice. Even if those stories begin as fiction, as this one did, it does not mean they cannot equally be true. Or possible.

I recently had the privilege of reading Dufresne’s powerful illustrated history of educational and institutional racism in the United States. Dufresne blends written narrative (which includes both research as well as personal experience) with the language of visual aesthetics. The result is a bittersweet composition of unspeakable sadness and indelible hope. The story unfolds not only in text, but in the lines, color, and style of her artistic talents. In recent decades graphic novels have developed increasing “legitimacy” in the halls of academic literature (not to mention dissertations- see Sousanis, 2015). Dufresne book has earned its place in the halls of this burgeoning “cannon” of alternative storytelling; alternative in the genre, as well as the narratives it chooses to include. In the case of The History of Institutional Racism, the aesthetic is the intellectual and the aesthetic is the lived experience.

The book is a visual journey, comprised of a series of brightly-colored highly stylized panels, each unfolding a moment in our oppressive and unjust history. Occasionally the panels are accompanied by a quote by W.E. Dubois or another significant scholar/activist. My favorite panel of all is this one:

The series of 18 panels are followed by process-oriented reflections from the artist herself, and a thoughtful collection of questions for the reader. I appreciate this second section not merely as an addendum, but as a powerful compendium to the images, because it brings the artist in direct dialogue with her reader, and deepens our own reflections/responses to the artwork itself. Dufresne writes, “painting the panels became all-consuming and when I had more ideas than I could fit in the paintings I quickly picked up a marker and jotted down the research notes that I did not want to forget around the edges of my paintings.” The process and end-result reminds me of the creative process of “underpainting” coined by Sumara and Dennis (1998). As Irwin describes the process, “these paintings and the space between them, that is the underpainting, and the final paintings, illustrate an unfolding in/sights” (2003, p. 66). In underpainting, nothing is “erased.” Instead, the artwork, just as Dufresne does with the historically marginalized narratives of oppressed persons, is to scrape away at that top painted surface to reveal, “those ghosts and formerly rendered shapes that the artist (in this case, our dominant narratives) had intended to paint out forever” (Fraser, in Irwin, p, 66)

The result is a layering effect — of ideas and concepts, as well as layering of colors, words and images that evoke emotion. Dufresne embraces her creative process as a valuable piece of the understanding of the work itself… the process, not merely the product, strikes the reader as an important facet of examination. The work creates transformative and re-combinant aesthetic arrangements that lead to a reading/visual experience that “feels risky, dangerous, forbidden-for within it, we are able to imitate nothing but who we are” (Sumara and Davis, 1998, p. 2). The artwork renders the complexity of our collective experiences without reducing painful histories to platitudes.

Dufresne’s strongest aspects of this work are her intellectual passion and artistic integrity. What I mean is, she committed herself to the research and allowed emotion and intuition to move her hand across each piece of canvas, allowing the stories of the individuals included in each panel, to speak their truth to power. The story told through the creative lens of Dufresne influences the story being told, and offers a new way of seeing history so often discussed but so rarely understood (much less celebrated in any radical or authentic sort of way).

Going back to Maus (Spiegelman, 1996) the arts have been a means for telling powerful and painful narratives. Images, being synchronous, allow the reader to be a “viewer” taking in an entire image (thought, story, idea, or perspective) immediately (visually). Images offer a synchronicity of ideas rather than a diachronicity (linear over time). This matters imagistically; creating effective and compelling images where color, line, and flow “speak” to the reader/viewer in a unique stylistic fashion. Conceptually this also matters, because what was historically “then” is simultaneously what is “now,” and all historical moments are interconnected. We need to rethink time as “that was then…” and juxtapose moments across time and space as the reminder that everything we have been is eternally with us…now. What shall we do about it? The synchronous juxtaposition of different ideas in one image conjure, as Sandy Grande in the book’s Foreword says, “connecting the dots between racial difference, economic inequality, and the accumulative logics of capital.”. For example, Dufresne illustrates on p. 3 the corrupt neoliberal relationships between Bill Gates and the land grab – the panel asks us to consider what new connections can we make between the two, important connections which linear history limit us from imagining — and therefore limiting our possible actions is response. I found the “possible actions” section which is very useful.

The entire project was framed by the philosophy of the radical imagination citing the ideas of Max Haiven (2014) who states, “Our crisis of power is linked to our crisis of imagination: how can we envision and actualize resilient and powerful alternatives?” Stylistically and socially/politically it could be no other way. Dufresne is writing on the edges of our collective memories and marginalized histories — intersecting the creative process with re-imagining whose stories ought to be told. Dufresne committed her process to a radical imagining of “the possibilities of relational, transitive, and creative solidarity as a strategy for recasting not only human relations but also the very notion of what it means to be human,” which is “crucial for decolonization” (Gatzambide-Fernandez, 2012). Each panel in this books unfurls the deep emotional connection to destructive polices of segregation and violence done to the bodies and minds of people of color since the age of Columbus.

I feel it would have benefited from a brief explanation (an index in the back, or a footnote. Or…) of certain concepts unfamiliar to readers new to education history or policies, such as the Bell Curve or Common Core (What is it? Where did it originate? How does it connect with other concepts in that panel?) … Or, “the opt out movement”. Some readers may need to contextualize what these concepts are (i.e. Opt out of what? Why?). Without context or definitions, it’s more difficult to appreciate the connections Dufresne is making. I realize the design/scope of this book would make an addition such as this a challenge. But the book is immensely valuable and powerful and I would love to see it read by/reach people beyond those of us who already have an understanding of the general scope of racism as it intersects with education policy. In tandem with this observation, I believe the book would have benefited from a reference list at the back end of the book which lists all the sources used by Dufresne in her own research and those which are quoted in the panels/text themselves. Readers may be inspired to continue their own research and wish to pursue the same readings as the artist herself. As a work which I believe must be treated as an important scholarly contribution in academic settings (k12 and college classrooms), a reference list of sources cited/used is important.

Dufresne’s commitment to this project shows in every aspect of the work. It is evocative, provocative, and effective. It is a must-read for every classroom. By embracing the experience of underpainting her process, in the vein of the radical imagination, Dufresne gives of her talents and of herself; mind, body, and spirit. She invites us to take a journey to “underpaint” our own assumptions, our own distorted histories, and our subjective identities – to “read” her artwork “through the act of being and becoming, the process of living an aesthetic of unfolding” (Irwin, 2003, p. 73). I encourage you all to join her.


Gatzambide-Fernandez, R. (2012).  Decolonization and the pedagogy of solidarity.           Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1 (1), 41-67.

Haiven, M. (2014). Crisis of Imagination, crisis of power: Capitalism, creativity and the     commons.  London, UK: Zed books.

Irwin, R. (2003). Toward an aesthetic of unfolding in/sights through curriculum. Journal of Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 1(2), 63-78.

Spiegleman, A. (1996). The Complete Maus. New York, NY: Pantheon Books

Sousanis, N. (2015), Unflattening. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Sumara, L. & Davis, B. (1998). Underpainting. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 14 (4), 1-5.

NOTE: This is a full-length book, being published chapter by chapter with a new chapter posted every two weeks. Readers will have to stay tuned for “what’s next.” The story is copyrighted by the author (Morna McDermott) but may be freely shared and re-blogged/posted (with citation to the author). The purpose of the story was to create a thought experiment. What will happen if/when the corporate destruction of public education and society is complete? Can we begin to imagine/enact a different set of societal structures that are more equitable, anti-racist, sustainable, and democratic? Do we have the collective will to manifest such a future? What can we learn from good examples in the past? Can we take some cues from the world of fiction to begin the conversation? This is a story of hope.

Please join us and enjoy the story! Feedback/comments welcome in the comment box. 


Story Summary

Ryder, Keesha, and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacons grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.


The preacher man’s hands shook fiercely as he held the tool deftly over the nano sensor, as he had done hundreds of times over the last several years. He strained to keep them steady, knowing that all these years of work, of sacrifice, could be blown with one wrong twitch. The man emptied his mind of the boy so he could focus on the task at hand. While he imagined the scenario over and over, knowing that some day, somewhere, this would all be over and he could return home — nothing had truly prepared him for seeing Ryder. He was so much a man and still so much the infant boy he had remembered.

While he had not anticipated the strange turn of events that had transpired these last few weeks, the preacher’s soul trembled with joy that universe had conspired to bring these series of events about. He looked at the nano sensor resting so benignly under the high powered microscope. This. This could change everything. This was power in the right hands. Wasn’t that what all this had been about? He knew as a preacher that sometimes words must be followed by actions. And as a man of God he knew such action would require sacrifice. He didn’t see any other way. His faith convinced him that forgiveness was also possible. Would Ryder and Kelly forgive him for his deception? They had to. Only his wife and English knew of his whereabouts. To tell anyone else would compromise the project, not to mention their very physical safety. Ryder, being a child, would not have understood. He would have defied any rules to go and find his father. The man laughed under his breath, still steadying his hands at work. Well, he wound up here anyway, on his own accord. Ironic maybe. Destiny? Didn’t matter. What mattered was that now he knew what was possible. The moment he saw Ryder posing as a food server across that large ballroom standing dutifully besides English, he knew that something transformative was going to happen.

His fondest memory of Kelly was as they stood as young adolescent brothers atop the data pods, together rallying the people toward certain victory all those decades ago. Kelly and the Black Hatters leading the charge. It was finally over, and they cheered to one another. Hope, like a rare gem, shone bright that day. But Preacher had studied the ways of power, domination, and human nature in seminary. The lingering possibility that in fact, even though they decolonized themselves, it wasn’t over, gnawed at his consciousness.

He had tried to talk it out with his community parish on the 10 year anniversary of their liberation. The room was packed because finally had people begun to believe again that change was possible. Things were going so well. He argued, “The colonizers have a playbook. They’ve had it for centuries. They force those that are not them, into a state of weakened dependency. And then they castigate those peoples for the same dependency they created. The colonizers lie, saying what they want is to free themselves of the ‘burden’ we seem to be upon them. They say that: We… cost them money. We….cause problems. We… are cause of our own demise …. For our poverty, for our lack of education, for our lack of ….well, you name it. Lack induced by their colonizing ways. But that story is powerful and it worked for a long time. But here we stand today, liberated from that never-ending sick pattern of domination. We remain vigilant over the data pods, protecting them from the grips of those that wish to reclaim us.”

People cried and cheered, clapping their hands. When the roar died down he continued. “Today we remember our freedom. We have finally extracted ourselves from their yoke. We are self-sustaining. We chart our own way. We no longer depend on the colonizers and their corporations for their education, for their jobs, their food, their housing. We own our future.”  He looked at the face of his infant son and wife, and imagined their future.

There were more cheers. His face then became overcast. “However, I have come to believe something else about those that have dominated us for long. For centuries we were taught to need them, to live in forced reliance upon them for our existence. And we proved them wrong…yes, we did. But here’s the twist. I fear that it is they– that need us. They need us in a subservient position of domination. They never wanted us to be free of their control even despite their snake oil promises for policies that would somehow “lift us up” from the very conditions they created. Now that we are free of them, they will do everything in their power to get us back. Why? Why can’t they live free themselves and leave us alone? We are no longer a so-called burden. Why? Because the opposite of what we have been conditioned to believe is true. It is this. They will come back for us because they need our dependency for their existence. They cannot survive without us under their boot.”

The room fell silent. He could hear shoes scuffing the wooden floor and the cry of a small baby echoing in the rafters of the high ceiling. No more cheers. This wasn’t the rallying cry they had expected. His heart sank. Even Kelly had a strange look that suggested, “What are you saying, man?” What they wanted to hear and what he knew to be true fell out of alignment. So he redirected his sermon back to the soaring poetry of hope and promise. Hadn’t they created a new life for 10 years already? A community on their own terms. In their own image. Yeah. It would be great.

It was the preacher’s job to make sure they succeeded. So he sacrificed his life in order to create an insurance policy against future attacks. He knew in his gut that RO wouldn’t give up. Their dependency on the dependency of others was a sick addiction to power and control. And addicts don’t simply walk away from the tongs they need the most. RO simply had to rethink their strategy for scoring their dope; the people. Atop the data pods, groaning in defeat, Kelley was on patrol of the data pods that evening. The preacher took one last look at his brother, and quietly slipped behind the machines into the back side streets and up toward his home, for one last goodbye. English was waiting for him at the edge of the fields beyond the community gardens. They had to move quickly. Ryder was still a baby. In despairing whispers under the soft lamp light, he and his wife agreed this must be done. She would keep his secret. They would stay in touch. English would send messages routinely between them. It won’t be forever, they promised each other. “Stick to the story” he said. Yes she nodded, “You went out, off grid, to do mission work with a bourgeoning decolonizing zone. They were attacked. You never returned. MIA.” Her words tightened around the airway in her throat. He kissed his infant son gently on the forehead, slung his knapsack over his shoulder and winnowed his way like a shadow through the streets.

It felt like a lifetime ago, when he was young and fearless. Now at 42, he was feeling is age. And ten years away from his wife and child, who was now a young man of fourteen, felt like an eternity of absence.

What he hadn’t planned on was the brilliance and organizing capacity of the young people of Interregnum City, notably among them his own son. They had figured out, without his aid, what RO’s next steps would be. And they came here to stop it, not really sure how they would, but knowing they had to find a way. English had filled the preacher in on how Ryder and Keesha had hacked Susan’s computer and discovered the evidence to confirm their theory: that the data pods were a distraction. Attempts by RO to reclaim dominance over them would be acquired not through obvious force, but through a manufactured crisis — through the very resources that make life itself possible: food and water. Once Interregnum City’s self-sustaining supply of food and water were destroyed they would have no choice but to rely on RO for their survival. But food and water dependency weren’t enough. They weren’t merely trying to profit from sales of goods. RO had learned their lesson—that people will claw their way to freedom eventually and with new technologies being developed in Arizona and elsewhere for cities to hope for decolonization, RO knew the city and its people would never stop trying, and possibly succeeding. What they needed was a permanent, invisible, indelible source of surveillance and control to develop indefinite dependency.

For ten years Preacher had found a way to infiltrate the RO laboratory; working his way up from lab technician now to project leader with access to every top secret project. He had paid close attention in his youth as his brother Kelly moved up the ranks of the Black Hatters. He knew enough just from listening and watching Kelly to make himself a believable “tech guy” and with a recommendation from English to Mr. Parks, he was in.

Then all he had to do was continue to prove himself, and to keep his subterfuge under wraps. It was a close call, when he infected the fetus tracking project with a virus that left the embryos successfully tagged with genetic modifications yet impossible to track. He had been successful but one slip up and he would have been exposed. But the risks had been worth it. From that trail experiment Preacher was able to accomplish what he called Phase Two, which he was now perfecting. He kept his hands steady under the microscope. Seeing Ryder with English at the ballroom where RO announced to its investors that they had the “next big thing” in data surveillance, he knew that this Phase two was possible.

As he had explained to English, the evening after he had passed out and recovered without notice thanks to Ryder, they could make a real plan — one that, if it worked would end this battle for freedom from corporate control once and for all. While he had successfully altered the genetically modified microscopic nano sensors without RO knowing, he still had not figured out what to do with this secretly modified material. Now he knew. Thanks to the plan crafted by Ryder. English had told him everything. Preacher knew about RO grand plan, about the use of machine to destroy the water and land of all decolonized zones. But it was Ryder, with Keesha and Deacon who had imagined how to use this as a strategy of their own. Like an incomplete puzzle, each had a missing piece (the kids had a plan but no weapon and Preacher had a weapon but no plan). Fate had bought them together one not knowing what the other had, or knew…and now they could come together and end this once and for all.

But even as much as Preacher worried about the logistics of the execution of this plan which would require the entire community, he worried about the reaction Ryder would have when he was reunited with the father he thought he had lost.

Wherever I go, I discover how few people have heard the term “social impact bonds” and for those who have, they usually have received little more than the glossy sales pitch offered by social impact bonds snake oil salesman, and so assume they are a good thing. Here is a list of a few scholars who look under the hood of the glossy sales pitch and reveal some important but little known facts about this effort to recolonize public (mostly urban) spaces. Like its predecessor, charter schools, social impact bonds market themselves as the “saviour” to communities of color that have suffered under decades of racist policies and austerity measures. Like charters, here is the problem marketing itself as the solution. Can we learn ahead of the curve this time? While my “go to” sites are by Alison McDowell and Data Disruptors, its important to have multiple sources and to appreciate that our critique of this financial scheme is well documented and researched. So why aren’t we hearing more about this? And … Why the “crickets” from education persons and groups who have large audiences and social media presence? Please click to read to learn, and better yet, click to read to share.

Social Impact Bonds (Pay for Success): Yet Another Privatization Scam – janresseger  (minute 29)


Race, Finance, And The Afterlife Of Slavery on Vimeo

Rhode Island Union: Social Impact Bonds Are About Greed, Not Good – Next City

Social Impact Bonds — a Primer – Seattle Education

Profiting from Pain: social impact bonds and social policy – Policy and Politics Journal

Social Impact Bonds: The Titans of Finance as the Altruistic Merchants of Schooling and the Common Good | Dissident Voice

Bonded Life: Technologies of racial finance from slave insurance to philanthrocapital: Cultural Studies: Vol 29, No 5-6

Image result for detecting emotional changes in chinese workers with data

(China is monitoring the brain activity of employees in its state-run firms. The technology works by placing wireless sensors in workers’ hats that when combined with AI can spot workplace anxiety or depression. Pictured is a version installed in the cap visors of train drivers Pic courtesy. )

While many would agree this report from China is disturbing …( One snippet from the longer articles states: “Workers outfitted in uniforms staff lines producing sophisticated equipment for telecommunication and other industrial sectors. But there’s one big difference – the workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management then uses to adjust the pace of production and redesign workflows, according to the company. The company said it could increase the overall efficiency of the workers by manipulating the frequency and length of break times to reduce mental stress.”)  …

… if you share this report with most people, they will reply, “Well, that’s China. This is a democracy. It will never happen here.”

What if it already is? What if I were to hide all the identifying information from any of the reports posted below, would you really be able to tell which one was talking about China and which one was talking about public education in America?

At some juncture we have to accept things are they are really happening and not as we wish them to be. The primary source reports (two examples shared below) from organizations and institutions right here in the good ol’ USA speak for themselves. Then compare this with the report from China.

  1. From the Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: Critical factors for Success report published by the U.S> Office of Educational Technology in 2013 (the link to the website is no longer available. Fortunately I saved it on my hard drive. You can read the report here.) The report says, “Examples of affective computing methods are growing. Mcquiggan, Lee, and Lester (2007) have used data mining techniques as well as physiological response data from a biofeedback apparatus that measures blood volume, pulse, and galvanic skin response to examine student frustration in an online learning environment, Crystal Island. Woolf, Burleson, Arroyo, Dragon, Cooper and Picard (2009) have been detecting affective indicators within an online tutoring system Wayang Outpost using four sensor systems, as illustrated in Exhibit 11. Sensors provide constant, parallel streams of data and are used with data mining techniques and self-report measures to examine frustration, motivation/flow, confidence, boredom, and fatigue. The MIT Media Lab Mood Meter (Hernandez, Hoque, & Picard, n.d.) is a device that can be used to detect emotion (smiles) among groups. The Mood Meter includes a camera and a laptop. The camera captures facial expressions, and software on the laptop extracts geometric properties on faces (like distance between corner lips and eyes) to provide a smile intensity score. While this type of tool may not be necessary in a small class of students, it could be useful for examining emotional responses in informal learning environments for large groups, like museums. The field of neuroscience also offers methods for insight into some of the psychological resources associated with grit, especially effortful control. Using neuroimaging techniques, such as fMRI, it is possible to examine which parts of the brain are active during times of anxiety or stress and the effects of some interventions. For example, Slagter, Davidson, and Lutz (2011) have investigated the effects of systematic mental training and meditation to enhance cognitive control and maintain optimal levels of arousal. Motivation was found to be associated with greater activation in multiple brain regions. Moreover, studies have reported functional and structural changes in the brain and improved performance of long-term practitioners of mindfulness and concentration meditation techniques that enhance attentional focus. These initial findings are promising evidence of the cognitive plasticity and malleability of brain functioning for processes related to grit. While it is impractical to use fMRI in the classroom (i.e., it is a prohibitively expensive, room-sized machine), Ed Dieterle and Ash Vasudeva of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation point out that researchers such as Jon Gabrieli and Richard Davidson are beginning to use multiple methods to explore how specific brain activity is correlated with other cognitive and affective indicators that are practical to measure in school settings.”

Exhibit 11.  Four parallel streams of affective sensors used while a student is engaged in Wayang Outpost, an online tutoring system


2. New education devices from Brain Co. seen advertised here in a scary video.  According to a PR report on Brain Co, “Focus 1 is a wearable headband that detects and quantifies students’ attention levels in the classroom. It works in conjunction with Focus EDU, the world’s first classroom portal for teachers to assess the effectiveness of their teaching methods in real time and make adjustments accordingly.”


(image link)

But wait! There’s more. According to one report, “Increasing engagement in class isn’t the only way BrainCo plans to sell its product. According to Newlon, the startup hopes to secure approval from the US Food & Drug Administration to use the headset for ADHD therapy.”

Yes … it CAN happen here. While China has ordered 20,000 devices already, Brain Co reps say “Our goal with the first 20,000 devices, each of which will be used by multiple students in schools, is to capture data from 1.2 million people … This will enable us to use artificial intelligence on what will be the world’s largest database to improve our algorithms for things like attention and emotion detection.” While BrainCo has not yet established any policies that guide (or prevent) the company from using data collected from U.S. students, the company intends to “use [headset] data for a number of different things,” according to Newlon.


A New Campaign!

Posted: May 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

Technology is replacing teachers, Classrooms and students are becoming pipelines of data collection for the profit of private corporate interests. As we saw with the news about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, we know that “he who owns the data rules the world”. Through powerful lobbying tech companies are transforming education. Technology that gathers information from students are replacing person-to-person interaction with teachers and ending hands on learning. The personal data students are forced (unknowingly) to provide these companies, is a gold mine of private information about our children.

We want to end the invasive corporate control of students, schools, and communities being pushed in the name of technology. We want to create actions to eliminate the mining, tracking, and surveillance of student data by government and corporate entities.

The outcomes of this campaign (one personal, one more social/public) are 1. Protect our individual children/students from corporate surveillance, and 2. Dismantle corporate-led education policies that place public education into the hands of private corporate interests intended toward greater social surveillance and control.

There are two problems we address. First, is to identify and share what the problem is (it’s complicated). Two, the problem is too big (technology is everywhere! How can we fight this?)

The problem is larger than the focus of this campaign alone (read more at

(Image courtesy of Alison McDowell)

Dear County Council Members,

I am writing on behalf of concerned BCPS parents regarding the newest rounds of BCPS policy involving STAT (specially the leasing of 1:1 devices, the amount of assessment and instructional time spent on devices, and data privacy).

  • We, the community, know there is something fundamentally wrong with the increased push toward technology based instruction and assessments in lieu of human and collaborative interactions. Yet, our voices are being ignored.
  • There is no data to suggest that moving away from existing models of instruction and assessment and toward (so called) “personalized” device driven instruction is any better for children.
  • There is ample evidence suggesting that the switch toward more online providers for teaching and learning are driven by economics (saving money for the district and profits for the companies who lobbied for the policies) thus outing money over human health and well-being. The people directly involved with education technology industry and policy are quick to tell you that every child “needs” 21st century skills, that they “need” to be educated more and more via online methods. Yet, they have NO evidence to show this is in fact “necessary.” So ask….WHY? It’s on YOU, the BCPS policy makers to pause and ask yourselves this question.

Because here’s what we DO know. Online device-driven instruction leads to:

  • Increased risks of obesity-increased seat time
  • Reduction of opportunities to engage with multiple learning styles: kinesthetic, social, verbal, environmental…all reduced to visual screen time.
  • Loss of socialization and development of social cuing.

“You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication,” said Yalda Uhls, a senior researcher with UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center, in a news release. “If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”

Kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens, and it may be inhibiting their ability to recognize emotions, according to new research out of the University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Damage to eyes, hands/wrists, and neck.

“Children can develop pain in their fingers and wrists, narrowed blood vessels in their eyes (the long-term consequences of which are unknown), and neck and back pain from being slumped over their phones, tablets and computers.”

  • Loss of data privacy = online platforms delivered to third party organizations who track every response and behavior your child makes in their learning process. Every bit tracked and monitored and managed. My child is not an unwilling consumer forced to share private information simply because a private company (like Pearson or KIPP) has been made an LEA.
  • Increases ADHD-like symptoms. “Children who are heavy users of electronics may become adept at multitasking, but they can lose the ability to focus on what is most important, a trait critical to the deep thought and problem solving needed for many jobs and other endeavors later in life.”
  • An adrenaline driven mentality to learning (like addiction). As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyper-aroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome.These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention…excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties

So please, as you decide to vote to spend more monies on technology (simply because it seems like the “in” thing or “cool” thing to do because well, “everybody’s doing it”) consider this: Years from now, after learning has been destroyed for a generation of our children because of the lack of thought you put into the decisions you are making for them today, you may find yourselves taking a stand. We, the community will be demanding  from you an account for your ignorance and negligence in the face of facts, concerns, and plain common sense which we are presenting to you today. If we learn from anything from history its how not to repeat the same mistakes. Don’t destroy a generation of our children for the sake of politics and power. Schools should not be a pipeline of profit (and surveillance) between our children’s data and corporations. Be better than that. Hit the pause button and learn the facts before making decisions that will lead to irreparable harm for our children and our public schools.



Morna McDermott McNulty

BCPS parent and Professor of Education, Towson University