Tag Archive | revolution class

Shouting down the Guru

Once upon a time, i taught a class on revolution.  It was not a history class, it was a design class.  What we discovered was that you could only be a revolutionary in a field that you were passionate about, thus part of the class was about focusing on what the students cared most deeply about.

Another part of the class was about looking at power relations and disassembling them where possible, including the power relationship between teachers and students.  Part of what we did to rebalance the power relationship was practice having the students in the first class yell “bullshit!” at the teachers.


This was not just a one-off cutesy exercise, it was an invitation for the entirety of the class.  Whenever what the teachers were doing was boring or irrelevant to a student, we asked them to yell this at us.  In response we would change the trajectory of the class.  Sometimes the yelling student would take over leading the class (my favorite).  Sometimes the teachers would listen to their critique, offer something different and if was acceptable we would do that instead.  A few times we went out and played capture the flag in downtown Charlottesville where the class was held.  A couple times we ended class early.

Perhaps every fourth or fifth class someone would yell bullshit at us.  We never ignored it.


Photoshop rendition of Ruth, circa 2015

Students grow up. Ruth was one of my favorites. She was upbeat and clever despite having an impossible home situation. After she graduated she became a teacher of the class for a while.

She joined a spiritual community and found herself critical of the teachings of the spiritual leader of the group.  One day during the daily teachings of the master, when the students were supposed to be quietly listening, she realized that what he was saying was nonsense.  She yelled “Bullshit” at the guru and left the group.

There is no greater reward to being a teacher than feeling your “lessons” were applied.


Some Gurus are better than others


Class Reunion

The best job i ever had was teaching the revolution class at LEC.

And over the dozens of kids i worked with over 5 years, the one i was most worried about was Ian.  Ian was an angry punk who ran afoul of the law several times before he was 18.  Stupid shit, spray painting a car, riding his bike on the roof of buildings.  I appreciated his spirit and doubted his tactics.  I knew i was going to lose some students to rougher futures and possibly short ones – Ian seemed destine for a rough road.  Not long after he graduated he moved away and we drifted out of touch.

ian circa timeless

I ran into Ian in a converted garage bar in Cville, when i went out with fellow LEC grads Hayden (Corb’s son) and Ruth (former student and LEC teacher).  Ian was studying fine arts by day and working as a bartender at night at a vaguely interesting sounding place in Philly.  He was studying older painting techniques, some of which he had employed on making a sign for the bar we met in.  He was also working with Occupy Philly.

the new sign for the garage bar made in Philly circa 2012

He talked about is organizing there.  About working at first with principally white privileged activists who had never been arrested before and thought the police were their friends.  He worked to bring in the new black panther party and folks from MOVE (which was famously bombed by the Philly police).  I asked if the black panthers were open to a mufti-cultural movement (since my last two experiences with them at large protests were of them being homophobic and racist).  Ian told me black panther and Philly political death row prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal had encouraged these groups to work with occupy.

He spoke of 40% of Philly being abandoned and Occupy helping evicted folks return to their homes. He spoke about protestors arresting police and leaving them handcuffed.

I told Ian that Sara and other Cville Occupy kids has been impressed with and inspired by the Philly Action Team that came down and trained last October.  Ian told me he was part of that team

And then he want on a little rant about how the LEC revolution class had changed his life by giving him the radical self reliance orientation and critical of the system thinking.  He spoke as a quirky, confident organizer.

iconic from ian’s FB photo

And he very much remains an angry punk running afoul of the law. And is my hero for it.