National Academy 2009

2009 National Academy: Taking it Home

The scholars of the 2009 National Academy

The scholars of the 2009 National Academy

The “dance party” finally pulled the plug at nearly 1:00 the next morning. Others had already said their goodbyes in order to pack the last of their things or to sleep before an early morning departure. The National Academy had reach its final destination.

The last day’s presentations included two Creedal Affirmations, Constitutional Currency, Light and Dark and a Colorized Constitution. What would Cicero think of his words providing the backdrop for a new U.S. currency? Texts like the Declaration of the U.S. and the Constitution once seemed complete in black and white but now resonate with the theories of Hobbes, Locke, the Federalists and Antifederalists. I hope each presentation team will consider sharing some piece of their work here so I can come back and add links to this post.

Will’s final remarks Friday began with “What Can Brown Do For You?,” a reference to last year’s conversation seeking to discover six words for the National Academy.  Several of this year’s participants used that mode for the re-writing project too! When assessing what the boxes might look like in 3D, Will pointed to Hobbes21’s posts about his “Serial of Boxes” where students lent their talents to the model presented at the National Academy. While it is a relief to have finished the three weeks at Occidental, the secret to the Academy’s success lurks in stories like these and the community that continues to work together to make those stories possible.

“Trending topics” at the conclusion of this year’s Academy included concerns about what to do next, the difficulties of deliberation, the essential nature of constitutional thinking and vows to continue the conversation. Politicolor is here to help!

This is a place to…

Share your favorite stories….

Contemplate what it all means

Consider a new approach to education

Celebrate success in the classroom

Or simply chat about world events.

Adding your voice to the conversation can be as easy as leaving a comment. Federal Teacher, a participant this year, has vowed to give at least 20 minutes to reading and responding to posts each month. This is a forum that begs you to write too. KFox, a National Academy Preceptor, has pledged to write one new post each quarter and I’m going to try to match him. We posted his work about Constitutional Teaching last year and Melani posted her thoughts on nomos after her presentation last week. We all have a start. We just need to work together to keep the momentum.

If we each make a pledge to meet in this virtual space on a schedule that fits our life in the real world, we can continue the conversations and work together to teach constitutional citizenship.

Taking Art to the Streets in East L.A.

This year’s National Academy experienced the potency of color and politics through a mural tour of east L.A. Ben Weber, a participant this year, arranged for us to meet Carlos Callejo at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Soto in Boyle Heights. Carlos’s enthusiasm for taking art to the street, “where the people are,” was something more than infectious. He had been one of the first muralists to work on this corner twenty years ago and we now huddled around the back of his car as he unrolled his plans for a newly commissioned mural. He believes his art can change the world—-for the people in the neighborhood who are often reflected in the images and for the world at large imagined to be in the audience.

Plans for an empty wall

Plans for an empty wall

We walked past plywood covered walls to the next street corner when Carlos found a muralist at work on the other side of the building. Willie Heron stood atop scaffolding working on the painstaking process of restoring a mural he had painted on the wall more than twenty years ago. He explained the ongoing struggle between muralists and taggers. He was using plywood to protect his work from taggers who now target murals as a means to preserve their own work. Heron’s original work was titled “The Progress of Man” and included images like nuclear bombs to illustrate the dual nature of those advancements–the capacity to create and to destroy.

Willie also shared how much more difficult it is now to bring his art to street corners like this. Work that once required little more than someone to donate the paint requires money for permits and the approval of city officials. Carlos shared how a young boy wearing a baseball hat appeared in the plans for one of his murals was later painted wearing a brown beret in a show of support for the Chicano movement of the sixties and seventies. Submitting their work to the city for permit approval subjects the message of the artists and the people they represent to approval as well. Carlos reminds us L.A. was once the mural capital of the world. That title has also given way to city ordinances.

Willie Heron restores his work

Willie Heron restores his work

The tour continued and included work added to the housing projects of Estrada Courts and the neighborhood’s recreation center. The images often utilize images of Aztec gods to represent a proud heritage and futuristic images evoking a vision for the people. It is easy to imagine the people passing by us on the street can see themselves in each image.

At Estrada Courts, Carlos shares the story of one his murals where he had to “cut the ambilical cord” and let the art take on a life of its own. He had included a reference to Air America Airlines in his work to speak to the large amount of heroine traffic making its way into the U.S. and neighborhoods like this via an airline covertly operated by the CIA. Neighborhood officials had required several revisions to the work when Carlos cut the cord. City workers appeared to paint over his work but the neighborhood’s residents rallied and blocked those efforts. Another mural on the block protested the inequity in Hispanic casualties during Vietnam. The Hispanic community comprised only 7% of the population of the time but 28% of wartime casualties. Carlos appears to enjoy the controversy but reminds his audience that they didn’t have access of the media so they took control of the message where they could. He believes conflict nurtures growth and he has lent his work to provoking progress.

Are images like these more potent than words? Does artwork using familiar faces or pointing to shared experiences provoke us in ways words can not? Click the link below to see more pictures of the tour and add your thoughts to the comments…

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2009 National Institute

As someone who has attended two of the Center of the Constitution’s weekend programs, I was overly excited when I was accepted to the 2009’s National Institute.  Of course I couldn’t wait to pick Will’s brain for more and more insight, but quickly I have learned this Institute is much more than that.

This institute is a way not to just learn about polity and community, but to also build our very own community and polity. As I climbed  the mountain behind Occidental,with a few of my friends, to watch the beautiful California sunset, I finally figured why we were here at Occidental. We are Scipio, climbing to the top of our own little world, looking down to see the wholeness and order that is so clearly there. We are here to build a republic, a group of citizens of common interest, putting the theories that we are learning into practical applications. But we will be building our own community on the foundations of all the former institutes. Because the institute’s whole is truly greater then the sum of one of its years part.
It is really interesting to watch a group of people, with no more then a common interest to learn and living on the same floor of a building, in just a few short days turn into a community.  I just hope my initial optimism wont give away to the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

After speaking to Shellee, and  her wanting to try to include the former institutes by tweeting her experience. I thought that I too had an obligation as citizen of this world to build common interest between  all members, past and present.  I hope to blog every few days about what is going on in the institute, I just hope, you will all join in with comments.