#InClassToday – Reform and Revolution in Radical New York City

Welcome back to the 255! Again, we would like to wish all MMC students our best wishes in these final weeks of the Fall semester. During this is a stressful time please be sure to take a few moments to care for yourselves. This week we continue our #InClassToday segment. This post highlights the work of Grace Delsohn and Zachary Chamberlain in Professor Jessica Blatt’s Reform and Revolution in Radical New York York City course. Blatt uses a “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy to educate her students on societal structures and relationships. We took to time to interview Grace and Zach to discuss and showcase their work to the entire division. Photos throughout this post were created by Grace and Zach!

Professor Blatt uses “Reacting to the Past” pedagogy in many of her courses, including courses like Playing Politics and America’s Founding that immerse students in critical historical time periods. Below is a description of Blatt’s current Reform and Revolution course:

What is the meaning of citizenship, and who should exercise it? What is economic justice, and how might it be achieved? What sorts of family and sexual relationships nurture and unleash human potential? This course explores how a diverse group of New York intellectuals engaged with such questions in the early twentieth century. These figures confronted a changing world: small-town America faced great cities and hitherto unimaginable contrasts of wealth and poverty. Ideas about American culture were challenged by an influx of immigrants and the claims of women and African-Americans to equal citizenship. Stable social roles were undermined by a new fascination with the Self, a unique identity that had to be discovered, nourished—even created. This course uses a game-based format called “Reacting to the Past” to immerse students in the ideological, artistic, and sociopolitical context in which these challenges played out.

Below are Zach and Grace’s reflections of their work as well as some content the students created throughout the course:

  1. How do you find participating in the interactive pedagogy of Professor Blatt’s course?

Participating in this class has been a lot of fun and a highlight of my week. It makes zoom class more engaging. It forces you to pay attention because the stakes are high at this moment in history, and everyone gets in to it. Everyone usually says or presents interesting and fun things. We have costumes and props. We present creative work, play games, debate, and discuss. 

Grace Delsohn

I took a game class with Professor Blatt last semester which is what led me to taking this one this year. To talk about the pedagogy and structure of this class tells its own story for my wanting and willingness to take another game class with her. With the zoom format, it is obvious that it is changed from the in person style. Luckily for us, the class becomes more interactive with one another, since the chat function in Zoom grants us the ability to ask questions during speeches, have relevant conversations with one another, as well as giving a platform for those that do not like to speak up as much a better chance at participating. I enjoy the pedagogy of Professor Blatt’s teaching, as well as the class itself as it works really well with the online format. 

Zachary Chamberlain
Cubist Painting – Grace Delsohn

2. How does this educational approach differ from a traditional lecture course?

It differs in the sense that it is more interactive and more personal. We all have personal goals and assignments, and it makes things be a bit competitive too. I know so much about this time period and it is rooted in my brain like stories I have been told, or things I have lived through. Other lectures, I tend to forget material after the test or paper is due, but this is not about memorizing. It is about learning, applying, and then fighting for your goal.

Grace Delsohn

This is not your typical, run of the mill college course. Most classes are spent with us having conversations, better worded, critiques with one another as opposed to the traditional lectures that are in many other classes. What I take away from this class in particular is that history is living within us. We the students take on roles that are based on historical figures, giving us the ability to see a time period from an individualistic perspective as opposed to studying it in an overview which I know is not very fun. When looking at other PS classes that I have taken besides the theoretical classes, I learn much more with the interactive structure rather than reading and lecturing.

Zachary Chamberlain
Zachary Chamberlain’s Presentation on the Suffragette Cook Book (here)

3. What are your highlights and takeaways from the class?

My favorite parts of this course were the movies we watched in preparation for the game, it made me feel very connected to the world and able to visualize events. I also loved the “heckling game”, where we heckled the labor faction like people did when they were in the streets. Mainly, I am taking away how to gain support for a movement, how to organize, what worked and what did not in history, and how to work with people to achieve radical change. These are all crucial with the current social justice movements in 2020, and now I feel more prepared and confident to get involved.

Grace Delsohn

So far, the highlights and takeaways from this class are that it gets people more comfortable with public speaking. After taking this class, as well as the game class last semester, I was always nervous giving presentations and thinking that I would fail. I still do get nervous, but after these I trust in myself as a speaker and presenter more. My confidence has been boosted as well as my physical ability to do so. I also have enjoyed learning about 1910’s America. I did not know that there were so many Progressive thoughts going around and it really changed my perspective of the country, specifically in New York, where women’s rights were becoming more and more important as well as labor rights for the country. 

Zachary Chamberlain
Watch and listen to Zach’s musical recreation here!

We would like to thank Zach and Grace for sharing their thoughts on the course as well as allowing us to showcase their work. We are happy to hear your positive reflections and takeaways. Congratulations to Professor Blatt for engaging students in such innovative ways. Finally we would like to gently remind everyone to be kind, stay safe, and always look for new ways to learn!

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