To acknowledge and celebrate the 100th issue of Radical Teacher, we are reprinting selected essays from our very first issue (December 1975) through our last year as a print journal (2012). Though the selection process was never entirely clear or agreed upon, we have tried to choose articles that reflect Radical Teacher's focus on class, race, and gender/sexuality, as well as on the socio-economic contexts of education and educational institutions, primarily but not exclusively in the United States. We also wanted some essays that emphasized theory and some that emphasized practice, always hoping that these foci came together as praxis. We tried to balance historical sweep with essays that stood out for their timeless insights and clarity. The essays are arranged chronologically, with certain themes and interests recurring.
According to the cover of the first issue, we were The Radical Teacher: a news journal of socialist literary theory and practice. The literary focus was an outgrowth of the fact that we were sponsored by the Radical Caucus in English and the Modern Languages, an affiliate organization of the Modern Language Association. The table of contents featured five articles: one essay and one interview critiquing higher education in the United States, two essays on literary study, and one on socialist journalism. All were written by university English professors who were members of the "Editorial Group" (later to become the "Editorial Collective"); four of those individuals who were part of the initial Editorial Group (Louis Kampf, Paul Lauter, Susan O'Malley, and Dick Ohmann) are now-retired professors who are still on the masthead and active in the journal. Given this social formation, it's not surprising that we have tended to focus on literary and cultural teaching at the university level.
However, the editorial that began this first issue, reprinted below, points to the Editorial Board's desire "to be open to other disciplines, rather than accepting the usual self-imposed divisions of standard academic journals. Our hope is also to address students, both graduate and undergraduate; all teachers of whatever level, those in public schools, those instructing graduate students, those in various alternative institutions around the country." The Board/Collective acted on that desire over the years, printing articles by and about what teachers from various disciplines do and think from grade school to grad school and in various alternative educational environments (e.g., community schools, prisons, and the Occupy movement). We have also tried to consider the organization and institutional structures within which radical teachers function at all levels of education.
That first issue, and many subsequent to it, also had on its back cover a quotation from Mao Tse-tung's "On Practice": "If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience." The editorial board had a number of hilarious discussions about that quotation, including one about maybe naming the magazine "The Pear." But sanity prevailed. It was not that the quotation misstated our goals, or some of them; but the provenance suggested a kind of sectarianism we wished then, and now, to avoid.
In the second issue, the subtitle of The Radical Teacher was gone. Beginning with the third issue, the definite article disappeared. Our first book review, of Editorial Group member Dick Ohmann's English in America, appeared in issue 3, along with a spirited exchange between the author and other board members concerning audience: the efficacy of reaching out to liberals as opposed to rallying fellow radicals. A feature called "News for Educational Workers" began with issue 4. Both this feature and book reviews have been part of the journal ever since. Issue 4 also introduced the idea of a mini-cluster (called a "panel" at the time, as it originated in a panel at the MLA), on working class culture, which began RT's practice of alternating between miscellanies, mini-clusters on one or more themes, and issues devoted exclusively to one theme. The first issue devoted to a single cluster topic was issue 6 on "Women's Studies in the 70s: Moving Forward." Though earlier issues had included notes on teaching specific books, films, or...