My Collected Comix Journalism

CaqRPBHUcAEkSkx

Here are my current works of graphic journalism and memoir which have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, Pacific Standard, FUSION.NET, The Nib, Narrative.ly and Truthout.  Thanks to all the wonderfully talented graphic journalists/artists I’ve worked with thus far: Josh Neufeld (cover image by Josh!), Jason Novak,Marc ParenteauDan CarinoDan Archer and Arthur King.  CLICK ON THE TITLE TO ACCESS THE COMIC!

Cancer Comix

The Perfect Cancer Patient (with medical sociologist Gayle Sulik and Marc Parenteau at Narritve.ly.  CLICK HERE FOR AN Extra Scene, not published in the original!

PerfectPatient0019.jpg 

No Shame in Staying Alive: How Medical Marijuana Helped Saved Me from Brain Cancer (with Marc Parenteau at Fusion)

Pothead-FEAT.jpg

A Scanner Constantly (with Josh Neufeld at Pacific Standard)

Scanner c.jpg

Notification: You’ve Got Cancer (with Josh Neufeld, at The Boston Globe)

notification.jpg

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer (with Dan Archer, and Medium’s The Nib)

1*ktn3PCGkRrmnsXVvL18EpA.jpeg

Education Comix

Children of the Code: Big Data, Little Kids (with Dan Carino, at Truthout)

tmp627234484680392705.jpg

This School Is Not A Pipe (with Josh Neufeld, at Truthout)

school-is-not-a-pipe.png

The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform (Episode 1) (with Dan Archer, at Truthout)

khr.jpg

Murky Water: The Education Debate in New Orleans (with Dan Archer, at Truthout)

The Finnish Alternative: Reclaiming Public Education From Corporate Reform (with Dan Archer, at Truthout)

The Teacher Ghetto (with Jason Novak, at The Atlantic)

13dbffd99.jpg

The Gates Education Reform Hype Machine and Bizzare Inequality Theory (with Dan Carino, at tmp556216671832899584.jpgTruthout)

Automated Teaching Machine: A Graphic Introduction to the End of Human Teachers  (with Arthur King, at Truthout)

cropped-cropped.jpg

The Perfect Cancer Patient – EXTRA SCENE!

Here is an EXTRA SCENE from my comicTHE PERFECT CANCER PATIENT (with co-author medical sociologist Gayle Sulik and co-author/illustrator Marc Parenteau).  This is the concluding scene that we decided to leave out for this version at Narrative.ly.

perfectpatient0019perfectpatient0020perfectpatient0021perfectpatient0022perfectpatient0023

The MAGAchurian President

Tales from the Alt-Fright

Words: Adam Bessie

Illustration: Max Rodriguez  (http://maddogdraws.tumblr.com)

Concept: Sol (5 years old)GERMIS_1.png

GERMIS_2.pngGERMIS_5.pngGERMIS_4.pngGERMIS_6.png

 

GERMIS_7.png

Election PTSD (President Trump Stress Disorder)

By Adam Bessie and Illustrated by Jason Novak

ptsd-1

PTSD 2.jpg

PTSD 3.jpg

PTSD 4.jpg

PTSD 5.jpg

PTSD 6.jpg

PTSD 7.jpg

Morning in America, 2016

novak-bessie-donald

Original Panorama

Illustration by Jason Novak

Concept by Adam Bessie & Jason Novak

June 2016 UPDATE: The Complete Bessie Comix Collection

Here are ALL my current works of graphic journalism, memoir, and editorial cartoons which have appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, Pacific Standard, FUSION.NET, The Nib and Truthout.  Thanks to all the wonderfully talented graphic journalists/artists I’ve worked with thus far: Josh NeufeldJason Novak,Marc ParenteauDan CarinoDan Archer and Arthur King.  Below, you can find interviews, scholarly articles, and contact info. CLICK ON THE TITLE TO ACCESS THE COMIC!

No Shame in Staying Alive: How Medical Marijuana Helped Saved Me from Brain Cancer (with Marc Parenteau at Fusion)

Cgk3nDyVEAEip1X.jpg-large

A Scanner Constantly (with Josh Neufeld at Pacific Standard).

Two Bessies 2.jpg

Analysis of “Scanner,” by author of Pink Ribbon Blues Gayle Sulik PhD: “The Dehumanizing Impact of Biomedical Surveillance”. Breast Cancer Consortium.

See also: The Comic Book Cure for Cancer (a brief personal essay discussing the role of comics writing in my cancer journey, Brain Tumour Magazine, June 2016).  The title is inspired by Salvatore Iaconesi’s “My Open Source Cure for Cancer,” which is discussed in “A Scanner Constantly.”

Playground Purgatory (with Jason Novak at The Boston Globe)

0313ideas_purgatory

The War on Everything (with Jason Novak at The LA Times).

la-oe-bessie-novak-war-on-everything-20160205-008.jpeg

The Mythical Beasts of 21st Century Technology (with Jason Novak at The Boston Globe)

main picture.jpg

An American Tradition (with Jason Novak at Truthout).  This is our first panorama comic (inspired by Rube Goldberg and other early newspaper artists).

42cd942374a3e9dfdb2506da9afa7009_L

Superbowl text.JPG

The Stages of Housing Grief (with Jason Novak at The Boston Globe)

Displacement.jpg

The Lesser Known Features of Teacher Housing (with Jason Novak at The San Francisco Chronicle)

teachers 1

The Teacher Ghetto (with Jason Novak, at The Atlantic)

13dbffd99

Notification: You’ve Got Cancer (with Josh Neufeld, at The Boston Globe)

Notification

 

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer (with Dan Archer, and Medium’s The Nib)

1*ktn3PCGkRrmnsXVvL18EpA

And here’s an insightful analysis by Gayle Sulik, author of the stellar book Pink Ribbon Blues, who was the interview subject for “Pink Ribbon Envy”: Visualizing Social Change: The Power of Graphic Arts

Children of the Code: Big Data, Little Kids (with Dan Carino, at Truthout)

Big Data

This School Is Not A Pipe (with Josh Neufeld, at Truthout)

School is Not a Pipe

The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform (Episode 1) (with Dan Archer, at Truthout)

Disaster Img

Murky Water: The Education Debate in New Orleans (with Dan Archer, at Truthout)

KatrinaThe Finnish Alternative: Reclaiming Public Education From Corporate Reform (with Dan Archer, at Truthout)

FinlandThe Gates Education Reform Hype Machine and Bizzare Inequality Theory (with Dan Carino, at Truthout)

GatesAutomated Teaching Machine: A Graphic Introduction to the End of Human Teachers  (with Arthur King, at Truthout)

cropped-cropped.jpg

-Thanks to journalist Lukas Plank for compiling an early version of this list on his website. 

http://comicsjournalism.net/2014/10/29/adam-bessie/

Interviews on Graphic Journalism:

Truthout TV on The Gates Foundation Education Reform Hype Machine (with Dan Carino)

Russia TV’s “Breaking the Set” with Abby Martin on Automated Teaching Machine

Segment starts at about 2:30

From Kafka to Computers, a Graphic History of Automation in Education,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Megan O’Neil.   On “Automated Teaching Machine”

Selection of Scholarly Articles on Comics:

Warning: This Article Contains Graphic Journalism,” Truthout. Includes interviews with established graphic journalists Ted Rall, Sarah Glidden, Matt Bors, and Dan Archer. 2011

“Literacy and the Graphic Novel: Prejudice, Promise, and Pedagogy.” From Critical survey of graphic novels : history, theme, and technique / editors, Bart H. Beaty, Stephen Weiner. 2012

Entry on Guy Delisle’s “Burma Chronicles.” From Critical survey of graphic novels : independents and underground classics / editors, Bart H. Beaty, Stephen Weiner. 2012

“Uncensoring Comix Journalism: An Introduction for Educators” . Prepared for  English Council of California Two-Year Colleges Conference, 2013.

“Unmasking the Graphic Novel: Learning Summary and Close Reading Through Comics.” Inside English: Journal of the English Council of California Two-Year Colleges. 2009.   Winner of 2009 ECCTYC Best Article of the Year. Republished in Visions Across the Americas, 8th Edition (Sterling Warner, Ed). [Email for a copy]

FOR INQUIRIES: adam.bessie at gmail dot com

Retiring the “Bad Teacher” Boogeyman

“I support our teachers, but my daughter was traumatized by an unfirable 1st grade teacher,” so read a tweet I received after expressing concern that Vergara v. California decision – which declared K-12 teacher tenure unconstitutional for violating the civil rights of students – had nothing to do with civil rights, little to do with students, and everything to do with the continued efforts to privatize public education.  If you publicly critiqued the Vergara verdict, you no doubt received a similar reply, which I’ve described by the following equation, dubbed VAM [Vergara Attack Method]:

Compliment of teachers in general [“I love teachers”]

–      [BUT] there are “bad teachers”

+  vague and/or extreme personal anecdote about “bad teacher”

=  you must be a “bad teacher” and hate children if you support tenure or any other rights for teachers.  Also, you are against civil rights, likely a socialist, and most definitely are destroying the economy.

Rhetorically, it’s almost impossible to respond to VAM – Who can disagree that there are “bad teachers?”  Who wants a child to be subjected to such a horrible person? Who wants a child to be traumatized?

VAM works especially well when coupled with civil rights rhetoric, as I wrote about in my last essay “A Tale of Two Vergaras: Of Stardom and the End of Teacher Tenure.” Who could be against civil rights?  And so, in a masterful rhetorical twist, if you’re for tenure, you’re also against helping impoverished minority children – you’re standing in the way of equality.  In more advanced versions of VAM, civil rights rhetoric is seamlessly connected with fixing the sagging economy as we see in an op-ed in USA Today claiming “There is no war on teachers.” The author assures us that there is “no such war,” and that if anything, the focus is on firing just a “very small minority of teachers” who are not just harming children, but according to his calculations, would actually fix our current financial crisis:

The gains according to historical economic patterns would be measured in trillions of dollars and would be sufficient to solve our national fiscal problems as well as the vexing income distribution issues currently being debated.

Yes, that’s right – firing this “small minority of bad teachers” will ultimately create trillions of dollars for the economy, along with solving civil rights.  It’s a magic bullet – one that just needs be fired in right direction, towards “bad teachers.”

In short, VAM rhetorically checkmates those who are critical of the Vergara decision.  This pervasive linguistic trick pins all of the nation’s problems not on teachers (who are wonderful), but on those “bad teachers,” who are destroying lives, destroying civil rights, and destroying the economy.   No wonder, in the exact same issue of USA Today, a shocking ad illustrates a teacher throwing a child into a garbage can – and this doesn’t seem an act of war, given the current zeitgeist.  After all, it’s only about “bad teachers” – not you.  You’re a good teacher – that is, unless you think tenure is acceptable.  In which case, what do you have to hide? Who are you protecting?

Outside of the outlandish, ill-supported leaps in logic which are now in the realm of “common sense”, the biggest problem VAM, though, is the impossibly vague term “bad teacher,” or the slightly more technical sounding, but equally meaningless “grossly ineffective teacher,” which Judge Treu used in his decision.    Since the propaganda documentary Waiting for Superman, the “bad teacher boogeyman” has been in heavy linguistic circulation, which I noted in my 2010 essay “The Myth of the Bad Teacher:”

The Bad Teacher is no one specific, but rather, a sort of free-floating, ill-defined stereotype: he is an inept, uncaring, self-interested bureaucrat waiting for his pension, not only disinterested in students, but actively engaged in standing in the way of student achievement, rather than encouraging it. I imagine the Bad Teacher as slovenly dressed, with stains on his shirt, showing up to class late, and once there, reading the newspaper while his students throw paper airplanes at each other. He looks up at the clock occasionally, waiting for his time to be up in order get out of school as fast as possible, so he can get home and watch “Glee” on his plump, faux-leather couch. Or he could be a really “Bad Teacher,” such as the one soon to be depicted in a 2011 movie of the same name, which is focused on a “foul-mouthed, junior high teacher who, after being dumped by her sugar daddy, begins to woo a colleague – a move that pits her against a well-loved teacher.”

In essence, the “bad teacher” is a not just a basic strawman, but a hologram, an insubstantial projection of whoever you want him to be, whatever you – or your child – perceives him to be.  He could be lazy; he could only lecture (or only use group work); he could be physically abusive; he could not know his content; he could take controversial positions; he could be a hard grader (or too easy of a grader).  Indeed, at the college level (where I teach), high teacher ratings are highly correlated with teachers that give less work and higher grades, according to a recent study.  In some cases – such as assigning “too much homework”, being called a “bad teacher” would be a compliment, in that the  educator might actually being doing her job.

“In hundreds of classrooms, I have never seen a ‘grossly ineffective’ teacher,” Dr. David Berliner says in a must-read Slate article, an expert whose testimony was primary evidence in Judge Treu’s decision.  “I don’t know anybody who knows what that means.”

And this is a professor who has spent his career exploring teacher quality, and was asked to testify on the other VAM – Value-Added-Measures, a statistical measure which uses standardized test scores to rate teachers.  VAM gives the comforting illusion of objectivity so cherished by education reformers.  But this method, also, has major limitations – the American Statistical Association cautioned use of this measure.  Further, even if these metrics work very well at showing growth in a particular area of learning in a particular subject, they don’t show a lot of the attributes that educators – and lay-people – would associate with “good” teacher.   Berliner observes (as paraphrased by reporter Jordan Weissman) “low test scores [don’t] qualify somebody as a bad teacher. They might do other things well in the classroom that don’t show up on an exam, like teach social skills, or inspire their students to love reading or math.”  Indeed, a teacher can have great test scores – but could have earned them through abusive methods, ones which make the student great at test taking, but not learn anything about the subject, and hate it to boot.

Thus, a “grossly ineffective teacher” could be inspiring, could be challenging, could be wonderful.  In short, this “bad teacher” could be any of us – especially those of us who believe that the current set of reforms that are focused on standardized testing and curriculum are harmful to students.  Indeed, our very best teachers – those who stand up to the intense pressure from parents and students to be “easy,” those who refuse to submit their students to the testing regime that kills the love of learning – could be labeled as our very worst. As a case in point: one of the teachers accused of being a “bad teacher” in the Vergara case was Pasadena Teacher of the Year, and received numerous teaching awards.

What message is Vergara sending to committed, competent educators, those who love children, and who hate what NCLB and Race to the Top is doing to those children?

Now, don’t get it twisted: this is not a defense of child-molesters or otherwise horrible people; it’s not a defense of poor practices, such as giving worksheets to students every day (which is encouraged under the standardized testing regime).   Nor is it a defense of the “status quo” – which, need I remind readers, is No Child Left Behind, which most teachers abhor.     To defend tenure – due process in a highly-politicized workplace – is not to defend whatever horrible projection of “bad teacher” the reader has conjured.

Please, don’t VAM this essay.

And please, as the post-Vergara dust settles, as we’ve gotten our rants out of the system, let’s retire the “bad teacher” – in all its euphemistic forms.    Rather, let’s work to foster constructive, explicit discussions about what it means to be an excellent educator – not just in terms of outcomes (which are framed in the most limited, unimaginative way under the current regime), but in terms of the actual practices that happen in the classroom, and as critically, the environment in which our teachers teach and students learn.  Keep in mind, California is first in poverty (and in billionaires) in the nation –  and discussions of “bad teachers” allow us to avoid substantial conversations about the impact of inequality on our children.

In letting the “bad teacher” go,  we’ll find educators and the public – which are one in the same, remember – have shared interests and goals, despite the best efforts of corporate reformers to undermine public confidence, and put us in conflict with each other. In this fashion, we will repair the damage done by Vergara, and more broadly by the corporate reform movement, which has used VAM (both of them) to disrupt and destabilize the public commons to maintain the real status quo – of massive economic inequality and top-down elite control, which is the primary cause of the civil rights and economic emergency in our schools.

Originally published as a guest essay on Anthony Cody’s “Living in Dialogue” blog at Education Week.

Josh Neufeld

Comix & Stories

radical eyes for equity

Confronting "our rigid refusal to look at ourselves" (James Baldwin)

Failing Schools

Are schools failing, or are they being failed?

NIKHIL GOYAL

"Kicking bureaucratic ass and taking names."—Upworthy

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.