“Under the Tree” is a new podcast that focuses on freedom—a complex, layered, dynamic, and often contradictory idea—and takes you on a journey each week to fundamentally reimagine how we can bring freedom and liberation to life in relation to schools and schooling, equality and justice, and learning to live together in peace.
Our podcast opens a crawl-space, a fugitive field and firmament where we can both explore our wildest freedom dreams, and organize for a liberating insurgency. "Under the Tree" is a seminar, and it runs the gamut from current events to the arts, from history lessons to scientific inquiries, and from essential readings to frequent guest speakers.
We’re in the midst of the largest social uprising in US history—and what better time to dive headfirst into the wreckage, figuring out as we go how to support the rebellion, name it, and work together to realize its most radical possibilities—and to reach its farthest horizons?
"Hope is a State of Mind" ft. Dima Khalidi
Optimists and pessimists share a fundamental orientation: they are determinists, certain that thing will turn out well (or horribly). Because I have no idea how things will turn out (and neither does anyone else), or even what’s next, I choose hope as a politics, hope as a state of mind—I get up each morning with my mind set on freedom, pound away against injustice, and end the evening wishing I’d done more. Remember, the day before every revolution, it was deemed impossible, and the day after, it’s made to seem inevitable. We’re joined in conversation by Dima Khalidi, a brilliant lawyer, radical thinker, and founding director of Palestine Legal, who engages the struggle for Palestinian freedom against a hard, but not impenetrable, wall of racism and reaction.
Now is the Time of Monsters ft. Joel Westheimer
When fascism gained power in Italy, two processes unfolded simultaneously: the generalized crisis and crumbling of authority, the loss of the ability to lead through consent, as well as a movement of people away from old ideologies, opening to new and unexpected horizons. It was a moment of political “in-betweenness”—the communist leader Antonio Gramsci wrote from prison that, “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.” We’re joined by Joel Westheimer an inspiring thinker and teacher whose parents escaped Nazi Germany, and who continually asks his students and all of us to consider how to educate our children for the common good, pointedly in his book What Kind of Citizen?
Educating for Insurgency ft. Jay Gillen
Each of us—and every human being—should expect and demand decent standards of action concerning freedom and justice from all institutions, including schools, and from all earthly powers. It’s our duty to testify against, to disrupt, to undermine, and, when possible, to overthrow cruel systems in the interest of creating something better. We’re joined by Jay Gillen, a visionary, loving, and courageous teacher, author of Educating for Insurgency and The Power in the Room, to explore the many ways we might create the crawl spaces and insurrectionary infrastructure for the struggles ahead.
In the interview, Jay references the work of Robert Moses and how it has influenced his own trajectory and pedagogy. Sadly, Bob Moses passed away just a couple days ago. We encourage our listeners to look into his life and story, and we dedicate this episode to his legacy.
Haiti On My Mind ft. Walter Riley
The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)— the largest slave revolt since Spartacus’ unsuccessful insurrection against the Romans in 72 BC—was one of the greatest revolutions in world history, and the only successful slave uprising leading to the establishment of a free state governed by non-whites and formerly captive workers. Led by Toussaint Louverture, formerly enslaved himself, the Haitian Revolution struck fear and rage among the slavers, white supremacists, and imperial masters, even as it heartened and inspired freedom-loving peoples everywhere. The counter revolution continues, and we are honored to be joined in a wide-ranging conversation by Walter Riley, a civil rights attorney in Oakland California, winner of the National Lawyers Guild’s Champion of Justice Award, and a founder of Haiti Emergency Relief.
Poet, Teacher, Prophet: Rhythms of Revolution ft. Tongo Eisen-Martin
Teachers live each day stretched in tension and suspended in contention: being and becoming, here and elsewhere; one foot planted firmly in the mud and muck of the world as it is, the other foot striding toward a world that could be or should be, but is not yet. Students arrive with questions: Who am I in the world? What are my choices and my chances? What does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? Good teachers dive into the contradictions, and make their classrooms generative sites of authentic engagement. Our guest today is the brilliant teaching artist and San Francisco’s Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin.
Resist Curation/Curate Resistance ft. Therese Quinn
None of us wants to be labeled as one-dimensional and shunted off to a musty museum to be put on a shelf, and so we resist curation. On the other hand, we are each the collector of our own memories, our own struggles, our own lives, our own rebellions and resistances—we can and should curate resistance. We are joined in conversation by the intrepid educator, activist, and radical social critic Therese Quinn, Director of Museum and Exhibition Studies, and Affiliated Faculty with Gender and Women’s Studies and Curriculum Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She coedits the Teachers College Press Series, Teaching for Social Justice, and is the author of several books including School: Questions About Museums, Culture and Justice to Explore in Your Classroom, and Flaunt It! Queers Organizing for Public Education.
Listener engagement and collaboration modeled
I love how the producers engage the Listeners right from the opening and do it routinely every episode. I also appreciate the collaboration modeled by the producers. A good selection of quality voices are heard.
Props to Malik and Bill.
-listener and educator
This podcast is something to be proud of! Very timely and engaging conversations. Keep keeping us engaged!
I have been reading and following Bill’s work all my teaching life, over thirty years now. This podcast puts us to work and lets us become a student in his classroom about FREEDOM, the subject of every sentient being’s soul. I feel deep gratitude for being able , late in my game, to come to bat and swing. Thanks everyone for this gift.