John A. Duerk


In 2017, my comrade Michael invited me to appear on Vegan World Radio, a KPFT (90.1 FM) program in Houston, Texas. We talked about a variety of issues, including veganism, music, teaching, and activism. As an idea, animal liberation deserves far more attention than it receives. If you care about animals, please stop eating them. Click here if you’d like to learn more about the vegan lifestyle. Immediately below is the audio… Read More

Hiking is a restorative exercise.  You disconnect from society and reconnect with nature and yourself.  I meant what I said when I told people that I would do more of it once I relocated to this part of the country.  Last year, I made time to explore a couple of different trails in the Sierras.  This year, I pushed the total number to seven, including a visit to a lesser known national… Read More

Teachers know the feeling all too well: the natural buzz of summer crashes when fall preparation must begin.  Yes, the August crash is inevitable.  Now, I still have three weeks of break left, but I’m a planner who doesn’t like to leave work until the last minute.  While it might sound strange, I always look forward to a new academic year because it’s full of possibility, and I wonder about who I… Read More

I’ve been living on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe for over four months now and my life has changed in certain ways.  Yes, I’ve become a Subaru Forester-driving, Patagonia hoody-wearing, mountain and forest-loving Californian.  No apologies.  The choice to move here easily makes it onto the shortlist of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life to date.  This is where I’d like to stay for the rest of my… Read More

“I’m not walking away from here with a bunch of things I still need to declare…” -Bane On Saturday, I will depart Houston to pursue a new teaching position in South Lake Tahoe, California.  Yes, I’m moving to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!  While I lived in between three mountain ranges during my stint in Arizona, I have never lived in them or at 6237 feet above sea level.  I’m ecstatic about this… Read More

After years of controversy, the Texas State Board of Education unanimously agreed to adopt a high school Mexican-American studies course, but then nine members voted to change its name from “Mexican-American Studies” to “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.”  While this might appear rather innocuous, the decision speaks to a much deeper issue that has some upset.  For example, board member Marisa Perez-Diaz from Converse, Texas called it “discrimination”… Read More

When each semester winds down, a bittersweet thought crosses my mind: I won’t teach most of my students ever again.  Now, I periodically encounter them in the hallway or at a campus event, but our instructional time together is over.  As this realization sinks in, I wonder what impact my class had upon them.  This is difficult to gauge.  It feels strange to spend all of those weeks together and then watch… Read More

“We are born with a chance.  Rise above!  We’re gonna rise above!  I am gonna have my chance.  Rise above!  We’re gonna rise above!”  -Black Flag It’s hard to believe that another fall semester is just weeks away.  Can someone please tell me what happened to the spring?  The last several months have passed so quickly.  I digress (yet again).  Each year I set new professional goals for myself because I believe… Read More

When I think about it, I can’t exactly pinpoint where my desire to follow the news originated.  I delivered papers as a young kid in the early 80s, but I don’t know if that experience is the independent or dependent variable here.  My memory is a bit fuzzy.  It has been 35 years.  Whatever the root explanation, I feel that my students can benefit from reading, listening to, and watching the stories… Read More

As a teacher, it would be really easy to resign yourself to defeat when students don’t follow directions or meet your expectations.  Those of us in education have all been there.  You grade a round of assignments or exams that leave you feeling befuddled and exasperated.  At times like that, I think we really need to guard against adopting a cynical attitude about student capabilities.  Yes, we’re frustrated, but that doesn’t mean… Read More

Conspiracy theories.  Where do they come from?  The C.I.A. killed President John F. Kennedy.  The Apollo 11 astronauts never landed on the moon.  A scientist created AIDS in a laboratory so it could be used as a biological weapon.  The federal government blew up the levies in New Orleans.  Last spring, a student expressed concern in class about Jade Helm, the U.S. military training exercise that irked many people here in Texas… Read More

When I returned to graduate school nearly a decade ago, I knew that teaching would be my career focus once I finished the program because it is my passion, and I believe that students deserve an instructor who makes them a priority.  So, I couldn’t help but feel insulted the evening that I heard a respected classmate denigrate community colleges or when some of my professors discouraged me from considering this career… Read More

Facilitators use it in workshops.  Job candidates say it during interviews.  Administrators use it in meetings.  Students even mention it in their course evaluations.  When I heard the words “critical thinking” (click here for a definition) again this week during a workshop, some important questions echoed in my mind: What does it really mean in this context?  Why don’t people share concrete examples to illustrate the concept?  Practitioners should be able to… Read More

This past spring I taught Texas Government for the first time. Per my usual routine, I spent numerous evenings and weekends preparing the course content. After writing my presentation outlines, I search for supplemental materials such as maps, pictures, diagrams, graphs, political cartoons, video clips, and podcasts that I ask my students to interpret. In addition, I create a number of assignments. For example, I asked students to interview either a local… Read More

A newspaper story is not a think tank white paper is not a personal blog post is not a academic journal article is not a advocacy group fact sheet. There’s a major difference between writing about an issue to generate knowledge, i.e. to increase human understanding, and writing about it to advance a specific, often political, viewpoint.  One of our responsibilities as teachers is to help students explore the difference so they… Read More