When Cathlin Goulding was conducting research for her doctoral dissertation in Tule Lake – the site in northern California where Japanese-Americans who were specifically suspected of being disloyal were imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II – she was both heartened and dismayed. Heartened because, with the government again singling out ethnic groups and nationalities as potential enemies of the state, many white people in Tule Lake are not only empathetic toward those who were incarcerated there, but are now coming forward with artifacts found on their land, such as the remains of former barracks and bars from jail cells. Dismayed because of an overwhelming sense that history is, once again, repeating itself “and it seems that we have failed to learn anything from the past.”
Goulding’s meticulous research and self-described “auto-ethnographic approach to her subject – her grandparents were interned at another camp in Arkansas, and her mother was born there in 1943 – clearly pack a powerful punch: In January, the American Educational Research Association Division B’ announced that she will receive its Outstanding Dissertation Award at AERA’s 2018 meeting in New York in early April.
“We don’t think of curriculum existing in such spaces,” Goulding says of the Tule Lake site, which is now managed by the National Park Service, but “they have developed very even-handed historical materials to given an understanding to people who often are just passing through in trailers and cars, and who may be saying, ‘What is this?’ Overall, it’s very much presented as a wrongdoing by the federal government.”
Her thesis, which she calls “a multi-case study of projects attempting to teach about national security states through immersive experiences,” spans past and present. The first half specifically focused on the Tule Lake site, which is now managed as an historic site by the National Park Service. The other half focuses on newer efforts to teach about violence through the use of digital and immersive spaces, and post-9/11 politics that surround how Americans are informed about ethnic and racial groups who are demonized as national security threats.
“It’s about these spaces outside of K-12 education – these public pedagogies,” says Goulding, a former high school English teacher who currently is an Andrew Mellon Fellow at New York City’s 9/11 Memorial & Museum in addition to serving as a communications specialist for the Teachers College Inclusive Classrooms Project. “Tule Lake is in rural northern California. Trying to expose this region of the country – we don’t think of curriculum existing in such spaces.” She adds that she has been “very impressed” with the care taken by the Park Service in managing the site and teaching about “such a nuanced and complex part of the Japanese internment experience, which was one of even greater segregation.
“They have developed very even-handed historical materials to given an understanding to people who often are just passing through in trailers and cars, and who may be saying, ‘What is this?’ because they’ve had no prior experience with this history,” she says. “Overall, it’s very much presented as a wrongdoing by the federal government. They even talk about the irony of the Park Service critiquing the government, since the federal Department of the Interior, which they are part of, managed the camps during the War.”
Goulding’s thesis adviser at TC was Daniel Friedrich, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Chair of the Department of Curriculum & Teaching.
“He was a huge influence – he did his own doctorate on ‘[teaching] The Dirty War in Argentina,’” she says. “He directed a lot of my philosophical reading.”
How has Goulding’s family responded to her research?
“My mom’s glad I’m doing it, but she’s not especially interested in talking about her experiences,” she says. “But my father, who is white, came with me for a lot of my field work. It definitely brought us closer together.” – Joe Levine