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by Grace Cornell Gonzales

GraceGonzalezLast year, during a Teachers 4 Social Justice salon in San Francisco, I read Henry Giroux’s “Teachers as Transformative Intellectuals” for the first time. It’s a very academic article but, after pushing through the dense language, I took away a valuable message. As we know, teachers are currently under attack—from media that portray us as inept, union-protected burnouts, from curriculum developers who hope to mechanize and “teacher-proof” our work, from a regime of standardized testing that sets us up for failure and then ranks us. Giroux points out that this vision of teachers is at odds with the fact that teaching is and has always been intellectual work.

When Giroux suggests that we look at ourselves as transformative intellectuals, I take that to mean that teachers need to be the ones doing the speaking and the writing about what teaching means today—telling stories that put students and teachers in the center, that prioritize social justice and create pathways towards a viable and vibrant public education system. For me, writing has been the part of my life that has most made me feel like a transformative intellectual. The biggest gift that Rethinking Schools has given me is a way to conceive of myself as both a teacher and a writer, one who is helping in some small way to construct that counter narrative.

That’s where the idea of running a T4SJ writing study group came from. We began with the idea of encouraging teachers to write about their experiences for publication, adding their voices to the dialogue about what teaching (and particularly social justice teaching) means in our current environment. We wanted to create a writing group where we could workshop our drafts and also look at models of published writing by other educators on social justice themes.

BayAreaWritingGroup

 

My co-facilitator, Mike Tinoco, a high school English teacher and participant in the San José writing project, and I started to design our study group, with a ton of help from the more seasoned core members of T4SJ and from RS managing editor Jody Sokolower. At the annual T4SJ retreat, the organization had envisioned the range of our work as a series of concentric circles—radiating out from the personal at the center, through the realms of classroom, school, and school system, to society as a whole. We took these domains as a structure for picking our readings—we started with readings that focused on the personal, then took a look at classroom articles, finally moving out into articles that address school system and societal issues.

Mike came up with a simple protocol for workshopping our own pieces—sharing highlights, asking clarifying questions, moving on to probing questions, offering concrete suggestions, and finally allowing the writer to reflect on everything they had heard. We asked Jody to come talk about how to “story” writing, and also about the process of submitting to Rethinking Schools.

What blew us away was the amount of interest in the group. Initially worried that not very many people would sign up, we ended up having to create a waiting list. Our final group of 13 includes elementary, middle, and high school teachers; college professors; students; and researchers. It has been an amazing group to work with—diverse, collaborative, critical in their thinking and writing.

We began meeting in November, and will meet once a month through May. At the meetings, we check in, eat dinner, discuss a published article, and then workshop two of our own pieces. By the end of the school year, we hope to have a compilation of our own articles to share on the T4SJ website, and hope that members will submit to Rethinking Schools and similar publications.

So far, we have workshopped articles on:

  • charter schools and how they undermine working conditions for teachers
  • equitable family involvement in bilingual schools
  • curricula around stereotypes in advertising
  • culturally responsive education
  • restorative justice
  • new teachers’ struggles to find authentic ways to interact with students.

I personally can’t wait to see what people bring in for our April and May meetings!

With all the pressures on teachers these days, community is growing more and more important. I count myself so lucky to have a space where I can bring my writing and feel like my voice as a teacher and a writer is affirmed by other wonderfully transformative educator/intellectuals.

We hope to offer this writing group again next year (check out www.t4sj.org for info on future study groups and for current opportunities, such as the salons, to get involved in the Bay Area). If you are interested in our process or protocols, please feel free to contact me at grace@rethinkingschools.org.

And, to read the great Rethinking Schools articles that we’ve discussed in the group this year, check out the links below:

Standing Up for Tocarra, by Tina Owen

Trayvon Martin and My Students, by Linda Christensen

Transsexuals, Teaching Your Children, by Loren Krywanczyk

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by Wayne Au

wayneheadshotThis post is an excerpt from the introduction to our new and expanded 2nd edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice published just last week.   

Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice, second edition, has been a long time coming. Over its almost 30 years of existence, Rethinking Schools has published more than 200 articles that dealt explicitly with issues of race and culture. Even though Rethinking Schools has always kept racial and cultural justice amongst our main focal points, until the first edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education in 2009, we had never published a book that specifically focused on race and culture in education in their own right. This book does just that: provide a Rethinking Schools vision of anti-racist, social justice education that is both practical for teachers and sharp in analysis.

It is my hope that the selections included in the second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education: Teaching for Racial and Cultural Justice offer a more robust and powerful definition of multicultural education than we see so often used. For instance, some educators and teacher educators say they teach multicultural education, but do it under the guise of “global education.” This form of multiculturalism feels safer to some because it uses the veneer of international cultures to avoid more serious and painful realities of issues like racism. Similarly, “diversity education” and “cultural pluralism” get used with the singular intent of promoting heroes and holidays and celebrate individual differences, again circumventing issues of power and privilege.

RME2_cvrThe terms “diverse students” and “urban students,” two more stand-ins for “multicultural” students, have devolved into meaning “poor African American and Latino students” or “students who aren’t white.” This is particularly ironic given that in some school districts in the United States, schools might be approaching 100 percent African American or Latino students, as is the case in Detroit and Santa Ana, California, respectively, and are regularly referred to as “diverse” by professors, teachers, and politicians alike. The right wing has also developed its own, sometimes contradictory definitions of multicultural education. While some conservatives have vehemently attacked multicultural education as representative of the downfall of Western Civilization, others such as E. D. Hirsch (founder of the Core Knowledge curriculum) have developed a different definition of multicultural education. As Kristen Buras, professor of education at Emory University, talks about in her book, Rightist Multiculturalism, Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum has recently taken up the banner of multicultural education by defining the United States as a multicultural nation of diverse immigrants—while simultaneously covering up systematic oppression based on class, race, and nation status.

Multicultural education is also being narrowly defined as a path students can take to “higher” status literature. Teachers use Tupac’s lyrics to move students to Shakespeare; students can unpack hip-hop lyrics as a way to learn literary language like stanza and rhyme, but they need to study Frost and Yeats to be considered well read. Students in regular classes can read “thug” literature, but AP classes need to read the classics. (Does anyone read Morrison as a precursor to Chaucer? She’s harder than the Canterbury Tales). This version of multicultural education focuses on access to the canon of high-status knowledge. In doing so, such a definition not only keeps the Eurocentric canon of knowledge at the heart of “real” education, it also communicates to students the idea that the diversity of their identities, lives, and communities do not really matter when it comes to learning.

The second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education is an attempt to reclaim multicultural education as part of a larger, more serious struggle for social justice, a struggle that recognizes the need to fight against systematic racism, colonization, and cultural oppression that takes place through our schools. In the chapters included here, multicultural education:

  • is grounded in the lives of our students.
  • draws on the voices and perspectives of those “being studied.”
  • teaches through dialogue.
  • critically supports students’ identities.
  • embraces and recognizes the value of students’ home languages.
  • critiques school knowledge, knowledge that has historically been Eurocentric.
  • invites students to engage in real social and political issues.
  • creates classroom environments where students can meaningfully engage with each other.
  • is rigorous, and recognizes that academic rigor is impossible without it.
  • connects to the entire curriculum.
  • is rooted in an anti-racist struggle about which knowledge and experiences should be included in the curriculum.
  • celebrates social movements and the fight against nativism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.
  • explores how social, economic, and cultural institutions contribute to inequality.

It is critical that I take a moment here to address an issue regarding how I am defining “multicultural” in this book. Some friends and allies, for instance, critiqued the first edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education for focusing too narrowly on typical categories of race, ethnicity, and culture, to the exclusion of more expansive definitions of “multiculturalism” that might include, for instance, an attention to the identities of LGBTQ youth in our classrooms and curriculum, or to the religious diversity of our students and communities. I understand and appreciate these concerns. The identities of our students and their communities are diverse and exceedingly complex, and certainly one approach is to define “multiculturalism” in ways to match every aspect of those identities—every aspect of “difference.” My answer in conversation with these friends and allies has been along two lines. First I attend to the context of Rethinking Schools itself. Two of our earlier, widely used books, Rethinking Our Classrooms Volumes 1 & 2, take up a broad definition of teaching for social justice, and in doing so, both volumes seek to embrace an expansive definition of culture, and also span grade levels and subject areas. Granted these two volumes are not perfect, but in many ways, my choice of focusing on more typically defined notions of race, culture, and ethnicity was a conscious one within the context of Rethinking Schools. We had already worked with the more expansive notion of culture in those two volumes, but had yet to take up a book that focused on race, racism, and the ways culture intertwines with them. The second part of my decision to define “multiculturalism” in the manner that I have for Rethinking Multicultural Education is connected to my experience teaching multicultural education and diversity courses at the university level. As I discussed earlier in this introduction, I worry that multiculturalism has been equated with “diversity” and has become the “everyone else” category. Teacher education credential coursework at many universities, for instance, require some sort of “diversity” class as a part of their core sequence of courses. Although I generally believe in the importance of requiring such courses and certainly do not want them taken out of teacher credential programs, the “every aspect of difference” nature of these classes oftentimes means that students—future teachers in this case—may talk about race, privilege, and myriad issues associated with diversity but give short shrift to the painful and powerful systemic racism, the legacies of colonization, and the realities of cultural oppression.

To be clear, I’m not opposed to more expansive definitions of multiculturalism and diversity, and I’m open to hearing the critiques of my friends, colleagues, and allies regarding the definition of multiculturalism I’ve chosen within the context of Rethinking Schools as a whole and the field of multicultural education as it currently exists. But this book represents the need to defend the conscious and explicit attention to race and ethnicity, and the aspects of culture that extend from them, as I have done here in this second edition of Rethinking Multicultural Education.

Read the rest of Wayne’s introduction >>

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We are pleased to announce that we are in the early stages of work on a book about bilingual education.  If you’re a subscriber or have been following this blog for long, you have probably noticed that Rethinking Schools has published a number of excellent books relevant to teaching and learning in bilingual classrooms.

Yet, if you consider yourself a bilingual education advocate, you also know the importance of improving and reforming bilingual education in collaboration with other bilingual educators, activists and students. We hope you will contribute to the conversation in this new book dedicated to rethinking bilingual education.

We are looking for articles—social justice-oriented, story-rich, and replicable—that describe bilingual classroom teaching and curriculum. Review our call for submissions below for details, and please share this with your professional network!

Thanks,

Grace Cornell Gonzales, Elizabeth Schlessman, and Pilar Mejía

Call for Submissions: Attention Bilingual Educators, Students, and Activists!!

Seeking Narratives for a new book by Rethinking Schools
Working Title: Rethinking Bilingual Education

Bilingual education is a perspective. A human right. An opportunity. Bilingual learning affirms that there is more than one way to say, see, and know. Yet bilingual programs too often replicate the inequities of the dominant culture. We must rethink bilingual teaching—day in, day out, from multiple perspectives—to ensure that the injustices and inequities that permeate our schools are not simply translated from monolingual to bilingual learning environments.

We invite you to submit a story that relates to teaching and learning in bilingual classrooms in the United States. We are particularly interested in articles that describe bilingual classroom teaching and curriculum—those that are social justice-oriented, story-rich, replicable, and critical. We hope to include articles about bilingual education across the curriculum so teachers and students of all disciplines are encouraged to contribute. We are especially looking for articles about:

  • teaching in bilingual classrooms from a social justice perspective
  • special education in bilingual contexts
  • confronting the challenges of bilingual education
  • perspectives from a diverse range of bilingual programs (especially those taught in languages other than Spanish, and programs that incorporate African American Vernacular English or ASL)
  • family involvement
  • how policy matters affect bilingual ed (e.g., analysis of testing, legislation, CCSS, etc.)
  • stories that offer historical perspectives with a connection to the present

Students’ voices are important; make sure we can hear them! We especially encourage submissions from teachers and students of color, particularly those who speak a language other than English as their first language. We will also read submissions written in Spanish.

Please remember that Rethinking Schools is not an academic journal. We want the writing to be lively, conversational, and to avoid the kind of needless jargon that infects so much education writing. Please approach it as a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end, filled with anecdotes and the voices of teachers, parents, and/or students. Academic/scholarly articles will not be considered for this book.

The best way to understand what works for Rethinking Schools is to read through several issues of the magazine with an eye to how the authors show specifically what they do in the classroom and how they integrate information about the topic into the article. Specific models you might want to look at include:

As a model of writing for the magazine, see anything by Linda Christensen.

Before you begin writing, check out the writers’ guidelines.

Please send submissions electronically (Word.doc). We are unable to read submissions of more than 3,500 words, and are generally interested in articles that are substantially shorter.

The initial submission deadline is April 30th.

If you have questions, e-mail Grace Cornell Gonzales.

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It’s Valentine’s Day–a day filled with joy and surprises, but also angst and disappointments–and sometimes all of the above!

Let’s help children climb out of the emotionally wrought Valentine’s Day box by exploring different manifestations of love with these articles.

Enjoy these articles, available free to all friends of Rethinking Schools. 

McLimans23-4

Illustration: David McLimans

Can’t Buy Me Love, by Linda Christensen
Christensen gets students to write critically about clothes, class, and consumption.

Poem: Valentine’s Day at Casa del Migrante, by Bob Peterson
The Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico provides assistance to men, most of whom have been recently deported from the United States. Bob wrote this poem after visiting the facility with Rethinking Schools.

A Pedagogy for Ecology,
by Ann Pelo
Helping students build an ecological identity and a conscious connection to place opens them to a broader bond with, and love for, the earth.

“Hey, Mom, I Forgive You”
Teaching the Forgiveness Poem
,
by Linda Christensen
Christensen shows how she builds community in her classroom as her students write a poem about forgiving-or not forgiving. She starts with her own story.

These articles are free to read for our subscribers. Subscribe today to gain access to these articles from our archives:* 

Making Every Lesson Count, by Linda Christensen
Want to help students learn to write? Get them writing about what they love.

Reading First, Libraries Last, by Rachel Cloues
Scripted programs undermine teaching and children’s love of books.

The Hero’s Human Heart, by S.J. Childs
In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, a novel about female revolutionaries in the Dominican Republic, teaches important lessons on how ordinary people can become heroes.

Home Cooking, by Linda Christensen
Food connects us to our heritage and our homes. Getting students to write about food can make them feel at home.

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by Jody Sokolower

V28-2Hailed as the next great reform, the Common Core State Standards are being implemented at breakneck speed in districts across the United States. But behind the spin, is the Common Core the next step in the corporate agenda?

In “The Problems with the Common Core,” Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp looks at the funders, origins, and uses of the new standards. Also available in Spanish.

Then a former Birmingham teacher provides a telling example–”Martin Luther King Jr. and the Common Core“: A Critical Reading of ‘Close Reading,’” by Daniel E. Ferguson.

Other articles and features:

In “Trayvon Martin and My Students: Writing Toward Justice,” teacher and Rethinking Schools editor Linda Christensen uses President Obama’s speech about the Zimmerman acquittal–and Cornel West’s response–as rich sources for students learning to analyze, evaluate, and critique.

Instead of leaving “the puberty talk” to the nurse, Valdine Ciwko brings gender and sexuality into her everyday classroom. See what she’s doing in “Sex Talk on the Carpet: Incorporating Gender and Sexuality into 5th-Grade Curriculum.” Also available in Spanish.

Looking for Justice at Turkey Creek: Out of the classroom and into the past, by Hardy Thames
High school students embed themselves in a community’s history and people when they study the impact of “development” on historically African American Turkey Creek in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Greed as a Weapon: Teaching the other Iraq war, by Adam Sanchez
A high school teacher uses a role-play to explore the economic dimensions of the war in Iraq.

Editorial: Connecting the Dots, by the editors of Rethinking Schools
The editors argue that educators “need to see ourselves as part of one movement that is constantly connecting the dots.”

Good Stuff: Awareness of the Natural World, by Herbert Kohl
Kohl reviews Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver, and Unlikely Friendships, by Jennifer Holland.

Are you a subscriber?

We’re happy to make a number of articles from this issue free for our friends and followers who don’t subscribe to our magazine. But your subscriptions (and donations) sustain our work. If you like what you’re reading, we urge you to subscribe now for just $22.95 a year. With your subscription, you’ll gain access to the entire winter issue, our online archives, and the mobile app edition of our magazine. You’ll also help ensure that we keep bringing you the kinds of articles you count on Rethinking Schools to deliver.

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Those of you who follow us on Facebook know that we regularly post articles, stories, and resources that we think would be of interest to Rethinking Schools readers. At the risk of jumping on the top-10 bandwagon, we decided to review our posts for the year and to highlight the ones that were the most popular, judged by total reach. Some are funny, some are moving, some are outrageous—all are provocative and worth reviewing.

1. Dec. 15: “Wrong” answers on tests from brilliant kids.

2. April 18: Today’s Democracy Now! had an excellent segment — “A Rush to Misjudgment” — about some of the hurried and racist mainstream media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. This would be an excellent segment to use with students.

3. Nov. 2: Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au was the scariest thing ever for Halloween this year: a high-stakes, standardized test!

WayneHighStakes

4. Oct. 5: History matters. Today’s patterns of wealth and power have their roots in slavery. “Top 6 Countries That Grew Filthy Rich From Enslaving Black People

5. April 2:  Our friend and colleague, Bill Ayers, has written a fabulous letter to the New York Times about the Atlanta cheating scandal. Read it here.

6. Oct. 17: The brilliant and magnificent Cornel West. Please watch and share. “Cornel West on the ‘shameless silence’ of progressives about Obama and education reform

7. Aug. 22: This is a fascinating expose at Daily Kos of how Time Magazine covers in the United States differ from Time covers throughout the world. Great questions to raise about this with students. Shared by Rethinking Schools author Özlem Sensoy.

8. May 3: Have you followed the story of the 16-year-old girl in Florida who was arrested and expelled for her science experiment gone awry? An example of the school-to-prison pipeline in action.

9. April 15: Rethinking Schools friend Dave Zirin reflects on the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, and offers some moving people’s history in the process.

10. September 7: Betsy Toll of the organization Living Earth, wrote this wonderful letter to The Oregonian, in Portland, saying we’re not weary of war, we’re sick of it. War is an “educational issue.” Read Betsy’s letter.

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GraceGonzalezGrace Cornell Gonzales joined the Rethinking Schools editorial board last spring, and has been an active, enthusiastic, and thoughtful participant ever since. Grace teaches at Daniel Webster Elementary School in San Francisco. We thought you might be interested in getting to know her a little better, so managing editor Jody Sokolower caught up with her after school one recent afternoon.

How did you first get involved with Rethinking Schools?

I was walking by the Rethinking Schools table at the Teachers 4 Social Justice conference in San Francisco a few years ago. This was my third year of teaching in Oakland, and I was in graduate school. I was talking to a friend about a project I was working on, analyzing the political content of picture books about immigration. Suddenly, [curriculum editor] Bill Bigelow was part of our conversation.

“You should write an article about that,” he said. I was so surprised, because he was someone whose writing and teaching I had admired for years. He connected me to you, and you invited me to your house to talk about the article. I don’t think I would have had the gumption to submit an article cold, so it was wonderful to feel welcomed in.

Most of your articles in Rethinking Schools have been about teaching Spanish-speaking students. How did that become a focus for you?

I studied Spanish throughout school but really started to feel bilingual after I lived abroad–spending a trimester in Chile during high school and a year in South America during college. During high school and college, I taught English as a second language to children and adults, in the United States and in Latin America. Along the way, I learned Portuguese, too.

Because of those experiences, I was interested in language education. I was looking for an approach that valued first languages, one that wasn’t based on a deficit model. In college I took a group independent study class that focused on Spanish dual immersion programs–programs in which Spanish speakers learn English and English speakers learn Spanish in the same classroom. I was excited because that model didn’t isolate Spanish-speaking students the way that bilingual programs do.

Now you teach in a dual immersion program. How has reality matched up to theory?

There are definitely more equity issues than I anticipated–how well does this program work for English language learners, or does it turn out to be more for the benefit of the English-speaking students? I see the problems, but I can also see ways to work around them. It’s a fantastic model. We just need to think critically about what we’re doing at every point if we want to serve all children.

How has participating on the editorial board affected your teaching?

It’s a pleasure to read and discuss all the amazing articles as part of the ed board. It’s the interesting political education piece of my life. I’m learning all the time.

Activism–participating on the RS ed board and being part of Teachers 4 Social Justice–allows me to not despair. Before I was working with both organizations, I felt alone, so frustrated by the horrible politics affecting us as educators. I felt personally beaten down. Now, if something awful happens at the school or in the district, I say, “This is part of a larger narrative. We should organize about this.” It gives me hope.

Recent articles by Grace in Rethinking Schools magazine:

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Bill headshotRethinking Schools is in the final stages of producing a book on teaching about the environmental crisis, called A People’s Curriculum for the Earth. If you’re a subscriber or regular visitor to our website, you have probably noticed that over the past several years Rethinking Schools magazine has featured increasing numbers of environmental justice articles. We are pleased by what we’ve assembled in the new volume–which is patterned after our 2002 book, Rethinking Globalization: Teaching for Justice in an Unjust World.

But we still need some help. We have a few “holes,” wishes, or would-like-to-have-mores. These are of two types:
  1. articles that describe classroom teaching (story-rich, replicable, critical)
  2. student-friendly readings: short articles, interviews, testimonies, stories, excerpts from novels, poems, graphics, and the like.

Some areas for which we want more material, both for the book and for future issues of the magazine, include:

  • Indigenous struggles around environmental issues — e.g., the Idle No More movement
  • Teaching about oil exploitation and natural gas fracking
  • Rachel Carson and early work against pesticides
  • The “people’s history” of struggles against environmental racism
  • Teaching about nuclear issues — e.g., nuclear testing, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima, uranium mining
  • Water issues, everything from the disproportionate impact of corporate practices on poor communities and communities of color to the implications of the decline of glaciers
  • Food sovereignty, and the activism of groups affiliated with La Via Campesina
  • Genetically modified organisms
  • The political economy of hunger
  • Stories of resistance and hope — how responses to environmental crisis can also be responses to economic crisis

Yes, these intersect and themselves are overwhelming. But we’re hoping that in putting out this final call that some of you may have pieces of your curriculum in hand that you’d be willing to let us consider for Rethinking Schools magazine and/or A People’s Curriculum for the Earth.

If so, please get in touch with me at bill@rethinkingschools.org.

Thanks for all your important work in these tough times. And thanks for your support of Rethinking Schools.

Warmly,

Bill Bigelow
Curriculum Editor

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In every issue of our magazine, our editors and contributors hand-pick a variety of books, films, websites, and other media for all ages.

Here are seven resources we recommended in our fall issue.

The Speech_frontThe Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream,
by Gary Younge
171 pp., $19.95

You may know Gary Younge from his fine columns on race and politics in The Nation magazine. Here Younge offers the riveting story behind one of the most famous speeches in U.S. history, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” address at the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The book includes a chapter on “the moment”—an especially valuable look at both the national and international context of 1963; background on the march; an analysis of the speech itself; and commentary on the legacy of the march and speech. As Younge wrote recently: “Relatively few people know or recall that the Kennedy administration tried to get organizers to call [the March on Washington] off; that the FBI tried to dissuade people from coming; that racist senators tried to discredit the leaders; that twice as many Americans had an unfavorable view of the march as a favorable one.” This is important background for teachers, but also readable by many high school students.

resources-staysolidStay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth,
edited by Matt Hern and the Purple Thistle Centre
319 pp., $20

There may be school libraries that would deem this book too risqué or soft on drugs. But Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth is a remarkable assembly of testimonies, stories, advice, poetry, cartoons, lessons, short essays, and “other stuff to check out” from more than 100 radical activists divided into diverse subjects, including family, race, gender, school, friends, sex, disability, indigenous struggles, ecocide, and “your physical body.” Sprinkled throughout are rich, evocative quotes. This is not a G-rated book. The text does not adhere to a “Say no to drugs” admonition, and it is joyfully sex-friendly. As one young Teaching for Change intern wrote in recommending this book, “These views are incredibly important in supporting youth to be agents of their own decisions and, at the same time, are radically different from mainstream views.”

EdActivistAlliesEducating Activist Allies: Social Justice Pedagogy with the Suburban and Urban Elite,
by Katy M. Swalwell
161 pp., $41.95

Katy Swalwell opens this unique book with a quote from the late Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire: “In the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, [the oppressors] suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have.” For Swalwell, a Rethinking Schools contributor, critical teaching for social justice benefits everyone—even the very privileged. As such, this work contributes to building a more just society for us all. In this accessible, story-rich volume, Swalwell offers example after example of how educators in different elite contexts attempt to teach for social justice—described in many instances through her own careful observations of their teaching. Interviews with students offer a window into how this teaching was received. This is a valuable book for any educator trying to clarify what it means to teach for social justice, but especially for those who find themselves teaching the children of the wealthy.

resources-gaslandGasland II, directed by Josh Fox
125 min.

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas—more commonly known as “fracking”—is one of the scariest technologies on the planet. A recent open letter from Pennsylvania residents described the effects of fracking: “In short, water contamination has been widespread; our air has been polluted; countless individuals and families have been sickened; farms have been devastated, cattle have died, and our pristine streams and rivers have turned up dead fish . . . and our communities have been transformed into toxic industrial zones with 24/7 noise, flares, thousands of trucks, and increased crime.” Josh Fox’s new film Gasland II illuminates this grim reality. With a blend of storytelling, outrage, science, and, yes, humor, Fox offers a student-friendly look at this technology from hell. The first Gasland film—which featured the now infamous images of residents lighting their kitchen tap water on fire—was nominated for an Academy Award. As Julie Treick O’Neill writes in her Summer 2012 Rethinking Schools article on teaching this earlier film, “Fox was a hit with my students: He was real enough, cool enough, and smart enough to take on fracking.” Gasland II is an important resource to help our students navigate the world’s disturbing new fossil fuel terrain. For middle school and high schools classrooms.

resources-asfastAs Fast As Words Could Fly, by Pamela M. Tuck,
Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
32 pp., $18.95

Based on her father’s experience in 1960s North Carolina, Pamela Tuck tells how a family and community challenge racism where they work, shop, and go to school. The protagonist, 14-year-old Mason, is the letter writer for the local African American civil rights committee. In appreciation, they give him a typewriter. His typing skills help him open doors when he attends the formerly all-white high school. There is no sugarcoating of the racism Mason faces. In fact, when he wins a county typing competition, not one audience member applauds. Instead, Mason finds love, admiration, and strength from his family and community. This picture book could be used to introduce the history beyond the big demonstrations about the fight for civil rights. It would lend itself well to a group read and discussion, and could also be a wonderful source of prompts for writing from the perspective of different characters. For grade 3 and above.

resources-democracynow

Democracy Now! Hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez
(free podcasts)

We previously included Democracy Now! in the Rethinking Schools resources section. But, as we begin a new school year, we thought that it was worth reminding people that, in our judgment, this is the best Monday-through-Friday news broadcast in the United States. The news headlines that open each hour are a rundown of vital stories often ignored or distorted in the mainstream media. Headlines are followed by several in-depth reports, many of which make ideal classroom viewing: striking fast-food workers, conflict in Egypt, NSA revelations, stop-and-frisk policing, the true history of the 1963 March on Washington, drone strikes, the Trayvon Martin tragedy, the climate crisis, and more. One recent episode that could and should be used in class is Cornel West’s critical commentary on President Obama’s talk on race relations following the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Each broadcast is available as simple audio or as audio/video. All are archived and available for free at the website.

resources-ifieverIf I Ever Get Out of Here, by Eric Gansworth
373 pp., $17.99

Eric Gansworth’s first young adult coming-of-age novel hits a home run. The main character, Lewis “Shoe” Blake, navigates relationships with family and friends on and off the upstate New York Tuscarora Reservation in the mid-1970s. Debbie Reese, editor of the website American Indians in Children’s Literature, alerted us to the novel. She explains that it offers “a rare but honest look at culture and how people with vastly different upbringings and identities can clash. And dance. And laugh. Gansworth informs readers about cultural difference, but he doesn’t beat anyone up as he does it.” Young adult author Cynthia Leitich Smith calls it “a heart-healing, mocs-on-the-ground story of music, family, and friendship.”

v28.1This collection of resources from our fall 2013 magazine was reviewed by Rethinking Schools curriculum editor Bill Bigelow and Teaching for Change Executive Director Deborah Menkart. Bill and Deborah are also co-directors of the Zinn Education Project, a collaboration between the two organizations..

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If you’re not yet familiar with the Zinn Education Project–a collaboration of Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change in Washington, D.C.–and the “If We Knew Our History” column–today is a great day to get acquainted with it.

Rethinking Schools curriculum editor and co-director of the Zinn Education Project Bill Bigelow wrote the most recent article on the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

Here’s an excerpt.  Read the rest of the column here.  (Thanks to Common Dreams for also posting it.)

Grenada: ‘A Lovely Little War’

by Bill Bigelow

Anti-bullying curricula are the rage these days. But as teachers endeavor to build a culture of civility among young people in school, the official history curriculum they are provided often celebrates, or at least excuses, bullying among nations. Well, at least when the United States is the bully. A good example is the U.S. invasion of Grenada—Operation Urgent Fury, as it was called by the Reagan administration—launched exactly 30 years ago this week, on Oct. 25, 1983. Grenada made an unlikely target of U.S. military might. Its main product was not oil but nutmeg. Its naval fleet consisted of about 10 fishing trawlers. Grenada’s population of 110,000 was smaller than Peoria, Illinois. At the time of the invasion, there was not a single stoplight in the entire country. So what put Grenada in the crosshairs of the Reagan administration?

grenadaposter

In 1979, the socialist New Jewel Movement had overthrown the corrupt and unpopular dictator Eric Gairy in an almost bloodless coup. For years, Gairy ruled through fear. His secret police, the “Mongoose Gang,” had been supplied by the U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. The revolution launched by the New Jewel Movement—the “Revo,” as it was affectionately dubbed—was immensely popular. By 1982, when I first visited the island, a literacy campaign was under way, new schools had been built, and unemployed youth in the countryside benefited from new agricultural cooperatives. Grenada welcomed Cuban aid: teachers, health professionals, and construction workers on the new international airport who aimed to replace the antiquated and dangerous airstrip up in the mountains. In just four years, unemployment was cut from 49 percent to 14 percent. Instead of advertising cigarettes and booze, colorful billboards throughout the island promoted education: “Each One Teach One,” “If You Know, Teach; If You Don’t, Learn,” and “Education Is Production, Too.”

Grenada’s ‘threat’

On a steamy August night, with hundreds of other Grenadians I squeezed into a high school auditorium in Grenada’s capital, St. George’s, to watch musical and theater performances from throughout the Caribbean—Dominica, Barbados, and St. Vincent. Each group closed its act with a short speech on how inspiring they found the changes in Grenada. With shouts and smiles they pledged to return to their islands and spread the word about the Grenadian Revo. This West Indian cultural evening exemplified Grenada’s real “threat”—not a launchpad for invasion, but a socialist-inspired revolution with a reggae beat that sparked imaginations throughout the Caribbean. To use Noam Chomsky’s expression, Grenada was the threat of a good example.

Grenada map / A small island with a population less than 110,000, Grenada was, as Noam Chomsky said, a threat of a good example.The United States responded to developments in Grenada with hostility. In August 1981, more than two years before the actual U.S. invasion—in naval maneuvers called “Ocean Venture 81”—the United States staged a mock invasion of Grenada on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Code-named “Amber and the Amberdines,” the supposedly fictitious eastern Caribbean country of Amber was accused of being a pawn of Country Red to “export terrorism to a number of Caribbean countries.” A Ranger battalion based in Fort Lewis, Washington, was airlifted to Vieques. Paratroopers landed in mountainous areas of the island and were backed by air attacks and the amphibious landing of thousands of marines. The obvious similarity between “Amber and the Amberdines” and Grenada and the Grenadines was a not-so-veiled threat. President Reagan claimed that Grenada’s construction of the international airport was a ruse for “Soviet-Cuban militarization”—this despite enthusiastic support for the airport from such un-radical entities as Grenada’s Chamber of Commerce, the Grenada Hotel Association, and the Employers’ Federation.

Then came October 1983. In the space of a few days, the leadership of the New Jewel Movement imploded. Grenada’s hugely popular prime minister, Maurice Bishop, was arrested by a faction of his own government and then executed along with many of his close associates. In massive demonstrations following Bishop’s arrest, the Grenadian army fired into the crowds. Shortly after, a military government was formed and announced a 24-hour shoot-to-kill curfew. This violence was the culmination of sectarian infighting whose origins are still murky—a flammable concoction of ambition, ideological rigidity, and leadership isolation, made more volatile by the ever-present threat of U.S. intervention.

In the midst of these traumatic events the United States launched its invasion—sending 7,600 troops into the tiny island—mostly from the United States, but with some from Jamaica and other Caribbean nations. An equivalent force invading the United States would total more than 20 million soldiers. Ronald Reagan defended the invasion, saying Grenada “was a Soviet-Cuban colony being readied as a military bastion to export terror and undermine democracy. We got there just in time.”

Read the rest of “Grenada: ‘A Lovely Little War.’” 

Photo credit:  Forward ever, backward never! poster. North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA).

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