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June 26, Rethinking Schools editor Wayne Au spoke at a Seattle rally protesting the role of the Gates Foundation in public education: “Educating the Gates Foundation.” The rally was sponsored by Washington BATS (Bad-Ass Teachers) and Washington Save Our Schools. This is the speech he delivered at the rally. 

Educating the Gates Foundation Rally Remarks

by Wayne AuWayne Au

Good evening. I’m here tonight because I am deeply concerned. I’m concerned that public education is rapidly becoming privatized. I’m concerned that we are all part of a grand experiment, one that is hurting kids and communities. I’m concerned that we are losing democratic, public accountability in public education. I’m concerned with the state of public education reform and the role of Bill Gates and his foundation.

 

You see, right now Gates and his foundation are pushing an entire set of public education reforms like charter schools and vouchers, high-stakes, standardized testing, and using tests for teacher evaluation. We are getting this set of reforms purely because he and his foundation have leveraged vast financial resources to influence and negotiate politics. They are doing this despite all countervailing evidence, and they are doing this with no democratic accountability.

 

And that is just the thing. While Gates and his foundation tinker around with charter schools, high-stakes testing, the Common Core, and the junk science of using tests to evaluate teachers, they avoid the central and most important issue that impacts educational achievement: poverty.

 

But Gates and the Gates Foundation aren’t hearing that. As far as I can see, they are not about actual educational equality and equity. Instead they seem to be about opening up public education to the marketplace.

 

In fact, Gates has said as much. Back in 2009 in the run up to the Common Core, Gates said the following:

When the tests are aligned to the common standards, the curriculum will line up as well—and that will unleash powerful market forces in the service of better teaching. For the first time, there will be a large base of customers eager to buy products that can help every kid learn and every teacher get better.

 

I find this ironic. It seems to me that Gates wants to fix inequality in public education by relying on the same market forces responsible for the crisis in housing, the crisis in medical care, the climate crisis, the massive wealth gap, and the increase in the schools-to-prisons pipeline for youth of color, amongst other national travesties.

 

And all of this has me concerned because in many ways you and I and our children are unwillingly part of a grand experiment in education reform. Back in September of 2013, Gates himself said, “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” These folks pushing these reforms do not know if they will work, but they are willing to experiment on an entire generation of children.

 

And this raises another issue that we must contend with: institutionalized racism. We know that the system of public education does not serve low-income black and brown kids like it should. Unfortunately, here in Seattle we are a great example of this given the low achievement and disproportionate discipline rates for students of color. But the question we have to ask ourselves is this: “Have these corporate styled reforms like charter schools and high-stakes testing actually improved the conditions of education for the least served?”

 

On the whole the answer is “no.” Low-income students of color have had their curriculum gutted because of the tests. They are far more likely to experience scripted instruction and rote learning purely to prepare for the tests. They are far more likely to have art, recess, music, physical education, and even science and social studies cut in preparation for the tests.

 

And despite their never ending promises, the charter school sector has continued to find ways to keep out English Language Learners and students with disabilities, expel or counsel away low performing kids of color, maintain intense racial segregation, and NOT, I repeat, NOT out perform regular public schools in terms of overall achievement.

 

Given that both failure on high-stakes tests as well as expulsion and suspension from school greatly increase the chances of students to get caught up in the criminal justice system, I would argue that these reforms contribute directly to the racism of the schools-to-prisons pipeline.

 

In this way low-income black and brown students of color are the ultimate guinea pigs for the Gates experiment in public education reform, and I think it is ethically, morally, and politically reprehensible that wealthy elites feel so free to experiment on our kids.

 

This is especially true given that Gates’ own children have not had to face any of his own reforms. In fact, I want all of our children in public schools to have what Gates’ children have had.

 

Take Lakeside Schools, where his kids have attended. They had small class sizes, a large, well endowed library, top notch facilities, and a rich curriculum. These things seem to work for children of the elite. Don’t the rest of our children deserve them as well?

 

Lakeside students also don’t have to take 5, 6, 7, or 8 high-stakes, standardized tests a year. As my dear friend and education activist Jesse Hagopian says, we could say the boycott of high-stakes testing in Seattle really started at schools like Lakeside because the rich have rejected having their children take these tests for years: They just sent them to elite private schools.

 

I also want all of our kids to have some other things those Lakeside students have, like food security, a stable home to live in, jobs for their parents that pay livable wages, access to free or affordable healthcare…You know, all the basic human rights that the rich can afford and, increasingly, the poor cannot.

 

If Gates and the Gates Foundation really want to start increasing the achievement of low income and students of color, and if they are unwilling to have the real conversation about growing race and class inequality in this country, then I’ve got a suggestion: Fund a nationwide campaign for the implementation of Ethnic Studies. We’ve got research that shows that Ethnic Studies, like the program that was banned by conservatives in Tucson, Arizona, contributed greatly to positive educational outcomes and college attainment of students of color there. In that program students learned about their cultural histories and identities, and they learned about institutional racism in this country.

 

But I doubt we’ll see any Gates-funded campaign for Ethnic Studies because it doesn’t have the right kind of politics.

 

Speaking of politics, as the Seattle Times reported, Bill Gates recently said that, “These are not political things,” and that he’s merely supporting research about making education more effective. I’d like to close my speech tonight by pointing out how this statement rings hollow in so many ways.

 

For instance, we have ample research on the critical impact of smaller class sizes, the importance of culturally relevant practices, the fallacy of using test scores to evaluate teachers, the increased inequity produced by charter schools, the harmful effects of high-stakes, standardized testing, and the central role poverty plays in educational achievement. But Gates and his foundation don’t care to listen to any of this. They have their own agenda for public education, and they are wielding their mighty resources to advance this agenda with disregard of sound critiques or public deliberation.

 

Gates’ statement also rings hollow because these are all political things. Poverty is a political thing. Institutionalized racism is a political thing. High-stakes testing is a political thing. Charter school policy is a political thing. Private school vouchers is a political thing. All curriculum, especially the Common Core, is a political thing. Teachers’ rights to due process and protections provided by union contracts are political things.

 

When you attack public education and try to reshape it along the lines of private industry, and you do it with no democratic accountability to the public, THAT is a political thing. Every aspect of education policy is a political thing, and it is ignorant of Gates to think or say otherwise.

 

But that is why I am standing here tonight. That is why you are here as well. We all know better. We all know that public education is a political thing, and we all know that public education is a political thing worth fighting for. We can win this fight. Together we can remake our schools in ways that actually meet the social, cultural, and academic needs of ALL of our children. We can resist the privatizers like Gates. We can put the Public back into public education.

 

Thank you.

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We have wonderful news. Two of our recent books earned Honor Awards from Skipping Stones magazine–a journal that has been celebrating exceptional multicultural children’s literature and professional education resources for over 26 years.

REEcoverRethinking Elementary Education and Teaching About the Wars earned the awards. Luckily, we have a special promotion going on right now so you can get these books and any others from our collection now with our 20% end-of-school-year discount.  Use code GRADE14 at checkout.

Also a winner of the Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin Gold Award, Rethinking Elementary Education is a collection of articles by teachers, parents, and activists about elementary school life and learning. The book covers classroom community, media literacy, language arts, science, social studies and other topics through a social justice lens.

Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities, described Rethinking Elementary Education this way: “Another glorious package of encouragement and challenge from the most enlightened and most fervent group of teachers and their allies in our nation. Indispensable for elementary teachers–and a feisty provocation to all educators to stand up and fight for our beliefs.”

Teaching About the WarTeaching About the Wars, edited by Jody Sokolower, focuses on U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Although the United States has been at war continuously since just after 9/11, the role of the U.S. military around the world is rarely discussed in classrooms. This collection provides lessons and activities for teachers to engage students in critical thinking about this critical issue.

We’re so grateful for everyone who contributed to both of these books and to Skipping Stones for recognizing our work and passion for multicultural social justice education.

And we’re grateful to you for your continued support of our work.

If you want to see for yourself why these books earned accolades, use code GRADE14 for a 20% discount off these or any of the books in our collection.

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by Jody Sokolower

RSEditors_Jan2012_146We’re in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to publish Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality. Our goal is $20,000 and we still have about $6,000 to go.

Early in the campaign, someone wrote to ask us why we need so much money just to publish a book. We thought you might be interested in where that $20,000 will go.

The overwhelming majority of the work on Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is volunteer. I am paid staff at Rethinking Schools, but the other four amazing members of our editorial committee—Kim Cosier, Rachel Harper, Jeff Sapp, and Melissa Bollow Tempel—are volunteering their time, wisdom, and energy. None of the more than 50 teachers, parents, students, and teacher educators with articles in the book are being paid. They have written, revised, and revised again out of a commitment to social justice education and to bringing these issues into classrooms everywhere.

So where is all that money going? We have a wonderful art director, Sabiha Basrai, at Design Action in Oakland. She is committed to creating the most beautiful book possible for the least amount of money, but she still needs to be paid. We also have to pay for aspects of production that you may not have thought about—I’ve been an editor for a long time, but I didn’t realize we were going to need money for indexing until a few months ago! Here’s our production budget, which doesn’t even include expenses involved with marketing the book, paying for inventory, etc.

$8,000:  Production editor

$6,800:  Design and layout

$3,500:  Artwork and photos

$1,500:  Indexing

$1,000:  Proofreading

$7,000: Initial print run (3,000 copies of the book)

$500:  Misc

Total:  $28,300

Of course, the real value of Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality can’t be put into dollars and cents. It’s the thought-provoking and inspiring work of everyone who has contributed an article, editorial time, or artwork to this extraordinary book.

As we near the last days of the campaign, we appreciate anything you can do to help us spread the word and make our goal.

Thanks for your support.

 

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We recently learned of an interview by Democracy Now! with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who discusses the segregation that persists in public schools around the United States. 

Watch a brief segment here:

You can watch the full interview at the Democracy Now! website.

Nearly 60 years after the Civil Rights Act and Brown v. Board of Education decision, Hannah-Jones points out that many public school districts look as though these landmark changes never happened.

“What George Wallace and others like him wanted was all-white schools. All-white schools don’t really exist anymore, but all-black schools do,” Hannah-Jones says. “Sixty years after Brown, integration is gone for many students.”

Hannah-Jones discusses the redrawing of school district boundaries in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as just one example of what she calls the “resegregation of America’s schools.”

“We still have a racialized K-12 system,” Hannah-Jones says. “Black and brown students tend to be in schools where they’re receiving an inferior education. They have less rigorous curriculum, and they’re less likely to have access to classes that will help them in college.”

Hannah-Jones’ full report, “Segregation Now” is published at ProPublica.

Related Resources:

The Promise: Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Movement, and Our Schools, special issue of Rethinking Schools, Volume 18, Issue 3, Spring 2004.

Teaching Brown in Tuscaloosa, by Alison Schmitke

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by Jody Sokolower

Jody Sokolower, lead editor of Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality

How do you respond when a child asks, “Can a girl turn into a boy?” in the middle of circle time?

What if your daughter brings home schoolbooks with sexist, racist stories?

What does “queering the curriculum” really mean?

What if parents complain?

Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality is filled with insightful, inspiring articles on these and dozens of other critical topics. This is the book we wish our own teachers—and our children’s teachers—had well-thumbed copies of in their classrooms.

We’ve got the articles and we’re deep into revision and design. But we can’t publish this life-changing resource without your help! That’s why we’ve launched an Indiegogo campaign—so friends and supporters like you can join us as we work to bring Rethinking Sexism, Gender, and Sexuality to classrooms around the world.

Please go to our campaign page, watch our video, learn about how the idea for the book was born, meet the book editors, and join our campaign today. (Depending on the size of your gift, you might be eligible for a special perk.) No donation is too small!

 

Most important, please share our campaign with everyone you can think of who cares about these issues and wants to become part of the community making this book a reality. Thanks for your support!

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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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HelenGymHelen Gym is a member of the Rethinking Schools editorial board, but that is only one of many hats she wears in her life as a mom, spouse, educator, and not-to-be-reckoned-with activist in Philadelphia.  The  Philadelphia Magazine recently ran this article about Helen, and the anecdote that best captures Helen’s passion and impact is this:

At A.S. Jenks, a quality K-4 school in South Philadelphia, only the kindergartners avoided enrollment in split grades. The parents were livid. But they had no idea how to actually change matters until they connected with Gym, who coached them in the art of activism. They filed complaints. They got in touch with the press. They organized a protest (in the rain) that lured the television cameras.

It worked. According to parents at the school, superintendent William Hite Jr. intervened personally. “I wrote on my Facebook page: ‘When I grow up, I want to be Helen Gym,’” says Jennifer Miller, a Jenks parent. “She really makes you want to fight for your children.”

We would argue that Helen makes us want to fight for all children, as do so many of our editorial board members-many of whom have been committed to social justice for decades.

Here’s more from the Philadelphia Magazine article. Read the full article about Helen here.

Helen Gym advances, and Mayor Nutter inches warily back. She waves a thick stack of papers at him, each sheath a complaint lodged by parents lamenting the calamitous conditions in Philadelphia’s reeling public schools. There’s the kid with dangerous asthma at the school without a nurse on hand. The dyslexic, orphaned high-school senior applying for colleges with no counselor to lean on. The bullying victim who fled Overbrook High only to find it impossible to enroll at another school.

“This is what we’re fighting against,” Gym tells Nutter. The Mayor is just a few yards from his office door, but he’s the one shifting his feet, looking to get away.

Minutes earlier, Gym had wrapped up a news conference in the ornate Mayor’s Reception Room, where, with the assistance of City Council, she’d usurped a podium usually used by Nutter and his invited guests. Gym and her allies were there to tout their latest pressure tactic: written complaints designed to compel the state to meet basic education standards and shake loose some badly needed dollars for the district.

“It would be nice to have your support, Mayor,” Gym tells him. Nutter issues a few noncommittal mumbles, cleans his glasses, and back-steps for the stairway. Gym shrugs. Powerful figures often look for the exits when she approaches.

That’s what happens when you develop a rep as perhaps Philadelphia’s preeminent public agitator. Relentless, whip-smart, meticulously prepared and utterly fearless, Gym—a private citizen who works without the heft of any meaningful institutional support—has managed to build herself one of the city’s largest bully pulpits . . .

A youthful 45, Gym is as ferocious as ever, and her public profile has never been larger. But these days, she’s laboring mightily not so much to remake the system as to preserve what’s left of it.

Philadelphia has become a premier battleground in a high-stakes national debate over the future of K-12 education. On one side are the self-styled reformers, a group with not much patience and a thirst for bold experimentation. On the other sit the teachers unions and, more interestingly, activists like Gym, whose opposition to the reform agenda is layered and nuanced but boils down to an aversion to the dismantling of traditional public schools and a deep-seated mistrust of the reformers’ motives.

Read more…

Articles by Helen Gym in Rethinking Schools:

School Closures Rock Philadelphia

Tiger Moms and the Model Minority Myth

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Earlier this month, we set up shop at the annual meeting of the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME). It’s always a joy to see old friends and meet folks who are new but no less passionate about multicultural education.

If you follow our blog, you likely share this passion, and know that Rethinking Schools has offered insights and resources on critical, multicultural teaching since our inception in 1986.

carberry-1

Here are a few examples, free to all friends of Rethinking Schools:

Decolonizing the Classroom: Lessons in Multicultural Education,
by Wayne Au
Multicultural education has to be based on dialogue, both among students and between students and teachers.

“If There Is No Struggle…” Teaching a People’s History of the Abolition Movement, by Bill Bigelow
Students “become” members of an abolitionist organization and grapple with the strategic dilemmas faced by one of the most significant U.S. social movements.

Multiculturalism: A Fight for Justice, by the editors of Rethinking Schools
The introduction to a special report on multicultural education.

Precious Knowledge: Teaching Solidarity with Tucsonby Devin Carberry
A high school history teacher centers a study of social movements on the fight over the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson. His students spread the knowledge.

These articles are free to read for our subscribers. Subscribe today to gain access! (All subscribers enjoy access to our online archives. If you have a subscription, but are not sure how to activate your online account, please call customer service at 1-800-660-4192.)

What Do You Mean When You Say Urban?: Speaking honestly about race and students, by Dyan Watson
“Urban” has become one of a series of euphemisms for African American and Latina/o students. What preconceptions hide behind the language?

The Other Internment: Teaching the Hidden Story of Japanese Latin Americans during WWII, by Moé Yonamine
A role play engages students in exploration of a little-known piece of history-the deportation of people of Japanese origin from Latin American countries to U.S. internment camps.

Diversity vs. White Privilege: An Interview with Christine Sleeterby Bob Peterson and Barbara Miner
Christine Sleeter explains why multiculturalism, at its core, is a struggle against racism, and must go beyond an appreciation of diversity.

Putting Out the Linguistic Welcome Mat, by Linda Christensen
Honoring students’ home languages builds an inclusive classroom.

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Perhaps you’ve followed the controversy around the name of the NFL team Washington “Redskins.”  They have faced a lot of pressure, and rightly so, to ditch the offensive name. Sadly, the team owner Dan Snyder has vowed never to change the name, and NFL officials have only recently agreed to talks with Native communities. (Here’s background from Huffington Post if you haven’t been following the controversy.)

NoMascotsIn Wisconsin, there’s a similar fight underway. Mukwonago is a small town about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The Mukwonago school district’s Indian mascot is offensive and damaging to the Native communities in Wisconsin, so they joined with progressive activists and concerned parents and students to urge the school board to part with the mascot and enter into a community-based process to find a new one. They nearly succeeded in forcing the school board’s hand until the state legislature intervened with a bill that makes it nearly impossible to protest racist team names and mascots.  Just yesterday, the bill passed in the Assembly, and the Senate will take it up next month.

One of the activists who has dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort in pressuring Mukwonago school officials is retired teacher Sandy Shedivy, a long-time friend, supporter and volunteer with Rethinking Schools.  Sandy is a scholar in her own right on this issue.  Her PhD dissertation was on stereotypes.

In her comments to the Mukwonago school board, Sandy expressed

“Our school has appropriated a cultural symbol without knowing the background and history of Indian regalia… these conceptual understandings of  ‘Indians’ rarely come from authentic interaction with members of the Native communities, based in a spirit of honoring and respecting diverse cultures. These logos and mascots must be challenged in order to dismantle the prejudices that emerge from our country’s colonial past.”

Would that NFL team owners and officials heed Sandy’s message.

Fortunately, calls to change the Washington D.C.’s team name have been growing, and sports newscasters and personalities like Peter King, Bill Simmons and most recently Bob Costas have expressed in very public ways that it’s time for a name change.  (Read Dave Zirin’s excellent column on Costas’ remarks.)

As educators committed to social justice, these names and mascots are a violation of our progressive principles, and we need to speak out.  But events like these are also an opportunity for learning and dialogue.

unlearningindianstereotypesSo as we discussed the Mukwonago mascot controversy with Sandy, we came up with the idea to send copies of our DVD Unlearning “Indian” Stereotypes to members of the Mukwonago School Board, the Wisconsin legislators who sponsored the bill to hamstring activists as they fight to remove offensive and racist mascots and logos from our public institutions, to the owners of the Washington D.C. football team, and to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose response has been disappointing.

Originally produced as a filmstrip by the Council on Interracial Books for Children in 1977 as part of a series of filmstrips combating racial stereotypes, Unlearning Indian Stereotypes was enhanced and transferred to DVD by Rethinking Schools in 2008. In spite of the fact that it was produced more than 35 years ago, it remains a useful resource for understanding and confronting racial stereotypes.

Narrated by Native American children, the DVD asks viewers to examine racial stereotypes through the eyes of children, while also providing a brief introduction to Native American history.

We hope that the officials who receive the DVD view it with an open mind and consider how their actions and statements contribute to the negative stereotyping of Native Americans.

Showing the DVD in your classroom would be a great way to connect current events in sports to our history.

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