MastheadRethinking Schools is a non-profit, independent magazine and book publisher advocating the reform of public schools, with an emphasis on urban schools and issues of equity and social justice. We stress a grassroots perspective combining theory and practice, and linking classroom issues to broader policy concerns. We are an activist publication and encourage teachers, parents, and students to become involved in building quality public schools for all children.

Rethinking Schools magazine will soon be celebrating its 30th year of publication!

15 thoughts on “About

  1. I think we need a wide offering of public school services that includes many groupings of children and adults. The 21st Century demands academic, social, physical, and work experience, and more!! Parents and community need to put children in a variety of “classrooms” such as hospitals, courtrooms, media centers, research labs, university libraries, factories, military bases, landfills, and jails. Creative teachers can use these experiences for such basics as map reading, math, spelling, speaking, manners, research, prioritizing, compare and contrast, and predicting. The opportunities are like ripe grapes hanging on a trellis [does that suggest art, poetry, drama, debate, music, critical analysis? YES ]

  2. I just discovered this site and it’s a great resource.

    I would like to let readers know about a wonderful resource, called The Youth and Gender Media Project, for school communities to learn about gender nonconforming youth.

    In a period of increased bullying, especially around gender and sexuality, it’s more important than ever for schools to utilize resources to help school communities learn about tolerance and love.

    You can learn more about it at:

    -Jonathan Skurnik

  3. I think students should learn about all cultures, but especially their own. Their culture is where they came from and who they are, they need to understand their cultures traditions and beliefs. History is an important part of the human race and we all should learn about each other’s culture for an appreciation of other cultures.

  4. I read the articles, “Haniyah’s Story” and “Teaching Haniyah”. I have to honestly say I’ve never thought much about the student’s side when his or her parent(s) are in jail. The students have an important view and testimony about how they feel with a parent(s) being away from them. Haniyah opened up about her father being in jail and no one would explain to her why. All she knew is her father was there for a few days then gone again. She’d ask where he was and family members would reply, “Back in jail”. When she wanted or even needed an answer why he was there again, her family would ignore her questions. She commented about how she loved spending time with her father and how he taught her many things. Her favorite thing was to sing with him. She just wanted someone to show they cared enough about her feelings and answered her questions when she asked about her father.

    After Haniyah started high school, she joined a program called “WHAT”. This program supports students who have a parent or parents in jail. They help students deal with the issues by having them talk to each other and support people who have been trained to deal with these issues. Before this program, no one showed concern for these students or what they’re going through. Students were finally getting answers they needed for a long time and were sharing their feelings out in the open instead of being pinned up inside them. More schools need these kind of programs to help students with this same situation. Each day more and more students are dealing with a parent or parents going to jail, they too need a program which can help them through their pain and how to cope with the situation they never wanted in the first place. As future teachers, we will have to show compassion for students in our classrooms who are going through this same situation and all the emotions that go with it. Cultural diversity is understanding that our students come from different backgrounds and they can’t all be treated the same (some may need more tender care and a listening ear).

  5. For a class assignment, we were asked to read Haniyah’s Story and Teaching Haniyah. Both articles were heart wrenching, yet inspirational. I admire Haniyah’s courage for not only sharing her story, but for realizing the flaws in the “system” and focusing her energy on making a positive impact on others. Her last statement about her father and the impact that she wants to make really stuck with me, “But I do want to follow in his footsteps with his music and what he raps about, teaching people to do right.” It is great to know that programs like Project WHAT! are available for students, and that they offer so much more than just support for the students. Something that really spoke to me in the article, Teaching Haniyah, was how Ms. Sokolower pointed out the impact that the stereotype of a “felon” has on students who do have parents or other family members in jail. I liked how she described this impact as a psychological bind, and that we as educators need to be supportive of our students in recognizing the significance their parents have in their lives. I have seen this first hand, since many of my students have parents who are incarcerated or who have been at one time or another. Since my students are in elementary school I feel that it is even more difficult for them. Any student would have difficulty dealing with the flood of emotions that that situation would bring. However, because they are so young, it is even more difficult for their fragile minds to comprehend. In Haniyah’s Story, she begins by talking about her father and how difficult it has been for her having such an important figure being in and out of her life. Haniyah describes her father as looking “beautiful” when he is first out of prison. She also describes him as intelligent, and she describes how much knowledge she obtains from him when they spend time together. This also reminded me of several of my students who speak of their parents after certain lessons in class or projects that they have been assigned. When I hear about the great attributes that their parents have, I am met with an overwhelming feeling of happiness and frustration. As an educator, I want to better the lives of not only my students, but I want to equip their families with the knowledge that will best assist them as well. Programs like Project WHAT! need to be supported by not only educators, but by the community in general. Often times I feel as though children of parents who have been incarcerated are looked over. Almost as if people expect them to make the same mistakes. Haniyah touched on this as well saying, “Sometimes my future seems doomed because I’ve had similar obstacles in my young life to my father and others in my community.” I have had a student voice this fear to me. We need to be aware of these students’ fears and be supportive of them. It is imperative that we provide them with both guidance and knowledge that will assist them in their journey, which unfortunately like Haniyah, may be full of obstacles that they must overcome.

  6. Daniela Romo

    After reading Haniyah’s story and teaching Haniyah my whole perspective of children with encarcerated relatives changed. Sadly, until now I was one of those people who frauned upon “felons” and those related to them. A “felon” is stereotype as a very bad person with evil intentions, but after reading these articles have have come to realize that that is not always the case. And what makes it even worst is that most children do admire and continue to look up to their parents regardless of their choices and reason of encarceration. It really made me sad to think that I would have been one of those children who isolated the Haniyah just becasue her father was in prison. As a future educator it is good to learn completely your children and look for signs of struggles becasue a teacher is not only teach out of a book but helps mold these children into successful adults. And if they are struggling with personal issues the worst thing anyone can do is isolate them and make them feel worst about their situation. I love how Haniyah spoke about her father. There was only love and respect presented in her article. I love that there are teachers out there that will go above and beyond for their students and help them in every way possible. setting up parent/teacher conferences in prison is an extra step but well appreciated. It is good to have an awakening call and remind people that others people poor choice aren’t necessarily passed on to their children and these people aren’t necessarily in prison because they are bad people. some of them truely care for their families and would like to be involved.

  7. “Haniyah’s Story”, makes me realize even more how important it is for teachers to be supportive of students. It makes me cringe that teachers are so willing to look away when students are being bullied in schools. I understand that these teachers do not have an easy job, but these students do not have an easy life. I do not think that any child has to be “tough” in order to survive in elementary school. So many students have a story that is similar or even worse than Haniyah’s and it saddens my heart. However, the perseverance and determination that Haniyah shows is what all students need. If all students were able to be a part of programs, like the one Haniyah is a part of, then students would have positive role models to look up to, more importantly, people that they can relate to.
    I feel as if teachers should embrace the real world situations that students face, and try to learn from them, because I know that I have never faced having a parent in and out of jail. I do not know what that is like, but learning about my students is one way that I could connect with them and show them that I do care about them. Taking an interest in my students will show them that the education system is not “designed to set you up for failure and grooms you for a life of incarceration” (Haniyah).
    I wonder how many younger students feel that going to jail is the cool thing to do. I remember reading an article in a class I recently took that praised positive role models for children. Some students feel that going to jail is the cool thing to do because they want to be tough. In most cases, they have to be tough in order to survive. Going along with that thought if many students feel that the school system is just a stepping-stone into the prison system then why would they not see going to jail as cool, it is their only option.
    The point that Haniyah brings up about people in power letting drugs and alcohol into communities and then incarcerating them because of their use of such items makes me agree with the next point that Haniyah brings up about a treatment program. When people are in jail, they do not have easy access to these items, but that does not help them realize that they do not need those items. It does not help solve the problem and help them change their habits and ways of thinking.

  8. Teaching Haniyah
    It is eye opening to see what some children have already faced in their young lives. The next thing that is intriguing to me is the variety of experiences that students have ad with police officers. From reading this article, “Teaching Haniyah” I feel I can say that most white students have a somewhat positive ideas of police officers, while the minority students have negative ideas about police officers. I imagine if I was walking home and a police officer stopped and frisked me for no reason, I would not be very trusting of police officers either. To add to this rambling train of thoughts these students must not think the world is a place that they can trust. I remember when I was younger being taught that they police were the “good guys” and they were there to protect us. I wonder if these students feel the same way about police officers.
    Asking is the one thing that sticks out to me in helping students deal with a parent or loved one being the criminal justice system. How will we know if we never ask, now I do not mean right out asking each student if their parents are in jail, but by fostering a relationship with every student, by getting to know our students and learning about their home life. I think taking this time to take in interest in students is important because it makes them realize that you are not here just to do a job and then you leave at the end of the day. You are a resource and a support for them if they choose to utilize you.
    I appreciate the guidelines that are included at the end of this article. It serves as a reminder to us all that we should not judge or look down on a student because a family member or loved one is in jail. Just because a child has parent in jail does not automatically make her a bad person. She is just that a child and any perceptions that we may have, as teachers, of people in the criminal justice system should not leak out and influence the way we interact with our students. I feel the last guideline that Sokolower included in the article are my sentiments exactly, “Treat them as you do every other student, believe in them, and let them know they are worthy of success”.

  9. School-to-Prison Pipeline

    I find it crazy that minority students are just being funneled toward the prison system. It is so discouraging to read that students already assume that they are going to end up in prison because their teachers treat them as criminals in the making.
    0.67% of the U.S. population lives in prisons, now that may not seem like a lot, but that is over 2 million people, just think of it as everyone who lives in the state of New Mexico living in prison. That is a lot of people.
    I find it unfair that schools in Florida gave students who scored lower on the standards test longer suspensions than students who scored higher even if they had committed the same infraction.
    I think a change in thinking is something that needs to happen in schools all over the country and that change needs to happen first in teachers and administrators. I know that a change needs to happen in me, because instead of writing “infractions” in the paragraph above I wanted to put crimes, but then I realize that they are not committing crimes. Most of these students are not murdering one another or committing grand larceny. They are students who need a second chance, and at times maybe even a third chance. Although at times I agree with the Zero Tolerance policy that is in place at most schools, I feel that it is also unjust. Some students deserve a second chance and they are looking for that second chance. Like the student earlier mentioned in the article who unknowingly brought a pocket knife to school. I believe that student deserved another chance. He did not need to be suspended and shipped off to a disciplinary school. I think at times schools who serve students mainly of color over look that fact that these students are just children. I have yet to meet a child who does not need compassion and support. If students do not have this support in their life then why would they stick their necks out in an environment that is so willing to chop of their heads and send them on their way to be someone else’s problem?
    I agree with the author that there needs to be a movement for social justice education because as the author wrote, “We cannot build safe, creative, nurturing schools and criminalize our children at the same time”.

  10. Being as it is that we are all in academic setting, the saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” really has a special meaning for me after reading “Haniyah’s Story” and “Teaching Haniyah.” I can agree with Christine Hamlin in that I have never really thought about the student’s side when his or her parents are in jail either. Our society often judges people before getting to know them, and in the case of these students, they were judged in the classroom setting specifically based on the fact that their parents were felons. It was really interesting how open the students where in the article “Teaching Haniyah.” Many times students with situations like these are very guarded about their home life, worrying about what others may think. I feel that by them opening up, however, they have shed light on the issues of discrimination that often impact low income communities. School should be one place in a child’s life that they feel comfort in. Sokolower does an excellent job at describing the role of education in these students lives, “school [should] be a place to share, analyze, and put their experience in a broader context.” If children do not feel comfortable in the classroom they will not be able to learn. The theorist Stephen Krashen discusses this with his Affective Filter Hypothesis, explaining that the learner must feel unthreatened before they are able to take anything in. Both articles mentioned the program WHAT! Started by Community Works West, based in Berkeley, Calif. This seems like an amazing program and one that would be of help in areas even outside of the bay area. These students need a support system that does not judge them, but instead, allows them to express their inner feelings without unfair treatment. It is also important for those students to know that someone believes in them, and that they are not destined to follow in their parent’s footsteps. Sometimes when they grow up with that jail-prone lifestyle in the house, it is hard for these children thinking that they are capable of anything else. These students have so many things working against them from the moment they step back outside those classroom doors, and it is naive to expect them to be able to handle those outside pressures and their schoolwork without any issues. There will be overlapping, and somehow society just expects them to ‘deal with it.’ It is important that these kids are afforded not only a quality education, but also the proper services to ensure that they are able to stay engaged in that education.

  11. School-to-prison pipeline Daniela Romo

    It is amazing and discusting to hear that schools, especially officers of the law can treat underage children the way this article states they do. The school-to-prison pipeline singles out those students who struggle economically and most likely belong to the minority social class (African Americans, Natives, Latinos, etc.). The Zero Tolerance policies is by far the worst policy our school system could haved implimented. It criminalizes the students without giving them a chance to explain themselves, thus encouraging the pathway of an acual crime life. It was appauling to hear the story of the 11 year old who got pushed by the cop and the principal didn’t respond. The magnitude of children with family members encarcerated, in parole or in probation is overwhelming. This is why as a future educatior, we need to do eveything in our power to make it as smooth and understanding environment for these children becasue the are under alot of stress and emotional pain.

  12. The article, written by Jody Sokolower, titled “Schools and the New Jim Crow- An interview with Michelle Alexander” highlights the mass incarceration that is facing our country. I think it is crazy that 75% of African American males living in Washington, D.C. can expect to serve time in prison. It is no wonder that most students of color feel that school is just preparing them for a life of incarceration. “Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans” that fact is just bizarre to me. The discrimination that criminals face once they are released from prison is something that I would have never thought of. Felons who are released from prison are discriminated against just as African Americans were discriminated against nearly thirty years ago. Felons who are released from prisons are denied employment, housing, the right to vote and even food stamps. It is no wonder that people who are released from prison find themselves returning to the same paths that brought them to prison in the first place. Not giving felons the chance to make a better life for themselves and for their families gives them no hope. If I was put in that same situation, and I had no help from anyone and my only option to survive was to sell drugs, then to be honest if I knew that it worked, it would be hard to pass up.
    I wonder why it is that young African American males are often the target of police stops, frisks and interrogations. I agree that it sends the message to young black males that one way or another they are going to spend some portion of their life behind bars. The fact that adolescents feel that prison is part of their destiny means that we need to drastically change the way we treat minorities.
    I find it very sad that children of color are born into a metaphorical birdcage with no means to escape. They are trapped forever in a life of uncertainty and are given second-class status. Children who are born in this birdcage, in the ghetto, have a less chances to make mistakes. I never realized that white kids make just as many mistakes, but are given more chances. If black kids were given more chances, would there be a shift in the school-to-prison pipeline?

  13. I can understand why “Zero Tolerance” was important when it was implemented in 1980 since alcohol and drugs were taking over the schools. “Zero Tolerance” for guns and any other weapon at school also make sense since so many students are getting hurt from these different weapons especially innocent bystanders. As far as I can see the “Zero Tolerance” on being late to school and getting truancy is going too far. The mother and her daughter were trying to get her to school the best way they knew how after she missed the bus. Sometimes I think police officers are doing it just to get back at certain cultures such as the African-Americans and/or the Mexican-Americans as the article stated. Truancy is very different problem then alcohol, drugs, and weapons and should be treated with more tolerance since most students are not doing it on purpose.
    “Mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline” article makes me think about how unfair our justice system is with certain cultures. I have a friend who is a correctional officer and he was telling me last night that it is true that Caucasians are more likely to sell drugs than any other culture, but it seems other cultures are being put in prison two or three times as much. As teachers, we need to teach our students that they don’t have to follow in their relative’s footsteps and they can have a better future if they stay in school and stay away from the wrong crowds.
    I think the curriculum needs to reflect the reality of the world we live in, today’s world is so different from the past. We know this from history books and from our ancestors who tell us stories from the past and the differences of today. As the economy gets worse so does the crime since people are trying to feed and take care of their families. The content of standards needs to identify with our students of today and have lessons that can help them cope with issues such as relatives in prison or grow up in different graphical areas. They need to know it’s not how you dress, where you live, or how much money you make that makes you who you are. The standards need to teach skills that will help all students survive outside the classroom.
    As I read the article “The Classroom to Prison Pipeline” I thought how typical the scene in the classroom with students disrupting and trying to be in control. I highly agree with the author that we should keep the students in the classroom and work with them to behave. So many teachers send misbehaving students to the principal or detention which only gets them out of doing their school work. We need to think about why a student or students are acting that way before we give up on them. In another class I took, we learned about students acting up when they didn’t understand how to do the lesson or understand the directions. Teachers should always check for understanding before students to an assignment. Each time we send a student out of our class it is another sign to them that their not worth our time, but ALL students are worth our time if we truly want to be a great teacher.

  14. Just a quick comment to say I love your blog! I just added it to my Feedly list. I have a blog called Kid Lit About Politics. Your blog will help me see how the books I’m reviewing can be used in schools.

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