Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice

Our new book, Rhythm and Resistance edited by Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson, offers practical lessons about how to teach poetry to build community, understand literature and history, talk back to injustice, and construct stronger literacy skills across content areas and grade … Continue reading

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Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts”

Rethinking Schools:

Jesse Hagopian is a Rethinking Schools editorial associate and editor of “More Than a Score” published by Haymarket Books.

Originally posted on I AM AN EDUCATOR:

Twelve national civil rights organizations released a statement today in opposition to parents and students who opt out of high-stakes standardized testing–what has now become a truly mass direct action campaign against the multi-billion dollar testing industry.  I believe that their statement titled, “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts,” misses the key role that standardized testing has played throughout American history in reproducing institutional racism and inequality.  I wrote the below statement, with the aid of the board of the Network for Public Education, to outline the racist history of standardized testing and to highlight leadership from people of color in the movement against high-stakes testing. I sincerely hope for a response from the civil rights organizations who authored the statement and I hope that this dialogue leads to deeper discussion about how to make Black Lives Matter in our school system and how to remake American public education on foundation…

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Rhythm & Resistance: New Book and Spring Magazine

Rhythm and Resistance

29.3 Magazine CoverThis month, Rethinking Schools publishes Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice, edited by Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson. Our spring issue features three articles from this new book.

At a time when the regime of standardized testing is squeezing poetry and narrative, social studies and the arts out of the curriculum, Rhythm and Resistance presents a vision of teaching and learning with our students’ lives at the center.

By Katharine Johnson

An early elementary school teacher combines a science lesson and poetry to encourage children to celebrate their own skin tone and that of their classmates.

By Linda Christensen

An introduction to persona poems, which ask students “to find that place inside themselves that connects with a moment in history, literature, life.”

By Bob Peterson

A 5th-grade teacher uses N. Scott Momaday’s brilliant imagery to inspire his students to write metaphoric “I Am” poems.

FEATURES

By Leanna Carollo

A teaching assistant working with students with autism realizes the behavior modification-based teaching strategies she is told to use are robbing her students of voice and independence. She tries something else instead.

Por Leanna Carollo, Traducido por Nicholas Yurchenco

Una asistente educativa que trabaja con estudiantes con autismo se da cuenta que la enseñanza para modificar el comportamiento que le piden que utilice les está robando a sus estudiantes su voz e independencia. Así que prueba una alternativa.

By Bill Bigelow

The Koch-funded Bill of Rights Institute cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home the lesson that freedom means freedom to make money.

A Tale of Two Districts: The Long Reach and Deep Pockets of Corporate Reform

By Stan Karp

A comparison of corporate reform strategies and popular resistance in two very different districts in New Jersey—Newark and Montclair—reveals the flexibility of the privatizers and the potential of solidarity across communities.

DEPARTMENTS

EDITORIAL

Black Students’ Lives Matter
Building the school-to-justice pipeline

By the editors of Rethinking Schools

SHORT STUFF

Long Island Teacher Boycotts Common Core Tests

Charter Discipline Rules Don’t Meet Codes

Black Girls Matter

SF Catholic Schools Fight New “Morality Clauses”

New Mexico Students Protest PARCC

IN MEMORIAM

Remembering Harold Berlak

By Bob Peterson

RESOURCES

Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

GOOD STUFF

Fairy Tales Retold

By Elizabeth Marshall

 

 

4/18: Everything Is Connected Workshop

Talking Climate Justice in our Schools and Communities

RSVP on Facebook

When: April, 18: 11 AM – 5 PM

Where: The Commons, Brooklyn

388 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY
MAP IT

Closest train stops: 
Hoyt/Schermerhorn (A/C/G)
Bergen (F/G)
Nevins St (2/3/4/5)

In this day-long series of workshops, we will attempt to highlight not only the ways in which climate change is connected to everyday issues, but also how we can talk to others (be they students, friends, family, neighbors, or fellow activists) and help build a movement to fight this global crisis. Using the new book A People’s Curriculum for the Earth, we will brainstorm and work together to bring this crucial discussion into our classrooms and our communities.

Climate change is a global emergency-not just a distant threat to our ways of life on this planet, but an immediate threat to our livelihoods. Communities around the world are reeling from natural disasters, loss of crops, droughts, and diseases due to increasing temperatures and pollution. Close to home, from the effects of Hurricane Sandy to skyrocketing asthma rates in the Bronx, we can clearly see the ways climate change plays out along lines of race and class.  

More and more people are coming to the conclusion that these things are connected. In order to bring those people together and create the movement we need to fight back, we need to generate strategies for talking to our students, friends, and communities about how climate change connects to food security, racism, war, gentrification, and all sorts of other issues that are affecting us on a daily basis.

We hope this can be an important step in generating those strategies, and bringing together organizations and activists involved in different aspects of this important work!

Session One: Who’s to Blame for the Climate Crisis?

We’re often told about the benefits of checking our carbon footprint or taking shorter showers. But is our consumption really causing the crisis? In this session, participants will take part in an interactive mock trial on who should be held responsible for the climate crisis. They will also hear from activists fighting for ecosocialism.

Session Two: Environmental Justice

Because climate change affects us differently along lines of race and class, we have to fight not only for and end to climate change itself, but for environmental justice. In this session, participants will do a workshop on the impact of climate change on different communities and share their experiences of environmental racism.

Session Three: Teaching Climate Catastrophe

How can we bring talk of environmental justice into the classroom? In this session led by teachers, participants will explore how to bring the subject of climate justice into the classroom and discuss strategies for emphasizing the human impact of climate change as well as finding ways to inspire students to join the fight against it.

Sponsored by: Haymarket Books, System Change Not Climate Change (SCNCC), Rethinking Schools, NYCoRE, This Changes Everything, YAYA Network, International Socialist Organization (ISO)

APCE cover **Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event for a discounted price of $16 and you can also purchase the book online using code APCED15. There will also be a wide range of other book titles on race, environmentalism, education, and more available from Haymarket Books.

Black Students’ Lives Matter: Building the school-to-justice pipeline

By the editors of Rethinking Schools

Read the full article on our website: rethinkingschools.org.

David Bacon

We’re at a tipping point. The killings of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Renisha McBride—and far too many other African Americans—have put to rest the myth of a “post-racial” America. In death, these Black youth—shot down with impunity because of the color of their skin—have provided a tragically thorough education about police terror and institutional racism, and ignited the Black Lives Matter movement.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was originally created by queer Black women activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi as a call to action after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin in July 2013. Their battle cry went viral and then turned into a national uprising when Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, killed Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager. The movement exploded when Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted for choking to death Eric Garner.

As the Black Lives Matter movement has grown, Black students have played a pivotal role. For example, at Seattle’s Garfield High School, some 1,000 students, led by the Black Student Union (BSU), walked out the day after the non-indictment of Wilson was announced. As 17-year-old Issa George, vice president of the Garfield BSU, told the Seattle Times: “This is our time, as youth, to speak. . . . The waking up that America has done in the past couple of months—something that us as youth get to witness and get to be a part of—has been extremely powerful.”

College, high school, and even middle school students have staged protests and school walkouts in cities around the country. According to reporting by the Nation’s George Joseph and others, student activists of the Baltimore Algebra Project held a die-in when their local school board voted to shut down the first of five schools. The board fled, and the students took over their chairs to lead a community forum on the closures.

Black students take these risks because they know their lives and futures are at stake—from police violence on the street; from the dismantling of their communities through foreclosures, gentrification, and unemployment; and from the destruction of their schools through corporate reform.

The School-to-Grave Pipeline

For the past decade, social justice educators have decried the school-to-prison pipeline: a series of interlocking policies—whitewashed, often scripted curriculum that neglects the contributions and struggles of people of color; zero tolerance and racist suspension and expulsion policies; and high-stakes tests—that funnel kids from the classroom to the cellblock. But, with the recent high-profile deaths of young African Americans, a “school-to-grave pipeline” is coming into focus. Mike Brown had just graduated from high school and was preparing to go to college when police killed him. According to a 2012 investigation by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a Black person is killed by law enforcement, security guards, or vigilantes every 28 hours. A recent ProPublica report found that “Blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.”

The Black Lives Matter movement inspires us to fight the school-to-grave pipeline as an example of structural racism, after decades in which anti-racism has been defined in excessively personal terms through anti-bias or diversity training. Anti-bias work focuses primarily, and often exclusively, on internal and interpersonal racism. In other words, if you strive to not be racist in your personal relationships, that’s good enough.

There is definitely a place for personal reflection and discussion of racist attitudes and beliefs. And there is no doubt that many individual police officers need anti-bias training and to be held responsible for their actions. But that’s not enough, as the statistics on police violence, incarceration, school suspension and dropout rates, inequitable school financing, and school closures make clear. These are all sharp indicators of structural racism. When Michelle Alexander says mass incarceration is “the new Jim Crow,” she insists that the racist structures that have existed since slavery have mutated and changed, but they have not been eradicated. We can’t understand, teach about, or change what’s happening in this country if we don’t face this fact. And our students know that. Being an effective teacher in today’s society means taking the Black Lives Matter movement seriously.

For all the “students first” rhetoric of the corporate education reformers—who claim their policies are directed at closing the “achievement gap”—they are conspicuously absent from the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, the corporate reform agenda is in direct conflict with the goals of the movement. In city after city, Black students are those most affected by the decimation of neighborhood schools, the “no excuses” discipline and rote teaching of charters like KIPP, the substitution of endless test prep for meaningful curriculum, and the imposition of two-years-and-I’m-gone Teach For America corps members on our highest needs students.

Black Lives Matter doesn’t just mean Black people don’t want to be shot down in the streets by unaccountable police. As anti-racist teachers and students, we need to expand the slogan to include:

  • Stop closing schools in Black neighborhoods.
  • Fund schools equitably.
  • Support African American studies programs and substantive multicultural curriculum.

When activists staged a Black Lives Matter die-in in Detroit last December, Will Daniels, from United Students Against Sweatshops, told the Nation: “As a Black student, my rationale for doing the die-in was that structural racism causes not only police brutality, but also the starving of majority Black schools. This is a subtler form of violence.”

Let Black Children Be Children

The murder of Tamir Rice exposes a connection between individual racism and structural racism with important implications for teachers. Tamir was only 12 years old when police showed up at the Cleveland park where he was playing with a toy gun and shot him down within two seconds of their arrival. When his 14-year-old sister ran over, she was tackled to the ground and handcuffed. The officer who called in the shooting described Tamir to the dispatcher as a “Black male, maybe 20.”

Overestimating the age, size, and culpability of Black children is a widespread phenomenon, according to The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children, based on research led by Phillip Atiba Goff and Matthew Christian Jackson of UCLA. One of their studies involved 264 mostly white female undergraduates who were asked to assess the age and innocence of white, Black, and Latino boys. The students saw the Black boys as more culpable and overestimated their age by 4.5 years. “Perceptions of the essential nature of children can be affected by race and, for Black children, this can mean they lose the protection afforded by assumed childhood innocence well before they become adults,” said Jackson. “Black children may be viewed as adults when they’re just 13 years old.”

It’s not much of a stretch to see how this affects Black children in schools where the majority of their teachers are not African American. Any time teachers or administrators see Black children as older than they are, “just being teenagers” (or pre-teens, or little kids) becomes something threatening that has to be controlled or disciplined. How can children grow and learn if the adults around them see them as older and “guiltier” than they are? What will it take for school communities to eradicate this deeply embedded prejudice?

Why Not “All Lives Matter?”

As the Black Lives Matter movement has grown, some participants have questioned whether “All Lives Matter” is a more inclusive slogan. Although we recognize the serious impact of racism and other forms of oppression on many groups of people in the United States, we think it’s important to understand and talk with others about the historical and current realities behind this specific demand. As Alicia Garza, one of the movement’s originators, explains:

When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. . . . It is an acknowledgment that one million Black people are locked in cages in this country. . . . It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families. . . . #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important—it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole.

A civil disobedience demonstration that closed down the federal building in Oakland during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend highlighted the connections. Behind a banner reading “Third World for Black Power,” protesters identified themselves as Arabs, Filipinas/os, Latinas/os, Koreans, Chinese, Palestinians, and South Asians “for Black resistance.” As Filipina activist Rhonda Ramiro said: “The wealth accumulated through the enslavement of Black people in the United States enabled the United States to go around the world and colonize countries like the Philippines. We see our struggle for independence as linked 100 percent.”

Within that framework, how teachers apply this understanding will obviously vary from classroom to classroom, depending on how old the children are, their experience and knowledge about the issues involved, and the level of community that has been built in the classroom.

How to Make Black Lives Matter in Our Schools

So what does all this mean in individual classrooms and schools? Here are a few ideas for bringing Black Lives Matter into our teaching:

>>Read the rest of the article on our website! 

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A People’s Curriculum for the Earth – book review

Rethinking Schools:

Education for Liberation wrote an excellent review of A People’s Curriculum for the Earth. One of our favorite quotes from the review, “This book offers plenty of ways to inspire without demoralisation, and empower with humility.”

Purchase your copy of APCE on our website.

Originally posted on Education For Liberation:

Review by Nick Grant

A People’s Curriculum For The Earth
Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis
Bill Bigelow and Tim Swinehart Rethinking Schools 2014

At the heart of capitalist schooling the world over is a presumption that each learner is in competition with each other. From nursery to Ph.D learners are expected to

image assume a different and often aggressive set of goals separate from one another.

In the UK this is institutionalised in Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) given to 7, 11 and 14-year olds, which provide crude data for the compilation of performance league tables.

Likely progress in these tests determine functional arrangements such as patterns of student seating, and their access to additional teaching.

But the whole syllabi for GCSE, A Level, degree and post-graduate courses share a myopic belief that individuation is the prime purpose. There is a pragmatic assumption that employment is the quid pro quo…

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Hands Up, Don’t Test: Police brutality and the repurposing of education

Rethinking Schools:

Jesse Hagopian is a Rethinking Schools editorial associate.

Originally posted on I AM AN EDUCATOR:

While I was recently in Boston speaking about my recently released edited book, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with the great EduShyster, who asked me important questions about the connection between the resent rise in student protests against police brutality and high-stakes, standardized testing.

Here’s what I told her:

Season of Protest

Jesse Hagopian says protests against police and high-stakes testing have more in common than you think…

EduShyster: You happened to be in Boston recently giving a talk about the new uprising against high-stakes testing on the same night that thousands of people here were protesting police violence and institutional racism. Here’s the people’s mic—explain how the two causes are related.

Jesse Hagopian: If I could have, I would have moved the talk to the protest to connect the issues. I would have said that the purpose of education is to…

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