From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical....The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.-- Howard Zinn (1994), You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, p. 173
Father, junior college, paternal grandfather owned town gas station, Upstate SC
Mother, dropped out of junior college, maternal grandfather died yarn, mill worker, hills of NC
Home town, rural poverty
Came to recognize privilege inherent in white, male, working class roots
Privilege should equal humility and seeking equity for others (gained from work of Kurt Vonnegut):
“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Eugene V. Debs, September 18, 1918
Taught in rural SC high school 18 years; not in a union (live in right-to-work state)
“Thus, proponents of critical pedagogy understand that every dimension of schooling and every form of educational practice are politically contested spaces. Shaped by history and challenged by a wide range of interest groups, educational practice is a fuzzy concept as it takes place in numerous settings, is shaped by a plethora of often-invisible forces, and can operate even in the name of democracy and justice to be totalitarian and oppressive.” (Kincheloe, 2005, p. 2)
Claims framed against DEMOCRACY, EQUITY, and AGENCY (not college or work “readiness”)
• Claim 1: Poverty is destiny; so is privilege. (But poverty should not be destiny.)
"The practice of placing individuals under 'observation' is a natural extension of a justice imbued with disciplinary methods and examination procedures. Is it surprising that the cellular prison, with its regular chronologies, forced labour, its authorities of surveillance and registration, its experts in normality, who continue and multiply the functions of the judge, should have become the modern instrument of penality? Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?" Michel Foucault. Discipline & Punish (1975), Panopticism, III. Discipline, 3.Panopticism
“These findings show that urban youth get subjected to levels of surveillance and repression that are not the same as long-term incarceration, but nonetheless, as the school merges with an ideology of street policing, the courts, and even the prison, a particular culture of penal control becomes an aspect of everyday life at school and beyond….
"Despite the trouble it caused students, there was an important ideological dimension to their refusal to comply with law enforcement. Their contestations during interactions with police and agents contained within them a decisive critique of disciplinary practices. Policing practices, especially the demand to see ID, conflicted with students' sense of justice and fairness and their imagined ideal of schooling." [Kathleen Nolan. Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School (Kindle Edition)]
Pre-kindergarten expulsions mirror incarcerations by race and gender:
• Claim 2: “No Excuses” Reforms (NER) perpetuate status quo of inequity, classism, racism, and failed universal public education.
(A) NER argues to reform schools in order to change society. Logic problems: If children enter schools unequal, then schools must be UNLIKE the society in order to change that society, and then students must receive DIFFERENT educations that address that social inequity. Traditionally, public schools label, rank, and sort students, and then give those students from poverty the least engaging and challenging educations (NER doesn’t confront that, but perpetuates it).
(B) Contradiction of NER argument: NER policies reflect and perpetuate inequity:
New/different standards suggest problem is poor standards or lack of standards; masking that children of color, children from poverty, and ELL students receive reduced educational opportunities BECAUSE of standards/testing movement.
Standardized testing remains race, class, and gender biased; thus labeling, sorting, and ranking by tests data perpetuates inequity.
Commitments to Teach for America (TFA) continues failure of teacher assignment now common in traditional public schools: students in poverty, students of color, ELL students, and special needs students have un-/under-certified and inexperienced teachers.
Charter schools have a similar range of student outcomes when compared to traditional public schools, and charter schools are experiencing similar re-segregation of schools compared to community-based public schools.
“No Excuses” discipline policies are racist and classist; imposed on “other people’s children” (Delpit) but not implemented in schools unlike “no excuses” charters attended by reformers (Gates) and their children (Duncan, Obama).
• Claim 3: Social Context Reform calls for social reform that supports the meritocracy necessary for children to learn on a level playing field; while education reform must reshape entirely universal public education to address equity of opportunities for all children regardless of their status.
“As a consequence, fragmentary and spasmodic reforms have failed to reach down to the profoundest needs of the poor.
“In addition to the absence of coordination and sufficiency, the programs of the past all have another common failing — they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income….
(A) Social reform needed to address childhood inequity; create social meritocracy to support education for democracy, equity, and agency:
Universal healthcare (including eye care, dental care) for children (and families with children)
Childhood food security
Stable and well-paying work for families (reform healthcare so jobs and healthcare are not linked); increase worker’s right and empowerment
Re-commit to fully funding and supporting universal public education; seek universal public college access for all successful students
(B) Genuine public school reform committed to democracy, equity, and agency:
End high-stakes testing and accountability; implement teacher/school autonomy and transparency (what schools offer and how v. student outcomes)
End labeling and sorting students
Insure equitable teacher assignments (no child receives consecutive years of un-/under-certified, inexperienced teachers)
Confront inequitable discipline policies and outcomes related to race, gender, and class
Reject the traditional deficit perspective driving public schooling that reflects cultural deficit view of people in poverty.]
Honor and support school, teacher, and student AUTONOMY (current accountability culture is about compliance, anti-democratic)
• Concluding comments:
Ralph Ellison, celebrated author of Invisible Man, spoke in September 1963 at a teachers’ conference “…to discuss ‘these children,’ the difficult thirty percent. We know this very well; it has been hammered out again and again.” Ellison was addressing the educational failures of African American children in U.S. public schools, including drop outs.
Rejecting the prevalent deficit perspective of his era, Ellison bravely asserted, “There is no such thing as a culturally deprived kid.” In his confrontation of stereotypes about race and poverty as well as the historical failure of public education to challenge the racism and inequity of mid-twentieth century America, Ellison concluded with:
“I don’t know what intelligence is. But this I do know, both from life and from literature: whenever you reduce human life to two plus two equals four, the human element within the human animal says, “I don’t give a damn.” You can work on that basis, but the kids cannot. If you can show me how I can cling to that which is real to me, while teaching me a way into the larger society, then I will not only drop my defenses and my hostility, but I will sing your praises and help you to make the desert bear fruit.”
(A) There is no “crisis”
(B) There is no “achievement gap”—“achievement gap” is reflection of “equity gap”
In Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” she presents an allegory of privilege, a narrative that exposes how privilege exists upon the back of oppression:
“They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” (Le Guin, 1975, p. 282)
NER in education maintains the delusion that privilege can somehow be separated from inequity. SCR, however, seeks to pull aside the myth in order to pursue the dream of King in which we continue to seek equity in society and schools in the U.S.—by genuine social reform then wedded to educational reform.