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Educational Justice: Teaching and Organizing Against the Corporate Juggernaut
Date Reviewed: July 11, 2017
Educational Justice: Teaching and Organizing against the Corporate Juggernaut addresses what the authors call the corporate assault on public education. The book provides detailed stories concentrated in the Chicago and Los Angeles public systems that outline struggles and successes in regard to public schools.
This collaborative book was written by Howard Ryan with Debra Goodman, Joel Jordan, and Joseph Zecola. Ryan describes school reform as corporate: “a package of public policies, private investments, and informal processes through which corporate and private actors are seizing control of education”(23). Ryan names teacher unions that partner with billionaires as part of the corporate juggernaut that places control of education in the hands of those who do not promote the best intentions of public education and leads to privatization of the school system.
Ryan provides an elaborate and involved example of organization and resistance to privatization by Kelvyn Park High School in Chicago. He details the movements by parents, children, and teachers that lead to victory in keeping this one school from being privatized. Joel Jordan describes in detail how teacher unions fought back against the corporate movement and frames a strategic approach to the fight against school reform.
In addition to providing an outline and methods for organizing to fight corporate school reform, the authors demonstrate school transformation through organization.
Debora Goodman focuses on critical literacy, democratic schools, and the whole language movement. Goodman draws upon insights from progressive education, particularly whole language instruction, and progressive educators like John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, and Paulo Freire to build a theoretical framework. She contrasts theories of literacy and teaching to further develop her thesis.
Ryan provides a transformational organizational method as he describes the practices of Soto Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. He argues against scripted reading programs and supports solidarity among teachers – accomplished through family writing workshops, advocacy for literacy, and the addition of books available to students. Using the same rationale and promotion of transformation of reading, Ryan and Zecola present ideas on a curriculum model using Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. It is promoted through an extended learning cultural model, extended learning time for teachers, collaborative units of study, and collaborative mapping and history. Additionally, they outline the need for extending learning into the community through internships and learning opportunities for parents.
This book and the work of the authors might be difficult for those in public education outside of larger urban areas to relate to. The book addresses a critical issue facing public education but is limited by only looking at schools in urban settings. The book is valuable because it addresses public schools and social justice in a way that is challenging. The authors raise consciousness about how easy it is to take money from corporate sponsors and then be lured into an educational system dictated by those whose knowledge of how education actually takes place is limited.
In Brazil, there has been a recent uprising of students fighting for justice and better education. Several political developments have spurred the revolt of fourteen- to seventeen-year-old students in defiance of arbitrary laws of governors. Let me mention four events. First, it was discovered that state deputies had stolen money ...
The proximity of violence is the terror. Violence is not new – it is, for much of our society and in many, many ways, a preferred way of life. The illusion is that violence can be controlled, patrolled, contained, and then “utilized” when needed – like a genie in and out of ...
Integrating Mindfulness into Anti-Oppression Pedagogy: Social Justice in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: April 15, 2016
In the classroom, faculty often rely on a singular way of knowing -- allowing minds to enter the classroom while leaving bodies, spirits, emotions, and experiences outside the doors of the lecture hall or meeting space. Professor of ethnic and women’s studies at St. Cloud State University, Beth Berila imagines something more effective and embodied. After receiving tenure, she enrolled in a yoga teacher training program. She realized the contemplative practices of yoga and meditation could better her teaching, particularly in the area of social justice. Mindfulness could create a space for interrupting oppression and begin “the dynamic process of unlearning” that which may contribute to oppression (x). In each of seven chapters, Berila presents a theoretical framework, reflection and application for classroom learning, practices to cultivate mindfulness, and extensive bibliographic references.
Berila’s project aims to recognize oppression and unlearn its destructive internalization for both the oppressed and the oppressor. Mindfulness, Berila argues, can dismantle privilege as well as dislodge internalized oppression. The practices she incorporates into her teaching prompts readers to reflect on their own educational techniques as potentially contemplative and communal spaces for learning. She offers introspective activities like pranayama (a form of breathing), journaling, and mindful awareness of the body. She also offers corporate activities that invite interaction and group discussion. Through both the introverted and extroverted approaches she acknowledges the possibility of triggering dissonance, trauma, and resistance. Berila is a skilled teacher and astute author; she knows well the risk and rewards of the activities she engages. The practices she advocates are new, thought-provoking, and stimulating.
Berila is not unaware of the critiques that can be made of pedagogy shaped by mindfulness. She addresses particular concerns directly and then nudges the critics to consider the positive benefits of this method: building empowered communities, fostering compassion, changing oppressive systems, claiming full human dignity and equality for all people, and prompting institutional change. Accomplishing this requires attention to the knee-jerk reaction of shenpa, the Buddhist term for “the negative gut reaction” (109) behind our charged reactions. Disrupting that shenpa is one of the aims of mindfulness and here Berila offers techniques for navigating the complexity of reactions that can occur within individuals and classrooms when that charge occurs.
Integrating Mindfulness into Anti-Oppression Pedagogy would be great summer or sabbatical reading when time allows deep contemplation. Her work invites reflection on those moments we wish we had handled differently in the classroom while offering helpful steps forward for future instruction. While integrating mindfulness does not require a teacher to be a master practitioner, Berila prompts small steps we can all take toward integrating body and spirit, emotion and experience into a deeper embodiment that moves beyond our mechanized minds. Plan to read this fascinating book twice. Once in a time and space where you can “pause and breathe” (29), allowing the content to become embodied. And then second, with pen in hand and syllabus in the other, ready to take note of how to incorporate these practices into your next semester of teaching.
The Culturally Inclusive Educator: Preparing for a Multicultural World
Date Reviewed: December 1, 2015
The Culturally Inclusive Educator: Preparing for a Multicultural World has the potential to complement and advance efforts of educational institutions and educators who grapple with becoming more inclusive. Dena Samuels’s work will convince those who have not begun this work to begin. Even more, it will equip them to do so.
Agreeing with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s claims that “education is the civil rights of our generation” and that “great teaching is about so much more than education; it is a daily fight for social justice” (116), Samuels’ work demands both self awareness and institutional struggle. Because a “social justice journey is a marathon, not a sprint,” a training plan is required. This book is one such training plan.
For the individual educator, Samuels offers numerous tips, including an extensive not-to-be missed list of inclusive educators characteristics (108-9). Yet, for all the difference individual educators can make, in order to make the deepest impact, this “bottom up” approach (e.g., addressing microagressions in the classroom) must be combined with a “top down” commitment (e.g. recruit and retain diverse faculty and administrative leadership, develop inclusive curricula, demand rigorous assessment of diversity trainings). Samuels stresses institutional diversity practices instead of relying solely on “individual champions who come and go” (76).
Samuels is hopeful even as she admits that becoming culturally inclusive educators and educational institutions is a long-term and, at times, difficult venture. She speaks from the experience of investing in the process.
I have learned that my skin color . . . represents something, whether I want it to or not . . . when I become aware of my easily manifested entitlement, I tangibly feel the sting of inequality, even as the recipient of unearned privilege. It is important that I have deeply felt this pain, not as White guilt, but as a reminder that these systems of inequality affect us all, obviously to different degrees, and that my objective is to dismantle them (90).
Some readers will be introduced to new vocabulary such as microaggression, noun-based identifiers, nondominant (instead of minority), meritocracy, and code switching. Others will be surprised by research results. For example, studies have found that voluntary inclusiveness trainings may produce more inclusive behavior than mandatory trainings (43), and that training faculty when they are in graduate programs is more beneficial than when they are in their teaching positions (44). Yet others might be surprised to hear that faculties and institutions are not as prepared as they think they are (24). Minimally, readers will gain much from the extensive bibliography, helpful appendices, and references to various survey instruments.
Other than a desire to read more about instances of institutional and classroom success, I am satisfied with this book’s ability both to convince me that my own “minor actions can make a major impact,” and to encourage and guide me toward amending my practices and the practices of our educational institutions.