Thursday, July 30, 2015

What's The New Jim Crow?

What do slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration
have in common?

Participants in the The New Jim Crow book group explored this question in small groups at tonight's meeting.

Want to know more?  Watch Bill Moyers' interview with author Michelle Alexander ...then join the book group for the next session on August 13!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Teaching to Transgress 3rd Meeting Highlights

Hello everyone! We just wrapped up a successful meeting today with some new faces and old. :) Today, we caught up with chapters 7-10...from chapter 7 thinking about the disconnect that occurs from white female racism and black female response, where black feminists struggle to be heard for being dismissed as "too angry" (p. 103). We wondered what brings about race consciousness in some white people to confront their racism and move forward while others remain people go through the "5 stages of grief", reacting with denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance. Chapter 10 being a very meaty chapter, we discussed how structural racism affects classroom instruction. Where does the teacher stand in the classroom? What is the attitude toward student voice? What kind of teaching is respected and admired by our coworkers and admin? We wrapped up with some questions to continue considering: 1) How can we "examine possibilities for transforming internalized anger into constructive, self-affirming energy we can use effectively"? (p. 109) 2) How do we open up conversations about race among white people and help them see the importance of doing so? 3) How do we build more intersectionality in the conversation about race, class, and politics? Please join us as we bring our summer reading to a close with our last meeting on Wednesday, August 12th at 11:00 AM to cover chapters 11-14!! Ismael has generously offered his house as our next venue...more details to come in the next reminder for directions. Cheers, Elizabeth, Pamela & Shira

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dog Whistle Politics

Join the newly-formed book group for Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian Haney Lopez.

The group will meet one time only on Tuesday, August 25 from 5-6:30pm

If you want to join the group and be added to the googlegroup discussion, email (You will receive an email with the location once you register for the book group.)
Here's a link to Ian Haney Lopez's interview with Bill Moyers to get you excited:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: Parts II and III Discussion, Week Two.

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Parts II and III Discussion group, week two.

Some general discussion at the start led to comments about the rise of hate groups in America, as stated by Southern Poverty Law Center, and mention of their great resources for teachers and others. Also, mention of thoughtless comments by folks, like, “ You don’t act Black,” as if that were a compliment. 

Appreciated segment about “White” identity, people feeling uncomfortable talking about race. Do not want to offend. Feel awkward, uncomfortable. Antiracist conversations are needed. Understanding of “White” privilege, with- out guilt, which is not productive or proactive. Action needed, not wallowing. Courageous Conversations by Greg Singleton, was recommended. Also, I, Racist, an article:

Important to have conversations across difference, and to be authentic self, to really root out problems and resolve some things. Uncomfortable is needed, dissonance, for example, creates growth. Yet, too uncomfortable shuts one down. So, all need to be able to be true to selves, stow the guilt and hostility, and have the productive conversations. 

Identity Molecule or Who Are You activity explained. Briefly: everyone in group gets 5-6 cards. On the cards are written each person’s race, sex, for example, and two blank they fill in for selves of something that is essential to their identity. One by one each person is asked to give up a card that is not as essential to one’s identity. In mixed race groups, it is found that “Black” people hold onto that card at end and “White” people give it up immediately. Take A Step activity: all begin on a line and move forward if experienced this or that, suggested by leader. Soon apparent what one has had in life. Affirmative Action is controversial, and many feel they didn’t get a leg up either, etc, but awareness activities and conversations prove “White” privilege even when really hard to believe or see. It is difficult for folks to see beyond their own eyes.
The dominant group, the norm, in society is devoted to keeping this status quo. So much societal energy is put forth, and media supports it.

Attempted to converse about one thing you would erase from human legacy if could. Kathy brought up fact about previous discussion of integral part of who we are. So, for example, it sounds good to us that we would remove the enslavement period from history, if we could, but what would that mean? Being “Black” in America, what does it mean, and from whose perspective would we erase that history? It would ease “White” guilt, but it is part of the identity of “Black” people. Thought provoking idea.

Also, what enslavement period would we choose? There has been slavery for all time and what would it change? The fact of rising on the back of someone else would emerge some other way. Money is at the heart of evil, inherent in human condition. 

However, many, including our youth, want to know what to do about it. Rise in dystopia stories with hopeful endings. How do we right society? The children want a say in this. Important to have conversations in our classrooms and to share battles won, the hope, the actions that can be taken. Mass movement, unions, achievement stories do exist and must be shared.

Discussion was had on charter schools and public schools. Lots of talk about Black History Month. So limiting. Some fear that charter schools are detrimental to the disenfranchised of our city, yet they are being sold the idea that these schools are the way to get noticed in the curriculum. Our public schools do need a serious revamping, but not a disbandment. The students do need the space to freely talk about their identity and issues. Could be done within the school, as was mentioned by Dr. Tatum, and be supported to succeed. We need role models, “Black” staff. There are increasing roadblocks to this in our schools and this must be dealt with. (A reason why charters are on the rise.)

Deb mentioned, “We don’t need anther hero.” True enough. Our students need to be learning the history of our people, not the same names over and over, and limited to that and only those few folks and to the month of February!

Help the students know we are all the movement. Help them spot racism. Raise awareness through books, talk, actions and role modeling. Show them how to make the connections.

Activism can be had in classrooms, such as service learning. Groups like Need In Deed help with this. Also, Teaching Tolerance from The Southern Poverty Law Center.

What does it mean to protect our children? Do we keep silent? If they are hearing about it in the news, or on the streets, then conversation would protect them, help ease the fears. Needs to be constructive talk, with ways to act upon the information. This can be quite sensitive, so must be handled with care in each situation. For starters, though, don’t see it as you teaching. Rather, starting the conversation. Critical conversations in your classroom. Could use articles or books as a stepping stone. It matters who is telling the story. “Was that a riot or a protest?” Identify bias, for example, use perspective, situate in time and place, from whose point of view, use different points of view on same topic. Example: use article from Inquirer and Tribune and compare and contrast. (How very P.S.S.A. and Common Core of us!) Connect with other writing, use pocket activity. (artifacts)

So many assumptions, judgmental attitudes, bigotry. The society has a lot of work to do!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement - Session Two

Notes from Kathleen:

Are we in a historical “moment”?  What moment are we in?  Does it matter? 

The Ella Baker book group had a lively second discussion in Center City. We started with a paired discussion of the question, “What were early moments of your own politicization?” One group member came to realize the centrality of important relationships, especially with those who were different from her, in her coming to see injustices.  This idea of relationships is a central theme in Baker’s work. 

Mapping Baker’s Theory of Change

We “chalk talked” Baker’s Theory of Change, and kept our chart in the center of our circle for the remainder of the discussion.

Themes of our discussion included: 

What makes a leader?  What was Baker’s process for building local, grassroots leaders? One way was sending local leaders to national conferences and workshops to “boost their confidence as organizers and give them intellectual perspectives and tactical ammunition for the struggles they were engaged in” (Ransby, 2003). 

How can we work within, outside, and around institutions to make social change? Baker redefined her work in the NAACP by building grassroots movements, rather than simply collecting membership dues.  She also held other voluntary leadership positions in addition to her paid work with the NAACP.  

What makes a movement or action successful or not?  For example, was the Occupy Movement successful?  What came out of it?  What had happened in the years prior to the Montgomery Bus Boycott that led to its eventual success? 

In what ways are we building relationships and responding to community needs at the local level?  In what ways do these local actions connect to larger collective struggles? Our group described instances of ways that they connect with neighbors and communities around local concerns, such as fish fries to raise bail or community gardens projects initiated by block captains. 

Are organizers and activists today running on a hamster wheel?  Or are we engaging in the long hard work that happens during the decades before a major social movement gains force?  

Are we in “a moment”? What moment are we in?  Does it matter?           

As a group, we grappled with where we see ourselves historically in terms of a movement for racial justice.  There was general agreement that something important is happening, with mass uprisings in response to police violence gaining national media attention (albeit skewed), “Black Lives Matter” entering the national lexicon, and local organizers coming together in ways they haven’t before.  But, are we on the brink of a watershed moment that will lead to large scale political change? 

As our time came to a close, this is the question with which we grappled. 

One group member shared her memories of the response to the events surrounding Rodney King and the insight that it will be a good sign when the protests are in response to the violence and not in response to the non-indictments and acquittals.  Until there’s mass movement in response to the police violence, it shows that there is still a level of trust in the system. Right now, the movement is showing the Black deaths matter, she said, but there needs to be a shift towards truly valuing Black lives.  

As I left, I thought about the response to the killing of Freddie Gray and felt some degree of hope.

And in the days since our discussion, I’ve reflected on the work of the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) over the past year and become excited by the parallels that I’ve seen between Baker’s work and the work of WE:  Building relationships.  Growing local leaders.  Responding to the immediate needs of the people.  Problem solving around community problems, rather than collecting membership dues.  Building relationships by talking to each other. This is the stuff of a movement.  And this is the moment that we’re in.     
Links to resources that came up in our discussion: 

Showing Up for Racial Justice (organization):
Through community organizing, mobilizing and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.

I’ve Got the Light of Freedom (book):
Using wide-ranging archival work and extensive interviews with movement participants, Charles Payne uncovers a chapter of American social history forged locally, in places like Greenwood, Mississippi, where countless unsung African Americans risked their lives for the freedom struggle. (Zinn Education Project)

The Movement for Black Lives Convening:
Hundreds of Black freedom fighters from around the country will come together for the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland, OH, from Friday July 24 to Sunday July 26th, 2015.This historic event comes at a pivotal time for the growing movement for Black lives in the United States.

 #BlackLivesMatter: The birth of a new civil rights movement (article):
This recent article in The Guardian traces the #BlackLivesMatter movement and contends with questions about leadership and the current historical moment, which our group grappled with together.   

Links to Ella Baker’s Words:

Bigger Than a Hamburger (writing):
“Bigger Than a Hamburger” is one of the few public written documents by Baker, and one of the best known.  This short piece has has powerful insight on the importance of autonomous youth leadership.   

The Bronx Slave Market
Co-written in 1935 by Ella Baker and Marvel Cooke, this article, first published in the white-owned the Crisis, exposed the “humiliating experiences of black domestic workers who huddled together on designated street corners in the early morning hours, waiting for white middle-class women to look them over and choose a lucky one to hire for the day” (Ransby, 2003).   

Audio of Baker (still images and speech clips):
It’s not easy to get audio or video of Ella speaking, but this is a short video with some audio clips of her speaking. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

bell hooks and Teaching Reality...

While reading I thought of a very powerful Ted Talk given by Christopher Edmin on reality pedagogy that speaks very much to how hooks' work relates to our work in our classrooms that are not in a university setting, how teaching should bring in the reality we live in, how teaching must include authentic student voice through 5 C's--Co-generative dialogue, Co-teaching, Cosmopolitanism, Context, and Content. Watch here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Multiplication is For White People

First Meeting Discussion Summary
(Editors Note: Next Meeting! Wednesday, July 29th, 6:15-7:45pm- it's never too late to join in. No reading required, though it may help!)

We mostly discussed the introduction to the book "Yes, Diane. I'm still Angry" and posed the question to the group, "Are You Angry?" and connected it to the Helen Gym's outcry "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention!"

Frustration over how the public, who engages in teacher-blaming, doesn't actually understand our ANGER and how it comes from passion.

Anger about the position teachers are put in when working in high-needs schools, when "Caring for" over-takes the balance with "Instruction of" children.

Importance of being a "cultural ally" and finding points of solidarity with students who don't look like us. Also mentioned was Delpit's (and others) debunking of Ruby Payne's "Culture of Poverty" backed by old and recent research that supported childhood development before-school-age is comparable between white and African American children. But we discussed that Factors of Poverty cannot be eliminated from the equation of how students perform in school, and branched into a short thread about school culture and climate.

Disgust over the "good school and bad school" labels and how teachers get praised when they have finally "climbed their way into a good school." Also charter schools were mentioned briefly in this thread.

Awareness of being different from the student population and observing teachers who some how achieved a level of "solidarity" with the students for a variety of reasons: same-race, gender, rapport, experience etc..

Questions about whether teachers are products of "lack of cultural awareness, cultural responsiveness" or "by-products of a structurally-racist system"?

Shared the definition of "Structural Racism" from ItAG:

According to Lawrence and Keleher (2004) Structural Racism is the normalization and legitimization of an array of entrenched dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color which reinforce existent racially developed societal structures. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. This definition reflects the distribution of material and symbolic advantage and disadvantage along racial lines while acknowledging the realignment of socio-political institutions developed throughout time to maintain continuity of racialized power systems.

Citation: Lawrence, K., & Keleher, T. (2004). Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities/POVERTY OUTCOMES/Structural Racism. Lecture presented at Race and Public Policy Conference in Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation., Berkeley.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?- Meeting 1

(NOTE: Next Meeting- July 22, 6-8, at Mugshots Coffee- it's never too late to join in!)

We had our first meeting this evening. It was a rich conversation about an emotional and difficult topic. We divided the conversation into parts, based on the focus points previously given for the introductions and Part One of the book. 

First Impressions:
Want to know how to have these hard conversations, with kids and adults. 
The definitions are helpful to further conversation. Use of words like racism, sexism. Definitions are eye-opening. 
Did not see racism as child. 
Though a book written in 1997, still timely. Sad, true, and pertinent to our reading.
Connection to Richard Wright. Finding identity, adolescence. Helped to understand our own identity building from our youth. Understanding more about need for self selected groupings to find identity. 
Perspective of “white” adolescent: personal experience of hurt and loss as “White” person when “Black” friends do separate in teen years, and did not understand. We expect “Black” people to accommodate us so we don’t feel uncomfortable. (Kathy) All agreed. Notice ways people congregate. “Blacks” have a cohesiveness, especially in a predominantly “white” situation, like our schools or staff meetings. Will it ever get better? 
Code terms in mixed groups of secret, segregated meetings. 
Still have lots of “White” identity work to do. 
Who has power to affect change? Teachers! Identify, verbalize, speak up. 
Twenty years ago discussions were heavy laden with angst. “White” folks crying and “Black” folks questioning, with annoyance, “From what well are you crying?” and stating,  “We’re done crying.”  
Hard to know what to do with outrage felt when others don’t get it. 
After reading book my lens changed. So much is now viewed with. “Where are all the “Black” people? In a room one is in, a meeting, on the screens, in advertisements, etc. Transformative ideas, much more aware, pay attention to it, speak up about it. Kids need insights. Can self identify with one’s own “other.” For example, the need for affinity groups, as in women only, for example. 
Dr. Tatum states the distinction between racism and prejudice or bias or bigotry. She says women can’t be sexist, “Blacks” can’t be racist. Racism is reserved for those in power. Systematic power, as Deb B. and Terry G. point out. It can be supported by anyone, but one needs the power of the system in place to actually be racist. (or sexist, or whatever) Discussion ensued on this topic, because not all are fully grasping this particular nuance.

Who Are You, Self Identity
There was a mixture of responses to this sub-topic. Some mentioned not having a strong sense of background or heritage. Youth lacked stories of past. Race, culture, religion, etc. not given much credence. Young adulthood, politics of day, news, etc. gave rise to an awareness. 
Others mentioned a stronger definition of heritage as children. Aware of familial culture. Racial identity and awareness of folks who are “Black” came later. Seen as source of tension: suddenly losing friends, parents disapproving, etc. High School was a time of awareness: politics, Black Power, separate grouping, tension, race riots, etc. A time of becoming radicalized, awareness grew, political activity became important. Realization of importance to confront assumptions. Could see that friends not treated the same way. Saw (see) teaching as a political stance. Felt many talk a good game, but reality proved otherwise. Unacceptable to us. 
Some had personal experiences, as well. “Are Italians Really White?, antisemitism, homophobia, etc. Saw acceptance, with a line. As in, “Oh, sure, Blacks are fine, but not as your boyfriend.” Or, “They have rights, but that Black Lives Matter business is not okay.” 
Often heard and hear folks contend their acceptance, their lacking prejudice, bigotry and racist potential because they have “Black” friends, or a “Black” relative, or whatever. However, that does not preclude feelings nor actions.
 One wonders where is the anger and backlash. Answer: it is internalized. Hypertension, strokes, etc. high prevalence in “Black” communities. Mention of theory that ADHD could be PTSD in many. So much anger being swallowed. 
So many are still so unaware. They think all is fine, no more racism. They keep in their bubble because it is safe and works for them.They are comfortable. Some are seeking to know more. We want the awareness, the information. We want to push back. Need to be aware of privilege that comes with certain identity. 

Memories, early awareness of difference, bigotry, etc.
 Kindergarten, seeing children of color treated harshly. 
Young child constantly hearing antisemitic remarks from friend’s grandma. 
In grade six, losing friendship when “Black” child separated from her. 
Young adult in workshops for social justice. 
Preschool and kindergarten: how the one Chinese student was not included or befriended. 
High School race riots.
As young teacher hearing comments of students of their reaction to other’s behavior. “That woman thinks we are a wolf pack.”
College experience of being ignored in a restaurant and realizing that is the common experience of people of color. 
All of these situations, and the many more that occur throughout our lives, make us so aware of what “Black” youth must go through to protect themselves, to stay aware, the venom they feel around them. Feeling invisible: not mentioned, not seen in media images, not noticed when needing service, etc. Even in animated films, so few people of color, and they don’t even have to pay someone to perform! Just color it in! What assumptions are being made, for instance, when a “Black” person enters a room of “White” folk.  Or, visa versa. Many of us rethought job changes or moves or whatever because the area was not diverse. “Black” people are behind the scenes, not visible. 

Definitions, agree, disagree, etc.
Found helpful. 
Generations are perpetuating the trouble. Need to talk about it, not cover it up or brush it aside from fear or ignorance or a comfort zone. 
Racism is systematic. Power behind it. Acting on the bias, bringing it to the forefront. So difficult, still. All of these years of oppression, history of wrongdoing to Native Americans, Holocaust victims, discrimination throughout history, and we are still asking what are these words. 
Tokenism, people think they have a trump card. “See, I am not racist.” Any individual is capable of bigotry, but racism is the enacting of that prejudice and based on a power structure within our society. Only whites benefit from racism structure. Though, of course, no one really benefits from such a society. Those oppressed can sabotage their own rise. Women raise their sons to be sexist. So internalized. It must be interrupted.

How do you interrupt racism in your life, in your work?
Power as a parent, teacher. Do not laugh at jokes, and speak up. “ Do not presume it is okay to make that joke in front of me. Thank you.” 
Teach history from point of view of all, not just the power group. 
Books with images of varying groups of folks. 
Invite parents in to discuss their contribution to the world, whatever it may be for them. Have the hard conversations.
 Try to support the academic growth of all, with attention to those struggling from the get go. Continue to work to close the gap. Support for the students struggling. AVID, for example, is a program that helps. Teach folks how to learn, how to get in certain circles, etc.  
Use social media to present a view, using the language, opening the conversation. 
Look closely at the biases, your own and others’. Be vigilant to be aware of what you still do that actually counters what you truly believe. Be mindful, particularly of where you are not interrupting the bias. 
Mostly, we hope the rest of the book spurs ideas to interrupt racism more and more.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space

Last week seven of us had a great first discussion around our visions for the group looking at Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space by Kristen Buras.  We spent some time sharing who we were, the contexts from which we are coming, the questions/ideas we have as themes for conversation, and upon the thoughtfulness of the group, shared the school contexts where we grew up.  We also spent some time thinking about our initial reactions to the title of the text, and developing some questions for examination as the group continues.  Our group was a mix of teachers from public district schools, public charter schools, administrative roles, and parent roles, bringing in a variety of perspectives that we are hoping to expand as we move forward.  Here are the questions that we are thinking about as we move forward.

Our goal is to think about these questions from the perspective of how charters look in the larger landscape in New Orleans AND in Philadelphia.

1) How do charter and district school models perpetuate or fight injustice?
2) What constituencies do charters serve?
3) How do charters split communities around race?
4) What does choice mean and look like?
5) What makes a school public?  
6) What does equity look like?
7) What is transparency? (Definitions, what's happening? where does the money go?)
8) What does "whiteness as property" mean?  What does market dispossession mean?
9) How do and have communities fight dispossession?
10) What is the role and presence of unions around charter schools?
11) Where does resistance meet the the market?
12) What is the future of charter schools?
13) How does race intersect with jobs, public financial assistance, and unions with regards to charter schools?

Amazing questions.  We have a lot to think about.  Please join us at our next meeting this Thursday.  

Standardized Testing: A Pillar and Tool of the Neoliberal Reform Movement

Book group member Shira Cohen provides insight and draws valuable connections to the Philadelphia context from chapters 5-7 of Mapping Corporate Education Reform. 

By Shira Cohen

This week, I went to the second meeting of Mapping Corporate Education Reform, and two things continue to strike me.  The first is the way that the authors tackle the networks that seem only to exist above us.  They are constantly creating a reform movement driven by money and stakeholders whose decision making power is entrenched in the systems that allow nations to operate in a corporatized socio-political landscape.  The second is the way that we have the opportunity to use this text as a lesson - which while written for an academic audience - is a necessary tool to understanding what we are facing as organizers and activists in our current landscape of teaching and power.

The SICME, a system of national testing in Chile, has moved me the most in this book.  The authors argue that the SIMCE "has worked as a pillar of the neoliberal reforms in education, thus supporting the construction of a common sense that transforms cultural capital into merit and makes the poor responsible for their own failure."  This particular testing system impacts funding, curriculum, security, and evaluation at all levels of the Chilean educational system.  As a pillar, it also functions as a tool of control within local classrooms and tools, existing in spaces where teaching and learning are happening daily.  For many years, Chilean social movements have focused on education, and this last month, led another series of protests and responses to the current president's reforms. 

As I write this, I'm considering the ways that education policy in the United States uses standardized testing as a tool at the national level - beyond the districts and states where we are doing our own local work in creating authentic learning experiences together and in driving the opt-out movement.  The Common Core is a national movement to standardize testing, and the most recent cut scores in the State of Pennsylvania have revealed that a jump in rigor - constructed by corporately funded test makers - have resulted in lower scores across the state.  

Two of our essential questions for the summer groups are, how do the authors take up intersectionality in their text, and what are the lessons of the movement?  We are never finished in our answers to these questions, but in this particular case, I'm thinking about how we can read the intersection of race, class, and neoliberalism in the US, and how we can continue to focus as organizers and activists on the ways that standardized testing exists as both a pillar and a tool for top-down education reform.  These issues are present currently as our school years will be beginning again in six weeks (how can we both opt out of standardized testing and work to dismantle the ways it impacts our classrooms, students, and lives?) and as a presidential election year arrives in less than a few months.  How will the leaders in the upper crusts of our own system respond to an anti-standardized testing movement?  And how will education policy makers hold responsibility for the construction of failure?

I'm left with this quote - read in Teaching to Transgress (come to that book group too!). bell hooks cites the Pedagogy of Liberation by Antonio Faundez (with Paulo Freire), who wrote in 1989, "one of the things we learned in Chile...was that abstract political...statements did not take concrete shape in acts by individuals.  We were revolutionaries in the seems to me essential that in our individual lives, we should day to day live out what we affirm."  I'm wondering how we can continue to ground our work as teachers and students in living out learning that roots itself beyond standardized testing and neoliberal tools of oppressive change - and how we can continue to ask decision makers in the highest echelons of US government - to live out their statements for change in direct policy rather than in the abstract.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What is neoliberalism? Who is Pearson? Where is TFA?

Book group member Ken Derstine condenses the first four chapters of Mapping Corporate Education Reform for us below.  We are looking forward to applying some of the research methods used in the book and developing a "social network analysis" of the neoliberal corporate reform forces shaping public education in Philadelphia today.

Check out editor Wayne Au's book talk:
By Ken Derstine

Chapter 1: 
Introduction: Neoliberalism, Social Networks, and the New Governance of Education

We began with a discussion of “neoliberalism”. We learned that this is not a new term, but has a history going back decades. In the last fifteen years it has increasingly become the theoretical basis of corporate and financial interests that want to privatize public education for private profit. This book maps with complex graphic organizers the corporate social networks and how they are increasingly changing education to meet the interests of the 1% rather than society as a whole.

Chapter 2: 
mEducation As A Site of Network Governance
This chapter looked at the Ed tech market uses graphic organizers to show how the corporate ed social networks have become global. It was pointed out how the networks are constantly evolving and adapted to changing social and economic circumstances with the bottom line being maximization of corporate, banking and hedge fund profits.

Chapter 3: 
Network Restructuring of Global Edu-Business: The Case of Pearson’s Efficacy Framework
We discussed this chapter’s focus on Pearson as the leader in promoting the marketing of testing. Pearson is a seventy-year-old British textbook company that changed its business strategy in the last fifteen years to be a leader in developing and promoting standardized tests. Sir Michael Barber is Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor. He comes from an education background and the company hopes his education background will help promote Pearson as a leader in corporate education reform. Barber is also partner at McKinsey & Company where he is head of it global education practice. It should be noted that Hite’s outgoing Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn came from McKinsey and is returning after leaving Philadelphia. He coauthored a book with Michael Barber in 2010.

Chapter 4: 
Mapping the Education Entrepreneurial Network: Teach for America, Charter School Reform, and Corporate Sponsorship
We discussed the origins of Teach for America and how it has evolved into an organization that replaces full time and veteran teachers with temporary teachers. Its founder, Wendy Kopp, began it as her undergraduate thesis in 1989. Corporate reformers such as Eli Broad heavily financed the startup of TFA. We discussed the books chronicle of the many TFA alumni, such as Cami Anderson, Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman, John White, who have become leaders in corporate education reform. We concluded with a discussion of how venture philanthropists have been the center of the charter school movement and promoted neoliberal theories about the deregulation and privatization of education which has become a full-scale assault on public education. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Educating for Insurgency, Meeting 1 Reflections

By Zac: We discussed the Forward and Introduction of “Educating for Insurgency”.  We began the discussion talking about the confusing nature of how the book is written. The text seems to be expressing simple ideas of student autonomy, choice, and leadership, but it is written in a complex way. 

It was suggested that the writing style is meant to mirror the author’s philosophical position that language is a form of power and students’ and teachers’ actions can be seen as a grand act of theater. The text may be written stylistically to mirror this standpoint. We thought it would be useful to examine more deeply the writings of Burke and Ellison who are mentioned in the text to better understand their theories. 

Much of the rest of the conversation focused on what “insurgency” means within the context of the book and our teaching. Is the book really about “organizing” in the traditional sense of community organizing? To some of us, the organizing strategies and student-centered approaches did not seem particularly new or well-defined. We then entered a conversation that focused on how seeing students’ actions as responses to oppression within the school context could move teachers and students to be more “humanized” within a dehumanizing context. 

Many of us thought that this philosophical approach focusing on human relationship  between teachers and students, rather than focusing on teaching pedagogy or classroom management is in itself “insurgent”, especially if one teaches from this position. We had a long discussion about what this would mean for students, teachers, and schools. We discussed restorative practices, circles, student leadership, progressive/political curricula, and the pressure of time and standards in the classroom. We also discussed how students can respond both positively and negatively toward being given more autonomy when they have been trained to be compliant and when the greater school environment does/does not support a re-thinking of traditional student/teacher power relationships. 

We discussed whether an "insurgency" ought to start with students or with adults, or both. Our closing discussion was a debate about the purpose of political education in the classroom. Should the purpose of education for students in urban schools give them tools for political education to understand their context, skills to be academically successful, or both? Is it fair to educate kids toward a particular political viewpoint? What would this viewpoint be? Would this sacrifice or complement other academic skills? What is the role of student choice in this process? 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Movement Without Marches: First Meeting Reflections

It was great being with everyone who came out last night to discuss and I hope we can continue to dialogue here as we go along.

I went home to find this amazing poem, which made me think more about the connections that we feel in togetherness without the obligation to announce this togetherness to an outside group. When the author points to a movement without marches, I feel that she is hinting at something deeper, that definitely can manifest through marches and protest, but lives beyond it. It reminds me of that slippery term culture. It reminds me of those priceless shared connections that can only come from deep listening and awareness.

Jeff Chang, wrote: "Culture is the space in our national consciousness filled by music, books, sports, movies, theater, visual arts, and media. It is the realm of ideas, images, and stories -- the narrative in which we are immersed every day. It is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change. Cultural change is often the dress rehearsal for political change. Or put in another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred."

Favianna Rodriguez, follows this up years later, saying "Think about culture as rain readying the crops."

When I think about the type of solidarity, the type of love, that is needed to be able to manifest the change, better, the joy that we want to manifest in the world, it has to follow something grander than policy changes. Yet, I don't think that it something that can be professed, only lived. Drake, the rapper says, "You can't live life and hold the camera at the same time." Maybe what these Black women are attempting to show us is that we gotta put down the camera in organizing to conjure a different, deeper, all the more collective power. Something that can be recognized on something as simple as a bus ride, as this poem, this story, beautifully shows us...

Continue reading for the poem.