Sunday, March 20, 2011
THEME: The School-to-Prison Pipeline
The School-to-Prison Pipeline refers to a national trend in which school policies and practices are increasingly resulting in criminalizing students rather than educating them. Statistics indicate that the number of suspensions, expulsions, dropouts or “pushouts,” and juvenile justice confinements is growing. Moreover, there is a disproportionate impact on students of color and students with disabilities and emotional problems. In this issue, we invite authors to examine the policy implications, the political ramifications, and the causes and possible solutions to this problem. Moreover, what are these policies teaching our children?
DEADLINE FOR MANUSCRIPTS: DECEMBER 31, 2011
PUBLICATION DATE: SUMMER 2012
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Did this happen in Arizona? Idaho? Elsewhere in the Bible Belt of the United States, perhaps? Not at all--this event, which touched off a teacher's lonely, quixotic, twenty-year battle for his own free expression rights, happened in Canada's tiniest, sleepiest province, Prince Edward Island. The story that subsequently unfolded is both a triumph of principle and a human tragedy.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
where "it's always a siege on education and budgets." This just in (via private email) from my friend and colleague Matt Sanger at Idaho State. Matt is an educational philosopher who worked with Gary Fenstermacher and is finely tuned to the moral dimensions of educational work and policy. (Reprinted with Matt's permission):
My primary obsession at the moment is how advocates of current ‘reforms’ can support those reforms, while at the same time acknowledging that teachers make such a difference in the quality of education—apparently ignoring the fact that they are making teaching a much less desirable occupation. I wonder how they think these reforms are going to draw in even higher quality teachers than we have now? We may finally be able to get rid of the few fabled bad seeds under the current movement, but I’m not sure what that will leave us with for our future teaching corps (aside from a handful of bright and brave ivy grads signing up for a couple years of service, and those who really feel called to teach and who are willing to overlook the condition of the profession).
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Every day now there is a news story about education that jerks me to attention. In my home state of Pennsylvania, the new governor announced a budget proposal that cut state funding for higher education by 52%. Funding for local public schools is projected to be significantly lower than last year, a move that will certainly prompt increases in local property taxes even as districts cut teaching positions. Other cost-saving measures are long past scraping flesh off bone. (And cuts for public schools are being proposed at the same time that a new voucher proposal is in the state legislature, a proposal that will further drain public school funding while enabling students to opt out of public schools in favor of parochial schools at taxpayer expense.)
I’ve already figured out what this is about, even as I work against the defunding of public educational opportunities. However, here’s a story I can’t quite figure out -- or maybe I just don’t believe it. The state legislature in Utah has passed a bill that requires schools to teach students that the United States is a compound constitutional republic. This is true and leads me to wonder what they have been teaching.
Apparently, the need for this legislative action is tied to fears (whose?) about indoctrination with respect to pure democracy and socialism. (We apparently have no fears about indoctrination with respect to free market mania or corporate control, both of which seem to me to be more immediate (and more concerning) dangers than either pure democracy or socialism.
As I understand a republican form of government, it can be captured as “majority rule, minority rights” administered by representatives of the people. While I suppose we might quibble about what it really is, I would argue it’s ultimately not a definition to be stipulated but a political stance to be negotiated. Yes, we have a compound constitutional republic, but what does that amount to? We elect representatives following constitutionally-framed procedures and those representatives decide what the majority wants and which minority rights must be honored. And that too is a constantly renegotiated political stance.
While the Founding Fathers (and what about those Founding Mothers anyway?) were pragmatic in their specification of a form of government that was not purely democratic (in both representation and attention to minority concerns), they clearly had democratic aspirations of the kind John Dewey articulated throughout his career. That is, they aspired to a “mode of associated living” marked by communicative competence. While I think it is ducky that students will learn that they live in a constitutional republic, I think it a shame – and an intellectual error -- that they will learn about democracy only as a threat to the American way of life, rather than as a vision that, while admittedly dangerous*, animated the American Revolution and much of American history since that time. (And do I need to mention that socialist and free market economies can exist in constitutional republics, and that more often, as in our case, a nation’s economy is mixed for pragmatic reasons?)
I have the sinking feeling that the defunding of public schools in Pennsylvania at the hands of one of a slew of newly-elected Republican governors is actually very much tied to this legislation in Utah. Both are part of an orchestrated plan to drive a stake through the very concept of “public,” to stipulate what should be negotiated anew with each new political season. Their private interests, their minority rights, are being written into the fabric of governmental and educational possibilities. This should command our attention.
* A nod to Winston Churchill who noted that democracy was the worst form of government except for all the others that had been tried. He appreciated the dangers of “mob rule,” but also the vitality of political structures in which all had a stake.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Update on the situation at McCaskey East High School:
A few weeks ago, I commented on an effort at McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, PA to create supportive homerooms (basically advisory groups) for students of color -- and segregated by gender as well. Somehow the effort in this small Pennsylvania city found its way to CNN. (You may also remember Lancaster, PA as the place where surveillance cameras on the streets surrounding Franklin and Marshall College raised a bit of a national fuss.) You know the formula: CNN = big fuss = noisy school board meeting with "outraged" citizens = school board fails to support a thoughtful experiment on the part of the school administration and faculty. As CNN later reported "School Scraps Race Specific Mentoring Program."
Typically, the reality is a little more complicated than CNN (or any other news outlet) reports. Based on conversations with folks in and out of the school, it appears that the mentoring opportunities were not "scrapped" so much as they were made open or optional.
What is worth noting is what is behind some of the opposition to this effort. Specifically, some white citizens reported worries about whether a segregated mentoring program might foment a "black power" vibe. I found myself wondering why exactly that would be bad and for whom? It reminded me of the time several women faculty at my previous institution were standing on a street corner on campus, talking as male members of the administration walked to lunch at the student center. It was pretty clear we were making them nervous just by being "huddled" together -- as they commented while walking by.
I suspect we were only talking about our children or our workload or perhaps (horrors!) the next women's studies faculty development meeting. But after seeing their reactions, we immediately started joking about “fomenting a revolution." So let's keep an eye on who's worried about who is gathering and for what purpose. It may be the worriers who are fomenting something.
(An excellent example of this phenomenon can be found on the mashup of Fox New video clips put together by TPM. These collected clips of the supposed “violence” of the Wisconsin protestors point clearly to the source of any violence being done. Check it out! And thanks to Nick Burbules at the thorough and provocative Progressive Policy Digest for point this out.)