Thursday, March 14, 2013

The School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Civil Rights and a Civil Liberty Issue

The School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Civil Rights and a Civil Liberty Issue

An Editorial Preview of the Journal of Educational Controversy Issue on the School-to-Prison Pipeline and the School-to-Deportation Pipeline

The School-to-Prison Pipeline stands as a direct contradiction to the vision of the public school as an institution for promoting and sustaining a democratic republic. Each year thousands of students are funneled through the public schools into the juvenile justice system as a result of school policies and practices that increasingly criminalize students rather than educate them. Most are students of color, students with disabilities, and students from impoverished neighborhoods. How and why this is happening is the focus of this issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are YOU ready for Public Education 2.0?

Kevin Lynch, vice-chair of Canada's BMO financial group, recently contributed an editorial to the Globe and Mail arguing that public education should be ready for "Education 2.0". On the one hand, he should be commended for offering a justification of the value of public education in a context where many are eager to privatize. However, it is worth questioning the extent to which the value of public education can be so easily detached from its content. For example, among his suggestions for public education 2.0 include:

1. Curricula tied to labor market forecasts
2. Outcome based and "managed for quantifiable results"
3. Focused on innovation in industry and in "the knowledge economy"

I don't want to outrightly dismiss all of Lynch's predictions, and we certainly need allies for public education who come from a variety of backgrounds. However, in thinking through what "public education 2.0" would look like, it's worth asking if the conception of education on offer really has public value. Perhaps if by 'public' education, he means education for "global finance capital"?

I am sure that for some, Lynch is a bit of an easy target. His proposed reforms are common within industry and we can marshal all sorts of arguments showing that his (implied?) views on the value of public education are fairly anemic. But it does raise an interesting (or at least, strategic) problem: if in our political economy the kind of people that can offer real clout in terms of protecting public education just are those people who also have "corporatist" views on how public education should be operationalized and managed, and further, their support of public education is conditional on reforms that fall within such views, it puts those that seriously want to protect a robust conception public education from outright privatization in a difficult position. This is increasingly so as austerity measures in liberal democratic states become normalized.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"I'm not villainous or morally deformed; therefore, I cannot be a racist."

Jemal Countess/

"I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people."

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his opinion-editorial "The Good, Racist People," examines the present-day reality and pervasiveness of racism in U.S. democratic society. Many of our socially and economically privileged, primarily white students often perceive racism as something that is only performed by evil-doers and, as such, they could not be racist. To be associated with an ideology that modern America, according to Coates, has labeled as that of "trolls, gorgons and orcs" often conflates to our privileged students' complete denial of association. To be implicated in a system, which according to U.S. law, ended with slavery and has only progressively got better with the proceeding desegregation of schools and election of President Barack Obama is "insane."

Reading Coates' editorial may be uncomfortable for many of us, especially those of us who are socially, economically, and historically privileged. The reality of what Coates discusses is not something we want to believe and/or fully except as true. I think, though, this is what makes Coates' article an excellent addition for any classroom that wants to incorporate social justice issues that are occurring within U.S. society. It offers an opportunity for us as teachers to start a conversation with our students about racism in the U.S.--historically, presently, and systematically. The piece also opens the door for group conversations, journal reflections, or both, for privileged, white students about how seemingly "good" intentions potentially prevent one from analyzing their own internal biases. And finally, utilizing publicly-relevant, current news offers an opportunity for us as teachers to engage our students with the everyday and, in turn, open up doors for them to develop their own new and creative ways for working against socially-unjust and systemically-rooted everyday practices.