Category Archives: Neoliberalism

Tend the linguistic garden

 

Colin Baker (Baker, 2001, p.53) comments that language diversity requires planning and care. He uses an analogy of a garden to illustrate his point. Smaller flowers may be in need of more protection, and sometimes radical action needs to be taken to preserve particular plants. Baker comments earlier on that language shift is more common than language stability. This intuitively makes sense but it complicates the preservation of languages that are not viewed as high status and/or are spoken by a small group of people. The Universal Declaration on Linguistic Rights (1996) is a beautiful document to read but it is difficult not to view it as a utopia for language communities. It is a critical document to have, imagining other worlds is a powerful liberatory tool, and it is comprehensive, bringing in invasion and colonization and other references to uses and abuses of power. Linguistic diversity is promoted throughout this document as a peace builder, as a key factor for harmonious social relations, and a political framework based upon respect and mutual benefit.

Baker points out that language rights can sometimes be more idealistic than realistic (p.370). He describes the distinction between tolerance-oriented rights and promotion-oriented rights. A tolerance orientation is often legalistic in form, and one of its aims is to protect against discrimination in different settings, schools being one of the most highly charged. A promotion orientation implies the active inclusion of all language communities in question, going beyond the letter of the law. This can be costly to implement and oftentimes impractical. Home language instruction ideally would be offered to all students in the US but it is impossible to provide for all communities. Speakers of Spanish are best served as they make up a large group of non-English speakers in many parts of the country. Speakers of Somali may be served in the Minneapolis area but less so outside of this region.

The territorial principle may also be in play when it comes to tolerance and/or promotion of linguistic rights. In Article One of the UNLR a language community is considered any human society that has developed a common language as a natural means of communication, whether or not there are historical ties to the territory they find themselves in. This accounts for immigrant and refugee communities, among others. Baker reminds us (p.43) that the politics and power situation in which minority languages are situated is important. Beyond hierarchies of language, the power differential between people who believe they belong in this country (and Australia and the UK)-based on being a native speaker of English is vast. Around two thirds of the world’s population is bilingual and multilingual and this number is growing. The UNLR was likely written by people who speak multiple languages, and a challenge to the primacy of English did not have a place in this document (it can be read in the lines however). English is a global and imperial language and monolingual English speakers often feel entitled to the territory that comes with it.

Power and ideology determines whose language is taught, which language practices are valued and which are minoritized (García, 2014, p.89). Hegemonic educational practices in many Anglophone countries draw on the cultural capital of the white, middle-class, English-speaking student. The acquisition of ‘foreign’ languages is seen to be beneficial morally, socially and globally for the white, middle-class student, while the language communities that speak these languages as home tongues are seen as deficient (Baker p.347). Ofelia Garcia (p. 91) states that the most important aspect of language education is having teachers who are educated to respect the multilingual ecology of their classroom and to develop the bilingualism of their students. This happens too seldom in teacher education programs and in ongoing professional development for classroom teachers. Language education pedagogies are products of their time, and often reflect retrograde notions. Until a year or so ago, I carried with me a visual of the purgatory of ‘semilingualism’: people who don’t have academic home language or English. Leaving aside the problematic of the definition of ‘academic’, it was only when reading a recent article (Flores, Kleyn, & Menken, 2015) that I saw how erroneous that visual is. Garcia challenges monoglossic ideologies, in particular the concept that there are fixed first and second languages. She proposes instead the concept of languaging that is complex and interrelated, and does not emerge in a linear fashion. Garcia writes that continuing to talk about L1 and L2 keeps power in the hands of monolinguals that speak the dominant language of the society in which they live at birth and who can acquire a “second” language independently. This “native” speaker is seen as White, monolingual and loyal to their nation, whereas Brown and Black bilingual speakers are marked as ‘foreign’.

Language diversity, language rights, the territorial principle and power and ideology lead us in a circle that is ever expanding. Without intentional and critical reflection on bilingualism and its relation to power and privilege we may subsume language diversity and language rights beneath a neoliberal mantle. We need to crack that mantle and creatively plan for the maintenance and promotion of the rights of all language communities, wherever they reside. It is a complex and messy business, as with so much work in education, but if we don’t ask the questions we remain in purgatory.

 

References:

Baker, C. (2001). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (3rd ed). Clevedon [England] ; Buffalo [N.Y.]: Multilingual Matters.

Flores, N., Kleyn, T., & Menken, K. (2015). Looking Holistically in a Climate of Partiality: Identities of Students Labeled Long-Term English Language Learners. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 14(2), 113–132. https://doi.org/10.1080/15348458.2015.1019787

García, O. (2014). Chapter Six: Multilingualism and Language Education. In C. Leung & B. V. Street (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to English Studies (pp. 84–99). London ; New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

UNESCO. (1996). Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights. UNESCO. Retrieved from http://www.istrianet.org/istria/languages/declaration-rights-unesco.pdf

 

 

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Beware the apologetic stance of liberals

 

“Ignorance is never innocent and is always shaped by a particular ideological predisposition”. This quote from Donaldo Macedo (Macedo, 2000) is in response to educators objecting to the term “colonialism” to characterize the present (writing in 2000) attack on bilingual education (an attack that is still underway). He comments that the apologetic stance of some liberals, faced with the ignorance of educators who blindly oppose bilingual education, is not surprising as classical liberalism always prioritizes the right to private property. Market forces and neoliberalism are a logical extension of classical liberalism. Whiteness and English go together to suppress people of color and other people whose lives are pushed to the margins. English is not the only colonial language but it is the most widespread. It could also be argued that it is the most insidious as it continually morphs and spreads its webbing, increasing its influence.

Cheryl Harris introduced the concept of “whiteness as property” (Harris, 1993)and this can be extended to “English as property”. Speaking English is too often equated with ‘intelligence’ despite clear evidence that native English speakers do not have a monopoly on complex thought. In fact to even enter into that debate shows the dominance of English expression at the expense of other languages and mother tongues. In reference to Prop 227, empirical evidence that showed that in San Francisco and in San José bilingual graduates were outperforming their English speaking counterparts (Macedo, 2000) was deliberately ignored as it didn’t fit the deficit narrative pushed by politicians, the media, and English Only proponents. The days of overt punishment for speaking home languages other than English may be over, but students from lower socio-economic settings are still punished when forced to abandon their mother tongue in formal school settings.

“And then I went to school..” Macedo (2000) states that the ideological principles that sustain debates over bilingual education and the primacy of Western heritage are consonant with a colonial ideology designed to devalue the cultural capital and values of the colonized. It is impossible to extract relations of power and privilege from language teaching, and from teaching in general. The supposed ‘objectivity’ of Dominant American English plasters over the legacy of colonialism and exploitation, that is still very much in play. It is heartening, however, to read the work of researchers in the field, and educators in various settings, who challenge deficit thinking when it comes to students who speak non-Dominant American English. The authors of a 2008 review of research (García, Kleifgen, & Falchi, 2008) posit that the central idea to emerge from the report is that there is a growing dissonance between research on the education of emergent bilinguals and policy enacted to educate them. Eight years on we are fortunate to have even more work focused on the education of emergent bilingual students, work that may serve to buttress the hatred and intolerance now legitimized in too many places.

In terms of policy, the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, renamed No Child Left Behind, pushed nails in the coffin of education of ELs. Instead of linguistic references to bilingual education the goal was English acquisition at all costs. There is little doubt that the assault on bilingual education is directly linked to the number of Spanish speaking emergent bilingual students. At an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Lau v. Nichols, one of the attorneys on the case mentioned that it was a strategic decision to have Chinese families file the class action suit, and that if it had been, for example, Sanchez v. Nichols, the result could have been different. It’s hard not to react to that viscerally, but it reflects the attitudes of the time, and prevailing attitudes of today. Around 80% of emergent bilinguals speak Spanish as a home language, providing critical mass in terms of presence and policy. It is impossible, however, to generalize about people who come from vastly different countries and vastly different cultures. The 2008 report provides us with an overview of the data and an overview of programs set up to support emergent bilingual students. The authors contend that the recent shift toward teaching Spanish-speaking English language learners in English alone with no use of Spanish to scaffold their learning appears to be the result of the public’s misunderstanding of the nature of bilingualism and its benefits, as well as cultural politics that have little to do with what is educationally sound for the children.

A report from 2007 authored by the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that in a preschool setting when the Spanish speaking children spoke with their teachers in Spanish, conversations were more elaborate, children were rated higher by their teachers in terms of character traits, and there was less bullying and anti-social behavior. The amount of Spanish that children experienced in the classroom was significantly related to teachers’ ratings of children’s frustration, tolerance, assertiveness, task orientation and peer social skills. The use of Spanish in the classroom had no influence on their English language acquisition. When we talk about academic language and academic achievement we must bring in social and emotional hooks, as that is what home languages provide in abundance. These hooks can also come about when children learn native languages relevant to their cultural identity. As these are often languages not used much in the home, the complexity of expression may be mooted, but the importance of the language is not.

Too often decisions on how to teach emergent bilinguals are being made not in the classroom but in legislative chambers and voting booths; not on the basis of educational research data but on the basis of public opinion, often passionate but rarely informed (Murray, 2007). An outspoken advocate of bilingual education, James Crawford (Crawford, 2000), stated, “In a small way when government offers bilingual assistance, it elevates the status of language minorities. It suggests that immigrants and Native peoples need not abandon their heritage to be considered American-or at least to be given access to democratic institutions. In short, it alters structures of power, class, and ethnicity. The demand for language restrictions, by contrast, is a demand to reinforce the existing social order.” Education is always political and bilingual education tends to elicit greater political involvement than other areas of education due in no small part to the colonizing power of English and English-only movements. It is this colonizing power we face and we need creative solutions to support our students’ hearts and souls.

References:

Crawford, J. (2000). Anatomy of the English-only Movement. In At War with Diversity. Clevedon [England] ; Buffalo [N.Y.]: Multilingual Matters.

García, O., Kleifgen, J. A., & Falchi, L. (2008). From English Language Learners to Emergent Bilinguals (Research Review). New York, N.Y.: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Harris, C. (1993). Whiteness as Property. Harvard Law Review, 106(8), 1709–1791.

Macedo, D. (2000). The Colonialism of the English Only Movement. Educational Researcher, 29(3), 15–24.

Murray, M. (Liz). (2007, May 23). Current Political Realities and their Impact on Young English Language Learners. Hunter College, CUNY, New York, N.Y.

 

(Not) waiting for superman

􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰅􏰉􏰄􏰉􏰌􏰅􏰇􏰈􏰍􏰎􏰉􏰏􏰐􏰎􏰐􏰅􏰃􏰑􏰉􏰒􏰓􏰍􏰋􏰋􏰔􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰕􏰉􏰖􏰅􏰗􏰃􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰋􏰆􏰊􏰔􏰇􏰓􏰎􏰕􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰍􏰇􏰔􏰘􏰅􏰃􏰆􏰚􏰛􏰉􏰜􏰃􏰔􏰔􏰝􏰌􏰃􏰇􏰆􏰈 􏰖􏰐􏰎􏰍􏰋􏰅􏰞􏰛􏰟􏰑􏰉􏰠􏰃􏰡􏰃􏰓􏰓􏰄􏰢􏰜􏰇􏰆􏰎􏰍􏰅􏰋􏰣􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰤􏰄􏰓􏰥􏰇􏰃􏰢􏰦􏰇􏰅􏰥From September 24th, 2016 in response to:

Dumas, M. J. (2013). “Waiting for Superman” to save black people: racial representation and the official antiracism of neoliberal school reform. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education34(4), 531–547. http://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2013.822621

􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰅􏰉􏰄􏰉􏰌􏰅􏰇􏰈􏰍􏰎􏰉􏰏􏰐􏰎􏰐􏰅􏰃􏰑􏰉􏰒􏰓􏰍􏰋􏰋􏰔􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰕􏰉􏰖􏰅􏰗􏰃􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰋􏰆􏰊􏰔􏰇􏰓􏰎􏰕􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰍􏰇􏰔􏰘􏰅􏰃􏰆􏰚􏰛􏰉􏰜􏰃􏰔􏰔􏰝􏰌􏰃􏰇􏰆􏰈————————————- 􏰖􏰐􏰎􏰍􏰋􏰅􏰞􏰛􏰟􏰑􏰉􏰠􏰃􏰡􏰃􏰓􏰓􏰄􏰢􏰜􏰇􏰆􏰎􏰍􏰅􏰋􏰣􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰤􏰄􏰓􏰥􏰇􏰃􏰢􏰦􏰇􏰅
Money has taken over and has moral authority over our lives.Money has been pushed past the gate into a field of ‘objectivity, meritocracy, colorblindness, race neutrality, and equal opportunity’[1].

Superman is only coming for those whom he deems worthy of saving, just take the word of Geoffrey Canada if you don’t believe me.

You say ‘saving’ means keeping your mouth shut, means walking in a line with hands clasped behind you, means turning your back on your community-because all they want to do is hold you back, and you know they made terrible choices with their lives, so you need to break with all you know and hold dear, and keep that mouth shut, unless you are called upon to regurgitate an answer, no one really cares what you think, because free thinking leads to trouble, might make you think you want to go home and learn more about your family, but STOP-you are not white, you do not have class privilege, you do not have knowledge-the way the system defines it.

So you need to do as the system says, if you want to move past being blamed for your place in the world, if you want to be seen as advocating for a place higher up on the ladder, even if a broke back and cut out tongue is the price you pay.

The more ‘broken’ your home life, the more you are of value to those who seek to ‘affirm their own humanity through your suffering’[2].

You are a signifier, you are not of flesh and blood anymore, because the market wills it to be so.

No longer bought and sold, but money dictates your future nevertheless, money that you never get to touch.

You say ‘structural inequities’ and the market says you’re not trying hard enough.

You say ‘systemic racism’ and the market says grow a pair.

You speak up, speak out and kneel down

Because you are still human and the market will not separate you from your humanity, will not separate you from the love of community and will not separate you from the beauty you are.

 

Dumas, M. J. (2013). “Waiting for Superman” to save black people: racial representation and the official antiracism of neoliberal school reform. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(4), 531–547. http://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2013.822621

Yosso *, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91. http://doi.org/10.1080/1361332052000341006

 

[1] (Yosso *, 2005)

[2] (Dumas, 2013)

􏰂􏰃􏰄􏰅􏰆􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰋􏰅􏰉􏰄􏰉􏰌􏰅􏰇􏰈􏰍􏰎􏰉􏰏􏰐􏰎􏰐􏰅􏰃􏰑􏰉􏰒􏰓􏰍􏰋􏰋􏰔􏰇􏰆􏰈􏰕􏰉􏰖􏰅􏰗􏰃􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰋􏰆􏰊􏰔􏰇􏰓􏰎􏰕􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰙􏰍􏰇􏰔􏰘􏰅􏰃􏰆􏰚􏰛􏰉􏰜􏰃􏰔􏰔􏰝􏰌􏰃􏰇􏰆􏰈 􏰖􏰐􏰎􏰍􏰋􏰅􏰞􏰛􏰟􏰑􏰉􏰠􏰃􏰡􏰃􏰓􏰓􏰄􏰢􏰜􏰇􏰆􏰎􏰍􏰅􏰋􏰣􏰉􏰄􏰆􏰘􏰉􏰤􏰄􏰓􏰥􏰇􏰃􏰢􏰦􏰇􏰅􏰥

Raise a White Flag

Not a piece directly tied to education, but tied to our common humanity on this planet.

Raise a white flag

 

On January 8th, 1994 I turned 21.

 

A few days later I flew to Mexico City from New York.

 

Just after the New Year of 1994 a friend asked me if my travel plans to Mexico had changed because of the uprising in the southern state of Chiapas. I thought he was joking, as that was his style, but his question was earnest.

 

On the 1st of January 1994 the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, came into effect.

In response, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional Zapatista, the Zapatista National Liberation Army, rose up in the southern city of San Cristóbal de las Casas demanding an end to the exploitation and repression of the largely indigenous peasantry of the region.

 

I was 21, and not much scared me at the time. I was used to travelling alone and I think that ability made me feel safer. I was used to watching my back.

I spent a couple of days in Mexico City before taking a bus to Oaxaca. I didn’t go through to Chiapas on that visit, not so much from fear of danger but from fear of being surplus to EZLN needs. I had nothing special to offer the cause. In this white body I knew I was probably safer than the indigenous women involved in the EZLN actions.

 

My white skin is a bulletproof vest.

 

Around Easter this year I visited El Paso, Texas for the first time. El Paso looks over the Rio Grande into Ciudad Juárez and the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The El Paso and Cd. Juárez region is the largest bilingual and binational work force in the Western Hemisphere.

San Cristóbal and Cd. Juarez are about as far from each other as Mexican cities can be; Chiapas is one of the most fertile parts of Mexico and Cd. Juarez lies in the heart of the Chihuahuan desert. Yet they are both Mexico and the impact of NAFTA on both places is heartbreakingly devastating.

In the decade after NAFTA took effect real wages in Mexico declined by 20%. The minimum wage plunged 50%. A practice known as “twin plants” by companies such as Lexmark means that the tedious, back breaking manual labor is done by young women in Juárez who earn around $5-6 a day in maquiladoras. The white collar work, such as accounting, is done in El Paso where people are paid at least twice the daily maquiladora salary in one hour. This practice was around before NAFTA but this policy has surely deepened the impact.

 

My white hands have always guaranteed me a living wage.

 

El Paso has been ranked the safest US city over 500,000 people four years in a row, yet it abuts one of the most dangerous cities in the world for a woman. Apparently the murder rate has dropped significantly in Juárez but women are still killed with impunity and their bodies are still seen as dispensable/disposable.

Over a thousand women have been killed since 1993 and almost all these murders remain unsolved. The femicides largely target women who work in the maquilas, and who are mostly poor and dark-skinned, coming from rural parts of Mexico. So not only are women being severely underpaid but their lives are on the line with each passing day.

It is difficult to think of a greater contrast between two cities and NAFTA merely rubs salt into the wound. As we well know, the border is becoming increasingly militarized but nothing is being done about the vicious murders and rapes that almost define Juárez. If white bodies were on the line, the response would be much different.

 

My white body holds up under intense fire.

 

I didn’t go through to Juárez, not because I was afraid but because I could not deal with the cognitive dissonance of my white body moving effortlessly through this world, while women in this Mexican city have no such freedom. I could go and grab a taco on the Mexican side, and then be back to have a beer in the US without a second thought. Women in Juarez are exploited with impunity and there is little hope for escape.

 

My blood is not different to the women of Juárez, my heart is not different to the women of Juárez, my lungs are not different, my liver is not different.

My skin is different, my hair is different, and that is what determines our disparate fates.

 

My white skin, my white hands, my white body are a flag of protection.

 

The EZLN asks for justice and dignity for the people of Chiapas with the understanding that justice for Chiapas is justice for all the oppressed people of Mexico.

 

Twenty-two years after the passage of NAFTA the people of Mexico are suffering worse than before. The EZLN is still a presence in the Lacandon highlands and their grito is still being heard, but progress is a slow road.

 

As my white fingers type this, ready to present aloud, I am well aware of the journeys I’ve been able to make and the places I’ve been able to go to, risk free and with dignity and justice.

 

Under the covers we are all the same, our hearts beat the same, our lungs breathe the same, we all share the same skeleton. It has long been time for the covers to be thrown off and for us to revel in our unique differences with dignity and peace.

 

Unheard voices must now take center stage. We ask for a life lived with dignity for the women of Juárez, for the women of Chiapas, and from there, for all the women of the world.

Repost from Seattle Education: Alfie Kohn on Universal ‘high-quality’ Pre-K

“The top-down, test-driven regimen of Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiatives in K-12 education is now in the process of being nationalized with those Common Core standards championed by the Times — an enterprise largely funded, and relentlessly promoted, by corporate groups.[3] That same version of school reform, driven by an emphasis on global competitiveness and a determination to teach future workers as much as possible as soon as possible, would now be expanded to children who are barely out of diapers.”

Origen: Alfie Kohn on Universal ‘high-quality’ Pre-K

“The deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard”

May 2015

“We know of course that there’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.”

-Arundhati Roy, Sydney Peace Prize 2004[1]

Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of the Baltimore police was caused by gross acts of violence, while more pernicious forms of violence led to his illegal arrest. Johann Galtung (1969), a peace education scholar, describes violence as that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual. It is clear that in too many urban areas in the United States violence disrupts the lives of even the most peaceful of people, in untold ways. Giroux (2004) notes that the dominant public pedagogy of neoliberalism negates basic conditions for critical agency. “Public pedagogy in this sense refers to a powerful ensemble of ideological and institutional forces whose aim is to produce competitive, self- interested individuals vying for their own material and ideological gain.” Neoliberal policies are by nature violent, as profit is made off the hands of those less fortunate, and less likely to have their voices heard. Giroux also notes that the relationship between culture and power constitutes a new site of both politics and pedagogy, leading to resistance movements and opposition to the dehumanization of the 99%. This needs to begin in the early childhood arena. Early childhood experiences play a major role in a child’s life and early childhood educators need be intentional about lessons being taught, both explicitly and implicitly, in order to generate a more peaceful and productive world.

In “A Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, Martin Luther King Jr. excoriates the white moderate who is “’more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” The Baltimore Uprising stems from issues regarding disinvestment in urban areas, leaving people with very few options in regards to education, nutrition and physical and mental health. Violence is meted out to this community, and too many others, in gross acts of abuse, and in more insidious forms. Robbing inner cities of essential resources, such as recreation centers, libraries, health clinics, access to healthy and inexpensive food, is a violent act, yet those responsible can still sit back and gloat when these communities explode. These faceless destroyers will never be held accountable for their crimes, and it is unclear whether they genuinely feel a loss of humanity, thoughts of profit most likely fill those holes. Violence is carried out every day against children in schools robbed of resources, not simply in obvious acts of deprivation, such as excessive punishment, but in terms of not providing a school environment that would really see these children thrive. Their promise and potential may rest untapped, to the detriment of society as a whole.

In the place of the ‘achievement gap’, Gloria Ladson-Billings (2006) contends there is an ‘educational debt’ we owe our students, and it’s not a debt that will be paid off anytime soon. It could be argued that this debt is only growing, along with the number of children living in poverty. Ladson-Billings mentions four components that make up this educational debt: historical, economic, sociopolitical and moral. The moral debt equates to the disparity between what we know is right and what we actually do. Pauline Lipman (2011) affirms that we need to harness the collective wisdom and political will toward fashioning a sustainable, democratic, socially just alternative. Kumashiro (2012) notes that movement building requires forming coalitions with various constituents in ways that build on their strengths (emphasis added). Involving all stakeholders in discussions relating to the educational futures of a community is vital in affirming that education and policy making should be done with those affected, rather than to those affected. Rick Ayers ( 2009) reminds us that a socially just curriculum should not take on a dogmatic approach. All students must be respected as thinking beings. Each person is ‘an entire universe’. The centrality of the curriculum should be the point of view of the marginalized. Socially just classrooms always teem with possibilities; always seek out relevance, deeper meaning and connections.

Ethnic Studies has emerged as a major theme in my work along with home/school/community connections in the early childhood setting. I am particularly interested in critical literacy, and I am a strong proponent of the maintenance and promotion of home languages, in a broad sense: language and discourse not needing to be defined by an official title. Much has been written about Ethnic Studies in high school and into middle school but there is less research concerning socially just practices in elementary school and younger. This is not to say the work isn’t happening but it doesn’t take up the place it should in academic journals and elsewhere. To be clear, it’s possible not all Ethnic Studies classes promote social justice and equity, just as a ‘multicultural curriculum’ does not always equate with anti-bias teaching, but it’s a start. In Rethinking Early Childhood Education, Ann Pelo (2008) sets out the argument for socially just practices in early childhood settings. She states that ECE is a political act that necessarily involves values and visions. She goes on to point out that early childhood is the time in our lives when we develop core dispositions. We must attempt to nurture these dispositions towards empathy, ecological consciousness, engaged inquiry and collaboration. Pelo also points out that social justice teaching grows from children’s urgent concerns. Observing and listening in to conversations happening at school, and paying attention to what other avenues of self-expression are in play, helps us target curricula to suit individual and group needs.

“Children are fundamentally concerned with making sense of their social and            cultural world; teachers and caregivers can join them in this pursuit, guiding         them towards understandings rooted in accurate and empathetic         understandings-or we can leave them to figure out their questions on their own,    coming to conclusions based on misinformation and cultural bias.” (Pelo, p.xii)

It’s easy to forget how disorienting those first years can be and how dizzying it is to grow from a tiny baby to a little person who can do a lot on their own, but not everything. In this process, as has been discussed in the previous paper, it is essential families and the community are brought to the table. The more children see home and school intertwining the more successful they are likely to be at school, not just academically but socially and emotionally as well. It is also essential that teachers view education through a wide lens, and not as that confined to four walls.

“In an Indigenous worldview, education is based upon the requirements of everyday life. In this way, education is “an experience in context, a subjective experience that, for the knower, becomes knowledge in itself. The experience is knowledge.”[…] The idea that learning should take place only within the four walls of a school, through the prescription of a fixed written curriculum, is diametrically opposed to the idea that learning is dynamic, experiential, and grounded in a sense of place.” (Madjidi & Restoule, 2008)

Mariana Souto-Manning (2013) highlights the work of multicultural and anti-bias educators in early childhood classrooms. She emphasizes that to teach multiculturally is create spaces of possibility and to position power at the center of our teaching. “It is not possible to engage with race and gender or to question structures of privilege unless we consider power relations.” One of the teachers Souto-Manning writes about is particularly successful with linking home and school literacies. Ms. Baines is a first grade teacher in South Carolina. She works from what the children are already familiar with, what the children are already good at and who, what and where is important in their life. Environmental print from places in their neighborhood shows them they can already read certain items; making up new words to favorite pop songs builds on their musical interests and literacy skills, and learning about their communities through student generated interviews, class books, and community artifact shares (among many other amazing activities) shows them home and school can be one. Ms. Baines also makes home visits, thus strengthening the already powerful ties between home and school. Related to these visits, Souto-Manning reminds us that school may not always have been a welcoming place to parents and family members of traditionally minoritized communities. It is our place to show that we are different and to articulate how, and why. It is essential to show we value their practice and that we are committed to making the learning experience better for them and for their child. Honor and respect should be the brook babbling underneath us.

Henri Giroux (2004) states that proliferating sites of pedagogy bring into being new forms of resistance, raise new questions, and necessitate alternative visions regarding autonomy and the possibility of democracy itself. Bickmore (2008) asserts that just as people learn about conflict by witnessing and participating in it, people can learn about constructive peacemaking and peacebuilding by practicing peace in informal community activities. Peace, along with honor and respect, should tie a classroom together. It is also important to remember that Paolo Freire refused to accept fatalism, until the end. “At every turn, he emphatically rejected the idea that nothing could be done about the educational consequences of economic inequalities and social justice.”(Darder, 2009) I am reminded of Freire’s words as I despair over the fact that Giroux’s words regarding neoliberalism are no less true today than they were ten years ago, in fact the neoliberal attack on public education brought about by the Obama administration under the stewardship of Arne Duncan, is an attack like no other seen before or since. We need all the grassroots organizing and creative vision available to carve a kinder world out for the children yet to join the system, and for those who are already there.

References:

Ayers, R. (2009). Classrooms, Pedagogy and Practicing Justice. In W. Ayers, T. Quinn, & D. Stovall (Eds.), Handbook of Social Justice in Education. New York, N.Y: Routledge.

Bickmore, K. (2008). Chapter Ten: Education for Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding in Plural Societies: Approaches from Around the World. In K. E. Mundy, K. Bickmore, R. Hayhoe, M. Madden, & K. Madjidi (Eds.), Comparative and International Education: Issues for Teachers. New York, N.Y.: Teachers College Press.

Darder, A. (2009). Teaching as an Act of Love: Reflections on Paulo Freire and His Contributions to Our Lives and Our Work. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Routledge,Taylor & Francis ; National Council of Teachers of English.

Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, Peace, and Peace Research. Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), 167–191.

Giroux, H. (2004). Public Pedagogy and the Politics of Neo-liberalism: making the political more pedagogical. Policy Futures in Education, 2(3&4).

Kumashiro, K. K. (2012). Bad teacher!: how blaming teachers distorts the bigger picture. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3–12. http://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X035007003

Lipman, P. (2011). The new political economy of urban education: neoliberalism, race, and the right to the city. New York: Routledge.

Madjidi, K., & Restoule, J.-P. (2008). Chapter Four: Comparative Indigenous Ways of Knowing. In K. E. Mundy, K. Bickmore, R. Hayhoe, M. Madden, & K. Madjidi (Eds.), Comparative and International Education: Issues for Teachers. New York, N.Y: Teachers College Press.

Pelo, A. (2008). Introduction: Embracing Social Justice in Early Childhood Education. In A. Pelo (Ed.), Rethinking Early Childhood Education. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Rethinking Schools Publication.

Souto-Manning, M. (2013). Multicultural teaching in the early childhood classroom: approaches, strategies, and tools, preschool-2nd grade. New York: Teachers College Press.

 

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/news/Opinion/Roys-full-speech/2004/11/04/1099362264349.html