I've often noticed that the schools in the suburbs have more freedoms than the urban public school where I teach. Slick politicians come in and talk about "students first" and the results are almost always more tests.
Oh, don't get me wrong, the gifted kids get some project-based, inquiry-based education. But those who are lower-achieving or who are ELL or in special education get more of the worksheets.
Pearson nearly owns my school. They own the tutoring companies, the textbook resources, the consulting we have to purchase, etc. They have colonized it in the most transnational way possible.
And yet . . .
the colonial attitude happens with teachers who use phrases like "these kids" and who talk about every family as if it were a broken home and who lock their doors the minute they drive into the neighborhood.
Scared teachers have no place in urban schools. Neither do the textbook companies or the politicians. They need to be of the community and to the community. Anything less will be the perpetuation of colonialism.
I just posted your wise words to my facebook page. I also plan to ask this same question in my discussion boards in both the sociology and education classes I teach. Thank you for giving me something to contemplate on today.
One my many "aha!" moments came when I ran across this article, on the difference between doing education reform "to" communities, versus doing education reform "with" communities.
I've been having a good time recently. Anytime someone asks me "what we need to fix education" I just say we need to bring to our poor kids what we have long provided to our rich kids (rich, well-rounded curriculum, good libraries, knowledgeable, experienced teachers, trusting school communities, etc.). Then I wait for the extended "Welllllllllll . . ." and hand-waving about how "we aren't there yet" with "these kids."
Blithe, hubristic assumptions about what other peoples kids "need" are causing immense amounts of damage.
I've been letting my response to this post marinate in my brain for the past 24 hours but my gut reaction is "Amen!"
Back in May I wrote a very similar post on my blog -- http://ed421.com/?p=2140
One of the statements that I made in that blog post is this:
"I am involved in a project right now that, hopefully, will result in the development of a school from scratch. As I participate in the research and planning on this project, I have one thought that continues to come up in my mind on every single aspect of the work: Would I want this for my own children?..."
In May I wasn't thinking of the term "colonialism" but as I read your post and re-read my own post -- the term fits completely.
As far as I am concerned, no one is really serious about really improving or reforming schools unless they are thinking in terms of "our kids" rather than "those kids."
Agreed. But may I push you to think about the ways in which new forms of educational colonialism make their way into narratives like these, especially regarding 'other people's children'? (see Lisa Delpit's book by the same name if you haven't already).
As an educational leader, thinker, and Principal, what might be the possible consequences of creating a schooling vision for your kids (who, I'd venture to say, don't have the same social, cultural or economic trajectories) on working class and students of color? In other words, are there possible problems creating such a vision 'from without' so to speak, especially in a school system full of youth who have vastly different life experiences than you and yours?
Yup. I think there are always possible problems with everything. It's why we always try to remember to ask ourselves, "What is the worst consequence of your best idea?" because no idea is perfect, and often times, it is in the seeds of the best thing we are about that we find the most harm. It's why it is always important to listen, to evolve, to invite examination, and to grow.
Delpit's work shook me hard when I first read it in grad school, and I have found something new for me every time I've re-read it since then. For me, especially in a system of choice like Philadelphia, it reminds me to be as transparent as I can about what I believe - about the philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings of our school - to prospective students and families so that they can make as informed a choice as possible. To me, empowering students and families to make that kind of informed choice honors the agency of all families, especially those who come from different backgrounds than mine.