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Scholar-activists speaking out about the most pressing issues of our time. Read more…
Angela Davis Public Lecture #Angela2013
Angela Y. Davis
"150 Years Later: Abolition in the 21st Century"
March 27, 2013 * 6:30pm
Liuna Station, 360 James St N
July 15, 2013 8:00 am –
July 26, 2013 8:00 pm
October 16, 2014 8:00 am –
October 18, 2014 5:00 pm
The Politics of Educational Assessment in South African Public Schooling, 1994-2010
Critical essay by Scott Timcke
With deficit-ridden and budget-slashing conditions now impacting the public sector in North America, one challenge for gravely underresourced public schools, colleges, and universities becomes resisting the lure of private funding tied to corporate control. Compounding this challenge are public perceptions of schooling, which have been slowly transformed by the thinking that education is a private right rather than a public good.
Unfortunately, efforts by educational policymakers to address such conditions are often dictated by political expediency, rather than an overarching concern to safeguard quality education as the very foundation of democracy. The results have been educational ‘reforms’ that focus on standardized testing, performance-based teacher evaluations, and union-busting measures such as the privatization of public schools in the United States and back-to-work legislation in Canada. Across all public sectors, we are seeing political interventions that are stripping away labour rights in the name of fiscal responsibility during a period of economic vulnerability.
How long critical education can remain robust within institutional conditions that appear on the verge of collapsing to financial and ideological pressures is a serious concern. It seems that leadership in education has become a matter of educators not only teaching their students, but educating administrators and policymakers as well.
Educators are taking a more active role as defenders of public values both inside and outside of their own institutions. This is true with respect to communicating the importance of education rooted in democratic principles to the broader public as well as taking up issues of social justice and labour organizing. It is also true with respect to a growing mass of university researchers who prioritize connecting their work to policy circles and embracing collaborative opportunities to engage various sectors in the production and sharing of knowledge and practices related to pressing social issues.
Those working to organize within educational institutions can learn from the philosophies and interventions that have long guided community organizers and activists in the broader community. Educators should create spaces for mutual enrichment, such as a March 22, 2013 workshop facilitated by Chandra Talpade Mohanty on “being a scholar-activist” that brought together non-academic community organizers working in Hamilton with academic community organizers working at McMaster University. Regardless of institutional affiliation, people who believe in working for a more just and equitable world through public education will find there is much more bringing them together than driving them apart.
Forging opportunities for cross-sectoral knowledge exchange, community building, and solidarity on local, national, and transnational levels is one promising approach that appears to be moving forward through the dedicated efforts of engaged scholars, despite slow or no encouragement from educational institutions and their leaders.
Educators should also create spaces for young scholars to be involved in the politics and decision-making structures within their schools as well as in the civic life of their broader communities. Yet equally important will be for students and teachers to join together in supporting those key leaders within public and higher education who are in the right positions to voice a collective vision of education as a site that supports human agency, equity, and dignity, rather than only statistics and ‘measurable impact.’
- Grace Pollock
Scott Timcke offers a critical analysis of the failure of the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) in South African schools, concluding that the resource-deprived OBE initiative was sacrificed to stabilize an internal government power struggle. Timcke underscores the fact that educational policy and state politics are inseparable, with the effect that educational policies are often tied to short-term partisan interests – a reality that educational researchers rarely take into account, as education becomes a pawn in a larger game where the stakes are often difficult to perceive without consideration of broader contexts. Continue reading
University educator Larry Greer has contributed this satirical commentary on the Obama administration’s Race to the Top policy, which in 2009 introduced educational reforms that reward federal grant money to school districts that implement measures such as high-stakes testing and tying teach pay to student performance – despite a lack of evidence such measures improve educational outcomes – as well as draconian school ‘turnaround’ policies that include shutting down low performing schools, firing the entire staff, or calling in a privatized charter school to replace a public one. Continue reading
Diane Ravitch, former US Assistant Secretary of Education and now a vociferous opponent of high-stakes testing in US schools, has several posts on her blog worth reading. The one posted here is a letter of the student advocacy group United Students of New Orleans which is organizing across both public and charter schools to stop school closures and demand access to “quality teachers, adequate study materials, and a safe environment
free of discrimination and mental stress.”
Mark Naison tells of the assaults public school teachers are suffering at the hands of those who advocate for the corporatization and privatization of education (think Waiting for Superman). In detailing this “War on Teachers,” Naison explores the adverse impacts of pathologizing teacher job security and measuring the success of educators strictly through the test scores of their students.
Touching eloquently on the heart-breaking violence of student loans, C. Cryn Johannsen reveals the depression, feelings of immobility, and suicides haunting young people in debt today and the scorn and denigration with which their situations are often met.
Julianne Hing details the disciplinary policies and procedures that are powering Mississippi’s horrific school-to-prison pipeline as well as the outcry against these punitive measures coming not only from parents, but even the US Department of Justice.
This article by Amanda Gebhard offers an insightful analysis of the criminalization of Aboriginal youth in Canada, with a specific emphasis the ways in which young Indigenous people are being funneled from classrooms to cages.
The school-to-prison pipeline in Mississippi is strikingly severe and, as in other states and provinces, highly racialized. This article by Nicole Flatow offers a glimpse into the kinds of obscene punishments and brutal bodily harm police and educators are enacting upon Mississippi students for even the smallest infractions.