Tag Archives: education

Journey for Justice: Mass School Closings and the Death of Communities

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By Tolu Olorunda  “The last of our four turnaround models is simply to close underperforming schools and re-enroll the students in better schools. This may seem like surrender, but in some cases it’s the only responsible thing to do. It … Continue reading

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Dissident Poetry: The Classroom

By Ephraim Hussain The isolation of the classroom You are together but really you are alone It depresses me Ann Margaret Sharp[i] talks about a community of learning, teaching for democracy, but it doesn’t feel like it. Something must happen. … Continue reading

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The Politics of Educational Assessment in South African Public Schooling, 1994-2010

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By Scott Timcke (School of Communication, Simon Fraser University) Over the past two decades various government jurisdictions within the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States have implemented learning outcomes and student centered learning models in their schooling systems. At … Continue reading

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Exploring Misogyny in the Amanda Todd Case: How Prevention Education Can Better Address Sexual Assault

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By Kiera Obbard On October 10, 2012 in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, 15-year-old Amanda Todd committed suicide following years of blackmail, sexual harassment, and bullying. Weeks earlier, Todd had posted a heart-wrenching video to YouTube that outlined on handwritten cue … Continue reading

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Can Democratic Education Survive in a Neoliberal Society?

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Studies Suggest Economic Inequity Is Built Into, and Worsened by, School Systems
Paul Thomas
, professor and prolific writer on educational issues (see his blog Radical Scholarship), traces trends in educational reforms in the United States, from charter schools to Teach for America. In his most recent article, he has synthesized his findings to outline how the language of American educational reform hides the real issues and links between educational and economic inequity.

(Photo credit: trustypics; Reproduced courtesy of Truthout)

Through policy decisions that place the most qualified teachers in the highest-performing classrooms, which are typically in wealthier neighbourhoods, economic inequity is increasingly reflected in academic performance, thus creating a system in which economic and educational inequity are mutually reinforcing structures. “No excuses” reform masks these links by deliberately ignoring economic status, and further perpetuating the connection between economic and educational inequity.  Read the article…
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By Alexandra Epp

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Five Facts that Put America to Shame
Paul Buchheit
outlines five key ways in which the United States has been harmed by the privatization of various institutions. The effects of privatization can be linked to the surprisingly low ranking for children’s health and safety statistics in the US; recent graduates of post-secondary institutions facing crippling debt; the collapse of the mortgage market and its disproportionately ruinous impact on black and Hispanic households; prisons that depend on large incarcerated populations; and a healthcare system that is financially irresponsible and discriminatory. The simplicity with which these points are laid out emphasizes the stark reality of how excessive privatization has impacted the essential services and function of American society. These observations need no adornment as they paint a bleak picture for the present and future of one of the most powerful nations in the world. Read the article…

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By Alexandra Epp

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Public Humanities and Creative Activism: New Initiatives for Engaged Artists and Scholars

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In the current economic climate, state-imposed austerity measures are being used to justify the movement of public revenue away from higher education. The effect has resulted in universities seeking revenue from sources such as contracts with private industry and student tuition fees. While higher education is undergoing this financial assault, it is also being accused of having marginal public value or “relevance” and so of being little more than a burden on taxpayers – with these claims disproportionately bashing the arts and the humanities as useless disciplines. As these budget cuts and populist beliefs spur the transformation of higher education into a market-driven endeavour defending itself on all sides (from both traditionalists and progressives), the engaged scholarship programs being established in many universities stand as crucial forces necessary both to oppose the intellectually and democratically suffocating attack on the institution and to reclaim higher education as a public good. Continue reading

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Il Pleut des Etudiants, Premier de Mai – Montreal

The Toronto Media Co-op has posted this excellent video report by Zach Ruiter about the May Day march organized by the Quebec student movement. The video asks important questions about what it means to live in a society that denies young people affordable education and brutalizes them for engaging in democratic expression. Such a movement also gives us an opportunity to witness an emerging political culture in Quebec that engages the public and holds elected governments accountable to “change government policies towards more social justice, sustainable government, cultural autonomy.” Continue reading

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Violence, USA: The Warfare State and the Brutalizing of Everyday Life
The permanent state of warfare in the United States has resulted in the expansion of cultures of violence to other public spheres. Henry Giroux reminds us in this Truthout article how resistance to the military-industrial-carceral and academic complex is a challenging, though increasingly imperative, task.

Soldiers acting as part of Operation Pranoo Verbena in order to disrupt Taliban operations in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 16, 2012 (Photo credit: MATEUS_27:24&25; reproduced courtesy of Truthout)

According to Giroux, the “normalization of violence” is accomplished through the reproduction of violent pedagogies in contexts that lack (and sometimes actively destroy) the critical apparatuses for the public to become sensitized to, and thus resist, the dehumanization, suffering and social costs entailed by acts of violence. In discussing U.S. popular culture, Giroux’s concern is not so much the intentions of the artists or the aesthetic merits of Hollywood movies such as The Hunger Games and organized sports that rely on extreme violence for ratings, such as mixed martial arts and professional hockey, but how they are promoted and commercialized in the public sphere in ways that tend to reinforce people’s identities as mindless consumers of violent spectacles rather than as thoughtful citizens capable of denouncing the degradation of themselves and others. Giroux is concerned with how this mass culture of violence leads to the gradual acceptance of violence in everyday life – seen for example in the increasing use of police crackdowns on peaceful protesters and other rampant forms of securitizing and militarizing of public spaces.

Giroux links consumer culture in North America to the emergence of the “warfare state”, which in turn is connected to neoliberal forms of late capitalism that drive policy phenomena such as tax breaks for private corporations and the rich, imposed concurrently with austerity measures for the working poor and middle class.  Neoliberal interests in freeing markets from social constraints, fueling competitiveness, and loosening individuals from any sense of social responsibility prepare the populace for a slow embrace of social Darwinism and the mentality of war — not least of all by dehumanizing the other and pitting individuals against the communities they inhabit.   Public sanctioning of, or at least the absence of public outcry against, the extreme and horrific acts of violence perpetrated by the military in Afghanistan and elsewhere demonstrate the degree to which violence has been normalized in North American society.  Such an unrelenting commitment to the war machine demands that ethical considerations are ignored in order to remain dedicated to violence as the principal strategy of statecraft.

The future implications of Giroux’s analysis is a warfare state working in tandem with neoliberal economic forces to encourage growing income inequality and the further merging of the financial and military spheres in ways that diminish the authority and power of democratic governance, the endpoint of which is devolution into state terrorism, ironically not unlike that which is represented in The Hunger Games. The political ramifications of the turn toward violence and death are destined to be felt throughout society, and can already be witnessed in the expansion of the prison-industrial system and the militarization of elementary schools.

Giroux points to the challenges inherent in opposing the warfare state and its culture of cruelty, and insists that vilification of these ideologies is not enough.  Political and pedagogical interventions that enter the conversation in ways that offer both critique and hope should be central in the struggle to create the conditions for a more critical and engaged citizenry. The current efforts by the young, the unemployed, and the disenfranchised need the support of the broader public and progressive social movements if we expect a better future than the one toward which we are currently heading. In this call for accountability and transformative action, Giroux reminds us that ”[w]ar does not have to be a permanent social relation, nor the primary organizing principle of everyday life, society and foreign policy.” Read the article…

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By Alexandra Epp and Grace Pollock

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