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Unsettling Education

Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform


Edited By Brian Charest and Kate Sjostrom

Unsettling Education: Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform offers a counter-narrative to the prevailing orthodoxies of schooling and school reform that conflate education and learning with that which can be measured on state-mandated examinations. Despite the push to "settle" the purposes of teaching and schooling in ways that see education as the teaching of a discrete set of skills that align with standardized exams, there are teachers and students who continue to resist standardization and whose stories suggest there are many ways to organize schools, design curriculum, and understand the purposes of education. Unsettling Education shares stories of how teachers have resisted state and local mandates to teach to the test in dehumanizing ways, how such teachers have sought to de-commodify educational spaces, how they have enacted their ethical commitments to students and communities, and how they have theorized such practices, sometimes even reconsidering their roles as teachers and the very purposes of schooling. Volume contributors offer concrete ways in which teachers might challenge the structures of schooling to reveal the full humanity and potential of students through different forms of resistance pedagogy, institutional critiques, and critical self-reflection. Featuring a wide range of voices and contexts, the collections’ chapters blend story and theory, resulting in a volume both accessible and thought-provoking to varied audiences—from undergraduate students of education and concerned citizens to veteran educators, teacher educators, administrators, and policymakers.

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Everyone Knows Whose Side I’m On: Teachers, Students, and the Struggle for Freedom (Jay Gillen)


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Everyone Knows Whose Side I’m On: Teachers, Students, and the Struggle for Freedom


I laughed out loud the first day at my new assignment. My teacher and mentor, Bob Moses, had said that when he begins work with a new class of high school students, he needs them to understand that he is not the policeman in the room. His job is not to catch the students when they break the rules or to prevent them from loitering. His job is to help them do math. I laughed because my current assignment is at a jail school, so there really are policemen in the room—well, guards, anyway. They’re enforcers. I’m clearly not. It has made things much simpler.

I love working at this jail for adolescent girls, because here at the very bottom of the structures of control, the absurdities of schooling are exaggerated and almost impossible not to see. The A’s, C’s and F’s on report cards. The points taken off for mistakes. The pretense that knowledge divided into “subjects” and time chopped up into “periods” and “semesters” are somehow essential strategies for human beings to learn. I said that these structures are “almost impossible” not to see, because although the absurd is etched in bold relief, many of us are still so enculturated to schooling that we may miss what is right before our eyes.

Scene: The morning staff meeting....

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