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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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10. “all schooled up”: One Teacher’s Path Toward Deschooling (Russell Mayo)


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10. “all schooled up”: One Teacher’s Path Toward Deschooling


If people are seriously to think about deschooling their lives, and not just escape from the corrosive effects of compulsory schooling, they could do no better than to develop the habit of setting a mental question mark beside all discourse on young people’s “educational needs” or “learning needs,” or about their need for a “preparation for life.” I would like them to reflect on the historicity of these very ideas.

—Ivan Illich (2008, p. v)

Dear Reader,

The goals of this chapter are lofty and improbable, potentially impossible. It is my intention to unsettle what is perhaps one of the central truths in your lived experience and cultural worldview. My aim is to disrupt your faith, to shake your confidence in something you very likely hold near and dear to your heart, something to which you and I have already dedicated years of our lives. That “thing” which I aim to question is the value of schooling. To do this, I will attempt to tell my story of schooling, holding myself up as a mirror for comparison. I will offer some of my own experiences with teaching and schooling, and how I eventually decided to leave the classroom and question the entire project of schooling.

To better understand this marked shift in my own thinking, I will be building on...

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