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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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Edward Said (1996) says that the role of the intellectual is to challenge the status quo, to upend prevailing orthodoxy, and to be wary of received dogma. In this section of the book, the authors not only challenge orthodoxies, but also expose the contradictions embedded in official ways of knowing and doing in our schools. Revealing and then facing these contradictions helps shape the way that these teachers resist official policy pronouncements about the role of educators, students, and the purposes of educational institutions. At the heart of this resistance is a belief in the ability of educators to clarify, question, and then challenge the limits of official mandates—mandates developed and foisted upon educators by outside authorities. The stories that follow show us ways that we can recognize the full humanity of our students and resist the pressure to succumb to processes and procedures that reduce students to a set of numbers or a score on an exam. At the same time, these stories show us the limits of individual actors and the need for broad coalitions in order to reinvigorate a commitment to the public good. How, then, can teachers find ways to be bold and ask questions about the received wisdom in our institutions, particularly when that supposed wisdom pushes us away from notions of community toward an embrace of hyper-individualism? The authors in this section take up these questions in different ways and examine what it means to challenge and resist such dogma in...

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