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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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The authors in this section question why there is so very little discussion in schools and universities about how knowledge is constructed, packaged, and disseminated and for what purposes. They ask why teachers and students are being held responsible for doing more and more, while being given less and less of everything—less time, less compensation, less support. In turn, these authors show us that the way we understand what education is, as well as what it is for, has been fundamentally altered through the imposition of neoliberal mandates. Henry Giroux (2013) notes that the difference between the process of schooling and education as the practice of freedom is that an authentic liberatory education “draws attention to questions concerning who has control over the conditions for the production of knowledge, values, and skills, and it illuminates how knowledge, identities, and authority are constructed within particular social relations” (as cited in Tristan, 2013). In other words, education as the practice of freedom seeks to reveal that which goes unsaid about the very processes of schooling and about the way that institutions shape, challenge, or support these processes. This work requires that we unsettle that which appears fixed or uncontestable in our educational institutions. It means that we challenge and unsettle the ways of knowing and doing that so many people take for granted in these spaces. It means that we make the familiar strange and the strange familiar by exposing the contradictions that we negotiate in our daily work...

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