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Intentional Excellence

The Pedagogy, Power, and Politics of Excellence in Latina/o Schools and Communities


Louie F. Rodríguez

Are we bold enough to recognize our own excellence in our schools and communities? This question drives Intentional Excellence, an audacious attempt at developing a Pedagogy of Excellence in Latina/o schools and communities as a result of observations, insights, and lessons learned from work with schools and communities across the United States. Louie F. Rodríguez argues that while there is no shortage of excellence in some of the schools and communities that struggle the most, there is a pedagogical void, or an Excellence Paradox, that has disallowed excellence from being used as a potential tool to transform the culture of education. This book offers an additive framework for committed stakeholders and outlines six key observations including the contagious nature of excellence, excellence as a responsibility, the political viability of excellence, the additive possibilities of excellence, the role of excellence as a curricular and pedagogical tool, and the role of excellence in working toward equity and social justice in education. Rodríguez discusses a series of case studies that have used Excellence Campaigns to organize, define, and recognize their own excellence. The book also discusses the possibilities of excellence beyond education and proposes a new role in education to make excellence happen: Excellence Engineers. The book concludes with a theory of action that is necessary for excellence to thrive in the twenty-first century. Our children and communities deserve to see themselves as «models of excellence» and this book proposes a pedagogy to help get us there.


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Excellence is all around us. If we were to take a historical journey through our communities, institutions, and country, there would be evidence of struggle, strife, and the not- so-glamorous, and even oppressive, moments in our history. Some of these moments linger today and may even be worsening. However, there are also the incredible moments, actions, events, and triumphs that characterize our immediate, regional, national, and global contexts. Some are better than others at highlighting these moments and some have more power than others in deciding which moments get recognition. And while there will always be controversy in terms of what is deemed worthy of recognition, the inevitable reality is that excellence exists all around us. The Latina/o community in the U.S. shares in this reality. The presence and contributions of Latinas/os in the U.S. goes back centuries, even before the U.S. was the U.S. However, the purpose of my writing this book is neither to attempt to present this history nor to pretend to be an expert in these spe- cific historical matters. I will defer to my colleagues and scholars who are the experts in such fields of study. But, I will state that the Latina/o community in the U.S. comprises a diverse set of differences by history, language, colo- nization/conquest, phenotype, culture and cultural practices, generation, so- cial class, immigration status, voting patterns, educational attainment levels, viii intentional excellence family practices, religion, and acculturation and assimilation patterns. Again, I will not attempt to provide a comprehensive list...

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