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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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Part I: The Paradox and Pedagogy of Excellence


· 1 · the “excellence paradox” in our public schools “The starting point for a political- pedagogical process, must be precisely at the level of the people’s aspirations, hopes and dreams.” —Paulo Freire, philosopher and educator. From Community College to Harvard As a working- class kid from the Inland Empire region of Southern California, my educational journey was quite unconventional. In fact, I often have the opportunity to tell my story to students and educators as I travel across the region and the country. As a third- generation Chicano, I would eventually be the first in my family to attend and graduate from college. My parents were hardworking, high school–educated Chicanos who emphasized homework first, play later, and a non- negotiable respect for teachers. In fact, I believe it was this educacíon instilled in me at home that shaped my disposition to be the “good” student that I was through my K- 12 experiences (Burciaga, 2007). Yet, my “good” student disposition may very well have been to a fault, given that I later learned my education was actually substandard in many ways, which I didn’t realize until my senior year of high school. 4 intentional excellence It was the day before winter break and I was sitting in my 12th- grade English class. The teacher spent a majority of the class talking about football, which was the norm during football season, yet I later realized I should have been reading something by George Orwell, or some other American literary “classic...

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