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Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom

A Community of Students, Teachers, Researchers, and Activists

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Edited By Nancye E. McCrary and E. Wayne Ross

What were once distinct professions for serving others and building knowledge are now communities of workers struggling against a tide of increasingly unregulated capitalism that is being fed by human greed. Teachers have become education workers, joining a working class that is rapidly falling behind and that is increasingly being silenced by the power elite who control nearly all the wealth that once supported a thriving middle class. Working for Social Justice Inside and Outside the Classroom delivers critical counter-narratives aimed at resisting the insatiable greed of a few and supporting a common good for most. The book is dedicated to hopeful communities working against perpetual war, the destruction of our natural environment, increasing poverty, and social inequalities as they fight to preserve democratic ideals in a just and sustainable world. Written by some of the most influential thinkers of our time, this collection is a tapestry of social justice issues woven in and out of formal and informal education.
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Chapter Sixteen: Youth-Led Organizations, the Arts, and the 411 Initiative for Change in Canada: Critical Pedagogy for the 21st Century

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SIXTEEN

Youth-Led Organizations, the Arts and the 411 Initiative for Change in Canada: Critical Pedagogy for the 21st Century

Brad J. Porfilio and Michael Watz

The implementation of commercialized and militaristic policies within K–12 schools across North America have made it arduous for even the most committed, transformative school leaders and educators to guide their students to reflect critically upon the nature of their social world and to gain the courage and skills necessary to join other cultural workers in the struggle to eliminate social inequalities in schools and in the wider society. Many schoolteachers, especially social actors who mentor and educate students in urban contexts, are situated in debilitated, unsafe, and unsanitary educational environments, where their students are criminalized and demonized through an array of surveillance equipment, armed security guards, military recruitment stations, and draconian “get tough on youth” zero-tolerance policies. They also educate youth amid overcrowded educational structures where they must implement “teacher proof” drill and kill forms of instruction and assessment in order to ensure their students perform adequately on a battery of corporately-produced examinations (Casella, 2008; Kozol, 2006; Porfilio & Carr, 2008; Ross & Gibson, 2007; Saltman & Gabbard, 2010). Among an array of reprisals, failing to perform well on the exams can result in teachers losing their jobs, closing of schools, corporate or state takeover of underperforming schools, as well as the confiscation of vital resources from already cash-strapped educational structures.

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