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Intentional Excellence

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

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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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Chapter 3. Excellence Is Contagious, Inherently Additive, and Politically Viable

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“You shall create beauty not to excite the senses but to give sustenance to the soul.”

—Gabriela Mistral

As a result of employing a Pedagogy of Excellence via the Excellence Campaigns discussed in Chapter 2, a series of principles, implications, and lessons learned have been observed. These dimensions of excellence are framed through the lens of power because of their relevance and significance across the schools and communities profiled in this book. These dimensions of excellence are also framed as an exertion of power because of the way in which they fundamentally transformed practice on the ground level. In other words, these dimensions were observed to significantly impact what people do and how they engage with each other and their work. For the purpose of this book, this is part of the goal of the Excellence Campaigns addressed in Chapter 2. There are far too many policy and practical efforts that solely have made symbolic or structural changes yet have failed to infiltrate the culture of the institution in which they work. If these reforms do shape the work of the institution, it is likely to be negative, such as the impact of high-stakes testing on the work and quality of life of students, teachers, and communities. However, the observations made through the Power of Excellence suggest that meaningful cultural change is possible when the work is carried out intentionally ← 57 | 58 →and relentlessly. In this and the next chapter, I...

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