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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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Chapter 4. Excellence as a Responsibility, as Curriculum and Pedagogy, and More Evidence of Its Power


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“Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.”

—bell hooks

The act of promoting excellence in the field of education today is a significant challenge. Proponents of a Pedagogy of Excellence will quickly learn that schools, particularly struggling urban public schools, will face resistance. The resistance is not because people are afraid, unwilling, or antagonistic towards excellence, but because they are not used to defining, discussing, recognizing, or learning from excellence. This deep-seated culture has not only created a dearth of recognition of excellence in our schools and communities, but has also prevented our communities from knowing and becoming inspired by excellence, which in turn has reinforced a culture that avoids or overlooks the possibilities associated with a focus on excellence, even in the presence of others who are thriving. I believe this is a culture we have created in the field of education. Teachers and other educators are accepted as humble, especially the really good ones. Or for other reasons, they function in a culture ← 75 | 76 → that stifles their excellence so they close their classroom door and do the work without any desire or expectation for recognition. Yet, this kind of culture denies new and veteran teachers opportunities for learning from these models of excellence, even in the very next classroom or school. Worse, students and parents are denied an awareness that these models of excellence exist in their own schools and communities, and anti-public-school...

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