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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 5. Implications for Regional Improvement: Reflections on the Role of Excellence Beyond Education

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“The road will be long and tough, but together we can do it”

—José Carlos Mariátegui, Peruvian philosopher.

While in graduate school at Harvard I was mentored by Dr. Pedro Noguera, a sociologist and expert in urban education. I served as his teaching fellow for a course on race and equity issues in education, lead research assistant for a major National Science Foundation project, and as his dissertation advisee. Dr. Noguera’s work argues that schools are a function of their social, economic, and political context. That is, while there are endless reform efforts aimed at tweaking the educational system, very few actually attempt to transform the social and cultural conditions of the communities surrounding struggling schools, which is what needs to happen, according to Dr. Noguera. In other words, neighborhood inequality, unemployment, community violence, health issues, racial tensions, environmental conditions, and many other factors will directly impact the quality of education children receive in the local schools.

Naturally informing my personal, political, and intellectual perspectives as a student under his tutelage, I began my dissertation work in an effort to ← 101 | 102 → connect schools and communities, make an impact in education, and eventually find ways to simultaneously improve schools and communities together. While my dissertation work was a quest to transform urban high schools, particularly for low-income Black and Latina/o students across the country, I have always had my eye on the challenging conditions of urban communities. For...

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