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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 7. The Pedagogy, Power, and Politics of Excellence in Latina/o Schools and Communities in the 21st Century

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“Through our collective political commitment, critical consciousness, and the power of love, we, together, can make a just world possible.”

—Antonia Darder

Excellence Campaigns and the excellence work described in this book aspire to provide a vehicle to respond to the Excellence Paradox facing many struggling urban public schools, particularly those serving low-income children and Latina/o students specifically. Concentrated inequality and disparities in educational opportunities for Latinas/os and other communities of color are widely apparent, and as stated by Richard Valencia (1997), are concentrated, pervasive, and disproportionately affecting the Latina/o community. These educational conditions are particularly real for those who are trying to respond on the ground every single day—the teachers, counselors, educational leaders, organizers, non-profit workers, and others who directly serve the Latina/o community. Additionally, the economic, health, and political access disparities surrounding schools only exacerbate, and in many cases worsen, the realities for Latinas/os in our public schools, and in our nation’s community colleges and universities, for that matter. While ← 123 | 124 → there have been modest gains in graduation and college-going rates for Latinas/os over the last couple of years, there remain major gaps across the educational pipeline. Furthermore, just as these challenges and systemic inequities are largely concentrated in low-income communities of color, so should our responses be.

As we are well into the second decade of the 21st century, it is important that equity-driven practitioners, leaders, scholars, and policymakers remain mindful of the Excellence...

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