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Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect

On the Lives and Education of Children

Edited By Paul L. Thomas, Paul R. Carr, Julie A. Gorlewski and Brad J. Porfilio

Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect presents a wide variety of concepts from scholars and practitioners who discuss pedagogies of kindness, an alternative to the «no excuses» ideology now dominating the way that children are raised and educated in the U.S. today. The fields of education, and especially early childhood education, include some histories and perspectives that treat those who are younger with kindness and respect. This book demonstrates an informed awareness of this history and the ways that old and new ideas can counter current conditions that are harmful to both those who are younger and those who are older, while avoiding the reconstitution of the romantic, innocent child who needs to be saved by more advanced adults. Two interpretations of the upbringing of children are investigated and challenged, one suggesting that the poor do not know how to raise their children and thus need help, while the other looks at those who are privileged and therefore know how to nurture their young. These opposing views have been discussed and problematized for more than thirty years. Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect investigates the issue of why this circumstance has continued and even worsened today.
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Chapter Ten: Aesthetic Reading and Historical Empathy: Humanizing Approaches to “Letter From Birmingham Jail”


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Aesthetic Reading AND Historical Empathy

Humanizing Approaches to “Letter From Birmingham Jail”


An increasingly troubling paradigm shift continues to narrow the purpose of a public education in the United States toward a primarily economic function of preparing students for the workforce (Mehta, 2013). Envisioning the purpose of education in such a narrow fashion hinders our ability to develop reflective citizens who are capable of understanding who they are in relationship to the “Other.” This problem is not a new one, as progressive educators have worked to expand democratic education beyond the idea of “efficiency” for over a century.

But if democracy has a moral and ideal meaning, it is that a social return be demanded from all and that opportunity for development of distinctive capacities be afforded all. The separation of the two aims in education is fatal to democracy; the adoption of the narrower meaning of efficiency deprives it of its essential justification. (Dewey, 1916, p. 281)

Our efforts to promote a critical—as opposed to compliant—democratic citizenry must continue despite the corporate-driven creation and adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which have been described as “technical specifications being confused with, but applied to, human learning capabilities” (Tienken & Orlich, 2013, p. 44). The CCSS privilege the development of workplace skills and thereby serve as a powerful...

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