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Unsettling Education

Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform

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Edited By Brian Charest and Kate Sjostrom

Unsettling Education: Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform offers a counter-narrative to the prevailing orthodoxies of schooling and school reform that conflate education and learning with that which can be measured on state-mandated examinations. Despite the push to "settle" the purposes of teaching and schooling in ways that see education as the teaching of a discrete set of skills that align with standardized exams, there are teachers and students who continue to resist standardization and whose stories suggest there are many ways to organize schools, design curriculum, and understand the purposes of education. Unsettling Education shares stories of how teachers have resisted state and local mandates to teach to the test in dehumanizing ways, how such teachers have sought to de-commodify educational spaces, how they have enacted their ethical commitments to students and communities, and how they have theorized such practices, sometimes even reconsidering their roles as teachers and the very purposes of schooling. Volume contributors offer concrete ways in which teachers might challenge the structures of schooling to reveal the full humanity and potential of students through different forms of resistance pedagogy, institutional critiques, and critical self-reflection. Featuring a wide range of voices and contexts, the collections’ chapters blend story and theory, resulting in a volume both accessible and thought-provoking to varied audiences—from undergraduate students of education and concerned citizens to veteran educators, teacher educators, administrators, and policymakers.

“From the educational ‘standards’ being compelled onto students, to the rhetoric of educational ‘reform’ being sold to communities and educators alike, the problem is not merely the silencing of dissent but the presumption that there is no alternative. What better intervention than the call by Brian Charest, Kate Sjostrom, and colleagues for us all to engage in ‘unsettling education.’ All who teach and who care about teaching will find sources of inspiration and nourishment in the richly detailed and deeply thoughtful portraits of K–12 teachers and teaching that model for us what this can look like in times, like now, when pressure abounds to settle.” —Kevin Kumashiro, Author of Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning Toward Social Justice

“In this political moment and in these palpably perilous times for youth and the adults charged with their care and safe passage—parents, teachers, youth workers—Unsettling Education offers both hope and guidance. The dazzling educators gathered together by Brian Charest and Kate Sjostrom are animated by an urgent spirit of resistance to the status quo that they recognize as representing a kind of state of emergency for the oppressed, the exploited, and the disadvantaged. The challenge facing teachers in these troubling times is to resist injustices, unsettle the settled, destabilize the stable, trouble the undisturbed, explore the unknown, and dive into (rather than run away from) the contradictions. The message these teachers bring to their students is generative: you are a full human being; you have a right to be here; you need no one’s permission to interrogate the universe. This book shows us what that can look like in real time.” —William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired) and Author of To Teach, Fugitive Days, and Demand the Impossible!: A Radical Manifesto