My life has been feeling overwhelming recently. It makes me think about what we need to do to really support the kids in our increasingly diverse and segregated city schools who are going through things often objectively harder and newer to them than the busy-ness, pressures, and losses I have been facing as a white, college educated support staff. I’ve also been trying to think through an important question raised by Lisa Delpit: what does it mean to raise “other peoples’ children”, and how does this affect what we, as educators, do in our schools?
For me this question of race showed up in a real way in my senior year of high school, when me and my fellow students began to talk about what was then called the “achievement gap”. In a brief, painful reflection, it became clear that we as students–and teachers–knew that certain students were slated to go to prison, others to state schools, and others to fancy colleges. And not only did we all seem to know this tracking process at hauntingly early ages—five? ten?—but somehow this knowledge didn’t change anything. There seemed to be “nothing we could do”. I’m sure that teachers and students were not the only ones haunted by these seemingly pre-written scripts. Who could feel this harder and more painfully than parents? Raising a child yet feeling powerless to change the trajectory of their son or daughter in a brutal system beyond your control. You see and hear parents trying, or being told, to do all sorts of things in this situation. Discipline your children. Change schools. Send them to live with relatives in Iowa for the summer or forever. Get them into sports. Eliminate their freedom. Show them they are loved.
While we at Classroom Struggle are not endorsing candidates we were interested to know more about the candidates running for Union President of both the ESP and Teacher’s Unions in Minneapolis, and are excited to see more dialog and debate about our unions and their role in education. See our interview with Shaun Laden, Candidate for President of the ESP Local of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers, below.
This February, some of us were lucky enough to meet some Chilean Anarchists who gave a talk about lessons from the education struggle in Chile where there has been a massive student- and society-wide movement for free public education during the past decade.
Chile’s schools, like much of its society, were privatized by the US-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s through the creation of a privatized market in education. The key part of this was the creation of a voucher system where privately run schools—charter schools—could receive a certain amount of public funding per student. This, along with an amendment that allowed such schools to charge tuition and fees, has created a “pay to play” education system in Chile, where schools are ranked by test scores and are some of the most unequal and segregated in the world.
by Erin Dyke, member of the IWW Education Organizing Committee
More than 50 people came together for the first social justice education community meal of 2014 on February 16th, to explore the prevailing trend toward managed instruction in our schools and potential alternatives. We gnoshed on a delicious (and free!) Sunday brunch of fruits, eggs, potato hash, breads, and other treats while we caught up with old friends and made new comrades. We want to take some time to reflect on what we learned from our time together and consider ways to move forward to fight against the forced de-skilling of students and educators.
Do teachers and other educators have power to change things in our schools? Everyday I talk to teachers who are upset, saddened by negative changes, struggling to ensure all of their students succeed. Many days I ask my co-workers what we can do, or if they can help with something. Sometimes they say yes, but mostly they say they are too busy to do anything. Sometimes I feel like we are too busy drowning to organize a raft to save ourselves.
The new year is already shaping up to be a momentous one for education organizing in St Paul. In the past month St Paul has seen a charter school vote to unionize and the executive board of the St Paul Federation of Teachers (SPFT) call for a vote to strike. Classroom Struggle hopes to have longer articles on each of these developments up soon so stay tuned, but we keep you informed with these two brief newsflashes.