An educator and activist issues an urgent call for a pedagogy meant “to eradicate injustice in and outside of schools.”
Love (Educational Theory and Practice/Univ. of Georgia) opens with the premise that education “is an industry that is driven and financially backed by the realities that dark children and their families just survive.” According to the author, well-meaning volunteers for Teach for America, who spend two years in the inner city, are nothing more than “educational parasites [who] need dark children to be underserved and failing, which supports their feel-good, quick-fix, gimmicky narrative”; slogans and rubrics such as “best practices,” “grit,” and “No Excuses” are instruments of white supremacy; teachers who claim to “love all children” are often “deeply entrenched in racism, transphobia, classism, rigid ideas of gender, and Islamophobia”; and people who claim that they do not see color, “denying their students’ racial experiences, cultural heritage, and ways of resistance,” are ipso facto racist. And those are the allies; as for the enemies, well, the language is no less unsparing. Although the argument is sometimes overly strident, Love depicts incontestable realities: Public schools, particularly in poor areas and with students of color, seem designed to fail; strategies such as teaching to the test and the Common Core do little to actually teach anyone anything; and the central lesson of what passes for civic education, as the author writes, is “comply, comply, comply.” Against this she proposes a pedagogy of abolitionism—i.e., one that, among other things, fights for social justice, challenges systematic oppression, battles supremacist assumptions, and accounts for the experiences of the marginalized: “Our schools and our teaching practices…need to be torn down and replaced with our freedom dreams rooted in participatory democracy and intersectional justice.”
A useful rejoinder, half a century on, to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed; controversial but deserving of a broad audience among teachers and educational policymakers.