Monday, September 1, 2014

Should the Death of Michael Brown be Discussed in the Public School Classroom: An Illinois School District says “No”


Author Paul Thomas raises this question in light of an Illinois school ban on discussions over the death of Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. See his article:
“Illinois School Bans Discussions of Michael Brown's Death --Prohibiting students from talking about events in Ferguson offers them exactly the opposite of what they need” on AlterNet: http://www.alternet.org/education/illinois-school-bans-discussions-michael-browns-death?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Paul’s arguments on “reclaiming civic duties of schools” and “learning to address our inadequate world” continue a discussion of the issues he raised in two articles published earlier in the Journal of Educational Controversy. We would be interested in hearing from teachers on ways they are handling the issue in their own classrooms or if they agree that such topics are off limit.

To read Paul Thomas’ earlier articles in the Journal of Educational Controversy, see:
“Of Rocks and Hard Places: The Challenge of Maxine Greene’s Mystification in Teacher Education” in VOLUME 5, NUMBER 1, WINTER 2010 issue on the theme, “Art, Social Imagination and Democratic Education”
and
“Universal Public Education—Our (Contradictory) Missions” in VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1, FALL 2011 / WINTER 2012 on the theme, “The Education and Schools our Children Deserve”

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Author Jioanna Carjuzaa's Video Interview on Native American Education Now Online

Author Jioanna Carjuzaa's April 8th video interview is now online on our journal's link, "Authors Talk.

Readers can read her article, "The Give Away Spirit: Reaching a Shared Vision of Ethical Indigenous Research Relationships," in our Volume 5, Number 2 issue.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Author Sam Chaltain’s Interview with the Seattle Times on Charter Schools

Author Sam Chaltain, whose article appeared in our Volume 3 Number 2 issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy, has just published his latest book, Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice. He recently discussed his book in an interview with the Seattle Times. Because Washington State is just starting its journey into the charter school movement, something the voters of Washington State had earlier rejected a number of times, we thought this interview on Sam’s look at charter schools would be helpful. We want to thank Sam for permission to reprint his interview that was taken from his blog entry of May 21st.

Sleepless in Seattle? My interview with the Seattle TimesWednesday, May 21st, 2014 at 2:49 pm

The Seattle Times’ excellent education reporter, Claudia Rowe, published a nice summary of a long conversation we had about school reform when I was in town for an event at the public library. See what you think (and check out the original link here.)
First he was a private school teacher in New York City. Then, briefly, a public school teacher. After that, Sam Chaltain spent years studying schools across the country trying to determine what qualities were common to the very best.
In Washington, D.C., his current hometown, Chaltain got an unusual opportunity to examine two vastly different models up close. For nine months, he observed a new charter program struggling to get off the ground, and contrasted this with the daily ebb-and-flow of life at a 90-year-old neighborhood school. The result is Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice.
Chaltain, 43, insists that he never intended to compare and contrast the schools in order to anoint one better than the other. Rather, he strives to present on-the-ground realities in each, with a mind toward suggesting a path forward. As Washington state prepares to open its own charter programs next year, his experience may have particular resonance for public school parents faced, for the first time, with a choice.
What follows is a condensed version of a conversation between Chaltain and The Seattle Times. He will be discussing his book at Powell’s in Portland on May 21.


Q: As you know, Washington is set to open its first charter schools next year. Can you share any lessons learned from your observations of a first-year program in action?

A: I’d say get away from the false notion that the solution relies on either more — or less — charter schools. Charters and public schools need each others’ strengths. What districts need most is a greater sense of innovation, the ability to think in new ways about old problems. Charters have all those things in spades — by design, everything is up for re-creation, all the way down to report cards.
So ask: How can you ensure that not everything is up for reinvention? Are there structures that can connect district schools and these autonomous charters?

Q: You were a teacher yourself. Why did you step away from the classroom after six months as a public school educator? What was unworkable there?

A: In a word, everything. But it was less about that school than my realization that teaching is really unsustainable work. What made it unsustainable were inefficiencies that overwhelmed any sense of reward you got from the kids. We were so clearly undervalued. Think about it. First, there are the pressures of trying to be a good teacher, 180 days a year, five presentations a day, working with 100 to 200 students. Add their parents into that, and it’s managing up to 200 relationships. Teachers are being asked to do things that they’re not fully equipped to do.

Q: You knew a lot going into your year-long school observation project. In the end, did anything surprise you?

A: Yes, the degree to which schools are almost entirely staffed by young, single women who had basically accepted the idea that the way to solve our problems in education was with a disposable work force. That’s insane. You would never have Doctors for America, doing two-year stints as a pit stop on the way to some other career. Yet in teaching we accept this. Part of it has to do with the ongoing misogyny of our culture. Teaching is still seen as women’s work, a sub-profession. Not only is that incorrect, it’s a horrible strategy for dealing with the one institution that offers the closest thing to a silver bullet that we have in American society.

Q: What’s common to good schools — whether publicly or privately funded?

A: The truth is most schools are pretty good. Very few are truly great. But among those you see again and again that they create a culture among the adults that is collaborative, transparent and empowering. Kids pass through. Adults are the keepers of the culture. The way that you make lasting change is by valuing and supporting the adults, the educators. We may give lip service to this, but we lack sufficient examples of how to do it well. The reality is, we’re still more likely to be persuaded by the illusory hardness of the quantitative proof — test scores — even though there is an overwhelming consensus that reading and math scores are not enough.

Q: You seem to be advocating that we take a few breaths and decide, first, how we define success. Then, how to measure it. But isn’t the glacial pace of innovation part of the problem?

A: The question is not: Are charter schools the answer or the problem? It’s not even, how do we close the achievement gap? The question is, what does high-quality teaching actually look like? What all of us need to do is spend some time thinking about what are the old habits that we need to let go of in order to let new ideas come into being? It’s about being clearer in the questions we ask.

Q: About the national picture, are you optimistic? Worried?

A: All of the above. I’m optimistic that we’re starting to shift from the job of the kid is to adjust to the school, and toward the job of the school is to adjust to the kid. After that, I’m worried. We overvalue the things that we can quantifiably measure. We continue to speak in oppositional, two-dimensional terms about one another. You’re either working for the righteous or the damned. But it’s not about pro- and anti-. It’s about to-what-end?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

10th Year Anniversary Issue will Usher in New Electronic Journal Management System: New Call for Reviewers

Our journal will soon be assisted by a new electronic journal management system from Bepress. Authors will no longer have to send manuscripts as e-mail attachments but will enter the manuscripts online instead.

We will also have a new call for reviewers whom we will input into the system. I will let you know shortly about the procedure and the information required. In the meantime, just send an e-mail of interest and where you can be contacted to cep-ejournal@wwu.edu

What a birthday gift for the journal’s 10th year anniversary issue.

Friday, May 30, 2014

In Memory -- Maxine Greene

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of one of our century's greatest educational philosophers, Maxine Greene. As my teacher and mentor, Maxine represented to me the very best of intellectual life and social commitment grounded in a love for the power of art and the imagination to make a difference in the world. I was very grateful that so many contributed to the special issue of our journal that we dedicated to her in the winter of 2010.

Maxine was indeed a "light in dark times."

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Notes on the 16th Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum with Curtis Acosta, including Reflections on Student Responses

The 16th Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum with Curtis Acosta was held on May 14th at the Center for Education, Equity and Diversity, co-sponsored by The Journal of Educational Controversy and the Woodring College of Education. Around 70 participants, including Western students, as well as a class of students from a local middle school, were in attendance.

After presentations by Professors Kristen French, Veronica Velez and JEC editor Lorraine Kasprisin, a Skype session was held between students and Curtis Acosta. Mr. Acosta is a former Mexican-American Studies teacher from the Tucson Unified School District, where his curriculum was banned by the state of Arizona in 2010. Curtis Acosta is also a returning speaker and guest of Western Washington University, where he first spoke last fall to a large gathering of students, professors and other community members and activists. His presentation in October of last year focused on the criminalization of Latin@ youth and the struggle for social justice in education across the United Sates and was followed by the publication of his article, “Dangerous Minds in Tucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies and Critical Thinking in Arizona,” in the eighth issue of The Journal of Educational Controversy. Student participants in our forum engaged in a lively dialogue with Curtis about his approaches to pedagogy, his work during and after the ban on MAS, his article in the Journal, and the effect that the ban had on his students.

As part of this forum, we provided participants with a think sheet containing quotations from Arizona state legislation that banned Mexican-American Studies in Tucson, as well as an exit survey. The Arizona state law, HB2281, passed in 2010 and quoted on the think sheet, prohibits “a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that”:
  •         Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
  •          Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
  •          Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
  •          Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Curtis Acosta cogently analyzes the rhetoric of this legislation in his article in the JEC, so I will not attempt to do so here. One of the more intriguing results of the multiple choice exit survey we provided, however, was that respondents were less likely to decide that the MAS program was in violation of HB2281 at all.


A wide majority of respondents decided, after the forum, that the MAS program was actually not in violation of the legislation that was passed in Arizona to ban it.

Interestingly, as well, respondents to the exit survey were very likely to disagree with the law completely (5) or mostly (7), with only three remaining undecided and only one participant saying that they “agree[d] with most of it.”  No respondents agreed completely with the law.


To quickly overview the rest of the results, few of the survey respondents had attended Curtis’ presentation last fall—only 5 out of 17. Mr. Acosta’s presentation last fall drew a crowd of several hundred, packing an auditorium, and this particular statistic begs the question of how representative we can assume the 17 survey responses are of the seventy participants in the spring forum.


At the same time, one of the respondents remarked (in the section of the survey provided for comments) on not having attended the fall presentation, but finding the spring one very helpful and informative: "I came into this entirely uneducated on the topic as extra credit for a class. Leaving, I question why these forums are not more widely advertised and why I haven't been to one before. These are so important, thank you for the opportunity." As this respondent points out, there could be a larger audience for forums and presentations like this one, especially with dynamic, intelligent and impassioned speakers like Mr. Acosta. Moving forward, we welcome any suggestions on how to draw on the larger community of committed activists, students and educators within Western and bring in more participants.

Only six out of seventeen respondents had read the Mr.Acosta’s article in The Journal of Educational Controversy previous to attending the forum. This is another issue which would need to be addressed moving forward with future events—how might we motivate students and other participants in forums such as this to become engaged with the issues at hand before they attend? In what other ways might we raise awareness?


The results of the question of prior familiarity with the banned books controversy in Arizona were more positive: only seven respondents said that they were “not at all” or “not very” familiar; whereas ten chose “somewhat” to “very familiar” with the banned books controversy.


Based on the results of the survey, no one felt disappointed with their own learning during the forum. Three participants said that they had learned some, eight said quite a bit, and four said they had learned  “a lot!” Curiously, there were two participants who filled out the rest of the survey and did not choose to select an answer to this question. For a group of nearly seventy student participants, it is interesting that only some chose to fill out the survey at all. Hopefully, in the future, the numbers of students involved in consciousness-raising events such as this one will increase, as will their investment in the issues at hand. All in all the forum was a success and many thanks are due to the folks at CEED, the rest of the Journal of Educational Controversy staff, the Woodring College, Curtis Acosta, and, most of all, the students who dedicated their time to participating in the forum and filling out the exit survey.


Here are the questions (reproduced in full) that several of the seminar participants who filled out the survey left for the readers of The Journal of Educational Controversy Blog. Please feel free to respond to any or all of their questions and offer suggestions for us in the future in the comments section of this post!

·      "How can we expect students to succeed or want to be engaged if we only teach one perspective? Students should see a reflection of themselves in texts that emphasize and embrace other perspectives and cultures as valuable parts of our society."

·      "If we are trying to teach American history to students then what's wrong with teaching it through a lens other than the typical European one?"

·      "How do we see legislators, officials and people in places of institutional power are telling us what type of critical thinking is encouraged vs. 'dangerous' (and then worthy of surveillance/erasure)?"

·      "Why do we fear the truth so much that we must rewrite history, only to be given negative labels when we try to learn the truth later?"

·      "To what extent can a public education address individual needs and curiosities of students, given the necessarily broad & diverse body that it must serve?"

·      "Who decides if social justice is 'just'?"

·      "I came into this entirely uneducated on the topic as extra credit for a class. Leaving, I question why these forums are not more widely advertised and why I haven't been to one before. These are so important, thank you for the opportunity."


Monday, May 12, 2014

16th Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum to Feature Curtis Acosta

Special Invitation from the Journal of Educational Controversy and Center for Education, Equity and Diversity (CEED)

16th Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum

Come and talk with Curtis Acosta by Webcam about his article in the Journal of Educational Controversy.

“Dangerous Minds in Tucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies and Critical Thinking in Arizona”

Curtis Acosta is the former teacher of Mexican American Studies whose books were banned in the Tucson Unified School District

http://www.wce.wwu.edu/Resources/CEP/eJournal/v008n001/

This is a follow-up to Curtis Acosta’s visit to our college last fall. Ask the questions that you didn’t ask at his fall forum.

Wednesday, May 14,2014
New Time: 5-7pm
CEED, MH 005, Western Washington University

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Preview of "Talking With the Authors," featuring Curtis Acosta

video


Curtis Acosta, former Mexican-American Studies teacher from Tucson, Arizona, was interviewed recently for our "Talking With the Authors" series. His article on the banning of Mexican-American Studies in Tucson appeared in our issue on the theme, "Who Defines the Public in Public Education?"

Watch the full-length interview with Curtis Acosta here.

Our current issue, including Curtis Acosta's article, can be found here.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nathaniel Barr interviews author Jioanna Carjuzaa, specialist in Indian Education


Jioanna Carjuzaa is the author of numerous articles, including "The Give Away Spirit: Reaching a Shared Vision of Ethical Indigenous Research Relationships" in the Summer 2010 issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy (co-authored with J. Kay Fennimore Smith, read the article here). Dr. Carjuzaa teaches Multicultural Education at Montana State University--Bozeman and gave a presentation on April 8th at Western Washington University's Center for Education, Equity and Diversity. Her presentation focused on the history of Indian Education in Montana, especially on the fight to put Indian Education for All into effect. Indian Education for All is a state-level initiative in Montana that requires public schools to teach the histories and cultures of American Indians to their students. Jioanna explained some of the methods she and her colleagues had devised for teaching American Indian history and culture at the secondary and post-secondary education levels as well. Keep an eye out for a video interview with Dr. Carjuzaa on the Journal of Educational Controversy's website.

Nat: You mentioned in your presentation that Indian Education for All first became law in Montana in 1972 and that it had been 40-years in the making. So, from 1972, it's been a work in progress?

Jioanna Carjuzaa: Yes, there's no question that a lot of work has been done. As I highlighted, it was not until 2005 that we actually had the money to back what we wanted to do to implement the initiative.

Nat: And you mentioned that compliance too was an issue in some areas?

Jioanna Carjuzaa: It's a difficult thing--we don't have something in place to measure implementation. We're working on that. We want to know.

We have a lot of anecdotal information and I'm sure they use James Banks' "Levels of Integration [of Multicultural Content]" here as well. It's an easy model for us because the acronym spells 'CATS' and we're the Bobcats at MSU. We really want our students to aim for that third level when they're writing lesson and unit plans. The truth is, though, that's the transformation level--you start with just the superficial level. We want them to get to social action. That's what we're really hoping and we have wonderful examples of it.

In Missoula or Helena, there was a group of students who read James Welch's Fool's Crow and decided it was terrific. They wrote to the school board in Laurel, a district where that book had been challenged and actually banned, and said, "This was a very beautiful piece, it helped us to understand the Blackfeet and what happened historically. We think these students should be able to do that." We have other examples where Indian students are now proud of who they are and will stand up and share cultural things. Their parents are now welcomed into the classroom. So, we know the climate is changing. We have also seen some progress with the closing or narrowing of the achievement gap, but we know we still have some work to do.


Nat: You mentioned the history of Indian education as one of the subjects of your courses and I wanted to know more about the boarding school period in Montana history specifically.

Jioanna Carjuzaa: It's a difficult thing because most people are totally unaware of what happened: how students were forcibly taken from their homes and what happened to strip these young children of their cultures.
           
In Montana, we had mission schools and boarding schools.  People always want to hear about the Fort Shaw mission and the girls' basketball team. Peavey and Smith wrote a book, Playing for the World, and there's a PBS video as well. What they tried to look at was how these young stars became basketball heroes. The team actually won the 1904 World's Fair competition. It's interesting to look at because I guess if you're imprisoned in boarding school, you might as well have fun playing basketball. People don't understand these children were stripped of their spirituality and beliefs--everything--and don't understand  how traumatizing it must have been. The students were taken to schools all across the United States.

When I was working with the school leaders in the "I Lead Social Justice" class, we talked about how indigenous school administrators, principals, and superintendents could share the lasting effects and the generational trauma of the boarding school era with their faculty, who were, for the most part, non-Indian. It was really hard to say, "what do we share?" Some people argue that it's "ugly" and I have even heard "get over it"--things that are inappropriate. We need to share those histories.

We had talks about what resources they thought were useful and how to use them as Indian school leaders working with non-Indian faculty members. Somebody mentioned the film Rabbit-Proof Fence, for instance. My students were Indians from across Montana, and some of them said, "we have relatives and we know people who walked from Carlyle back to Fort Peck" and things like that. Can you imagine? It ended up being almost like a therapeutic session. People started sharing hard stuff. It is really hard stuff. A lot of people don't want to talk about it, but everyone has been impacted somehow. 

We use a lot of different resources to help people understand. Our Spirits Don't Speak English is a wonderful DVD that a lot of the school leaders I worked with thought was one of the most authentic resources to use. Walter Littleman, a Lakota, has written his memoir and there's also a PBS special about him. I like to use other primary resources as well and there are tons out there. You can find things not just from Montana and across the United States, but, of course, from the residential school period in Canada and the Stolen Generations in Australia. The parallels are frightening.

As for Pratt's famous quote that we want to make sure we "kill the Indian to save the man": well, you can't strip somebody of their cultural being. The boarding school children were no longer Indian as they were before, but they were never white men or women. Often they were just prepared to be domestics or to work in servitude forever. Their education was not anything that would be acceptable today.

The brutality: people really don't know what happened and the extent of the abuse. It was, of course, emotional, psychological, and physical, but it was also sexual and it was rampant. It's a very dark period in our history.

Nat: Can you tell about culturally responsive pedagogy and if, in some way, that's an attempt to bring things to light, or am I misconstruing it?

Jioanna Carjuzaa: All those terms are so hot now: everything is social justice and educational equity, culturally responsive pedagogy or teaching in a culturally relevant manner. I hear those terms everyday and I don't think a lot of people really understand what they mean.

I teach a class in "Indian Education For All: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and Practice" and I think Indian Education For All in Montana is a really wonderful model to look at. In an ideal world, how would you implement Indian Education for All in a culturally responsive manner so that every student comes to school feeling like their cultural heritage, however they define themselves, is valued? So that their life experiences are validated in their educational journey? I think that there is nothing neutral in what we teach in schools. If you're mainstream and you identify along that line--if you're an English-speaker, you're middle-class, you're heterosexual, whatever the criteria--then you fit in and school is really comfortable for you. Anywhere you deviate and feel like your school culture is different from your home culture, it is very challenging to be successful in the school model.

Nat: What is your favorite piece of advice for aspiring teachers or activists?

Jioanna Carjuzaa: I always use the motto, "hooked on hope," because it's very challenging and difficult work. There is always going to be resistance. If you don't stay strong and surround yourself with support systems--whoever that is, and however you have to reach out--then it is a very difficult journey.

[This oral interview was edited slightly to improve readability--N.B.]

Nathaniel Barr is the Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Educational Controversy. He is completing his Master's degree in English Studies at Western Washington University. You can reach him at barr.nathaniel@gmail.com.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

New Issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy Now Online and Upcoming Seminar



The new issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy, on the theme "Who Defines the Public in Public Education?," can be found here. The idea for this issue's theme was sparked by the ruthless and seemingly politically motivated ban on Mexican American Studies in the Tucson, Arizona school district, after years of the MAS curriculum being taught in Tucson without controversy. All of the authors included in this issue speak to the questions, both pedagogical and philosophical, arising in the wake of the Mexican American Studies ban in Tucson. The article in the new issue by former Tucson MAS teacher Curtis Acosta addresses the root of this controversy and Mr. Acosta will be joining the Western Washington University community in a discussion of his article, via webcam, on May 14th, 4-6pm. The upcoming seminar is sponsored by Western's Center for Education, Equity and Diversity, as well as the Journal of Educational Controversy and the Woodring College of Education. (Watch an interview with Curtis Acosta conducted last fall by JEC editor Lorraine Kasprisin and associate editor John Richardson here.)

The article titles, authors, and affiliations of the authors for this volume of the Journal of Educational Controversy are:

"Ask Not Only Who Defines the Curriculum: Rather Ask Too What the Curriculum Aim Should Be"
Walter Feinberg
Charles Hardie Professor, Emeritus
The University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana

"Religious Citizens in a Secular Public: Separate, Equal?"
John F. Covaleskie
University of Oklahoma

"Reading NCLB as a Form of Structural Violence"
Kerry Burch
Northern Illinois University

"Critical Study of the Concept of 'Public Identity' as Manifested in Postmodernist Versions of Critical Pedagogy"
Boaz Tsabar
Hebrew University, Israel

"The Public and Its Problem: Dewey, Habermas, and Levinas"
Guoping Zhao
Oklahoma State University

"Attack of the Cyborgs: 'Economic Imperialism' and the Human Deficit in Educational Policy-Making and Research"
Scott Ellison
University of Tennessee

"Middle School Students, Slam Poetry and the Notion of Citizenship"
Anthony M. Pellegrino, George Mason University
Kristien Zenkov, George Mason Univeristy
Gerardo Aponte-Martinez, Michigan State University

"Dangerous Minds in Tucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies and Critical Thinking in Arizona"
Curtis Acosta
Former Teacher of Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District

Editorial: "Who Defines the Public in Pubic Education"
Lorraine Kasprisin
Editor of the Journal of Educational Controversy
Western Washington University

"Interview with Ari Palos, Film Director of Precious Knowledge" 
Celina Meza
JEC Editorial Staff
Western Washington University

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New "Call for Papers" for 10th Anniversary Features an Open Issue

10th YEAR ANNIVERSARY ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL CONTROVERSY FEATURES AN OPEN ISSUE

CALL FOR PAPERS

In previous issues of the Journal of Educational Controversy, we have defined a contemporary controversy and asked our authors to examine the issue. For our 10th year anniversary issue, we have decided to have an open issue where authors can define their own controversy. We ask authors to consider these points in developing their ideas:

1. Define an educational controversy – formal or informal education, K-12, college or university, adult education, secular or religious education, or larger philosophical issues in the educational ethos of a society or a culture. The issue can be a contemporary one or a perennial one that is revisited.

2. Explain the significance of the problem.

3. Provide an historical and philosophical framework for the controversy.

4. Lay out the different arguments surrounding the controversy.

5. Examine the underlying assumptions and resulting implications of the different positions.

6. Provide suggestions to resolve the issues raised and provide supporting arguments.

We remind authors that we publish controversies that are deeply embedded in our conceptual frameworks. The journal tries to distinguish between surface controversies and latent or depth controversies.

For example, schools engage students in controversies all the time and are embedded themselves in controversies. Most of these controversies engage us in disagreements on a surface level. That is not to say that these discussions are unimportant – only that they take place with assumptions that remain unstated and beliefs that remain largely hidden or submerged. And so we talk about learning outcomes, required competencies, and the kind of rubrics we should be using to assess student outcomes. The journal tries to go deeper by examining the very frameworks in which all these surface controversies arose – to get at our underlying assumptions and beliefs.

Here is our statement from the journal's introductory page:

The purpose of this peer reviewed journal is to provide a national and international forum for examining the dilemmas and controversies that arise in teaching and learning in a pluralistic, democratic society. Because many of the tensions in public school and university policies and practices are deeply rooted in the tensions inherent in the philosophy of a liberal democratic state, many of the value conflicts in public schools and universities can only be understood within the context of this larger public philosophy. In effect, the conflicting assumptions underlying our public philosophy frame our questions, define our problems and construct the solutions that shape our practices, policies, and research agendas. This journal will try to help clarify that public debate and deepen an understanding of its moral significance.

PUBLICATION DATE: FALL 2015
DEADLINE FOR MANUSCRIPTS: JANUARY 1, 2015

Monday, February 10, 2014

ACLU of Washington Abandons Community for Coalition: Some Reflections for our Upcoming Issue

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State had a long tradition of community chapters throughout the state that were deeply embedded in each of our local communities. Several years ago, the state office in Seattle chose to dissolve the chapters in a move to centralize control from Seattle and work with other organizations to form coalitions around specific topics. The move makes for more efficiency and control but loses in its community building and educational functions. As a longtime ACLU supporter, one-time state board director, and chapter leader for several decades, I felt the loss most profoundly recently. At our community’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Conference, there was a conspicuous absence of the ACLU from both the program and the community tables of literature. The upcoming Human Rights Film Festival no longer has an ACLU film or discussion that follows that was often lead by our chapter. Incidences that would have spurred a community forum under ACLU leadership like a local school censoring of a student’s poem no longer occur. Focusing on local issues like the border control issues that brought members of our immigrant community and members of the local militia together for a discussion are now missing opportunities. The clipping of newspaper accounts of civil liberty violations in the local newspapers to forward to the state office in Seattle are now a thing in the past. And the student essay contest that motivated the teachers and students in the local schools to think about civil liberty issues is only a memory.

I’ve been thinking about my former chapter with sad remembrances as I was preparing our upcoming issue of the journal on the nature of a public because it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. It actually goes beyond our institutions like public schools that are beginning to move to a more corporate model of governance and social organizations like the ACLU that abandons community for coalitions, and touches the bedrock core of our thinking about democratic living. Many of the articles in our next issue of the journal raise questions about the nature of democratic community. As one of our authors points out, there are a number of defining views of democracy from democracy as “simple majority” to democracy as “competing ideas and shifting coalitions of temporary majorities,” but none of them rely “so strongly on the existence of a public” as a community deliberating together about its common problems. Given the growing dysfunction of our Congress and the relentless move to privatize and corporatize the one institution whose historical, albeit ambivalent and conflicting, function was to create that public, one wonders if that vision of democracy that Dewey and others promoted can any longer grip the social imagination and current realities. We hope the authors in our upcoming issue will be able to shed some light on the “public and its problems” for us. We invite our readers to join in the conversation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Preview of "Talking With the Authors," featuring Justice Bridge of the Center for Children and Youth Justice

video

Former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Bobbe J. Bridge, founder of the Center for Children and Youth Justice, was interviewed recently for our "Talking with the Authors" series in connection with her article for The Journal of Educational Controversy's issue on the School-to-Prison Pipeline.


Find the full interview with Justice Bridge here.

Our current issue on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, including Justice Bridge's article, can be found here.

 


Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Federal Discipline Guidelines and the School-to-Prison Pipeline


We would like to welcome you to 2014 and share with you some important news regarding the School-to-Prison Pipeline (our current issue on the subject can be found here). The Obama Administration has released new federal discipline guidelines that attempt to address racial discrimination in the administration of primary and secondary school discipline. Extensive research conducted by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has shed new light on this troubling issue and established that there is clearly a racial tenor to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. African-American students without disabilities are more likely to be expelled or suspended than their white peers by a more than three-to-one ratio (Department of Justice et al, 2014, p. 3). More than half of all students arrested in schools or handed over to police for disciplinary action are Hispanic or African-American (p. 4). As the Departments of Justice and Education frankly admit in their 23-page letter addressed to practitioners, these disparities in the meting out of school-related discipline are "not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior of students of color" (p. 4). Unintentionally or not, schools are engaging in racial discrimination.

The new guidelines categorize racial discrimination in school discipline under the headings of "Different Treatment" and "Disparate Impact." Different treatment includes not only straightforwardly discriminatory discipline policies, but also discriminatory enforcement of disciplinary policies that are race-neutral on the books (e.g. if it could be established that a school gave African-American students the full measure of disciplinary action attached to a specific infraction whereas white students routinely received less severe discipline for the same infraction, this would constitute different treatment.) Determining disparate impact is a bit more complex, as it involves a judgment of ostensibly race-neutral policies based on their impact as well as their necessity in meeting educational goals. To establish discrimination in this case, investigators would have to find that either: (1) a policy was having a disparate impact on one racial group over others and did not meet a specific educational goal (e.g. if a school policy penalized students for wearing hats in class, this could not be reasonably connected to a specific educational goal, and it were established that Hispanic students were substantially more likely to wear hats in class than students of other races, this would constitute discrimination by disparate impact); or (2) that even though the policy in question did meet a specific educational goal, there were alternative policies available to the school that would also meet this goal without impacting or having less of an impact on a particular racial group disproportionately impacted by the current policy.

Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct" (NYT Editorial Board, 2014). It is encouraging to see the government taking action on racial discrimination in schools, and we can hope that this will also constitute a step toward dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

Find the full text of the Departments of Justice and Education's letter here:


Works Cited

Department of Justice and Department of Education. (2014). Dear Colleague Letter on the Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201401-title-vi.pdf

New York Times Editorial Board. (2014). The Civil Rights of Children. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/opinion/sunday/the-civil-rights-of-children.html?_r=0

Friday, January 17, 2014

Curtis Acosta Returns to Western Washington University to Give Keynote Address on January 25th

Educator Curtis Acosta will be the keynote speaker at a symposium titled “From ME 2 WE. Creating a Mentoring Community” on Saturday, Jan. 25, at Western Washington University.

The symposium is open to the public and will be held from 8 a.m. until noon in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room on a first-come, first-served basis. A $10 donation is suggested, though not required. Educators and all interested in creating a community in which mentoring is important are encouraged to attend.

The symposium will open with a welcome at 8 a.m. followed by a presentation by lead mentors with Compass 2 Campus from 8:10 to 9 a.m.; a talk by Veronica Velez, WWU assistant professor of Secondary Education, from 9:10 to 10 a.m.; the talk by Acosta at 10 a.m., and then a participant raffle and closing at noon.

The symposium is sponsored by Western’s Compass 2 Campus program, the WWU Center for Education, Equity and Diversity and Western’s Diversity Fund.

Curtis Acosta has taught high school in Tucson for nearly 20 years and is an award-winning educator. He is founder of the Acosta Latino Learning Partnership, which is committed to helping educators and education professionals create dynamic learning environments, pedagogy and curriculum that will inspire every student to thrive. They strive to mentor educators through personal, detailed and interactive professional development that leads to transformative teaching and learning practices.

Compass 2 Campus, a proactive effort that sends trained WWU student mentors into schools, is in its fifth year at Western. The program offers academic mentoring in areas that lack funding in the elementary, middle and high schools throughout Whatcom and Skagit counties. The goal is to establish a connection between schools lacking funds and college students to increase graduations rates and inspire students to further their education.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Curtis Acosta Videos Now Online on Journal of Educational Controversy Website

When Curtis Acosta, the teacher whose Mexican American curriculum was banned in Arizona, came to visit us at Western Washington University on October 17th, we videotaped both an interview in our studio and a very dynamic presentation at a special forum. Readers can now view both videos.

The Interview is on our journal's link, "Authors Talk." To go directly to the interview on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebzgIIdw3Dk


The Presentation is on our journal's link, "Public Forums." To go directly to the presentation on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4DqoyF1Lwc

Curtis' article, "Dangerous Minds in Tucson: The Banning of Mexican American Studies and Critical Thinking in Arizona," will appear in our upcoming issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on the theme, "Who Defines the Public in Public Education."

Friday, November 15, 2013

10th Year Anniversary Issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy will Feature an Open Issue

Since our inaugural issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy, we have been publishing scenarios around controversial issues in education. With the 10th anniversary of the journal coming up in 2015, we thought we would have an open issue. We invite authors to submit their own controversial issue and their response to it. Just remember that we are interested in controversies that are deeply embedded in our conceptual frameworks. The journal tries to distinguish between surface controversies and latent or depth controversies.

Schools engage students in controversies all the time and are embedded themselves in controversies. Most of these controversies engage us in disagreements on a surface level. That is not to say that these discussions are unimportant – only that they take place with assumptions that remain unstated and beliefs that remain largely hidden or submerged. And so we talk about learning outcomes, required competencies, and the kind of rubrics we should be using to assess student outcomes. The journal tries to go deeper by examining the very frameworks in which all these surface controversies arose – to get at our underlying assumptions and beliefs.

Here is our statement from the journal's introductory page:

The purpose of this peer reviewed journal is to provide a national and international forum for examining the dilemmas and controversies that arise in teaching and learning in a pluralistic, democratic society. Because many of the tensions in public school and university policies and practices are deeply rooted in the tensions inherent in the philosophy of a liberal democratic state, many of the value conflicts in public schools and universities can only be understood within the context of this larger public philosophy. In effect, the conflicting assumptions underlying our public philosophy frame our questions, define our problems and construct the solutions that shape our practices, policies, and research agendas. This journal will try to help clarify that public debate and deepen an understanding of its moral significance.

We are announcing this issue early to give time for authors to think about a controversy they would like to write about. We will send out official notices later.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Curtis Acosta interviews with Nathaniel Barr, JEC Editorial Assistant


I recently had the opportunity to speak with Curtis Acosta, the Mexican-American studies teacher whose curriculum was banned by the State of Arizona in 2010 amidst wide public controversy. Curtis had just given a presentation on the criminalization of Latin@ youth to a packed auditorium of students, professors and other community members and activists after a full day on the campus of Western Washington University. This presentation, which emphasized steadfastness and hope for social justice in the face of adversity, was sponsored by the Woodring College of Education, the Center for Education, Equity and Diversity, and the Journal of Educational Controversy. Curtis' forthcoming article for the JEC's upcoming issue on the theme, "Who Defines the Public in Public Education?," responds to the rhetoric used by those who outlawed the Mexican-American studies program in Tucson.--Nat Barr, Editorial Assistant, Journal of Educational Controversy

Nathaniel Barr interviews Curtis Acosta

Nat: Has becoming an important public figure impacted your work?

Curtis Acosta: [Laughing] I don't know if I agree with that--being an "important public figure."

Nat: Well, you are.

Curtis Acosta: Has it impacted my work? The struggle, right? The actual civil rights struggle that we went through at home. Yeah, it has totally impacted my work. Losing the classes obviously impacted my work because I had to figure out what I was going to do next. Some of my colleagues are still in TUSD, even though they're banned from doing what we were able to do in the curriculum, but for me, I knew I wasn't the same value to the students in TUSD that I was for years and I knew that that meant it was time for Xipe Totec, or transformation, for me--so where can I be of the most value?

I'm also finishing my PhD, so that was the original kind of thing, and I couldn't stop the activist part or the wanting to spread this part. So I got really busy trying to visit different spots and seeing if they have some like-mindedness trying to do that work and maybe they find some value in what were doing. I'm on planes a lot and that's different than most teachers, because you're usually in the classroom, you don't have that... well, I don't know if I would call that a privilege, because traveling ain't that sexy.

Nat: Well, you have tremendous energy. I mean, seeing you speak tonight...

Curtis Acosta: Good, because you never know how its going to come off, you know? Especially when you're by yourself doing it, rehearsing in your little cocina, your little kitchen.

But, you know, I was born to teach--I just have a new student, a new student body. And then I'm going to be back home next semester teaching the stories and the stuff that I love again. So, it will balance out, as we build the new institution, it's going to balance out. We just have to find a new path and a new way.

Nat: Do you have any hope that a Mexican-American studies program will be reestablished in the school district?

Curtis Acosta: They have to actually. We asked them two years ago in January 2011, we're like listen, 'you must use the desegregation case'--because our district has been under a thirty-year desegregation order--so, we're like, 'listen, you have to have our classes, and we already have data, we have all this stuff, don't let the rhetoric of these hatemongers,' really. And, you know, it's hard to tell if they're hatemongers or opportunists, because they could've just been tapping into these anti-Latin@, anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant sentiments that engulfed our state for their own political gain.
           
But, we say, 'you have to have courage, you have a federal court order that trumps state,' because a federal court order trumps state law. And, first we asked, then we begged,  and then we threatened them, to join our effort and, well, they didn't like the last one, but they should've just done it on their own--the school board. Unfortunately, at the time, it was 3-2 against that, and our superintendent--his name was John Pedicone--he was awful when it came to... he had no sense of justice, no sense of courage, no sense. Just political expediency. He was a very arrogant man who thought he could solve it with his charm, because that was what had always worked in the past, and, boy, he learned a lot. He learned about his limitations. And, unfortunately, we were disappeared, but six months later they were forced to bring something back. They were very clear--it was the same superintendent--that it won't be that. And, by 'that,' I mean, us. We were out. Behind closed doors, they were wooing us though. In public, they would say, 'no, it's not going to be Mexican-American studies," but, behind, in private emails, in TUSD, they'd be like, 'hey, can you help us out, we gotta develop a curriculum?' We're like, 'are you kidding me? After what you've done to us, now you're gonna ask?'

So that was troublesome, but since then they have started, they created, they have classes again that are called 'Culturally-Relevant Curriculum', 'CRC' classes that are Latin@ literature and Mexican-American studies that are brand new. And you saw in the talk today, that the actual history classes didn't have any actual Latin@ authors in the curriculum until the media blew it up, and said, 'what are you doing, are you kidding me?' So, we'll see how it grows from there.

Nat: Ok. I'm kinda wavering now between these questions, but I'm gonna go with the one that seems obvious to me.

Curtis Acosta: Yeah.

Nat: Well, I just wanted to say that I'm big fan of Foucault, actually, or, at least, I'm really interested in him, and I'm curious that you're citing him in your forthcoming piece for the journal...

Curtis Acosta:
And I have some great knowledge to drop in this PowerPoint, but it's on my notes. And, as you saw, I had a bunch of technical difficulties. So, no, I was going to bring... because, you know, Foucault talks a lot about confinement, punishment. In fact, I was re-reading it on the plane as I came here to find the quotes I really wanted to use to tie it together, because I wanted to use something different than the stuff I was using in the journal. The talk today was a little bit different than what I wrote about in the piece, but Foucault remains a steadfast voice that I like to go to once and awhile.

Nat: Are there former students that you keep in contact with?

Curtis Acosta: Absolutely, yeah, quite a bit.

Nat: How are they doing now?

Curtis Acosta: It's harder to see them now, because now I'm no longer where all the magic happened. So, I've had to find out kind of a new way to get in touch with them and to stay connected. But, yeah, you know, they've got my phone number and I have theirs. It's just a text message or a e-mail away. The problem is I'm just constantly bouncing between, you know, a plane and then when I come home, it's like Patricia and the boys are like 'what do you need?', you know, and I gotta know that. So once, I get into a groove I need to reconnect with them, but through the struggle, yeah, absolutely. And they're out doing all sorts of different things, you know: some are activists in the community, highly civically engaged; some are just making it work, they're just hanging in there.

A lot of them are parents now and they're horrified at what's going on, because a lot of them matriculated before [the program was shut down]. We survived for six years against all odds, because of the will of our students, the will of our community. Then when the hammer finally fell, they were horrified, because now they're parents and they're like, 'what happened? This was a space that transformed my life!' Because no matter what they're doing, whether they're getting degrees to hang up on the wall, they all have one thing in common: they can read the world. They are critically engaged in the way the world works. You can have like, socio-political discourse and conversation with my former students that you can just jump right into it, doesn't matter what walk of life they're in right now. I mean, not often do we go there, because the first thing I want to know is how they're doing, who they're loving, how their babies are doing if that's the case, and then how their parents are and all that kind of stuff, because we had a real relationship, and always will.

Nat: Last question, if you could give one piece of advice to activists, what would it be?

Curtis Acosta: Listen. You know, I'm asked to talk a lot, but today, here at Western... man, I was asked some tough questions and I got to listen to the context behind those questions and we engaged in some conversations. People were real brave in asking those questions, because it came from a real personal space sometimes, or a real passionate space sometimes. And I want to honor that--I don't want to just dismiss it.

So, that's what I've learned. I've learned that as a teacher that the most powerful thing I can do is listen, because  if I can really listen, then I can craft a real educational experience for that student that is dynamic and engaging and something that's very real to them. That may just change the way they look at the future, so that they can find their own path, whether through scholarship or through activism, or through both together, or through just practicing In Lak Esh. I shouldn't just say In Lak Esh, I mean, that's the most important thing, that there's good human beings that were cultivated and that they made me a better human being, they cultivated that in me. It was reflexive, symbiotic... that's the number one thing, to remember why you're doing the work. That you're not doing the work because your issue matters more than other issues. There's so many issues out there and so many experts out there and I honor them all, and you can honor them best by listening to what they know, where they're from and then start a real conversation that's based in love.

Lorraine Kasprisin and Curtis Acosta

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Curtis Acosta to Speak at Western Washington University October 17th


Woodring College of Education, The Journal of Educational Controversy, and the Center for Education, Equality and Diversity are pleased to announce:

Pedagogies of Resiliency and Hope:
Innovation and Empowerment in Response to the Criminalization of Latin@ Youth

Presentation by Curtis Acosta
Tucson MAS Teacher featured in Precious Knowledge
Thursday, October 17th
AW 204
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM





Since the turn of the century, national and state legislation have increased the criminalization of Latin@ youth. Whether it be in the guise of immigration policy, English Only initiatives, or the case of banning Mexican American Studies in Arizona, Latin@s are facing unprecedented scrutiny and surveillance that violate basic human and civil rights. This talk will focus upon the bleak context for Latin@s and other marginalized communities in the United States in the realms of education and the prison industrial complex, while also focusing upon programs and pedagogies that inspire hope, empathy, and love.


About Curtis Acosta:




Curtis Acosta has been a high school teacher for nearly 20 years in Tucson, where he developed and taught Chican@/Latin@ Literature classes for the renowned Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District . The program was outlawed by the state of Arizona sparking a nationwide debate over what population is represented and whose voice is heard in the nation’s public schools.  Curtis is an award-winning educator that has been featured in the documentary Precious Knowledge, and in profiles by CNN, PBS, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He was recently named one of the top 10 Latinos to Watch in the United States by The Huffington Post. Curtis has published articles in The English Journal, Voices in Urban Education, and the book Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education.

Curtis is the founder of the Acosta Latino Learning Partnership; an educational consultation firm committed to help educators create dynamic learning environments, pedagogies and curricula that will inspire every student to thrive. He is also a founding member of the newly established Xican@ Institute for Teaching and Organizing (XITO), which is a sponsored program through Prescott College. XITO strives to support the Xican@/Latin@ community through teacher preparation, social justice pedagogy, and community organizing.  XITO's practices are steeped in Xican@ indigenous epistemology which drives the intentions, structures, and practices of the institute.