By Mark Warren | I am a college professor, but started off as a college dropout. And the story of my rocky road through the academy helps explain why I wrote a book on educational justice movements. I grew up in a segregated community in the ’50s and ’60s—an all-white segregated community, that is. It was a blue-collar community called Hungry Hill in Springfield, Massachusetts. My father was an unusual white working-class man for his time, maybe still would be. He was a warehouseman and a Teamster Union activist, but had a broad, progressive vision. He supported the civil rights movement and taught me to oppose racism. He also taught me that working people had to organize and stand up for themselves if they wanted a decent life—and that working people of all races needed to support each other.
A Q&A with Mark Warren, Jitu Brown, Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, and Jonathan Stith | Unlike the other people in the book, I am not exactly in a group or an alliance, so let me just say something about what I believe that I have accomplished or tried to accomplish as an education researcher. That is, to create a different way of thinking about how we are going to transform the education that our young people receive, particularly youth of color in our urban and rural communities. I believe that the current way that education researchers and the education policy world approaches this is broken.
I’ve been working, studying, and working with community organizing groups, working with parents and youth of color and communities, low-income communities across the country, for many years. I felt the work that parents and young people in communities are doing to fight for educational equity and justice was important. Over the past ten years or so, I saw that local organizing groups were now coming together in new ways to form much more of a larger movement for educational justice. This movement was often led by people of color, as are represented in the book, but that most people don’t know about this movement, and in many ways, different parts of the movement aren’t always as connected to each other as they could be.
Students across the country are returning to the classroom, and our concerns for them run deep. The Trump administration’s rampant anti-immigrant sentiment has fueled policies that separate migrant families. And it is affecting the lives of immigrant children who are going to school. What can educators do to fight against it, to become co-conspirators of resistance during our troubling times? This back-to-school season, we reached out to some of our authors to find out and share their responses with you here.
By William Ayers | The US Supreme Court ruled earlier this week in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and found in favor of Mark Janus, a child support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, who chose not to join the union, but was required under Illinois law to pay what are called “fair share” fees to AFSCME as the collective bargaining agent for all state workers. Janus argued that even though he was covered by the collective bargaining agreement, it was a violation of his First Amendment rights to force him to support the union. AFSCME con-tended that requiring workers who choose not to join the union to pay a smaller portion, or a “fair share,” is reasonable since they, along with their dues-paying colleagues, benefit concretely from collective bargaining. Without agency fees, those who don’t pay anything at all are essentially “free riders”—or “takers” to borrow a term-of-art from the conservative playbook—benefiting from the work of others, but neither participating nor contributing.
By Linda K. Wertheimer | How can we agree to disagree? How can we get Americans of different views, religions, races, and backgrounds in the same room and debate the issues of our times? Right now, accomplishing such a lofty goal seems elusive. Still, at a recent conference, there were glimmers of hope.
Graduates across the country are heading off to new adventures and new stages of their education or careers. If you’re looking for the perfect book this season for the graduate in your life, check out our graduation gift guide with recommendations from our catalog. Remember that you can always browse our website for more inspiration titles.
A Q&A with David Stovall: I’m born and raised in Chicago, and have witnessed the charter phenomenon emerge from a community-based approach to a corporate conglomerate model that is grounded in theories of deficit surrounding Black and Latino youth. From discipline policies to curriculum, it sickens me to see schools that think Black and Latino youth are to be “fixed” by aspiring to what is perceived as White, middle-class values.
By William Ayers, Crystal Laura, and Rick Ayers: The journalist Fareed Zakaria notes, “Half of America’s teachers graduated in the bottom third of their college class,” in sharp contrast to countries that have more successful schools, such as Finland, South Korea, and Singapore, places that consistently draw 100 percent of their teachers from the top third of graduates.1 Finnish students are dependably at or near the top in international examinations, which makes sense since their teacher corps is drawn from the best and the brightest.
2017 has been ragged and turbulent, charged with a fraught political climate spawned by a divisive presidential election. 2017 witnessed assaults on progress in racial justice, backlashes against environmental protections, and more. When we needed perspective and lucid social critique on the latest attacks on our civil liberties, our authors were there. We couldn’t be more thankful for them. They make the Broadside, which reached its tenth anniversary this year, the treasure trove of thought-provoking commentary we can turn to in our troubling and uncertain times. As our director Helene Atwan wrote in our first ever blog post, “It’s our hope that Beacon Broadside will be entertaining, challenging, provocative, unexpected, and—maybe above all—a good appetizer.” We certainly hope that’s the case for the year to come. Before 2017 comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the highlights of the Broadside. Happy New Year!
By Linda K. Wertheimer: Public school teachers, particularly those in elementary classrooms, face the same challenge every December. Do they pay homage to Christmas and maybe Hanukkah in a class party or activity? Or do they ignore the holidays altogether? Public school educators often look at the “December dilemma” as a question about how to recognize the holidays the majority of families in their communities celebrate. They miss a more important question. How can schools teach students of all ages about different world religions, reduce religious ignorance and ideally, make a dent in religious bigotry, too?
Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. In it, he lays out three important steps to follow in order for the students to reach their full potential, no matter their status life, and calls on them to actively commit to the struggle for freedom and justice. King’s words are inspirational for students of any age, of any era. Especially now during our troubled times. In honor of the speech’s anniversary, we’re looking at the ways the empowering message of his speech resonates and guides us still today.
A Q&A with Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi: One reason why early advocates pushed to establish a universal, compulsory education system was because, in a democracy, the presumption is that we are all part of the “deciding class,” and therefore need to be educated in order to make informed decisions. And public institutions and spaces, including public schools, are essential in a democracy, because their very existence conveys that we are a society in which we meet together and share common resources. So it’s not just public schools that we argue are essential, but public institutions writ large. Throughout the book, we deliberately use the word commonweal, which means the “welfare of the public.” It’s a word that few people use in conversation, but we make a modest effort to bring it into our communal conscious.
Graduation is a rite of passage that takes us either to the next step in education or our first step in a career. As a stage of new beginnings, it can be a time of uncertainty, but it’s also full of potential for growth. Graduation this season, though, seems particularly marked by uncertainty because of our charged political climate. And graduates are pondering what their own future holds in store for them. That got us thinking about what guidance our authors can give for those moving on to the next chapter of their lives.
From Bill Ayers: William John Thomas Mitchell—a.k.a. W.J.T. Mitchell—is the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, renowned editor of Critical Inquiry, and widely recognized as a leading force in visual theory. Tom is an intrepid risk-taker. He brings fresh enthusiasms and an active curiosity to every class and to each encounter. Never routine, never on auto-pilot—each experience becomes in his gaze a happening all its own.
By Patricia Hill CollinsOn August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people gathered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. One line stands out: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Some would say that the outcome of the 2008 presidential election has been either the realization of King’s dream or evidence of its failure. We can speculate endlessly about how and why Barack Obama won and John McCain lost, but this may not be the best use of our time. For the United States and the globe, too much is at stake to concentrate too closely on winners and losers.
By Laura WinnickTeaching Octavia Butler’s Kindred is one of the most important projects I embark on with my students. I’ve taught it for the past two years, and have seen my students, previously bored by texts, evolve into voracious readers, horrified by the grim depictions of slavery and transfixed by the possibility of time travel. This year, we paired John Jennings and Damian Duffy’s newly published graphic novel with the dense fictional text, and students arrived every day begging to read the graphic novel, utterly obsessed with the artistic rendering. In this unit, our essential questions are extremely difficult. We examine: How do race and gender affect our identities? What are the lingering effects of slavery? How are people impacted by their ancestral histories?
By Linda K. WertheimerThe fifteen-year-old girl told me she was open to learn about different religions and cultures so I could not resist asking: “Would you ever want to see the inside of a mosque?” The girl shook her head as she chatted with me and her mother in a donut shop in their southeast Texas town. She had just quit her high school in favor of homeschooling because she and her parents objected to the geography teacher’s instruction about Islam as part of a broader lesson on world religions.
A Q&A with Tanya ErzenI taught a college course on women and citizenship in US History in a women’s prison in 2003 in New York City, Bayview Correctional Center. The prison has since closed and will house a women’s organization that works on global women’s issues. I noticed that during that time, the majority of people I saw coming into the prison, aside from family members and loved ones of those incarcerated, were religious volunteers, and I became curious about the presence of religious groups inside. It was around that time that a colleague sent me an article about Florida transforming its state prisons into faith-based character institutions. Since I write about evangelicalism and religion in general, I wanted to explore how people in prison experience the presence of so many religious groups.
By Rashod Ollison: It was February 1988, and I was in the fourth grade, the new kid at Fair Park Elementary in central Little Rock. I was nervous, of course, because I was the new kid. And nobody wants to be the new kid. But unlike previous classroom situations, I wasn’t the only black face in the place. There, in Mrs. Charlotte James’ orderly room, I was surrounded by kids who looked as though they could have been my cousins—black and brown faces staring back at me sans the entitled icy glares I usually got from white kids in Hot Springs. Also, Mrs. James was black, as stately and no-nonsense with her pearls and round glasses as the Baptist church mothers who silenced me with a stern look whenever I was disruptive in the Lord’s house. She was my first black teacher, and I was “so excited” like the Pointer Sisters.