By Christian Coleman | It’s back-to-school season, and the US is still upset by its own sense of identity. James Baldwin knew all about it. In his “Talk to Teachers,” he said that if we changed the curriculum in all schools so that Black students learned more about themselves and their real contributions to US culture, we’d not only be liberating Black people; we’d be “liberating white people who know nothing about their own history.” The side-eye for FL, TX, and other states is warranted and righteous, because they’re still hell-bent on suppressing Black history or completely whitewashing it.
By Brandon Johnson | In 2012 the CTU went on strike for the first time in twenty-five years. We prepared our members to take this step by, first, making the case that we could better protect our profession by defending public education and our children. Second, we put forward a real plan for what schools needed to look like, and we effectively identified those people, including the mayor, who stood in the way. Finally, we began to raise awareness of the inequities that many people said couldn’t be fixed but we refused to accept. As a result, our members realized that we needed to withhold our labor in order to beat back the mayor’s proposal that would hurt both teachers and students.
By Brandon Johnson | The moment you sign up to become a teacher in the Chicago public school system you become an advocate, because you’re always searching for opportunities to meet the needs of your students. The system often falls short—from classroom materials, to reading and math support, to social and emotional development. Most schools don’t have social workers and counselors, for example, even though there is an overwhelming need for them.
This summer, the uprisings for racial justice and the marches for Black lives have been heartening. And believe me, we need something to root for during our pandemic timeline. This wake-up call to reckon with systemic racism and to dismantle it—and there have been many before—is ringing loud and clear. Now we need that same momentum to carry into the classrooms—all virtual please!—with the same gusto. Because schools are part of the system, too.
A Q&A with Mark Warren by Stephen Abbott | The school-to-prison pipeline refers to a systemic problem that disproportionately affects students in low-income communities and communities of color. It often begins with zero-tolerance discipline, where children, and particularly Black and brown children, are suspended and often expelled for minor behavioral infractions. Once they’re expelled, they’re not in school learning, and they’re often out on the streets where they get caught up in the juvenile criminal-justice system—that’s the pipeline.
With the diploma in hand and the graduation cap thrown jubilantly into the air, the question remains: What’s the next step? Graduation heralds new beginnings and transition. But where and how to start? How should we prepare for the future when the world around us changes on a compulsory basis? In his book Don’t Knock the Hustle, S. Craig Watkins asks the same question and says we should plan to be future-ready. “What should schools be doing? Instead of preparing students to be college-ready or career-ready, schools must start producing students who are what I call ‘future-ready.’ The skills associated with future readiness are geared toward the long-term and oriented toward navigating a world marked by diversity, uncertainty, and complexity . . . a future-ready approach prepares students for the world we will build tomorrow.”
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.