Yesterday, in preparation of a new course I'm teaching, I reread some of the Freire required for the course, revisited the phenomenal journalism of Kristina Rizga in her book Mission High, and thought about the best ways I might teach the administrative progressivism and the student-centered progressivism that began at the onset of public schooling, with the ongoing battle between bureaucrats trying to cash-in on homogeneity, standardization, the mythology of IQs and tracking, and the experiences most of my students had. I'm a fan of Freire, but I'm not a Fan-fan (Fan with a capital F to allude to Paul Gee); even so, his chapter writing on the Pedagogy of Hope hit home with the lesson I prepared.
We began the class listing the three most monumental experiences in our lives as students (moments, people, ideas, or experiences that changed us). We then wrote for five minutes on one of these and shared. We put that aside until the end of the class: after we discussed Freire, made connections with students and teachers in Mission High and found ample textual evidence that the happiness and success of teachers in that school provided evidence of what Freire meant by Pedagogy of Hope.
I also showed clips from My Fair Lady, making the case of 'Enry Iggins power over linguistic traditions, but how having access to proper literacy opens doorways (here, making the case about class given Eliza and Alfred Doolittle's background in the class of "uneducated" England).
We also watched the above video (cartoon) about Pandora's box, deconstructing the masculinity and "Whiteness" of the story, the blaming of evil on a woman (read Adam and Eve), and the notion of what "evil" is in the world --- it is all the strife of life, and all human beings experience it. Ah, but we have hope. I argued, though, that getting an education (which I define as hope) was not accessible to all throughout history. #$#@$! It is still not accessible to all and it's 2016. I think the case became more clear about the traditions that the texts acknowledge - that is, they who govern and control tend to recreate the standards, values, belief systems, and cultures that empowered them to the place of privilege they have. To make the case, I asked each student to name the one book they hated reading in high school (that was a simple task). Not surprisingly, the books were all canonized and represented a viewpoint and time period that was far from relatable to the lived experiences of students. Ah, but my students tend to come from backgrounds where education has always been valued. They all named British texts - how post-colonial can any of us ever get?
I'm not critical of this, and that brings me back to Eliza, 'enry and Alfred. It is the access to the language and traditions of power that I feel are important to offer to all students. No tracking. No labeling. Simple unraveling of what is the language of power and how do individuals find themselves in it.
Of course we watched Star-Bellied Sneetches, too (well, a clip of it) and I discussed TFA and charter schools and David Coleman and the ways that some have found a way to profit in education (especially on the poor). It's crazy.
My solution. A star-bellied Sneetch has much to learn from one without a star and vice versa. Keeping cultures apart from each other as "other" rather than as human is the problem. We read a piece, too, from Dr. Theresa Perry who wrote that many emancipated slaves earned a degree in higher education not for jobs (because they weren't available), but to finally feel human. To be illiterate was to be enslaved by those in power.
Then I came home and Lossine sent me a video, an act with no knowledge of the mini-lessons I had with my undergraduates. It is the cherry on the cupcake. I fault Universities, too, and all the educated elite for creating this mess.
We can do better. All I have is the hope that we can.