Archive for the 'Summer Series' Category

Getting to Know Our Students: Meet Rebecca Vandersluis

This fall, we are spending time getting to know our students! You can get to know more of our students and our faculty/ staff on previous posts. Read on to meet Rebecca Vandersluis, one of our Noyce Scholars in the Masters in STEM Teaching Program.


I grew up in Maryland just north of Baltimore. After college, I moved to Florida to begin working in project management at CSX Transportation and have had the opportunity to live in many parts of the country: Maryland, Florida, Washington, Rhode Island, Tennessee, California, and Wisconsin. My husband is Captain Matthew Vandersluis, Commanding Officer of Navy and Marine Corps ROTC Unit here at Marquette. We have three teenagers and a black labrador named Maggie. In my free time, I enjoy walking, reading and baking. My family inspires me every day to keep working toward my passion and my goals.

I must say my current experience at Marquette is my favorite educational experience. I feel like I am able to be fully engrossed in the education and really want to learn. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a teacher but was discouraged from doing so. I actually received my substitute teacher license in California and transferred it to Wisconsin. After subbing in Wisconsin I thought I would look into getting my teaching license. My first call was to Marquette University where the Noyce STEM Teaching program was explained to me!

I feel as though many earlier decisions have led to this point and this feels like the cherry on top. The Noyce Program is giving me an opportunity to pursue a dream I thought I had let slip away. After graduation, I’m looking forward to having fun while helping my students realize anyone can learn Math.

Getting to Know… Our Students! Meet Zachery Cramer

As we continue our series getting to know our students a little better this fall, we’d like to introduce you to Zachery Cramer, one of our SAHE students! And, check back to meet more students each week right here!

DSC_1325My name is Zachery Cramer, and I am a second-year graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education Program (SAHE)!

I was born and raised in central Illinois — Princeville, IL, to be specific. I’ve been slowly moving north over the years as my undergraduate degree is from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, where I studied Hospitality and Tourism Management.

I’ve lived in Milwaukee for a year and a month now! I live on the eastside and about a 5-minute walk from Bradford Beach. It’s definitely a nice change of pace after basically living in a corn field for 22 years.

My dad is a farmer and mechanic, and my mother is a Special Education Aide for middle schools. My younger sister just graduated high school and has been accepted to cosmetology school (so exciting!). Over the last several years, our family has become more dynamic as they have started to foster, and we have welcomed several dozen little ones in and out of our family.

My favorite educational experiences have been through my graduate program. There have been multiple courses where I lacked confidence in the topic areas, but our professors have done an amazing job in challenging my peers and me. Thanks to their work and belief in me, I feel like I’ve become more confident in my academic work and my capacity for engaging in new content.

This year I am serving as the Alumni Relations Chair for the Graduate Organization for Student Affairs in Higher Education (GO SAHE). I’m stoked to be able to engage with our alumni network from the SAHE program to serving as mentors, resources, and more for our current students. I’ll also start job searching in the spring, but I’m not too excited for that process yet.

I work a lot. I have a Graduate Assistantship (GA) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where I serve as the Riverview GA and the Leadership Programs GA. There, I supervise Resident Assistants, help to oversee a building of 150 students, and facilitate leadership programs for all of campus, from individuals to student organizations. This semester I am doing my graduate internship through the Marquette Student Wellness Center where I supervise the office assistants, work with our marketing and social media, and assist with other programming that comes out of our office.

A hobby that I have gotten into over the last year is running outside. I’ve become a snob where running inside is no longer enjoyable, and I need to be outside in the fresh air. This semester I plan on running three 5Ks! The Panther Prowl (UWM), Homecoming 5K (Marquette), and Hustle for Hearing (NIU). Running has been a very calming way for me to get outside and exercise while also allowing me to decompress after a long day/week.

I’ve also started “reading” audiobooks. Thanks to OverDrive (a super helpful app to check out) I can register my Milwaukee Public Library card. It allows me to check out books for a week at a time and listen while I’m commuting back and forth from Marquette to UWM to home. Just in August and September I finished seven books. If you have recommendations for good dystopian books, please let me know!

I really want to be able to support students as they go through their collegiate careers. When I was an undergraduate student I changed my major six times and never felt like I belonged in the classroom. It was thanks to student affairs professionals that I felt connected to the campus and the activities in which I was engaged. Thanks to these experiences and professionals, I now know that I am in the right place and doing the work that I’m meant to do.

I want to give a shout-out to some of my cohort members! Without them and the connections and experiences we have, graduate school would have been ten times harder than it already is. When I first decided to come here I was worried about being queer at a Jesuit institution, but I’ve felt supported the whole time I’ve been here! For those cohort members that work with me, thank you for making sure my work is quality and supporting me when I needed help. For those that share identities with me, thank you for helping to make being queer at Marquette possible. For those that meet up with me every Sunday for coffee, crying, and reading, thank you for always being willing to stay on topic (or completely veer off track).


Getting to Know… Our Students! Meet Brooke McArdle

We are continuing our blog series Getting to Know… Our Students this week with Brooke McArdle. Brooke is a sophomore in our teacher education program studying secondary education, history, and classical languages. Read on to learn more about Brooke!

mcardleI have spent the majority of my life in Brookfield, Wisconsin. My parents have had the biggest impact on my life, instilling values of compassion and service to others in both my brother and me. With service as the cornerstone of my life, my family was not surprised when I was called to be a teacher.

My favorite educational experience was participating in “Vocare” which was a two-week service immersion program during my senior year of high school. I had the privilege of spending my two weeks at St. Margaret Mary School working with the 5K class. I learned so much about teaching and about myself in those two weeks, and I am extraordinarily grateful to have had that opportunity.

This year I have applied for both the public health Global Brigades trip to Ghana as well as a Marquette Action Program (MAP) trip for which I do not know where I will be serving. I am very excited to hear if I have been selected for these opportunities. In Ghana, I would be educating a community about proper sanitation and helping to build facilities for them. Hopefully I will be selected for a MAP trip that involves education at a variety of sites around the United States.

I chose Marquette because of its Jesuit mission and the emphasis it places on service to others. Similarly, I was drawn to our College of Education because I knew that I wanted to be a part of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) community.

When I am not in the classroom, I enjoy playing my violin and cello as well as baking, playing soccer, or having fun with family and friends. Music has helped shape me and has taught me so much. I think that everyone should have the opportunity to get involved with the arts, regardless of age or ability. My advice about playing violin or cello would be: stick with it because eventually you will go from playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to performing an incredible symphony!

My inspiration for being a teacher would be my parents as well as all the incredible teachers I have had before college because they have all had an impact on me in some way. My Latin teacher in high school and all of my high school History teachers, in particular, have sparked a fire in me that has made me very passionate about History and Latin. Also, my parents have always supported my desire to teach and have never tried to hold me back from pursuing my dream.

Welcome, Dr. Lee Za Ong

leeza-ong-2018Dr. Lee Za Ong has joined the Counselor Education Counseling Psychology this fall and will be working extensively with our new Rehabilitation Counseling Masters Degree. We had a chance to speak with Dr. Ong to get to know her better!

Where did you grow up? How long have you lived in Milwaukee?

I was born and grew up in Malaysia. I went to Japan for my undergraduate and came to the US for my graduate degrees. I have lived in the US longer than I lived in Malaysia and have been in Milwaukee for 10 years. Before coming to Milwaukee, my family has lived in New York and California and driven across the country twice due to several job relocations.

What is your favorite educational experience?

When students actively engage in class discussion and add on to my ideas.

What do you see as an exciting opportunity for this upcoming academic year?

I am doing a research project with Dr. Enaya Othman and other colleagues here at  Marquette University. This project focuses on investigating the stigma of disabilities among Muslim women in Milwaukee. I would also like to expand my research project regarding individuals’ attitude toward disability among other ethnicity in Wisconsin or in the nation.

What drew you to Marquette and the College of Education?

The faculty members in the Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology department are diverse, selfless, and engaging with the community. They are collective and are very skilled in lifting up people’s spirits. They are also a group of caring professors who are responsive to students’ needs.

What do you enjoy doing when you are outside of the classroom? 

I have been a board member of IndependenceFirst since 2014, and it has been an honor to be able to promote inclusion and the independent living of individual with disabilities. I have two children in high school and enjoy watching their musicals, band and swim events.  I admire young people’s talents and how they give everything into doing what they love. I hope that the world will be a better place with these passionate students. I also like to build relationship with people who are from different backgrounds. Their life experience and wisdom enhance my personal and professional development. An example could be the stories I listen to on The Moth podcast. The true stories that were told by people in the live show make me cry, laugh and feel in awe during my commute.

Any advice for readers who are interested in learning more?

The quality of the high school’s performing arts and music program are just as good as professional ones. You only spend a fraction of the cost, but you get to enjoy a world class performance by those of ages 14 and up. The children are the hidden treasure of the city. When building relationships with people who are different from you, even the simplest topic (such as food) can help seal a gap. As for The Moth, make sure you have a tissue box nearby. The stories presented in this inspiring podcast can move even the toughest to tears.

Who is your inspiration for your work or your passion?

Individual with disabilities, refugees and immigrants in the community are those who are my inspiration for my work. They have tirelessly demonstrated grit, resilience, endurance, and tolerance so they can build a bright future for next generations.

School Privatization: Kelsie Lamb

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Kelsie Lamb

As the land of opportunity, America promotes the idea that anyone, even the poor, can work hard and attain success; but the increased privatization of schools is ensuring that some of the nation’s most marginalized students continue to trail behind their more privileged peers by making a quality education more difficult to attain.

Other than my two years in preschool, all of my schooling has taken place at private, Catholic institutions. My parents felt that our local school district was facing too many setbacks and challenges, so my brother and I would have a better chance at success if we did not attend our neighborhood public schools. Many other parents who have the financial means to send their children to private schools make the decision to do so. However, with many advocating for increased privatization of education and the rise of “school choice” programs, more and more parents are choosing not to send their children to public schools. School privatization is not exclusively an American issue; countries all over the world are facing similar debates and challenges. With the current U.S. administration pushing for school privatization and its global popularity, it is important to consider the implications of privatized education and the defunding of public schools through school choice programs. The current privatization of U.S. schools, while intended to benefit even disadvantaged students, ultimately upholds the nation’s long-lasting systems of inequality.

Various factors have led to the privatization of schools, culminating in the current U.S. administration’s push for school choice and the defunding of public schools. Joanne Barkan describes the rise of privatization in her comprehensive piece “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” In the 1950s, Economist Milton Friedman was a pioneer in the school voucher system, proposing that students use vouchers, which would be funded by the government, to attend their choice of private school. However, Barkan notes that from 1954–1959, in an attempt to avoid integration after the Brown vs. Board decision, Southern states “adopted whites-only versions of Friedman’s voucher system” that allowed white students to attend all-white private schools using public funds. Another factor that supported school choice was the rise of neoliberalism, which asserted that competition and choice create an increase in quality and efficiency. In the 1980s, this led to economic deregulation, cuts in government spending, and increased privatization, including privatized education. The desire to privatize was further exacerbated in 1983, when “A Nation at Risk” was published, a report written to show how American schools were failing. The panic about failing schools, combined with neoliberal thinking, led many to demand an overhaul of the education system and greater support for privatized education. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, today, fourteen states and Washington D.C. have voucher programs, and all fifty states “provide parents the ability to send their child to a school outside their neighborhood in some way,” whether it be charter schools, open enrollment programs, education savings accounts, or scholarship tax credit programs. School privatization in the form of school choice has been years in the making and continues to expand.

While some private schools, were founded to avoid forced integration, many privatization efforts have had good intentions. As Corey Iacono writes in his piece “Three Reasons to Support School Choice,” supporters of school privatization argue that it will improve “academic outcomes and save tax payers money.” Better results at a lower cost would be ideal, but in reality, the private schools that vouchers can be used towards often fail to yield higher test scores than their public school counterparts, says Joanne Barkan. Looking at charter schools, Barkan cites one report’s findings: “about one half of all charters perform at the same level as district schools, about one quarter perform worse, and about one quarter perform better although often by a minuscule amount.” School choice programs can give some parents, who may not have had the opportunity otherwise, to select what they feel is the best school for their child, including high-performing schools. But at these schools, Barkan says, many students who have behavioral or academic issues are “counseled out” so as not to bring down the school’s test results. As the product of private schools myself, I cannot say that a private education is inherently bad; I am grateful for the education I have received, the values I have learned, and the experiences I have had during my fifteen years of schooling. But as a future educator, I must acknowledge that not all students have access to the funds and resources necessary to attend a school other than their neighborhood school, and that the increased trend towards privatization is perpetuating the inequality that has left America’s marginalized students disadvantaged for years.

The United States prides itself on being a nation of opportunity and choice, so the ability to choose what school one’s child attends should embody these ideas. But for some opponents, the privatization of schools threatens some of America’s most important ideals; those who oppose school privatization say that school choice comes at the expense of not only public schools, but also democracy. The National Education Association, whose tagline is “Great Public Schools for Every Student,” argues that “Privatization is a threat to public education, and more broadly, to our democracy itself.” As Joanne Barkan discusses in her article, vouchers and charter schools receive public funds for each student who enrolls; therefore, public schools are receiving both less money and less students, leaving them to “inevitably deteriorate.” The deterioration of public schools is something I am familiar with. The school district of my city, North Chicago, has been overseen by a state-appointed superintendent for over twenty years due to poor performance and the mismanagement of funds. The district has been reorganized several times, and multiple schools were closed. Within this time, two charter schools were opened, one of which is now located in the building of my old preschool. While the charter schools are getting attention, no more funding is being given to the public schools whose test scores continue to fall well below average. The other abandoned schools serve as a physical reminder of public schools’ underfunding. As the land of opportunity, America promotes the idea that anyone, even the poor, can work hard and attain success; but the increased privatization of schools is ensuring that some of the nation’s most marginalized students continue to trail behind their more privileged peers by making a quality education more difficult to attain.

While school choice may be aimed at giving students new and better opportunities, ultimately, the privatization of schools leads to increased inequality. According to an article on school choice by the Washington Post, critics of voucher and charter schools say that the neediest children are being harmed by these programs because their parents do not have the means to “shop around” for schools or cannot afford transportation to schools further away; therefore, they are left attending their local public schools that are lacking in resources and funds. As discussed previously, the academic results of private schools who receive public funding are usually not any higher than the public schools. In the United States, the schools with high performance, as well as a wealth of resources, are usually the elite private schools whose tuition would not come close to being covered by a choice voucher. This trend is echoed throughout the world, including in the South American country of Peru. While spending a month in Peru, visiting both public and private schools, I saw that they too are facing similar challenges with privatization. For example, I visited two elite private academies, whose tuition could not be afforded by the vast majority of Peruvians. These privileged schools have libraries, computer labs, one has two 3D printers, and the other has a zoo, which houses endangered animals. Like the U.S., some Peruvians also have the option to send their children to privately-run but publicly-funded schools. Unlike the elite schools, these other types of private schools have limited resources; in the schools in the most impoverished areas, some of the classrooms sit empty for want of teachers. Maria Balarin describes this in her working paper “The Default Privatization of Peruvian Education and the Rise of Low-fee Private Schools.” Balarin argues, “Without the balances brought into public education by public funding and more direct regulation, private education goes from high-end schools educating the children of the global elite, to low-fee ‘garage schools,’ offering an education of sub-standard quality” (13). Both in the United States and Peru, school privatization not only highlights inequality, but also supports it by ensuring that the privileged continue to receive privileges, while the poor continue to struggle to have even the basic elements of schooling met.

In addition, the inequality caused by school privatization often takes the form of school segregation, as Nikole Hannah-Jones describes in the NPR interview “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices.’” In this interview, Hannah-Jones describes how the overpopulation of a majority white public school in New York City meant that white students would attend her daughter’s majority minority school. Many white parents were unhappy about this decision, and with privatization and school choice, they could opt to send their students to other schools where they would continue to be surrounded by their white peers. Just as those in the 1950s used school choice to avoid integration, similar situations happen today. Like New York City, Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the nation. I have had field placements in three private schools in Milwaukee, two of which were part of the Choice Program and one which was a charter school. These three schools were either majority African American or majority Latinx. I have only been in one Milwaukee public school, and it too was largely African American. It is important to acknowledge the role that individual choices play in maintaining this segregation, as Hannah-Jones suggests. According to a report done by the Century Foundation on school vouchers and integration, “90 percent of transfers in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program increased segregation in private schools, public schools, or both sectors.” Segregation and school privatization is not exclusively an American issue either. The U.S. News article “Worldwide, Public Education is Up for Sale” by Diane Ravitch describes how education has affected nations such as the U.K., Chile, and Sweden. According to this piece, Chile provides an example of how nationwide privatization leads to self-segregation “by religion, social class, race, and family income,” with limited educational benefits. In addition, Maria Balarin cites a report that “found that Peru — the one country in which default school privatization has been most marked in Latin America — is the country with the highest levels of educational segregation, and also the country in which pupils’ SES is most strongly correlated with their learning achievement” (12). The situation in Peru mirrors the U.S.’s, emphasizing some of the detrimental effects of privatization.

Although beneficial in theory, school privatization, when implemented, presents a series of challenges that cannot be ignored. Therefore, it is essential for educators to seriously consider the implications privatization has on both their pedagogy and practice. For example, those who claim to be social justice-oriented educators must actually act as teachers for social justice. Just as Nikole Hannah-Jones made the decision to send her daughter to a public school, educators must decide where their services are most needed. A private, suburban school may have more resources and better pay than a public, urban school, but educators must consider more than just that. Quality teachers are essential to a quality school and could positively impact on underfunded public schools. And if an educator does decide to teach in a private school, especially in one that is segregated, whether by social class or race, it is important to implement a diverse curriculum that will expose students to ways of life that they would not encounter otherwise. Educational philosopher and social activist Maxine Greene discusses this in her piece “Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings.” In her philosophy, Greene reaffirms “the need to reject single dominating visions or interpretations”; instead, educators should expose their students to multiple viewpoints and cultures that are different from their own (218). Additionally, Hannah-Jones’ idea that her daughter is no less deserving than her poorer peers is also something that teachers should adopt; even in publicly-funded, under-resourced schools, the students are not only capable of academic success, but are also deserving of it. The potential and equality of all students is something that teachers must acknowledge. My experience with publicly-funded Peruvian schools is limited, but the teachers in the two I observed in demonstrated a genuine commitment to the success of all their students. Teaching with compassion and holding high expectations of all students is one of the ways to promote equity, even in segregated, marginalized schools. While teachers may not be able to implement new policies to decrease privatization, they can help combat its negative effects through their philosophy and practice.

Many politicians have argued for the privatization of schooling because by running schools like a business, they will be more cost effective and efficient. To supporters of this viewpoint, increased school competition will lead to increased school quality. However, this type of thinking is flawed. Schools are not businesses — their purpose is not to generate revenue, nor should it be. Students are not customers. Education is not a commodity. It is a right, as declared by the twenty-sixth article of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights. If the education system operates like the free market, then the poor will continue to be at a disadvantage because they will be unable to afford a higher-quality education. One of the roles of public schools is to give all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, a quality education that will help them succeed. If schools become businesses, this cannot happen and the cycle of poverty will continue. School privatization is a decisive issue and is being heatedly debated, and with the current president being a businessman, the push towards privatization will not go away anytime soon. But solutions and compromises need to be made in order to improve the integrity of America’s public schools, protect the interests of all students, and ensure the long-term success of our nation as a whole.

Works Cited

Balarin, Maria. “The Default Privatization of Peruvian Education and the Rise of Low-fee Private Schools.”

Barkan, Joanne. “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” Jacobin Magazine. June 16, 2018.

Brown, Emma. “‘School choice’ or ‘Privatization’? A Guide to Loaded Education Lingo in the Trump Era.” December 27, 2016.

Coleman, Emily K. “North Chicago, LEARN Reach Deal for Second Charter School.” Lake County News-Sun. May 11, 2016.

Cunningham, Josh. “Interactive Guide to School Choice Laws.” The National Conference of State Legislatures. June 15, 2017.

How the Systemic Segregation of Schools is Maintained by ‘Individual Choices.’” NPR. October 13, 2017.

Greene, Maxine. “Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings.” Teachers College Record. 1993.

Iacono, Corey. “3 Reasons to Support School Choice.” Foundation for Economic Education. January 26, 2015.

Potter, Halley. “Do Private School Vouchers Pose a Threat to Integration?” The Century Foundation. March 21, 2017.

Privatization.” National Education Association. 2017.

Ravitch, Diane. “Worldwide, Public Education is Up for Sale.” U.S. News. August 9, 2016.

Strauss, Valerie. “What ‘School Choice’ Means in the Era Trump and DeVos.” The Washington Post. May 22, 2017.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The United Nations.

Comparative Analysis of a Critical Issue: Emily Chang

This summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member are spending a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They are writing and reflecting on their journey, and we are following along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru and check back for updates here.  

Emily Chang

Language signifies power, and some more than others because of its relevance in society.

A contemporary educational issue that exists today is embedded within bilingual education and the value of learning a second language. This issue is a part of the US educational context and there have been various readings and research on this topic that looks deeper into the experiences from students and schools, especially those with a minority background. Bilingual education and dual-immersion language programs serve as a way to promote the acquisition of a second language and can be beneficial for students, but there are also conflicts that arise when not everyone is receiving an equitable type of education. This is especially relevant when it comes to putting together disadvantaged and advantaged groups in the same setting because within the US context, the ones that are still benefiting the most are those that already come in privileged. Language and power are interrelated and affect the relationships between these groups, particularly from the quality of instruction and encouragement they are receiving. It is also one of the many factors that can affect achievement in school for all students as a result from the support of the school administration or from their community (Valdes, 395). It is important to help minority students feel included and involved in the educational process and show them that there is purpose and meaning in the progress they are making.

Although there are cautionary approaches that should be taken towards bilingual and immersion programs, there are positives to this side that benefit both mainstream and minority students. Based on second-language acquisition theories and general interventions to address educational gaps between students, these programs were formed to alter the outcomes and help all students succeed within the school environment (Valdes, 410). Bilingual and immersion programs are based off second language acquisition theories, specifically by Long and Swain. Both had hypotheses that emphasized the importance of language availability to comprehensible input and opportunities for meaningful output with teachers and other students which bilingual and dual-immersion programs promote. Having these opportunities leads to something called, “negotiation for meaning” among students in second language acquisition (Lightbown, 150). This means it forces students to express and form their thoughts in the target language in a way for the native speaker to understand and is useful for task based instructions where there is a common goal for completing that task. By including this within programs, there is a sense of community and encourages collaboration among students despite their differences and their backgrounds. It prevents isolation that minority students may normally feel at other schools and a middle-class environment along with more availability to resources and opportunities (Valdes, 412). It also provides instruction for minority students in their first language and an access to a quality curriculum. Their academic successes show that low achievement is not just found in students from lower SES levels or backgrounds and depends on the type of instruction and support they are receiving (Valdes, 411). With the success of most programs that show the benefits from both mainstream and minority students, there are still aspects of bilingual and immersion program policies that are attempting to address two very different groups in a more equal way rather than equitable way.

The biggest factor is that there is less emphasis on the culture and identity of language-minority students, and just by introducing native language programs will not solve their problems (Valdes, 416). There should be an emphasis given to the quality of instruction and the way the target language of instruction is received by both minority and mainstream students. It should be modified in a way that is comprehensible and sufficient enough to respond to the needs of students who are in their early stages of language acquisition. There are also external factors that affect the interactions among these students as well, especially of intergroup relations and the impact of society on a larger scale outside of the classroom (Valdes, 417). Although students may recognize differences and the discrimination that exists, and they continue to befriend and interact with each other, mainstream students still come in with mixed feelings towards minority students and continue to make them feel different, but in more implicit ways (Valdes, 417). I have experienced and observed this in schools in the US where all students may interact with each other in the classroom, but conform to their own groups, excluding their minority peers for weeknight or weekend plans once out of the classroom or after school. A lot of the times they will not even say hi to each other in the hallways and students will not interact unless they are in the classroom. It is an indirect way of sending a message to these students and is harmful when it comes to realizing they are different in way that is based on their backgrounds and because they are less privileged than their other peers. This is not just relevant in the US but also from my experiences in schools in Peru as well.

At a public school in Cusco, they highlighted the importance of a quality and equitable education that welcomes the diverse needs and backgrounds of its students. Although this was in place, school personnel and even the director did not seem to fully be aware of the sensitivities that students who were different would feel among their other peers. The teacher in one of the classrooms we observed said that all the students were Peruvian except one, who was from Venezuela, and proceeded to point him out which had all the students look at him. Although the students were not unfriendly and the Venezuelan boy seemed used to the response he was getting, it was clear that he knew he was different and that his peers would not see him as one of them, even though everyone spoke the same language. It shows that even though schools may be committed to social justice, a curriculum may appeal more to majority students in subtle ways and goes hand in hand with the relationship between power and identity.

Identity and ethnic group affiliation is important especially among dual-immersion and bilingual programs because there is the mix of majority and minority students learning target languages. Culture and identity influence how students think and affects their willingness or reluctance to act certain ways in school (Lightbown, 66). It is also a key part of the context that students are a part of and the experiences they are having in and out of the classroom, because identity and culture capture the way students interact with the world. In a study done by Norton on immigrant women in Canada, she writes how motivation was not enough to understand their relationships with language learning and the world. “There were social situations in which they were reluctant to speak and these were typically ones in which there was a power imbalance,” (Lightbown, 66). Those experiences limited the chances they had to participate and continue practicing the target language outside the classroom. Identities that are determined on students can impact their performance and the way they learn which can be harmful in a student’s learning process. It could also lead to limited interaction or feelings of powerlessness even though students may not openly show it (Lightbown, 66).

Language signifies power, and some more than others because of its relevance in society. In many areas, especially in Peru, bilingual schools are becoming more common because of the high value there is placed in knowing English. As globalization spreads, learning English becomes a necessity for them and also the opportunity for a better life (Nino-Murcia, 122). Learning English comes more from an instrumental motivation perspective for Peruvians because it is a way for higher social status, better employment opportunities, and power in society. It also makes themselves distinct from everyone else. An eye-opening point in the experiences that students have within bilingual and dual-immersion programs are the expectations that are set for them. For minority students, this is a part of the struggle with identity and background within these settings. In many cases, acquiring English is an expectation for minority students which signifies that there is less emphasis in the encouragement and praise they may receive (Valdes, 417). In turn, their motivation to learn English may be more extrinsic because they are depending on what their parents want and an opportunity for a better future. With less emphasis and focus on how much minority students achieve in their L2 acquisition, it can have a detrimental effect on their learning process. This could be due to the fact that English is universal and more and more people are learning to speak it to gain advantages in life. Meanwhile, majority students are praised and are rewarded for being able to speak a second language like Spanish and people are more easily impressed at their progress because it is less of an expectation to be able to know a second language.

In Peru, I have learned that being bilingual in English and Spanish is highly valued and looked upon because it is signifies a higher SES, while being bilingual in an indigenous language like quechua and Spanish has suffered from discrimination and is not as valued (Nino-Murica, 125). During my observation in the English classes at La Inmaculada, I was able to ask some students what they thought about learning English and many of them gave similar responses. They highlighted that it would help them find better jobs in the future and better opportunities in life. One also mentioned how his parents encouraged him to study abroad in the US for a month which he did, and he explained how much it had helped him understand the importance of learning English even more once he returned back to Peru. At Fe y Alegria in Cusco, we learned that it was a bilingual school but with Spanish and quechua which was incredibly unique to see. The school stressed upon preserving the culture and language since it will always be a part of them. Although students came in embarrassed or hesitant towards their cultural background because Peru’s society looks down towards indigeneity, the school has worked to show students and parents to be proud of their heritage through several cultural celebration days and emphasis on the learning of the language.

In schools in the US and Peru, language shapes the way students see themselves and how students interact with each other. This also leads to a sort of power struggle among identity and language in bilingual and dual-immersion schools as students try to understand their role in the social world. A way to address the issues within bilingual/dual-immersion programs are to start by providing quality instruction in both languages for all students in a way that recognizes their achievement and success within the classroom. But it should also provide an environment where students feel welcomed and celebrate each other’s differences. By actively addressing equal educational opportunity through interventions on the school administrator’s part and committing to the benefits of all students, it can be a start to addressing these issues especially for minority students. By being aware of the implicit hierarchy of power that is present among classmates, there can be a step towards equity and social relations along with the community that they live in. Education is more effective and just when learning is relevant to the world around them and there are culturally relevant teachers who give quality instruction, encourage collaborative learning for both groups of students, and teach students to inquire about the world around them. Language acquisition is a complex process and affects the way we view our own identity, our self-esteem and motivation, and the way we interact with others. As a result, especially among bilingual/dual-immersion programs where there are mixed groups of students, it is important to emphasize meaningful teaching where students are recognized as relevant, contributing citizens in and out of the classroom even thought they may come from an array of backgrounds.

Works Cited

Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2017). How languages are learned. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mercedes Niño. “‘English Is like the Dollar’: Hard Currency Ideology and the Status of English in Peru.” Freshwater Biology, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 1 May 2003,–971X.00283.

Valdés, G. (1997). Dual-language immersion programs: A cautionary note concerning the education of language-minority students. Harvard Educational Review, 67(3), 391–429.

Teaching Social Justice: A Critical Issue: Grace Chambers

This past summer, seven of our undergraduate teacher education students and one intrepid faculty member spent a month in Peru studying the educational system and discussing their own philosophies of education. They spent time writing and reflecting on their journey, and we followed along! Read on for excerpts and blurbs from Dr. Gibson and the students’ blogs. (You can read more on Marquette Meets Peru)

Grace Chambers

There is no one in the world who can learn about every injustice through lived experience. Oppression and injustice are global, and they vary geographically.

Educators often find themselves stuck in a bubble of schools that serve students of color or low-income families when talking about teaching for justice. When, in fact, teaching for justice in a privileged setting is equally important. Educational professionals and philosophers are beginning to uncover the greatest problem in teaching for justice: that it is not done in privileged schools. Professor Katy Swalwell of Iowa State University discusses this in her work, saying that “Social justice educational initiatives often focus on giving a voice to students of color and low-income students” but this alone is not enough to create change. “Regardless of their engagement, poor people have virtually no political power. The very wealthy are the ones with more political power and this gap is increasing,” Swalwell says. In order to engage middle and upper-class people in social justice initiatives, teachers in privileged schools must take it upon themselves to integrate conversations about justice into classwork. Middle and upper-class schools have significantly more resources than low income schools, and therefore have no reason not to integrate justice teaching into the curriculum. There are unlimited resources that guide teachers in teaching for justice, especially with access to online resources and a 24-hour news cycle, teachers can easily keep content relevant. Others may argue that teaching for justice is too much extra work, but there are simple ways to integrate social justice topics into every classroom in privileged schools, especially with the resources that are available.

Privileged students need to be taught for justice because they are the ones benefiting from injustice. Teaching for justice is a practice that can ignite student’s passion for work that dismantles systems of oppression. The idea of teaching for justice is not to create an army of social justice warriors, but to create a disruption in the current systemic oppression present in the United States. Schools, are a government system, and therefore are a part of systemic inequity. Teaching privileged students about social justice teaches them in a way that causes a disturbance in the system. Many privileged students are reluctant to learn about how their privilege allows them to benefit from oppression because it implies that they are bad people. Teachers need to explain to students that they have a say in how much they will benefit from oppression. This will help them to start to rid themselves of guilt, as well as frame the teaching in a way that does not make the students feel like they are being attacked. Students are also reluctant because they are young, inexperienced members of the world. Diane J. Goodman, in her article “Helping Students Explore Their Privileged Identities,” says that students will often be in “Denial that they make a difference,” when in fact, every person of privilege who is working for social change has an impact. Teaching for justice empowers students in a way that other learning does not. Learning about social justice can make privileged students examine their lives to realize the immense power that their privilege gives them. With teachers giving students as much information as they can access, students can decide how they will use their power and privilege.

Teaching social justice will not always result in privileged students taking it upon themselves to dismantle systems of injustice, and it does not have to. Privileged status and whiteness are just as much an identity marker as being from a low-income family or a person of color, however these facets of identity are frequently ignored because being white and middle to upper class is seen as “normal.” Teaching students about their own privilege is providing them the opportunity for self-exploration. “Self-exploration is central to our growth as individuals, our relationships with others, and our ability to promote equity” says Goodman. Students of privilege, especially white students of privilege, view their existence of normal, thereby “othering” anyone else. People of privilege often don’t discuss their own privilege because it leads to discomfort and feelings of guilt. One of the goals of discussing privilege is to help students sit with their negative emotions, and instead transform them into something constructive. Goodman says that students may “fear they will get stuck in these feelings or be subject to blame if they explore the privileged aspects of their identities,” but if students are never able to hurdle feelings of guilt or shame, they will become complacent in benefiting from systems that oppress less privileged citizens. Even if students do not agree with justice teaching, the practice still critical to development because every person should be aware of how much privilege they possess. It is often only those who lack privilege who are aware of who has privilege and who does not. Students should learn about privilege like any other facet of personal identity, what they choose to with it is up to them.

Some students at privileged schools will fall into some categories in which they lack privilege. Not every student in a school will be white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, neurotypical, Christian, or from a middle to high income family. Privileged students can also be members of oppressed and suppressed groups. Teaching students to both acknowledge their privilege and lack thereof can help them in identifying themselves, their passions, and the person they want to grow to be. The self-identification process is an important part of schooling, especially for adolescents. Students who are members of groups with varying levels of privilege need to learn about both the areas where they lack privilege and the areas in which they have it. Teaching social justice will give all students the greatest understanding of how they are benefiting from privilege, steering them away from feelings of guilt of helplessness, prompting them to take a stance and come to terms with their full identities.

There is no one in the world who can learn about every injustice through lived experience. Oppression and injustice are global, and they vary geographically. Without an education, we are prone to ignorance. While we were in Cuzco, we visited two low income schools. At one school in particular were exposed to some of the racism that exists in Peru. Students and staff alike had an unwavering obsession with mine and my classmates’ racial identity, only to have their inappropriate expressions of curiosity encouraged by the school director who insisted that myself and my three white classmates were “the real Americans.” This incident among several others led to a seminar conversation about whether or not low-income schools should teach social justice. Both of the schools we visited have less money and resources than the privileged and working-class schools we saw in Lima, and the school days are shorter. With limited money, time, and resources, is it imperative that children are still being taught about things like racism and injustice? If a teacher only has a half day in a classroom as opposed to a full one, shouldn’t all that time be devoted to academics? We danced around these questions for days, arguing from both sides, taking positions and then adjusting them based on readings and classmates’ thoughts. We reached no conclusion as a collective whole, but I stand by the idea that every child who is capable -by means of their minds and bodies, not income status or school location- of learning about injustice should have the opportunity to do so in class. In less privileged schools, the focus for educational content is on diversity and representation. This idea has not reached every classroom and it is still not enough. Students can be constantly learning about justice in every subject. The ideas that I laid out earlier in this essay apply just as easily to schools without privileged students as they do to schools with them. The key is integration. Any subject matter can be intersected with injustice and taught to students through that lens. In low-income schools and/or schools that have many students of color, the teacher can integrate contemporary injustices in the student’s communities into classwork, making it engaging, relevant, and important. Techers that are committed to their students will take it upon themselves to exercise this practice.

With that in mind, teachers must also consider the importance of teaching social justice to non-privileged students. Even though resources and time may be limited, knowing that a teacher can integrate social justice into academic work will create a more meaningful educational experience for children. In chapter three of her novel, “Changing the Odds for Children at Risk,” Susan B. Neuman says that “If we’re serious about improving children’s odds, then we must focus on enhancing background knowledge and conceptual understandings that are integral to academic learning.” Students in low income schools already lack the educational opportunities available at higher income schools, but teaching students about their own local, state, and national context gives them an advantage in their learning. This can become an asset for the school and eventually the community the school is located in. If students are knowledgeable about issues affecting themselves and people close to them, they will have more power to change systems. They will also have access to a greater field of knowledge, as well as the ability to better define themselves in their community and in the world. In Peru, we talked a lot about asset-based community development and being the protagonist of your own story. Programs teaching social justice and teaching for justice embodied those characteristics in a similar way that teaching justice does in the United States. Teaching social justice in schools that serve less privileged children gives the students the power to become protagonists of their own story, and, if they choose, to become assets to their own community and school development.

After all the theorizing, lesson planning, writing and re-writing, we are still left with the question: Why should teachers care? Why should teachers put in extra time and energy to teach for justice? Teachers who teach students without privilege usually have an easier time answering that question. As a teacher, it is your job to study your students. Study their interests, cultures, communities, who or what motivates them, how they learn best, etc. With this comes expanding your mind to learn about something unfamiliar, especially for white, middle-class teachers like myself. Teachers who teach students without privilege have a responsibility to be mindful of that fact in their teaching. The easiest way to do that is to teach students for and about justice, simultaneously showing compassion and igniting passion. Teaching for justice empowers low income students, students of color, female students, queer students, and differently abled students in their own studying. As for privileged students, why should we care? Privileged students are already privileged, and unless the teacher is already an advocate for justice, he/she/they may not always feel the responsibility to teach for justice. Here’s the thing, teaching students about social injustice and efforts for social change encourages them to use the same skills they have been taught since before preschool. To engage in productive and constructive conversations about injustice, one must engage in practices of compassion, empathy, active listening, conversation, questioning, and kindness. This promotes student learning and reflection. These are skills that every teacher wants to see in their students, skills that students learn as children. Teaching privileged students about injustice will encourage students to expand their knowledge of the world and practice qualities that make an exceptional learner. Swalwell says, “The goal {of teaching for justice in a privileged school} isn’t to get all kids to think the same way or to have the same political beliefs, but to get them grappling with the same questions and make sense of the same data related to inequalities.” In this sense, to teach for justice is simply to teach.


Neuman, Susan B. Changing the Odds for Children at Risk: Seven Essential Principles of Educational Programs That Break the Cycle of Poverty. Praeger, 2009.

Goodman, Diane. “Helping Students Explore Their Privileged Identities.” Association of American Colleges & Universities, 30 Dec. 2014,

Hunt, Angie. “Teaching Privileged Students about Social Justice Necessary for Change, Says ISU Professor.” RSS, 2016,

What is a Marquette Educator?

Follow us on Twitter