Archive for the 'What I’m Doing This Summer' Category

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,

Critical Issue: Alli Bernard

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.  

Alli Bernard

Although the education gap facing Peru is different than that of the United States, the idea is still the same. Boys and girls are not on the same level in terms of ability in performance in schools. And this is troubling.

There are many critical issues that plague the United States and the educational context. Among some of those issues include the gender gap in education and how it affects boys and girls in schools. The gender gap is an issue prevalent in all aspects of life in the United States, from the wage gap to representation in STEM or political fields. The gender gap in terms of education typically refers to the performance gap between girls and boys coupled with the biases teachers have for certain students in certain subjects. This gap is what continues gaps later in life, because education and school is the basis for the future. When girls and boys do not perform on the same level and are treated differently in schooling, it sets up for the gap to continue to grow. The need to close the gender gap in education is becoming greater so that all students can have an educational foundation that allows for future success in careers and life. I would also like to preface that this issue is looking at gender as a strictly binary construct. I know that gender is a construct and there are more than two genders (and that they are not strict in their constraints), but for the purposes of this exploration I will be looking at boys and girls.

Although it might make sense due to the gendered climate of the United States that the education gap would negatively affect girls, the truth of the matter is that both genders are affected in very different ways. As a group, girls “tend to have higher grades, take more advanced classes, graduate high school at higher rates, and participate in higher education” (Applerouth). In a June 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Education, statistics showed that girls outperform boys in almost every aspect of schooling. Girls were in more gifted and talented programs, less likely to be held back a grade level, outnumber boys in enrollment of AP science, and are suspended at lower rates than boys (U.S. Department of Education). The statistics here do not even touch on the subject of race, which has even more implications to the gender gap. White girls are still more advantaged than black, Latina, or Asian girls. What this data does show is that where girls as a group tend to succeed in school, the boys are experiencing a deficit in their education.

In current society, it is easy to look at how the gender gap only affects one group of people, without seeing how it affects everyone else. Without looking at the whole picture, it is hard to imagine what the gap looks like from all sides. Because the education gap is something that affects boys and girls in very different ways, it is imperative that all research and data looks at the gap from all angles. In order to fully address the gap, we need to examine all the areas where boys and girls suffer, in addition to where they both excel.

Unfortunately, much of the research shows that boys fall behind and do not excel at the same level because of outside factors. Their behavior is often less than ideal for a structured classroom environment, and they are often viewed as more difficult students because of their behavior. Disciplinary issues are one of the main problems that boys fall behind in school, especially compared to girls. Boys accounted for 71% of school suspensions (Applerouth). It only makes sense that this time out of school has a negative effect on boy’s education, because the more time they are not in school, the less they learn. This stems from the belief that many teachers hold, which is that boys are harder to control and discipline than girls, simply because they tend to move around much more and want to be active. This idea can start as early as preschool. This time out of school seems to be one of the main causes of the education gap, because while boys are being removed from school, girls are still in the classrooms learning. Because of this high rate of suspension, boys develop negative views of school and continue to act out against their teachers and administration. It is not that boys are not as smart or intellectual as girls, it is simply that their views of school and how they are treated by their teachers. This harsher discipline leads to a dislike and even distrust of school. Part of the reason that girls do not experience the same disciplinary trouble that boys do is because girls are often more successful in regulating their behavior, while boys are more impulsive.

At the same time, boys do succeed on many levels. Boys are starting to catch up and close the gaps. While girls had often done better at reading, a report from the Brookings Institution reported that boys are doing better than ever in terms of educational indications such as reading tests. While girls have remained on the same reading level since 1971, boys are reading much better than they did at the same time (Loveless). This means that while girls have remained consistently at the same level, boys are starting to improve their skills and close the gap. This could be due to greater attention being paid to this issue on the part of the teachers. No teacher should want their students to fail, regardless of their gender, so perhaps this improvement stems from the desire for all students to have the same education and perform on the same level.

Despite the advantages for girls, their self confidence is often pushed down and they tend to underestimate their abilities, typically in subjects such as math. This confidence gap becomes more prevalent as girls grow up and emerges around middle school when girls become more aware of the way they are viewed in society. One of the biggest misconceptions in school is that subjects like math and technology are for boys only, and that girls cannot succeed in these areas. While this definitely affects their views on these subjects, it also places an extremely gendered view on all other subjects. This tells girls from a very young age that they cannot and should not succeed in math, because it is a male dominated subject. This leads to the lack of representation in STEM fields, because girls had constantly been told that they are not good enough for math and science. Opposite this is the idea that humanities are more female dominated subjects, and that girls should be good in those while boys are not as much. This is especially true with English.

Much of the confidence gap also has to do with how society treats and views these school subjects in regards to gender. Males dominate STEM fields in all aspects, while females have to fight to be represented, and the opposite can be said for the humanities. This can cause the girls who are good at math and the boys who are good at English to feel ashamed or embarrassed of their skills. Because this often develops in middle school, it is especially rough because that is a time where students want to fit in and not stand out. This confidence gap and views toward math and science is one of the biggest shortcomings of education for girls.

This education gap is something that can be seen everywhere, and Peru is no exception. The Fé y Alegría school we visited in Andahuaylillas made gender equity a priority. However, because Peru is still a very much machismo society, much of the work of the school is with keeping girls in school and raising girls to be on the same level as boys. This is very different from much of the research of the United States, where boys are the ones who fall behind. In Peru, it was often not necessary for girls to have the same education as boys because they would be in homes and taking care of families. This idea is shifting, and many schools are starting to address it and work to level the playing field. By educating girls the same way they do boys, Peruvian schools are showing that they care about girls the same way they do boys. By shifting the idea of girls only being in the home, it is becoming more apparent that educating the youth is more important than anything. The education gap in Peru among boys and girls was greater than currently is, simply because girls were either getting no education, or were in school long enough to learn the basics of how to read and write. Schools like Fé y Alegría placing an emphasis on equity among education for boys and girls is a step in the right direction toward gender equity in general. As mentioned earlier, education is the basis for one’s career and future. Fé y Alegría recognizes this and in order to make their society more equitable, has striven to provide education for boys and girls that benefits both of them and allows for growth. They work to make sure girls stay in school and are given the help and support they deserve. Fé y Alegría recognizes where the gaps are and work to fill them in.

Although the education gap facing Peru is different than that of the United States, the idea is still the same. Boys and girls are not on the same level in terms of ability in performance in schools. And this is troubling. But it is not enough to simply point out an inequality; one must also provide suggestions for change. In this situation, the most obvious change would be to treat girls and boys equally in the classroom. However, this is not enough, nor does it get to the root of any problem. Additionally, treating them equally might not work, because it is assuming that they operate on the same level and should have the exact same teaching methods-essentially the opposite of differentiation. As teachers, we can recognize when we treat students differently and work toward equity. For example, punishing for misbehavior will not be the same across the board. Gorski and Swalwell give four abilities to developing equity literacy for teachers and students, which are, “recognize even subtle forms of bias, discrimination, and inequity; respond to bias, discrimination, and inequity in a thoughtful and equitable manner; redress bias, discrimination, and inequity, not only by responding to interpersonal bias, but also by studying the ways in which bigger social change happens; cultivate and sustain bias-free and discrimination-free communities, which requires an understanding that doing so is a basic responsibility for everyone in a civil society” (Gorski 37). Much of the gap comes from implicit biases teachers hold in regards to the differences between girls and boys. Female teachers often build stronger relationships and hold their female students with higher regard, while viewing their male students as troublesome. Gorski’s four abilities are something that all teachers should imbed into their pedagogy, because this can also be used for other identities, such as religion or race. By practicing these four abilities, teachers can work toward eliminating the biases and stereotypes of the genders, which is something that is a huge case of the education gap. Very little research shows that girls are smarter than boys (or vice versa) it is the biases and stereotypes working against them that contribute to the gap.

Sara Mead offers her solution as well, which is to look at each student as individuals and not in terms of their gender. She says that instead of learning about the differences in the brains, teachers need, “effective reading curricula, tools for diagnosing students’ reading difficulties and research-based interventions for struggling readers. She also needs tools to help differentiate instruction to student abilities and needs. And she needs effective behavior management strategies, as well as research-based approaches to help children develop their self-regulatory skills and ability to focus” (Mead). By doing this, the teacher can address where boys commonly struggle, but also where girls might also be struggling. This approach does not lump students based on their gender, but rather remembers that each student is an individual who does not always conform to how society believes they should. Tools such as what Mead suggests can help all students, regardless of gender, but also help to close the gap by recognizing where common shortcomings and downfalls are.

Teachers also need to be able to provide resources for their students. For example, showing female scientists and mathematicians and being patient with boys or teaching them how to study and learn can also help to show that there is more to both of them than the stereotypes pushed on them. By doing this, we make it clear that we want all our students to succeed, regardless of their gender. It is not enough to simply know that there is a gap, we must also actively work and educate ourselves on how we can best help and advocate for our students. By recognizing how we treat and talk about boys and girls in school settings, we can work toward closing the education gap.

Works Cited

Applerouth, Jed. “Troubling Gender Gaps In Education.” N.p., 2017. Web. 29 June 2018.

“Gender Equity In Education.” N.p., 2012. Web. 29 June 2018.

Gorski, Paul, and Katy Swalwell. “Equity Literacy For All.” Educational Leadership (2015): n. pag. Print.

Loveless, Tom. “Girls, Boys, And Reading.” Brookings. N.p., 2015. Web. 29 June 2018.

Mead, Sara. “It’s a Boy Thing (Or Is It?)” U.S. News. 29 June 2018.

Philosophy of Education: Gabrielle Wroblewski

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.  

Gabrielle Wroblewski

Setting students up for success is the main goal of teachers and education in general. However, in order for this to happen, the idea of education needs to be expanded by first looking at who the teacher really is.

Ever since I was little, it has always been my dream to be a teacher. Now of course, I am in the process of living my dream because I am almost done with school. However, my reasons for why I want to be a teacher and for why I feel such a connection to and am in such support of education has changed throughout the years, after I have been exposed to literature, experiences, and relationships. I no longer want to be a teacher just so I can draw on the chalkboard, like I wanted when I was a child. I now of course my desire and beliefs about education come from a much deeper source. I have been exposed to many different education literature and many different school settings, throughout Peru, throughout Milwaukee, and throughout my own years in school. In accordance with these school experiences, I also have been exposed to many different theories and philosophies about education. With all of these experiences and knowledge combined, I am now able to have my own philosophy of education.

The teacher. The person who stands in the front of a classroom and is in charge. The teacher. The adult who is responsible for teaching students content that they need in order to move on to the next grade or pass the next test. The teacher. The person who has all the knowledge and figures out ways to feed this knowledge to his/ her students. These claims about who the teacher is are very basic, traditional, and incorrect. Many would disagree with my claim about these statements being incorrect, but I am here to write about why “the teacher” is a much more broad and flexible term that encompasses more than one person and more than one thing.

A lot of people underestimate the power and knowledge of children. Children are capable of having their own opinions of things, they are very curious in nature, so they ask a lot of questions. They are hungry for new information and new experiences. Children are always moving, whether that be mentally or physically. This movement that children have is what allows them to be teachers. Now, this may sound silly, since it is “common sense” that in order to be a teacher, one must of course be an adult and go through some sort of schooling or training. However, this is not always the case. A teacher is someone who both learns and teaches. A teacher is someone who is learns new information from books, others, the outside world, etc. and then relays that information to others. Children definitely represent this statement of who a teacher is. Like stated before, children are curious, questioning creatures who are always excited to share new information with whoever they run into. Children also come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, so when all of those children are put into a classroom, they all come with knowledge that others may not have, including the traditional teacher.

Seeing that children bring new information into the classroom, this also means that the teacher is learning from the students. Of course, the teacher is tasked with giving the students new information that is required that they know, in all content areas, but the teacher is not the only one who can teach during a unit or lesson. Students may have additional information about a topic that can be shared to the class. Students may raise new questions or ways to think about a topic, that the teacher hadn’t previously thought about before. With this mindset about the students’ role in a classroom, it is clear that the traditional teacher also goes through a learning process while simultaneously teaching. This is the same for students. This idea of the teacher- students relationship and roles within the classroom is greatly supported by Freire’s theory of education. In Freire’s work, such as Pedagogy of the Oppressedhe talks about the importance of the student- teacher relationship and emphasizes the idea that “there is no teaching without learning… one requires the other” (Freire). Because of this relationship between the students and teacher and learning and teaching, the idea of what education really is, starts to be the process of learning and teaching, for all those who are involved. Education is the process of individuals taking previously known information and expanding upon it, revising it, questioning it, sharing it, in order to grow as individuals and become positive contributors to society. The traditional teacher is not someone who has all the information that needs to be given to the children, the students. The teacher is the person who aids children in their learning process, by steering them and prompting them in ways to get them to advance their understandings of things and expand their knowledge in general. John Dewey’s view on education would support this claim. Dewey states in his work, “School and Society,” that “the child is already intensely active, and the question of education is the question of taking hold of his activities of giving them direction.” This statement also goes back to my claim that children are always moving- mentally and physically. Because children have this instinct to want to learn new information and question and share new information, then they play a large role in the teaching aspect. Dewey explains here that education is what reins in the activeness and point it in the right direction, and this is very similar to my claim that the traditional teacher’s role is to take the students’ knowledge and steer it in the right direction. The traditional teacher also is not someone who has all the information that then gives it to the students. The students learn from other things as well- research, books, the internet, other people, experiences, etc. When thinking about who is the teacher here, one couldn’t really say that these resources are teachers, but they are tools that allow the students to become teachers themselves; students use these resources, sometimes guided by the traditional teacher, to learn more and new information.

I have seen students taking initiative in their learning in a number of schooling experiences. At the Fe y Alegria school in Lima, I was put in an English class where the students had to report on the different regions of Peru. The students did all the researching themselves and put the presentation together as well. Because the students live in Peru, they had background knowledge of the different regions to a certain extent, depending on the student and the students’ experiences. The “teacher” then assigned the students to different regions and guided the students in their research by giving them things to look for while researching. This learning shows how the students taught themselves in the process of researching their own region. When it came time for presentations, each group taught the class about their assigned region, so the other students learned from them (their peers). The students in the highlands and jungle group got creative and added a song in Quechua and a traditional dance. The teacher did not already know all of the information the students presented on for their presentation, so this means that the teacher also learned new information during this project. All the students seemed to really enjoy the project because they became experts on a region of their country and were then able to inform others on the information that they learned, including myself and Emily. The fact that the students found this project to be fun and interesting was beneficial to them in the way that a lot of the students were nervous to present in English because they of course were still learning English, this was an English class to begin with. The fact that they found this project enjoyable is what helped them get through the nerves of presenting in English. This is what makes education work. It is the process of getting the students to take initiative in the classroom in the form of research, asking questions, presenting/ sharing information, thinking critically about information, while having the students guide the students during this process, and as a result, the teachers learn from their students as well. The different aspects of education should all be interconnected- teaching is connected to learning, the students are connected to the teacher, all that is learned and taught in the classroom is connected to each other, such as students learning/ practicing English while they are learning about and teaching others the different regions of their own country.

Education, or being educated about something does not always happen in the classroom. Experiences play a huge role in teaching and educating people about things. Experiences are where students get their background knowledge which is then built upon by creating more experiences in school, whether that be in the classroom or outside of it. These learning experiences must be relatable and meaningful to the students, in order for the students to make sense of them and use them to build and expand their knowledge. These experiences also need to be ones in which the students are actively engaged and participating. They can not just be the teacher lecturing to the students, the students need to be really involved by sharing their own ideas, formulating and asking their own questions, and acting to reach a goal. Because it has been determined that students teach while learning, and teachers learn while also teaching, the students’ voices are just as important as the teacher’s voice in the classroom. The students should have a say in how they are being taught, and what is important for them to learn. Now, of course the students can’t always dictate what the teacher is going to teach them everyday because is content that the teacher just is required to teach the students, but HOW that content is taught can be greatly influences by the students. It is important for teachers to start where their students are and who their students are, and structure teaching strategies around that. Education involves students being active members of the classroom, so they can be active members of society, and being active members of the classroom happens through giving feedback on what’s working and not working, voicing opinions during discussions on different topics, and just having the feeling that they are not being ruled by a teacher, and instead their teacher is their partner in their learning. Dewy states in “School and Society,” that “school is traditionally all made for listening.” In other words, school is traditionally lecture-based. “The language instinct is the simplest form of the social expression of the child. Hence it is a great perhaps the greatest of all educational resources.” Dewey’s statements directly support my claim that students need to be actively participating in the classroom by voicing their opinions, thoughts, feelings, etc.

In the school La Inmaculada, in Lima, I was placed in an English classroom of 5th graders. The teacher Kathia, was excellent and used a very beneficial teaching strategy. She had her students write a reflection each week about specific activities or topics that were used/ taught during the week. The students had to state if they liked or didn’t like it and why. Kathia would then post the reflections in the classroom, in order to show the students that she didn’t just read them and throw them away, she really did care about what the students had to say, because the students should be n charge of their learning. This relationship and respect that Kathia has for her students and her students have for her is what makes her classroom run smoothly and sets her students up for success.

Setting students up for success is the main goal of teachers and education in general. However, in order for this to happen, the idea of education needs to be expanded by first looking at who the teacher really is. The teacher is both the students and the traditional teacher. The learners are both the students and the traditional teacher. Where one learns from, comes from experiences and from being actively engaged in the experiences both inside and outside the classroom. If the roles of the teacher and the students shouldn’t be thought of in the traditional sense, as the student only learns and the teacher only teaches, then perhaps a better way of viewing these roles is, the teacher is the person who sets up the students for success by being their partner in the learning process, and by giving them the responsibility and freedom to learn and teach at the same time.

What is Learning?: Aditi Narayan

This 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. 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.  

Aditi Narayan

My father used to tell me that the best way to truly know whether one has learned something, is to teach said thing to someone else.

Hello Interwebbers!

Every teacher all over the world, whether they know it or not, strives to be a lifelong learner. However, when I think about it, from the moment we are born to the moment of our death we are all learning many things at once, whether we know it or not. As an active life-long learner myself, I strive to make every moment a learning opportunity, constantly asking questions such as: “Why do we have the problems in our country that we have?”, “What can I do to solve them?”, “Why is Lima a desert city despite the fact that the city borders the Pacific Ocean?”, and more. As I talk about learning and being a lifelong learner, I sometimes wonder: what is learning all about?

If I were to type “Learning” into any search engine, a definition of “Learning” would not be the first link that appears on the screen. There are so many different types of learning, from a psychological standpoint, that I wouldn’t know where to start. says that ‘Learning’ is the “act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill…of systematic study in any field of scholarly application”. The only part of this definition that I slightly disagree with is the part about ‘scholarly application’. I disagree with this because we did not need scholarly application to learn how to do everyday things such as brush our teeth and tie our shoes. Yes, I agree that scholarly application is part of learning as students in school and university, and even as teachers since we are constantly looking for the most updated versions of information to teach our students. Academics is only one small part of the entirety that is learning.

My father used to tell me that the best way to truly know whether one has learned something, is to teach said thing to someone else. After returning from our trip to Peru, after all the field placements that i have done in schools so far, after reflecting so much on my education in the past, I think I have finally understood what he meant. Teaching and learning come hand-in-hand. One cannot occur without the other. One cannot learn without the ability to teach and one cannot teach without the ability to learn. I saw many examples of this in one of the science classes that I observed at the Fe y Alegria #2 school in Lima. The seventh grade students were talking about different ideas about cleaning, protecting, and saving their environment along with their slogans that they created. Each group had to draw out a poster with their highly-decorated slogans on them. Two people from each group, of about four people in each group, would stick their poster to the board and give a brief presentation about their slogan and what their message is. While they spoke, I listened to what they each had to say. Each of the speeches were quite similar, seeing as the content was about el medio ambiente (the environment). However, the students gave many different reasons as to why they, as peruvian citizens, should be taking care of the environment around them and in their country. Some said that reducing the pollution in the air will help them breathe as well as clean the water so that they can drink it freely. Some said that cleaning the litter from the streets and in their neighborhoods will uncover the beauty of their homes as well as preventing stray animals from eating small pieces of rubbish that are harmful for them. They all said that we are citizens of this world, that the world is our home. Just as we take care of our homes, we should be taking care of the Earth by keeping it clean and healthy to live in. They all learned about climate change and the effects that it has on the Earth.

They finished with a reflecting discussion on what they had learned over the course of the day, and how they can relate that to what they learned in the previous week and in their daily lives. According to Marc Clara’s article “What is a reflection? Looking for Charity in an Ambiguous Notion”, “…reflection refers to a real and extremely common psychological phenomenon that happens continuously in all spheres of life” (pg 262 or 2 of 11) Reflection is another important part of learning. This process helps us understand the meaning behind what we had learned. This ability to reflect on content understanding greatly helps students and teachers understand the content and, more importantly, how each topic connects with one another. From my experiences in the US and Peru, the class lessons are set up with three fundamental steps: (1) Review from the previous lesson; (2) Learning new information; (3) Reflection on new information and how the new information connects to old information.

The rest of the lesson plan set up has an infinite amount of possibilities. I saw that in every classroom I have ever been placed in. Another example from Peru was in La Inmaculada. During the week we were observing at the school, I observed a second grade English class where the unit was all about different types of sports or fun activities and the ability to say whether one likes or does not like said activities. Before the teacher sets the students off on their tasks of the day, the teacher asks them to tell her different activities or sports that they learned about in class. After that, she asks them whether they like or ‘don’t’ like those sports and they had to respond with “I do” or “I don’t”. (I used ‘don’t’ because the teacher only used ‘I don’t like…’, instead of ‘I do notlike…’). In the last five minutes of class, she has the students stop their activities and asks them the same questions, which the students are all too eager to answer. Something as simple as a small review of the day’s learning helps the students remember the content from class when they leave, and they are able to remember when they return to class.

There are many different types of education systems around the world, but more schools around the world are separating themselves from what Hooks calls the “banking system”. This is the old school, traditional version of education: The teacher lectures and the students blindly take in the information as they take notes. What does this say about the learning? Students ‘learn’ to pass the exams and move forward. Hooks describes in her article that challenging this “banking system” of education to educate for the freedom of learning more about the world around us, is the way to better the overall learning experience for the students and for the teacher.

At the end of all this, I can’t help but wonder if I will ever be able to answer the question, ‘What is Learning?’. There are so many different definitions of Learning and so many different types, that no one would know where to begin. From my time of learning, exploring, discovering, and philosophizing, I believe that learning is the lifelong process of acquiring knowledge/ a skill(s) through experience.

Until Next Time,

Aditi Narayan

Philosophy of Education Final: Mary McQuillen

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.  

Mary McQuillen

There isn’t enough thought about equity when it comes to education because most parents want to provide the best for their children. That is not a crime obviously, it’s a beautiful gift, but one that not all can afford.

I loved being able to observe a number of different classroom environments in such a short amount of time. We were given the rare opportunity to take a step out of our world to be able to look into the world of a totally different country. There are some risks of judgement that come from observation of different cultures, classrooms, and politics. I tried my very best to realize that although we are looking at schools from the tip top of the scale down to the depths of poverty, a lot of the same issues of inequality are consistent in America. I went to a school very similar to Inmaculada and because of that, I have had more opportunities than the average American or human on this planet. I am also white, a native English speaker and I can get by in Spanish. I was able to achieve that due to my parents who constantly supported me, the school system for preparing and challenging me, as well as my genetics because I have no learning disabilities. I think one of the most important topics that we discussed was asking about how to make Education just because it forced me to critique how schools can contribute to furthering inequality. There isn’t enough thought about equity when it comes to education because most parents want to provide the best for their children. That is not a crime obviously, it’s a beautiful gift, but one that not all can afford. Those that are already better off can provide a stronger education for their children’s future and give them more opportunities for success in the work force. Sadly, that means that the children with parents that aren’t able to afford this education will fall further behind. A lot of what SEA, BECA, and other programs as such aim to do, is to provide early intervention for students of poverty in order to get them back on a track towards equality. Obviously equity would be the goal, but it doesn’t happen quickly. This is why they use the Ignatian Pedagogy as a structure to help them.

The Ignatian Pedagogy involved five key elements of learning; context, experience, reflection, action and evaluation. After a wonderful 8 years in a Jesuit teaching environment, I would definitely want to use this pedagogy in my classroom. It begins with the context, it validates the students background and the way they live their life. It then builds off of their context so that the students are better able to comprehend what they are learning because it is always relevant. “Teachers need to understand the world of the learner, including the ways in which family, friends, peers, and the larger society impact that world and effect the learner for better or worse, (Page 2, Jesuit Education and Ignatian Pedagogy). The next focus is on the experience of the students, asking the students to take what they are experiencing and develop it into knowledge. This is more of an active role of education both on the side of the student and the teacher because it takes work to create an environment that promotes learning experiences. It also requires the students to take charge of their own learning to be able to make the connections necessary to understand ideas and how they feel about them. Now there is reflection, something that I find essential for students to accurately process their experiences. A huge reason that we need teachers is to guide us in the right direction of thought, to challenge our opinions, and to inspire us to think beyond what we ever could have before. Next we have action, which is still guided by the teachers but the students need to care about what they are doing for it to be meaningful. These can be little things like changing someone’s mindset or it can be starting a movement for justice. It is simply important for the student to take what they have been reflecting on and to actually do something about it. The final element is evaluation, this is done by the teacher, with the goal of assessing “learners’ growth in mind, heart, and spirit,” (Page 3). The teacher has to put in the work to include all of their student’s background knowledge in learning, find a way to make learning an experience, lead the students in reflection, and then actually grade them on all of that work. I think a lot of the time teachers don’t put in enough work, and there are many different reasons for that. I hope that I never turn out to be one of those teachers who always seems tired and makes their students read in silence all day. I want to be able to inspire my students, push them further and hopefully give them a just education. Sometimes I wonder if I even want to be a teacher, but then I end up finding myself surrounded by children having the time of my life. I guess I’m just sick of all the observation because I want to take charge (surprise, surprise).

I did not spend a lot of time with older students, I spent the majority of my time with students in the primary grades. Luckily, I was able to spend a day with 13-year-old students in Cusco so that I could have a more well-rounded experience. When I was with them, we watched a video on a man who was born without arms but he’s still accomplished his dreams. In Cusco there are a lot of families in poverty, so I felt like this connected well with them because it inspired them to find richness in spirit instead of monetary value. Although the teacher seemed to waste a lot of time making squiggly boxes to write in… and her handwriting was god awful, what was most important to her and to the students was the message here. I could clearly see the way that she was including elements of the Ignatian pedagogy in her classroom on that day. I wish I would have had a better chance to understand what was going on throughout the reflection and understand how she could have moved further with this lesson. I truly believe that reflection is an essential part of learning because it creates a safe place for dissecting the experiences. In my own personal experiences with reflection I am able to evaluate the kind of person that I want to become and how I can move toward that. There are so many different ways to reflect, for some it is more personal and for others it is helpful when there can be group discussion. In my future classroom I hope that I can create a community that allows my students to feel safe to question the way the world works and hopefully make discoveries. I like the way that Clara explains reflection as, “reflection is spontaneous, common, real thinking” (Clara, 262). There should not be one way for people as a whole to understand their experiences because they look at the world through different lenses. I want to ensure that my students understand that they have every right to their own opinions and beliefs, but they should also be prepared to have to back them up. There are a lot of different opinions and beliefs, not any one is right or wrong, but they should have a good reason for their beliefs.

After this wonderful experience, I have been able to learn more about myself in a number of ways. I have learned how important it is to stand for something, to have a purpose, and to follow through on my ideas. I think it’s just all about accountability and being the best possible person we can be, that’s how we make the education system better. I hope that after this wonderful experience I can keep what I have learned in mind. Doing so will help me follow through with making my classroom a safe place for my students to reflect. I think living out the Ignatian Pedagogy in my classroom will be the best way to help my students to be the best they can and impact the world as positively as possible.

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