Posts Tagged 'Grace Chambers'

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.

References

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, www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/helping-students-explore-their-privileged-identities.

Hunt, Angie. “Teaching Privileged Students about Social Justice Necessary for Change, Says ISU Professor.” RSS, 2016, www.news.iastate.edu/news/2016/01/13/socialjustice.

Philosophy of Education: Grace Chambers

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.  

Grace Chambers

Teachers should make students feel comfortable sharing aspects of their lives that may be challenging, and aspects that should be celebrated. This will help teachers to understand how to best educate each student in their class, relating content to areas that will peak their students’ interests.

My personal philosophy of education is founded on the idea of a just education -what I believe to be a just education. My idea of a just education consists of four principles: the role of the teacher, inquiry-based learning, educating about injustice, and educating for justice. My philosophy of education is developing mostly from Freire readings, in addition to conversations and experiences I have had in Milwaukee and Peru.

To begin to philosophize about education, one must decide what kind of teacher they want to be. I want to be a teacher for justice, so my philosophy was written to reflect that. The role of “the teacher” and “the student” are really interchangeable when it comes to educating. The teacher must always be a student, learning constantly about his/her/their content, in addition to being a student of their context. It is the job of the teacher to allow students to bring knowledge into the classroom from their lives, homes, and communities. This relationship creates a mutual respect between teachers and students. When the teacher has built this relationship with his/her/their students, he/she/they are able to better encourage students to engage in inquiry learning. Inquiry learning -an important pillar in my personal philosophy of education- is the best way for students to absorb information. It is structured in a way that allows students to build on their prior academic knowledge to expand new knowledge in a way that connects to their lives. But, if students are able to do most of their learning through inquiry, is it really necessary to have teachers at all? This question seems to have an obvious answer: of course, we need teachers! But, if students have access to endless knowledge just by logging on to a computer, how does the role of the teacher shift? Even though students can do most of their learning independently now, the teacher is still critical because of the relationship he/she/they have with the student. The teacher can model education, teaching students to draw on their own knowledge, making connections to other subject areas and their own lives. Additionally, the teacher should be a personal role model for students. A great teacher demonstrates healthy interpersonal relationship skills, modeling empathy, compassion, and appropriate listening skills. A great teacher is someone a student can confide in. Teachers should make students feel comfortable sharing aspects of their lives that may be challenging, and aspects that should be celebrated. This will help teachers to understand how to best educate each student in their class, relating content to areas that will peak their students’ interests.

As previously mentioned, part of the teacher’s responsibility is to create a curriculum founded on the process of inquiry learning. Inquiry learning is cited by numerous philosophers as the way to promote a just education. Inquiry learning allows students to question what they are learning rather than just absorbing information. It contrasts the banking model of education, which Paulo Freire has attributed to maintaining the cycle of oppression. He says that “It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men [and women] as adaptable, manageable beings… The more completely they accept the passive role imposed upon them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited to them.” Students who are taught using only the banking model of education will not be taught to ask questions when they are learning, and therefore will not question the world. The men and women who have changed the world were all asking questions, asking why systems work the way they do, who is benefiting from certain systems, and at whose expense are those benefits coming to those in power. A teacher who uses inquiry-based learning in his/her/their classroom will produce students who ask questions, giving them the power to disrupt cyclical oppression. Inquiry learning also comes with the flexibility to use content that students are passionate about. With banking-based teaching, students are usually taught from one text book, only interacting with one resource, narrowing their learning to only the content that is available in that one book. Inquiry gives students and teachers room to express their passions and individual knowledge. In my experiences in the field, the students that have been most engaged, most passionate, and performed the best on assessments were those who worked on inquiry-based projects. Whether it be one day’s activity, or a month-long project, students who had the opportunity explore, performed.

A teacher for justice will use the flexibility of inquiry learning to integrate learning about injustice into their curriculum. This is important for all students in all educational contexts. Students who are affected by injustice should learn why, and students who are less affected or not affected at all should learn how they are benefiting from oppression. Many teachers believe that their job is to teach the content, and nothing more. I believe that that can be the role of a teacher, but not a teacher for justice. A teacher committed to educational equity must also teach his/her/their students about systems and cultural ideologies that stand in the way of equity.

Educating privileged students about inequity, injustice, and oppression is equally -if not more- important as educating non-privileged students about the same concepts. If all students are taught using inquiry-based learning, being taught to question the world around them, that does not mean that they will know what to question. Students who come from privileged backgrounds are benefiting from inequity and are much less likely to notice the reasons why inequity exists in the first place. A teacher for justice in a privileged area must take up the additional task of teaching students about systemic oppression and cultural prejudice. Privileged students should learn about how they are benefiting from oppressive systems, this learning can be coupled with the teacher expressing compassion for those who are oppressed. Teachers can and should integrate current events into lessons, demonstrating to students how oppression affects the lives of people in their families, communities, cities, countries, or the world. Teachers can explain to students how oppression affects their lives, showing them the powerful positions they have because of their privilege. Simultaneously teaching students about their privilege and inspiring them to want to relinquish some of it. The access to knowledge can inspire students to take up ally or activist roles in conversations about injustice. Teachers can guide students to use their privilege to empower people who are oppressed. It is the beginning of dismantling inequality.

Teaching students who are not privileged about oppression, suppression, and injustice is also extremely important for a just education. Students may understand that they are not in a position of power, but they may not always know why -especially younger students. Teaching children about the history or oppressive systems will give them the knowledge and therefore the power to try to fight them. It demonstrates that you are an ally and will help students to become allies and activists if they choose to do so.

The final piece of my philosophy is all about the educational context. In Peru, we were able to observe contexts varying to either extreme. Each school and community were striving to make adaptations to what education should look like for their children. At the privileged schools we visited, faculty were using their resources to provide unique, hands-on educational opportunities for students. Whether or not all these opportunities were justice-oriented I do not know, but in my classroom, I would want them to be. Students learn the most through experience, so as many resources as the school can allot should go towards providing experiences for students that teach them the skills they need to fight injustice, rather than perpetuate the cycle. Students learning in low-income and/or less privileged areas have different educational needs than those in privileged areas. Resources in low income areas are almost always limited, so what the school can offer should match the needs and development of the community. In Peru, we saw a working-class school, and several schools in impoverished neighborhoods. In the working-class school, students’ education is focused a lot on academics and personal relationships. Teachers and students have strong relationships and the teachers were a community of support for all student. The school also did offer a few “extra” programs -like computer labs and English classes- as part of the curriculum. These programs will teach students important skills that could be used to help them get into a university or receive a scholarship. It also taught skills like sewing, and cooking. These skills give students background to go into a trade field if they choose, or at the very least become more self-sufficient in their home lives. This school modeled close to an ideal educational practice for working class schools, and the programs offered meet a diverse set of needs for young community members. Schools in low income or impoverished areas have a different set of needs as well. We saw one neighborhood create after-school programs, founded on a belief that children have a right to play. These programs blossomed to emphasize qualities in children that make productive, compassionate, kind adults. The programs focus on finding joy in play, following rules, organization, winning and losing graciously, as well as anti-drug, alcohol, and gang violence messages. Similar programs exist in Milwaukee, but making them more accessible in low-income schools, especially low-income schools in unsafe neighborhoods, should be a priority. This is another example in the shift of the allotment of resources to an appropriate and helpful program. Schools who serve students living in poverty should have after school programs that give children a space to play, and older children access to organized sports, classes, or life skills they may not be able to learn in class or at home. These are just a few examples of how resources can be used in schools with varying levels of privilege. In his essay “Pedagogy of Freedom,” Freire reflects on the importance of what is taught in different schools. Much of that theory is what mine is modeled after. Although the first three aspects of teaching for justice can remain relatively the same across curriculums (variation will come in with student demographics and resources available), teachers and schools must work together to create an educational curriculum that meets the needs of the students in the community. When students’ educational needs are met at a young age, as they grow up it will give them tools to start to break cycles of poverty and injustice.

These are the most important components of a just education that I have observed in Peru and in Milwaukee. Philosophy is not an exact science, this is especially true in educational philosophy. Theories can be taken into the field to be tested, evaluated, and re-modeled. Even after years of educational experience, a teacher will most likely not find an educational philosophy that meets the needs of every single student. Realizing this, I have made an effort to create a framework upon which I can build my philosophy as I begin teaching. bell hooks said that her theory was used as a tool to ease her “wanting to comprehend-to grasp what was happening around and within [her].” Educational theory should be used to grasp what is around the students- their schools, homes, and communities- and within you, the teacher- the passion, drive, and desire for students’ success and excellence. A combination of readings, discussions, and field experience has served as validation for the educational theory we have been discussing in class, helping me create my own theory that I hope to put into practice.

References

Freire, Paulo. “Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom Ch 2.Pdf.” Google, Google, 1996, drive.google.com/file/d/0B9K8OLyuF8_TZWNRZmF1aFhQWEE/view.

Freire, Paulo. “FREIRE, Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapter 2.Pdf.” Google, Google, drive.google.com/file/d/0B4YrkLKx4DUzbzNrSUtSaENIdzA/view.

hooks, bell. “hooks2.Pdf.” Google, Google, 1991, drive.google.com/file/d/0B4YrkLKx4DUzQ2pROVY0MUxYeE0/view.

Final Reflections-Peru: Grace Chambers

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.  

Grace Chambers

The topic I am most interested from our learning is the complex notion of equity in schools. After three years of studying education, this is the first time I have discussed how to deliver an equitable education to privileged students. This is a question that is so challenging to answer because, so few schools are able to do it.

Schooling is a political, cultural, and social process — in addition to an intellectual one. We have observed five different schools in our time in Peru, each of which has demonstrated examples of the schooling process as we have come to understand it. Some schools made a more obvious effort to include cultural and community aspects into schooling, as well as cotemporary politics and social relationships.

I first observed this at La Immaculada school in the English class I observed. The students have a language lab that is used to practice English skills, and in this lab student all wear headsets and are randomly partnered with one other classmate. When I was in the lab, students had to make a recording of their conversations about using technology in the event of an environmental disaster. Students watched videos (in English) about how technology can be used to aid people who are affected by national disasters. Students had to discuss the information they learned in the video, as well as brainstorm their own ideas about how technology can be used in a crisis. Students then had to write their English paper about ways to use technology to help people. The assignment asked students to think about global issues, as well as use their knowledge of technology, to generate ideas of how the technology they are familiar with can be used to provide aid or information. Because students are in a privileged school, they will not be as affected by global crisis as people in lower income areas would be. Therefore, the school has decided to educate students about all of the events that happen as a result of a disaster, not just the challenges they will face.

Schools in Lima all incorporated political, cultural, and social aspects into education, but the schools in Cuzco has more obvious examples. At Fé y Alegria 44, students are receiving a bilingual education in Quechua and Spanish. This is important because many students come from high up in the mountains where Quechua is spoken much more. Even though all students attend the same school, the lives of children who live in the mountains vary greatly from the students’ who live in the town. Learning in both Spanish and Quechua gives all students both an advantage, and the ability to connect more with Peruvian culture. Students who are learning Spanish will gain more flexibility to travel outside their communities and interact with a larger amount of the Peruvian population, but they can also keep ties to their homes and culture. Students who are learning Quechua can connect with a larger amount of community members, as they would be able to communicate with people who do not speak Spanish in the greater community. All students will be able to build bridges between native Quechua speakers and native Spanish speakers.

In the Cuzco public schools, I immediately noticed that all of the children were wearing bright, colorful ponchos with their uniforms. This stood out to me because ponchos have ties to traditional Peruvian cultures, so encouraging students to wear ponchos in school both keeps them warm in the chilly winter and connects them to aspects of Peruvian culture. In addition to the ponchos, the director told us about an initiative started by the parents to give extra services to children in the schools. Each parent pays 20 soles per month, and this money goes toward funding programs that the school would not otherwise be able to offer students, like English classes, computer classes, etc. The school did not ask for this from the parents, the parents in the community have all agreed to pay it because they want to give their children as many opportunities as possible. Community and cultural involvement in the Cuzco public school was strong and important to students’ development.

The topic I am most interested from our learning is the complex notion of equity in schools. After three years of studying education, this is the first time I have discussed how to deliver an equitable education to privileged students. This is a question that is so challenging to answer because, so few schools are able to do it. Even at Jesuit institutions we observed we weren’t able to witness true equity in schooling. Even when schools are able to educate students about global issues, it cannot always make them care. One of the readings we had this semester talked about how to make privileged students care. Educators have a responsibility to learn about global issues, teach students about them, and show students how each issue will directly affect their lives. As for schools in working-class or impoverished areas, the most successful schools we have observe have had a strong commitment to involvement from parents and community members. We observed this in the Cuzco region, in both the public school and Fé y Alegria school, where parents were involved in both the construction of schools, and the efforts to provide extra opportunities for their students. These facets of equitable education are important but seem like just the beginning. The schools we observed have been exercising their practice for years. While there has been noticeable change in the school communities, there has been minimal change in Peru as a whole. The unanswered question that I will continue to grapple with is: In terms of striving for an equitable education, are most schools not doing enough, or does each individual school still need to be doing more?

We Need to Talk (about race): Grace Chambers

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.  

Grace Chambers

The century-old pseudoscientific studies that claim that people of color are biologically less intelligent than white people have left a lingering impact, and that impact can be seen most clearly in schools.

“I like your eyes.”

“Your eyes are so blue!”

“I like your skin, it’s so white.”

I’ve heard these comments over and over again in my time in Peru. The students (and several adults) who have made them mean them to be compliments. They are compliments. I say thank you, and the conversation continues. To me though, they have been reminders that I look different. In Peru, my blue eyes and fair skin are uncommon characteristics for a person to have. In my field classrooms in Milwaukee, my blue eyes in fair skin are uncommon characteristics to have. Students look at me and they see that I do not look at them. While some students may not see more than the physical difference, many students will see right through to the fact that I am a person with a lot of privilege. I am a white, middle-class American, who was taught in well-funded public schools in the suburbs of Chicago. Nearly all of my students in Milwaukee have been people of color, coming from working-class or impoverished families, being taught in underfunded schools. When I first arrived a Marquette, I did not see that, but my students always have. The ways in which I am perceived by those around me and the ways in which I experience education diverge from those of most of my students. As a result, it would be impossible, for me, or any educator, to philosophize about education without thinking about race.

Educational philosophy is a theory. Even if the philosopher has countless classroom experiences, the theory will differ from what will happen in the field. Accounting for diversity among students -such as differences in race and SES- will help to bridge the gap between educational theory and educational practice. Philosophers who do not account for racial diversity among students will too frequently fail their students of color, especially because so many educators and educational philosophers are white. Thinking about experiences in school that are specific to students of color (such as race-based discrimination, prejudice, and microaggressions) will help educators understand how to educate students of color to achieve their fullest potential. White educators are infamous for underestimating the ability of students of color, whether their assumptions are intentional or unintentional. Because so many students of color are also living in working-class or impoverished families, educators think that their students simply don’t have the resources that they need to be as successful as their white and/or middle/upper-class peers. The century-old pseudoscientific studies that claim that people of color are biologically less intelligent than white people have left a lingering impact, and that impact can be seen most clearly in schools.

Racism is not a problem unique to the United States, or even to the “developed world.” We have observed racial disparities in schools in Peru since we arrived. It is not coincidental that the schools we observed in economically disadvantaged communities were populated by children with darker skin. In Peru, racial discrimination is not as strongly tied to skin color as it is in the United States, its roots lie in hundreds of years of violent, oppressive, and suppressive treatment of indigenous people. Schools like Immaculada or Roosevelt have many Peruvian students (students at Immaculada are almost entirely Peruvian), but the students there have lighter skin, perhaps dirty blonde hair as opposed to a nearly black shade of brown. Students at privileged schools have visibly European features that most students in working class or poor areas do not. Racial disparities in Peru were discussed at length in our pre-departure readings, which have helped us to frame the educational contexts we have observed.

Now that we are learning (yes Dr. Gibson we are actually learning *insert shocked emoji*) in the Cuzco region, we are focusing on the education of indigenous students. As a result of this change, we are thinking about bilingual education not in the context of Spanish and English, but in Spanish and Quechua. In the Cuzco public schools, the director said that all students are native Spanish speakers, and very few actually speak Quechua. This contrasts with our visit to Fé y Alegria 44 (another branch of the Fé y Alegria school system), where most students are native Quechua speakers, and education is in both Quechua and Spanish. Fé y Alegria 44 gives us a perfect example of the importance of discussing race in educational philosophy. When the school was built, classes were only taught in Spanish. However, teachers and staff noticed that many students were not learning as much as was expected, because many children begin school with minimal to no Spanish experience. The school modified its philosophy to account for differences between their students and students attending other Fé y Alegria schools (like those in Lima). Teachers considered their students’ context, and framed education around that, rather than trying to force students into molds that don’t quite fit. Many students at Fé y Alegria 44 walk several hours down the sides of mountains to get to school every morning, even in the rain or in freezing temperatures. They do this because Spanish colonizers forced indigenous people up mountains to evade their own murder, and systemic oppression has kept groups of indigenous people in those same difficult living situations until they became too poor to move back down. While this may seem insane to an American reader, its mirrors our history pretty closely. First, when European colonizers arrived in the United States to slaughter Native American people and force whoever was left into tiny pockets of land. Next, when white Americans shipped hundreds of thousands of African people like cargo across an ocean to work in fields for hundreds of years to come. Oppressive government systems have attempted to keep people of color in powerless positions, and they still do. What educators cannot forget, is that education is a government system. Therefore, it has and can be used to maintain the cycle of oppression. It is not only impossible for educators to philosophize without considering race, it is their duty to ensure that racial diversity is accounted for in their philosophy.

The Teacher: Grace Chambers

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.  

Grace Chambers

The teacher must take on the role of both teacher and student, and the student must take on both roles of student and teacher.

The structure of the traditional classroom is crafted with the intention of teachers teaching and students learning. The traditional idea of “the teacher” creates a hierarchical structure in which the teacher holds all the power and all of the knowledge. The banking model of education prescribes that teachers use their knowledge to fill up the minds of their students with “important information.” Even teachers who use more progressive pedagogy can fall into the hierarchy of knowledge. In a classroom, the teacher has the power, and this power can be used to place value on different kinds of knowledge. Teachers who do not value their own student’s lived experiences, prior knowledge, and independent research perpetuate the idea that the teacher is the one who holds the knowledge, and the student’s one and only job is to absorb that knowledge. This is not the way that classrooms should be structured. The teacher must take on the role of both teacher and student, and the student must take on both roles of student and teacher. Students have individual sets of knowledge that they can offer teachers, but only if the teacher is receptive to new ideas and is committed to lifelong learning. A teacher must be a student of the educational context in which they work, constantly listening to their students when they offer insight into the world in which they live. As urban teachers who were educated at a predominantly white, wealthy, private university, it is more than likely that the contexts in which we were educated will be vastly different than those of our students. We must be mindful of this and be willing to accumulate resources, being anything from research to listening to students’ stories. Several of the educational philosophers we have been studying have emphasized theories that encapsulate aspects of the educational practice discussed here. Additionally, we have observed varying types of educational practice at two schools in Lima: La Immaculada and Fé y Alegria.

La Immaculada

La Immaculada had an interesting system for their classrooms. The students had a homeroom that they stayed in all day and the teachers rotate between classes. I observed a handful of teachers because of this process, but I spent most of my time shadowing one English teacher in several different classes. The way English is taught at La Immaculada is cool because students are learning by reading, writing, and speaking about real world issues. This style of teaching is important because students are able to transfer their knowledge about their culture, community, and country into their work. It simultaneously allows students to practice their English and expand their knowledge about critical issues. While I was there, students were writing an essay about how technology could be used to combat global issues. Students read from their text book and watched a series of videos about technology and natural disasters, practiced speaking about the same topic, and then used that information as well as their own knowledge about technology and the world to write their essays. This culturally relevant practice spanned across the school and allowed students to learn a foreign language in a context which they understood.

Fé y Alegria

At Fé y Alegria, students have more structure in their day, but more freedom to explore in the classroom. In my few days at the school, I have observed an art (theatre) class, a computer science class, and a physical education class. Each teacher ran their class based on a model of educational exploration. The art teacher taught students about different types of body motions, the three she focused on were isolated movements, shaking movements, and fluid movements. Each kind of movement was meant to be expressed in accordance with a specific musical instrument, the instruments all made a sound that mirrored the movement of the students. The teacher demonstrated to students how each motion works in a funny and engaging way, and then gave the students to express their knowledge in whole group exercises, small group exercises, and in partnered choreographed dances. The computer science teacher took a similar approach of giving her students new information and giving them the freedom to explore it. They were using a program called AutoCAD, and the students were learning how to create 3D shapes. She showed them which settings they needed to use and gave them a sheet with shapes she would like them to make. They were secondary year 5 students, so she was able to build on their prior geometry knowledge and never told them how to make the shapes. This gave students room to make mistakes and to work their way to success. She supported them in their mistakes and encouraged them when they were successful. In gym class students were dancing in lines behind their teacher who was practicing different steps with them. After they did their warm up and finished their practice, they had the rest of class to practice their jump rope dance projects.

I saw some class time where students were teaching teachers about youth/pop culture. There is a dance called flossing that is really popular among students right now, and in the art class some students were doing it to be funny. Instead of being angry that students were off-task, the teacher took the opportunity to do the dance with their students and encouraged them to use in in their final performance.

My experiences over these past two weeks have varied quite a bit. I have seen different teachers approaching their work with similar philosophies as Freire, hooks, or any of the other writers we have been reading. Through different practice, I have been able to witness commitment to learning and compassion for students in every classroom I was welcomed into.

Justice for All: Grace Chambers

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.  

Grace Chambers

Nearly every student stands up and repeats the words “justice for all” morning after morning. But what are our schools doing to make it true?

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic, for which it stands. One nation, under God. Indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” I was able to type this from memory because every morning before school starts, I stood with my class and repeated these words with my right hand over my heart, facing the American flag. Nearly every student across the United States does the same every morning. Nearly every student stands up and repeats the words “justice for all” morning after morning. But what are our schools doing to make it true? So often in conversations about educational injustice, we focus on areas where resources are not, and fail to consider where the resources are. Much like a large majority of Peru’s elite class has money pouring into Colegio Roosevelt, there is a tremendous amount of income tax going into public schools in wealthy areas, and private money going into private schools. One of the age-old questions of education is how to distribute resources among schools in a way that is just.

The simple solution to educational injustice would be to divide up all of the nation’s educational wealth and resources and split it all up between public schools. Then everybody would be equal, right? This one step solution -in addition to receiving backlash from parents who pay more money so their children can have the best education- embraces the idea of equality and ignores the concept of equity. Different schools have different needs based on the community income level, student’s race/ethnicity, varying ability levels, class size, etc. So now we gather up all the resources again, look at schools’ geographic location, socioeconomic status, student demographics, and dozens of other statistics to determine how the resources should be split up. Once each and every school is given an equitable amount, we’re done right? Problem solved? Not quite. Because this equitable utopia doesn’t address how such great disparities in the world of education occurred in the first place. As a student studying education at the university level, I know how so much of this unequal practice began, however, when I was in my suburb of Chicago, mostly white, middle to upper-middle class public school, I had no idea. I just knew that some schools had more money than others. So, it seems that the answer does not lie in taking resources from wealthy students at all. But as a school in a privileged community, it should be the job of the teachers to educate students to use those resources to examine injustice in society. It is those with privilege who have the greatest power, and a just model of education of privileged students should emphasize the importance of using privilege to advocate for just causes.

This model of education closely follows Jesuit practice, however, educating for justice is not something that is or should be unique to Jesuit institutions. Colegio Immaculada, a privileged Jesuit school in Lima, has demonstrated ways in which to enact this practice as school-wide pedagogy. At the school, there is an emphasis on being a man or woman for others, an important pillar in Jesuit practice. There is a sense of equality among students, teachers, and administrators, and other school staff. Is can be seen in the trust teachers have in their students, the kindness students show to frequently forgotten staff members (such as janitors, cafeteria workers, etc.), or the flexibility within administrative staff. Creating an environment of trust and respect allows women and men (and non-binary folks) to work for others. This is an environment that could be reflected in elite and upper-class schools in the United States. It is not uncommon for “the best schools” to pride themselves on strict policies and enforced disciplinary measures, however, creating a community of equality and mutual respect will both reduce negative behavior and provide a space in which students recognize their potential to do good. In order to provide a just education to the global elite, there needs to be a recognition of the importance of the search for justice. The following are some examples of what this would look like in the United States:

In classrooms in Milwaukee -and around the united states- it should not only be schools in low-income areas with many students of color who are receiving increasingly diverse texts. There is a huge (and completely rational) push for teachers to diversify their texts so students are able to recognize people who they can identify with in their academic work. However, it is also important for privileged students to see people academia who do not look like them. Schools in the U.S. who educate primarily white, upper/middle class individuals should also receive texts featuring diverse sets of authors, illustrators, characters, scientists, researchers, activists, etc. Diverse text sets provide a foundation for focus on justice, as students are able to educate themselves on the challenges faced by marginalized groups in the U.S. This foundation needs to be followed up by independent research and exploration. Students should work in primarily inquiry models to learn about the world outside of their own privilege. Students can use this knowledge to create their own ideas for service, as opposed to schools creating and (sometimes) mandating service work. Students who have the opportunity to brainstorm ways to fight injustice will be more passionately engaged in the work, and the passion will carry through to student’s lives post-graduation.

There is no concrete list designing a curriculum to educate privileged students. There has to be an emphasis on a respectful school community, providing context and space for students to learn about injustice, and learning how to use educational resources to search for the root of injustice in the world. Fostering a commitment to equity in students is a step towards educating for justice for all.

Educational Contexts: Grace Chambers

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.  

Grace Chambers

They have a whole room just for sewing machines, which is a valuable skill for any child to learn, but even more so for a child from a working-class family who may need the skills to mend clothing themselves.

In the course of our first 12 days in Lima, we have had the privilege to visit 5 different areas of the city. People have welcomed us into their homes, administrators have invited us to their schools, and after school programs have given us the opportunity to feel like kids again. We have examined each of these areas in an educational context because the areas in which students live will always affect their education. Each community or school has fallen into one of Lima’s ridged socioeconomic status labels: A, B, C, D, and E. (Side note: upon our arrival, we learned that unlike the United States -where social status is a vague term lacking measurable definition- Peru actually legally categorizes and labels areas as an A, B, C, D, or E, based on the wealth of the particular area). In addition to placing ourselves in educational contexts, we have been reading the work of educational philosophers Paulo Freire and John Dewey.

Colegio Roosevelt

We were able to tour Colegio Roosevelt last Tuesday. It is a private American school, so its community cannot be located on a map. However, upon visiting the school the community presented itself to us. The students who attend this school almost entirely come from a home that would fall into the “A” category. Many students are children of ambassadors or other wealthy and important Peruvian/American men/women. Dewey would love this school. Its facilities and opportunities for exploration in learning are endless, and the children who go to school there certainly will grow in the ways he is looking for. Students engage in hands-on learning, collaborative student-run projects, and service work. Dewey’s educational philosophy matches Roosevelt well because it is a philosophy that partners will with a well-funded school with a large population of typically developing children. Freire would like the school itself because of the opportunities to implement liberation pedagogy, however it seems kind of silly to teach liberation pedagogy to a community that already has the world at their fingertips.

Colegio Immaculada

Our longest time in the field will be spent at Colegio Immaculada. It is a private school that children will attend starting in kindergarten through the completion of secondary school. The students who attend come from mostly “B” class families. It has boundless resources, including a zoo that students use to do research projects on animals, the environment, and endangered species. I observed specific classes at Immaculada, for only the past two days, and therefore can only speak to what I learned in those three classes and what I observed on the tour. The English class that I am working closely with explores children’s innate desire to have and use language, according to Dewey. They have a language lab in which they can practice having conversations in English. Both Freire and Dewey would think that this is an incredible resource for students because they are able to learn how to use language both in academic and social contexts. For example: students watched videos about the use of technology in natural disasters, after watching the videos they were given five prompting questions to answer with a random partner. They talked into headsets with other students in the class about how using technology can help in the event of a natural disaster. This combined academic, practical, and social knowledge to develop their language. The school offers countless resources like the language lab to support students in many kinds of learning.

Fé y Alegria

Fé y Alegria is the school we visited that was in a working class of “C” area. It serves about 1,200 students between kindergarten and high school. We have yet to observe classes, but we had the opportunity to tour the school and meet the teachers we would be working with. The think that stood out to me the most at the school was that they taught both academic and practical skills. They have a whole room just for sewing machines, which is a valuable skill for any child to learn, but even more so for a child from a working-class family who may need the skills to mend clothing themselves. Freire would like this model because education meets the needs of the community and the students.

El Agustino

El Agustino has several after school programs which we have had the pleasure of participating in. These programs are specifically geared towards the community, which would be categorized as a “D.” MLK Deportivo school, La Casitas Social Project, and the “Día de Juegos” are all initiatives to engage children in athletics, arts, and community building activities. Many of the programs in El Agustino started as Jesuit initiatives and have since become integral parts to fostering the community leadership that El Agustino prides itself on. Dewey would like these programs because they highlight two of the four instincts: social and expressive. The programs all teach positive relationship building skills, and they allow students to engage in cultural practices, arts, and sports. They allow for some of the types of growth that Dewey is interested in, as the programs focus on teaching children how to channel their energy in to bettering themselves and their community.

Pamplona Alta

Viewing only the context of education, and not a school itself posed its challenges when we visited Pamplona Alta. But seeing the strengths of the community as well as the challenges it faces allowed us to understand why access to education was limited. Pamplona Alta is categorized as an “E” community, because almost all of its residents are living in poverty. The community was created only by those who live there, which is extremely impressive. However, its location on a hillside and the absence of a city planner makes getting to the once public school in the area a major challenge for students and teachers. The school is understaffed because Pamplona Alta is isolated and teachers struggle to get there. Additionally, many students have to walk very far to school, if there is even a spot available for them. Freire would be likely to look at the community assets, such as the care people put into their homes and streets, to understand education in Pamplona Alta. Dewey would most likely focus on what needs to be improved, such as more opportunities for children to foster their language, social, making, and expressive instinct.

I have enjoyed observing all of these schools because they are all making strides to align education with hands-on justice-oriented education. These two aspects of learning are the two that I have realized that I value most as I begin to think about my personal philosophy of education.


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