Posts Tagged 'Kelsie Lamb'

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.

Philosophy of Education: 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

Teachers and students should be collaborators in the learning process. The “learning process,” however, is also more complicated than I originally thought.

My parents have always stressed how important it is that I try my best in school to get a good education. To them, education meant the door to an abundance of options and opportunities, which they did not have when they were younger. While growing up, my interpretation of this was that I needed to go to school so that I could go to college so I could get a job that would allow me to live relatively comfortably. School — and, therefore, education — was a means to an end. However, after spending the past month not only reading about different philosophies of education, but also seeing philosophies put into practice, I have learned that the purpose of schooling is not as simple as my younger self thought. Instead, defining words and phrases such as “learning,” “good education,” and “teacher” can be incredibly complicated and relies heavily on one’s personal beliefs regarding education and the goals of schooling. Based on what I have read from prominent educational philosophers like John Dewey and Paolo Freire and what I have seen both in American and Peruvian schools, I have begun to formulate my own philosophy of education that is centered around the reciprocal relationship between students and teachers, the importance of context and experience in the learning process, and the implementation of a good and just curriculum.

One of the topics that has struck me the most when contemplating my personal philosophy of education is the role of the teacher. In traditional schooling, the teacher was often seen as an all-knowing authoritarian figure whose job was to impart his or her abundance of knowledge onto the students. The seminal educational philosopher Paolo Freire referred to this system of education as the “banking model” in the second chapter of his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Under the banking system, “the teacher talks and the students listen…the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects” (73). When this is the system of education that is used, students become passive spectators in their own education and may eventually cease to see the value of schooling because they are not being adequately prepared for their futures. Instead of the banking model, Freire suggests that we reconcile the teacher-student contradiction “so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (72). From my own experiences with authoritarian teachers, I know how discouraging it can be when all you receive is negative feedback and are never permitted to share your own thoughts. It is essential that students are active participants in the classroom and have opportunities to voice their opinions. Further, it is important that educators embrace what Freire writes in his Pedagogy of Freedom: “There is no teaching without learning.” Like Freire, I believe it is imperative that teachers recognize that they too are students. To move away from the banking, authoritative model, teachers and students must be partners in the classroom and form relationships based on mutual respect and care. Teachers must show interest in their students’ beyond simply their performance in the classroom. While completing a week-long field placement at Colegio de La Inmaculada in Lima, one of the qualities I admired most about my fourth-grade cooperating teacher was the strong relationship he had with his students. When he would greet them, I could tell that he was genuinely glad to be with them. He and his co-workers would even sit with their students during lunch, strengthening the idea that students and teachers are partners. When I become a licensed teacher, I hope to form a similar relationship with my students, in which we learn and grow together as respectful partners.

Teachers and students should be collaborators in the learning process. The “learning process,” however, is also more complicated than I originally thought. One of the frameworks that we both studied and utilized while in Peru was the Ignatian Pedagogical Model. The foundation of a Jesuit education, “Ignatian Pedagogy embodies five key teaching elements — Context, Experience, Reflection, Action, and Evaluation” (2). Within “context” is the Jesuit idea of cura personalis, or “personal care and concern for the individual.” In the classroom, cura personalis involves realizing that each student has a unique set of experiences and assets, and that teachers may have to support more than just academic needs. In her piece “Lessons from Teachers,” Lisa Delpit advises teachers to “recognize and build on children’s strengths,” (225). This idea relates back to the collaborative, reciprocal relationship between teachers and students; all children have assets, so it is important for teachers to recognize those strengths and use them advantageously within the classroom. For example, while observing a first-grade class at Fe y Alegria II in Lima, one young boy sometimes had trouble staying in his seat. His teacher recognized that the boy was energetic, so she put that energy to use by asking him to help hand out materials and choosing him to participate in a dance class. Small acts such as these, in which teachers see students’ potential for good, are part of what can make a child’s educational experience a positive one. In addition, teachers must also understand the context of their schools to create a more meaningful and relevant curriculum. If teachers know the backgrounds and experiences of their students, they can relate the content and standards to their students’ lives. By doing this, students are not only more likely to remember the information, but can also understand and apply that information in a meaningful way. Delpit suggests that teachers “use familiar metaphors, analogies, and experiences from the children’s world to connect what children already know to school knowledge” (226). Included within my personal philosophy of education is the idea that learning is not simply the memorization of facts, but that it is a process by which students and teachers can build on familiar ideas and knowledge to promote the understanding of new information.

As I have refined my thoughts about the process of learning, I have also begun to consider how educators support authentic learning within their classrooms. One of the ways this is done is through the “experience” stage of the Ignatian Pedagogy. In John Dewey’s influential book The School and Society, he describes a traditional classroom with small desks packed tightly together and students “studying lessons out of a book.” Dewey describes this type of environment as conducive to listening, which means that it is not appropriate for learning. Instead, “the workshop, the laboratory, the materials, the tools with which the child may construct, create, and actively inquire” are extremely important to the students’ process of learning (32–33). As I have seen during field placements both in the United States and Peru, creating an environment that allows students to get first-hand experience while learning is beneficial to improving their understanding of content knowledge. For example, La Inmaculada has ample classroom space for their students, including computer and science labs. Most excitingly, the school also has its own zoo filled with endangered South American animals. I observed a fourth-grade science class in which students learned about what animals eat and how they reproduce. After discussing vocabulary terms, the students then walked to their zoo to find evidence of the animals’ diets and reproduction types. For instance, in the bird cage, the students saw egg shells, so they could conclude that birds are oviparous, meaning egg-laying animals. It was exciting to witness fourth graders not only learning complex vocabulary, but also putting this new knowledge to use through their work as young scientists. As a future educator, this type of real-life application is what I hope to engage my students in. Although it is unlikely that we will have a zoo on our campus, I believe it is necessary to incorporate community resources and local sites into the curriculum. Some of children’s most influential learning experiences take place outside the classroom, and part of the teacher’s role is to curate and facilitate these real-life, hands-on experiences.

Zoos, field trips, and computer labs are wonderful tools that aid both students and teachers as they work together to construct knowledge, but, unfortunately, these resources are not widely available. Publicly funded Peruvian schools do not have the monetary means to purchase the state-of-the-art resources that La Inmaculada has. Some schools in Peru, such as the Fe y Alegria in the impoverished Pamplona Alta, do not even have enough teachers to fill their classrooms. Many public schools in the United States face similar challenges. Although not included in this course’s curriculum, Gloria Ladson-Billings’ “From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt” provides a good explanation of how historic and systematic injustice in the United States has led to widespread educational inequalities. Peru’s colonial history has led to a similar situation in which indigenous peoples and cultures have been viewed as inferior to Europeans and their descendants. There is no denying that disparity exists between wealthy and marginalized schools. Systemic inequality directly affects students; therefore, curriculums must address these disparities. A “good and just education” is one that exposes students to historic inequalities, gives examples of modern-day consequences of these past events, and provides students with opportunities to explore solutions to these problems. When possible, a good and just education should also include community-based learning to reinforce what students are studying in the classroom through first-hand experiences. This seems like a lot to ask of students and teachers, but Paolo Freire believes that this can be accomplished through what he calls “problem-based education” in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire’s problem-based education emphasizes the transfers of knowledge between students and teachers and the importance of critical thinking (80–81). In my teacher preparation courses, I have become familiar with inquiry-based curriculums, in which a big idea or question is posed and students work together with the teacher to answer the question and formulate their own questions along the way. While I did not witness any truly inquiry-based lessons during my observations in Peru, if these big ideas and questions relate to current events and injustices, an inquiry-based curriculum can orient students towards social justice issues and solutions, which is an important component of a good and just education.

Thinking about a good and just education leads to a broader understanding of the purposes and goals of schooling. As I believed when I was younger, school is meant to provide you with the content knowledge that will be useful in your future life and career. But the goals of education are more than that. Schools should not only equip students with the knowledge and skills they will need to improve their own lives, but should also educate children so that they are filled with the desire to improve the lives of others, as well. This idea is fundamental to the Ignatian Pedagogy: “Learners see service to others as more self-fulfilling than personal success or prosperity” (1). The tagline of Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, our host-university while in Peru, reflects this: “Be bold enough to be the change.” The mission of La Inmaculada, which is a Jesuit-run school, also embraces Ignatian ideals; within their goals, La Inmaculada hopes that their already-privileged students become “agents of change” and “men and women for others.” Through La Inmaculada’s service work and community activities, they are fulfilling an important goal of education: social justice. In the chapter “Moral and Political Aims of Education,” Harry Brighouse describes five “aims goals” of education. One of these goals is “cooperative capacity,” which allows students to cooperate with one-another as equals and engage in “give and take” (40–41). And as Freire argues education should be a liberating and humanizing praxis. These goals are not about simply passing a standardized test or mastering a curriculum standard, which shows that the goals of schooling go beyond in-class assessments. A good and just education should expose students to inequalities, pose questions for them to seriously consider, foster their ambitions to promote justice, and provide some of the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed to realize those ambitions. Although not easy, if a curriculum can incorporate these aspects, the social justice goal of education may be reached.

One of the most frustrating things about philosophy is the lack of definitive answers to questions that philosophers pose; suggest one solution and more questions are raised, provide a response, and others will challenge you. As I have discovered throughout the past month, philosophies of education are no different. The questions that current and future teachers are struggling with are likely those that we will continue to grapple with for years to come. Through my readings and first-hand experiences, I have begun to formulate my own philosophy of education. Perhaps as I experience new classroom contexts and face new challenges as a licensed teacher, my philosophical ideas will change. However, as I enter my last year of teacher education, the ideas, beliefs, and values I gained while studying in Peru will guide my actions and educational practices.

Educational Processes and Equity: 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

The variety of cultures and traditions present throughout Peru have helped me understand how schooling can be a cultural process.

However, simply acknowledging multiple cultures is not enough.

As I have learned throughout my studies in the College Education at Marquette, schools are more than a place to simply teach children their letters and math facts. This idea has been reinforced during my month in Peru; based on my observations, I have seen that schooling is a social, political, and cultural process. Over the past four weeks, my classmates and I have visited five Peruvian schools, both public and private, that have solidified the idea that schooling is more than just an intellectual process.

Besides teaching students content knowledge, the social process of education is also an important role of schooling. As Annette Lareau found in her study “Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childbearing in Black and White Families,” children from poorer families are more likely to spend time alone. Because of this, the social activities that students engage in during the school day are important. As I saw while observing in Peru, there are many opportunities for students to interact and develop important social skills. For example, while in Fe y Alegria II in Lima, the students were encouraged to play with one another during free time, and if they began to quarrel, the teacher would step in to mediate and give them advice on how to better handle their disagreements in the future. The opportunity to interact with peers and receive support and guidance from teachers shows how schooling is also a social process. In addition to socialization, schooling can be considered a political process, especially when schools are funded by the government. What should/should not be taught in schools, how resources are allocated, and ways of measuring achievement are common issues that are debated in governments. In addition, schools can also get students familiar with the political process and how to be active within local and national politics. While I did not observe any formal political science or government instruction taking place in my field placements, the chapter “Our Strength is in the Power of the Community,” by Mark Warren and Karen Mapp, gives an example of students in Denver who organized and advocated for changes to take place within their school, which they felt was not adequately preparing them for college. This work was done through the Padres y Jovenes Unidos initiative, a group of parents and students actively working to improve their community and school. As this example shows, although still in school, young people can participate in the political process and work to make positive changes that will directly benefit themselves. This piece demonstrates the importance of the political process of schooling: “Political education…is the process by which the members and staff get to examine what impacts structural inequalities and power structures have on their daily lives.”

One of the “structural inequalities” that affects Peruvian schools is historical cultural inequality. As I have learned and written about, indigenous cultures are seen as inferior to the European ways and lifestyles that the Spaniards brought over during their conquest and colonization. Because of past attempts to eradicate indigenous cultures, some of the contemporary Peruvian schools we visited have placed a larger emphasis on the cultural process of schooling. For example, schools like the Fe y Alegria in Andahuaylillas, which delivers instruction in both Spanish and the indigenous Quechua, and Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya in Lima, whose signs are written in indigenous languages and Spanish and hold cultural events every Thursday, are actively working to not only preserve indigenous culture, but also promote it as a source of pride. Many of the schools in the city of Cusco are also celebrating indigenous heritage. Each day we were in Cusco, the main plaza was filled with dancers and spectators. The dancers were from both schools and universities, performing traditional dances in preparation for an upcoming city-wide celebration for the Festival of the Sun. The variety of cultures and traditions present throughout Peru have helped me understand how schooling can be a cultural process.

However, simply acknowledging multiple cultures is not enough. As Paul Gorski and Katy Swalwell write in “Equity Literacy for All,” educators should be more focused on promoting equity than culture when discussing diversity. “A meaningful approach to diversity or multiculturalism relies more on teachers’ understanding of equity and inequity and of justice and injustice than on their understanding of this or that culture,” Gorski and Swalwell write. As I have witnessed and studied this past month, there is a series of complicated structures that both preserve and promote inequality within the social, political, and cultural processes of schooling. We know that there is a lot of work that has to be done to make these processes more equitable, both within the United States and Peru. The really difficult part of our comparative study of education comes when we start to formulate ways to actually promote equity in schooling. Peruvian and American educations exist within different contexts and face different problems and challenges, but during the past month, I have been able to consider some ways to make these more equitable. As Gorski and Swalwell argue, promoting equity involves an interdisciplinary and integrative curriculum for students of all ages. Making the processes of schooling more equitable involves implementing a high-quality, just education, which we have discussed in previous blog posts, for all students, especially those in marginalized groups. In addition to the suggestions from Gorski and Swalwell, the work done by Padres y Jovenes Unidos is an example of concrete progress towards equity. The social, political, and cultural processes of schooling directly affect the students, so it is important to get the students themselves involved. Making them aware of the issues that affect them and providing opportunities to actively work towards justice is a way that students and teachers can be collaborators in the struggle for equity. Visiting Peruvian schools, studying philosophies of education, and thinking critically about contemporary educational issues has shown me that creating a just education for all is extremely difficult. But instead of feeling discouraged by all the challenges, I am hopeful that current and future educators and students will work together to promote educational equity.

Race, Indigeneity, and Language: 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

Just as educators in Peru must keep the context of indigeneity and inequality in mind when formulating a fair and just curriculum, those in the United States must also deeply consider the effects of race when philosophizing about education.

While exploring and discussing the context of education within Peru, one of the topics that has come up is that of social inequality, which can result from economic, racial, and linguistic difference. Because of Peru’s complicated history as a conquered, colonized, then liberated nation, questions of race and culture still plague their society. For example, when the Spaniards arrived, they attempted to eradicate the indigenous people’s cultures. Only those who were European were seen as full citizens and treated with basic human rights. The effects of this are still felt today, as many people who speak the indigenous languages of Aymara and Quechua are marginalized and may feel ashamed of their culture. The consequences of the racist laws and regulations that the Spaniards put into effect years ago are still felt today, including within schools. As I have seen over the past few weeks, educators in Peru, just like those in the United States, must seriously consider racial inequality within their philosophy of education.

In Peru, historically, racial issues arose because of the perceived dichotomy between the “superior” Europeans and “uncivilized” indigenous peoples. For many people, these cultural differences and ideas about cultural superiority are what gave rise to these racial inequalities. In Marisol de la Cardena’s piece “Reconstructing Race: Racism, Culture, and Mestizaje in Latin America,” she says that some Peruvians believe that “culture was the imprecise, yet powerful force, that determined race.” Language is intimately linked to culture, so, in this case, it is intimately linked to race as well. Since Quechua and Aymara were the languages of the “inferior,” those who spoke these indigenous languages were also seen as “inferior.” Mercedes Nino-Murcia describes how the consequences of this colonial idea is still present in the 21st century, in her work “English is Like the Dollar: Hard Currency Ideology and the Status of English in Peru.” According to this piece, many Peruvians view knowledge of the English language as important to one’s eligibility for work and to determining one’s social status. As I saw during my field placement at Colegio de La Inmaculada, the school placed a great emphasis on English classes, and believed that their students would greatly benefit from a bilingual education. And as I participated in language exchanges with students from UARM, in which we spent a half-hour speaking in Spanish followed by a half-hour of speaking in English, they too believe that English is essential to their careers — one student even mentioned how he saw English as his future. As we left Lima behind last week and entered the highlands of Peru, we once again witnessed the importance of bilingual education in schooling. At another Fe y Alegria school, this time in the small Peruvian town of Andahuaylillas outside of Cusco, we had the opportunity learn about their unique and important bilingual curriculum. However, the classes at this school were taught in both Quechua and Spanish, as opposed to English and Spanish. This Fe y Alegria has chosen to embrace the beauty and value of the Quechua language and indigenous culture in an attempt to increase the pride and self-confidence of its students. While many Peruvians consider English a necessity, there is also a growing movement towards preserving, respecting, and celebrating the indigenous culture.

Similar to the feelings of shame some Peruvians may feel, Carter Godwin Woodson argues that “the lack of confidence of the Negro in himself and his possibilities is what has kept him down,” in his book The Mis-Education of the Negro. Woodson argues that society has “educated” African Americans to accept their “place” as second-class citizens, and not challenge racist institutions. Within our city of Milwaukee, issues of race and schooling are especially apparent because the city is so segregated. Further, the prevalence of racial issues throughout the globe means that discussing race when philosophizing about education is not only important, but also essential. Part of this is because of how inescapable the issue of race is — it can (and does) affect job opportunities, amount of schooling received, one’s geographical location, incarceration rates, and so much more. Charles Mills writes in his Racial Contract Theory, “Racism…is itself a political system, a particular power structure of formal or informal rule, socioeconomic privilege, and norms for the differential distribution of wealth and opportunities, benefits and burdens, and rights and duties.” As Mills argues, race and racism are prevalent throughout society, and, therefore, cannot be ignored. As we consider the importance of education and the role of schools in today’s society, it is important to keep in mind racial issues and how racism has affected and continues to affect our students. Just as educators in Peru must keep the context of indigeneity and inequality in mind when formulating a fair and just curriculum, those in the United States must also deeply consider the effects of race when philosophizing about education.

Pedagogical philosophies that consider differences and race within the classroom are getting at the heart of inequality. As we have been discussing throughout these weeks, modern-day disparity is rooted deeply in societal structures, such as what Mills discussed in his Racial Contract theory and what we have witnessed regarding attitudes towards language in Peru. Because of the persistence and prevalence of inequality, it is important to consider inequality when thinking about education’s potential and purpose. From a Freirean perspective, inequality affects the potential and purpose of education immensely because it is from this widespread inequality, in the form of oppression, that Freire developed his ideas about the liberation goals of education. Often, education is seen as important because it equips today’s youth with the knowledge and skills they will use to build a better future for themselves. But what a “better future” looks like is not always discussed. In his chapter “The Moral and Political Aims of Education,” Harry Brighouse poses the following question for educators to consider: What kinds of people should we hope our students will be? I hope our future students, with guidance and support, will be people who both recognize systemic inequality and actively work to promote equality. Because I hope my students become people dedicated to justice and equality, the ways we combat inequality becomes the foundation guiding education’s potential and purpose, and the way our philosophical ideas regarding education are put into practice.

The Teachers: 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

Establishing a personal relationship with the students improves the learning that occurs within the classroom because students are more comfortable when contributing to discussion and posing new ideas.

We are now in our third week in Peru, which is hard to believe. Our visits to Colegio Roosevelt, La Inmaculada, and Fe y Alegria have given us the opportunity to interact and learn from a variety of students and educators in different contexts. As my classmates and I continue to grapple with the idea of what a fair and just education looks like in both marginalized and privileged schools, we have now started to consider the role of the teacher within these classrooms and how the teachers we have worked with approach their work.

This week, my classmates and I are spending three days in Fe y Alegria II in the San Martin de Porres district of Lima. There are quite a few differences between Fe y Alegria and La Inmaculada, most visibly the amount of resources available, including technology, school supplies, and space. Despite any struggles with resources, the students and faculty of Fe y Alegria maintain strong relationships based on mutual respect and caring. I have personally seen this in the first-grade classroom that I have been working in. The thirty-three students and two teachers seem very comfortable with each other and have created a community that is conducive to both academic and social growth. The two mornings I have spent at Fe y Alegria thus far have seemed to involve a lot of play — painting, music, and singing. However, within these activities, I have noticed that my cooperating teacher has created a child-centered classroom and expects active participation from all her students. For example, after free-play, the students “debrief” by talking about who they played with and what they did together. While this discussion may initially seem trivial, when I thought about it through a Freirean perspective, I began to see its value. In Paolo Freire’s condemnation of the banking model of education, he emphasized the reciprocal relationship that students and teachers should have. In true learning, students “become authentic subjects of the construction and reconstruction of what is being taught, side by side with the teacher, who is equally subject to the same process,” Freire writes in his Pedagogy of Freedom. Freire promotes a reciprocal relationship between the students and the teacher, meaning that the teacher is not the only one who does the teaching: the students’ contributions are also vital to the learning process. Letting the students share their thoughts and feelings about the morning’s activities begins to foster this idea that their thoughts and experiences are valuable. My cooperating teacher ensures that she is not the only one talking all day long. Instead, she gives her students a chance to express themselves, which is a simple way to allow the students to be active collaborators in the classroom.

As Freire suggests, the students should also be teachers in the classroom. However, the traditional classroom teacher also has an important role. When thinking about the question “who is the teacher?” many educational philosophers would argue that the teacher is a reflective being and that reflection is an essential quality of education. Multiple educational writings have included discussions on the importance of reflection, including Marc Clara’s piece “What is Reflection? Looking for Clarity in an Ambiguous Notion.” Using the work of seminal authors, Clara attempts to clarify what “reflection” is and is not. For example, he writes that reflection is a constant meaning-making process and one of his definitions of reflection is: “a thinking process which gives coherence to a situation which is initially incoherent and unclear.” During my class’s discussion on reflection, we too explored the different ways “reflection” is used. While we did not establish an undisputed definition of “reflection,” we agreed that reflection is vital for educators. Reflection is necessary for learning, which leads into another answer to the question “Who is the teacher?” The teacher is also a learner. Whether they are learning from pedagogical theorists like Dewey or Freire, from their co-workers, or from their students, teachers are constantly learning and improving their practice. By acknowledging that they too are continuing to learn and grow, teachers can further build that collaborative, reciprocal relationship with their students.

My cooperating teachers at both La Inmaculada and Fe y Alegria approach their work with a genuine desire to help their students. The fourth-grade English teacher that I shadowed at La Inmaculada promoted a student-centered classroom by providing time for discussions. In addition, he and his students had a relationship outside the classroom, talking about sports or television shows during break times. Establishing a personal relationship with the students improves the learning that occurs within the classroom because students are more comfortable when contributing to discussion and posing new ideas. When approaching his work, this teacher also keeps students’ needs in mind. For example, his students were struggling with forming verbs in the past tense, so he made the decision to spend another day on this concept, even though he had originally planned to move on. As we discussed his decision, he told me that his students will take a standardized English test at the end of the year, but he feels that if he is taking his time with the lessons and focusing on the areas in which the students are struggling the most, they will ultimately do well on the test. His explanation further demonstrated that his first priority is the needs of his students. Further, both teachers approached their work from a place of care and respect. In her chapter “Engaged Pedagogy,” author and activist bell hooks writes, “To teach in a manner that respects and cares for our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.” My Fe y Alegria cooperating teacher has done this; she uses terms of endearment for her students and always listens to what they have to say, establishing a strong relationship based on care and respect. Although these two teachers are working in schools with very different contexts, the ways they approach their work and their students are similar, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to observe and learn from them.

Educating the Elite: 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

Privileged children do not have to deal with the everyday realities of inequality and systematic oppression; therefore, educating them so that they care about their less fortunate neighbors can be difficult.

During the past two weeks in Peru, we have visited two privileged private schools, Colegio Roosevelt and Colegio de La Inmaculada. I was impressed by the schools’ resources (which included 3D printers and an actual zoo), but I also felt a bit uneasy knowing that these schools have so much while those in the surrounding areas must make do with so little. In the case of La Inmaculada, a wall separates them from the impoverished people living on the other side of the hill. This trend of “walls of shame” is common throughout Lima, as highlighted in this piece by Belen Desmaison. When we visited one of the neighborhoods that has been sectioned off by walls, Pamplona Alta, my classmates and I talked about what a fair and just education would look like for students who struggle to have their basic needs met. Grappling with these ideas was not easy, but now that we have spent a week in one of the schools on the wealthy side of the fence, I have started to realize that crafting a curriculum that promotes social justice and equality within elite schools comes with its own set of challenges. Privileged children do not have to deal with the everyday realities of inequality and systematic oppression; therefore, educating them so that they care about their less fortunate neighbors can be difficult. With my experience at La Inmaculada in mind, I can start to think about a just education for the elite and the roles of privileged schools in an unequal society.

As mentioned, one of the challenges in educating privileged students is their ignorance of inequality. As Ruben Gaztambide-Fernandez and Adam Howard write in their piece “Social Justice, Deferred Complicity, and the Moral Plight of the Wealthy,” “individuals with economic privilege have little awareness of economic oppression and sometimes deny that it even exists.” Because of this, a just education for the global elite should include first-hand encounters with widespread economic and educational disparities, bringing students face-to-face with the realities that are radically different from their own. La Inmaculada and Colegio Roosevelt both try to do this in various ways. For example, Colegio Roosevelt has monthly events that bring together their students with the children of their support staff; and La Inmaculada participates in “student exchanges” in which they come together with students from Pamplona Alta’s Fe y Alegria school for a day of activities and friendship building. Of course, simply making students aware of widespread inequality is not enough. It is also important for educators to teach students about why many people do not have equal access to resources. Much of the world’s privileged population believes that poverty is the fault of the poor. A truly just curriculum, especially in elite private schools, would explore how social and economic disparity is the result of hundreds of years of oppression and inequality. This is obviously a difficult topic to discuss with children, but student-friendly resources can help teachers facilitate this conversation, such as Susan Gage’s illustrated textbook Colonialism in the Americas: A Critical Look, which explores how some modern-day issues are the consequences of colonialism. I believe it is important for educators of the elite to expose their students to the causes and realities of modern-day poverty and injustice.

Once students are made aware of widespread disparities, it is also important for educators of privileged youth to use this knowledge productively. Often, when exposed to the realities of oppression, the privileged “may feel inadequate, powerless, overwhelmed, or hopeless to bring about change,” as Gaztambide-Fernandez and Howard describe. To avoid this, educators should foster students’ desire to work toward social justice. One of the ways this can be done is through the promotion of diversity and inclusion. In the piece “Diversity and Inclusion: Toward a Curriculum for Human Beings,” Maxine Greene writes that as students of various backgrounds are brought into contact with another, sharing their experiences and stories, “It is at moments like these that persons begin to recognize each other and, in the experience of recognition, feel the need to take responsibility for one another.” La Inmaculada’s “student exchanges” are a good way to bring students and teachers of various backgrounds together in a collaborative, meaningful way. Another way to help motivate students to work towards justice is by giving examples of people and programs that are helping the impoverished communities. For example, El Agustino’s Casitas Social Project has a variety of arts and sports related extra-curricular activities for students living in the hillside communities. My classmates and I were able to spend a few Saturdays and afternoons at various Casitas sites and witnessed the important developmental and social work that Casitas is doing. In addition, many of the older students from La Inmaculada work with Casitas, organizing activities and volunteering. Casitas’ relationship with the students of La Inmaculada is a good example of how students can be not only aware of social issues, but also actively work towards providing solutions.

Within this discussion of a just education for the global elite comes some ideas about the role of privileged school communities in an unequal society. While school trips to build houses or playgrounds in impoverished areas may seem like a good way to get students active and promote justice, this type of service is not always enough, as described by Jacob Kushner in his article “The Voluntourist’s Dilemma.” I believe it is important for privileged schools to do more than occasional charity work, and instead focus on promoting justice. Schools should frame their curriculum and philosophy around a mission or vision that promotes social justice. As a Jesuit school, La Inmaculada’s pedagogy is guided by the Jesuit ideals of “men and women for others” and “agents for change.” Colegio Roosevelt is not a religious school, but their mission statement calls for their students to “lead lives of integrity and create socially responsible solutions.” Having these socially-oriented goals is important to creating a just education for the elite. Privileged schools should go beyond activities and programs that provide short-term solutions for their surrounding communities; they should also embrace a justice-oriented curriculum that will (hopefully) produce socially-aware students who can think critically, problem-solve, and create sustainable solutions to promote equality.

La Inmaculada, Freire, and Dewey: 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

Therefore, the lesson required input from the students based on their experiences. Underlying this lesson was the belief that students have knowledge and experience that are valuable and useful to their learning.

I ended my last blog post by talking a little bit about Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and how his beliefs regarding the goals and methods of education relate to the marginalized areas we visited last week: Pamplona Alta and El Agustino. In contrast to these communities, our field placement for this week is at La Inmaculada, a Jesuit-run private school neighboring the Pamplona Alta. Despite this clear example of disparity and social inequality, I was excited by La Inmaculada. When we first entered the school’s gates, I thought we had taken a wrong turn and ended up at a zoo. However, our professor informed us that the deer, alligators, bears, jaguars, and other creatures all belonged to the school! In addition to the zoo, La Inmaculada has multiple fields and gymnasiums, playground equipment, well-decorated classrooms, and computer labs. La Inmaculada is a private school run by Jesuits. From our first two days at La Inmaculada, I can see how their goals and practices compare to the ideas of the seminal writings of both Paolo Freire and John Dewey.

Freire emphasizes the humanizing and liberating characteristics of a problem-posing education in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. La Inmaculada tuition is not cheap, which would indicate that many of its students come from privileged families and may not be included among Freire’s idea of “oppressed.” Still, I think that Freire would approve of some of the methodology and philosophy behind La Inmaculada. For example, when discussing education’s importance in the humanization of the oppressed, Freire writes, “The pursuit of full humanity, however, cannot be carried out in isolation or individualism, but only in fellowship and solidarity.” The mission of La Inmaculada includes “building bridges” between their students and students from the surrounding communities. Through student exchanges, service opportunities, and program planning, Inmaculada students are brought “face-to-face” with realities that look radically different from their own. Underlying these interactions is the promotion of love and solidarity and the hope that Inmaculada students will use their resources to become “men and women for others” — a truly Jesuit ideal.

Beyond La Inmaculada’s mission and goals, the actual educational practices I have observed also align with some of Freire’s ideas. For example, he strongly renounces the “banking model” of education, in which teacher simply deposit information into students. Instead, the curriculum should be a problem-based collaboration between students and teachers. The fourth grade English lessons I observed, while not problem-based, did mark a shift away from the banking, authoritarian model of education. The students were learning how to conjugate verbs in the simple past tense. Instead of dictating a list of regular and irregular verbs and drilling students, as would be typical in a banking model of education, my cooperating teacher framed this grammar concept around a discussion of what life and technology was like in the past. Therefore, the lesson required input from the students based on their experiences. Underlying this lesson was the belief that students have knowledge and experience that are valuable and useful to their learning. Further, my cooperating teacher is moving away from the authoritarian approach to teaching by developing personal relationships with his students: the students call him by his first name, they are comfortable asking questions, and he and his colleagues have lunch with their students. My cooperating teacher maintains respect and order, but also emphasizes learning as a partnership between the students and teacher. While I think Freire himself would have liked to see more authentic problem-based lessons that emphasize social structures, these are some examples of how Freirean ideas can be put into practice.

Like Freire, John Dewey, another influential educational writer, emphasizes the importance of children’s input. In his book School and Society, Dewey says that education in which students simply listen is not beneficial to the development of the child — studying lessons out of a book “marks dependency of one mind upon another,” he says. Like Freire, Dewey disapproves of the authoritarian model of education and emphasizes the importance of students’ input and experience. I think Dewey would be excited by the mission and practices of La Inmaculada. For example, the on-site zoo provides students with opportunities to have first-hand experiences with animals and important discussions surrounding preservation and animal rights. In addition, the zoo and other physical spaces on La Inmaculada’s campus provide students with the space to engage in different types of activities and experiences, which Dewey says is important. Further the English lessons I observed build upon students’ natural curiosity and prior knowledge, using the big question “How does life in the past compare to today?” to teach the past tense through discussions about evolving technology and the differing roles of boys and girls in the past. In Experience and Education, Dewey is careful to emphasize that experiences that promote individual, moral, and social growth are the experiences worth having. It is the job of the teacher to curate experiences that help students grow in these areas. Throughout their education, Inmaculada students have opportunities to engage in social-emotional learning. In addition, Dewey believes education should emphasize the human experience and build on it to help students understand their role in society. La Inmaculada does this by exposing students to the poverty that surrounds their schools and motivating them to become “agents of change.”

La Inmaculada’s beliefs about education reflect the growing movement away from traditional lecture, workbook-based curriculum towards curriculum that is more child-centered and inquiry-based. La Inmaculada places emphasis on the social, emotional, creative, and physical development of their students, showing that their ideas regarding the goals of education go beyond simply the traditional subjects of reading, writing, and math. Further, despite being a well-resourced school, La Inmaculada’s vision does not ignore the social disparities and economic inequalities that surround the school’s walls. Instead, they both expose their students to this reality and actively encourage them to get involved and bring about positive change. Beyond simply educating students who will go on to university and get good jobs, La Inmaculada hopes to promote socially-aware students that will use their advantages to help those around them.

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