Engaging in the Liberating Experience of Education

Article excerpt

The ominous reports of the state of education in this country reflect the desire of American education to rigorously prepare its students to the extent that the measurement of their academic per formance can be compared to high-performing students anywhere. However, measurements of performance have evolved into high-stakes accountability, and our education systems continue to be guided -- even ruled -- by the requirements of high-stakes testing. Students of color continue to be outperformed on standardized tests, and teachers of color consistently lament unfair practices in the design and implementation of these tests. Educators seem to be spinning their wheels in their attempts to raise the level of student achievement.

In all the turmoil that high-stakes testing has created, there has been a deafening silence of practicing K-12 educators of color as leaders of conversations that address not only bridging the achievement gap, but that also address pedagogy that engages children in high-level thinking, self-actualization and liberating educational experiences -- what scholar bell hooks in 1994 called "engaged pedagogy."

When I left my high school classroom and moved into higher education, I was happy to begin working with teachers, particularly those who teach in urban settings where there are more challenges to maintaining student achievement. But, what I have come to understand goes beyond the challenges teachers in urban settings face in terms of student achievement. I have come full circle in developing understanding of my own context as an African American educator in the College of Education at a metropolitan university. My voice is indeed important in the conversations and writing about teacher practice, and what it means to engage students in meaningful learning and conversations that challenge views of their world -- and mine. …