Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning toward Social Justice

Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning toward Social Justice

Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning toward Social Justice

Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning toward Social Justice

Synopsis

Drawing on his own experience teaching diverse grades and subjects, Kevin Kumashiro examines aspects of teaching and learning toward social justice, and suggests concrete implications for K-12 teachers and teacher educators.

Excerpt

Writing a foreword always gives me pause. One never wants to “oversell” a volume by writing a foreword that promises more than the author(s)/editor(s) intends. On the contrary, one never wants to write in ways that diminish the volume's contribution. In this foreword my words, if not totally accurate, are at least comfortable because Kevin Kumashiro takes up a topic near and dear to me-preparing teachers to teach in ways that disrupt, challenge, work against, and critique the status quo. This teaching is based on an assumption that something is very wrong with our current social order and that the regular and predictable failure of students based on race, class, and/or gender must be challenged. Few people will deny the facts of the assumption or the nobility of the goal. However, how teachers mount these challenges remains contested. Two recent incidents are illustrative.

During a routine observation of one of my Teaching Assistant's classes, I was struck by the resistance of several of his students to his pleas to teach for social justice. One of his students, who was himself a student of color, challenged the notion that he should be preparing students to change society. This student insisted that his job as a teacher was to help students “feel good about themselves” and to experience as much success as possible in his classroom. Later that day I ran into the student in the corridor and we continued the conversation. The student felt it was “unfair” of the teacher education program to expect teachers to change the world and emphasized that all he wanted to do was to teach the students in his classroom. The young man and I spent about twenty minutes discussing the goals and focus of the university's teacher education program and the fact that many of the faculty members who comprised our department had deep and longstanding commitments to teaching as a way to change society. The longer we talked the clearer it became to me that the young man was

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