Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, Race, and Gender in United States Schools

By Lois Weis; Michelle Fine | Go to book overview

MICHELLE FINE
LOIS WEIS


Introduction

This volume began as an attempt to collect essays on the practices, and consequences, of silencing in public schools. We had both witnessed and written about such practices and determined that an academic volume was needed in which a set of essays together could unravel the dynamics of power and privilege that nurture, sustain, and legitimate silencing. Once we solicited articles from friends, and from others whose work we had admired from afar about the multiple forms of public silencing, we soon realized that silencing, as a practice, does not totally work—that the move to silence is an often ineffective and ironic move of power. From within the very centers of structured silence can be heard the most critical and powerful, if excluded, voices of teachers and students in public education. Further, we soon recognized that our volume would need to move "beyond silencing," not only by listening to those who had been institutionally banished from the center to the margins, but by deconstructing those policies and practices that have historically encoded power, privilege, and marginality in our public schools.

This text, then, is constructed around these two political projects. The first set of essays examines selected policies, discourse, and practices that enable the structuring of silence. These essays critically challenge institutional practices that create the structuring of silence and then discount, through delegitimation, the voices of those excluded. The essays, for example, examine racist hiring practices performed in the name of "affirmative action," classist tracking practices institutionalized in the name of "giftedness," and sexist curriculum delivered in the name of "sex education." By analyzing select policies and practices that sustain silencing, typically couched within a discourse of what is for the "common good," and by unraveling who has been privileged by these practices and policies, the deeply institutionalized character of silencing becomes visible.

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