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Civics Lessons: The Color and Class of Betrayal


by Michelle Fine, April Burns, Yasser A. Payne & Maria E. Torre — 2004

This article draws from research conducted with poor and working-class youth in California attending schools that suffer from structural disrepair, high rates of unqualified teachers, high teacher turnover rates, and inadequate books and instructional materials. Arguing that such schools accomplish more than simple “reproduction” of class and race/ethnic inequities, the authors detail the penetrating psychological, social, and academic impact of such conditions on youth and educators, accelerating schooling for alienation. The evidence suggests that these schools not only systematically undereducate poor and working-class youth, and youth of color, but they taint pride with shame, convert a yearning for quality education into anger at its denial, and they channel active civic engagement into social cynicism and alienation. The consequences for schools, communities, and the democratic fabric of the nation are considered.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 106 Number 11, 2004, p. 2193-2223
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12764, Date Accessed: 12/13/2017 3:56:50 PM

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About the Author
  • Michelle Fine
    Graduate Center, CUNY
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE FINE, Distinguished Professor of Social Psychology, Women’s Studies and Urban Education at the Graduate Center, CUNY, has taught at CUNY since 1990. Her research focuses on how youth view distributive and procedural justice in schools, prisons, the economy, and local communities. Key recent publications include “Participatory Action Research: Behind Bars and Under Surveillance,” in Qualitative Methods (American Psychological Association, 2003; with colleagues), and “Anything Can Happen with the Police Around”: Urban Youth Evaluate Surveillance in Public Spaces,” in Journal of Social Issues (2003; with colleagues).
  • April Burns
    Graduate Center, CUNY
    APRIL BURNS is a doctoral candidate in social personality psychology at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She is the recipient of a Spencer Foundation Discipline Based Studies Fellowship in Education for Social Justice and Social Development. Her research focuses broadly on issues of privileged consciousness, ideology, and the psychology of social class. Current projects include an investigation of academically successful youths’ understanding, and sense of social responsibility for, race and class-stratified differences in educational outcomes, or what has been called the minority achievement gap. She is coeditor with Michelle Fine, Lois Weis, and Linda Powell of the forthcoming second edition of Off White: Readings on Race, Power and Resistance (Routledge Press). Recent publications include “Class Notes” with Michelle Fine in the Journal of Social Issues.
  • Yasser Payne
    Graduate Center, CUNY
    YASSER A. PAYNE is a doctoral candidate at the Graduate Center, CUNY in the social personality psychology. Current research interest entails exploring how street life oriented Black men use street life as a site of resiliency to negotiate and/or survive through their daily experiences. Recent published work includes theoretical and empirical projects titled “Black Men and Street Life as a Site of Resiliency: A Counter Story for Black Scholars,” which appears in the International Journal of Critical Psychology; “Black Identity: A Repertoire of Daily Enactments,” which appears in the fifth edition of Counseling Across Cultures, edited by Paul B. Pedersen, Juris G. Draguns, Walter J. Lonner, and Joseph E. Trimble; as well as “Anything Can Happen with Police Around”: Urban Youth Evaluate Strategies of Surveillance in Public Places,” appearing in the Journal of Social Issues.
  • Maria Torre
    Graduate Center, CUNY
    MARIA E. TORRE is a doctoral student in the Social Personality Program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her current research focuses on youth participation in social justice movements and urban educational reform. She is coauthor of Changing Minds: The Impact of College in Maximum Security Prison. Her work has been published in the Qualitative Research in Psychology: Expanding Perspectives in Methodology and Design and the International Journal of Critical Psychology, and she has articles forthcoming in Qualitative Research in Psychology, Feminism and Psychology, and the Journal of Social Issues.
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