Background/Context: Memphis has, in many ways, become “ground zero” for neoliberal—or corporate—reform efforts, including a statewide turnaround school district, proliferation of charter schools, and value-added teacher evaluation measures. Along with these reforms come models of schooling that undermine the concept of the “community school,” leading to different conceptions of schools, teachers, and students. In this reform context, it is challenging to implement culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) in a way that is true to its three pillars: academic achievement, cultural competence, and sociopolitical consciousness. The challenges that those who desire to implement CRP face can be categorized as either conceptual—representing a lack of understanding of CRP’s conceptual underpinnings—or systemic—representing institutional barriers that impede the integration of CRP.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this analytic essay is to outline particular challenges to CRP in a hyper-reform context and to propose a framework describing changes that must take place in the process of implementing CRP.
Setting: The authors use Memphis as a model of hyper-reform and the backdrop for discussions of how CRP can be implemented in such a setting.
Research Design: This paper is an analytic essay.
Conclusions/Recommendations: We propose that effectively implementing CRP in a reform context is a process that requires a shift from a methodology of individualism to a methodology of collectivism. We align corporate reform with an individualist approach, while CRP, we argue, takes a more collectivist stance. The shift from individualism to collectivism also signals a shift in our conceptions of students, from trainees to successful citizens; teachers, from engineers to artists and activists; and schools, from corporations to community.