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Constructing Ideas About Equity From the Standpoint of the Particular: Exploring the Work of One Urban Teacher Network

by Thea Abu El-Haj - 2003

This article examines the work of one urban teacher network (TLC) and analyzes the ideas about educational equity and inequality that evolve from its professional development practices. Drawing on archival and ethnographic materials that span 24 years, the author explores how TLC’s oral inquiry processes grounded in a phenomenological approach make visible two different, but interrelated, ethical obligations that undergird practitioners’ work to build equitable educational practices within contexts saturated with inequality. Seeking to build equitable educational practices for all children, TLC’s work begins with the particular, often a single child. Beginning its analysis from what feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith has called ‘‘the everyday world as problematic’’, TLC’s work envisions social change that is deeply situated and attends to the multiplicity, complexity, and uncertainty that characterize human learning. Thus, the grounded knowledge that TLC practitioners collectively develop constitutes a kind of critical social theory that can speak back to and inform those universalist policy approaches to equity that stress uniform and standardized education. As educational reform efforts across the country appear to be turning increasingly to top-down initiatives that direct the work of teachers, it is ever more urgent to consider this grounded epistemological standpoint on equity.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 105 Number 5, 2003, p. 817-845
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11136, Date Accessed: 9/25/2021 12:16:56 AM

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About the Author
  • Thea Abu El-Haj
    Alice Paul Center, University of Pennsylvania
    E-mail Author
    THEA RENDA ABU EL-HAJ is a research fellow at the Alice Paul Center for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on urban education; critical analyses of race, gender, class and disability in schooling; conceptualizations of social justice in educational practice; and the use of collaborative, ethnographic research to support educational reform. Her most recent publication is ‘‘Contesting the Politics of Culture, Rewriting the Boundaries of Inclusion: Working for Social Justice With Muslim and Arab Communities’’ in Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 33(3). She is currently completing a book manuscript titled Searching for Justice With Difference in Mind: The Journeys of Two Schools.
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