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Rethinking The Role of the State Alongside a Reassessment of Strategies to School Reform
|Posted By: Miguel Zavala on August 29, 2011|
|Ernest Morrell and Pedro Noguera (2011), "A Framework for Change: A Broader and Bolder Approach to School Reform," argue for a "broader and bolder" approach to school reform that builds from “evidence-based solutions” to the persistence of the education neglect of students of Color and the poor. Their call to learn from concrete examples of authentic and meaningful teaching, the importance of long-term collaboration/mentorship of teachers, and the significance of student, parent, and community engagement in bringing about change, however small, is a point well taken. Anyone engaged with and mindful of social justice can appreciate their attempt to hold colleges of education and teacher educators accountable to these processes of social change--put simply, we, as education-scholar-activists need to be a part of these local processes, beyond critiquing policy makers, DC, Obama, etc.|
However, all of us, as progressive scholars pushing for "reform" and a reassessment of traditional strategies/tactics, should be highly critical of the way institutions like schooling work, given that the capitalist-colonialist State has historically worked against the interests of the poor and people of Color. What is proposed in Morrell and Noguera's essay is a strategy that works within (and against?) the existing State apparatus. What is seldom entertained is an alternative, unspoken, route. What non-State alternatives exist? What possibilities lie in projects (i.e. education, research, etc.) that grow out of grassroots spaces (i.e. organizations)? [By "grassroots" I mean non-State sponsored spaces.]
Seeing the possibility of projects that grow out of grassroots spaces, leads us to question the very reform-minded assertion that "we have fallen short in our efforts to translate this knowledge [of effective teaching and learning] into policy and practice." Perhaps we haven't fallen short! Perhaps we need to critically rethink our roles as scholar-activist working within a capitalist-colonialist State. If the capitalist-colonialist education system is by "design" setting up particular groups to fail, it could also be that we, as scholars, are by "design" not meant to produce the kind of knowledge that will mobilize people, change policy, and lead to social transformation on a large scale. On the other hand, when we take up more global, non-State sponsored identities and projects, when we build authentically, what might be the consequence to our very careers and jobs working for the university, another ideological State apparatus?
The question of praxis always looming, I want to make clear that we should support local efforts, the work we do in our classrooms, and well-intended research collectives, etc. However, we should recognize real limits to what is possible when moving in and through State apparatuses and set these limits as part of a broader dialogue and strategy on the necessity of grassroots work.
California State University, Fullerton
Member, Association of Raza Educators