Monday, April 4, 2011

Gillborn Article - Review Part II

One major hurdle (well worth the jump) in comprehending the Gillborn article is the redefinition of the term white supremacy. Gillborn uses the term to capture the institutionalized racism of education policy that follows the straight and narrow path and dares not step outside the dominant narrative. As I touched on in my Part I entry, this article brought me to much reflection about my understanding of racial identity and the impact on my professional work. I will save that reflection for another time as I want to make sure to highlight a few key concepts adn take aways I have identified after multiple reviews of the article;

* Omission leads to oppression
* The false narrative of policy as progress
* The impact of teachers and the role they play in assessing students' capacity
* Tangible shifts in policy and practice are on the table

Omission leads to oppression
Gillborn extensively discusses the impact of intention. The outcomes of policy are clearly disconnected at times from intentions. In current education policy in both the US and the UK we do not see a concious, blatant public effort to push for segregated schools and an unjust distribution of resources. What we do see is that current policy and practices, including trends like high stakes testing and school choice, ignore necessary considerations around issues of race. Many of these policies push forward without analysis of the inequitable impact on minority students, or worse, Gillborn highlights that in the UK there has been a media push highlighting the success of minority students on high stakes testing. Yet the minority students mentioned here are just Indian and Asian students and the negative impact on black students goes unpublicized. Providing policy makers the benefit of the doubt, there seems to be an unspoken judgement across the board that issues of race inequity and institutional racism are not pressing enough to restructure the main tenets of education policy. As we focus on outcomes, the intention or omission of considerations around issues of race really is just a symptom of the problem. Policy is not an accident, it is how we institutionalize our priorities (based on the narrative and will of those with power and influence).

The false narrative of policy as progress
There is a separate false narrative around the policy process itself, one that quite frankly I buy into. This narrative leads us to believe that policy is progress, constantly moving forward, taking us step by step closer to the values we share as our society, matching the reality with the ideology. Gillborn finds this process to be drastically different. Rather, he views one of the main functions as maintaining the status quo. While I see his point of view, I initially strongly disagreed. He speaks to another unstated norm in policy making; that race equity is dangerous, Marxist. It would take electoral, social and political power away from the white majority and the sector of the population that controls resources. 

The impact of teachers and the role they play in assessing students' capacity
Given the standards-based, high-stakes testing environment in both the US and UK public education systems, students can quickly be 'tracked' and labeled with a certain capacity. Research indicates that teachers are significantly more likely to label black students as low-performing which quickly limits their access to education opportunities associated with mobility. From low-performing reading groups to cutting off their access to AP or honors courses, what little opportunity may have been available quickly dissipates. 

Tangible shifts in policy and practice are on the table
"... funding urban schools to a realistic level; securing testing regimes that do not unfairly discriminate on racial lines; abandoning selective teaching and grouping; broadening the curriculum; diversifying the teaching force; and genuinely acting on the results of ethnic monitoring would all be a good start" - Gillborn, pg. 499

Sunday, April 3, 2011

South Africa

Check out my blog featured on the ServiceNation site about South Africa!

Gillborn Article - Review part I

Education policy as an act of white supremacy: whiteness, critical race theory and education reform
By David Gillborn

Gillborn outlines a strong narrative about institutionalized divisions of race in society. This article applies US based Critical Race Theory to policy and practice in the UK. This article has taken me awhile to break down and synthesize. I am beginning to recognize that I have much work to do around my racial identity before I can really integrate theory and practice of these dynamics into my work. Gillborn uses the phrase 'white supremacy' to reference institutionalized systems of racial oppression rather than extremist behavior. The intentionality of racism is intrigal in his analysis; "although race inequity may not be a planned and deliberate goal of education policy neither is it accidental".

As with Kozol's discussion of equity, the dominate narrative factors in. Gillborn addresses early on the implications of the assumptions and romanticism surround policy and where it comes from.