Notes: New London Group & Weapons of Math Destruction

These two articles intersected most poignantly for me in terms of their description about the role of the school and instruction. Although they approached the issue in two different ways, they both made me very aware of my own challenges when entering the classroom. More specifically, these two texts put into words my concern about losing sight of what school and schooling are supposed to be, maintaining an awareness of what is at stake for students, and not being able to fulfill my role as an instructor in fostering their critical and creative skills. 

The New London Group mentions, “[…] literacy educators and students must see themselves as active participants in social change, as learners and students who can be active designers – makers of social futures” (64). In other words, education must be active rather than passive. It is less about the dissemination of information from the instructor to the passive students and more about active engagement with students in a critical way. While teaching, finding a balance between overt instruction of information that students will be tested on and allowing students to participate in critical framing and transformed practice has been something with which I have struggled. The breakdown of the “how,” therefore, is particularly useful. It puts into perspective the practices instructors can take up to actively engage with students.  I find this practice crucial not only because I fear losing sight of how education contributes to active citizens but also because this theory of pedagogy seems to be at least the starting point for a method of teaching that recognizes the impact of education in fostering citizens and participants in society. Being mindful of the social, cultural, political, and economic contexts of the students whilst engaging with their critical thinking would be the most significant challenge, especially with the added pressures imposed by universities for quantifiable learning objectives and results. Perhaps, keeping in mind, “The role of pedagogy is to develop an epistemology of pluralism that provides access without people having to erase or leave behind different subjectivities. This has to be the basis of a new norm” (72) is the foundation to help face this challenge.

The role of the school as an institution also poses a challenge to me when thinking about teaching. Although I understand that schools need to be regulated to a certain degree, what struck me was, “Schools regulate access to orders of discourse…They provide access to a hierarchically ordered world of work, they shape citizenries; they provide a supplement for the discourses and activities of communities and private lifeworlds” (71-72). While schools regulate knowledge, the question of who can get into these schools and even begin to access knowledge and critical multiliteracies, gnaws at my mind. In the chapter “Arms Race: Going to College,” the vicious feedback loop of the U.S. News college rankings sounded extremely familiar. The rankings attempted to quantify what a “good” college education was, but in the end, because of its scale and considerations in the formation of the ranking, it solidifies the status quo of certain schools’ positions in the academic order, forced administrators to think of alternative ways to up their ranking (at times with less integrity), and reinforced the problems of privilege and class in access to education. As the authors point out, in this arms race to get into a college, “The victims, of course, are the vast majority of Americans, the poor and middle-class families who don’t have thousands of dollars to spent [sic] on courses and consultants. They miss out on precious insider knowledge. The result is an education system that favors the privileged” (65). And so, for me, the question is how can schools be more inclusive? How can we combat the problem of a system that reinforces privilege when it seems like a rat race to a bigger and brighter future via a prestigious college education?

On a related note, this clip resonated for me with the readings because of the issues the students brought up in their conversation with the host about the connection between schooling, participation in society, and educational expectations. 

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