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igavigan's blog

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First Praxis Visit

Last week I had my first praxis placement at a public middle school in Philadelphia. My role is to participate in a weekly enrichment session for around a dozen students from fifth through eighth grade classes. I basically received the program/role from another Haverford student who has been developing and growing it over the past two years. Their focus has been, roughly, on discussing issues like civics and politics while working on building argumentation skills. My working goal for the semester in general is to work with this group of students who have already spent a lot of time learning about "leadership" and politics to think about how to build power and organize toward something as a group.

Originally, I was supposed to come and observe the class while another person led them in some kind of lesson/activity. It turned out that the person who was supposed to come couldn't make it and five minutes to ten I was told I'd be leading the class. "Oy," I thought to myself. I didn't have a lesson plan or any plan really. I had been excited to observe the students and the adult in the room to get a sense of how they functioned together, what the group dynamics were like, what kinds of things they were interested in. But I had to improvise--and it ended up being fine.

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Civic Education

Levinson's introduction to No Citizen Left Behind as left me with a number of exciting ideas about what a truly civic education might look like. I am especially struck by her argument that those things which require change are not simply educational content--although that is obviously crucial, and she valuably points to histories of ordinary people making change as powerful alternatives to traditional histories of "great men"--but also are the very structure of the learning environment. I sense that Levinson's idea that the entire school community, at least, or perhaps especially, among "students from historically marginalized communities should be taught both codeswitching and solidaristic collective action as means of exercising civic and political power both within and outside the system" (55) is both radical and entirely accurate. I think we might want to trouble or think deeply about what solidarity means--but in general teaching through doing, through the doing of something like community organizing, among students--combined with lessons and a culture of discussion (dialogues, to mention Freire & Shor)--seems to me like a much more winning strategy than something more conservative (although still progressive in its own of) such as writing the subaltern into history textbooks that, through their presentation and the larger arc of their history, fail to challenge the structures of action, politics, and civic feeling that in part produce the situations of inequality with which many people must live.

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Post for Group #4: Change?

Hi Friends,

In the spirit of our conversation on Eve Tuck's "Letter to Communities", I wanted to think about her ideas of "change," "theories of change," and whether or what Tuck might give her readers to help them/us feel empowered in diverging from entrenched models of "change." Tuck critiques traditional policy-oriented research methods for what she identifies as their failure to focus on, value, or hold up the desires and unique personhoods of its subjects. Rather, she argues, they focus on the deficiencies of their subjects vis-à-vis "normal" examples (that condition, perhaps, to which victims should be brought). She is certainly critical of research geared toward litigation and electoral success--not in their entirety but in the ways they fail to recognize their subjects as "complex" emotional beings. One of her examples of such research producing widespread societal change is Brown v. Board of Education.* I don't think many of us, Tuck included, would feel that the case shouldn't have happened and shouldn't have resulted in the outlawing (at least, theoretical outlawing) of discrimination. And yet, there's still some discomfort about how "change" should be brought about and what change means.

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