Different from the success strategies proposed under some government-led education reforms, Kirp gave his own diagnosis and treatment of the urban education crisis which suffocates America. The chapters began with stories of a classroom in a school in Union City. The close-up descriptions accentuate two features to my attention: the culture of abrazos and special education for ESL immigrant students.
First, immigrant students, especially doubled down with racial/ethnic/language marginalization and poverty, make up the core subjects entitled to better education. Kirp gave a clear argument against those refusing to pay for a more equal education: to begin with, they make up the majority, rather than the minority, of the youngster students population; then comes the reality that the new immigrants will not simply go away and they will keep coming in regardless of the passing of DREAM act and they will not just go ; lastly, denying their access to education not only exacerbates inequality and defies the very essence of an American dream (immigrant success histories) but also cost taxpayers vast future expenditures to counter the resulted problems (6, 7, 16)
This allows us to pinpoint the critical issue and target support on those students in most need. In terms of pedagogy, the Washington school has valued the culture of the immigrant students, which I see as a great start to cherish diversity, to empower from students’ innate cultural capital and preserving unique cultures and identities. It seems to me that the efforts of assimilating students with different backgrounds to mainstream culture will trigger rejection and conflicts from students; even if they totally buy into the mainstream idea, they will often find out later in life that they will sometimes still be considered different even equipped with the total set of values and beliefs from the dominant culture. Practically speaking, learning in their native language also promotes easier transition into the school culture and ensured that students would not be left behind on other disciplines and learning explorations purely due to their English language proficiency variance.
The culture of abrazos is what I see as one possible factor that stand the Union City out from other schools systems and it especially is contrasted with the major governmental reform ideologies. According to the book, “almost all the teachers grew up within hailing distance of the community”; the teachers’ not only can serve as best role models but their familiarity and attachment to the local community enable them to love, care and educate the kids just as their own. To quote from the book, “these are our kids, they say, so often and with such fervor that you’re inclined to believe them. We know them - we know where they come from and what they are going through. We’re here for them”. This is rather ideal situation that the nurturing and embracing environment does not only root from knowledge; all teachers are capable of nurturing such an environment, foster and encourage a student community in which the teachers, like the students, will learn from each other.
Kirp began the chapters with a mildly toned yet firmly ingrained criticism of administrative reports from the government on a over-simplified and panacea-style solution to the education problem in the US. The introduction part of the book has got my hopes up and I can’t wait for the author to reveal his success evolution strategy for different education agents out of the case studies to be applied to a larger administrative level nationwide.