What Is America’s Education Promise? (A POEM)

Feb 27, 2020
3:08 PM

(Public Domain/SOURCE)

(Written for the 2020 Sociology of Education Association Conference Theme)

What is America’s education promise?

Is it the reproduction of inequality
The fueling of wealth disparity
Fulfilling capitalists’ interests

In this economy
Written about in Gonzalez’s Chicano Education in the Era of Segregation
And Bowles and Gintis’ Schooling in Capitalist America

What is America’s education promise?

Is it funneling youth into divergent classes
The curriculum tracking

Oakes calls “the tradition”
Sorting and dividing
Stemming from white supremacy

And modeled after factories

Is it privatization
Through vouchers and charters
Stealing from communities
Denying access
Maintaining Reagan’s legacy of a so-called nation at risk
And The Manufactured Crisis

What is America’s education promise?

Is it perpetuating prevailing ideologies
myths of meritocracy,

assumptions of deservingness
and fallacies of model minorities

Described by Lee in Up Against Whiteness
Reproducing hierarchies
Justifying inequalities
And camouflaging realities

Is it “whitemanization”

Retold in Lakota Woman

The stripping of identities
In boarding schools

Against Indigenous communities

Is it “cultural indoctrination” recounted by Woodson in 1933
So-called Americanization

Washing mouths out with soap for not English speaking
Punishment for simply being

Persisting in “humiliating ironies”

And Subtractive Schooling

Is it stolen lands that lie beneath schools
Where Indigenous communities have been pushed aside
Others gentrified
Or where toxins spew into water and fill the air from Unequal Protection

What is America’s education promise?

Is it policing Blacks and Latinxs in and out schools
Punished with zero tolerance policies
Criminalized in the “youth control complex”
Perpetuating López’s “race-gender outlooks”

Is it containing and constraining bodies
Through sexualized policing,
dress codes,
body shaming
Especially for gender nonconforming
Students tell me that’s another form of Academic Profiling

Is it reinforcing Lives in Limbo for Undoc and DACA students
And what Enriquez calls “multigenerational punishment”

for subsequent generations
This because of US imperialism
Militarily, economically, and politically
Devastating lives

And Sacrificing Families

Is it the banking system of education
Critiqued by Paulo Freire
Rows of students
Rarely interacting
A process of dehumanizing

What is America’s education promise?

Is it rote memorization
Canned curriculum
No child left behind
A race to the top
High-stakes testing
Reflecting what some call a testocracy

Is it silence and erasure
Where fifty years ago students blew out of schools
In Third World strikes
Demanding relevant curriculum
Not eurocentrism
Today, nationally where is K-12 ethnic studies

Is it disrespecting families
immigrant, working class, of color
Erasing all they bring to learning
Undermining what the La Puente community has taught me about “transformational caring”

Is it blaming teachers
Scapegoating unions
Ignoring the human tolls of buffering the machine
And Guarding Culture

Is it disparities in higher ed
Extensions of tracking
Where students continue

Learning How to Be Latino

Is it narrow constructions of knowledge
Deficiency theories
Valuing surveys over testimonies
Continuing Collins’ “Eurocentric masculinist knowledge validation processes”

Is it the smog of racism that Tatum tells consumes us
Contaminating everything
Including our everyday

What is America’s education promise?

Our schools must be for the greater good
Based in A Pedagogy Love and critical reflection
Not rabid competition and wealth accumulation

There’s much to be undone

Legacies of atrocities
Structural inequalities
Entrenched policies
And micro-processes

As some have shown
Many left unnamed
Collectively we too play disparate roles in re/making

This U.S. system of schooling


Gilda L. Ochoa is Professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies at Pomona College. Her most recent book is Academic Profiling: Latinos, Asian Americans and the Achievement Gap. Twitter: @GildaLOchoa1.

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