School is a place of preparation, a place where you learn the codes of the mainstream not necessarily because the mainstream is better, as I believed, but because if you want to make significant changes to any systems, you have to be able to first get in by the gatekeepers’ standards. We can disrupt traditional notions of reading and math all we want, but this does not mean that out students are exempt from the dominant structures of society. To paraphrase Lisa Delpit, to pretend that the mainstream does not exist is to ensure students do not pass into it. The fact of the matter is some stuff is going to matter more than others.
This is not a personal attack.
This is not teacher bashing.
This is a recognition of what we’ve been taught to expect and accept from poor students and students of color in the name of “progressivism”. Knowledge won’t exempt my students from racism, knowledge won’t “save” anyone, but it’s the one thing that I directly have control of in my classroom in preparing my students for futures as citizens who can understand how reminiscent the speech of Donald Trump is to a fascist uprising. They will understand this not because I have told them what to believe, but because they have the knowledge base to be able to draw the comparisons themselves.
So we can continue to ask ourselves “who decides?” and “whose knowledge?” and all of the other rhetorical questions, but we already know the answer. Really the question we need to ask ourselves as a profession, as schools, as departments is what we want our students to be able to do and become when they leave our classrooms– Do we want them to bang upon the walls of Troy for 10,000 years or enter as the Trojan horse?
“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”