Ideas on Urban Schools

After reading Pedro Noguera’s City Schools and the American Dream, I am concerned about the capacity to which the public can have an impact on Urban Schools.  While he explains that small ventures have been successful, and large ideas have mainly failed, he still maintains hope that a large implementation will be the source of clarity and solution.

Noguera views schools as a bastion of social change and transformation, a tall order for any organization, let alone one governed by the public.  He truly finds schools to be that ‘beacon of light upon the hill’ that all parts of the United States aspire to be.  While I do not disagree with him, and as he said himself he must be a pragmatist, is such optimism and hope a good thing?  Everyone wants to see education improve, whether that is for their own children or all students.  But is this kind of blind optimism regarding the role of schools actually hurting his cause?

I do agree with him that individualized instruction is necessary for the development of some struggling and disadvantaged students, as I am a product of that sort of instruction.  But I do not find that a separate school is the way to go.  The marginalization of the students who are removed from their schools and placed in continuation schools is horrendous.  Simply put, I am completely against continuation schools, not for their mission, but for how they attempt to be the solution to a problem.  Putting students inside these schools only reinforces the victim mentality (if there is one) and inferiority complex.  These students should be moved to a different school (still mainstream) and receive the same kind of individual instruction that the continuation school offers, but in a setting that is normal.

The issue of racial and cultural identity is brought up quite often throughout his book, mainly dealing with the issues stemming from the original use of African American education being for a class of servants.  This was the fault of so many years ago, but unfortunately, the stigma of educational achievement being ‘white’ has not worn off.  Instead, it festers, bringing the students who would otherwise succeed in their endeavors to a basal level without the hope or opportunity to better themselves.  Minority students who are first generation do not have the same problem, due to their non-assimilation into the American culture of oppression.  Instead of inferiority, these students find language barriers coupled with the ever-present racist judgment of school authorities and the public at large, hindering their hope and opportunities.

I feel that through all this, Noguera is making a case for the forgotten children of the country.  That it really goes back to the antiquated American Dream our parents always believed in.  ‘Our children will have a better life than mine because of the world I help create, the education they receive, and their potential to be what they want to be.’

The first step to help closing the achievement gap in our schools is not funding or tougher education, it is cultural awareness, respect, and above all honesty.  The disadvantaged students must be seen through eyes that are blind to race, religion, gender, and disability.  The focus needs to turn to the understanding of individual children and their families so that cooperation and trust can form.  This, I think, is what Noguera wants.

Thoughts? Ideas?

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