Furman Reading Response

I appreciate the posting of the Furman article and appreciated that although it touched on ecological and scientific themes, I was able to access the reading, not having a science background. The points of the article that engaged me the most were the discussions around the growing sense of urgency, among many people committed to educational equity and social justice, to “close” an “achievement gap”. This discourse often makes me uncomfortable and I appreciated the balanced discussion within the article around social justice themes and the importance for all scholars to embody a social justice perspective. I feel the authors were able to remain balanced due to their commitment to “surface the assumptions and narratives in which social justice is currently embedded” (page 50).

As a constructivist, I was excited to learn through the reading of the theory ‘critical humanism’ which reminded me of Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory asserts that racism in American society is normative and should not be questioned. Similar, to the way the authors described critical humanism as a theoretical framework, which views social constructions as inherently value-laden. This in is itself problematic because we include the values of one we inherently exclude the values of others. What I did find discomforting within the theory is its call for radical changes. While needed, I find to be problematic thinking when discussing systematic changes, especially in the field of leadership. The question that troubles most stakeholders in education, especially when considering inequities in education is the question of change. I believe change is at its core a complex and difficult and cannot be devoid without a discussion of how change can be sustainable in the face of widespread disproportionate inequities.

I also found “the focus on school underachievement as an indicator of social justice” to be problematic and too close to an subtle discussion that is often found within the deficit perspective, which places too great an emphasis on the what is wrong and has to be fixed within a community and not enough of a discussion on the wealth found within the community.  This brings me the article’s discussion of critical pedagogy of place, quoting hooks who defines “decolonization as a process of cultural and historical liberation; an act of confrontation with a dominant system of thought” (page 58). This is why my work is centered on identifying and debunking the subtle occurrences of the deficient perspective because it becomes a dangerous and systematic “system of thought” which believes that a cultural deficit perspective is comprised of two parts: (a) the attribution of an individual’s achievement to cultural factors alone, without regard to individual characteristics; and, (b) the attribution of failure to a cultural group. In other words, a cultural deficit perspective is a view that individuals from some cultural groups lack the ability to achieve just because of their cultural background.

The danger of the deficit ideology is that it represents a repressive disposition and is a symptom of larger sociopolitical conditions and ideologies born out of complex socialization processes. The perspective cannot be combated without acknowledging and examining the processes that can eliminate racism and white supremacist ideology, which I feel the article began to acknowledge.

Overall, this article was thought-provoking and I learned about critical frameworks that I was not aware of prior to reading the article and I always appreciate scholarly works that call for a reimaging education, learning ad justice.

Furman and Gruenewald Reading

I chose this article because for me it introduces a socioecological justice framework that speaks to me and my research, it introduces the concepts of a critical pedagogy of place which speaks to my curriculum implementation, and it highlights many of the challenges and tensions that I have experienced working within the current education system. Below are my thoughts and some of the questions this article generated for me. I would love to hear from others about ways they see this article being relevant to their own work and how I might utilize it in mine.

Socioecological Justice Framework: Furman and Gruenewald identify the links between social justice and environmental justice and how modern developed economies have created environmental problems that impact both humans and nonhumans, these are inseparable. Environmental problems are experienced as social injustices and are disproportionately felt depending on race, class, and other social groups. How are the issues that my student experience felt differently by differing social groups-what social groups do they identify as? Youth, gender, urban, minority, class???

Critical Pedagogy of Place:I have been thinking a lot about how to develop my own critical pedagogy of place and about how I can infuse the values of critical pedagogy and the environmental situation that we find ourselves in today into a curriculum that speaks to young people in the city. As I shared with you all at the USER-S, the research that my students and I have been conducting tries to address and “problematize the taken-for-granted assumptions, and unjust outcomes of conventional educational and cultural practices” (p.58) as well as incorporate a local experience that is present in the lives of my students.

Through implementation of my own critical pedagogy of place I have seen in my students how their ways of viewing the world are so strongly influenced by the capitalist, globalized city/country/world that we live in. A larger question I have for myself is how do we help people/my students realize that they are interconnected and mutually implicated in one another’s lives…I find this very difficult – that it matters to care about all kinds of people. A question my students have raised and struggle with is whether people are inherently good or bad??

Current Education System: Much of this article really spoke to my own critiques/limitations/assumptions of the current education system and continue to challenge me on how I view the the purposes of education. I feel this is the larger picture and implications of my own work, especially thinking about how might we reform education to embrace a socioecological ethic, why this is not part of the larger discussion on education and if it is even possible to imagine an alternative educational system? Where do we fit the economic, social, and moral purposes of schooling into our current system and how do we prioritize (or not prioritize) these?

I mentioned at the USER-S some of the tensions that I have experienced working within the traditional education paradigm with an emphasis on western values of progress and achievement for economic advancement. I have the privilege of not having to teach my course with any high stakes tests and have the luxury of developing more alternative assessments however, this has created confusion for students who have one experience in my class where they are receiving a message from me about schooling and then their other classes that value competition, individualism, and achievement. This has also raised questions for me about what are my own assumptions in my classroom? What are the implicit messages I am sending to my students and what are the ideology and values that I am conveying? Are these better? If so Why?

I have some larger questions that this article helped me to frame for myself and my course…What are the cultural and ecological conflicts that come from a preparation of young people to participate in the global economy? How does the dominant culture impact/affect people and places, humans and habitat? What are the purposes of education/schooling in the larger arena of cultural and ecological conflict? How do we prepare our students within our modern capitalist world to engage politically and ecologically with a knowledge and understanding of how social, economic, political, environmental systems are interrelated and value outcomes of care for humans and the earth?

Stakeholder video

This is a good example of a product of stakeholder-focused research.  It was posted by a teacher who works with undocumented students.  I don’t know the particulars of production, but it tells the stories of the youth in a way that shares their voices and champions their cause.


Adding on an activist identity

Marissa’s two (very interesting) blog posts brought to light many good points and questions about identity and how that is negotiated for people who occupy multiple roles.  Marissa mentioned the types of roles that were discussed at the USER-S meeting last month, namely Teacher, Researcher, and Student.  I did not attend the USER-S meeting and instead spent the day at the annual conference of NYCORE (the New York Collective of Radical Educators) and with that in mind, I would like to complicate the discussion a bit by tacking on yet another possible identity, that of Activist.  While activism may be contained in the roles of Teacher, Researcher, and even Student, I believe it is important to also highlight this aspect of our potential professional selves as separate but integral to the rest.

I believe that many of us would agree that much of our work as doctoral students and teachers is meant not only to create or expose knowledge, but also to eventually change existing social structures in order to trigger the evolution of a more just and equitable world.  In the Santos article that we read, he concludes by saying that “social emancipation is, thus, every action aiming at denaturalizing oppression (showing that, besides being unjust, oppression is neither necessary nor irreversible) and conceiving of it in the proportions it can be fought with the resources at hand”.  Part of this process of emancipation or activism as he describes it is the realization that both knowledge and action are “precarious” and that the worth of a way of knowing or a particular action should not be how famous it is in the larger institution of academia, but rather the practical good that it might accomplish in the world.  As a teacher/research/student/activist who would like her future work to not only add something to the literture of Disability Studies, but also make a difference in the lives of indivual kids with disabilities, this article served as a reminder to maintain that Activist idenity in the forefront of my mind while exercising my Student identity, because it may be that the most useful knowledges for my stakeholders may not necessarily come from the Great Theorists.  What I took away from the NYCORE conference and the readings was that I should not suppress my Activist identity.  On the contrary, it should inform all of my other roles just as my Teacher/Student/Researcher roles inform each other.

Human and Critical Geography and NYC City High School Student Mobility

I am most drawn to third section in The Changing Social Spaces of Learning by Leander, Phillips, and Taylor. The connection between human and critical geography in better understanding how young people experience and move between space has been of interest to me. I am in the process of conducting some critical participatory action research with my students (see my stakeholders forum) with a focus on how my students experience their communities, specifically how they see the strengths and areas for improvement in their communities. This work started off asking students to describe outdoor spaces that they spend time in and how they see that environment and the behaviors that people engage in. While reading this piece, many ideas and questions resonated for me so I will include some here to help me document my thinking:

  • As adults, we/I make a lot of assumptions about what my students will find interesting and connect with…as much as I try to make the research participatory, I find that my own motives and ways of thinking gently nudge the direction of research…can we ever be truly open to all voices? 
  • What are my students understanding of community, neighborhood, identity, and social life? How do they define/identify  their community and how do they experience community in the neighborhoods where they live and the spaces they move between? How is their identity tied/not tied to their neighborhoods?
  • How do young people feel they are perceived in the different spaces they move from, through, to? How are these spaces gendered, classed, raced and do they experience that and in what ways? On what level are they aware of this?
  • How much autonomy do young people experience and what influences this? I wonder a lot about my students who travel to my school in Manhattan from all 5 boroughs…do they have different levels of autonomy and how do they leverage this? How does autonomy and mobility compare to young people that attend more neighborhood high schools?
  • How much agency do young people have in urban environments to make decisions about how they use spaces?
  • How can I use more mapping/memory maps to better learn about the places my students value and why these places have value?
  • How are students living in different parts of the city experiencing different levels of opportunity/privilege and a sense of value?…I love this Breitbart (1998) point…                  “Young people who live in declining parts of the city are profoundly aware of the influence that their local environments exert. They can literally see and feel the contraints that dangerous and/or inadequately provisioned neighborhoods place upon them, and they can appreciate the opportunities that safe places, with ample resource provide…These spaces send messages to young people about how an external world values or fails to value the quality of their lives (p. 308)

All of these ideas and questions are significant to me as a lot of my work attempts to connect students to their local environments and engage them in some sort of action research around a topic that is important to them. We obviously talk a lot in education about connecting students to the local and meaningful and it is through this connection that we build more critical and engaged learners and citizens. 



Teacher-Researcher-Student: A USER-S Reflection

I know it has been some time since the USER-S meeting and my thoughts are not as clear as they were three weeks ago, but the big take away for me was this idea of Teacher-Researcher-Student identity that I feel I am always moving between. I love the fluidity that these three identities imply, in some cases it is hard to even say when you are one or another or most often, all three at once. And I guess I was thinking about how these three roles/identities that I take on in my professional (and personal in many ways) life seem to me to be identities I would want my students to take on as well. I find that many students only see themselves as students and why wouldn’t they? Schools rarely provide opportunities for students to be teachers and even less researchers. I have had some experiences with my students as both teacher and researcher and these have in some cases been transformative. But while some students embrace these additional identities, others resist. I myself struggle with navigating these three in my own life, so I imagine for a young person, it can be difficult. I guess this would be an interesting study into trying to unravel what kinds of students are more open to these kinds of critical and student directed learning opportunities, and those that are more resistant. In reading The Changing Social Space of Learning article for the class I appreciated the challenges around identity studies and imagine that the “answer” to the above question would involve a very deep investigation into the historical, social, and cultural experiences of students. 


Welcome to the course blog for UED 75200: Research on everyday knowledges, literate citizenry, and life in urban environments. This is a public blog on the CUNY Academic Commons, which means that it is visible to anyone on the web. When writing posts, please be aware that the default setting for your content is public. Should you ever wish to limit visibility of your post content to members of the class, you must select “password protected” on the visibility options on the right-hand side of the “Add New Post” page, under “Publish.”

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