Proposal for Action: A vision of education tomorrow

Ursula Tkacz 

Nyenye, Rula, Sahar, Sujung, Youmna and I are planning a collective action project that challenges the “miseducation” (Chomsky and Macedo 2004) or “schooling” (Illich 1971) of society. My analysis of schools stems from my personal experiences as a student  My social location - white, working class, heterosexual, able-bodied, English-speaking, settler, woman – has shaped my schooling experience. While gender and class oppression caused my disengagement from school in my younger years, the privilege afforded by all of the other aspects of my identity allowed me to benefit from the formal and hidden curriculum of schools so that when I was older I looked to education as a means to change my circumstances. My expected move to middle class status because of the degree I earn reveals how my white body affords me mobility within the racist class system and how educational institutions reproduce this unequal social order. 

In addition to personal insights, my analysis of schools stems from the theory and practice of critical pedagogy. After a brief read through of some of the important works in this field I have recognized the centrality of educational institutions in upholding empire through what is taught, what is left out, and what is hidden. The students produced by this system have absorbed hegemonic discourses and accommodate the systems of domination. I believe that a challenge to this system takes the form of classrooms such as this one where activism is nurtured and social justice is promoted. I hope that our action project is one tiny step towards this long term goal. 

In the short term, our goals are: consciousness raising, empowering students, and possibly building a coalition. In order to achieve these goals our approach will to be multilevel including a curriculum audit as well as a student campaign. 

Curriculum Audit

The audit will involve the six members of our group splitting up into three pairs. Each pair will audit one course from a department of their choice. Nyenye and Youmna will cover the History department, Rula and Sahar the Political Science department, and Sujung and I will cover the Anthropology department. The audit will involve analysis of past notes, current syllabi, assigned textbooks/readings, lectures as well as student and teacher interviews. We will be looking at what is taught, what is left out, and what is hidden, and questioning the political work being done by both the formal and hidden curriculum in the context of the interlocking systems of power (patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism). The audit will culminate in a report of our findings, including proposed changes, which will be presented to the Professors and the Department heads. 

Student campaign

The student campaign will involve formal, informal, and guerrilla methods of disseminating information and starting discussion that will run from January 19 until about February 14. The formal methods will involve using existing channels available for student expression and organizing on campus. First, I will write a feature article for the UTM student newspaper outlining our action plan, the reasoning behind it and the goals we hope to accomplish. We will finish our action project with another article that will list our accomplishment, challenges and include the findings of our curriculum audits. Second, someone will organize a movie, reflective of our concerns, to be included at the Monday movie night event held at the Student Center. Lastly, we can request Prof. Hunt’s assistance in spreading the word about our project to students in her other classes. The informal aspect of the campaign will involve using communication methods popular amongst students. Here, Rula and Sahar will create a facebook site that will serve as a discussion board. The site will also include our experiences, concerns, resources related to the topic, and the happenings of our audits. The guerrilla campaign will involve posting signs on the backs of chairs in as many classrooms as possible (washrooms stalls too?). The signs will include slogans/questions/quotes and an invitation to join the discussion on facebook. 

I believe that our action project is built on a strong counter-hegemonic theoretical understanding of the role of schools in perpetuating and legitimizing injustice. However, we cannot rely on theory or personal experiences alone. So the curriculum audits aim to document schools’ hidden agenda. The fact that the audits will be carried out as a collective team effort by a group of diverse women who have been oppressed and/or privileged by the educational system, challenges the hidden lesson of competition and adaptation to a hierarchical and authoritative society we are supposed to have learned. Furthermore, by questioning our education and getting others to do the same we are challenging the passivity, obedience, and conformity ‘good’ students are supposed to show. 

We have tried to include various methods to encourage student involvement because we believe that all students, engaged and disengaged, are our allies. We will also try to get progressive teachers involved because we believe that students and teachers can work together to create a more just educational environment. We expect those who have been “indoctrinated into the system and rewarded by it” (Chomsky and Macebo 2004), both teachers and students alike, to be resistant to our goals, teachers especially since their own power and authority comes from the current system. The students, however, especially those who find they are mis/not represented and oppressed by the current system, will find it liberating to become Subjects in their educational experiences. 

Power to the students!

 Bibliography

Apple, Michael. “Curriculum as Ideological Selection,” Comparative Educational Review20 June 1975) 210-11.

 Apple, Michael, and Nancy King. “What do schools teach?” The Hidden Curriculum and Moral Education: Deception or Discovery?.Eds. Henry A. Giroux, David Purpel. California: 

McCutchan Publishing Corporation, 1983.

 Chomsky, Noam, and Donaldo Macedo, Chomsky on Miseducation. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

 Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: The Continuum Publishing Corporation, 1984.

 Illich, Ivan. Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

 Macedo, Donaldo. Literacies of Power: What Americans are not allowed to know. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

 Martin, Jane. “What should we do with a hidden curriculum when we find one?” The Hidden Curriculum and Moral Education: Deception or Discovery?.Eds. Henry A. Giroux, 

David Purpel. McCutchan Publishing Corporation, California: 1983.

 Trend, David. The Crisis of Meaningin Culture and Education: Pedagogy and Cultural practice vol. 3. eds. Henry A. Giroux and Roger Simon. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota 

Press, 1995.