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Toward hope and resistance

Just Talk: Voices of Education and Justice

Toward hope and resistance

It has been a hard week for education and justice. In the weeks and months ahead, we will share interviews with educators and activists struggling to advance learning and justice in these perilous times. But right now, we need an infusion of critical hope. This week in “Just Talk” we present a few old favorites to embolden our sense of the possible, guide our vision, and move us forward.

Vincent Harding, Children’s Defense Fund, 2012 (Video) and On Being, 2013 (Text)

I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist.  That is who I see you all as being, especially you younger folks … We are citizens of a country that we still have to create.  A just country, a compassionate country, a forgiving country, a multi-racial, multi-religious country, a joyful country that cares about its children and about its elders, that cares about itself and about the world, that cares about what the earth needs as well as about what individual people need.  I am, you are, a citizen of a country that does not yet exist and that badly needs to exist.”



Jeffrey M. R. Duncan-Andrade, Harvard Educational Review, 2009

In this essay, Jeff Duncan-Andrade explores the concept of hope, which was central to the Obama campaign, as essential for nurturing urban youth. He first identifies three forms of “false hope”—hokey hope, mythical hope, and hope deferred—pervasive in and peddled by many urban schools. Discussion of these false hopes then gives way to Duncan-Andrade’s conception of “critical hope,” explained through the description of three necessary elements of educational practice that produce and sustain true hope. Through the voices of young people and their teachers, and the invocation of powerful metaphor and imagery, Duncan-Andrade proclaims critical hope’s significance for an education that relieves undeserved suffering in communities.


Paulo Freire, One World, 1975

Talk about education for liberation implies talking about change of a political kind.  For me education for liberation implies the political organization of the oppressed to achieve power.  Only then will there be the possibility of having a new kind of education which takes reality and the potential of each member of society seriously. This means thinking about the implications for the educator and about the changes—the revolutions—we need.  … Educators don’t need to feel pessimistic in the face of this reality.  The more they come to understand the processes at work  in society, the more they gain clearer perception of the dynamic relationship between society and education.


Charles Payne, Signs, 1989

Ella Jo Baker died in 1986. Her entire adult life was devoted to building organizations that worked for social change by encouraging individual growth and individual empowerment. Nonetheless, even among those generally knowledgeable about the modern history of the Afro-American struggle, neither her name nor her sense of how we make change are widely known. She worked during a time when few Americans were capable of taking a Black woman seriously as a political figure. Yet, Ella Baker was a central figure in Afro-American activism as an organizer and as an advocate of developing the extraordinary potential of ordinary people. Few activists can claim a depth and breadth of political experience comparable to Ella Baker’s half-century of struggle. She was associated with whatever organization in the Black community was on the cutting edge of the era – the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in the forties, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the fifties, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the sixties.


Mark R. Warren, New England Journal of Public Policy, 2014

Nearly fifteen years after the passage of No Child Left Behind, the failures of our educational system with regard to low-income children of color remain profound. Traditional reform efforts have sought improvements solely within the confines of the school system, failing to realize how deeply educational failure is part of and linked to broader structures of poverty and racism. A social movement that creates political and cultural change is necessary to transform the racial inequities in public education itself and to connect this transformational effort to a larger movement to combat poverty and racism. The seeds of a new educational justice movement can be found in the rise of community and youth organizing efforts, in the development of teacher activism, and in the recent creation of new alliances at local, state, and national levels like those combating the school-to-prison pipeline. Many activists and educators have begun to offer a program for school transformation that connects to a broad agenda to combat racial segregation and economic insecurity, to improve housing, public health, and safety, and to reform immigration laws.



Just Talk welcomes your ideas for other texts to post or interviews to conduct.  Send your thoughts to John Rogers  



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