We Can Reopen Schools if We Make the City the Classroom by Nikhil Goyal
Along with Dr. Christopher Emdin's "reality pedagogy" about which I just posted, I agree with Nikhil Goyal that we need an epistemology of the City as the Classroom in a time of COVID. COVID or no COVID, a good education should mean that we all get to know our communities, organizations, cities, parks, restoration projects, and our sites of governmental power.
I know that our graduate students are always transformed by experiencing either the legislature or deliberations at the Texas State Board of Education. City Council and school board hearings are also powerful spaces to research and learn from. Some of them even get the chance to testify in such high-stakes, public venues and contribute to real-world change while learning about legislative processes, contexts, discourses, politics, and policy agendas.
They learn about how policies intersect at school board, city, state, and federal levels and how knowing about one level of governmentality is necessary, but insufficient for ascertaining the whole. They learn about the vital role of citizen involvement and the "rules of the game" that establish parameters for voice and thusly, public input and power.
Why not give them the keys to our school boards, city councils, state boards, state legislatures, teacher associations, administrator associations, civil rights organizations, immigrant rights organizations, ecological movements, and university-level politics. For example, what to they think of UT Austin students' "Eight Demands for Transformative Change" in the wake of George Floyd's killing and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement? The part about "test-optional admissions policies," meaning the ACT and SAT, would seem to intrinsically interest them.
Making the city the classroom dovetails well with Dr. Emdin's notion of reality pedagogy because both are asset-based, ascribing power to students' voices, gifts, talents, and experiences. What a great time for discovery and to deepen children's intellect by having them engage directly in and with our seats of power.
With so many hearings and meetings online right now, a paradox is that despite COVID, which places restrictions on our day-to-day movement and activities, students can potentially exhibit greater voice, agency, and power than ever before at local or state, or national levels where they are otherwise not typically present.
Their teachers can take solace in knowing that things are not like they used to be, having to rush to meetings across town, circumventing bottlenecks during busy hours, find parking and barely arriving on time to be present or participate. As important and frequently exciting as this is, the rush of everyday life from which we now have a hiatus means less wear and tear on our cars and bodies and creates an opening for unprecedented involvement.
This fall, the lion's share of this activity will be online, meaning that students can not only attend hearings virtually, but if they're unable to make it on any given day, they can catch hearings at other times since many meetings are also recorded and archived. They could even have "watch parties" and listen to past committee hearings via the legislature online and listen to previous hearings that go back at least to 1989 to learn about legislation that impacts them. It's a treasure trove of state data that few ever take advantage of even if they know about it.
In Austin proper, there is similarly much to learn about the arts, local history, and local struggles like gentrification, land use and development, water politics, the environment, city budgets and how local politics and agendas connect to what's going on at the state, national and international levels.
In short, rather than our students being on the sidelines as history unfolds, they can and should be part of its unfolding, particularly when their lives and future well-being are at stake.
Please do read Nikhil Goyal's piece as I think he'll inspire you as much as he inspired me. The pedagogical moment is teeming with possibility.
Radical education ideas from the 1960s and ’70s can help us safely teach children during a pandemic.
Recent school graduates take photos in |
Washington Square Park as New York
moves into Phase 3 of re-opening.