No system that is a true meritocracy can have such predictable results. This has to be by design.
Dr. Jeff Duncan Andrade – Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies SFSU / Founder of Roses In Concrete Community School in Oakland, USA.
”If you think about it, everyone knows that the schools that serve the nation’s most vulnerable youth are the schools that are the least funded, the most dilapidated, have the least experienced teachers – those who need the most, get the least, and those who need the least, get the most.
This is a choice that we are making, we are choosing to create systemic conditions, where some kids succeed and some kids fail, and we know at the start of the school year, with incredible accuracy, who those kids are going to be no matter how hard they work. And then achievement data comes out, and everybody acts all shocked, you have to act shocked, because what’s the alternative? To say: “yeah, we pretty much knew that this was a rigged game”. You can’t say that and then at the same time uphold this rhetoric of ‘we’re a multiracial, pluralistic, democracy’, we’re not, we are a quasi caste system.
Based on where you’re born, your zip code, which family you’re born into, these are incredibly accurate predictors of life outcomes, and you can’t at the same time talk about a meritocracy, and have in effect a loaded social lottery. And if you know the history of public schools in this country, then you know exactly what schools were designed to do, and you know that they are doing exactly what they are designed to do. You know that they were designed to create this social hierarchy, that is by design unequal, unfair, structurally unjust, that created an unequal distribution of resources and opportunity, and at the same time, normed that in a society such that there wasn’t massive social unrest. It was completely deliberate, we’ve created this massive, I mean unimaginable gap, between the haves and the have-nots, in fact that gap is larger than any other time in the history of industrialized world. Why don’t we have social unrest in the United States? We have the highest rate of incarceration in the history of the industrialized world, we have the highest gap between rich and the poor in the history of industrialized world, and yet we have relative social calm.
Steve Biko was a social activist in South Africa, he said that “the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the minds of the oppressed”, you cannot completely control a people with force, but if you can get in here (the mind), if you can create passivity in here, if you can create self-doubt in here, if you can interrupt hope and paralyze people – you see this is why public education is both so powerful and such a powerful weapon. If you want to oppress people you don’t deny them school, because they’ll get educated and they’ll rise up, instead you school them, you take their children for 13 years right and you create a system of passivity. You define for them what resistance is, you define for them what social change looks like, and it’s all resistance and social change that you can control. And if you don’t change the consciousness of a people, then everything that comes out of that school system is going to be socially reproductive, it’s going to be a social mirror and we’re going to get back exactly what we put in.
The foundation of public schools in this country is rotten, so all these investments that we’re making will never have the impact that we want them to, because the foundation is rotten. But if we go back to the foundation, the fundamental question must be: what is the purpose of public schools in this nation? And if the purpose of public schools continues to be to create individual pathways out of poverty, we will never end poverty. The point of education is not to escape poverty, the point of education is to end it. But we don’t educate in this society, we school, and that is a fundamental difference. We have built a system of schooling, and schooling is a process by which you institutionalize people to accept their proper station in life, education is the process by which you teach people that they can fundamentally change the society, we don’t educate the majority of the people in this society, we school them.”
What does this mean for how we teach students to understand the system? Teaching kids in poverty to ‘play the game’ is not enough.
How Jeff’s school, Roses In Concrete, is working to disrupt hopelessness.
Video created for Teach For All.