Embracing Risk in Urban Education

Curiosity, Creativity, and Courage in the Era of "No Excuses" and Relay Race Reform

By (author) Alice E. Ginsberg Foreword by Maxine Greene

Publication date:

26 January 2012

Length of book:

144 pages


R&L Education

ISBN-13: 9781607099482

At a time when American urban public education is under broad attack, and in which America is perceived as a nationat risk that is losing the race to the top, educators and politicians from across the spectrum are promoting increased emphasis on standardized testing, business models of school reform, zero tolerance, no excuses, promoting cultural assimilation, and building a standardized curriculum. Ginsberg argues that in the effort to reduce the achievement gap and mitigate the pejorative label of "at-risk," we are in danger of eliminating risk from education entirely. This is especially the case in urban schools with large numbers of poor and minority students. Ginsberg explores alternative approaches to student achievement at four dynamic Philadelphia public schools. This book provides a grounded, close look at alternative and innovative pedagogies which embrace risk through an emphasis on critical inquiry, cultural diversity, global awareness, project-based learning, collaboration, community partnerships, and student activism. The result? Schools which can nurture a new generation of students who are not only smart and literate but can think help preserve American Democracy while furthering the quest for peace, unity, equity, and social justice.
Public schools in the US have long operated as sorting machines channeling students to serve the needs of capital and so-called national interests. Ginsberg deconstructs the rhetoric of contemporary test-driven school reform, with a specific emphasis on the concept of 'at risk.' The premise is statistics that identify entire cultures as 'at risk' are powerful stories not simply of low expectations, cultural deprivations, and individual laziness, but of political capital, misused power, and unjustly distributed resources. Ginsberg provides a powerful analysis of how the policies that supposedly promote meritocracy, personal responsibility, and individual achievement also contain strong components of separating, sorting, marginalizing, and punishing students, particularly those from communities considered "at risk" and who refuse to conform to the status quo. Unlike many ideologically similar critics of public schools, Ginsberg presents a hopeful message through case studies of four urban schools that illustrate more meaningful and sustainable ways for students to learn. These schools embrace risk in that they are unafraid of challenging the status quo of teaching and learning by cultivating spaces where students can question how and why certain knowledge is validated, marginalized, or dismissed. Summing Up: Essential.