A blog following teacher Aaron Jura as he plans engaging, yet relevant English Language Arts content for High School students in New Orleans, LA.
After an amazing three-weeks participating in the National Endowment for the Humanities teacher seminar titled From Harlem to Hip-Hop: African American History, Literature, and Song I presented my culminating project titled The REAL Illuminati.
If you haven't noticed, many of my teaching strategy posts center around the concepts of engaging students in higher levels of academic achievement. Inspired by Dr. Tricia Rose's talk on Redlining and discriminatory policies and politics in the United States I concluded my project would take the redlining information from the federal government and juxtapose it against modern day racial gerrymandering.
This project would not have come together without the input of several amazing people:
Access all the readings, recordings, PowerPoint, and all other materials on Google Drive -- by clicking here.
This presentation uses the power of student friendly and culturally relevant ideas -- the narrative of "The Illuminati" to illustrate how power can be wielded behind the scenes to disenfranchise particular groups -- an impact very relevant today in America.
The presentation's main claim is that modern day racial gerrymandering in congressional districts is eerily similar to the now "illegal" discriminatory lending practice commonly called redlining.
When you look at the presentation, using Charlotte, NC as a guide you will see the similarities between 1940 redlining maps, the gerrymandered congressional district (blue line), when you layer in 2010 census data on racial concentration in Charlotte, NC.
The point of this exercise is to illustrate a claim, evidence, the tools of argumentation; while still using culturally relevant hooks to engage students in what could be viewed as "boring" without the strong sales pitch.
There are many exciting possibilities when using current events in the classroom, and the recent Supreme Court decisions on this issue also provide an opportunity for a larger, horizontally aligned connection to social studies, law, and even science (topography, etc.) Students could extend this even further into the math sphere by looking at election probabilities based on demographic data.
Again, the possibilities are endless -- I hope this inspires you or you use it in your class to create a more socially conscious student body -- the next leaders of our great nation!
I hope this is something you can use or modify to use in your classroom.
On Wednesday (11/23/16) president-elect Trump announced he was selecting school voucher and privatization advocate Betsy DeVoss to lead the US Department of Education. Unlike her predecessor, DeVoss has no history working with public schools, never attended a public school, sent all her children to private school, and arguably is woefully unprepared to lead the US Department of Education.
The primary objective of Betsy DeVoss throughout her time in educational politics has been to increase access to school vouchers and thereby increase the charter school landscape in many American cities. DeVoss and president-elect Trump both are in support of increased access to school vouchers, which has consistently been proven to be a nightmare for already disadvantaged students attending public schools nationwide.
In Michigan, the state where DeVoss has made most of her efforts in education teacher attrition is at an all-time high. Research has always proven that students are not best served by inexperienced, unprepared educators. In Michigan, the “business cycle” has been impacting student performance for quite a while. The privatization of education is well known in New Orleans, and Michigan has been going through big changes toward charter schools since 1993. The Great Lakes Education Project, which DeVoss started and funded, pushes charter schools (particularly in urban settings) and has not been able to produce results. As a matter of fact, in 2009 Detroit’s school system (heavily inundated with charter school operators) was the lowest performing district in the nation – New Orleans was not far off.
When looking at ideas like DeVoss’s we must focus on the key objective – the welfare of our students. In cases where charter schools and school choice really took off we cannot say that there have been major successes. Most of the growth is minimal and cannot be sustained over extended time periods – indicating that students are not succeeding. I would argue that students would see more success if we encourage stability in the system, not massive change. Students in high school today have already undergone at least 5 major curricular policy changes during their academic careers. They have dealt with numerous changes to testing at an almost unthinkable level. Teacher attrition has reached a crisis point, especially impacting students of color and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. While I am not saying all this is attributable to DeVoss and people who think about educating the nation like she does, I am saying that the key objective is not being met if we stay on a track where mediocre results can be spun into gold through the mouths of billionaire lobbyists who have a vested interest in ensuring that society creates more worker bees instead of educated thinkers and critical analysts. I propose that we stop pretending like political elites know what’s best for students and focus on retaining talented educators in our public school systems to ensure that students are well served and provided with a well-rounded education.
I am so excited to be selected as a LEAD Fellow for the 2016-17 cohort representing the State of Louisiana. This is an amazing advocacy and professional practice improvement program that believes that regardless of zip code EVERY child should have access and opportunity to have an amazing education.
Over the next few months I will be elevating my voice as an educator and advocate for all students. I am hoping that the work conducted and the lobbying done will make improvements for both students and professional educators through the state.
If you want to read more about the fellowship, you can check it out here,
We have all been struck by the violence we see each and every day on the news from all around our county. Recently in Louisiana, Baton Rouge (about an hour and a half away from New Orleans) a man named Anton Sterling’s murder, at the hands of officers, was caught on cell phone video and virally hit the Internet. Of course, many were outraged at the multiple angles of different cell phone video, which seemed to show a cold-blooded murder at the hands of officers. This along with other stories of murder and brutality has plagued people of color in our communities for far too long.
The question is: How do you broach the topics of race and race politics in the secondary classroom? The answer seems to be, it depends. Teaching in an urban environment with a high proportion of African American students means I do have to maneuver through these complex issues with students as they grapple with the violence that seems to be all too common in interactions with individuals whose duty it is to protect and serve.
The issue with the concept of the “all lives matter” movement is a complicated one. There are many great articles breaking down how the all lives matter phrase is a boondoggle. See here and here. But, the real question is – if all lives matter, which ones matter most? It’s obvious based upon subjective data that institutions and society at large systematically oppresses people of color and has done this throughout American History.
While there aren’t easy answers we can start with living as an ally not an adversary. The term ally doesn’t mean one who is passively committed, but instead that you are actively pursuing justice and equity. If you aren’t doing that you are not being an ally.
Coming back off my trip to California (where I learned the news of the murder in Louisiana) I knew I had to do something to show support to the community I live in, love, and value. I went online and organized a contingent of teachers to drive down to Baton Rouge and stand in solidarity with the African American community as they struggled to figure out how they could live in peace and without fear.
The protest was a peaceful one (of course, we are teachers) but the emotions were raw. Of the nearly 400 protesters who showed up on Saturday the 9th of July at the site of the murder of Alton Sterling we were greeted with love and gratitude. It really took me back that I was being thanked for showing up with hugs and tears from African American protesters and one thing became clear: the divisions that have long been used to separate us must be broken down.
Show your support, lend your voice. If you don’t want to be political all it takes is a simple acknowledgement of the fact that the community is in mourning. Be there for your fellow man. The parallels to the civil rights struggles of the 1950’s and 60’s are clear as day. I choose to support those I serve and not simply serve myself, will you remain silent or will you lend your voice and understanding?
Also, I recommend reading Christopher Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education..
Mr. J is a high school teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mr. J believes in the power of educators to help children and families achieve. Follow his blog for tips and techniques to keep engagement high and student achievement at the forefront.