Introducing: Debunked!

Please visit Debunked!—a central location to confront how formal education often reflects and perpetuates racism, classism, and sexism.

Practices and policies specifically addressed include Ruby Payne’s framework of poverty, deficit perspectives, Teach for America, “grit,” “no excuses” practices, and the “word gap.”

Debunking “Heritage Not Hate”: A Reader

Documentarian Ken Burns—noted for his work on the Civil War—explains that the shift in attitudes concerning the Confederate battle flag across the South and the U.S. parallels another watershed moment in the nation, support for gay marriage (I would add the legalization of marijuana is another similar shift).

Many are rightfully concerned that the massacre of the #Charleston9 is being reduced if not trivialized by the political rush to remove the battle flag from state grounds, license plates, and flags, just as some believe the flag debate allows political leaders and the public once again to avoid a real discussion and then action on gun control.

Let us, then, embrace the flag debate as not a symbolic moment, but a symbolic movement—lowering and removing are actions—that both works with and builds on the momentum of those political and public shifts.

Removing the Confederate battle flag from government display, however, is not banning that flag; individuals continue to have the right in the U.S. to flaunt symbolically their beliefs, however misguided or even hateful, regardless of the mechanism—as long as that free speech does not cross a line into denying others their free speech or threaten harm.

Thus, part of that movement must be personal and public education.

And that education must address the “Heritage Not Hate” mantra that has for too long allowed both the Confederate battle flag and the concurrent racism to survive behind slogans without basis in the facts of history.

The Confederate battle flag has not suffered a change in meaning; its meaning has always been corrupt from its original creation within the larger acts of secession and war.

The “heritage” and “state’s rights” claims are cultural lies by omission: The heritage was one of racism and slavery, and the state’s right was to maintain slavery as the primary mechanism of economic power in the South (an economic dynamic that made a very few incredibly wealthy, but also a system of human bondage that benefitted those who didn’t own slaves, rendering nearly all free people complicit during the institution of slavery).

Many have offered the evidence for that personal and public education, and I offer them below as an opportunity for folding “Heritage Not Hate” into the movement that will embrace those willing to say they have also changed their minds and hearts because they are now willing to face the uncomfortable facts that contradict long-held beliefs.

Debunking “Heritage Not Hate”: A Reader

Take Down the Confederate Flag—Now, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates 1“Corner Stone” Speech, Alexander H. Stephens,Vice President of the Confederate States of America, Savannah, Georgia, March 21, 1861

What This Cruel War Was Over, Ta-Nehisi Coates

“They Can’t Turn Back,” James Baldwin

signs and symbols Baldwin

The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States (Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia)

MississippiKen Burns: Flag issue is not about heritage

The “meaning” of the Confederate flag, Bryan Bibb

How people convince themselves that the Confederate flag represents freedom, not slavery, Carlos Lazada

[Quoted from John M. Coski, the historian at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond]

raison detreHey white southerners, let’s talk about our Confederate heritage, Matt Comer

How The South Lost The War But Won The Narrative, Tony Horwitz

benign“The face of racism today is not a slaveowner”: Eric Foner on the past and present of white supremacy, Elias Isquith


Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong, James W. Loewen

states rightsWhite support for the Confederate flag really is about racism, not Southern heritage, Spencer Piston and Logan Strother

less knowledgable


Randall Hill / Reuters
AME church
The King Center posted this image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
Photographer Steven Hyatt posted this photo of a stained-glass window at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston on his Facebook page. His wish was that it would give the grieving some comfort. STEVEN HYATT PHOTO


English Journal — Call for Manuscripts: Submission Deadline: March 15, 2016

English Journal — Call for Manuscripts

Visible Teaching: Open Doors as Resistance
Editors: Julie Gorlewski, David Gorlewski, P. L. Thomas, and Sean P. Connors
Submission Deadline: March 15, 2016
Publication Date: November 2016

Under pressure to adhere to a scripted curriculum or to conform to standardized instructional practices, educators might choose to adhere to a popular adage that recommends that they “close the door and teach,” presumably as an act of resistance. This advice is problematic, however, because it denies the agency of teachers, as professionals, to effect change in their schools. It willfully conceals alternative instructional practices that might otherwise benefit students, and it ignores the role that shared knowledge can play in sustaining a community.

Alternatively, teaching with our doors open establishes agency where the system has denied it; offers direct alternatives to the practices we reject, especially those that are not supported by the evidence of our field; and models for students how professionals behave.

This issue of English Journal explores how a decision to “teach with our doors open” can be interpreted as a form of empowerment and an act of resistance. It acknowledges teachers as agentive, and aims to understand how making one’s practices visible to others can disrupt standardizing forces and disciplinary mechanisms that are intended to promote conformity and compliance.

Contributors might consider questions such as: What conditions prompt teachers to teach behind closed doors, and how can they productively be addressed? How do you negotiate space to teach with your door open, and what advice would you offer others interested in doing so? How have you engaged with colleagues who respond differently to mandated and prescribed practices that you feel are not valid or effective? If you have experienced a transformative moment—moving from teaching with your door closed to teaching with your door open—how did that look and what advice can you offer those interested in making the same transition? How can teachers work with school leaders to create a school culture that values the open exchange of ideas and embraces evidence-based practices that push against mandates? We welcome educators to share experiences that investigate this important topic in the context of scholarly literature.

We invite manuscripts of 2,500-3,750 words, written to an audience of educators in grades 7-12 English classrooms.

More on Solidarity: “Speak to Shared Goals,” Not “Speak with One Voice”

Responding to my musing about the lack of solidarity among new media resistance to education reform, Sherri Spelic cautioned:

Solidarity, yes. However, in movements in which the aim is to “speak with one voice” whose voices are most likely to be quieted or softened or pushed to the edges? I fear it is often women’s voices which are sacrificed more often than not.

Certainly the number of voices in the ed reform push back camp is growing and we have to realize that new readers, writers, lurkers are finding their way into social media daily. The edu blogosphere is expanding as educators attempt to keep up with what appears to be a runaway train. They are told they must blog and pin and tweet in order to call themselves “connected.” And that’s when folks who were here earliest and built those initial cults of edu personalities began to talk about how shallow and repetitive twitter was becoming and asking whether they shouldn’t move on….

We can add to the solidarity not by limiting our use of voice but by lending it where it may be needed: to uplift one or more of our colleagues in need, in support of the policies and movements which align with our common cause.

My initial response was appreciation for the ideal and thoughtful framing, and then, because of Spelic’s challenge, I was pushed to think better about what I was asking, to state better what I envision.

Solidarity, for me, does not require speaking with one voice, but speaking to shared goals.

Here, then, possibly to continue the conversation, I want to explore what those shared goals may be, keeping in mind we need them to be clear, attainable, and few:

  • Seeking an end to one (preferred) educational experience for privileged children and another (worse) educational experience for “other people’s children.”
  • Seeking a greater appreciation and realization of teaching as an autonomous profession.
  • Confronting and ending inequitable punitive policies (academic and disciplinary) for marginalized populations of students along race, class, gender, and other status categories (English language learners, special needs students).
  • Ending high-stakes accountability focusing on outcomes and implementing a structure that addresses equity of opportunity metrics.
  • Calling for social reform that guarantees for all children that the coincidence of birth is not the dominant factor in their opportunities in life and education.

Among educators, researchers, political leaders, and the public, we will likely disagree about how to achieve these goals—that disagreement is likely important, in fact—but I believe we can and should be in solidarity for achieving these goals.

Divided, Conquered: “Everybody blogs. Nobody reads.”

In her 14 June 2015 email update about her blog, Susan Ohanian offered an opening statement:

When I started this website of resistance 13 years ago, I posted a lot of outrage, outrage I tried to buttress with research. Of late, I’ve cut way back because I feel there’s far too much jabber filling the air–too much rage and not enough explanation. Everybody blogs. Nobody reads. I figure whatever I might say just gets lost in the cacophony so I’ve turned my efforts elsewhere. Right now I’m working on a big project that I hope will startle you with originality. At the very least, it won’t be part of the chorus.  

I’m not abandoning the site–just cutting back on its size.

Well before the education reform debate blossomed on social media, Ohanian was dissecting and challenging the most recent cycle of high-stakes accountability—from the perspective of a classroom teacher.

I very much feel compassion for Ohanian’s concerns, having begun writing against accountability and specifically high-stakes testing in the 1990s, also as a classroom teacher. Once I moved to higher education in 2002, my access to public work was significantly expanded so my public commentaries reach back about as long as Ohanian’s (although my move to blogging is about half that span).

The powerful refrain—”Everybody blogs. Nobody reads”—resonates, I think, because it touches on how social media has in many ways had the opposite effect than its great promise: Instead of building solidarity, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest have allowed factions to develop and has reduced much of the vibrant and important discourse to be subsumed by the great failure of social media—the cult of personality.

The online world of public debate about education and education reform has included the ugliest part of social media—anonymous vitriol—but it has also, for me, created a much more troubling dynamic. On more than one occasion, I have been refuted and attacked (based on false assumptions) by those with whom I share solidarity.

It is all too easy, then, for those of us who share the same mission to turn on each other while those who are running the education reform machine sit by mostly untouched.

In fact, that is what the minority in power thrive on—divide and conquer.

Part of my advocacy includes making a case for the importance of workers so I often ask people to consider if all service workers in the U.S. (mostly poorly paid and many part-time without benefits including the horribly under-paid wait staff) simply did not work tomorrow, how would that compare in impact to if all the CEOs did not go to work tomorrow?

And how does that impact expose real value to society versus how we compensate work in the U.S.?

One wait staff compared to one billionaire is a tale of supreme inequity.

Without solidarity, without a moral grounding among those who still may disagree, each of us is ripe for the sort of resignation that happens in isolation and powerlessness.

Each time I post on Common Core and the views increase and then I post on race and the views drop, I contemplate simply walking away from trying to make a difference.

The reason I have shifted from traditional scholarship and toward public work stems from the echo chamber that is scholarship where, to paraphrase Ohanian, everybody publishes, but nobody reads.

Social justice and educational equity are, simply put, the defining goals of a free people, and it seems these are the anchors for a solidarity that could bring about change.

Partisan politics, the cult of personality, building a brand, blogging and not reading/talking but not listening—these, however, are the antidotes to solidarity, and the fuel of the status quo of inequity that poisons our society and our schools.

Without solidarity, each of us is destined to resignation, failing to hold hands and realize our collective power against the few who can afford simply to wait us out.

We are a people, I fear, tragically trapped in individual ownership and competition, denying the essential communal nature of being fully human.

Dedicating the self to the public good is the ultimate act of selfishness. Solidarity is not, then, self-sacrifice, but self-preservation.

We have passion (Ohanian’s “rage”) and we have explanations, but we are doomed by a poverty of solidarity in our pursuit of social and educational equity.

CFM: Unheard Learners: Children and Youth Experiences in Neoliberal Schools

Unheard Learners: Children and Youth Experiences in Neoliberal Schools

Call for Manuscripts

The Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies 
Special Issue: December 2015

Guest Editors: Debbie Sonu, Hunter College, City University of New York & Julie Gorlewski, State University of New York at New Paltz

Chief and Managing Editor: Professor Dave Hill, Research Professor of Education at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, England

The Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies (JCEPS) and guest editors Debbie Sonu and Julie Gorlewski are seeking manuscripts for a special issue that is scheduled for publication in December 2015.

This special issue, entitled “Unheard Learners: Children and Youth Experiences in Neoliberal Schools,” aims to feature the work of established and emerging scholars from a variety of disciplines who explore school reform and schooling experiences from the standpoint of children and youth in public and private K-12 institutions from any socio-economic, cultural, or geographic location within the United States.

We invite research articles that draw from empirical work, as well as conceptual or theoretical papers that use in some form the direct perspectives of children and youth as learners in the current context of neoliberal school cultures, including but not limited to issues of testing, discipline, relationships, authority, states of being, curriculum, and pedagogy. Contributors may take up a wide range of theoretical frameworks, including feminist, Marxist, postcolonial, poststructural, psychoanalytic, critical, and historical lenses to present divergent perspectives that link children and youth with the urgent and immediate changes that are impacting schools today.

Full manuscripts of 6000-8000 words are expected for submission.


Submission Deadline: October 1, 2015

Notification by October 15

Reviews returned by October 15

Final Revisions due November 1

Publication date December 7

All submissions must strictly adhere to JCEPS style guidelines: Manuscripts must have a title, name of author(s), university/institutional affiliation including city, state (if USA), country, abstract (150 words), key words (5-7), main document, references, and at the end of the manuscript, author/writer details, and correspondence information.

All inquiries can be made to either or