Confronting and Rejecting Jargon and Practices Reinforcing Racism/Classism in Education

‘…”Grit,” “growth mindset,” and “rigor”—to name a few—are veneer, marketable veneer, for the truth about what students succeed/excel and what students struggle/fail. These terms force all the attention of educators and education on the student, creating in those students who struggle and fail (and the teachers who teach them, the schools who serve them) a deficit identity—they lack rigor, they lack a growth mindset, they aren’t being exposed to rigorous curriculum or expectations. In short, these terms and practices are about fixing broken children…’

dr. p.l. (paul) thomas

Doreen Massey recounts her experience with a “customer liaison” at an art exhibition, leading her to note:

This is a crucial part of the way that neoliberalism has become part of our commonsense understanding of life. The vocabulary we use to talk about the economy is in fact a political construction, as Stuart Hall, Michael Rustin and I have argued in our Soundings manifesto.

In other words, the words we use reflect and reinforce the dominant ideologies of a society, a culture, an organization, or a field.

What is troubling about the power of the language we use—often unconsciously and uncritically—is that we are in a constant state of maintaining the status quo, including bigotry and inequity.

If we shift our attention to formal education, what would you consider the primary differences between struggling or failing students (mostly poor and black or brown) and successful or excelling students (mostly…

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