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We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of…

by Bettina Love

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12515174,704 (4.31)2
A path to educational justice for all students - one that encourages teachers, parents, and their communities to adopt the rebellious spirit and bold and creative methods of abolitionists Educator Bettina Love argues that the U.S educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education which she calls the Education Survival Complex. To dismantle the educational survival complex and to achieve educational freedom--not reform--educators, parents, and community leaders must approach education through the imagination, determination, boldness and urgency of an abolitionist. Drawing on her experiences as a student and teacher, Love highlights young community leaders, artists and activists who are advocating for social change and inclusion. She persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She concludes by showing how young leaders are expanding our ideas of civic engagement and intersectional justice by using the playbook of abolitionists like Ella Barker, Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer.… (more)
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"An educator and activist issues an urgent call for a pedagogy meant “to eradicate injustice in and outside of schools.”

Love (Educational Theory and Practice/Univ. of Georgia) opens with the premise that education “is an industry that is driven and financially backed by the realities that dark children and their families just survive.” According to the author, well-meaning volunteers for Teach for America, who spend two years in the inner city, are nothing more than “educational parasites [who] need dark children to be underserved and failing, which supports their feel-good, quick-fix, gimmicky narrative”; slogans and rubrics such as “best practices,” “grit,” and “No Excuses” are instruments of white supremacy; teachers who claim to “love all children” are often “deeply entrenched in racism, transphobia, classism, rigid ideas of gender, and Islamophobia”; and people who claim that they do not see color, “denying their students’ racial experiences, cultural heritage, and ways of resistance,” are ipso facto racist. And those are the allies; as for the enemies, well, the language is no less unsparing. Although the argument is sometimes overly strident, Love depicts incontestable realities: Public schools, particularly in poor areas and with students of color, seem designed to fail; strategies such as teaching to the test and the Common Core do little to actually teach anyone anything; and the central lesson of what passes for civic education, as the author writes, is “comply, comply, comply.” Against this she proposes a pedagogy of abolitionism—i.e., one that, among other things, fights for social justice, challenges systematic oppression, battles supremacist assumptions, and accounts for the experiences of the marginalized: “Our schools and our teaching practices…need to be torn down and replaced with our freedom dreams rooted in participatory democracy and intersectional justice.”

A useful rejoinder, half a century on, to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed; controversial but deserving of a broad audience among teachers and educational policymakers." www.kirkusreviews.com
  CDJLibrary | Sep 2, 2021 |
her language here is really blunt and direct and i appreciate that. some parts seemed a little too didactic, and i definitely found some parts (especially the beginning) tough and slow to get through. but there is a lot of important information here, and just the idea of reconsidering how badly we botched school integration was reason enough for me to read this book.

i can't believe i never thought of or about alternatives to the way they integrated the schools that would have benefited equality and people of color immensely. this section of the book blew my mind: "Legal scholar Derrick Bell argued that Black folk would have been better served if the court had ruled differently in Brown v. Board of Education and enforced the 'equal' part of 'separate but equal.' W.E.B. Du Bois made a similar argument in 1935; he proclaimed, 'Negro children needed neither segregated schools nor mixed schools. What they need is education.'"

"...racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, classism, mass incarceration, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are protected systems that will not be dismantled because we ask; they will be dismantled because we fight, demanding what they said was impossible, remembering through the words of Angela Y. Davis that 'freedom is a constant struggle.'"

"The fact that dark people are tasked with the work of dismantling these centuries-old oppressions is a continuation of racism."

"I ask my students every year to guess the percentage of Black people in the US population. ...Guesses range from 20 to 40 percent. In reality, Black folk make up just less than 14 percent of the US population. So, if you have limited interactions with Black folk, how can you think there are so many of us? Again, Black folk are highly visible and invisible at the same time. The sad truth is that White people can spend their entire lives ignoring, dismissing, and forgetting dark peoples' existence and still be successful in life. The latter is not the same for us."

"Whiteness is also a culture; it was created by the educational, social, economic, spiritual , and political conditions that intentionally and methodically give power to racism."

"'Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as White infants - a racist disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most Black women were considered chattel.'" ( )
1 vote overlycriticalelisa | Jul 2, 2021 |
An Excellent, excellent book! ( )
  ricelaker | Oct 11, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Love begins by asserting that people of color want to matter. She decries the current educational system, which focuses on helping white kids learn and prosper, but on helping kids of color survive their school years (and often end up in the penal system). She calls for the institution of abolitionist teaching, which focuses instead on creating just, positive outcomes for all kids, and teaching them to dream of and work toward freedom.
The book is somewhat repetitive, but effective in hammering home Love's key message: tweaking the current system is not enough. She presents an interesting and well-thought-out alternative and makes a persuasive case for pursuing it. ( )
  Jim53 | Apr 1, 2020 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina L. Love is a provocative read challenging educators and those in charge of educational systems to do better by African American students and other students of color. Love uses both statistics and personal experiences from her time in the classroom to illustrate the disparities that African American students in the American public school system face. While persuasive, not everyone will be ready for Love's work. She pulls no punches when describing the problems in the educational system and the sources of those problems. This may not be the book for those who have no previous exposure to the systemic issues our country faces. But for those willing to have their eyes opened to something they may not have experienced themselves, this is an informative and challenging read. ( )
  semperfi121 | Feb 6, 2020 |
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A path to educational justice for all students - one that encourages teachers, parents, and their communities to adopt the rebellious spirit and bold and creative methods of abolitionists Educator Bettina Love argues that the U.S educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education which she calls the Education Survival Complex. To dismantle the educational survival complex and to achieve educational freedom--not reform--educators, parents, and community leaders must approach education through the imagination, determination, boldness and urgency of an abolitionist. Drawing on her experiences as a student and teacher, Love highlights young community leaders, artists and activists who are advocating for social change and inclusion. She persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She concludes by showing how young leaders are expanding our ideas of civic engagement and intersectional justice by using the playbook of abolitionists like Ella Barker, Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer.

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