research video

edlab, at teachers college, produced a short video about some research i have been pursuing at an alternative to incarceration program (atip) for the past several years. they did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of this wonderful program!


essays on globalization, education, and citizenship

Teachers College Record, Volume 113, Number 10, 2011

Featured Articles
by David Hansen
This essay is an introduction to a special issue that emerges from a year-long faculty seminar at Teachers College, Columbia University, the purpose of which has been to examine in fresh terms the nexus of globalization, education, and citizenship.

by Lalitha Vasudevan
At a time when there is increased hybridity in local and global citizenship, language and literacy practices, and performances of cultural identity and affiliation, narrowing of our ways of knowing can detrimentally impact how educators and scholars engage in intellectual inquiry and educational practice. This essay uses the mode of questioning to create a dialogue about the discursive, rhetorical, and even physical postures that educators and scholars might embrace when re-imagining everyday practices of teaching, learning, and research to be open to unexpected trajectories.

by Graeme Sullivan
Although the profile of what it is to be an educated citizen needs to be cast across international divides the learning impulse originates with an individual and is further seen and felt throughout the community. If there is a failure to appreciate how all types of learners in all kinds of settings make sense of their education we are all impoverished. Consequently, if communities are unable to understand what it is that those individuals within it “make” as they contribute the collective good then the community itself has ceased to be a learning culture.

by Regina Cortina
With globalization—a term that signifies the ever-increasing interconnectedness of markets, communications and human migration—social and economic divides in countries around the world are hindering the access of many people to the major institutions of society, including and especially education. My goal in this essay is to reflect on the dilemma that John Dewey identified in Democracy and Education regarding the "full social ends of education" and the agency of the nation-sate.

by Molly Quinn
While eschewing definitive findings, conclusions, or recommendations—rather hoping to cultivate new questions, experiences, and stories of our times, and summon us to renewed responsibility, the author undertakes an experiment in reconceiving the ‘3 R’s at the rendezvous of education, citizenship, and globalization: on, and as, natality in our roots, routes and relations.

by William Gaudelli
The aim of the essay centers on a question: What can we see beyond seeing? This essay considers the typical ways in which we see the world in the a-typical settings of travel. I consider how this type of seeing, when the very purpose of the excursion is to see, often positions the seer to do so as a spectator, consumer or flattener of others.

by Olga Hubard
The author's inquiry is driven by the following questions: How is our sense of self influenced by the place where we live? And what happens when our lives take place in two different homes, two cultures? She explores the guiding questions through the unique perspectives of three individuals whose lives straddle Mexico City and New York City. She shares these perspectives as much for the ideas they embody as for the ponderings they provoke. Thus, her reflections, often in the form of questions, are interwoven into the three accounts.

by Michelle Knight
The goal of this paper is to open up a dialogic space where educators can learn from and with transnational immigrant youth who are already participating in civic learning opportunities as local and global citizens in and beyond the sphere of schools.

by Maria Torres-Guzmán
This essay proposes that a fresh look at hybridity can render a rich concept for constructing resistance to conformity and uniformity, and for renewing a commitment to a multicultural, multilingual, egalitarian, ecologically-sound, and democratic world.


Seeking provocations and reclaiming the numbers game

"And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anaïs Nin

In she walked. Already I was braced. And was not disappointed. She unleashed her net of despair, insistent on the savior story; the bootstraps-blindside-redemption narrative.

I sat, with jaw clenched and teeth gnashed, interjecting occasionally when her questions led her to draw absurd conclusions from the responses. She already knew the story she wanted to tell: her questions felt like artifice.

But my anger and hurt/surprise at what seemed like a missed opportunity to tell a compelling story presented an opportunity for tremendous pride. I watched with a full heart as a young man of 20 years held his ground and conveyed his convictions with a resounding calm. I was reminded, by him and familiar and new graduate students, that I am truly part of a team of like-minded, earnest, creative others. The "risk to blossom" must be taken.

This woman, this reporter, presented a provocation -- a reminder that our work is about creating the spaces to cultivate and nurture forth the creative capacities of the youth with whom we work. I am naïve if I forget that the histories and institutional affiliations of "our" youth -- who are involved with the justice system - will be of great interest to distant others. But how might we communicate, effectively and passionately, that these are normal, everyday, engaged, playful, thoughtful young people who are not only so much more than their institutional labels, they often defy those labels entirely.

I was describing this year's project to a former student on the steps in between buildings this week. She noted that in her recent experience working for an academic research center, research like ours was not what was being funded or sought out by the funding agencies. They want numbers. So let's give them numbers:
- the frequency of smiles between youth and adults, participants and facilitators
- how long it takes someone to feel comfortable enough to offer a peer encouragement
- the average number of affirmations and to whom they are directed
- how often and how many genre risks a young person takes - in their composing, consuming, and distribution of texts
- how many, within a given educational space, feel a sense of belonging

And let us reclaim outcomes in the realm of participation - real participation and not merely the behaviors that have been sanctioned by "experts" -- and look for value added in how youth contribute to shaping the curriculum of the educational spaces in which they participate; of course, this assumes educators will allow them this invitation. Could we imagine outcomes that sought greater humaneness among members of a classroom community? Or the mere recognition that one is a member of a community...

Reclamation of the stuff that seems to attract and affirm the monetary risks funders are willing to take; actions that leverage the ideas that capture the broader social imagination by transforming it with tales of fantastical imaginaries -- this is the new frontier of socially conscious, morally committed, pedogically inspired research about the literate lives of adolescents.


literacy practices a generation apart

things i spend way too much time thinking about (that many of my youth participants and younger friends - or those who appear to be aging backwards - seem to be able to handle without much drama or trauma):

- subject line of an email
- title of playlists
- caption when posting a link to facebook
- the title of anything public, really - e.g., flickr album, picasa album, photo caption,

ok, i'll admit it - grooveshark playlists and plain ol' email subject lines give me agita with a chaser of huge insecurity complex.  how do others do it, i wonder?  this isn't just a split of 'natives' and 'immigrants' of the wonderful wide web; there's something uninhibited about young people's acts of making themselves public that astounds me... still.  a carefree-ness, a willingness to recognize and embrace the fleeting temporality of such literacy acts; acts and practices that, perhaps unintentionally, create a different sort of generational shift.  not necessarily chronologically generational, but perhaps demarcations according to when one joined the smartphone revolution?  the points along a timeline when one jumps on the social media bandwagon - a conscious decision for some; as natural as cool august weather in maine for others.


new issue of "perspectives on urban education"

a new issue of Perspectives on Urban Education is out! Volume 7, Issue 1 focuses on:
Schools, Communities, and Universities: Partnerships and Intersections

featuring an article by yours truly and fabulous co-authors: dan stageman, kristine rodriguez, eric fernandez, gabriel dattatreyan
check out our article here: Authoring New Narratives with Youth at the Intersection of the Arts and Justice



adolescent literacy - moving beyond rhetoric that maligns. a call for new starting points.

before i begin, the punchline: wanting adolescents to be proficient readers and writers of print-based texts is not wrong; the assumptions on which this desire is based, however, are steeped in deficit interpretations of the literacy practices in which adolescents are already engaged.  we need new starting points.


recently, a conference about content area literacy focused on adolescents was held at teachers college.  you can read more about the conference on the tc website here.  but the last paragraph is what caught my attention:
While the U.S. led the world for many years in educational attainment and job skills, “so many other countries are doing so much better now,” [Andres] Henriquez [of the Carnegie Corporation] said, including China and countries in Eastern Europe. And while the U.S. was the first to provide universal secondary education and also perennially led the world in educational attainment, it now ranks thirteenth in the latter category. National 8th-grade reading scores haven’t budged in decades. “If you were a doctor, you’d say, ‘this patient’s dead. There’s not a heartbeat.’ ”
so the literacies of adolescents effectively render the educational system a dead patient?  i worry about this rhetoric because in the spirit of seeking ways to support the print proficiency of adolescents, advocates of "adolescent literacy instruction" simultaneously malign the diverse literate landscapes of adolescents and frame adolescents as persistently in need of remediation.  this may not be their intention, but when adolescents are already under scrutiny for so many facets of their being such rhetoric only serves to place and keep adolescent identities and practices at a far remove from those ways of being that are institutionally sanctioned.

in this case, words matter because they help to constitute a reality that will travel across contexts and be parsed for sound bytes.  how does one reconcile this deficit starting point in light of the sheer abundance of research - in the areas of literacies, multimodality, communication, media studies, technology and education - that paints vastly different pictures.  the prevailing discourse of this conference, as reported in the article, was that adolescents need texts that better resonate with their lives and experiences.  but the mere inclusion of interest-related texts - read: print-based artifacts - along a variety of content categories and that reflect multiple realities is not enough.  let me emphasize that such a move is certainly significant as adolescents begin to connect with the texts of schools in new and meaningful ways.  but we cannot stop there because when we dismiss some practices of adolescents as "non-school" we effectively suppress the possibility of some adolescents' very relationship to formalized education.

our definitions and expectations of composing, communication, meaning, and interpretation must change, not merely to respond to calls for action from literacy researchers, but because educational institutions, such as schools, should be responsive to the practices of children and youth.  to simply include a wider array of texts still presupposed a print-centric set of beliefs about how one can acquire and represent information; to do so renders invisible other ways of knowing, even as a recently re-surfaced article from the chronicle of higher education lists "public support for other ways of knowing" as one of the five trends that will radically transform public education by 2015.  will the united states' penchant to wax nostalgic about the "good ol' days" be its undoing?

i recognize that to rethink practices of literacy assessment and pedagogy may challenge long held beliefs about literacy, language, schooling, and even education; perhaps it is time to not only talk about rethinking these practices, but to actually change them.  so, i note once again the punchline that started this post: wanting adolescents to be proficient readers and writers of print-based texts is not wrong; the assumptions on which this desire is based, however, are steeped in deficit interpretations of the literacy practices in which adolescents are already engaged.  we need new starting points.


fighting writer's block - bringing back the aesthetic

some time in graduate school, i purchased this book: The Writer's Block: 786 Ideas to Jump-Start Your Imagination.  the 2-d image to the left doesn't fully capture the block-like structure of this book.  it was a 3"x3"x3" cube - a block of ideas intended to jump start the creative juices.  when i was a kid, an adolescent, a youth, i was never at a loss of things to imagine or write.  my blocks always came in the form of how to take what was "up there" (pointing my to head) and get it to look right "over there" (gesturing to where a piece of paper might be on the table in front of me).  was this an easier issue to solve than the kid who is at a loss for what to imagine?  this, of course, is a false question because it presumes that there are some kids without a thought in their heads.  this simply isn't true.  take a minute to observe, without judgment about what isn't happening, what a kid in the park, subway, apple store, cafe, sidewalk... is really doing.  before kids are able to form words to communicate, we pay attention to how they are looking and taking in the world.  maxine greene, in her infinite wisdom, reminds us, "before we enter into the life of language, before we thematize and know, we have already begun to organize our lived experience perceptually and imaginatively."  i love this quote because it not only evokes freireian notions of reading the world before we read (or write) the word, but the significance of imagination is anchored to the origins of our being.  with elementary school ends the physical markers of school's acceptance of that embodied sort of imagination implied by greene: the rug to stretch out on; the author's chair to take on the mantle of author with an audience to share your stories with; recess, whether on the tarred surface or greener environs, that was a time to travel to distant lands, times, and assume absurd roles; picture books! enough said.  some middle and high schools provide access to these aesthetic spaces in the form of extracurricular activities (literary magazine, newspaper, yearbook, band, orchestra, theater, etc.).  but what about the schools that do not have the resources to provide these outlets?  and, perhaps more urgently, why is the aesthetic essence of writing and literacies not vital to the composing that is taught and expected "in school"? 

when i write now, as an adult, i am forever stimulated aurally (a set of goto music mixes), visually (why wifi is so important while writing), physically (hence, my persistent search for the perfect cafe context in which to compose, and the requisite eats and drinks to accompany this orchestration of words, ideas, and meanings); yet we establish stifling conditions in which kids, youth, adolescents must create their compositions.  if we really value their words - and in large part, i believe we (teachers, researchers, adults of all kinds) do - then could we find ways to create spaces that cultivate the imaginations that children bring with them to elementary schools and throughout their schooling lives?

amidst ongoing dialogue about digital literacies and online spaces it can be easy to forget the physical.  sometimes, that trunk of old dress up clothes and wigs has just the thing to dislodge our blocks and get us writing once again.


new issue of digital culture and education is out! "beyond new literacies"

New Issue online now! Volume 2, Issue 1 http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/

Special themed issue: Beyond ‘new’ literacies 
Edited by Dana J. Wilber

from Wilber's intro:
"Ten years ago the term “new literacies” was only used by those prescient researchers who perceived that new technologies were going to shape language and literacies, such as Lankshear and Knobel’s (1997) early work on literacies and texts in an electronic age. Others, such as the New London Group (1996) through their work on multiliteracies, were instrumental in evolving the idea of literacies shaped by technologies and contexts; setting the stage for new literacies to become the vibrant field it is today. While the field has grown over the past decade, the central concern of new literacies research remains the same; researchers scrutinize and analyze how the rapid development of new tools and technologies are shaping language and literacy practices. In this special themed issue of Digital Culture and Education (DCE), we begin a conversation that compliments how we think about conceptualizing, viewing and talking about “new” literacies."


media fun this spring and summer

film festival season has begun!  (did it ever really end?)  i'm proud to say that we - as in the social issue media festival team - were part of that kick off with our festival screening that took place on may 6th at teachers college.  we'll be making the films available online shortly - first, temporarily via itunes, and then more permanently when we launch our festival website in the fall.  so stay tuned for that!

a few more events coming up soon:

June 2nd: The World Premiere of the Tenth Annual Media That Matters Film Festival

June 3rd: MTM: Impact, a series of conversations - a workshop based on the Media That Matters Film Festival

June 10-24th: Human Rights Watch International Film Festival

Watch, share, act.


Screening: Media that Matters @ Maysles Cinema

Media That Matters
Immigrant Heritage Week 2010 Screening


Wednesday, April 21   7:30 - 10:00 pm
Maysles Cinema
343 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Ave
(Btwn 127th & 128th Streets)
Suggested Donation $10

Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Week 2010 with Media That Matters as we host an evening-long screening at Maysles Cinema on Wednesday, April 21 from 7:30 - 10:00 pm!  In partnership with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, Media That Matters will be showcasing films that focus on the immigrant experience, American identity and international communities.  The evening will also feature Arts Engine staff facilitating discussion with guest organizations--Safe Horizon, New York Youth Leadership Council, NYU Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, Caribbean One and African Services Committee--available for questions and conversation.

Here are just a few examples of the films on the evening's lineup:

Vision Test (Wes Kim)
Who would you feel most comfortable with as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company?  What begins as a routine eye exam turns into an examination of people’s subconscious attitudes towards race, gender and power.

Slip of the Tongue (Karen Lum & Youth Sounds Factory)
What's your ethnic makeup? A young man makes a pass at a beautiful stranger and gets an eye-opening schooling on race and gender.

Exiled in America (Angela Torres Camarena)
Five siblings struggle to support their American livelihoods after their mother is deported to Mexico.

Why Do White People Have Black Spots? (Anya Kandel & Momentus International)
Youth in Ghana pose questions to people outside of their borders and spark an ongoing dialogue through film.

The Next Wave (Jennifer Redfearn & Tim Metzger)
The Carteret islanders struggle to relocate as some of the world's first climate change refugees.

Please visit the Maysles Cinema website for a complete schedule and to RSVP for the night's events:  Maysles Cinema Calendar <http://www.mayslesinstitute.org/cinema/calendar.html>
Also, check out Arts Engine's Media That Matters website <http://www.mediathatmattersfest.org/>  for more information on our film collection, ways you can hold your own screening and how to take action on issues that matter!

We hope to see you there! 

Contact: Weisi Li  |  weisi@artsengine.net <mailto:weisi@artsengine.net>

Arts Engine, Inc. supports, produces, and distributes independent media of consequence and promotes the use of independent media by advocates, educators and the general public.


new book about adolescents and online literacies

Adolescents Online Literacies: Connecting Classrooms, Digital Media, & Popular Culture

New volume edited by Donna Alvermann

A compilation of new work that makes concrete connections between what the research literature portrays and what teachers, school librarians, and media specialists know to be the case in their own situations. The authors (educators and researchers who span three continents) focus on ways to incorporate and use the digital literacies that young people bring to school.



social issue media festival - call for entries


Join us for the first annual Social Issue Media Festival to be held at Teachers College, Columbia University. The festival is an opportunity for you to voice your opinions on a social issue of your choice.

So what's social issue media? For the purposes of this festival, we are referring to digital, multimedia artifacts (e.g., video, audio podcast, digital story) that call attention to a social issue with the intention of evoking social action.

So how do you participate? It's pretty simple:
-Open to anyone in the Columbia University community (Students, faculty, staff, & alumni)
-Entries must be submitted by Monday, March 22, 2010
-Entries are between 2-3 minutes in length
-Entries can be dropped at 322 Thompson Hall, Teachers College and/or links can be sent to TCMediaFestival@gmail.com

All entries are eligible for jury awards.

For entry form, guidelines, and more information, please visit us at tcmediafestival.wordpress.com or email us at TCMediaFestival@gmail.com. Please forward to anyone who might be interested! 

The TC Social Issue Media Festival Screening will be held on Thursday, May 6, 2010 from 4:30-6:30 pm in Milbank Chapel. A reception will follow in the Trustees Room, Zankel 125.

download flyer here

Multimodality and Learning Conference - 2010 - deadline extended!

Extended Deadline: March 12, 2010

Aim and scope
The overall aim of the conference is to explore multimodal perspectives on learning and to open up theoretical, methodological and pedagogical questions and debate.The conference will be of interest to educational practitioners, research students,researchers and academics from a variety of disciplines including semiotics, linguistics, sociology, anthropology and design.


On the meanings of writing and publication

"publication is the auction of the mind of man"

These words, penned by Emily Dickinson, sometimes keep me up at night.  Her words take me back to the reflexive musings of Deborah Appleman found in the chapter, "are you making me famous, or are you making me a fool?" Here, Appleman reflects on the ways in which she has represented the youth whose lives she has studied as part of her language and literacy research. She wonders about the weight of her representational actions; words that freeze in time the dynamic and shifting identities and lives of youth who, in many ways, have been the object of stultifying representations in the past.

What do we do when we "publish our research"? What does the act of publication mean for those of us who call ourselves researchers, whose identities are wrapped up in the business and art of storying the lives of others (and perhaps by proxy, ourselves)?  When we move from initial notations of our observations to narrative accounts of "what happened" or "who someone is"?  How might we compose with intentional fluidity and fluid intentionality?  Whose lives are auctioned when we publish? And with the possibility of collateral damage, what are the possibilities for...what? What do we gain when we publish? Do we distribute knowledge? Further reify or discursively disrupt?

During a recent seminar discussion with colleagues, while discussing texts - whose forms locate them on the margins of my daily readings, yet whose meanings are familiar - we considered the distinction between "writing as reporting" and "writing as enacted inquiry".  What vulnerabilities do we risk when we step aside from a 'disembodied voice of authority' to reveal our own discursive hesitations?  Is there an audience for writing that reveals rather than merely reports?  Writing that seeks to educate through invitation rather than obfuscation? 

Dickinson's words haunt me, but so, too, do they keep me alert - alert to the ways I put pen on paper, fingers on keyboard to produce words that claim to tell a story about the multi-storied lives of the young men and women who share their stories with me.  Where does that leave the ethnographer: as a storyteller?  Storymaker?  Storybreaker?  Are we making meaning?  Constructing knowledge(s)? Representing our ways of knowing?

Within the frame of publication, therefore, can we imagine or move toward publication that does not cause us to sell our souls?  (or to recall, with chagrin, the sins of our (publishing) infancy?)  What is it to publish, to make public, particularly from within the university? At times, it feels like a dance performed ever-so-delicately through norms and assumptions, skeptics and critics, our communities and naysayers, with the goal of remaining standing long enough to learn another step.  Do we risk paralysis in our writing when we focus on publication?


CFP: Visual Interpretations conference at MIT

humanities + digital conference 2010
"Visual Interpretations" - Aesthetics, Methods, and Critiques
Of Information Visualization in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
May 20-22, 2010 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology/HyperStudio


How do visual representations of complex data help humanities scholars ask new questions? How does visual rhetoric shape the way we relate to documents and artifacts? 

And, can we recompose the field of digital humanities to integrate more dynamic analytical methods into humanities research?

HyperStudio’s Visual Interpretations conference will bring digital practitioners and humanities scholars together with experts in art and design to consider the past, present, and future of visual epistemology in digital humanities. The goal is to get beyond the notion that information exists independently of visual presentation, and to rethink visualization as an integrated analytical method in humanities scholarship. By fostering dialogue and critical engagement, this conference aims to explore new ways to design data and metadata structures so that their visual embodiments function as "humanities tools in digital environments.” (Johanna Drucker)

We welcome submissions from practitioners and theorists of digital humanities as well as such connected disciplines as art, design, visual culture, museum studies, and computer science.

Topics include:
·       Expressive and artistic dimensions of visualizations
·       Subjectivity and objectivity in information visualization
·       Dynamic/multidimensional visualizations and user collaboration
·       Social media and contextualized visualization
·       Cultural history of visual epistemology
·       Limits and affordances of the translation from data to visualization
·       2D and 3D visualizations of historical/social/political data
·       Visualization across media and the archive
·       Digital visual literacy & accessibility
·       Relationships between database and interface
·       Alternative modes of data representation.

We are inviting submissions for the following conference formats:
·       Papers with 15 minutes of presentation and short discussions (12 slots)
·       Short presentations, so called “6/4s” with 6 minutes of presentation and 4 minutes of discussion (18 slots available)
·       Mini-Workshops, 30 minutes each (6 slots)
·       Demos and Posters (30 slots)

Deadline for submissions:  March 31, 2010
MIT HyperStudio for Digital Humanities (http://hyperstudio.mit.edu)
MIT Communications Forum (http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/)

For more information: http://hyperstudio.mit.edu/h-digital/ or contact: h.digital@mit.edu


time magazine explores the diversity of youth through image

photo book: american youth - A fascinating new collection of photographs explores the extraordinary world between college and adulthood. By the photographers of Redux


the wire - season 4. musings, part 1

 last fall, i began my journey through the critically acclaimed scripted television series, the wire.  and i approached it like a homework assignment given to me by nearly everyone who hears me talk about the work i've been engaged in for almost fifteen years - participatory research with  adolescents living in urban contexts, court-involved and not.  so, after a rocky start - the first 3 episodes of season 1 were a shock to the system, for reasons i'll post later - i finally arrived at season 4, commmonly referred to as "the education season" in which the series regulars continue their march against corruption, the drug wars, and the ongoing bevy of crime-related activities, while a group of middle school students is introduced in the summer before they return to school as eighth graders.

prior to delving into season 4, i quickly read the first in a series of commentaries written by sudhir venkatesh, a sociologist at columbia, as he watched season 5 with "real thugs" - i only skimmed the piece because i did not want to learn too much about the last season before completing the penultimate one.  but the ethos of the series - he wrote a commentary after each episode in season 5, viewed alongside men who he had come to know through his research, particularly focused on the underground economy of the drug trade - intrigued me.  what would  it mean to watch a popular television series depiction of how the systems of education and justice intersect a little too seamlessly in the lives of middle school youth?

i've seen the first episodes in the season, thus far.  having invested three seasons in the morality, motivations, and histories of the primary characters, i find myself reading the scenes much differently than if i had started watching with this season.  this seems obvious, but also important to note given how often we - the general public - are quick to make judgments - about tv characters, passers-by, acquaintances - without knowing much about them. 

and now a confession.  there is a scene in the first episode of season 4 where a group of about 6 adolescent boys, who are patiently trying to capture a white dove in order to sell it for a profit, accost a similarly aged boy who has made a noise and scared away the bird.  as i watched the boys hurl insults about the single boy's clothing, family life, lack of money, presumed lack of utilities like running water, heat... i had to turn away. my faucet-like tear ducts were in overdrive and i had to pause the dvd momentarily and decide whether i could go on.  certainly, this would not be the worst actions depicted in the season, nor in the series thus far.  yet, the cruelty of children - regardless of their physical maturation - was the aspect that hurt me (in not entirely unexpected ways) more than others.  i suspect this is, in part, due to the fact that i have also witnessed similar discursive moments in my work with young people, and it's the one thing - the words of hurt - that continue to mystify me the most...  but also in part because of the possibility and promise that a young face holds.

baldwin's words in "my dungeon shook..." ring loudly in my head. what are the contexts we are all born into, and how do those outside of our contexts read and interpret us based on assumptions about the contexts into which we were born?

in one scene from the third episode, a former police officer experiences his first days as a teacher.  he is teaching 8th grade math and struggles to be heard, occasionally receiving the help of one student, randy, who manages to make the situation work for him - grabbing a large stack of hall passes from the teacher's desk on the first day, and quietly exiting the classroom when one girl slices another's face, causing the teacher to panic and freeze, while another, more experienced teacher, walks in and tells one of the students to call 911.  the young woman, who caused her classmate to writhe in pain as the floor becomes saturated with her blood, sits scowling against the back wall with her knees clutched up near her chest.  the boy who was the object of the verbal insults in episode one - duquan, who is called dukey - slowly approaches her and sits down next to her.  he uses a personal fan, which he found on the ground on his walk to school on the first day, to literally cool her off.

there are so many potential opportunities to point fingers in this moment: at the girl who kept taunting her classmate until she snapped; the young woman who called on violence as a means of response; the other students who encourage antagonistic behavior in their peers; the teacher who didn't have enough awareness about what was happening in the class to intercede sooner; new, un-certified teachers, who are placed in large classes with little or no teaching experience because our urban schools are in desperate need of math and science teachers; large class sizes that are not conducive for effective learning (regardless of claims that "the studies don't bear out" effectiveness of small class size)...

with a change in administration, we are sadly seeing what is amounting to "more of the same" as programs like "race to the top" and measures of accountability only serve to reify the primacy of quantifiable, discrete, and isolated skills.  the communities of practice we see in the wire are intertwined, interdependent, situated, and contextual; tethered to local and global discourses, and yet like the kids on the screen, youth across the country continue to be reduced to statistics: % of students eligible for free and reduced lunch; # of dropouts and truants; reading grade levels; state assessment percentiles...

who is really benefiting from all of these "changes"?