Table of Contents

    Cover Story
  • Free Editorial: Defending Immigrant Students — in the Streets and in Our Classrooms

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    It has always been an educator’s responsibility to act in solidarity with vulnerable students. But with President Donald Trump’s September declaration that he will end DACA, we are called on to be more audacious, more resolute, and more imaginative in our solidarity with the 800,000 undocumented young people who now face a frightening uncertainty about their future in the United States.

  • Free Rethinking Islamophobia

    A Muslim educator and curriculum developer questions whether religious literacy is an effective antidote to combat bigotries rooted in American history

    By Alison Kysia

    The increasing violence against Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians, and others targeted as Muslim, suggests we, as Americans, are becoming less tolerant and need educational interventions that move beyond post-9/11 teaching strategies that emphasize our peacefulness or oversimplify our histories, beliefs, and rituals in ways that often lead to further stereotyping.

  • Inclusivity is Not a Guessing Game

    By Chelsea Vaught

    An elementary teacher tells how she works to include her Muslim students in the life of her classroom. "We can use or create curriculum and projects that allow students to learn about and incorporate their culture and religious practices if they want to. We can be deliberate in including, making space for, and recognizing our students in all aspects of their identities. Making schools inclusive doesn’t have to be a guessing game."

  • Features
  • Free Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution

    By Adam Sanchez

    Teaching the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee helps students see the Civil Rights Movement as being fueled by thousands of young people like themselves instead of a few charismatic leaders. "Without the history of SNCC at their disposal, students think of the Civil Rights Movement as one that was dominated by charismatic leaders and not one that involved thousands of young people like themselves. Learning the history of how young students risked their lives to build a multigenerational movement against racism and for political and economic power allows students to draw new conclusions about the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and how to apply them to today."

  • Free Elementary Student T-Shirt Workers Go on Strike

    By Michael Koopman

    An elementary school teacher uses his students’ T-shirts to launch a lesson about child labor, basic economics, factories, unions, and strikes. "When I was a child, I remember 'playing pretend' with my cousins. We could be anyone we imagined, and in that moment, we were those people. Why not use that energy and imagination as a resource? When we use our imagination to walk in another’s shoes, that’s where real learning begins."

  • Free It's Imperialism.

    How the textbooks get the Cold War wrong

    By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca

    A high school teacher critiques the textbook treatment of the Cold War and U.S. imperialism. She describes her approach to the “curricular conundrum” that the Cold War presents because it lasted so long, and was so far-flung. ""If we are ever to create a different world, one in which the United States does not cast an outsized and militarized shadow across the globe, we need our students to understand how and why that shadow was created in the first place."

  • Jailing Our Minds

    By Abbie Cohen

    An education researcher explores “no-excuses” discipline policies and the rate of out-of-school suspensions at charter schools in Denver and around the nation. "Democracy is healthiest when our educational institutions reflect our best virtues — creativity, joy, and growth. We must strengthen our oversight over no-excuses charter schools, thereby ensuring that no child in that city — or our country — is subjected to policies that could have been culled from one of Denver’s neighboring prisons."

  • Fourteen Days SBAC Took Away

    By Moé Yonamine

    A teacher wrestles with her frustrations with having to administer a standardized test that she wouldn’t even allow her own daughter to take. "Fourteen days I enforced SBAC testing to be the priority of our classroom learning — or rather, our classroom “unlearning.” Fourteen days SBAC took away."

  • What About the Students Who Are Not Labeled as "Gifted"?

    By Kipp Dawson

    A middle school English teacher calls for an end to separating students into groups of “gifted” and “not gifted” and argues that labeling students damages them — and us. "We are going down too many roads that push too many of our children aside, reinforcing the worst of our society’s racist and classist limitations. Let us push back hard."

  • Resources
  • Free Our Winter 2017 Picks for Books, Videos, Websites, and Other Social Justice Education Resources

    By Bill Bigelow, Deborah Menkart, Adam Sanchez, Ursula Wolfe-Rocca
  • Departments Free
    Ed Alert
  • “This Is Not Happening Without a Fight”

    Puerto Rico’s teachers battle privatization after Hurricane Maria

    By Ari Bloomekatz
  • Education Action
  • Student Athletes Kneel to Level the Playing Field

    By Jesse Hagopian

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Jailing Our Minds

Jailing Our Minds

Hanna Barczyk (

A crowd of students milled about aimlessly — the doors were locked. Hoods on, shoulders slumped, huddled together to avoid the cold morning wind. They exchanged looks and morning yawns. Every face was Black or Brown. Suddenly, a loud buzz. The doors unlocked. Bodies filed in one by one, feet barely lifting off the cement. At the first set of doors, a petite white woman greeted each person. She stuck out her hand, expecting a firm handshake and eye contact. If anyone did not meet her standards, she sent them to the back of the line to try again.

After passing through the first checkpoint, the students silently climbed a staircase and stripped off their winter clothes. The rules were clear: all jackets, hats, and gloves had to be removed. Everyone had to be in uniform. If anyone failed to complete that task, they were taken into a side room to finish the job.

At the top of the stairs stood another white woman. Everyone also had to give her a firm handshake with satisfactory eye contact. In addition, she offered every person the command: “belt.” On cue, each individual raised their shirt to prove that they were, in fact, wearing a belt. If the woman surmised that someone lifted their shirt in a sassy manner or demonstrated “attitude,” she directed them into a side room. If a person messed up their uniform in the process of revealing their belt, they too were ushered into the side room to re-tuck their shirt and redo the presentation.

Finally, the group entered a large open area. They sat silently in rows, fidgeting uncomfortably. Many of their bodies were too big for the small space mandated for them. As they awaited instructions, there were two options: read silently or stare off into space. There was no noise. No chatter. No laughter. No fun.

After 10 minutes, another white woman emerged. She dismissed each row individually. The silence remained. If a person made a sound or stood up too soon, the woman ordered the entire row to sit back down and try again. The task had to be performed to her exact specifications. As the room gradually emptied, the bodies trudged off in a variety of directions for other checkpoints.

It felt like some sort of prison. At best, it resembled some kind of Dickensian factory, ruled with an iron — and white — fist. In reality, this is the daily routine at STRIVE Prep-Green Valley Ranch, a Denver public charter school that in 2016–17 housed some 120 6th graders, 120 7th graders, and 120 8th graders.

These children are not inmates, they are middle schoolers.

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