Reading Urban Fiction with Students
This chapter details the author attempted an activist intervention during the summer following her first year of teacher-research at College Preparatory Academy. It explores the author’s ideas for humanizing pedagogy in resistance to the school’s participation in a troubling political spectacle. Drawing on Paulo Freire’s methods (1970), the author held a weekly “cultural circle” book club that met outside of the school with four former students, all young women who identify as African American. Students chose reading materials in the cultural circles (all urban fiction books) and chose to critically read the texts by looking at how race, gender, and power operated in the books. Students found the cultural circles to be an engaging experience, but were wary of a model of teaching and learning that was outside of school-sanctioned models of success —ostensibly color-blind meritocracy and upward mobility. This has important implications for teachers and researchers who attempt to find the contemporary relevance of critical pedagogy in an era of standards, accountability, privatization, and corporatization of schools.
Keywords: teacher-research, activist intervention, humanizing pedagogy, resistance, political spectacle, book club, cultural circles, color-blind meritocracy, upward mobility, corporatization of schools
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