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Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

From AERA’s Too-Good-to-be-True File

By Rick Hess — March 15, 2011 2 min read
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Imagine my glee upon learning about the American Education Research Association’s Critical Educators for Social Justice (CESJ) graduate student forum on “Responding to the Moment.” Scheduled for April 8, just before the annual AERA conference, the forum is for educators eager to “advocate for and benefit those hurt by devastating policies and natural disasters as well as to interrupt the ‘common sense’ narratives around these issues found in the mainstream media.”

What is CESJ, you ask? Well, its members are “committed to teach, promote, and implement the principles of critical pedagogy in order to establish an educational movement grounded in the struggle for social and economic justice, human rights and economic democracy...[and] to cultural, linguistic, political, and economic self-determination within our classrooms, schools, and communities.” Excited yet?

I’m not exactly sure what all this means, but it does sound riveting. I can picture the big-screen possibilities already. There’s “Volanic Learning,” featuring Dr. Cee Lo Hopskill, the crusading education statistician who scales active volcanoes to bring quantitative analysis where it’s needed most. There’s “Dr. Quinn, Educator,” featuring Dr. Kimberly Quinn, the edgy anthropologist who helps flood victims deconstruct their pedagogical assumptions, all while combating giant snakes and patriarchal norms. And there’s “Stop Broadcasting the News,” featuring Dr. Susie Rand-Wilkes, the crusading poststructuralist who interrupts conventional media narratives around devastating policies (though just what that entails is still a bit fuzzy).

Crucially, the CESJ forum will “provide a space” for those engaged in social justice or participatory action research to gather and learn from one another. To that, I say, “Thank heavens!,” given how tough it is for such scholars to find like-minded peers at AERA or opportunities to consider “the privatization of education in post-Katrina New Orleans, evidence shedding light on unsafe school environments for many LGBTQ youth, and research challenging legislation dictating the educational policies related to undocumented children.”

You might ask, what are the big edu-questions CESJ will be tackling? Helpfully enough, the invite lists them. They include: “How can our research advocate for people who are struggling or suffering? How can our work interrupt mainstream narratives about schools to open up space for critical education? How do we define our role as scholars in relation to our role as activists and advocates?”

And, of course, the biggest metaphysical question of all: “What are strategies for translating our work into ways to earn tenure and secure grant money?”

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.