Whose School Is It?

Whose School Is It?

RHODA H. HALPERIN
Copyright Date: 2006
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/709348
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  • Book Info
    Whose School Is It?
    Book Description:

    Whose School Is It?: Women, Children, Memory, and Practice in the Cityis a success story with roadblocks, crashes, and detours. Rhoda Halperin uses feminist theorist and activist Gloria Anzaldúa's ideas about borderlands created by colliding cultures to deconstruct the creation and advancement of a public community charter school in a diverse, long-lived urban neighborhood on the Ohio River. Class, race, and gender mix with age, local knowledge, and place authenticity to create a page-turning story of grit, humor, and sheer stubbornness. The school has grown and flourished in the face of daunting market forces, class discrimination, and an increasingly unfavorable national climate for charter schools. Borderlands are tense spaces. The school is a microcosm of the global city.

    Many theoretical strands converge in this book-feminist theory, ideas about globalization, class analysis, and accessible narrative writing-to present some new approaches in urban anthropology. The book is multi-voiced and nuanced in ways that provide authenticity and texture to the real circumstances of urban lives. At the same time, identities are threatened as community practices clash with rules and regulations imposed by outsiders.

    Since it is based on fifteen years of ethnographic fieldwork in the community and the city,Whose School Is It?brings unique long-term perspectives on continuities and disjunctures in cities. Halperin's work as researcher and advocate also provides insider perspectives that are rare in the literature of urban anthropology.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79643-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. MAPS
    (pp. x-xvi)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)
  5. PROLOGUE
    (pp. 1-14)

    “It will give us a chance to get back to what the neighborhood used to be.”

    These were the words of Robbie, a fifty-five-year-old founding mother of this urban public charter school and grandmother of this working-class community, as she scraped and painted and moved furniture for the opening day in September 2000. School opened on the day after Labor Day, to be exact, the traditional day that school starts in the East End. Finally Robbie was back in Highlands School, a Cincinnati public school building where Athena, Robbie, and her sister and brother and cousins had gone. Her father...

  6. PART ONE CREATION: Writing Urban Memory
    • ONE LITERACY, SCHOOL, AND IDENTITY IN AN URBAN, WORKING-CLASS COMMUNITY
      (pp. 17-24)

      In his much acclaimed bookIn Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, Philippe Bourgois describes handing aNew York Postarticle to a charismatic man he calls Ray, the “main man” directing a large retail network for crack distribution in the Upper West Side of New York. The article featured a picture of Bourgois next to celebrity Phil Donahue after a television special on crime in East Harlem. Bourgois admits to basking in his increasingly close and privileged relationship with Ray, who had just made a point of buying this young white anthropologist a special Heineken beer (fifteen...

    • TWO FOUNDING MOTHERS AND THE CREATION OF THE CHARTER
      (pp. 25-46)

      Women all, a diverse and multicultural team of community leaders, professors, and activists, we were about ten in number, plus or minus a few, depending on who was counting and when the counting occurred. We shared a common vision and we worked collaboratively to bring back, in reinvented form, a community school in a sacred old school building that had come to symbolize education in the East End. Ours was not a conventional or ordinary team, but a team that life’s experiences had taught to struggle, to persist, to never give up, but to give whatever it takes and to...

    • THREE THE POLITICS OF THE CHARTER AND THE POLITICS OF SPACE
      (pp. 47-55)

      In this chapter I discuss two essential steps toward opening the East End Community Heritage School: convincing the Cincinnati Public School board to approve our charter, and obtaining permission from CPS to lease the building. Both of these steps took much longer than anyone anticipated. Everything was delayed, in part because bureaucracy moves slowly, but also because understanding the concept of a school built on community practices was new for many school board members. The fact that unions oppose charter schools did not help. CPS administrators—the superintendent and the assistant superintendents, and the charter school manager—were all extremely...

    • FOUR HIRING STAFF Teachers, Kin, and an Instructional Leader
      (pp. 56-66)

      The time we spent struggling to lease the building prevented the founding mothers from attending to many other important issues, including the renovation of the space, the design of curriculum, orienting parents and staff to the mission, vision, and structure of the school, and orienting teachers to the community. This last proved to be an extremely serious omission. We had planned to run a three-week “teacher institute,” during which the school’s teachers would be instructed by community leaders in the nature of community practices, traditions, and salient memories. Reversing the roles of credentialed and uncredentialed people would set the tone...

  7. PART TWO DETERRITORIALIZATION
    • FIVE OPENING THE SCHOOL Whose School Is It?
      (pp. 69-73)

      “It’s not fun anymore,” Robbie told me sometime in mid-July 2000, before the opening of school. “We are low on the totem pole and nobody listens to us anymore.” As soon as we had obtained permission to lease the building in the late spring of 2000, community leaders began to talk about losing control over space, decision making, and a series of other issues, including salaries, benefits, teacher competency, discipline, schedules, transportation, and a myriad of details that the founding mothers did not anticipate in the school planning process.

      Somehow, the reality of the school, especially getting the key and...

    • SIX KIDS IN THE URBAN BORDERLAND A Collage
      (pp. 74-96)

      In the arts, a collage is created by an artist who juxtaposes different images, textures, and colors for the purposes of a larger whole. I use the collage as a metaphor here to emphasize the creativity of children and to portray the many different expressions of kids’ urban experience. Some of the pieces in this chapter are descriptions of kids as agents who navigate, interpret, and negotiate school in their own ways. Other pieces are stories written to convey the lives of children confronted with complexities and contradictions beyond their years. Their sense of agency shapes the school and creates...

    • SEVEN CLASHING PHILOSOPHIES, CLASHING PRACTICES Follow the Leader versus Ring around the Rosie
      (pp. 97-108)

      Just after school opened in September 2000, the principal said to me, “I assigned a high-schooler her community service today, to go and work with the younger children in the primary as punishment.”

      “Punishment?” I asked with some disbelief.

      “Yes, you know, community service.”

      “But one of the key features of the school is to have older kids work with younger ones on a regular basis, just as people of different generations teach one another informally in the community.”

      “Oh.”

      I knew then that we were trying to do too much too soon, that perhaps we had opened EECHS prematurely,...

    • EIGHT ACADEMIC BORDERLANDS MICROgirls, a Math Club for Girls
      (pp. 109-119)
      STEPHANIE JONES

      In the first year of EECHS, Stephanie Jones originated MICROgirls, a math club for girls. MICROgirls was a unique entity in the school during its first year—unique because of its philosophy, its procedures, and its outcomes. This chapter explores various aspects of the girls’ math club (creating a name, topics of conversation and math connections, and impact on classroom achievement) that demonstrate the potential power of borderlands. The reasons MICROgirls formed part of an academic borderland when it should have been the dominant model for teaching and learning in the school tell us a great deal about the key...

    • NINE MOMENTS Collaboration and Consensus in the Borderland
      (pp. 120-126)

      Thursday, September 13, 2001. It has been two days since the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City and the attack upon the Pentagon in Washington. Today bomb threats caused the evacuation of the Capitol and the closing, after brief reopenings, of all three of the New York City airports. There were ninety bomb threats in New York City alone; none turned out to be real. While the horrific incidents of 9/11 and its aftermath dwarf the bomb threat that occurred at our school last January, my notes about the incident take on new meaning in light...

  8. PART THREE RETERRITORIALIZATION
    • TEN NEGOTIATING THE BORDERLAND
      (pp. 129-145)

      Conflict in the community school borderland had escalated to the point where some negotiations had to be carried out. Dropout rates have always been extraordinarily high; eighth grade is a common stopping point. But the turnover rate for kids in our school was quickly becoming dramatic. In EECHS’s second year, only 50–60 percent of students returned, and attendance rates in the high school were still very unstable. For many people in working-class communities, schools represent and cater to middle-and upper-class interests and generally ensure that working-class kids get working-class jobs.¹ At EECHS, where the principal supported middle-class practices, especially...

    • ELEVEN DETERRITORIALIZATION, CRISIS MANAGEMENT, AND THE BEGINNINGS OF RETERRITORIALIZATION
      (pp. 146-163)
      LIONEL BROWN and ROBERTA LEE

      The month of June seems to invite crises. In June 2001, conflict between different elements in the school resulted in the dismantling and subsequent exit of the entire high-school team. Clashes in educational philosophy, practices, and control of the school were all issues. East Enders sided with the principal and against the high-school teachers, even though they knew that some fine educational talent would be sacrificed.

      In June 2002, tensions again are running high. This time, though, the tensions are between the East Enders employed in the school and the principal—more specifically, the principal and her clique, which includes...

    • TWELVE BORDERLANDS, FACTIONS, AND INVERTED IMAGINED COMMUNITIES
      (pp. 164-169)

      Two meetings: first a finance committee meeting, then a wellness/case manager meeting. The members of the finance committee debate the decision to give up the school’s leased office space in the Pendleton Heritage Center (PHC). Robbie and I have both worked for ten years on the Pendleton project and feel that supporting it is an important symbolic as well as financial gesture. East Enders know of the many attempts of outsiders to divide and conquer the community; they know that sticking together is important. It is unclear how the decision to abandon the Pendleton space was made in the first...

    • THIRTEEN TAKING BACK THE SCHOOL
      (pp. 170-174)

      Christmas break 2002, year three of the school. Working with Karley is becoming increasingly difficult. Indeed, it is becoming intolerable. Her inconsistent behavior, inability to follow through on any project, and, most importantly, lack of respect for the community and its leaders employed in the school have caused Evylyn, Athena, and Robbie to announce to a small group of board members that unless some quick and substantial changes are made in school structure and decision making they, the triumvirate of community leadership known as the EECHS administrative staff, will resign. Their threatened resignation is indeed a crisis of major proportions,...

    • FOURTEEN TRANSFORMING AND CYCLING BORDERLANDS OF COMMUNITY, CULTURE, AND CLASS
      (pp. 175-190)
      HOLLY WINWOOD, JANICE GLASPIE and LIONEL BROWN

      “It is at the level of the individual life that the cultural effects of social inequality are most apparent.”¹ As Simon During so clearly points out, cultural studies, as the engaged study of contemporary culture, is influential for all of our work in the East End and in urban anthropology generally. Cultural studies examines working-class culture and the ways in which everyday culture affects individual lives. In many ways, cultural studies is the study of subjugated, “local,” knowledges. It is counter-hegemonic.²

      Seeing Manhattan from the 110th floor of the World Trade Center. Beneath the haze stirred up by the winds,...

  9. EPILOGUE Reinventing Urban Memory
    (pp. 191-202)

    Memories create borderlands—images of how things always were, both positive and negative. Positive images of how things were become ideals about how things should be, ideals, for example, about a peaceful and ordered school where teachers and parents know and trust one another because the teachers have taught most of the parents, and, in some instances, the grandparents. Such ideals can clash with the realities of the present, in which a diverse group of insiders and outsiders have been placed in a single old and familiar building and asked to work together. Ideals can also clash with externally imposed...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 203-208)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 209-212)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 213-217)