Monthly Archives: March 2012

Critical Education: “Water is a Right: A Critique of Curricular Materials and Learning Experiences in Schools Sponsored by the Transnational Water Utility Service Industry”

Critical Education has just released a new issue, featuring the article “Water is a Right: A Critique of Curricular Materials and Learning Experiences in Schools Sponsored by the Transnational Water Utility Service Industry” by J. Hall.

Critical Education 3(3), 2012
Water is a Right: A Critique of Curricular Materials and Learning Experiences in Schools Sponsored by the Transnational Water Utility Service Industryd
J. Hall


There is no longer an infinite supply of fresh water on the planet. In large part, the global water crisis is a result of large-scale, destructive, industrial “innovations.” In just fifteen years, two-thirds of the people on the planet will feel the impact of the diminishment of safe drinking water. Given the global water crisis, the focus is this analysis is on the transnational water utility service industry as well as the larger shift from the notion of drinking water as a public right to a commodity to be privately owned and sold on the global marketplace. I discuss the very different ways these corporations are entering communities in the Southern compared to the Northern hemisphere, including attempts to re-brand their image after public failures. I then consider the particular strategies these conglomerates use to seep into cities and towns in the North. Emphasis is placed on how this sector of the water industry is becoming involved in schooling through sponsoring curricular materials and activities. I also provide initial analysis of the messages distributed in a sample of such materials and activities intended for K-12 students. While literature exists that explores curricular materials in schools provided by transnational corporations involved in direct control of natural resources, surprisingly, the privatization of the world’s fresh water supply receives little attention in both education-based scholarship and media.

Want to express your concern about the US federal government “leadership” in educational reform?

Check out the petition at

From the website:
“The future of public schools is in jeopardy. Private interests, aided by the Federal Government, are attempting to supplant local control and to transfer public funding to the hands of corporate interests. Public schools, locally controlled, are a cornerstone of our democracy. Relegating them to corporate-owned test prep factories places our nation at risk and steals our children’s future.”

The petition currently has 4300+ signatures.

Chicagoland researchers urge CPS to smarten up about using value added teacher evaluation

In an open letter to the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, and the Chicago School Board educational researchers in and around Chicago offer a suggestion for caution in implementing a plan to use student achievement test scores as a substantial part of the evaluation of teachers and principals. They urge the CPS to:
1. Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale.
2. Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal evaluation.

Vancouver School Trustees show support for teachers

VSB Trustees Chair Patti Bacchus sent this letter to Premier Christy Clark urging the repeal of Bill 22.

Ross delivers keynote at International Conference on Research in Teaching of Social Sciences in Barcelona

Last month, E. Wayne Ross, Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy and ICES member, gave the keynote address at the Ninth International Conference on Research in Teaching of Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain). Organized by GREDICS (Research Group on the Teaching of Social Sciences) this year’s conference theme was “The Formation of Social Thought and the Construction of Democracy in the Teaching of Social Science, Geography, and History.”

Ross’ talk, titled “Social Control and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship”, can be streamed online here (in Catalan).

The PowerPoint presentation of Ross’ talk is available in English, Spanish, and Catalan.

The abstract of his talk follows:

Social Control and the Pursuit of Dangerous Citizenship

Yes, citizenship—above all in a society like ours, of such authoritarian and racially, sexually, and class-based discriminatory traditions—is really an invention, a political production. In this sense, one who suffers any [or all] of the discriminations…does not enjoy the full exercise of citizenship as a peaceful and recognized right. On the contrary, it is a right to be reached and whose conquest makes democracy grow substantively. Citizenship implies freedom…Citizenship is not obtained by chance: It is a construction that, never finished, demands we fight for it. It demands commitment, political clarity, coherence, decision. For this reason a democratic education cannot be realized apart from an education of and for citizenship. (Paulo Freire, Teachers as Cultural Workers, p. 90)

The nature of citizenship and the meanings of citizenship education are complex, as are their multiple and contradictory implications for contemporary schooling and everyday life. The issues citizenship education presents are critical and inexorably linked to the present and future status of public schooling and the maintenance, strengthening, and expansion of individual and democratic rights.

In his classic book Democracy and Education (1916), John Dewey opens with a discussion of the way in which all societies use education as a means of social control. Dewey argues that education as a social process and function has no definite meaning until we define the kind of society we have in mind. In other words, there is no “objective” answer to questions about the means and ends of citizenship education, because those purposes are not things that can be discovered.

In Normative Discourse, Paul Taylor (1961) succinctly states a maxim that has the potential to transform our approach to the civics, citizenship education and the whole of the social studies curriculum: “We must decide what ought to be the case. We cannot discover what ought to be the case by investigating what is the case” (p. 278). We—educators and citizens—must decide what ought to be the purpose of citizenship education. That means asking what kind of society, what kind of and world we want to live in and then taking action to make it a reality. And, in particular, in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society? In order to construct meaning for civics and citizenship education, we must engage these questions not as merely abstract or rhetorical, but in relation to our lived experiences and our professional practice as educators.

Not surprisingly then civics and citizenship education—which is generally accepted as the primary purpose the social studies education—has always been a highly contested curricular area. The tapestry of topics, methods, and aims we know as social studies education has always contained threads of social reconstructionism. Social reconstructionists in the USA, such as George S. Counts, Harold Rugg, and later Theodore Brameld argued that teachers should work toward social change by teaching students to practice democratic principles, collective responsibility, and social and economic justice. Dewey advocated the democratic reconstruction of society and aspects of his philosophy inform the work of some aspects of citizenship education. The traditional patterns of social studies teaching, curriculum, and teacher education, however, reflect little of the social reconstructionist vision of the future, and current practices in these areas are more often focused on implementing standardized curriculum and responding to high-stakes tests than developing and working toward a vision of a socially just world. Indeed, the self-described social studies “contrarians” in the USA who advocate the “transmission” of “facts” and reject pluralism in favor of nationalism and monculturalism seem to be have the upper hand in most schools and classrooms, despite spirited resistance.

Undoubtedly, good intentions undergird citizenship education programs in North American. And yet, too often their oppressive possibilities overwhelm and subsume their potential for anti-oppression and anti-oppressive education, especially as states, the national government, and professional education associations continue their drive to standardize, to impose a singular theory and practice of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Social studies educators must pursue, as some already do, an agenda dedicated to the creation of a citizenship education that struggles against and disrupts inequalities and oppression. Classroom practice must work toward a citizenship education committed to exploring and affecting the contingencies of understanding and action and the possibilities of eradicating exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence in both schools and society. Freire, as illustrated in the above quotation, like Dewey, teaches us that citizenship education is essential to democratic education, and that democratic education is essential to a free and democratic society. Students must know that birth, nationality, documents, and platitudes are not enough. They must understand that the promises of citizenship (freedom), the fulfillment of its virtues, are unfinished, and that they remain an ongoing, dynamic struggle. And they must come to act in a variety of creative and ethical ways, for the expansion and realization of freedom and democracy, the root of contemporary notions of citizenship, is in their hands, and it demands of them no less than the ultimate in democratic and anti-oppressive human reflection and human activity.

Contemporary conditions demand an anti-oppressive citizenship education, one that takes seriously social and economic inequalities and oppression that result from neoliberal capitalism and that builds upon the anti-oppressive possibilities of established and officially sanctioned approaches. Some new and potentially exciting directions and alternatives exist, however, within the recent scholarship surrounding Freirean and neo-Freirean pedagogy, democratic education, and cultural studies.

The pedagogical power “dangerous citizenship”, which I explore in the balance of this paper, resides in its capacity to encourage students and educators to challenge the implications of their own education/instruction, to envision an education that is free and democratic to the core, and to interrogate and uncover their own well-intentioned complicity in the conditions within which various cultural texts and practices appear, especially to the extent that oppressive conditions create oppressive cultural practices, and vice versa.

Sandra Mathison gives keynote at the BCTF Annual General Meeting

On Tuesday, Sandra Mathison, Professor of Education at UBC and ICES member, addressed 700 teachers at their union’s annual general meeting. The teachers met to plan a course of action to resist and attempt to repeal Bill 22, a bill that takes draconian measures to limit the BCTF’s ability to bargain fairly and freely for its members.

Mathison’s keynote focused on the current neo-liberal narrative of accountability in British Columbia, a narrative that has been building since the Liberal party was elected in 2001 and one that continues to gain momentum as evidenced by the passage of Bill 22. This is a powerful narrative that seeks to blames teachers and the BCTF for many of the problems in BC’s schools. Mathison argued that teachers, parents and students need to work together to change this narrative, to create a narrative of authentic accountability that recognizes teachers professionalism, engages local communities in educational decision making, and demands that government be accountable for funding education adequately and fairly so that teaching and learning can occur.

The full text of the talk can be found on the BCTF website.

Trinational Coalition for the Defense of Public Education to meet in Mexico City, May 2012

The 10th Tri-national Conference in Defense of Public Education will be held in Mexico City, Mexico on May 17 – 19, 2012 at Centro de Educación Continua – Unidad Allende del IPN, en el Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México.

The topic of our conference is: “Putting the public back in public education: Alternatives for the future”

Download the Final Declaration of the 2010 Conference of the Trinational Coalition for the Defense of Public Education, May 9, 2010 – Montreal Canada.

ICES Delivers Petition to BC Legislature

At lunch hour today, we collated and delivered, to BC Premier Clark and Minister Abbott, 400+ signatures from faculty members, librarians, administrators, students, and staff in post-secondary institutions across the province in support of BC Teachers and the BCTF.  See Petition Site for more.

Thank you to all who helped circulate and signed this petition!  Your activism and presence make a difference.


ICES Appeal to Boost Support BCTF Petition to 500+

Post-secondary Support of Teachers / BCTF Petition

We want to forward this petition to the Ministry at the 500+ mark today or tomorrow morning.  Please circulate and let’s boost this to 500+!  We are currently at 399 signatures…

Secondary Students Assert Power at the BC Rallies

Over a three day stretch, secondary students organized, marched, walked, spoke, and shouted out against oppressive labour legislation in British Columbia and for their teachers and the BCTF.  It’s rare that secondary students get opportunities to unify as a political force at the provincial level, but now in this labour dispute the students are making a difference.  On Friday, 2 March, thousands of students walked out of their classes and schools and rallied across the province.  In Vancouver, the students descended en masse for a rally at the gallery.

On Tuesday, 6 March, at the BC Fed and BCTF rally hundreds of the youth marched with the unions down Government Street and to the steps of the BC Legislature.  For the crowd of 6,000, two young women, Hannah Case and Erin Galbraith, spoke a lotta truth to a power undermining their teachers’ rights.   In Vancouver, on 7 March for the rally at the gallery, secondary students Navi Rai and Melissa Wong stood together on the steps and voiced their support for the teachers’ rights and their right to a fair government.  Both were active in organizing Friday’s walkout.  And raising the roof of nature, Chandler McCorkingdale rapped.  Sorry, BC Liberals, the students and the public are standing with the teachers.

Now, where in the world are the missing BC post-secondary students, especially the Education majors?  Especially now?  I know that some are organizing online.   And I know that the Canadian Federation of Students BC is 100% behind the BCTF and the teachers.  But across three rallies not a single post-secondary student signed onto the speaker’s lists.  Not a single one spoke while thousands of the secondary students have shown their strength as a political force.  Perhaps UBC’s Teacher Education Officer John Yamamoto’s interview with the CBC’s Morning Edition on 7 March is telling.  Yamamoto advised that the Education students should, nay must, remain neutral.  Some advice for the teacher candidates– one gets the sense that he thinks he is advising 700 administration candidates!  Where are the post-secondary students and will the CFS BC organize the group to be heard or present?