Volume 30, No.4

Summer 2016

Articles in this summer issue are glimpses into the classrooms of educators who are teaching for social justice, defying the notion that schooling should be reduced to test preparation and the training of “successful” workers.


Our cover article, “The Problem with Story Problems,” is from teacher educator Anita Bright, who uncovers troubling biases embedded in story problems in math textbooks—from elementary through high school levels. Bright shows how seemingly neutral math problems are anything but. Instead, they often reinforce racial and gender stereotypes, encourage students to imagine themselves as bosses, reduce workers to sources of profit, and promote consumerism and the acquisition of “stuff.” But Bright also describes how teachers are helping their students think critically about these word problems and repurpose them with more humane and ecological values. Math teachers, she writes, can “create a classroom climate where challenging the status quo is accepted, normal, and encouraged.”

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  • The Problem with Story Problems

    By Anita Bright

    A teacher educator critiques the biases of story problems in math textbooks. Teachers around the country offer creative alternatives.

  • As a Teacher and a Daughter: The Impact of Islamophobia

    By Nassim Elbardouh

    A Canadian teacher discusses the impact of Islamophobia on students, especially those who are Muslim and/or from the Middle East.

  • The Politics of the Paragraph

    By Michelle Kenney

    The tale of a high school English teacher’s journey into—and out of—formulaic writing programs as her school struggles with high-stakes exams.

  • “Kill the Indian, Kill the Deaf”

    Teaching about the residential schools

    By Wendy Harris

    Parallels in the oppressive history of residential schools for Native American and Deaf children help Deaf students better understand their history and culture.

  • A Teacher’s Letter to His Future Baby

    By Greg Huntington

    A teacher writes about his hopes for the person his child will become—and some of the dangers along the way.

  • Rethinking Identity: Afro-Mexican History

    By Michelle Nicola

    Latina/o students explore the impact of African roots on Mexican culture and history.

  • Classrooms of Hope and Critique

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools

    In the introduction to our book Rethinking Our Classrooms, we quote the late, great Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, who urged teachers to “live part of their dreams within their educational space.” We added: “Classrooms can be places of hope, where students and teachers gain glimpses of the kind of society we could live in, and […]

  • Letters to the Editor 30.4

    Personal Cost of War I just finished my second reading of Chris Hawking’s, “Cracking the Box: The Personal Cost of War”(winter 2015-16). Both times his story literally brought tears to my eyes: first, because of the personal tragedy he endured and continues to endure; and second, because of his courageous teaching. I suspect that he has […]

  • Schools, Land, and Peace in Colombia

    By Bob Peterson

    Medellín, Colombia—I knew from the invitation that this would not be a normal school visit. My wife, Barbara, and I were to travel into the Andes Mountains to visit an Indigenous school that is at the crossroads of Colombia’s future. The school, Institución Educativa Natalá, is a stronghold of the Nasa people’s attempt to protect […]

  • Escuelas, tierra y paz en Colombia

    By Bob Peterson

    Por la invitación sabía que ésta no sería una visita normal a una escuela. Mi esposa Bárbara y yo viajaríamos por las montañas de los Andes para visitar una escuela indígena que se encuentra en la encrucijada del futuro de Colombia. La escuela, Institución Educativa Natalá, es un importante bastión del pueblo nasa que trata […]

  • FBI Tells Schools to Spy on Students

    FBI Tells Schools to Spy on Students A new initiative of the FBI’s Combating Violent Extremism (CVE) program urges high schools to report students who criticize government policies as potential future terrorists, warning that “anarchist extremists” are in the same category as ISIS, and that young people who are poor, immigrants, or travel to “suspicious” […]

  • Our picks for books and other resources for social justice teaching 30.4

    Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

  • Freedom Summer in Greenwood

    By Rachel Cloues

    In Revolution, 12-year-old Sunny Fairchild is dealing with troubling family issues—an absent mother, a new, pregnant stepmother, a stepbrother and stepsister. And then Northern “invaders” show up to register Black citizens to vote in her small hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi. It’s Freedom Summer—1964. Sunny, who is white, is curious enough to do some spying. Thus […]