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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ilana Garon and I Think Exactly Alike

Today I received a few emails from listservs informing me of a Radical Educators meetup today to discuss Organizing for Educational Justice by Michael Fabricant.

I did some research on where the meetup would be because in January of this year, I wrote a review of the book. During my internet research, I ran across a similar review from March in Dissent Magazine by another teacher, Ilana Garon, who also works in the Bronx. 

The Huffington Post told me that Ilana Garon has been teaching English and writing for various magazines since she graduated from Barnard in 2003. HuffPost did not, however, mention that Ms Garon and I think exactly alike.

In my review of Fabricant's book, I wondered (concerning the lead teacher initiative of 2005): "I am somewhat suspect of the difference that CC9 actually made in instituting the lead teacher campaign.  Fabricant notes on a number of occasions that, of the issues CC9 could have advocated around, lead teacher reform was the low-hanging fruit.  Both the DOE and the UFT were already interested in seeing it implemented.  While it seems obvious that CC9 played a role in the timing of its implementation, I wonder whether it would have been implemented eventually anyway."

Garon also wondered, "one wonders if the Lead Teacher program might not have been implemented eventually through other means, even if CC9 had not become involved."

I noted, "While a nearly $2 million change in policy is an exceptional accomplishment on behalf of low-income parents, it is a far cry from the organizational overhaul so many inner-city schools need to close the debilitating achievement gap."

Garon also noted: "In education budgeting, the nearly $2 million raised by CC9 through NYCDOE and outside foundation grants, while an impressive haul for a group of low-income parents and nonprofit groups, is nowhere near enough capital to make the kinds of systemic changes that would ultimately close the achievement gap."

I thought: "And while the book unquestionably provides both a valuable glimpse into the world of democratic organization and an instructive analysis of the nocuous policies that affect the urban poor in light of a somewhat encouraging effort at reform, CC9's struggle is a struggle that I'd prefer to understand as an early experiment in 21st-century democracy in urban America rather than a model.... Read the book for incredible insight into what real democracy takes and a wealth of opportunities for critical thought, but don't expect a panacea for our urban schools."

Garon also thought: "Rather than offering viable solutions to the education crisis, Fabricant’s book serves as a sort of “how-to” manual for mobilizing grassroots political activism in communities that are not often given a voice in their own governance."

I wrote: "In the end, I am forced to wonder if CC9's greatest achievement was in transforming the lives of those women who became its parent leaders.  Fabricant acknowledges the incredibly stressful lives led by many of the women who came to speak at and organize CC9 functions.  Many who were either currently in, or just leaving, abusive relationships testified to the organization's role in providing them not only a sense of identity, but a sense of power and ownership over their lives.  Their journeys into the world of democratic participation and leadership are certainly inspiring..."

Garon also wrote: "The most inspiring sections of the book are Fabricant’s interviews with the CC9 members, particularly women, whose lives have been changed meaningfully through their affiliation with the coalition. Several of the participants mention having been involved in abusive relationships, the difficulties of raising children as single mothers, and their frustration at the community failure that inevitably results from dysfunctional schools. In CC9, they have found not only empowerment, but also a raison d’ĂȘtre."

I guess great minds think alike...

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