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Category Archives: Social Justice and Art Education


Gee, NCLB Bill, you did away with social equity from poor schools when you became law.

Boy: Gee, NCLB Bill you are a sad scrap of paper, you did away with social equity in poor schools when you became law.

Since the inception No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, I have been asked by friends and folks on the street, “As a teacher, what do you think about NCLB?”  My reply always turned into a series of emotion filled rants.   By now we all know it is not working but if you’ve wanted to put your thumb on the reason why, check out Institute For Language Education Policy site and read the piece by James Crawford.  Crawford explains why No Child Left Behind is bad for public school reform by starting at the beginning when Bush and Rove rode the presidential ticket promoting education reform that would eliminate achievement gaps.  This  resulted in a law that targets teachers, schools and children as main culprits of the failure in pubic schools.  He points out that the federally mandated No Child Left Behind law diminishes civil rights through its shift in language from equal educational opportunity as found in the former federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act to eliminating achievement gaps as found in the current Act.  Because educational equity addresses segregation, poverty and equal access to resources – issues that would require action (input) from policy makers and elected officials.  Instead,  achievement gap connotates action in terms of measurable results through standardized tests (output).  By adopting this kind of language, the burden rests on schools with no additional funding from the government.   With no accountability placed on policy makers who control the resources and budget to address the gross inequalities and lack of resources in some public schools and in society, schools are told to buck up, increase learning or face the consequences.   Crawford states, “this is a diminished form of civil rights” and feels that minority students are given less time in class to focus neccesary English language classes like ESL because they are spending most of their time preparing for core content found in Standardized tests. 




About ten years ago when I decided to become an art teacher, I wanted to work in the front lines championing art as a vital part of education in public schools. My aim was to prepare students to understand and actively participate  in discussions and projects concerning visual literacy and democracy through art.  I have alway embraced the teaching of multicultural education as an inherent and valid component of education for all students across the socioeconomic divide.  Recently, I enrolled in a Master’s program and find myself back at the beginning where it all started.   Somehow, my intention to include social justice in my pedagogy dwindled when the demands of motherhood and choosing the right school for my son led me away from the trenches and onto greener pastures where I am able to focus on myself, my family and have access to top notch professional development and resources made possible by sizable endowments.  This blog is my breadcrumb trail back to find the fuse that lit the spark.  Will it lead me full circle or take me on a parallel journey where I can pursue similar goals with a different population of students?  These issues are important for everyone regardless of race or socioeconomic background because teachers have the responsibility to teach tolerance, multiculturalism and social justice in all schools if they are to prepare future citizens for the realities of co-existing peacefully in an increasingly diverse culture.

No Child Left Behind and the events of 9/11 have contributed in homogenizing curriculum in the name of standardized tests and rallying a united front as a nation.  This has failed to teach students how to be active learners or to respect individual and societal diversity.  The turmoil and failure of No Child Left Behind lends a sense of urgency for teachers now more than ever.  And now that our country has voted for “the audacity to hope” for education reform,  it gives me renewed energy to pursue my own search for that initial spark that brought me to the teaching profession.  And while I wait with bated breath to see if the new Education Secretary will overhaul No Child Left Behind, I will teach lessons that highlight multicultural perspectives and how there is always a common thread in storytelling, art, history and religion among different cultures.

Northern New Jersey's Neo-Latino art movement is one of the 21st Century’s first Hispanic art movement
Northern New Jersey’s Neo-Latino art movement is one of the 21st Century’s first Hispanic art movement

It is difficult to talk about art and art history without including artists from different countries.  Here is an interesting article about how curators and art critics are having to redefine contemporary works and the meaning of American art in the 21st century.  With technology and globalization, artists collaborate internationally and are no longer bound by geography .