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Rethinking Schools and the Power of Silver

By Christine Sleeter

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Home > Archives > Volume 26 No.1 - Fall 2011

This 25th anniversary of Rethinking Schools can be thought of as its silver anniversary. Silver itself must be considered through contrasting lenses. On the one hand, as lessons in Rethinking Globalization teach us, silver and gold were the basis of Europe’s horrendous exploitation of Latin America. On the other hand, silver is often associated with powerful symbolism. A precious metal that has had significance in many cultural contexts around the world, silver symbolizes strength with flexibility (indeed, silver is stronger than gold), clarity, focus, vision, wisdom, and persistence. What better symbolism for Rethinking Schools over these last 25 years?

I first became aware of Rethinking Schools during its early years when it was published on newsprint and looked like a newspaper. When one of my colleagues who lived in Milwaukee handed me a copy, I was thrilled by its vision and clarity.

Throughout the years, rather than dancing around issues of diversity and justice in schools, its largely practitioner-written articles have directly named and analyzed issues, offering active ways to address them. Articles from Rethinking Schools quickly became important readings for my courses in multicultural education because they so brilliantly show what politically relevant multicultural teaching looks like without reducing it to “how to” steps that oversimplify. My students were so inspired by articles we were reading that, on a couple of occasions, groups of students crafted articles to send to Rethinking Schools for possible publication. The students told me that their experience learning to analyze their own work with depth and clarity, based on the clarity of analysis in articles they had read, was very empowering.

Later, when Rethinking Schools developed its website, I was able to integrate it into my courses even more easily. For teachers, having access not only to specific articles but also to back issues online has been immensely helpful. For example, a teacher in one of my courses was struggling with what democracy and social action might mean in an elementary school. She was critical of her school’s food drive approach to addressing hunger. She thought there was an underlying assumption of charity inherent in solving social problems by giving goods once a year while not addressing the policies that give rise to hunger in the first place. Browsing articles in Rethinking Schools offered her an alternative perspective she especially appreciated because it was grounded in the work and voices of other elementary teachers.

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