Table of Contents

    Cover Theme
  • Free The Library That Target Built

    By Rachel Cloues

    When Target donated a library “makeover” to a San Francisco elementary school, the district’s anti-branding policy wasn’t enough to keep the students from being engulfed by corporate messaging.

  • Free La biblioteca que construyó Target

    Por Rachel Cloues | Traducido por Nicholas Yurchenco

    Cuando Target le donó a una escuela primaria en San Francisco la remodelación de su biblioteca, la política del distrito en contra de las marcas no fue suficiente para impedir que los estudiantes fueran bombardeados por mensajes corporativos.

  • Disarming the Nuclear Family

    Creating a classroom book that reflects the class

    By Willow McCormick

    Most children’s books—even those with animals as the protagonists—portray families with two heterosexual parents. A 2nd-grade teacher has her students create a book that represents their own more diverse families.

  • Free El desarme de la familia nuclear

    Un libro que refleje la realidad del salón de clases

    Por Willow McCormick | Traducido por César Peña-Sandoval

    La mayoría de libros para niños –hasta los que usan animales como protagonistas– retratan a las familias con dos padres heterosexuales. Una maestra de 2do grado pide que sus estudiantes creen un libro que represente la diversidad de sus propias familias.

  • Free “May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor”

    Teaching class and collective action with The Hunger Games

    By Elizabeth Marshall, Matthew Rosati

    The Hunger Games becomes the basis for a role play that deepens students’ understanding of social class and its impact on alliances and resistance.

  • Free “Que las probabilidades estén siempre a su favor”

    Enseñar sobre las clases sociales y la acción colectiva a través de Los juegos del hambre (The Hunger Games)

    Por Elizabeth Marshall, Matthew Rosati

    Los juegos del hambre se usa como base para una dramatización que profundiza el conocimiento de los estudiantes sobre la clase social y cómo esta impacta las alianzas y la resistencia.

  • '12 Years a Slave': Breaking Silences About Slavery

    By Jeremy Stoddard

    A teacher educator puts the award-winning 12 Years a Slave in the context of other films used to teach about slavery.

  • Features
  • Free Singing Up Our Ancestors

    By Linda Christensen

    Students learn some cultural history, “raise the bones” of a biographical poem, and then write their own.

  • Free Independence or Catastrophe?

    Teaching Palestine through multiple perspectives

    By Samia Shoman

    A social studies teacher uses conflicting narratives to engage students in studying the history of Palestine/Israel, focusing on the events of 1948.

  • Free Carbon Matters

    Middle school students get carbon cycle literate

    By Jana Dean

    A 6th-grade teacher uses the carbon cycle to help students understand climate change. Along the way, she deals with a parent who wants her to give equal time to “climate change is a myth.”

  • Departments Free
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • Affirmations

    By Herbert Kohl
  • Letter from the Editors
  • Targeting Books and Films

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • In Memoriam
  • In Memoriam: David McLimans

    By Patrick J.B. Flynn

Targeting Books and Films

Ethan Heitner

The privatization of public schools comes in many guises, as San Francisco teacher-librarian Rachel Cloues shows in her article in this issue, “The Library that Target Built.” We live in an era of stagnating or declining revenues for public education, yet vast wealth for corporations. And that fact leaves schools vulnerable to rich people bearing gifts.

Cloues tells a story that is both comical and outrageous. Target, hoping to nurture a reputation as a community- and kid-friendly store as it gained entrée into the San Francisco market, offered to build a library for a school in need. Cloues was on hand to watch this drama unfold—in her own library. In big and little ways, Target sought to brand children and the curriculum.

Longtime Rethinking Schools readers will remember Cloues’ earlier piece, “My Year with Nike,” about Nike’s “partnership” with her then-elementary school in Beaverton, Oregon. That corporation-school relationship was just as problematic. As both stories underscore, private profit and public education are fundamentally different objectives.

Cloues’ Target essay is part of a cluster of articles in this issue that focus on how teachers can thoughtfully engage students with books and films. Beth Marshall, co-editor of our book Rethinking Popular Culture and Media, teams with Matthew Rosati to describe how they involve students in thinking about power and social class through use of the wildly popular Hunger Games series in “May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor.” Their article recounts an imaginative blend of popular culture, exploration of profound inequality in wealth and power, and lively pedagogy.

Elementary teacher Willow McCormick was dismayed at how many of the books in her classroom library presented only one version of the family: mom, dad, and kids, whether human or animal. Think Berenstain Bears. As McCormick writes, “When two-parent, heterosexual families are presented as the norm in story after story, year in and year out, an insidious message is conveyed: Families that don’t conform to this structure are not normal.” McCormick tells how she uses one book that breaks the mold, Susan Kuklin’s Families, and describes teaching activities that acknowledge diverse family structures that better reflect the lives of her students, as well as the broader society.

Also in this popular media section, Jeremy Stoddard reviews the wrenching film 12 Years a Slave and wonders about its use with students. As Stoddard points out, 12 Years a Slave offers the kind of unblinking look at slavery that is rare in video resources available to teachers—and it avoids some of the pitfalls of earlier films. But Stoddard, a teacher educator, stops short of recommending it for classroom use. What are the limits of racist cruelty and exploitation that we can depict in the classroom—even when these are historically accurate, and nuanced by resilience and resistance? We invite Rethinking Schools readers to share your thoughts.

As we try to do with every issue of the magazine, other stories balance portrayals of practical and engaging classroom teaching with vital policy issues. In “Singing Up Our Ancestors,” Rethinking Schools editor Linda Christensen introduces students to Myrlin Hepworth’s extraordinary performance poem “Ritchie Valens.” In “Carbon Matters,” Jana Dean, who has written frequently for us through the years, encounters parent resistance when she teaches about global warming—and responds by plunging deeper into the science of carbon emissions. And first-time contributor Samia Shoman demonstrates how she approaches teaching the Palestinian Nakba —catastrophe—and the birth of Israel through exploring conflicting narratives. On the policy front, our interview with parent activist Karran Harper Royal details the educational “disaster capitalism” unleashed on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Remember, coming up in the fall are several social justice education conferences: Teachers 4 Social Justice in San Francisco, Northwest Teaching for Social Justice in Portland, National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) in Tucson, and Teachers for Social Justice in Chicago. Rethinking Schools editors will be presenting at all of them. Now, more than ever, educators, parents, and all people of conscience need to gather face to face to share experience and analysis, and support one another through these dangerous times. Please join us.