Table of Contents

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  • Free Cuentos del corazón/Stories from the Heart

    An after-school writing project for bilingual students and their families

    By Jessica Singer Early, Tracey Flores

    Second graders and their families write together, countering Arizona’s English-only, segregated, and anti-immigrant school policies.

  • Free Cuentos del corazón

    Un proyecto de escritura después de clases para los estudiantes bilingües y sus familias

    Por Jessica Singer Early, Tracey Flores | Traducido por Nicholas Yurchenco

    Los estudiantes de segundo grado escriben junto con sus familias, desafiando las políticas monolingües, anti-inmigrantes, y de segregación de Arizona.

  • Free English-Only to the Core

    What the Common Core means for emergent bilingual youth

    By Jeff Bale

    Is the Common Core better than current approaches to English language learners—or the next salvo in more than a decade of attacks on bilingual programs?

  • Free “¿Qué es deportar?”

    Teaching from students’ lives

    By Sandra Osorio

    An early elementary school teacher realizes she needs to dump the scripted curriculum and basal reader, find Latina/o literature in Spanish, and make space for her students’ thoughts and feelings.

  • Free “¿Qué es deportar?”

    Enseñar a partir de las vidas de los estudiantes

    Por Sandra Osorio | Traducido por Arthur Eisele

    Una maestra de primaria se da cuenta que debe dejar a un lado el guión y la antología de su currículo para encontrar literatura latina en español y abrir un espacio a las vidas de sus estudiantes.

  • Features
  • Free Who Made the New Deal?

    Part I: What Caused the Great Depression?

    By Adam Sanchez

    High school students play the Widget Boom Game to understand how overproduction and underconsumption helped cause the Great Depression.

  • Baby Mamas in Literature and Life

    By Abby Kindelsperger

    Inspired by students’ responses to her own pregnancy, a high school English teacher develops a unit based on teen pregnancy and motherhood—rejecting the usual deficit-based narrative of teen parenting.

  • A Midsummer Night’s Gender Diversity

    By Lauren Porosoff

    Middle schoolers explore how Shakespeare plays with gender expression and expectations in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • The Hidden Agenda of High School Assemblies

    By Jessica Richter-Furman

    A high school teacher realizes that, despite her school’s diverse student body, the students on the stage at assemblies are virtually all white and male. She sets out to understand why and to change the pattern.

  • Departments Free
    Letter from the Editors
  • Bilingual Education: Stories from the Heart

    By The Editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Education Action
  • Anti-Privatization Movement Goes International

  • Books and Authors
  • Mirrors and Windows: Conversations with Jacqueline Woodson

    By Renée Watson
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.
  • Good Stuff
  • Beyond Magenta

    Reviewed By Melissa Bollow Tempel

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The Hidden Agenda of High School Assemblies

The Hidden Agenda of High School Assemblies

Chris Kindred

I was sitting in the top row of bleachers, my assigned seat in the supervision chart that never seems to change. Several mothers and their children walked out on the gym floor. The moms were all breast cancer survivors, part of our school’s Think Pink Week celebration. As I shushed a group of girls who laughed during this solemn moment, I wished I wasn’t stuck up there with kids who showed how little they cared by the distance they set between themselves and the action. Hadn’t several of them raised their hands a few minutes ago to indicate someone they loved had battled cancer?

As the students around me plugged in their ear buds and turned down the brightness on their screens, I guiltily breathed a sigh of relief. I should have asked them to put their electronics away, but I didn’t see the point. Instead, I turned back to the assembly and took a good look at the cancer-surviving moms and their children.

As usual, they all appeared to be white, unlike the students I was sitting with.

At Liberty High School, located in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, Oregon, almost half of our students are students of color (45.2 percent). We teach the children of Intel employees living in fancy digs around Orenco Station, the offspring of Helvetia farmers who count their relationship with the land in generations, the denizens of suburban sprawl, and the sons and daughters of recent immigrants.

But you wouldn’t know this by coming to our assemblies.

Teachers wonder why so many of our Latina/o students (33 percent of the student body) choose not to get involved during assemblies. But often something is wrong in the way we ask. We accuse our Latina/o students of being lazy (Why won’t they stand up?) or apathetic (Don’t they want to feel included?) when we should be questioning what’s unfolding right before our eyes.

I leaned over and whispered to a colleague, “How come only white moms get cancer?”

He laughed, but I hadn’t meant it as a joke. For some time I’d been wondering about the hidden messages we send students through assemblies, messages of belonging to kids who are regularly given a voice, and messages of exclusion to everyone else.

Whether we like them or not, assemblies are often the only opportunity to gather as an entire school community. That’s why it is imperative for all of our students to see themselves reflected in our assemblies. When we distill our community gathering time into yet another opportunity to parade privileged and traditionally recognized students across the gym floor, we send our student body a dangerous message: The world is run by white guys and you should probably get used to it.

At least at our school, there is a lack of diversity in leadership programs. If a diverse group of students isn’t planning assemblies, how can we expect these events to feature the faces or concerns of our diverse population? Another issue is how students are chosen to be part of the assemblies; if no one is thoughtfully regulating who gets behind the microphone, then the same students (in our case, white males) will be featured all the time.

That’s why it’s crucial for us as educators to pay more attention to assemblies.

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