Notes and quotes from Barbara Madeloni

This week, Barbara Madeloni presented an incredibly energizing and inspirational talk entitled “Joie de vivre: resistance and imagination under the corporatization of teacher education.”

Madeloni, Director of the Secondary Teacher Education Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Education, left the clinical psychology field in the nineties because she realized that there was “something seriously wrong with democracy in this country.”

“I realized that the foundation of our democracy is public education, so if I wanted to contribute to making a stronger space for our democratic project, I needed to be an educator.”

67 of 68 students in Madeloni’s student-teaching seminar last year refused to participate in a new teacher performance assessment being piloted by testing behemoth Pearson at 1800 institutions of higher education. The test was based on a video portion and reflection essay to be outsourced for grading – which meant that student teachers (who had a variety of backgrounds, teaching styles, and futures in education) were taking a test predicated on arbitrary “standards” to be graded by anonymous, wage-earning graders in their pajamas somewhere.

“It became a moral and ethical choice.”

Madeloni went to the New York Times. 17 days after the article published, she received letter of non-renewal of her contract. NYT story here.

“There is a profound disconnect between those writing and funding policy and those who have to enact in classrooms. We have to look at the micro-reality of how that disconnect structures our identities, ways of knowing, community-building, meaning of education.”

The language of education policy is mind-numbing: standards, standards, standards, common, data, detailed, data data data, incentives, assessments, measures, replicated, effective, etc.

“The visceral experience of that [language] means that my potential for imagining what it means to be a teacher gets narrower.”

“This discourse of accountability – assessments, outcomes, standards – is supposed to be how we understand who we are and what it means to know right now as educators.”

“By completely giving myself to life rather than to death – without meaning to deny death or to mythicize life – I can free myself to surrender to the joy of living, without having to hide reasons for sadness in life, which prepares me to stimulate and champion joy in the school.” (Freire, Letters to Teachers as Cultural Workers) 

“What’s the rubric for joie de vivre?”

I came to theory because i was hurting.” (bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress, 1994)

“We seek knowledge and meaning-making based on our human experiences. We go to theory because something is rubbing up against us, there’s something in our eyes and we can’t see, we’re hurting somewhere. bell hooks needed theory to make sense of the world. Not data. She needed to make meaning. It’s about making meaning from the complexity of our human experiences.”

“…most of us who fill the role of teachers in public schools today are important frontline agents in reproduction of the corporate-military capitalist state.” (Virginia Lea)

Freire’s “indispensable qualities of the progressive teacher” are as follows: humility, armed love, courage, tolerance, decisiveness and security, patience and impatience. Today, venture philanthropists and hedge fund managers are the ones making decisions. They send their kids to private school.

“This poisonous virus of repression, conformity and instrumentalism is turning public education into a repressive site of containment, a site devoid of poetry, critical learning and soaring acts of curiosity and imagination.” (Henry Giroux, 2011)

“…I am inclined to conclude that the culture of accountability ultimately makes relationships of responsibility impossible.” (Biesta, 2004)

“Is the work we do, the work we hungered for? If not, where is our rage? Have we given up hope?” (Madeleine Grumet, 2007)

What if the aim of education is not learning? What if there is no aim to education except for the brief coming together of teachers and students to question, explore, study, compose, create and experience a kind of life that most will rarely experience again in our market-driven world?” (Peter Taubman, 2009)

“What is this thing that we’re doing? What is our theory of knowledge?

The rule of my classroom is that you leave with more questions than you started with. I can only give you questions.

Joyful living is not happiness. As a teacher, at best I felt like a cello, I was deeply alive in the moment and never knew what sounds were going to come out of me. It’s not happy music, necessarily, but it’s music. And music’s awesome. That’s what teaching is.

Joyfully resist. On the other side of fear is solidarity. On the other side of fear is freedom. My letter of non-renewal? I posted it on my door. I made space for comments.”

Barbara Madeloni



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