“It’s 5:30. I’m exhausted. And I have to go all the way to f*%#ing Fishtown.”: Educator Depression, Activism, and Finding (Armed) Love in a Hopeless (Neoliberal) Place
- 417 Downloads
Many recent critical engagements with contemporary educational policy tend to be framed through the language of neoliberalism. Though these critiques are useful in providing a rich understanding of the political and cultural economy of public education, their level of abstraction demands more grounded and embodied approaches. In conversation with queer, feminist, and affect theory, this qualitative project uses the feelings of activist educators in Philadelphia to gain a deeper understanding what it means to live and labor in neoliberal times. Specifically, this article locates depression as a precise kind of political affect experienced by educators in an age of corporate accountability structures and austerity. Educators describe a kind of professional depression and, in turn, locate their activism as a therapeutic antidote to the current trends in education policy. Using the Freirean notion of armed love, we contextualize and theorize how new educator movements and activism strive to provide community for educators to endure, heal, and work towards greater educational justice.
KeywordsNew teacher movements Education policy Teacher activism Neoliberalism Public feelings
The authors would like to offer a very heartfelt thanks to all of the amazing educators and community members who we were able to meet, work with, and talk to during this ongoing project. We learned as much about the struggles and small victories of organizing and the complicated politico-topography of Philadelphia as we did about the power of community. Thank you. We would also like to thank the editors and blind reviewers of The Urban Review for thoughtful feedback and support. Lastly, this research was funded in part by a Picker Fellowship through the Faculty Research Council at Colgate University—to which we are very much appreciative and grateful.
This project was funded in part by a Picker Fellowship awarded through Colgate University.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflicts of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
- Antrop-González, R. (2011). Schools as radical sanctuaries: Decolonizing education through the eyes of youth of color and their teachers. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
- Anzaldúa, G. (1999). Borderlands/La frontera: The new mestiza (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.Google Scholar
- Au, W. (2009). Unequal by design: High-stakes testing and the standardization of inequality. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Ayers, W. (2010). To teach: The journey of a teacher (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Battle-Baptiste, W. (2011). Black feminist archaeology. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.Google Scholar
- Behar, R. (1997). The vulnerable observer: Anthropology that breaks your heart. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Bloom, S. (2013). 2013 Medley #25: Teacher stress, depression and demoralization. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://sbloom2.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/2013-medley-25/.
- Brown, A. (2015). Philanthrocapitalism: Race, political spectacle and the marketplace of beneficence in a New York City school. In B. Pickower & E. Mayorga (Eds.), what’s race got to do with it: How current school reform policies maintain racial and economic inequality (pp. 147–166). New York, NY: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Darder, A. (2002). Reinventing Paulo Freire: A pedagogy of love. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- Darder, A. (2011). Teaching as an act of love: Reflections on Paulo Freire and his contributions to our lives and our work. In A. Darder (Ed.), A dissident voice: Essays on culture, pedagogy, and power (pp. 179–194). New York, NY: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
- Davis, A. (1998). Blues legacies and black feminism. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Denvir, D. (2014). How to destroy a public-school system. The Nation. Retrieved from http://www.thenation.com/article/181754/how-destroy-public-school-system.
- Duggan, L. (2003). The twilight of equality? Neoliberalism, cultural politics, and the attack on democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Ehrenberg, A. (2010). The weariness of the self: Diagnosing the history of depression in the contemporary age. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
- Fabricant, M., & Fine, M. (2012). The changing politics of education: Privatization and the dispossessed lives left behind. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
- Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative?. Hants: Zero Books.Google Scholar
- Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Herder and Herder.Google Scholar
- Freire, P. (2005). Teachers as cultural workers: Letters to those who dare to teach. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- Giroux, H. A. (2004). When hope is subversive. Tikkun, 19(6), 38–39.Google Scholar
- Glesne, C. (2011). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. Boston, MA: Pearson.Google Scholar
- Gordon, E. T. (2008). Disparate diasporas: Identity and politics in an African Nicaraguan community. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
- Graham, K. A. (2014). After seven years, too frustrated and tired to teach anymore. Philly.com. Retrieved from http://articles.philly.com/2014-07-13/news/51435813_1_students-classroom-philadelphia-school-district.
- Greene, M. (1973). Teaacher as stranger: Educational philosophy for the modern age. New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Hale, C. R. (2008). Introduction. In C. R. Hale (Ed.), Engaging contradictions: Theory, politics and methods of activist scholarship (pp. 1–28). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Hansen, D. (1995). The call to teach. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Harris, C. (2011). We found love [Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris]. On Talk that Talk [CD]. New York, NY: Def Jam.Google Scholar
- Hooks, B. (1984). Feminist theory: From margin to center. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.Google Scholar
- James, J., & Gordon, E. T. (2008). Afterword: Activist scholars or radical subjects? In C. R. Hale (Ed.), Engaging contradictions: Theory, politics and methods of activist scholarship (pp. 367–374). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Johnston, D. K. (2006). Education for a caring society: Classroom relationships and moral action. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Kesson, K. R. (2004). An “inhuman power”: Alienated labor in low-performing schools. In K. R. Kesson & E. W. Ross (Eds.), Teaching for a democratic society (Vol. II, pp. 97–110). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Kohanim, J. (2012). Why I left teaching. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2012/08/why-i-left-teaching-by-jordan-kohanim.html.
- Kumashiro, K. (2012). Bad teacher: How blaming teachers distorts the bigger picture. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Lipman, P. (2011). The new political economy of urban education: Neoliberalism, race, and the right to the city. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Lorde, A. (1984). Sister outsider. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.Google Scholar
- Love, H. (2007). Feeling backward: Loss and the politics of queer history. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Madison, D. S. (2005). Critical ethnography: Method, ethics and performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Miles, M., & Huberman, M. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Muñoz, J. (2009). Cruising utopia: The then and there of queer futuriority. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Naison, M. (2014). Badass teachers unite! Writing on education, history, and youth activism. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.Google Scholar
- National Coalition of Education Activists. (1994). Social justice unionism: A call to education activists. Rethinking Schools, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/union/sjun.shtml.
- Nieto, S. (2003). What keeps teachers going?. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Nieto, S. (Ed.). (2005). Why we teach. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Old, A. (2013). The darkest term: Teacher stress and depression. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/the-darkest-term-teacher-stress-and-depression/.
- Palmer, P. J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Patton, M. Q. (2015). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Saltman, K. J. (2007). Capitalizing on disaster: Taking and breaking public schools. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
- Sedgwick, E. K. (2003). Touching feeling: Affect, pedagogy, performativity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Shaffer, T. (2003). Philadelphia plans to cut fees to school operators. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/24/us/philadelphia-plans-to-cut-fees-to-school-operators.html.
- Spade, D. (2011). Normal life: Administrative violence, critical trans politics and the limits of law. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.Google Scholar
- Stern, M. (2012). “We can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds”: Neoliberalism, educational policy, and the feelings left over. Cultural Studies: Critical Methodologies, 12(5), 387–400.Google Scholar
- Stern, M. (2013). Bad teacher: What race to the top learned from the ‘race to the bottom’. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 11(3), 194–229.Google Scholar
- Strega, S. (2005). The view from the poststructural margins: Epistemology and methodology resisted. In L. Brown & S. Strega (Eds.), Research as resistance: Critical, indigenous and anti-oppressive approaches (pp. 199–236). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.Google Scholar
- Uetricht, M. (2014). Strike for America: Chicago teachers against austerity. New York, NY: Verso.Google Scholar
- Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling: US-Mexican youth and the politics of caring. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Vargas, J. C. (2008). Activist scholarship: Limits and possibilities in times of black genocide. In C. R. Hale (Ed.), Engaging contradictions: Theory, politics and methods of activist scholarship (pp. 164–182). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Weiner, L. (2012). The future of our schools: Teachers unions and social justice. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.Google Scholar
- Williams, R. (1985). Marxism and literature. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Winfield, A. G. (2012). Resuscitating bad science: Eugenics past and present. In W. Watkins (Ed.), The assault on public education (pp. 143–159). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar