The Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education (CEJE) is a collaborative of faculty members, graduate students and community advisors/partners. We produce research that supports engagement and advocacy of school communities toward equity and justice in public schools. CEJE works in partnership with parents, students, teachers, and community organizations to conduct research and policy analysis, produce policy reports, and engage public discussions of education policy.
Pauline Lipman, UIC professor of educational policy studies and CEJE director, and Eric (Rico) Gutstein, UIC professor in the curriculum and instruction department, are spending the fall of 2019 in Valparaiso, Chile, working with the city ministry of education and teachers and activists, hoping to learn from their efforts to transform public education and the city itself, and to share how this might be helpful to us in Chicago. They are writing their reflections on The Chitown & Chile Blog and we invite you to subscribe to their blog and share your thoughts.
Chile was a laboratory for neoliberalism, ushered in by a violent military coup on Sept. 11, 1973. The coup (engineered by the U.S. government) overthrew the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and replaced it with a brutal military dictatorship, headed by General Augusto Pinochet. Under the dictatorship, thousands of leftists, workers, students, union leaders, community organizers, and their families were rounded up, tortured, disappeared, and murdered. Unions and all forms of popular organization and assembly were outlawed. The dictatorship dismantled socialist programs and laws to democratize the economy and government, support worker and peasant cooperatives, and redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. The iron fist of the military/state ran Chile from top to bottom. The dictatorship cleared the way for the world’s first experiment with neoliberalism—a brutal form of free-market, unregulated capitalism in which profits, privatization, and individual responsibility are the main goals.
The long arm of US imperialism engineered and helped carry out the coup, and economists at the University of Chicago, known as the Chicago Boys, brought their neoliberal economic program to Chile. Chile and the Chilean people were their laboratory. The policies they tested out here—privatizing public institutions (including schools) and public services, breaking unions, and opening every sector of the economy to multinational corporations and foreign investors—these policies came back to the U.S. and are global. But our similar experiences and our resistance to these policies create the possibility of a new kind of connection between Chicago and Chile—solidarity and shared learning from below.
Chile’s neoliberal governments turned public education into a market with national high stakes tests (the SIMCE) and vouchers. Today only 30% of schools are public. Charter schools and private schools comprise the majority. As in the U.S., education is a key mechanism to undermine social solidarity and critical consciousness. Teacher education and curriculum are standardized and geared to competition, test-prep, and individualism. But Chile’s students and teachers have re-invigorated struggles for social justice. In 2006, high school students launched a national strike against school fees and for an equal education, called the penguinos movement because of the students’ black and white uniforms. The strike shut down secondary schools for a month, and Chile’s children reawakened the Chilean social consciousness. In 2011 and 2013, university students shook Chile again. Using their experiences as penguinos, they launched massive strikes and school occupations across the country, demanding a new framework for public education and the end to profit in higher education. Some of these students are now part of a new generation of critical university faculty who are challenging Chile’s official history and neoliberal teacher education. These movements also inspired a group of young academics and teachers to launch a campaign to end the SIMCE (Alto al SIMCE). The SIMCE (like NCLB) is the mechanism that drives markets and degrades teaching and learning. Teachers also have stepped onto the national stage as important social actors, with national teacher strikes in 2015 and again this spring.
For five years, we have been sharing lessons with Chilean educators and activists against education privatization, standardization, and high stakes testing. We call our project, From Chicago to Chile and Back Again. Our two spaces are connecting again, this time in solidarity. We are so fortunate to be working with and learning from Alto al SIMCE, teachers and other activists, and critical academics who gave birth to and are products of these movements and from veterans of resistance to the dictatorship. Our contexts and histories are different, but we all are confronting the system of neoliberal racial capitalism and its manifestations in education. Our common struggles, our common enemy, our shared urgency for another, more just, world has brought us together.
Valparaíso, Chile’s second largest city, located in the middle of the country on the Pacific coast (you’ll hear a lot more about Valparaíso in our blog) has a radical leftist mayor, Jorge Sharp (elected in 2016), and city administration. Jorge was a leader of the 2011 university student strike. While Valparaíso went to the left, Chile’s national government went to the extreme right wing (sound familiar?), with the election of Sebastián Piñera in December 2017. So what is possible for a city government to do at this moment, in this context? We think this question is extremely relevant for Chicago.
The political legitimacy of the racist neoliberal order in Chicago has been destabilized. A new Black liberation movement led by young people and Chicago’s grassroots education movement shook city government, pushed out former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and brought in a wave of progressive, socialist, people-of-color activists to city government. But economic power still rests with the investment bankers and corporate elites, and they are pushing ahead with their agenda to market the city for real estate development, gentrification, and tourism, and drive out working-class people of color. It looks like the new mayor has to walk a tightrope between satisfying the corporate elite but not antagonizing working-class people of color, parents, and teachers demanding rent control; a community benefits agreement for the Obama center; real sanctuary for undocumented folks; an elected representative school board; fully funded and resourced equitable, quality neighborhood public schools; and community control of police. This moment is an opportunity for a people’s agenda. Like in Valparaíso, we ask: What is possible at the local level? What kind of power can we wield?
Over the next few months, in the spirit of solidarity and shared learning and struggle, we and our Chilean friends will share our reflections on the local struggle here to create another city and another world –its complexities, challenges, possibilities, lessons, similarities and differences. Along the way we want to share the flavor of the city—a complex, vibrant, busy, economically marginalized, and powerful city that was the birthplace of Salvador Allende and has tremendous potential to be a leader in the creation of a new, just, and humane social order.
Pauline Lipman is professor of Educational Policy Studies and Director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her teaching, research, and activism grow out of her commitment to social justice and liberation. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on political economy of urban education, particularly the inter-relationship of education policy, urban restructuring, and the politics of race. Pauline is the author of numerous journal articles, book chapters, and policy reports. In The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City (Routledge, 2011), she argues that education is integral to neoliberal economic and spatial urban restructuring and its class and race inequalities and exclusions as well as to the potential for a new, radically democratic economic and political social order.
Pauline is a founding member of Teachers for Social Justice in Chicago and is involved in grassroots organizing against education privatization and for equitable, democratic neighborhood public schools and community-driven school transformation as part of the democratic transformation of the city. She is currently working in Valparaíso, Chile to learn about efforts by the municipal government and education activists to use local political power to transform public education as part of the transformation of the city. Her blog, Chitown & Chile, (with Rico Gutstein) documents the education campaign in Valparaíso and lessons for Chicago.
Eric “Rico” Gutstein is Professor in the Curriculum and Instruction Department of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Associate Faculty in CEJE. Rico has worked closely with Chicago Public schools (CPS) since 1994, with Orozco School (Pilsen), then helped co-found Chicago’s Social Justice High School (Lawndale, 2005). At both schools, Rico worked with students and teachers, co-developing/teaching mathematics for social justice (critical mathematics) and taught social-justice focused mathematics classes. Rico has collaborated with Chicago communities to defend and develop public schools grounded in principles of self-determination, environmental justice, and global leadership. He co-facilitated the proposal-writing team of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School that kept CPS from closing Bronzeville’s last public high school in 2016. Since 2017, Rico has served on the Task Force of the Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) initiative, a joint project of the Chicago Teachers Union/Grassroots Education Movement (a Chicago community coalition) and CPS.
Rico is a co-founder (1998) and active in Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ), a Chicago-based organization active in the education justice movement. Rico has published on critical mathematics, the relationship of racial capitalism and CPS policy, and education justice movements. In Fall 2019, Rico is in Valparaíso, Chile, where he is learning from, and working with, education activists to develop critical pedagogies linked to radically transforming the city. He collaborates with Pauline Lipman to produce the ChiTown & Chile blog.
Regina Baker goes by “Gigi” and is a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, facilitator, organizer, pre-service teacher, artist. She calls herself a “converted Austinian.” Although Gigi is not from the Chicago neighborhood of Austin, she was invited into the community by community residents four years ago and has had the opportunity to practice intentional living, and community organizing. The connection and love for this West Side neighborhood led her to the powerful campaign #NoCopAcademy. During the campaign, she served on the West Side base team, helped build curriculum, and supported the youth as they lead the campaign. Gigi also does black specific pre-service teacher work by co-creating and facilitating spaces that support black pre-service teachers.
Rhoda Rae Gutierrez is a PhD candidate in Educational Policy Studies-Social Foundations at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the program director and researcher at UIC’s Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education (CEJE). At CEJE, she has collaborated with teachers to engage in critical teacher inquiry and to integrate critical pedagogy in the classroom, and has organized teacher workshops and public colloquia on education justice issues. She has also worked on multiple CEJE research projects including the Chicago School Closings project, which researched the impact of the historic 2013 wave of school closures from the perspectives of parents, students and communities (2014-15). Her research interests include Chicago neoliberal education policy, the cultural politics of race, and education justice.
Rhoda is a parent of two Chicago Public Schools students and is an education activist who has worked in coalitions to stop school closings, end high-stakes testing, push for an elected representative school, and develop solidarity among teachers and parents. Rhoda has served on the boards of directors of the Crossroads Fund, a public foundation that supports social change grassroots organizing in Chicago, and Pintig Cultural Group, a Filipinx American political theater organization. She is also the former Chicago chapter coordinator of GABRIELA Network, a Philippine-US women’s solidarity organization.