Lori's Reviews > We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom

We Want to Do More Than Survive by Bettina L. Love
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it was ok
bookshelves: education

I wanted to like this book. We need more discussion about the systemic ways in which the various intersecting systems of American life contribute to poverty and oppression of POC, driven by racism rooted in White privilege. Unfortunately, this book does not fill that purpose well enough for me to pass it on to my friends who need to be introduced to Critical Race Theory in a non-technical setting.

I came here hoping this book would do for education what Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow gave to me, a White person, in opening my eyes to systemic injustice within the criminal justice system. Aside from her personal discussions of what school felt like to her (valuable), the author seems to prioritize expressions of anger and rage (that's ok!) over methodical discussion of theory or even a road map that would lead people like me toward a better understanding of whatever it is she wants us to understand.

The book repeatedly mentions the need to dismantle the educational systems which do so much harm to Black kids (Yes! we agree!), but she offers nothing to help me do that, besides saying "it's not impossible" and "we must take an abolitionist's approach" (okay?).

The book swings wildly between attempting to reach an audience who knows nothing about racism (I assume her audience for those parts is un-woke White people or maybe her undergraduate pre-service teachers) and "preaching to the choir" about how bad White racism is using only the most general examples. I agreed with her conclusions most of the time, but the book adds very little real information to the conversation because she doesn't do much to build an actual argument. I appreciate books that work through emotion rather than argument (Coates's Between the World and Me comes to mind as an outstanding example), but Love fails to accomplish her purpose here, as far as I can tell.

The second half of the book, picking up around chapter 3, got closer to the author's goal. For example, I learned a lot from her account of growing up in Rochester NY, her description of attending Catholic elementary school where all of her teachers were white and no one gave her the language of political action she needed to survive "the hood" (as she termed it), the power of joyful struggle, and the huge group of people who banded together to be a community to help her survive and "make it." That was a powerful chapter.

I also appreciated the final chapter on theory, though it's only a very basic introduction to Critical Race Theory and critical pedagogy. Worthwhile read and probably my favorite chapter in the book.

I am sure Dr. Love provokes her students to challenge their biases and I hope many of UGA's undergraduate teacher candidates go through her courses on diversity and inclusion. She accurately identifies the crucial lack of understanding of race issues and American history represented among her idealistic and naive 18-24 year old future teachers. She's right that we're sending armies of (White, female) teachers into classrooms completely unprepared to identify and address the harms of centuries of racist oppression. What she fails to provide is any road map for what the rest of us are supposed to do about it.

PS. I found Chris Emdin's For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood....And the Rest of Us Too to be a much better handbook for culturally appropriate teaching practices, and a helpful explanation to White teachers to understand Black practices and culture.

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Reading Progress

December 12, 2019 – Started Reading
December 12, 2019 – Shelved
December 12, 2019 – Shelved as: education
December 12, 2019 –
page 20
February 3, 2020 – Finished Reading

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Lori edit May 2020 -- upon reflection, I downgraded my rating to 2 stars from 3. I've been reading other books on critical pedagogy that are so much better written and so much more effective. I hope Love writes more in the future.

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