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Document Type

Article in Response to Controversy

Abstract

Despite good intentions, No Child Left Behind (2002) and other initiatives aimed at leveling the playing field in American society have arguably had more harmful than positive effects on children’s learning in schools. According to some critics (e.g., Au, 2004; Glass, 2007; Orfield & Kornhaber, 2001; Wotherspoon & Schissel, 2001), if we scratch beneath the surface of these initiatives, we often find discourses that pathologize certain children or groups of children, and a reluctance to look critically at the social, political, and economic conditions (such as hunger, homelessness, and lack of adequate health care) under which some children struggle to succeed in school while others flourish. But as Ron Glass (2007) argues, instead of blaming children for the detrimental effects of circumstances and experiences beyond their control, we need to start holding to account the adults who could in fact make a difference in those children’s lives. I share Glass’s view, and in what follows, I want to move away from the prevailing discourses of cultural deprivation and deficit, turning instead to the recent scholarship on vulnerability and precarity in order to reframe our conception of pedagogical responsibility in today’s increasingly diverse classrooms.

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