Jaime Patterson | October 2016

ARTISTIC Critique of Push Out

While Dr. Emdin’s text For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too focuses on teaching in urban settings, it does maintain an undertone of working with our young urban males.  Monique Morris takes a deeper look at how our schools serve (or neglect) our African American females specifically in Push Out: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. Here’s an artistic critique about it.

In 2013 I introduced the ARTISTIC critique, a way to critique art that spirals through the levels of Bloom’s.  For the next couple of weeks, I will be using the ARTISTIC critique to analyze a few texts that shed light on social justice in education.  Check out the original ARTISTIC critique article.

AFFIRMATION: Positive assertions

In the artistic critique of Push Out: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, Monique Morris uses interviews with black adolescent girls to highlight the reality of criminalization as opposed to rehabilitation within our school system.  As a social justice scholar, Ms. Morris helps educators to see how much our black girls are misunderstood, judged, and pushed out by the very institutions that are supposed to protect, nurture, and help them flourish.

With unfiltered interviews with girls across the country, Ms. Morris sheds light on their lives in institutions and the exacerbation of the education of our black girls.  She helps educators, and all who work with young black females, to understand the need for alternatives to punishments, the understanding of cultural norms, the need to work with students when creating rules and expectations, and the fact that we must remember that these are just children who need love and guidance not rejection.

REFLECTION: Opinion based observations

I felt this was a great follow up after reading Dr. Emdin’s For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all too.  Where Dr. Emdin provided an empirical background for urban children in general, Ms. Morris narrows the scope and focuses on black girls.  The interviews give insight into how these girls feel when faced with various situations, including explaining why they are placed in certain situations and why they act the way they do.  The fact that the girls are able to reflect on their actions and acknowledge the results of their actions shows that these girls are not naive to the circumstances.

TECHNIQUE: foundational elements

The technical elements of Push Out: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools provide statistics, research, and unfiltered interviews.  She organized the book into 5 main chapters: Struggling to Survive, A Blues for Black Girls with the “Attitude” is Enuf, Jezebel in the Classroom, Leaning on Lockdown, Repairing Relationships Rebuilding Connections.  It is easy to follow as she seamlessly moves through references to litigation, current statistics in education, and young girls’ raw reactions to their circumstances.

INQUIRY: Questions for the author

My main question for the author revolves around What Now?  We see the statistics, we see the reality, now how do we as educators pull together to change the way we push out our girls.  How can we advocate for more restorative justice practices, how do we transform our schools so they look less like prisons and more like playgrounds, where our children will learn and flourish, and not immediately be on the defense because they are so used to the situation.

SUGGESTION: recommendations for the author

My suggestion would be to develop some next steps for educators to transform their institutions.  The text is eye-opening and informative but we need concrete steps to follow.  She does have some discussion questions coming out soon to help guide readers through Push Out: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools.

TRANSLATION: Interpret the author’s intent

I believe Monique Morris’ intent was to give a voice to these young ladies who find themselves pushed out of traditional education.  I think she also gave voice to reason, discussing the “why” behind the way these young ladies conduct themselves, which opens our eyes to the way we treat our black girls and helps us to understand the best ways to work with them.  The greatest gift of her intent lies in the cultural understanding of our black girls.  One specific incident sticks in my mind.  Ms. Morris discusses the process by which our young black girls have their hair done.

Every woman can attest to the importance of having their hair done, however, the process for each is different.  For our black girls this is usually a two-day painful process, and quite embarrassing when only half done so young ladies turn to cover their heads while undergoing the process.  Whether a head wrap, a hat, or a hood, black girls tend to cover their head during this time.  Many schools have a no hat policy, leaving girls three options: go to school in complete embarrassment, go to school but break the rule by covering their heads, or just don’t go to school at all.  This poses the question: what is more important as an educational system, to have students attend school even if they need to cover their head for a couple days or not to attend school at all?  What are we teaching?  Is it more important to follow an arbitrary rule, or more important to get an education?

ILLATION: Overall evaluation

Overall, the text is extremely informative and a great opportunity for educators to examine the way we interact with our black girls.  Our black girls are so often treated as “delinquents,” and we respond by excluding them through suspensions or expulsions which ultimately pushes them out.  When left with nothing, our young girls turn to drugs, abuse, sex trafficking, and a lifetime of incarceration.

CREATION: Recreate the work

I leave you with Ms. Monique Morris’s website

Next Week we will take a look at Mike Anderson’s Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn: The Key to Student Motivation & Achievement which gives us a concrete and tangible way to take the advice of Dr. Emdin and Ms. Morris and turn it into practice.

About the Author

Jaime Patterson is the Executive Director of Creative Affairs for The Institute for Arts Integration & STEAM. She is a lifelong supporter of the arts and is passionate about supporting educators in their pathway to teaching and learning through arts integration. Jaime resides in Hanover, Pennsylvania with her husband, Josh, and their three children, Aidan, Lila and Gwyneth.