Wednesday | September 24, 2014
This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education
Graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in computer science, Jose Vilson left campus with no job and a few hundred dollars to his name, propelling him (eventually) to his calling: teaching middle school children math in a public school in Washington Heights/Inwood, Manhattan. From his own back-ground as a boy growing up on the drug-tainted, community-centered projects of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this book takes the reader on the coming-of-age story of a naïve young man struggling to mature through the first few years of his career, balancing the lows of murder, poverty, and academic failure to the highs of growth and eventual triumph.
His career takes a twist when he starts a blog with incisive commentary on the state of education on his eponymous blog TheJoseVilson.com, taking prominent figures and institutions like NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and The New York Times to task. In his collection of multifaceted essays, he provokes discussion on issues of race, gentrification, and the teaching profession from the eyes of a Black-Latino educator with a mix of research and first-hand experience.
Jose Luis Vilson, author and AFT member
Elizabeth Davis, President, Washington Teachers Union
Moderator: Leo Casey, Executive Director, Albert Shanker Institute
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker Institute
Jose Vilson writes from a place of authority about the intersection of race, class and America’s education system. His straight-talk about the absurdity of America’s test obsession, failure to meet or even acknowledge the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, and a “reform” movement that has reformed nothing, failed at much and distracted from students’ very real needs is a telling portal on what’s really going on in American education today. Those who can relate to Vilson’s experiences as a student or a teacher will welcome his unvarnished honesty and reflections. And those for whom this is terra incognita will find an insightful and illuminating window on the educational experiences of America’s emerging majority—students of many hues and languages, whose families struggle everyday, for whom their education may be the only way up, yet who too often are failed by systems ill-equipped to foster their success. Vilson’s visceral accounts remind us of the humanity of teachers—their struggles and triumphs, their frustration with forces outside their classroom walls and, above all, their devotion to their students. By telling his own story and those of his students, Vilson shows why teacher voice is essential to shedding the failures of the past and to reclaiming the promise of public education.