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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Conference tackles urban academics

    The 11th annual Transformative Education Conference attracted some of the nation’s top scholars, thinkers and pedagogues to the UA this week.

    The conference was cosponsored by the Mexican American studies department of the Tucson Unified High School District and the College of Education and was held July 14 – 17.

    Among the issues the conference addressed were problems concerning difficult community environments and their intimate connection with poor rates of academic achievement among urban youth.

    “”Take a look at the data. There are more Latinos and African-Americans in the prison-industrial complex than there are at state universities,”” said Augustine F. Romero, Director of Student Equity at TUSD. “”From my perspective, somewhere along the line, we have not been able to engage these people and help them understand this world differently.””

    Romero has helped lead the conference throughout the course of its development, and has played a fundamental role in its rapid growth.

    “”The essence of the conference is to help educators and students understand that we can transform the world,”” Romero said. “”From my perspective, we are here to change lives. I don’t think education has been viewed that way. It’s been viewed as a process that just moves kids through a system without meaning or relevance.””

    How to engage children that are identified as non-achievers, and how to create a culture that is nurturing at the same time engaging for children were a few of the questions that, according to Romero, the conference attempted to address.

    But the conference was as much about teachers as it was about students.

    Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade, co-director of educational equity initiative at the Cesar Chavez Institute, an organization based at San Francisco State University that undertakes and promotes socially-engaged scholarships, emphasized that significant change in education will require the transformation of teachers’ roles in and out of the classroom.

    Duncan-Andrade is also a professor of raza studies and education at San Francisco State University, as well as a teacher at an East Oakland high school. Part of his talk given at the conference was concerned with the detached stance that many teachers take with regards to their students’ lives outside school.

    He described the need for teachers to connect to students on a community, and not just an academic, level.

    “”So many educators do not understand the social environment that students are living in,”” he said. “”If you can’t understand the pain that young people are experiencing, then you can’t teach them.””

    Duncan-Andrade said that his message will involve an uphill battle to become widely accepted, but that the conference will have been fundamental to its capacity to be heard and discussed.

    “”I think that this conference is rare and fundamentally important to changing practices in schools for the better,”” he said. “”I don’t endorse much at all, but at all the talks I give, I endorse this conference. This is giving teachers access to a community and dialogue they don’t ordinarily have access to.””

    Featuring prominent scholars, such Sonia Niete – considered as among the top five scholars on pedagogy in the country – the conference is nationally recognized among scholars for its lively dialogue and its engagement with the questions that most critically concern education today.

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