The Cultural Politics of Milwaukee's Charter School Movement

Authors: Chuchen Pan*, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Topics: Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: critical geographies of education, narrative, discourse, Milwaukee, charter school
Session Type: Virtual Lightning Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 47
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Milwaukee has two unsettling and entangled identities. First, Milwaukee is known as the most (or one of the most) segregated city in the US. Second, Milwaukee is described as “the Birthplace of Education Freedom” in America by the Department of Education under Betsy Devos. Building upon the work of critical geographies of education, urban geography, and Black geographies, my paper looks at how the charter school movement has been able to enact alternative schooling spaces on Milwaukee’s racialized landscape. Using a critical narrative approach, I analyze the narrative structures in my interviews with charter school educators in Milwaukee and larger discursive relations in social texts produced from the charter school movement nationwide. The stories that are told by the charter school educators indicate strategic engagement with neoliberal hegemony in order to enact their own visions of justice onto Milwaukee’s education landscape. My talks with charter school educators also point to the need of another counterhegemonic movement that can challenge the neoliberal precaritization of Milwaukee's youth.

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