Finding the Capacity to Resist: Science Classrooms as Sites of/for Resistance

Authors: Jill Williams*, University of Arizona
Topics: Political Geography, Qualitative Research
Keywords: science education, neoliberalism, activism, geographies of education, political geography
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

While there is increasing attention to education (as both site and process) in geographic research, very few geographers have explored the science classroom in particular as a unique site of/for educational resistance. Drawing on insights gained during an 18-month collaborative project with public school science teachers in southern Arizona, this paper examines the interesting and unexpected ways in which neoliberal policies have produced science classrooms as particularly powerful sites from which resistance can emerge. For example, widespread teacher shortages (particularly of math and science teachers) have created feelings of empowerment and agency among teachers that allow them to resist destructive educational reforms in various ways. At the same time, the increasingly central role math and language arts testing has played in shaping teacher and school evaluations gives science teachers a promising level of autonomy within their classrooms. Throughout, we pay particular attention to the way in which everyday resistances taken at the scale of the individual connect to large-scale collective resistance. In doing so, we link the sites of the classroom to the street and the state house as teachers work to find the space and the capacity to resist harmful education policies and create meaningful change. In doing so, our presentation encourages geographers to pay attention to the way in which resistance to neoliberal education reforms emerges across scales and from particularly situated sites.

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