"Schools as Workplaces: Intersectional Regimes of Inequality"
- with Myra Marx Ferree
ABSTRACT: Joan Acker extended her 1990 brilliant and path-breaking article, “Gender, Jobs, Bodies,” to address the intersectional effects of gender, race and class as “inequality regimes” in her 2006 article of that name. This research picks up her challenge to see embodied workers holding jobs in organizations structured simultaneously and interactively by gender, race and class processes. Rather than studying a corporate regime in which the actors are managers, supervisors and workers, this study looks at the organizational interactions among teachers and paraprofessionals in one large, urban and unionized school district in the U.S. We look at skill, care and respect as three dimensions of interaction embedded in the occupational demands and specific job requirements of teachers and paraprofessionals, and some of the tensions this regime produces between the largely White teachers and the women of color who are the paraprofessionals. By highlighting the largely invisible racialized work of supporting the moral worth of students and staff, we extend the understanding of skill and care beyond a binary model.
"Talking About a Revolution? Dissecting the Popular Debate over K-12 Education and the Quest to Reform Failing Schools"
ABSTRACT: Public schools, particularly urban schools, are popularly discussed as “in crisis” and needing immediate reform. This article examines media coverage of education debates in three prominent newspapers, The New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today between 2009-2011, during a period of increased coverage of failing schools. Using a combination of collocation and discourse analysis, this paper examines how newspapers mobilize race and class to discursively frame U.S. public schools as in “crisis” or “failing,” and position teachers at the intersection of race, gender, and age as being solutions or impediments to public school improvement. I argue that newspapers depict failing schools as urban, minority, and poor, and define “good teachers” as young, elite, non-union professionals educated in well-resourced schools; “bad teachers” are simultaneously characterized as those who are products of or serve in poor, minority, or “failing” schools. In focusing on the attributes of individual teachers and generalizing their commentary on teachers and schools as a whole, newspapers circumvent a deeper systemic discussion that might reveal how or why the education system remains inequitable.