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Antiblackness and the Adultification of Black Children in a U.S. Prison Nation  

Amir A. Gilmore and Pamela J. Bettis

Discourses in the early 21st century surrounding the presumption of childhood innocence were undergirded by antiblackness. The theorization of antiblackness within the context of race, gender, and education has been beneficial to understanding how the mistreatment of Black children and the illegitimacy of Black childhoods within the white American racial imaginary is seemingly justified. Foundational to the United States, antiblackness is a race-based paradigm of racial othering and subjugation through a litany of organized structural violence against Black people. Structured outside the realms of humanity and civil society, Black life, through this paradigm, is regarded as other than human. Arguably, antiblackness shapes all racialized, gendered, sexualized conditions and experiences of all Black people, including the age compression of Black children. Antiblackness scholarship posits that there is an institutional unwillingness to see Black youth as children. Discourses on what it means to be a child, who can occupy that position, and when a particular stage of a child’s development is reached, are all structured against Black youth. Pathologized as deviant, adult-like problems, Black children occupy life in a liminal space, where they are denied childhood status but carry adult-like culpability. As adultified Black youth, they lack autonomy and are not granted leniency to learn from their mistakes like their white peers. With their actions and intentions perceived as deviant, ill-willed, or hypersexual, Black children are susceptible a wide range of violence from school punishment, the criminal justice system, sexual abuse and exploitation, and excessive police force.

Article

Academic Optimism  

Martinette V. Horner, Derrick D. Jordan, and Kathleen M. Brown

Academic optimism was developed in 2006 as a latent concept that provides insight into the improvement of student outcomes especially for those who, because of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and other demographics, have historically been labeled as underperforming. The three main components of academic optimism (academic emphasis, collective emphasis, and faculty trust) underscore the reality that the teachers, parents, and students all play a critical role in the education arena when it comes to ensuring that students fully grow and stretch to the fullest extent possible. High academic optimism in a school suggests that academic achievement is valued and supported; the faculty has the capacity to help students achieve; and students and parents can be trusted as partners of the school for student achievement. Each of these can be controlled by the actions and decisions of school leaders and faculty so that schools can overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement.