As this issue goes to print, there is a rising tide of nationalism worldwide. In the United States, this is manifested by a contentious presidential election that, in many ways, has raised questions about protecting the fundamentals of our constitution and the future of our country’s institutions. In particular, education remains central to many conversations about innovation, culture, politics and policies, identity, progress, equity, community, and our hopes for the future. Collectively, we point to education research as we attempt to diagnose our troubles; we also rely on education as part of the solution to the problems we see. In this moment, the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review (HER) is moved to reaffirm both the purpose of our journal as a place for research and scholarly opinion in education and, more generally, the immense importance of continuing to strive for an education system that promotes equity and justice.
For the past eighty-six years, HER has provided an interdisciplinary forum for discussion, debate, and dissemination of research about issues in education. The work we publish comes from scholars and practitioners at all stages of their careers. In our pages, those committed to education in its many forms—in and out of classrooms, in settings all over the world, for people of all ages, across disciplines and topics of study, from the individual to the systemic—tackle some of the most pressing questions of the day. The subjects addressed in HER run the gamut from long-standing issues with historical roots to modern-day controversies, including topics that are ever present on the education agenda and those that are sometimes overlooked but are nonetheless important.
An educated populace is fundamental to the health of our society, and so in critically examining issues in education, many of our contributing scholars speak to the promises and shortcomings of our social world. Many of the most influential research pieces published in our pages grapple with the ways our education systems do and do not meet the needs of all students, regardless of such differences as class, race, or language status. For example, in a 1970 article titled “Student Social Class and Teacher Expectations: Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Ghetto Education,” Ray C. Rist demonstrated how teachers’ differential treatment of students based on social class influenced students’ achievement. Considering the importance of race, Lisa D. Delpit developed the concept of “culture of power” in her 1988 essay “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,” asking teachers to explicitly teach all students, especially those who are black or poor, the rules of power as one step toward making resources and opportunities accessible to all. More recently, Maria Martiniello’s 2008 article “Language and the Performance of English-Language Learners in Math Word Problems” demonstrated how the language complexity of word problems on high-stakes tests may compromise the validity of inferences about English language learners’ mathematics proficiency. HER’s openness to diverse disciplines, genres, and perspectives, as demonstrated by these examples, allows the journal to engage with issues related to equity in education in a range of ways.
In this issue and the included symposium, we continue this tradition. Diana D’Amico, Robert J. Pawlewicz, and colleagues report on evidence of discrimination against black teacher applicants in “Where Are All the Black Teachers? Discrimination in the Teacher Labor Market,” while Amanda J. Taylor’s piece, “Putting Race on the Table: How Teachers Make Sense of the Role of Race in their Practice,” presents a portrait of a young white teacher negotiating her own understanding of racial identity and equity. In addition, six eminent scholars of culturally sustaining pedagogy and universal design for learning respond to the 2016 HER article “Cross-Pollinating Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and Universal Design for Learning: Toward an Inclusive Pedagogy That Accounts for Dis/Ability” by Federico R. Waitoller and Kathleen A. King Thorius, discussing the affordances and limitations of the two approaches in creating deep and meaningful learning opportunities for all students.
This issue’s symposium on education in carceral spaces builds on our 2012 book, Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline, by examining our assumptions about why, who, and how we educate, punish, or incarcerate. In “Complex Sentences,” Clint Smith reflects on his experience teaching prisoners and puts forth a vision of education as a means of cognitive liberation and a reclamation of human dignity within carceral spaces. Highlighting a different dimension of education within prisons, Erin L. Castro, a prison educator, and Michael Brawn, an incarcerated student, problematize the use of critical pedagogies in the context of a space that inherently restricts individual liberty. Finally, in “The Problem Child: Provocations Toward Dismantling the Carceral State,” Erica R. Meiners critiques the ways in which systems designed to protect children can in turn increase vulnerability for young people as well as the adults who care for them.
As the Editorial Board for HER, we remain committed to providing a space for critical inquiry and discussion that generates insights useful for practice, policy, and future research. At this time of political transition and social change, education is more important than ever, and so, too, is the work of education researchers. We thank the authors and readers who work alongside us to build our collective understanding. In an era when the public debate raises questions about equity and belonging, we remain dedicated to providing a forum for research that pushes for more just education systems.
HER Editorial Board 2016–2017