An Education in the Failures of Education

Question: What was your educational experience like growing up?

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Pedro Noguera:  I was educated partially in New York City in the public schools.  We moved from New York to Long Island.  I attended public schools in Long Island, a place called Brentwood, very large public school system there.  I’ve often said I succeeded in spite of my education, not because of it.  I attribute a lot of my own success in education to my parent’s influence, which is ironic because neither of my parents had a high school degree, but they put a lot of emphasis on the importance of education, the importance of learning and so all six of my siblings all graduated from college, very good colleges, so a lot of it was really their influence and what they instilled in us.  Schools for me were never, I would say, that intellectually stimulating.  There were a few exceptions along the way, but I say a lot of what I learned I learned outside of school as well.

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Question: In what areas of education reform are you most actively involved?

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Pedro Noguera:  Sure.  Well I’m a sociologist and the focus of my work for the last 20 years or so has been trying to understand the way the social context influences what goes on within schools, so how change in the economy, changes in communities, demographic changes all impact children’s lives, their families and the schools they attend, and so a lot of my work has been involved in trying to help particularly urban schools, but even suburban and rural schools that are dealing with difficulties in educating all the children they serve, which typically means children of color, children who are poor, children who don’t somehow meet the norm, making sure that they understand what it takes to educate those kids, and I think that that interest comes right out of my own experience in recognizing how vital and how important it is to provide all kids with a solid education.

Recorded on January 28, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

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The sociologist’s commitment to understanding and improving schools "comes right out of [his] own experience" as an underserved student.

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