Is there a link between early-childhood placement in a reading remediation program or scripted learning environment and eventual incarceration? (Don’t click if you hate Elseiver.) Even if there is only a correlative link, is it worth unpacking to find what, if any, role rigid instructional prescription plays in the lives and behavioral, cognitive, and moral development of our children?
When and where do we enforce such programs most strictly? Is there a correlation between the implementation of such programs and zero tolerance policies, tracking practices, and/or drop out and graduation rates?
What roles do we teachers play in the school to prison pipeline? Does our complicity in delivering remediation and/or scripted programs correlate to complicity with zero-tolerance policies and/or tracked settings?
Does needing help to read at age 5, in fact, result in a mandatory life-sentence for some children? Is reading remediation racial profiling? Is scripted instruction?
And if so, at which schools, in which communities, and for which children? Where are we looking to implement such practices and policies? Where aren’t we looking to implement them? How does the kind of education we agree to deliver correlate to crime rates, which – if they are a function of “criminals’” choices – are also a function of our choices about whom to police inside and outside school.
In analyzing such inequity, and in pursuing answers to these questions, what would we find? If we already intuitively know the answers, what haven’t we changed what we do? If we never go on strike against police states in some schools, than neither will the future teachers who graduate from them.
Are we complicit in using reading as racial profiling? Is remediation, however well intended, a fully scalable, coercive vehicle for a frustrated predestination? For justifying the criminalization of our kids?
While we can’t legitimize teaching illiteracy (which carries its own life sentence) as a radical response to socially questionable reading remediation practices, we can build learning spaces and adopt practices that teach to kids’ idiosyncratic literacies with more skill, purpose, and authenticity than we do now. We can support kids with reading difficulties by helping them approach reading from positions of strength and multi-modal literacies – from interests and capacities they already possess – rather than confront those kids daily with the threat of failure and/or punishment for not doing what they can’t yet do.
In finding new spaces, schedules, and staffing formulae to do so, we can also make our schools look and reel less like prisons and thereby work against the criminalization of our kids.