José Luis Vilson Book Party

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This Is Not a Test:
A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education

Book Party for author Jose Luis Vilson
Thursday, September 25, 2014

5:00 to 7:00 pm, light refreshments

Hosted by the Albert Shanker Institute
555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC

Teaching for Change will handle book sales at the event.

Meet José Luis Vilson and learn about his publication from Haymarket Books — This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education. In this collection of multifaceted essays, Vilson provokes discussion on issues of race, gentrification and the teaching profession from the eyes of a black-Latino educator.

Graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in computer science, Vilson left campus with no job and a few hundred dollars to his name, propelling him (eventually) to his calling: teaching middle school children math in a public school in the Washington Heights/Inwood neighborhood of New York City. From his own background as a boy growing up on the drug-tainted, community-centered projects of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Vilson takes the reader on the coming-of-age story of a naive young man struggling to mature through the first few years of his career, balancing the lows of murder, poverty and academic failure to the highs of growth and eventual triumph.

His career takes a twist when he starts a blog with incisive commentary on the state of education on his eponymous blog, taking prominent figures and institutions like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the New York Times to task.

Too many books about teaching read like dull academic treatises, condescending how-tos, or simplistic Hollywood scripts. José Vilson’s This Is Not a Test avoids these traps with a narrative that is by turns passionate and funny, angry and vulnerable, and full of keen insight born of on-the-ground experience in schools. Whether referencing Jay-Z or John Dewey, discussing corporate school reform or the intimacy of one-on-one interactions with students, Vilson is a bold and fearless writer, weaving his own story and struggles into broader conversations about race, equity, and the future of public schooling. His singular, urgent voice is one we all need to hear. —Gregory Michie, public school teacher in Chicago and author of We Don’t Need Another Hero: Struggle, Hope, and Possibility in the Age of High-Stakes Schooling

José Vilson writes from a place of authority about the intersection of race, class and America’s education system. His straight talk about the absurdity of America’s test obsession, failure to meet or even acknowledge the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, and a “reform” movement that has reformed nothing, failed at much and distracted from students’ very real needs is a telling portal on what’s really going on in American education today. Those who can relate to Vilson’s experiences as a student or a teacher will welcome his unvarnished honesty and reflections. And those for whom this is terra incognito will find an insightful and illuminating window on the educational experiences of America’s emerging majority—students of many hues and languages, whose families struggle everyday, for whom their education may be the only way up, yet who too often are failed by systems ill-equipped to foster their success. Vilson’s visceral accounts remind us of the humanity of teachers—their struggles and triumphs, their frustration with forces outside their classroom walls and, above all, their devotion to their students. By telling his own story and those of his students, Vilson shows why teacher voice is essential to shedding the failures of the past and to reclaiming the promise of public education. —Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers