The Gateways and Get-aways Project

The Gateways and Get-aways Project by the Collective of Researchers on Educational Disappointment and Desire – Eve Tuck, Maria Bacha, Jovanne Allen, Alexis Morales, Jamilla Thompson, Sarah Quinter, Jodi-Ann Gayle, Melody Tuck, and Crystal Orama.

“CREDD is the place to interrogate the education system that turned its back on me.” Alexis

“CREDD makes me know that I was sitting down when I should have been standing.” Jodi-Ann

The Collective of Researchers on Educational Disappointment and Desire (CREDD) came together in early 2006 to be a space for youth participatory action research on education in New York City.  We are united by our disappointment in the New York City Public school system, and our desire to affect political and educational change in school policies and practices.  CREDD researchers are lower and working class, ethnically diverse, live all over the city, and represent a wide range of educational experiences, although many identify as being pushed-out from our former schools, and all of us have felt unwelcome at school.  We have developed a critique of a school system that was never intended for us in the first place.  Our group defines itself against racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, the criminalization of poor people, and push out practices in New York City public high schools.  We are in favor of schooling that is rigorous, accessible, and free.

Figure 1 The CREDD seal.  Created by Sarah Quinter.

CREDD is different from other research spaces because we are not an academic or government space; usually the academy or government has a monopoly on research.  We fill different roles based on our interests and talents, where in other research spaces, power is usually only held by those with the most research experience.  Finally, we engage in our own process of decision making, whereas other participatory spaces may rely on a one person one vote decision making model that will always muffle the voices of those in numeric minority (Smith, 2000).

CREDD’s approach to PAR holds that those upon whose backs research has historically been carried on are instead researched alongside; In our work, PAR has been a way for young men and women who are marginalized by race and ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality to demand not only access to the conversations, policies, theories and spaces to which we/they have been systematically denied, but better yet, demand that our research inform and inspire these efforts.  CREDD’s approach to PAR is concerned with what knowing is and where knowing comes from, believing that it is often those at the bottom of social hierarchies who know the most about social oppression, but also, the radical possibilities toward redressing domination  (Anyon, 2005; Fine, Tuck, Zeller-Berkman, 2007).

Further, CREDD understands PAR as politic- an embedded and outloud critique of colonization, racism, misogyny, homophobia and heterosexism, classism, and xenophobia in our society, in our research sites, amongst our research collective, and within the larger and historical research community- rather than a fixed set of methods.  At the same time, CREDD takes method seriously, crafting each instrument to be interactive and pedagogical, drawing from qualitative and quantitative traditions, and growing our own legacy of hybridized methods utilizing visual arts, theater, and schoolyard games.

For us, PAR means that:

1) There is transparency on all matters of the research

2) The research questions are co-constructed

3) The project design and design of research methods are collaboratively negotiated and co-constructed

4) Analysis is co-constructed.

5) The products of the research are dynamic, interactive, and are prepared and disseminated in collaboration.

Our work stands in opposition to the kinds of research that have and continue to be used for domination.  Everyone is involved in developing research questions, project design, data collection, data analysis, and product development.  Everyone is responsible for making our space a participatory space.  We don’t erase ourselves from our work, our whole selves are involved because lots of kinds of skills and thinking are needed, not just one.  By action, CREDD means demanding justice, starting a conversation, taking a stand in order to build power and redefining reality.  Action happens all throughout the research, not just at the end.  By research, we mean looking again in order to make our own interpretations, breaking silences, and reclaiming spaces that have been used against us.  Finally, research means refusing to accept analyses that paint us as lazy, crazy, or stupid.

 

“I’ve learned that it can be more helpful for me to look for people asking similar questions than to count on those offering answers. I came across CREDD and saw a group of people who were also searching for answers about education and youth achieving self-determination. I’d never done research before and had never even heard of PAR. I ended up joining a diverse group of young researchers who are trying something that hadn’t been done before.”- Sarah Quinter

We co-founded CREDD in February 2006 to do a research project that attended to the over-use and abuse of the General Educational Development (GED) credential as a disguise for pushing out unwanted students in New York City high schools; this project became our Gate-ways and Get-aways Project.  Towards the end of 2006 we began consulting on other youth PAR projects, and began our involvement with a larger city-wide initiative to replace mayoral-controlled schooling with human rights-based schooling.  In early 2007, we facilitated a participatory action research project with another group of local youth, the newly formed Youth Researchers for a New Education System (YRNES).  This project seeks to document students’ visions for school governance, schooling based on collaboration rather than competition and control, and the purpose(s) of schooling.

We call our first research project the Gateways and Get-aways Project because we are interested in the GED as both a gate way to higher education and employment, and as a get away from dehumanizing high schools.   The GED is a credential of General Educational Development that was never intended for widespread use as an alternative to a high school diploma.

We believe that the increase in numbers of youth GED earners in New York City, even in the face of a possibly diminished value of the GED, can be linked to what it feels like to be in high school.  To really understand this link, we needed to do participatory action research.  Our collective, who includes youth GED earners, designed the Gateways and Get-aways project to privilege the experiences of youth GED earners and seekers in order to challenge mainstream attitudes toward the GED as being an empty credential, and to understand the lived rather than perceived value of the GED.     Seeking out the lived value helped us see how federal mandates (like No Child Left Behind) and state mandated exit exams (like the NY Regents) put pressure on schools to push out students who won’t do well on standardized tests.  Youth of color and poor youth (many who don’t feel like school was made for them anyway) are explicitly and implicitly pushed out and pushed towards the GED.  Many youth are misinformed about the GED process and mistakenly think that they will be swapping one set of tests for another without having to attend four years of high school.  Our participatory action research on the GED has taught us that the value of the GED lies less in it being a gateway to higher education and employment and more in being a get away from inhospitable high schools.

For more information see Tuck, E., Allen, J., Bacha, M., Morales, A., Quinter, J., Thompson, J., & Tuck, M. (2008). PAR praxes for now and future change. In J. Cammarota, & M. Fine (eds.) Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion. New York: Routledge.