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Feminist scholar speaks at graduate commencement ceremony

June 04, 2012

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Michelle Fine, a prominent feminist scholar, spoke at the Graduate School of Education and Counseling’s commencement ceremony on June 3. Her commencement speech can be viewed online. 

Fine focused on the erosion of national commitments to public institutions, especially schools. In her speech, she criticized current public attitudes toward schools and educators, as well as  and marginalized members of society.

  • “It is a measure of how far we’ve come, where communities have become convinced that prison is the only way to hold people accountable; that test scores are a measure of your achievements as educators.”
  • “If W.E.B. DuBois and Naomi Klein had a baby, it would be our current historic moment, when the preverse braiding of poor peoples’ pain with corporate profit has become an American pastime, inscribed in federal, state and local policy.”

She exhorted graduating students in education and counseling programs to “honor in exquisite detail the lives of the children and the families with whom you are privileged to work. But also analyze closely and challenge fiercely the histories, structures, policies, and politics that are constraining their sense of possibility.” This, she urged, is what marks students “distinctly” as graduates of Lewis & Clark—as “activist-scholars and practitioners of human sustainability.”

The day before commencement, Fine also delivered a free public talk in Portland about who benefits from budget and policy decisions and how they affect young people. “I want to worry you about the industries of policing and testing that are making a fortune right now and are not experiencing budget cuts,” Fine said. The event drew teachers, counselors and youth advocates, as well as distinguished education faculty from around the Portland region. You can read more about Fine’s critique of high stakes testing and closing schools that serve communities of color in this article about the event from The Skanner newspaper.

Fine is a distinguished professor of social psychology, women’s studies, and urban education at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has helped reshape thinking about social issues, integrating critical psychological theory with feminist and postcolonial theory, participatory methods, and strong commitments to research for social justice. She is a pioneer in the field of youth participatory action research, an approach to research that values the significant knowledge people hold about their lives and experiences. Fine has authored or coauthored numerous books and articles. Her awards include the Willystine Goodsell award from the American Educational Research Association (2007) and the Carolyn Sherif award from the American Psychological Association (2001).

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