Sartre and No Child Left Behind
An Existential Psychoanalytic Anthropology of Urban Schooling
By (author) Darian M. Parker
Publication date:16 December 2015
Length of book:176 pages
Sartre and No Child Left Behind: An Existential Psychoanalytic Anthropology of Urban Schooling asks two fundamental questions: “Who do students become as a result of inhabiting impoverished urban schools for eight hours a day, five days a week, over the course of several years? What happens to the hearts, minds, and spirits of these children?” Using nine months of field observation and interviews with students, teachers, and administrators at a New York City middle school—The Academy (pseudonym)—the book offers an in-depth analysis of students’ psychological and emotional experiences of the Title I school environment. Ultimately, the book demonstrates how the children’s experiences become a part of a vicious chain of events. The history of racial segregation guarantees inferior schooling conditions, and as a result, the students perform poorly; the school closes; gentrification efforts accelerate these closings; and ultimately, the school’s community dies a whisper-less death. Propelling the study is a new anthropological theory of human consciousness. By synthesizing the insights of Sartre, Africana existentialists, phenomenologists, and sociocultural anthropologists, Parker offers a preliminary outline for a theory that he names “existential psychoanalytic anthropology.” Based on Sartre’s existential psychoanalysis, which asserts that we choose who we are from a field of possible beings that we encounter in our cultural environment, existential psychoanalytic anthropology studies the complex ways that culture and consciousness work together to form an individual being.
What choices are available for ethnic minority students in our inner city schools? What forms of being are possible for students subjected to harsh institutional structures, ideologies of deficit thinking, racist symbolic orders, and bureaucratic totalitarianism? These questions lie at the heart of Darian Parker's probing existential-psychoanalytic-anthropological critique of contemporary apartheid educational practices in the United States. In the spirit of Paulo Freire’s best work, Parker provides a deeply moving, politically sharp, and existentially detailed description of the phenomenology of educational dehumanization. A must read for social justice educators and researchers interested in the question of education, freedom, and the struggle for human dignity.