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March 03 , 2011

Sartre and No Child Left Behind

An Existential Psychoanalytic Anthropology of Urban Schooling


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.
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