WELCOME TO EVERYSTREET!
Placing your hand into a paper bag you take out a piece of white paper with a word scribbled on it in pencil and are told not to share this word with anyone around you. You uncrumple the paper, holding it close to your chest just under your chin and read: “SHEEP.” It is now your job to act like the animal on your card, in order to find the others with the same animal, only using movements and sound, no words. So you simply watch for others acting as sheep, and like the sheep that you are, you follow. Once you find your herd of about eight and sit in a small circle a staff member leans toward you all and whispers: “blender”.
Your task, as a newly formed sheep family, is to create a moveable machine, in your case a “blender,” using all people in the group in meaningful ways that make sense enough for the large group of 50 people to be able to guess what machine your group is attempting. You are given the role of “food” to be pulverized and then consumed, and prepare to take your place to spin on command for the large group’s ogling and interpretation. Unsurprisingly your rendition of mushed food was so uncanny the audience was able to guess immediately, just in time for the big reveal of the overall lesson of the activity.
The mission of the EveryStreet program is to empower diverse groups of high school students (referred to as “delegates” of the community) to create more inclusive and just schools and communities where all individuals are treated with respect and understanding. This is all attempted in the hope of a community free from ALL forms of discrimination. This is a mission I can fully get behind, and did for more than ten years, and still do as I enter my fifth year as a college professor where I teach these lessons myself in my own classroom. I too want to create a more just world where all people treated equitably and with kindness. However, in the following pages I will outline the ways in which the staff of EveryStreet attempt to teach the importance of cross-cultural dialogue and the existence of institutionalized discrimination through narrative and testimonials from individuals who were both participants in the program, and staff members as adults. My argument is 3 fold: 1. I will argue that EveryStreet acts as a simulacra for how they want the world to be as a way to “model” their desires. 2. They do this at the expense of the safety of the bodies of young people. 3. After all of that, there is no proof that their pedagogy is, or ever will be, successful in meeting their vision of a community free from all forms of discrimination.
EVERYSTREET: A SIMULACRA
You are ambushed as you exit the bus. Strangers begin grabbing all your belongings as you pass. Your pillow. Your backpack. They take it, place it into an old wooden wheel barrel, and cart it off into the distant field of grass. You and the two new friends you made on the bus make your way down the dirt path, and across a small wooden walking bridge, toward a large room, they are referring to as “the pavilion”. You are handed a name tag and asked to sit.
I think Baudrillard would refer to the staff of EveryStreet, as cartographers (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 409). Making a map of a hyperreal “mad project of an ideal” community, a “representational imaginary” where the bodies residing inside are forgotten, or seen as merely a commodity of diversity and unification (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 409; Debord, 2006, p. 117). Reproduced through the memories of past cartographers for decades, EveryStreet, creates what they believe to be a utopian world, making the spectacle of a community free from all forms of discrimination the ultimate goal (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 410; Debord, 2006, p. 118). EveryStreet masks reality in ways that control and depower youth, make it impossible for them to understand reality the way it is actually lived, while producing an intense desire to keep the “EveryStreet flame” alive by daily resurrection of its values (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 410).
You begin to long for the pillow they stole from you when you first arrived, as they begin to separate all the students into their respective dorm rooms. You realize immediately that you will not be bunking with the two students you had made friends with on the bus, and you can’t help but wonder: was that intentional? You arrive at the dorm rooms, and notice with relief that all of your stolen possessions are safe and accounted for. You relax into your new bed for the week, scroll down social media on your phone, and begin to claw around your suitcase for your ear buds.
Just as you find and insert your earbuds, Pandora at the ready, all students are called to the common area for introductions and “ground rules.” Ground rules that include such demands as “take care of yourself,” “No dorm hopping,” and “Have Fun!” Most alarming during this meeting, however, are the multiple sandwich bags with packing tape across the fronts, strewn in front of you, and the black sharpie in the counselor’s hand.
“We don’t allow any electronics here at EveryStreet.” Words that feel like daggers to your throat. You sit with the discomfort, as others grumble under their breath, some suck their teeth, while others have the courage to ask “Why?” She answers “We don’t want you to be distracted by reality,” as she slides your phone and earbuds into the sandwich bag with your name on it.
EveryStreet seems to counteract Fassett and Warren’s metaphor of a classroom, whether alternative or not, as “not a false world, but rather a microcosm of all the worlds we know, intersecting and interlocking in metonymic relationship to one another” (Cooks, 2002; Fassett, 2006, p. 56). While deciding to create a “false” utopian-like world in order to demonstrate for young people the desired objectives, EveryStreet is unknowingly casting the “classroom as a site of violence and tension” which can inhibit the possibilities for social justice, and change (Fassett, 2006, p. 56).
Delegate and staff testimonies show an image of a surreal, almost ephemeral truth that only EveryStreet could provide for them. “I attribute this to the fact that we were not a real community but merely a community of illusion. I honestly felt kind of out of reality” said one past delegate as she illustrates the awkwardness she felt while in a space of constant uncertainty due to her lack of connection to the outside world after all cell phones were taken. “The whole experience was just really awkward for me.” All delegates are immediately engulfed in the “EveryStreet Culture,” a realm created to emulate what the world should be, and the confiscation of all electronic devices is just one of the first ways they begin the disciplining process.
A PEDAGOGY OF BODILY DISCOMFORT
Many would argue that EveryStreet operates under what Boler would call a “Pedagogy of Discomfort”. Similar to Critical Communication Pedagogy, the pedagogy of discomfort seeks to help students understand their place in the world as situated with and in systems of power and oppression (Boler, 1999, p. 179; Fassett, 2006, p. 76). For Boler, what makes this type of learning uncomfortable is the examining of “cherished beliefs and assumptions,” causing the learner to feel emotional discomfort for fear of change, and often guilt on the part of those who live in the dominant class or culture that is being scrutinized (Boler, 1999, p. 176, 186).
For Fassett and Warren discomfort can lead the way to hope (Fassett, 2006, p. 77). Through discomfort the students tend to seek community and dialogue, as well as an “ideal means for learning to trouble the familiar”, while Zembylas claims that this form of pedagogy must also offer the inevitable impossibility of truly knowing those you are attempting community or dialogue with, and all implications therein (Fassett, 2006, p. 78, 102; Zembylas, 2015). In summary, the pedagogy of discomfort refers to emotional discomfort through the act of mutual dialogue amongst a group of diverse peers, with a broad objective (no set political agenda) for understanding systems of oppression and their positionalities in them, with the teacher as a mediator/facilitator (Boler, 1999, p. 179).
Promoting cross cultural dialogue is at the heart of the mission and vision of the EveryStreet program. That being said, meaningful discussion is only a small portion of what they use to engrain their ideals. Despite how noble their ideals may be (and I believe they are), I will argue that the EveryStreet program utilizes a pedagogy of bodily discomfort. That is, through the implementation of a series of performative workshops, in an effort for embodied learning of the multifaceted concepts, the students are subjected to physical discomfort with the possibility for pain or injury always lingering. They use this as a way to discipline them to be agents of change in the community (Corrigan, 1988, p. 199). I will also add here, that the students are not the only participants of the program affected by the, at times extreme, discomfort. The lower level staff are subjected as well, but in very different ways:
“I was a staff member at EveryStreet for about four years and I served at 10 different EveryStreet sessions. EveryStreet is probably one of the most exhausting experiences of your life. After every single EveryStreet I would come home and sleep for about a day and a half. The planning of the workshops take hours and can run into the early morning. As staff members, we were worked to the bone and it was completely volunteer basis.”
WORKSHOP 1: MASS ATROCITIES
You arrive back to the pavilion from lunch feeling a bit more energized and sit down in an “EveryStreet clump” on the floor with your summer classmates. The counselors pass out index cards and small pencils, asking you to write on your card your most valuable possession. You scribble down “Grandma’s Furniture,” and look around to see others’ like “Locket,” or the name of a stuffed animal. Lastly, you are to find a partner, who will serve as your closest family member throughout the next activity. They insist that no matter what happens, do NOT get separated from your family member.
You begin to notice the room becoming increasingly hot, and since they have also opened the doors, you are needing to swat away mosquitos from your upper arms and face. Walking farther inward, alongside your new family member, you see the walls are aligned with 6 areas the counselors begin to call “stations”. These stations are made up of stacked up chairs pushed close together, leaving very little room for comfort or safety between them. Closing off each station are two chairs guarded by two staff members standing, straight faced, with their arms folded in front of them. You smile at your dorm counselor who is guarding the middle station, and she looks right through you, and does not respond. You notice yourself grabbing for your partners hand, just before you hear a staff member scream: “GET TO A STATION NOW!”
All 50 students begin to run, scrambling to find a station. You notice the guards are counting those they are allowing in, pulling on those they want, and pushing away, literally, those they do not. A guard pulls your arm by the elbow yelling near your face “Get in here!” and you squeeze the hand of your family member harder. The other guard at the station pulls apart your hands saying “Nope. Not her,” and tells her to go away. What feels like less than 30 seconds goes by and every station is full. So full in fact people are bursting out of them in discomfort, and the guards persistently scream at them to “GET OFF THE CHAIRS!” if even a sliver of their t-shirt touches one. You are not even allowed to lean on the chairs you are surrounded by for comfort as you stand, touching and smelling other bodies of people you had just met 24 hours prior.
Two staff members begin to read aloud a story that each station represents. In booming somber voices they tell detailed stories of mass atrocities like the Japanese internment and the Holocaust. They even gave specific examples of genocides you had never heard of, like those happening in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur. You are sandwiched and rubbing between three tall strange boys, and notice your flip flop slip abruptly on yellow liquid that had been poured onto the floor, pinching the skin on the bottom of your left foot, and causing you to stub the pinky toe of your right foot on the leg of the metal chair you’re not allowed to be touching. All of this causes you to drop your prized possession into the yellow fluid, having no other choice but to step on it. You realize your station’s narrative was just read to you, but through your unexpected physical pain and discomfort, you missed it.
The students around the room are beginning to get belligerent from the heat, the bugs, the mystery liquids on the floor, and the pain of standing for an hour and a half with nothing to rest onto but people you have just met. You get the feeling the staff was trying to make you feel guilty about something. Perhaps for not having knowledge of many of these atrocities prior to this day. Or maybe you are not behaving in the way they think you should be while hearing these stories. Either way, they are using extreme physical discomfort to get you to agree with their point of view, to cause you to feel the emotions they think you should be feeling.
WORKSHOP 2: SEPARATION
You weren’t woken up by the usual soft touch of your dorm counselor who is now sitting in the common area. Sternly waiting she declares “we cannot be late again, groups are getting into trouble.” This statement concerns you because you didn’t realize you were ever late at all before. Once all the teeth are brushed and the hairs are curled and straightened you head out toward the pavilion as you always do. Creating the typical “EveryStreet Circle,” you and your classmates wait for the staff for much longer than usual, and once they arrive, you see again those dead eyes of the guards screaming at you, taking your family member, and ripping up your most prized possession. You are made to wait for your name to be called for receipt of a colored arm band made from strips of construction paper, and told once you get it taped to you, to wait for further instruction…
New Ground Rules:
- You can only touch/speak/associate with those who have the same armband color as you
- All dorms/discussion groups/transportation/ and shower schedule will be adjusted accordingly
- We will use this time to think about what we as a group did to cause this to happen to us
It is clear to you immediately that they separated the students by race, and you know this is just an activity. You talk with those around you to get their opinions and they too believe it is just an activity, and that the staff members are proving once again of their top notch abilities to deceive. The staff give each group the task of illustrating on a large piece of flipchart paper, the ways their race is better than all others, and advise to be prepared to present them to the larger group. You sit back as your group rattles off a list of celebrities’ semi matching your skin tone, and notice a small group of students with different colored arm bands walk up to the directors table. “We don’t think this is right!” one of them proclaims while the other rips off his arm band in a peaceful defiance and tosses it to the floor. One staff member, as if hiding in the wings waiting with a roll of tape and extra paper, walks over and calmly secures a new arm band while the director simply states “That’s cute. Go back to your groups.”
Instead of going back to their respective groups, the students begin to push other students out of their chairs. One screams directly into your face, “Fucking move! Why are you letting them do this to us!?”
When asked, former delegates remember “Separation” the most, saying it “exacerbated” their already rampant teenage anxiety. Jaya remembers:
“This workshop caused me the most anxiety. During this activity we were separated by race. We were being told what to do and I knew it was wrong but I was too scared to say anything because I’ve always been taught to go along with authority. Throughout the activity I got more and more upset and stressed out. Finally after about two hours of extreme anxiety I was told that it was all just a workshop.”
She then details her emotional discomfort of extreme guilt and embarrassment for not “standing up” for what EveryStreet said was the “right” thing to do:
“I felt a mix of extreme emotions that included feeling stupid, embarrassed and lied to. There was a bit of frustration because I was being told that I should’ve said something but that went against everything I had been taught. After the workshop I had an anxiety attack and I called my mother on the payphone hysterically crying. My mother made me feel a little bit better about the experience and talked me down from my anxiety but throughout the rest of my time at EveryStreet I felt like I was being looked at negatively because I did not speak up.”
Parker recalls his experience during “Separation” to be a particularly violent one. After detailing his story of being pushed out of a chair during the simulation, Parker said:
“The next couple days went by and the community resumed. Most felt as though it was an activity with a purpose and to be fair so did I. That does not discount the fact though that a student was made to feel unsafe and even though it resolved itself, in that moment I felt scared and alone; which is not what I was promised by the adults in charge.”
EVIDENCE OF IMPACT
EveryStreet has received national recognition as a “Best Practice” by the US Department of Education, was recommended as one of the best programs to prevent juvenile delinquency by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, was highlighted as an effective diversity education program in a feature in The Atlantic, and has graduated over 5,500 delegates since 1991 (2016). That being said, those giving EveryStreet these recognitions are not graduates of, nor do they have children who have graduated from, EveryStreet. For the duration of the program (now 25 years), all that has been used as “proof” of the pedagogy’s effectiveness has been testimonies taken from delegates during EveryStreet, and they have very little information on what happens after.
I am inspired by Cooks to ask the question: “How do we know this form of pedagogy is working (Cooks, 2010, p. 294)?” Boler insists that though we may not know what actions follow the practice of a pedagogy of discomfort, teachers should always be striving to illustrate it as an “invitation” for a “call to action” in the social justice realm (Boler, 1999, p. 179). Conquergood would agree that critical performance pedagogy should have a “commitment to praxis” and Freire even adds that praxis is the only way a change in mindset can occur (Freire, 1970, p. 154). However, Cooks reminds us that being able to live these concepts and theories in meaningful and transformative ways is easier said than done (Conquergood, 2002, p. 140; Cooks, 2002, p. 294).
After asked the simple question “Do you have any negative memories of EveryStreet?” a delegate from just 5 years ago said “Yeah to be honest, I’m not really sure what I took away from that experience besides confusion. I don’t remember anything honestly. It was also a LOT of content throughout the day. It was exhausting.” Another former delegate insightfully points out how she realized quickly, once becoming an adult, the difficulties of living the EveryStreet praxis and resurrecting its mission in everyday life “There are many instances where you can’t question authority because it could affect your job or your livelihood. It’s not as black and white as EveryStreet made it out to be.” The excessive amount of complex content being delivered is not just hard for high school students to remember in such a short period of time, but the desired outcomes only work in the simulacra they built, and are not easily applicable to real life. Fassett and Warren believe that “where it fails, where we fail, we must hold ourselves accountable (Fassett, 2006, p. 74).”
“As a current educator I can really see how EveryStreet does not use best teaching practices.” — Jaya, 2016
Jaya, a current Hillsborough County School Teacher, worked 10 EveryStreet sessions between the ages of 16 and 20. But her commitment to education, and desire to be ever improving is not what comes to mind when I use her insightful words in this paper. What I see is a 15 year old Jaya, an introverted thespian, who felt forced in many ways to be something she wasn’t. I see a 15 year old Jaya being pushed around and put in dangerous situations for the sake of pedagogy. I see a 15 year old Jaya succumbing to a panic attack after a workshop that is supposed to bring unity. I see a 15 year old Jaya, my delegate, a student I taught at my very first, of fifteen, EveryStreet sessions. Fassett and Warren remind us that reflexivity is “the interrogation of the self,” a way to examine the ways in which we as teachers create the space for teaching, whether the simulacra of EveryStreet, or the traditional college classroom (Fassett, 2006, p. 46). Warren warns against a habit of hiding our pedagogies from others, as well as keeping our reflection on how we can improve our teaching practices behind closed doors as well. EveryStreet intentionally hides their pedagogy and does little to know public or private reflexivity, however, I feel it is my ethical responsibility as a college instructor, and close friend of Jaya, to “interrogate” myself and my own behavior at those 15 EveryStreet sessions.
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 “The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are (Freire, 1970, p. 72).”
 Boler suggests that the principle end goal in a pedagogy of discomfort is to make the student’s identity ambiguous, murky, and uncertain (Boler, 1999, p. 179, 197)
 A 5 day 4 night summer residential retreat for high school students.
 Alexander (2010) advocates for embodied learning as a way to understand in more complex ways the “hidden forces” of power relations, specifically as they relate to marginalized bodies (2010, p. 318). Johnson (2003) would add that it is a better way to understand “the fact is that oppression is enacted not by theoretical concepts but by real people in concrete situations” (231).
 Boler reminds us of the ethical dilemma that can occur when an authority figured causes discomfort emotionally and to combat that the teacher must make it known to the students they will not be being graded on the activity or judged on their progress or transformations (1999).
 Zembylas asks “If students are essentially ‘forced’ to experience discomfort, pain or suffering as a result of being exposed to ‘difficult’ testimonies, and if they are ‘pushed’ into particular directions in their transformation, do such acts risk doing violence to students? If students, for instance, are urged to subscribe to empathy and solidarity and to show those in practice, when they cannot appropriate these values at the moment” I will add: how can they “appropriate those values” when they are in physical discomfort?
 Corrigan (1988) said to have lived in ‘bodily turmoil’ in a boarding school for 8 years being disciplined to be the ruling class. Though the disciplining of ESis a matter of several hours (not years), it is still a turmoil that was not expected or approved by the parents who sent their children there.
 They intentionally pour lemonade or something of a similar color on the floor to make the space awkward and uncomfortable.
 Boler talks about “collective witnessing” or bearing witness to others stories in real time. She insists this is a productive way of teaching social justice issues (1999). But what if a student cannot witness due to physical pain?
 Boler warns us about the tendency for students to feel extreme guilt during social justice curriculums particularly when discomfort arises. She suggest to foster an environment where they understand the system and their role in it, and that guilt nor innocence is a factor (1999, p. 186).
 Boler tells us about “Passive Empathy” that can occur when meaningful dialogue has not developed through the pedagogy of discomfort. This is a way of feeling empathetic that does not result in positive or progressive action (1999, p. 161, 162).
 VanderStaay (2009) would argue that the delegates grant the authority to the staff even though they know they are not teachers AND know when they are not being honest. It is age that creates a certain false sense of authority and assumption that the content being given to the students is accurate, and worth the price. Though Graca (2013) would claim that legitimacy of the teacher is determined by the perceived autonomy of the students, and in this case, they feel very little autonomy bodily or otherwise. Lastly, Pineau (1994) would argue that theatricality is not the purpose of teaching, and ignores the existence of students by having an ‘actor centered’ approach to performative teaching (p. 6).
 Rodriguez (1994) would call this “constructive resistance,” or a way a student can resist direction for the good of the classroom. Here however, the director did not foster or acknowledge the constructive nature of the behavior, eventually morphing it into “destructive resistance” (1994, p. 265).
 EX: the students are instructed not to tell anyone about “Separation”