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Lisa Arrastia


New York

Recorded by

Valerie Kipnis

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This interview with Dr. Lisa Arrastia was conducted on March 22, 2022, via Zoom Conference. Dr. Arrastia has taught grades 9-12, founded a charter high school, served as middle/high school principal, and consulted with schools around the world. She currently is an associate professor of education at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and she is an alum of the 2016 Oral History Intensive in Chicago. This interview began where Dr. Arrastia last left off in her previous interview from December 2020, focusing on the themes of hope (towards education programs outside the "system") and despair (towards the current state of the educational system in America) –– and how that has played out in the last almost two years of her life. Other themes/topics that were prevalent in this interview were: the future of education, the quality of education and how boring/uninspiring it's become, the isolation of teachers and how the pandemic exacerbated that, the mass exodus of educators, standardized testing, difficulty of licensure for educators, the inequality of who was taught critical thinking and why.More specifically, Dr. Arrastia spoke of the feeling of defeat she faced towards the education system, commonly referencing how "they [the system] won." She spoke about how remote learning was not really where it could be, how educators were isolated, how students were isolated and how that functioned as a benefit for capitalism. She spoke about how over her career, the state of schools and education had dwindled down to boring, how students were not being engaged in a serious way. She spoke about the quality of syllabi and teaching methodology and how boring––unispiring––it has become. She spoke about the unequal treatment of children in different public school districts––based on their race and socioeconomic standing––and how that replicated the current system of oppression. She spoke about how the war in Ukraine was allowed to be discussed by some districts but not by others, and how critical thinking was something only taught to the elite. She expressed concern over how many educators she knows are leaving the field, a mass exodus. She spoke how powerless educators feel, the difficulty of being a teacher and then she spoke about what would give her hope in the education system, what could be done: a policy shift, changing testing/restrictions for teachers, creating a more horizontal system of power. Dr. Arrastia mentioned how she was really losing hope, that this was the social death of children, that she was considering quitting her job to try something else like working for the post-office. Towards the end of the interview, she said that a year from now––she she hoped that she was wrong, that there was still hope to be had for change.

Interviewer Bio:

Valerie Kipnis Valeriya Kipnis is an immigrant writer, reporter, and documentary producer. Currently, she is on her 2022 Fulbright to Ukraine in Warsaw, Poland. She is working on an oral history project about linguistics and memory. Usually, she works for VICE News, an Emmy-award winning nightly news show, where she reports on: climate change, reproductive rights, and the former Soviet Union. Occasionally, she hosts live shows about space or talks to pigs in Vegas. Formerly, she worked at or contributed to: Coda Story, The Moscow Times, and NBC. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia and raised in south Brooklyn, she attended New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Studies, where she studied the intersection of Post-Soviet History, Comparative Literature, and Political Philosophy. After graduating, she received the Dean's Award and traveled to Russia to "find herself." She did not, of course, do that. In 2021, she received her MFA in Non-Fiction Writing from The New School. Upon graduating, she was awarded the 2021 Bette Howland Nonfiction Prize by judge Emily Bernard. She likes to write essays and narrative non-fiction about immigrants, Russia,  Brooklyn, and language. Her literary work debuted in A Public Space in July of 2021. 

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