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The Price of Nice

How Good Intentions Maintain Educational Inequity

2019

Angelina E. Castagno, Editor

The Price of Nice

How being “nice” in school and university settings works to reinforce racialized, gendered, and (dis)ability-related inequities in education and society

In The Price of Nice, scholars explore Niceness in educational spaces to highlight how this seemingly benign quality reinforces structural inequalities. The chapters show that Niceness functions both as a shield to save educators from having to do the hard work of dismantling inequity and as a disciplining agent for those who attempt or even consider disrupting structures of dominance.

Being nice is difficult to critique. Niceness is almost always portrayed and felt as a positive quality. In schools, nice teachers are popular among students, parents, and administrators. And yet Niceness, as a distinct set of practices and discourses, is not actually good for individuals, institutions, or communities because of the way it maintains and reinforces educational inequity.

In The Price of Nice, an interdisciplinary group of scholars explores Niceness in educational spaces from elementary schools through higher education to highlight how this seemingly benign quality reinforces structural inequalities. Grounded in data, personal narrative, and theory, the chapters show that Niceness, as a raced, gendered, and classed set of behaviors, functions both as a shield to save educators from having to do the hard work of dismantling inequity and as a disciplining agent for those who attempt or even consider disrupting structures and ideologies of dominance.

Contributors: Sarah Abuwandi, Arizona State U; Colin Ben, U of Utah; Nicholas Bustamante, Arizona State U; Aidan/Amanda J. Charles, Northern Arizona U; Jeremiah Chin, Arizona State U; Sally Campbell Galman, U of Massachusetts; Frederick Gooding Jr., Texas Christian U; Deirdre Judge, Tufts U; Katie A. Lazdowski; Román Liera, U of Southern California; Sylvia Mac, U of La Verne; Lindsey Malcolm-Piqueux, California Institute of Technology; Giselle Martinez Negrette, U of Wisconsin–Madison; Amber Poleviyuma, Arizona State U; Alexus Richmond, Arizona State U; Frances J. Riemer, Northern Arizona U; Jessica Sierk, St. Lawrence U; Bailey B. Smolarek, U of Wisconsin–Madison; Jessica Solyom, Arizona State U; Megan Tom, Arizona State U; Sabina Vaught, U of Oklahoma; Cynthia Diana Villarreal, U of Southern California; Kristine T. Weatherston, Temple U; Joseph C. Wegwert, Northern Arizona U; Marguerite Anne Fillion Wilson, Binghamton U; Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong, Trinity College; Denise Gray Yull, Binghamton U.
The Price of Nice

Angelina E. Castagno is professor of educational leadership and foundations at Northern Arizona University. She is author of Educated in Whiteness: Good Intentions and Diversity in Schools (Minnesota, 2014) and coeditor of The Anthropology of Education Policy: Ethnographic Inquiries into Policy as Sociocultural Process.

The Price of Nice

Contents

Introduction: Mapping the Contours of Niceness in Education

Angelina E. Castagno

Part I. Niceness in K-12 Schools

1. On Average, What’s the Mean of Nice School Interactions?

Frederick W. Gooding Jr.

2. “It’s Not That Easy!” Foundations of Niceness in Enacting Multicultural and Social Justice Education

Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong

3. Being Nice to the Elephant in the (Class)Room: Whiteness in New Latino Diaspora Nebraska

Jessica Sierk

4. Niceness in Special Education: An Ethnographic Case Study of Benevolence, Goodness, and Paternalism at Colina Cedro Charter High School

Sylvia Mac

5. Nice Work: Young White Women, Near Enemies, and Teaching inside the Magic Circle

Sally Campbell Galman

Part II. Niceness in Higher Education

6. The Perfect Storm of Whiteness, Middle-Classness, and Cis-femaleness in School Contexts

Joseph C. Wegwert and Aidan/Amanda J. Charles

7. Evaluating Niceness: How Anonymous Student Feedback Forms Promote Gendered and Flawed Value Systems in Academic Labor

Kristine T. Weatherston

8. The Role of Niceness in Silencing Racially Minoritized Faculty

Cynthia Diana Villarreal, Román Liera, and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux

9. The Self-Contained Scholar: Racialized Burdens of Being Nice in Higher Education

Colin Ben, Amber Poleviyuma, Jeremiah Chin, Alexus Richmond, Megan Tom, and Sarah Abuwandi

10. Performative Niceness and Student Erasure: Historical Implications

Nicholas Bustamante and Jessica Solyom

Part III. Niceness across Schools and Society

11. Community Resistance to In-School Inequities: Disrupting Niceness in Out-Of-School Spaces

Katie A. Lazdowski

12. “I Want To Celebrate That”: How Niceness in School Administrators’ Talk Elides Discussions of Racialized School Discipline in an Urban School District

Marguerite Anne Fillion Wilson and Denise Gray Yull

13. “It’s Better Now”: How Midwest Niceness Shapes Social Justice Education

Bailey B. Smolarek and Giselle Martinez Negrette

14. Schooling, Structural Niceness, and Not-Nice White Girls

Sabina Vaught and Deirdre Judge

15. “She’s Such a Nasty Woman”: Nice and Nasty as Gendered Tropes

Frances J. Riemer

Acknowledgments

Contributors

Index