A new book recently featured in The Washington Post claims it can help all educators combat racism in their classrooms and schools.
Titled “Teaching for Black Lives,” the volume is a “collection of writings that help educators humanize blacks in curriculum, teaching and policy” and “connects” teacher lesson plans with young students.
All three of the book’s editors are so-called social justice educators: Jesse Hagopian (seen at the link garbed in a “Tax the Rich” t-shirt) teaches a high school ethnic studies course and is an advisor to the school Black Student Union; Wayne Au is an educational studies professor, and Dyan Watson teaches at Lewis & Clark College and edited the book “Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice.”
The introduction to the editors’ page reads
Michael Brown, Philando Castile, and Charleena Lyles were all victims of police violence — but they were also public school students, workers, and parents. If schools are ever to be truly ‘safe spaces,’ we will need to build our capacity to defend each other. Whether from police, white supremacists, or ICE agents, among other tools of systemic oppression, this will require social justice work inside and outside the classroom.
The WaPo’s Valerie Strauss writes “it is no coincidence” that the book is coming out during the presidency of Donald Trump, “who is seen as normalizing racism with repeated comments in which he disparages people of color.”
“Who is seen …”? Now why would that be, Ms. Strauss?
The article reprints “Teaching for Black Lives'” introduction and first two chapters; the former begins with an anecdote about a controversial classroom lesson on the Atlantic slave trade:
Black students’ minds and bodies are under attack.
Fifteen-year-old Black student Coby Burren was in geography class at Pearland High School near Houston in the fall of 2015. As he read the assigned page of his textbook, he noticed something that deeply disturbed him: A map of the United States with a caption that said the Atlantic slave trade brought “millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” Coby took a picture of his textbook and texted it to his mother, adding, “We was real hard workers wasn’t we,” along with a sarcastic emoji. Not only had the McGraw-Hill textbook replaced the word “slave” with “workers,” they also placed the chapter on the enslavement of Africans in the chapter of the book titled “Patterns of Immigration” — as if Africans came to the United States looking for a better life.
The segment goes on to note “it’s not only the curriculum that is traumatizing students,” and follows with stories of school personnel violence against black students, including a 2015 incident in which “white genocide” professor George Ciccariello-Maher tweeted that the school police officer should be put “up against a wall” and done “like Old Yeller.”
It also contends classroom “command and control lecture” methods aren’t suitable for black children; “teaching for Black lives,” the editors argue, means “grounding our curriculum and teaching in their lives and communities, and orienting them toward community activism and social transformation.”
IMAGE: Teacher Dude/Flickr.com