This school year, one of my goals was to see my students grow in empathy and awareness of life outside of their bubble. I teach in a predominately white middle-to-upper class school in a Chicago suburb. My students are far removed from the realities of kids a mere 30 miles down the expressway; my reality as a product of the south side of Chicago. Their lives, while far from perfect, are utopian compared to the lives of some of their neighboring peers.
Research supports the need to provide students of color with culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum. I wholeheartedly support and appreciate the pressing need for black and brown students to have instructional practices matching their learning styles and aptitudes as well as texts reflective of their interests and experiences. This is long overdue. I believe culturally responsive practices will help bridge the achievement gap offering marginalized students a voice and a means of championing who they are and from where they've come. But I ask, is this enough? Is this enough to disrupt the pervasive fear entangling and threatening to entrap our nation? I see the white elephant in the room. It is the curriculum of the white elite that only serves the status quo. It maintains white is right and to speak against its ideology is a cardinal sin.
How does education tackle this white elephant in the room? I believe as culturally responsive teaching builds awareness in the black and brown educational world; an awareness must also be taught in the educational world of the white elite. I have seen firsthand the pressing need for "Allies and Advocates" curriculum and pedagogy. As education reflects and responds to the needs of society, it is clear students need to be explicitly taught not to fear and exclude that which is other. In order for both sets of students ("majority" and "minority") to grow and evolve for the better, there must be an overhaul of teaching practices and curriculum for the white elite that does more than relegate the teaching of "minorities" and their heroes, causes and more to a month or one historical figure but engages students in ongoing discourse that humanizes all and offers a broad understanding of black and brown people along with the events and circumstances that impact their lives.
I realize what I am asking for is a total reformation of curricular ideology and development. I realize this will not be an easy task. I realize not everyone will agree there is a need for such change. I also realize teaching the "majority" to be allies and advocates through new approaches, texts and discourse geared toward the UN-whitewashing of curriculum is one of the only ways to bridge our divide and see real societal growth.
As an educator, I want to prepare my students to be productive citizens who contribute to the world. As an educator of color, I want the same and more, especially in the current American climate with its rampant and flourishing forms of -isms. It is increasingly imperative that students are able to move beyond their u-centric views, to see and interact with people and situations beyond the lens of their white privilege, to engage in honest and open conversations about the -isms refuting stereotypes and fighting prejudice, and to be allies of the world who advocate for people and causes that may not directly affect them but affect the greater good.
It's time to address that elephant in the classroom.
Documenting my evolution by filling in space and matter one word at a time.