Confronting Race and Racism in Education (Left Forum Workshop)

Confronting Race and Racism in Education

Conference Session at the Upcoming Left Forum, 2019

Friday June 28th, 5:00pm – 7:00 pm (Brooklyn)


In this session, we will examine race and racism in education in three related contexts. The first presentation will focus on lessons that have helped middle-school students recognize and move beyond racist stereotypes. The second presentation will highlight work that helps students in Master’s programs connect their ideas about race and social justice to their understanding of language and literacy pedagogy. The third presentation will examine the ways in which the structure of higher education itself is racist, seen here in its erasing of people of color and the privileging of whiteness. A key goal of this session is to move beyond isolated critiques of racist educational practices towards a more holistic view of the systemic nature of racism in education. In turn, this will allow for more cross-level alliance building.


Helping Middle School Students Move Beyond Racist Stereotypes

Andy Beutel, The Critical Teaching and Learning Forum

Racism is endemic in American society and has been so since before the United States was even a country. In the era of Trump, we have witnessed a recent white supremacist resurgence and an increase in hate crimes targeting racial minorities. In this context, it is as important as ever for young people to understand the impact and pervasiveness of racism in the US today as well as how racism has influenced the way we learn about history. Complicating this goal is the fact that most public schools in this country are racially concentrated and that public schools have not traditionally been a space where critically questioning racism is encouraged. In this session, I will explain how I have attempted to promote a critical consciousness of racism in a 7th grade world history course in which the vast majority of students are white and socioeconomically advantaged. I will share examples of lessons I have taught and discussions I have facilitated designed to help this population of students understand racism at a systemic level and move beyond racist stereotypes when learning about the history of non-white peoples.


Language, Race and Literacy Pedagogy

Erik Jacobson, The Critical Teaching and Learning Forum

The teaching force in United States is predominantly white, and this doesn’t look to change given the demographics of the students currently enrolled in teacher education programs. Many of these teachers-in-training are just now being exposed to the multifarious ways that race can be constructed and how race plays a central role in educational opportunities and outcomes. Within my own field of language and literacy education, my Masters students sometimes struggle to connect their expressed commitment to the ideals of social justice to their ideas about language use. They retain deficit-based models of dialects, non-mainstream speech communities and seem to be unaware of how everyday language can be racially coded. As part of this presentation, I will highlight the keywords that I have found useful in starting conversations with my students and discuss how an anti-racist language and literacy pedagogy must constantly be pro-active (e.g., explicitly creating opportunities for students to examine how language constructs race) and self-reflective (e.g., being conscious of how my own language may be informed by racist discourse).


Erasure and the Privileging of Whiteness in High Education

Dianne Ramdeholl, SUNY Empire State College School For Graduate Studies

Erasure, according to the Webster Dictionary is defined as the removal of all traces of something; its obliteration.  Erasure of people of color occurs at a number of levels and ways in universities. This talk explores whiteness/white supremacy in adult education programs in higher education and the ways in which faculty of color get erased in the process. Using my own context as a faculty member in a graduate adult education program at the public State University of New York (SUNY) in NYC, I discuss ways and levels in which racialized faculties in higher education get obliterated  I explore the culture of programs and pedagogy and how that gets enacted through lenses of whiteness.  Faculty higher education programs continue to be primarily white despite students being primarily people of color (Ahmed, 2012)). Pedagogically, writings by scholars of color get analyzed (and often whitesplained) through frameworks of whiteness. In institutions maintaining overwhelmingly white faculty, they ensure the perpetuation of pedagogies rooted in white liberal frameworks in which the radical remains untouched. Using critical race theory, I will examine how experiences of people of color get commodified/sensationalized while offering recommendations to subvert this. I focus on student evaluations, curricula, and the unspoken culture privileged in academia.


Left Forum 2019





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