In the aftermath of revelations that Virginia’s governor and attorney general both dressed in blackface more than 30 years ago, James F. Lane, superintendent of Virginia public schools, thinks it’s time to engage in a “dialogue” about race, racism, and bigotry. He laid out his thoughts about how to shape such a dialogue in a Feb. 22, 2019, memo to local school superintendents.
The memo starts promisingly enough, expressing lofty ambitions that all can share: “We must all join together to renew our commitment to equity and the elimination of racism of any kind from our public school experience.” But he quickly goes awry. He next urges the school superintendents to “reflect on these events and the conditions that exist within our culture and communities that created space and place for these hurtful symbols to be perceived by some as acceptable” — implying that incidents and attitudes that took place decades ago are prevalent in schools today.
Lane then reiterates a call for “meaningful dialogue” on racism and bigotry with students, staffs and school communities. He encourages the superintendents to ensure that lessons are designed “with racial sensitivity and cultural competence in mind,” and to take action when students or staff engage in “inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.”
Questions arise. How does Lane define “racial sensitivity and cultural competence?” And what constitutes “inappropriate and unprofessional conduct?” He answers the questions indirectly by providing a list of “resources” for teachers, parents, and school division leaders, as well as his own “reading list.” His idea of “dialogue,” it appears, consists of indoctrinating Virginia’s school system with the radical left-wing narrative of Endemic Racial Oppression.
To see how profoundly leftist Lane’s thinking is, I don’t need to cherry pick quotes. I replicate verbatim his description of the five books that he and other members of the Virginia Department of Education staff are reading this month ‘based on recommendations that we have received.”
White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo.
Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility. Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
For White Folks That Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Ya’ll Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education (Race, Education and Democracy), by Christopher Emdin.
Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. Putting forth his theory of Reality Pedagogy, Emdin provides practical tools to unleash the brilliance and eagerness of youth and educators alike—both of whom have been typecast and stymied by outdated modes of thinking about urban education.
No BS (Bad Stats): Black People Need People Who Believe in Black People Enough Not to Believe Every Bad Thing They Hear about Black People, by Ivory A. Toldson
What if everything you thought you knew about Black people generally, and educating Black children specifically, was based on BS (bad stats)? We often hear things like, “Black boys are a dying breed,” “There are more Black men in prison than college,” “Black children fail because single mothers raise them,” and “Black students don’t read.” In No BS, Ivory A. Toldson uses data analysis, anecdotes, and powerful commentary to dispel common myths and challenge conventional beliefs about educating Black children. With provocative, engaging, and at times humorous prose, Toldson teaches educators, parents, advocates, and students how to avoid BS, raise expectations, and create an educational agenda for Black children that is based on good data, thoughtful analysis, and compassion. No BS helps people understand why Black people need people who believe in Black people enough not to believe every bad thing they hear about Black people.
Foundations of Critical Race Theory in Education, by Edward Taylor, David Gillborn, and Gloria Ladson-Billings
The emergence of Critical Race Theory (CRT) marked an important point in the history of racial politics in the legal academy and the broader conversation about race and racism in the United States. More recently, CRT has proven an important analytic tool in the field of education, offering critical perspectives on race, and the causes, consequences and manifestations of race, racism, inequity, and the dynamics of power and privilege in schooling. This groundbreaking anthology is the first to pull together both the foundational writings in the field and more recent scholarship on the cultural and racial politics of schooling. A comprehensive introduction provides an overview of the history and tenets of CRT in education. Each section then seeks to explicate ideological contestation of race in education and to create new, alternative accounts. In so doing, this landmark publication not only documents the progress to date of the CRT movement, it acts to further spur developments in education.
If this Leftist narrative is grounded in reality, then Virginia’s school children — especially African-American kids — should benefit from the effort to expunge endemic racism from Virginia schools. As a measure of progress attained, we would expect to see some closing of the chronic gap in Standards of Learning test scores between blacks and other racial/ethnic groups. Conversely, if, as I contend, the Leftist narrative is profoundly misguided and destructive to black children, then we should see no closing, or even a worsening, of test scores as the influence of Lane’s “dialogue” percolates through the school system.
I fear this will not end well.
(Hat tip: John Butcher)There are currently no comments highlighted.