Reading through my Facebook feed the last several days, I see a lot of discussion about race in response to recent police violence towards black men. I feel encouraged by the people who are taking a stand against racism and by how many parents are asking for help discussing the police shootings and race with their children. There are currently resources available that help parents and teachers think about these issues at home and in the classroom.
For guardians and teachers of younger children, start with this article from The Washington Post by Brigitte Vittrup, associate professor of child development at Texas Woman’s University. She writes about the problems with intentionally avoiding discussions about race with children. She emphasizes that parents should not assume their values will rub off on their children: “Silence about race removes the opportunity for children to learn about diversity from their parents and puts it in the hands of media and misinformed peers.” Not only that, but discouraging conversations about race for fear of offending people can lead children to see race as a taboo subject. Vittrup offers examples of how to respond to children’s questions.
Consider the following readings and resources for older children and students. In “Uncomfortable Conversations: Talking About Race in the Classroom,” an interview between NPR’s Elissa Nadworny and H. Richard Milner, author of the book Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms, Milner shares examples of how and why teachers should incorporate students’ experiences outside of the classroom into their curriculum on a regular basis. He invites educators to be creative and do research to be able to understand their students and the communities they live in. He also asks that schools not accept high suspension and expulsion rates of minority students, but to problem solve instead. What is going on and what can we do to change this?
StoryCorps.org offers a powerful way to share life experiences, accomplishments, and open discussions about race. For example, Alex Landau tells his mother, Patsy Hathaway, what happened when he was pulled over by Denver police officers one night in 2009 and how the stop still affects him in “Traffic Stop.” In “Eyes on the Stars,” Carl tells StoryCorps about his brother, physicist Ronald E. McNair, who was the second African American to enter space and lost his life in the 1986, NASA Challenger mission STS-51-L. As a little boy with big dreams, he fought for his right to use the public library.
And of course we need to continue to work hard at developing our students’ analytical, problem solving, and discussion skills. Apply ideas from the following blog posts throughout the school year:
As parents, teachers, and community members, we have a lot of work to do. I invite you to share comments and any helpful articles or resources on this topic in the comments section. Peace.
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