Several years ago, I wrote a quick post highlighting some of the problems that can happen when parents fail to talk about race and race relations with their kids. The post used research from a book called NutureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman and a Wired article by Jonathan Liu. In their book, Bronson and Merryman disprove many of our assumptions about how kids grow up thinking about race and race relations.
One of the the first statements that they make in a chapter concerning race:
It is tempting to believe that because their generation is so diverse, today’s children grow up knowing how to get along with people of every race. But numerous studies suggest that this is more of a fantasy than a fact.
According to Liu and the NutureShock research, here’s how to go about raising racist kids:
Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”
Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.
Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your own ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.
The chapter’s basic premise?
Many families (especially white families – the authors claim 75%) don’t talk about race in appropriate ways. When those conversations don’t happen, kids unknowingly grow up racist while denying that fact by claiming that they “don’t see color.”
It’s an interesting argument that seems to make a lot of sense.
So . . . we need to do a better job of discussing race and white privilege and opportunities and immigration and all sorts of stuff that makes us uncomfortable. Because it makes us better people and makes where we live better places.
But because talking about race and issues like Ferguson makes us uncomfortable, we will often not work very hard to make it happen in our classrooms. But there is lots of stuff out there to help specifically with the Ferguson issue.
- Start by reading an article by Ali Michael titled What White Children Need to Know About Race.
- Then a great article, How to Teach Beyond Ferguson, by Jose Vilson over at Edutopia. He provides some specific suggestions for beginning the conversation and includes some specific examples of lessons. Be sure to check out the Boston Tea Party / Ferguson comparison.
- Then head over to a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching About Ferguson. The tagline? “Process it yourself first, ask students what they want to know and by all means, don’t make the lesson color blind.”
- Marcia Chatelain, a history professor at Georgetown University, created the #FergusonSyllabus hashtag on Twitter. #FergusonSyllabus encourage teachers and community members to share resources for talking about Ferguson in schools. She also links to grade-specific suggestions and a list of useful pieces in the Atlantic.
- St. Louis Public Radio did a three-part series on using the events in Ferguson as “teachable moments.” You can also get a consolidated version. Listen Current is a great tool for all things current event and has a nice page also using public radio resources.
- #sschat‘s Dan Krutka has put together a Google Doc with a ton of instructional resources on Ferguson created by teachers.
- The New York Times Learning Network created a forum to gather student reactions. Use the questions to lead your own conversations. Be sure to check out an updated post by the Learning Network here with some useful teaching ideas.
- PBS always has useful stuff and they’ve created a nice collection of Ferguson resources for teachers, including background, recent updates, and information about the history of nonviolent civil resistance. They also have a nice interview titled How Teachers Can Talk to Students About Ferguson.
- Need some more background on general race relations? Julian Hipkins has republished a piece that contains a large number of resources for teachers looking to talk about some of the underlying issues in this case. The NEA also has a guide to teaching about racial profiling that provides some nice background info.
Because we can’t not talk about it.