A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
In classrooms all over the country, posters hang on walls bearing the face of Martin Luther King, Jr. Libraries put out displays of books about his life. Bulletin boards are decorated with phrases from famous speeches. Many will remain up throughout the school year, not just for the federal observance of King’s birthday on Monday.
Words can shed light or generate heat.
This week, in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, there’s been a lot of talk about talk and the nature of our civil discourse.
It can be daunting but also amusing to set the context for Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. If my students thought the 1992 L.A. Riots were “back in the day,” imagine how long ago the 1930’s feel to them. Not only that, but when I refer to the southern United States, several of them think I really mean “a place near L.A.”
To conquer this, we spent a period locating Alabama on the map, sipping sweet southern tea and checking out Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photos. I even play a compilation of tunes that were popular then, including A Tisket, A Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald. Overall, we have fun as we look back.
For me, the main activity of the first few days of 2011 has been the big “P.”
Purge. Purge. Purge.
Together, with my two children, we tossed “Baby Einstein” videotapes, Elmo board books and clothing for babies and for toddlers, into giant boxes destined for Goodwill.
We filled an entire mini-van. And, I now feel lighter.
A good cleansing can be so refreshing.
A year ago, we introduced a new curriculum, Civil Discourse in the Classroom and Beyond, citing the “pressing need to change the tenor of public debate from shouts and slurs to something more reasoned.” This weekend’s carnage in Tucson, with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely injured, six people dead and 14 others wounded, is a terrible tragedy, not just for the victims and their families. It is a tragedy for a nation whose political process depends on people airing issues, managing conflict and confronting controversy in the public square.
This is a busy week at most schools, with teachers and students returning from the holidays. But before everyone gets focused on what lies ahead, let’s revisit 2010. This list highlights five issues that had a profound effect on diversity and diversity education last year. This is not an exhaustive list. Feel free to add stories of your own.
In my household, where my husband and I are both high school English teachers, we generally do not watch movies or TV shows about our profession during the school year. In nearly every teacher movie I can think of, there’s a clear message: If teachers just worked harder, students would succeed. I should be like Erin Gruwell of Freedom Writers, who sacrifices her marriage for her students, who works two jobs to buy new books for her class and who, ultimately, leaves teaching after just a few years. Depictions like these perpetuate the myth that all it takes are a few good martyrs. When they burn out, just hire some more.
Something about Belinda’s brave smile looks familiar to me. The briefest shadow darkens her face while other students banter about the gifts they’ve asked for and the ones they’ve already received. Because she’s outgoing, the other kids don’t recognize the proud face she wears while they talk of skiing, sumptuous meals and overseas travel. Belinda never says a word. She just smiles and listens.