The school-to-prison pipeline is a term used to describe the phenomenon of students being pushed out of the classroom and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Its origins, policies, practices and effects on students are well documented; and discipline reform advocates have worked for years to move schools away from punitive punishments for student misbehavior and toward responsive discipline. In this infographic, Multisystemic Therapy breaks down the disparities and various costs that come with schools instituting zero-tolerance discipline policies and police presence.
Want to know more about the school-to-prison pipeline epidemic? Click here and here for two Teaching Tolerance blogs, read this magazine feature story, and use our publication Code of Conduct: A Guide to Responsive Discipline to learn what you and your school can do to avoid zero-tolerance disciplinary measures and keep more students in school.
Courtesy of MST Services
Williams is the new media associate for Teaching Tolerance.
I love a celebration after a good play. I love athletes who pump their fists, high-five fans and add a little showmanship to the game. I loved it when Terrell Owens scored a touchdown and then pulled a Sharpie marker out of his sock, signed the ball and gave it to a fan. I loved watching John McEnroe throw his emotions—and racquets—all over the court. I eat that stuff up.
That is part of why I like watching Cam Newton play football. Dabbin’. Pretending to rip open his shirt like Superman. Giving footballs to little kids in the stands. I mean, how can you not like that? The guy has fun. I get caught up in his fun. Everybody wins. Not everyone sees it that way, and that is fine. As long as the objection is to his behavior, rather than his behavior coupled with his race.
If the people criticizing Newton didn’t also previously criticize Aaron Rodgers, then there might be a problem. Both players have a great deal of swagger on the field. Both have provided some great one-liners in post-game press conferences. Both have some form of end zone dance. Rodgers has turned his gesture of pretending to put on a championship-wrestling belt into a national ad campaign for State Farm and its “discount double check.” Celebrations on the field span many demographics.
With less than a week to go before Super Bowl 50, sports writers are looking for stories—and students are eager to talk about the big game. We educators can take advantage of this moment. Some stories of the past week or so seem to revolve around Newton’s celebrations and people’s disproportionate objections to them. Newton himself has raised the question of a double standard. “I’m an African-American quarterback and that may scare a lot of people,” Newton said. The quarterback position has historically been dominated by white players. I have heard people say that is because it is the “thinking” position and that black athletes are better at the “athletic” positions. Because this narrative is out there, perhaps the negative attention given to Newton’s Superman shtick has problematic underpinnings that need to be discussed.
There’s a unique opportunity here to use mainstream sports to open the door for classroom discussions of prejudice. I don’t know how many people object to Newton’s behavior because they simply don’t like athletes who celebrate on the field of play. I don’t know how many object because, whether they are cognizant of it or not, they don’t like black athletes who celebrate on the field of play. I do know that both exist. That is what we should discuss with students.
The key to discussing this topic in the classroom is to remind students that the conversation is not about condemnation, but about critical thinking. If we examine various criticisms of athletes’ behaviors, is there evidence that people object disproportionately to showboating by black athletes? If so, what does that mean about the ways our implicit biases influence how we interpret behaviors? While discussing these questions, we’re prompting students to root out these discrepancies in their own perceptions of others.
From the Super Bowl and race, we can move to other venues and considerations.
I was watching the U.S. Open tennis tournament at a friend’s house last summer, and Serena Williams was making a run through her side of the draw, destroying opponents. She plays with intensity. She pumps her fist after hitting an important winner, yells at herself when she fires off an unforced error. She is aggressive in her play.
A friend who was watching with me commented that he does not like that aspect of her game. “She should just go back and get ready for the next point, rather than yelling and carrying on,” he said. We had just watched a men’s match filled with such displays, and he had no objections. I asked if the issue was that he did not like the display of emotion or if he didn’t like it coming from a woman. Women, after all, should be “demure” and “feminine,” at least according to pervasive cultural messages.
During the ensuing conversation, no one condemned my friend or piled on him by calling him a misogynist or sexist. Instead, it was a conversation in which he questioned his own intent. He was surprised to see the bias he may be harboring. From there, our conversation went to other biases we might all hold.
We can raise similar discussions with our students. Talking about these issues makes us more thoughtful, fair-minded people.
The Super Bowl will capture the attention of many of our students. As educators, we can use our country’s fascination with football to move the conversation beyond running backs to an examination of race, from touchdowns to confronting bias.
Knoll is a writer and English teacher at public school in New Jersey.
Kids like to learn about themselves and others while reading. If you’ve spent time with young people, you know the sparkle in their eyes a book can generate, the excitement they show when they find a good story and the contagious energy they emit when they learn about something new.
This means you have great power when you publish books. You get to decide whose stories children learn about. The act of publishing sends a message of importance. It tells kids—and adults—that the story is true and valued. If we’re all working collectively to ensure our children are given accurate representations of the lived experiences of diverse people, you have a particular responsibility to thoroughly vet manuscripts for the accurate representation of subjugation and resistance.
As we’re sure you’re well aware, Scholastic, a leading provider of literacy resources for kids, recently received a great deal of criticism about a children’s book they published titled A Birthday Cake for George Washington. The criticism stemmed from the fact that the book depicts enslaved people as proud, smiling workers; critics referred to the text as a sanitized version of slavery in the United States. One outraged commenter on Amazon wrote, “This … author fails to mention that George Washington's chef Hercules [the book’s protagonist] ran way, because he did not want to be a slave.”
Scholastic ultimately agreed with the book’s critics and withdrew it, stating it “does not meet the standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children.”
Publishers, we want to help you provide our kids with books that accurately describe and represent the voices and experiences of all people—including the diverse experiences that occurred within the institution of slavery. We also want to help you avoid the public relations nightmare Scholastic just experienced.
How can we do that?
We’ve developed a tool called Reading Diversity to help you (and educators) think about whether a text adds to or detracts from an accurate, representative story. You can ask questions like:
- Do the identities or experiences of the author(s), illustrator(s), character(s), speaker(s) or narrator(s) contribute to students’ diverse reading experiences?
- Does this text accurately reflect lived experiences in terms of setting, characters, speakers, events, language and illustrations?
- Does the content perpetuate or rely on stereotypes, generalizations or misrepresentations?
- Are certain people or groups left out or given roles that don’t enable them to be heard?
- What is the historical, social or cultural context in which this text was written?
Educators need publishers to provide historically accurate depictions of complex issues and time periods for children of all ages. Our history is sometimes painful; focusing on the “best version” of that history to make it more palatable to young readers denies them the education they deserve. Let’s continue to nurture our kids’ love of reading—and commit to telling complete stories that highlight the voices of people whose lived experiences include subjugation and resistance.
Wicht is the senior manager for teaching and learning at Teaching Tolerance.
Get ready for this month’s lineup of Teaching Tolerance webinars! Registration and accompanying resources are free.
February 1, 3:30 p.m. CST
Fun Activities for Anti-bias Education (This is a pre-recorded webinar that you can watch on demand.)
Are you looking for fun and creative ways to engage your students in anti-bias learning? This webinar will feature video footage of educators teaching Perspectives advisory activities. Created in partnership with The Origins Program using the Developmental Designs approach, these team-building exercises not only break down social barriers; they also improve classroom climate. Help students learn the meaning and value of Identity, Diversity, Justice and Action, the four domains of the Teaching Tolerance Anti-bias Framework. And find out how to implement these activities in your classroom with this exciting webinar!
Tuesday, February 9, 4:30 p.m. CST
Teach the civil rights movement—and inspire tomorrow’s young activists—with Perspectives for a Diverse America, our anti-bias, literacy-based curriculum. In this webinar, educators will evaluate how they currently teach the movement and discover the engaging civil rights readings housed in the Perspectives anthology. This webinar will offer strategies for connecting youth activism of the past to social justice issues relevant to today’s students. Participants will also receive great suggestions for putting learning into action through a selection of “Do Something” performance tasks.
You can join us live or watch and listen when your schedule allows. In the meantime, be sure to check out our webinar page for great on-demand presentations from previous months!
The Atlantic: "With raids and deportations aimed largely at Central American children, the debate is extending beyond the divisive issue of undocumented immigrants. Educators, advocates, and community and elected leaders are questioning the untold hardship on schoolchildren as America limps along with seemingly complex, confusing immigration laws and regulations."
Center for Teaching Quality: "I have witnessed and heard innumerable reports from Black parents across the nation of similar encounters. Black students, usually males, being viewed not as potentially gifted, needing enrichment or more academic challenge, but as disrupters and distractions. So-called professional educators not questioning their own weak classroom practices, lack of differentiated instruction, poor preparation, or implicit biases, but instead wanting these non-compliant Black boys drugged into passivity."
Education Week: "At least six states are quietly bestowing retroactive diplomas on tens of thousands of former students who never passed their state's required exit exam."
The Huffington Post: "The company hopes that the new dolls, with their diverse body types, along with the new skin tones and hair textures introduced last year, will more closely reflect their young owners' world."
The Huffington Post: "Protecting people from negative stereotype threats benefits them, and these less threatened people benefit their entire group. As a field concerned with social change we could gain a lot by considering these collective effects when we measure the impact of experiments and social programs."
MIC: "It's no small feat that, on Jan. 11—42 years after Paula Fox became the first Latino author to ever win the award, in 1974—a mellow, 41-year-old Mexican-American named Matt de la Peña got a phone call saying his picture book, Last Stop on Market Street, had been chosen for the 2016 Newbery."
Mother Jones: "What's most distressing ... is how many anti-Muslim incidents have started with a teacher or a school administrator."
A Teacher's Evolving Mind: "I want to tell you a secret: America really doesn't care about what happens to poor people and most black people. There, I said it."
The Washington Post: "Here is an open letter from Ramon Griffin, the former dean of students at a New Orleans 'no excuses' charter school, who urges teachers and staff at such schools to question the model’s social and emotional costs on young people."
The Washington Post: "She started wearing a button that said, 'I’m Muslim, Ask Me a Question.' But no matter how many times she said she hated Islamic State and everything it stood for, people were never satisfied."
Smithsonian.com: "Holland's goal writing about the slaves who resided alongside 10 of the first 12 presidents who lived in the White House is to start a conversation on who these enslaved people were, what they were like, and what happened to them if they were able to escape from bondage."