American Indians in Children's Literature: "In a comment to his post about weeding books, Roger Sutton said that Horn Book just received the 25th anniversary edition of Amazing Grace and that the page on which Grace is shown playing Indian is gone (she's pretending to be Longfellow's Hiawatha)"
Boston Globe: "I had been taught you don’t see race. You don’t talk about race. You just ignore it. Then you’re a teacher and you have all of these kids of different backgrounds, and it doesn’t make sense."
neaToday: "'It’s clear to me that books that fall outside the white, straight, abled mainstream are challenged more often than books that do not destabilize the status quo,' wrote Lo on the Diversity in YA website. 'The message this sends is loud and clear: diversity is actually under attack. Minority perspectives are being silenced every year.'"
neaToday: “This agreement signals a new era in bargaining in public education. We’ve negotiated a pro-student, pro-parent, pro-educator agreement. We really appreciate the strong support from parents and students.”
Noodle: "Homophobia is rampant in our nation's schools today, despite the widespread adoption of anti-bullying and harassment policies that have been implemented in most districts.”
Oregon Live: "For years, Soell had lived a double life. At home in Southeast Portland, friends knew Soell was transgender and used the gender-neutral pronoun 'they.' At work in Gresham, coworkers called the 26-year-old 'she.' But after treatment, Soell was ready to be known as 'Leo' and 'they' at school, too."
The New York Times Magazine: "[W]hat cannot be disputed is how profoundly we exist in one another’s imaginations. And what conversations about appropriation make clear is that our imaginations are unruly kingdoms governed by fears and fantasies. They are never neutral."
If you come across a current article or blog you think other educators should read, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org , and put "What We’re Reading This Week" in the subject line.
Last Friday, we posted an article on our Facebook page about the Hastings Area School District in Hastings, Michigan, where the superintendent recently received a petition from students with more than 300 signatures asking that they be allowed to display the Confederate flag on school grounds. The petition arrived a week after the superintendent asked high schoolers in the district not to display the flag on their vehicles, hats or clothing during the school day.
What happened in Hastings is interesting for a number of reasons. On one hand, you have a superintendent who has made a laudable move by requesting that students not display a symbol many Americans find hateful. On the other hand, you have student activists pushing for what they believe is their right to freedom of expression.
Curious how the TT audience would handle such a student response, we posted the article with a question: “What advice would you give to the leaders at this school?”
We received nearly 250 comments advising the Hastings Area School District leadership. While not all commenters agreed on how to handle the situation, the consensus from the thread was that the petition offers a teachable moment.
Some commenters suggested ideas that would allow students to learn how harmful displays like the Confederate flag can be.
Take time to do a school wide assembly and teach some factual history about what this flag represents.
Two thoughts... Sometimes teachers have to teach students that the rules at school are not the same as the rules at home, or grandma's, or work. We wouldn't play football using baseball rules, so we need to consider whether displaying the Confederate flag is being used as a tool of education, a toy to distract or entertain, or as a weapon to do harm in some way... proceed from there. If it disrupts the school, then respect the rules of the school. Second thought... use it as a teaching tool via the English/Social Studies collaboration to hold a Lincoln-Douglas debate to ‘discuss’ the issues/history relative to displaying the Confederate flag. Sometimes, if people/students just want to feel like they are being heard. I believe this school is doing a good job of letting students present their side, and still standing behind their policy. Holding a debate gives both sides a forum to educate the other side, without necessarily needing to change the policy. Education to inform... not necessarily persuade.
Another commenter thought a moment such as this is best handled in small groups.
These kids are old enough to know the facts. They're old enough to see the evidence themselves. Just to come down hard on kids misses the moment when you might reach a few (and maybe even their parents). But I don't think you do it at a school-wide assembly. This kind of difficult conversation is held best in small groups, with each teacher having the same curriculum and the same level of knowledge. It takes planning and training. It also takes choosing the right teachers.
—Elizabeth A. Hutchinson
Other commenters thought teaching accurate accounts of slavery and the Civil War was the way to go.
I would ask them to teach the truth about the flag... Slavery... the Civil War... lynching... and....the KKK…
After a lesson about the flag (including the Civil Rights movement years) suggest that it might be OK if the flag is displayed as a museum piece. It's time to retire that flag to the past.
You may not, even if you are in the majority, take the rights of the minority away; when it comes to this flag, it is an historical symbol of slavery and is reinforcing the idea that black lives don't matter. You cannot display a Nazi symbol just because you have 300 signatures and only 3 Jews go to the school. Get over it.
One commenter thought the district has handled the situation well.
I think the school is handling it with dignity. They are turning it into a conversation. They are opening the discussion about why the flag is inappropriate at school. The messages it sends to some people. This is how they will she [sic] a change. Holding open forums and beginning to educate and talk about race and race issues.
Challenging the presence of Confederate flags on school grounds—as well as monuments, mascots and school names honoring Confederate leaders—remains a hot-button issue deserving of thoughtful discussion. The situation in Hastings shows that this is not only a southern issue but also remains relevant to schools across the country.
Have you faced this issue in your school or community? What did you do? What advice would you give to leaders at this school?
To learn more about how to call for the removal of Confederate symbols on public property, visit the Erasing Hate campaign page on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.
Williams is the new media associate for Teaching Tolerance.
The TT webinar lineup—featuring our teaching and learning specialists—continues this month! Register today for our October webinars:
Tuesday, October 6, 4:30 pm CDT
Responding to Hate and Bias at School
Just as schools have plans in place to respond to fires or natural disasters, they must also be prepared to respond to incidents of hate and bias. During this webinar, you will reflect on your school's climate, identify your school’s existing policies and procedures for responding to incidents of hate and bias, and learn how to draft an action plan.
Tuesday, October 13, 4:30 pm CDT
Code of Conduct: A Guide to Responsive Discipline
"How does my conduct affect the school-to-prison pipeline?" This webinar invites teachers, counselors, building and district leaders, and school resource officers to consider this question. Regardless of your role, you'll learn responsive discipline practices that can keep more students in school.
Last month's Speak Up at School and Let’s Talk! Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics With Students webinars generated great conversations. If you couldn’t join us for the live webinars, you can still register and watch the on-demand versions at your convenience.
Be sure to mark these upcoming webinars on your calendar and stay tuned for details!
Tuesday, November 3—Perspectives for a Diverse America
Tuesday, November 17—Beyond the Bus: Teaching the Unseen Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Your school is doing something great by participating in Mix It Up at Lunch Day! Let your community know about it. Getting the word out is easy, and we’re happy to help.
We’ve got posters!
We’ve got coloring pages!
We can even help you get your local media interested! Simply follow this easy-to-use press release template (Word document).
And remember: Publicity starts at home. Make sure Mix It Up at Lunch Day is on all your school calendars. Get the word out to your teachers, students and families via your school’s daily or weekly announcements. Don’t forget PTA or family newsletters, email lists and all other forms of communication your school uses.
Those are the basics. Now, how about thinking outside the box?
A YouTube video. A Vine. A class project. Let your creative juices flow—and let your students take the reins!
Mix It Up at Lunch Day is October 27!
Do you have any questions about Mix It Up? We want to answer them. Any ideas or other thoughts? We want to hear them. Contact us on Facebook or Twitter (use #MixLunch), or browse these FREE Mix It Up resources.
In my eighth-grade Global Thinking course, the first homework assignment of the year is for students to watch Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” Adichie weaves together her personal story of growing up in Nigeria and moving to the United States for college with a provocative discussion on the nature of stories and storytelling. She calls attention to “the danger of a single story.” In short, defining an experience based on a single account gives us incomplete, potentially damaging, understandings of other people.
Adichie’s words of caution are an important reminder of the very sacred and noble responsibility we have as teachers to tell stories well and to teach our students how to read and understand others’ stories. Adichie is particularly sensitive to how power shapes which stories we tell and how we tell them, defining power as “the ability not to just tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.” Adichie sees stereotypes as complicit in the perpetuation of single stories: “[T]he problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Adichie also reminds us of “how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children.”
Single Stories in the Classroom
Adichie’s phrase—the danger of a single story—gives my students a simple, direct way to begin developing their sensitivity to narrative and power. Students begin the year attuned to one-sided viewpoints, biases and unheard stories. With Adichie’s urging, they may think about whose perspective is being served by the way a particular story is heard.
I often find that students want to chalk up divergent opinions to “different perspectives” rather than investigating the accuracy of a story. Adichie moves my students away from this kind of reduction because she helps them see that the danger of a single story lies not in reference to a different perception of the facts, but in reference to the story’s and storyteller’s legitimacy and authenticity. In doing so, it opens up conversations about the ways in which history is a composite of stories—some true, some not, some unheard, promulgated or silenced by those in power—and require rigorous interrogation in the classroom.
Single Stories and Judgment
After students watch “The Danger of a Single Story,” I ask them to discuss what stuck out to them. They appreciate the story of Fide, Adichie’s family houseboy, whose poverty a young Adichie always contrasted with her own middle-class Nigerian existence until she visited his home and saw the beauty of a basket crafted by Fide’s brother. In relating these stories from her own experience, Adichie is liberating listeners, my students, to acknowledge their own “single stories” without judgment. This is true even for Adichie: Many people’s limited knowledge of Africa has limited their perceptions of her. Still, she switches the locus of blame away from the individual and toward the stories they have heard and the people who have told them.
Adichie’s rhetorical shift is subtle but important. It’s a call for us as teachers to tell multiple stories or risk perpetuating stereotypes and limited knowledge. And yet, it also moves us away from guilt about having single stories and toward an activist stance of open-mindedness and receptivity to multiple narratives.
Adichie’s talk has served as a framing “text” for my courses for years, and it never fails to activate students while introducing them to the ways we will study the various stories of history.
Jonathan Gold is a seventh- and eighth-grade history teacher at Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island.