Monday, February 7, 2011

Thinking Critically about Racism

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically... Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What an important point to consider as educators! We are not here to simply create students with more “book smarts” or skills to get by in the world more easily. All educators, from high school to elementary school teachers and administrators, are part of a team responsible for developing critical thinking and character in each student. This character development has many facets, and one important aspect of this character education is an understanding of racism. The opening quote came from an article written by Dr. King in 1947 for the Morehouse College student paper. I think the points he made in the article are just as applicable to teachers of every level today as they were in 1947. If we can begin addressing issues of racism with our young students, hopefully it won’t be as big of a problem by the time they reach college.

In honor of MLK Day and Black History Month, we chose racism for our topic this week on The Gateway. Joann selected some wonderful racism resources, and I want to encourage you to look a little deeper into some of the providers she suggested so you can find even more tools to help your students think critically about racism. Depending on the subject and level you teach, these tools may be helpful for creating lessons to use throughout the next month. If it won’t fit into your schedule during the month, you may just want to look through the sites and bookmark them to use in your class whenever a racism issue comes up that you want to address. These activities are not meant to just teach about the history of racism. They are created to teach students how to think critically about the problems of racism and how to solve them.

One activity that really caught my eye was a simulation using “The Sneetches” By Dr. Seuss. The activity comes from Teaching Tolerance. Their collection of classroom activities includes professional development tools as well as many K-12 resources aimed at teaching students tolerance in different situations. This site is very relevant to the discrimination we see today against particular groups of immigrants and ethnic groups in the United States. If you have witnessed any of this type of discrimination or racism in your school, or if you just want to prevent it, you might find some very useful activities here.

Another site Joann found is RaceBridges. This site also has a great collection of resources to help students and teachers explore race relations and diversity. They even have a guide to help teachers create a diversity club for their schools. I really liked the fact that they tied the ideas of racism to creating an anti-bullying climate at schools, a topic that is immediately important for many schools today. There is a drop-down menu on the right side of the page where you can choose which type of lesson plan you want to view. Be sure to check out some of the lessons that include stories read by professional storytellers.

Racism is an important topic to cover at any time of the year. It might have the most impact on our students during times when they are seeing discrimination occurring in their schools or in the media. These are only a couple of resources to help you include a discussion of racism in your classroom. Please be sure to share any other resources you like and join our conversation on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

~Peggy's Corner - 1/27/2011~

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