Kids of Color, Learning, & Narrative Justice
I had an interesting experience with my nephew recently that left me wondering how much curriculum can impact learning. I gave this book to my sister for my nephew and he fell in love with it right away.
Tired of his endless requests to read the book to him, she hid it under the couch. I recently pulled it out from its hiding place and was surprised to see how much he still loved it. But why? It didn’t have a special texture/distinctive color scheme from any of the other books on his shelf, and it didn’t rhyme in a way that sparked his interest.
In fact, the only (and perhaps most meaningful) difference with this book is that it features people with brown and black skin and many hijabis. Even though he’s just shy of two-years-old, he’s aware of his surroundings and is drawn to it because it reflects his culture and identity. I’m amazed at how much this book has had a profound impact on him and makes him want to read. This makes me wonder if we’re losing a lot of our kids in the K-12 system because the existing curriculum is generally produced from a white American perspective with little or no recognition of the historical, economic, and cultural experiences/contributions/expressions of the diverse ethnic, racial, and religious communities around us.
Among the various challenges in our education system, it seems like we pay the least attention to inequalities and injustices when it comes to curricula. We don’t spend enough time considering:
- how people are portrayed and by whom,
- what information is shared and from what perspective,
- and who wins/loses in the process.
I’m amazed that our collective society fails to question why our young kids are exposed to racism through Harper Lee? For as brilliant as To Kill a Mocking Bird is, I think it’s a tragedy that the leading (and often ONLY) book most American youth read about racism is written by a person who has not experienced it personally.
From literature to history and everything in between – I remember constantly feeling academically disengaged, left out, and misrepresented throughout my K-12 school experience. But I don’t want to give the impression that this only matters to kids of color. The existing system breeds a population of young white people who are growing up in an increasingly interconnected world but have no conceptualization of their privilege, are exposed to an ethnocentric view of the world, aren’t aware of how they fit in the global context, and are ignorant of the existence of and immense wealth communities of color have to offer.
What if we changed our history books to reflect the demographics in our schools, include narratives from indigenous communities, and represent various other perspectives? I think this could potentially play an important role in helping us close the academic achievement gap and create a more informed, culturally competent, and thoughtful members of society.
Andrew Hartman, “Teach for America: The Hidden Curriculum of Liberal Do-Gooders,” Jacobin Magazine (via andrewfm)
Full article here.
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