Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Can I Do?

Let's start by owning some privilege: I'm a straight white male born in America. I have a masters degree. I appear to be Christian. I don't have obvious physical handicaps.

I was born with a platinum spoon in my mouth. I acknowledge that.

I can't solve issues of racial, socioeconomic, gender, or any other inequality in 140 characters on social media. I can't know what it is like to live in fear: that isn't my experience.

However, I can acknowledge my privilege with my students. And I can talk with my students about issues of class, race, and gender inequality. I can start to shine a light on these issues in my classroom.

By starting to have these conversations with my students when they're in ninth grade, hopefully they - and I - can be part of solving some of the ills of our country.

I also can encourage teachers to teach hard things. Talk about race. Talk about class. Talk about gender. Be transparent about inequality. Our students can handle these hard conversations, often in ways that adults can't.

I can share the curriculum I co-created on Ferguson. I can explain what we're about to talk about in my class when it starts in ten minutes: we're going to talk about what yesterday means. Break down what a grand jury does. Explain what yesterday's ruling in Ferguson means. I can give my students the time and the space to talk about this.

And as we talk about this, some students will be uncomfortable. And that's good. For me, that was the first step in owning my privilege: I first started to feel guilty about being born white before I could begin to unpack and own my privilege.

Is this enough? No, probably not. But it is something.

I hope teachers today are at least doing something.