Monday, April 27, 2015

We Need to Teach Hard Things

Students need to be able to recognize this in the media.
As I watch racist media coverage float out of Baltimore...

On the heels of talking about creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth last night on #caedchat...

There are a lot of things that we - the adults in this world - have effed up pretty good. There are a lot of problems - heavy, difficult problems around race, class, gender, culture, and numerous other things - that we are leaving for the next generation to solve.

Given this, I believe we as educators have a moral imperative to have hard conversations, to raise awareness, to increase knowledge around race, class, gender, culture, and any other areas where systems of oppression and inequality exist with our students. (And yes - there are many adults who are scared to talk about these things.)

We must start developing our students’ critical lenses for viewing society. For consuming media that is all around them. For creating media that challenges assumptions and stereotypes.

So they can make the world a better place in the areas we have failed.

“But this makes some students uncomfortable.”

GOOD. I remember my initial grapplings with my extreme privilege in this world. I was uncomfortable with my whiteness. This wasn’t something I had chosen. For me, that discomfort with my privilege was an important first step towards starting to come to terms with my privileged place in the world.

As we kicked off this school year with a three week unit on Ferguson, I watched some students be uncomfortable with the death of an unarmed young black man. (The most uncomfortable group? White males.)

Students need this discomfort! Critical lenses don’t just appear out of the blue, especially for the privileged members of our society. All students need the time to talk and learn about systems of oppression in our country. They need to be exposed to the hard conversations. Students need the language to talk about this.

Some things are more important than the curriculum your state/district/school tells you to teach. This, I believe, is the most important of those things.