Read then Act

Introduction to Critical Race Theory (Adrienne Keene, syllabus)

This graduate seminar will explore the foundations and central tenets of Critical Race Theory, from its origins in Critical Legal Studies, to current applications, debates, and evolutions, with particular attention to CRT’s intersections with the field of American Studies. We will also bring in CRT “offshoots” such as TribalCrit, LatCrit, AsianCrit, and DisCrit. CRT posits that racism is endemic to society, but that we must also remain committed to social justice and praxis. How do we navigate these tensions, use CRT to provide a toolkit for navigating scholarship, and work toward social change in the realms of race and racism?

Happy New Year!

Fortifying Imagination (Jason Reynolds, Krista Tippett)

And if I claim to love them — because all of us claim to love our kids, but I think, sometimes, our love sometimes gets conflated with our fear. And that’s OK; I understand that fear is real. But, for me, my own personal opinion is that if I love them, I have to tell them the truth. I have to figure out how to tell them the truth because a lot of these kids can handle it.

Happy New Year!

James Baldwin’s Lessons for Teachers in a Time of Turmoil (Clint Smith III)

It’s this focus on history that rearranged my thinking. In Baldwin’s view, it is the only thing that can help disabuse black children of the stereotypes that have been projected onto their community—and it is necessary for white children, too, who oftentimes serve as the purveyors of these myths, and who do not know the truth about their history, either.

A teacher, Baldwin believed, should push students to understand that the world was molded by people who came before, and that it can be remolded into something new.

Starting School

What If We Radically Reimagined The New School Year? (Ashley McCall)

What if we put our money, time and energy into what we say matters most? What if this school year celebrated imagination? In We Got This, Cornelius Minor reminds us that “education should function to change outcomes for whole communities.” What if we designed a school year that sought to radically shift how communities imagine, problem solve, heal, and connect?

What if this messy school year prioritized hard truths and accountability?

What if we listened? What if we made space to acknowledge the anger and demands of students? What if our priority was healing? Individual and collective.

What if we recognized that life—our day-to-day circumstances and our response to them—is curricula? It’s the curricula students need, especially now as our country reckons with its identity.

Is Prison Necessary?

Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind (Rachel Kushner)

Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the presence, instead, of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”

For Gilmore, to “never forget” means you don’t solve a problem with state violence or with personal violence. Instead, you change the conditions under which violence prevailed. Among liberals, a kind of quasi-Christian idea about empathy circulates, the idea that we have to find a way to care about the people who’ve done bad. To Gilmore this is unconvincing. When she encountered the kids in Fresno who hassled her about prison abolition, she did not ask them to empathize with the people who might hurt them, or had. She instead asked them why, as individuals, and as a society, we believe that the way to solve a problem is by “killing it.” She was asking if punishment is logical, and if it works. She let the kids find their own way to answer.

Prep for Prep

Prep for Prep and the Fault Lines in NYC Schools (Vinson Cunningham)

For some, this emphasis on the individual ability of a handful of students is a fundamental flaw in the program’s design. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Times journalist who created the 1619 Project, told me that programs like Prep obscure the system’s deep inequalities.

Class mobility via élite education is not usually an up-from-nothing story. What is more common, in the relatively rare instances of mobility which our society currently provides, is a series of institutional incursions, which lend a kind of jerry-rigged privilege to a chosen few.

Critical Literature Theory

Critical Lit Theory as Preparation for the World (Randy Ribay)

It’s our responsibility to teach reality but also to equip them with both the intellectual and emotional capacity to process, respond, and repair the world. Because if we, as writers or educators, don’t examine challenging issues because they’re too controversial or too sad, then we’re turning our students into adults who turn a blind eye to injustice because it’s too controversial or too sad. And, in my opinion, there are far too many of those adults already.

Teaching Kindness Isn’t Enough (Bret Turner)

The harm done by long-term exposure to injustice—to the kind of imagery found in racist books, microaggressions and discrimination—calls for more than a simple understanding of kindness. It demands that kindness be interwoven with substantial notions of true justice.

What I tried to ensure in my classroom—frequently, intentionally and with care—was a viable, usable understanding of justice. Young people need to know what is (and isn’t) equitable, inclusive and just so they can begin to wrestle with systemic and institutional injustice, which affects them all in different ways.

Literacies of Resistance

Even Cinderella is White: (Re)Centering Black Girls’ Voices as Literacies of Resistance

“They identify the English classroom as a space where the marginalization of Black girls is compounded by the texts teachers use which uphold white supremacy by devaluing Black women authors in favor of majority White literary texts. Their piece is a profound call to action that provides an instructional approach as a countermeasure to the cultural forces working against Black girls.”