Anti-bias curriculum is an approach to education that presents ethical principles and moral approaches in supporting respect and inclusivity among all people. This all-embracing and all-encompassing way of teaching is essential in all schools in order to combat bias and inequality among all individuals. Anti-bias instruction can be taught to both children and adults alike, but it requires people to put their critical thinking skills to work. It is through this information that we, as human beings, can begin to battle against the thick barriers of bias, misinformation, and prejudice. I propose that Nelsonville Local Schools implement a program of anti-bias workshops on race as a point of entry for a communal respect for ourselves, each other, and all people in our world.
As our contemporary society continues farther into the 21st century, educators at all levels are working to respond to not only the educational needs of our students but also to societal needs of our people. From this societal standpoint, our world places a huge value on one’s identity. Our human history has taught us that it is a fiery conversation and often results in conflict, making “race” one of the most challenged areas of one’s identity. Race, in this way, is essentially a classification and categorization of people based on their appearance, language, and cultural traits. As we consider this knowledge, it becomes obvious that race is an incredibly complex concept in the socio-political realm. “Institutional racism,” or “systemic racism,” is a type of racism that is specifically found in various social and political institutions—including schools. Our textbook affirms, “Many incarcerated peoples of Color have attended under-funded and deteriorating schools, have had poor access to health care, have historically been denied mortgages and other wealth building programs, and have received inequitable treatment in every other major institution that would have given them and their children an equal starting point in life (Alexander, 2010)” (129).
The authors explain that it is not an individual-based fault, but instead one of society, and the way that we break down the problem is the way that people respond to it. The author continues, “But if we perceive the problem as one of structural racism, we might change the way we fund schools, ensure that every family has affordable access to health care and social services, work to decrease racial profiling, and change the policies that allow wealth to be ever more concentrated in fewer hands” (130). I found this quote to be one of the most compelling statements in the entire text because it showcases connected issues that are affected by racism as well as different approaches to tackling this societal fault. Leaders on a federal level as well as images on different types of media coverage can impact the way that we think and feel about these issues as well. This can impact education by the stories that our students read, the images and videos that are exposed on the internet, and leaders who are elected to model strength and unity within our country. Even though our nation has made great strides in the right direction in terms of tackling this issue head on, racism continues to work and thrive in altered ways.
Introspective Reflexivity Environment
Privilege, in connection to the topic of race, can often only be offered to individuals who belong to the most dominant race. Our textbook makes an intriguing point about this topic asserting, “In other words, peoples of Color are almost always seen as “having a race” and described in racial terms…“Black man”…whereas Whites are rarely defined by race…“a man”…thereby allowing whites to move through society as “just people…” (126). It seems as if sometimes we feel the need to clarify if someone is a person of color or of a unique background in order to describe them accurately and completely. It is also important to consider that in addressing topics of both dominance and privilege that one might tend to mentally picture someone on a basic level to be a white person—a “normal” person. It is understood that anyone who is outside this box of “normalcy” should additionally include descriptions of their uniqueness and differences. This concept of privilege is especially crucial to consider when shaping young minds in the classroom, and even more so when building a “classroom community.” As a future educator, I have already seen firsthand the importance of uplifting and encouraging students to pursue their academic and professional goals. In my classroom, I plan to implement these topics in my own instruction and make resources accessible to students that address relatable concepts. I firmly believe that it is important to show students of all backgrounds and experiences how people of all backgrounds and experiences have worked together to learn about our world in order to make it a better place.
However, educators must educate themselves and continue to educate themselves that they are role-models in the classroom. Our textbook affirms, “Concerns and assumptions about their abilities constantly surround students of Color. It is important to remember that these stereotypes are not just ‘in our heads’; Whites do hold these stereotypes and they do affect the way Whites evaluate peoples of Color” (136). As a white woman and a citizen of this country, I believe that it is easy to forget about these issues when teaching the state’s curriculum in the classroom at any age level. We tend to forget about our identity and the way that people perceive our identity through our language. Educators must learn and remember that internalized racism can also exist within our students. Teachers of all areas, and particularly White teachers, hold an incredibly powerful position in teaching students—specifically students of Color. Becoming an anti-bias educator is not a “quick-fix” or something that one is able to understand through reading a book or attending a seminar. It is through this reflective, life-long process of defining one’s own positionality and biases at the core in order to impact students on a plethora of levels. Becoming an ant-bias educator means that one is truly able to become an ally for all students collectively, and become part of a community of supporters in this focus.
School, Curriculum, & Pedagogical Environment
As we keep these issues in mind, I wholeheartedly believe that the center of our focus when addressing these issues should begin in the classroom. Not only should teachers empower students from backgrounds different from their own, but they should also include their voices in these conversations. Educators need to allow students to educate each other by initiating and intertwining these conversations into curriculum-based instruction to validate their ways of thinking. However, when thinking about how to do this as a white teacher like myself in a classroom full of students, this can sometimes be difficult. This mission may seem like a simple one from an outside perspective, but this can be challenging and require great courage. As a school system it is absolutely necessary that we, as a teaching team, reflect students’ identities through our curriculum as our curriculum reflects our students’ identities. Our textbook addresses the central differences to mainstream ways of multicultural education against that of antiracist education, and which action does more work in addressing the issue at its core. Our textbook states, “Antiracist education deliberately goes beyond the celebrating approach most common to most multicultural programs…Anti-racist education seeks to interrupt these relations by educating people to identify, name, and challenge the norms, patterns, and institutions that keep racism in place” (142).
This is a notable distinction because as educators, we are taught to include resources that relate with not only students in our classroom but also students in various parts of the world. This is important for educators to consider because my implementing anti-racist education within our learning environment, we are addressing this issue at its core rather than coming up with ways to work around this fault. As an educational professional, I again, propose the absolute importance of sharing and interacting with these ideologies through discussions and programs within our schools. These programs should be available to not only our staff employed at Nelsonville-York Local Schools, but also to the guardians of our students and the individuals in our community as an entirety. Ultimately, these conversations and learning environments will not only further analyze racism in education but also provide our society with the tools that we need to liberate perspectives of all kinds.