Growing up, my primary school housed students from first to eighth grade and served mostly students of color. Prior to the pandemic, I attended a celebration for the retirement of Mrs. P, my eighth-grade teacher. The room was packed; filled with people of various ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. I heard families speaking Spanish, Tagalog, Italian, and English. Mrs. P was a teacher for 45 years and taught generations of children within families. As I looked around the room I witnessed tears, joy, and laughter. Then one by one individuals stood and told their own story of how Mrs. P. touched their lives and the lives of their families. I listened intently and felt the power of the stories being shared. In that moment, I experienced such awe in the woman who inspired me to go into the profession of education and pride in my connection to her and the ministry of teaching.
The American education system was not created to support the liberation of the powerless. Instead, it was designed to instill skills, habits, beliefs, and discipline that would allow for better control of the masses. The colonizers who became the architects of this country built a system that perpetuates the status of white-skinned privilege and wealth, while leaving those in the lower and middle classes burdened with the laborious task of building and supporting our nation’s economy and infrastructure.
Throughout the history of the United States, minoritized racial groups and those who live in poverty have suffered disparities in education through laws and policies that prohibited them from socioeconomic advancement, physical safety, and basic civil rights. The anti-literacy laws enacted before, during, and after the Civil War are just one example of how white-skinned privilege and power was used to perpetuate the oppression of enslaved Blacks and concretize a system that generated more wealth for those in power.
Our current education system continues to enable inequity through policies and practices that claim to be fair, colorblind, and neutral, but tend to privilege a small, elite portion of the U.S. population. We can no longer live by the adage “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” when those who deserve a better education continue to be plagued by disparities. Addressing the persistent opportunity gap between our nation’s socioeconomic classes requires sustained engagement from leaders across every field of education.
A Look at Black Males and Education Using Critical Race Theory
Ed Prep Matters features the “Revolutionizing Education” column to spotlight the many ways AACTE, member institutions, and partners are pioneering leading-edge research, models, strategies and programs that focus on the three core values outlined in the current AACTE strategic plan: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Quality and impact; and Inquiry and Innovation.
Newly-elected AACTE Board member Kimberly A. White-Smith and her colleague Quaylan Allen published the following two studies in Urban Education and Equity & Excellence in Education in which they examine practices that influence the education of black males in the United States. The studies are summarized in the abstracts below with links to the full articles.
“That’s Why I Say Stay in School”: Black Mothers’ Parental Involvement, Cultural Wealth, and Exclusion in Their Son’s Schooling
This study examines parental involvement practices, the cultural wealth, and school experiences of poor and working-class mothers of Black boys. Drawing upon data from an ethnographic study, we examine qualitative interviews with four Black mothers. Using critical race theory and cultural wealth frameworks, we explore the mothers’ approaches to supporting their sons’ education. We also describe how the mothers and their sons experienced exclusion from the school, and how this exclusion limited the mothers’ involvement. We highlight their agency in making use of particular forms of cultural wealth in responding to the school’s failure of their sons.
“Just as Bad as Prisons”: The Challenge of Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Teacher and Community Education
Drawing upon the authors’ experiences working in schools as teachers, teacher educators, researchers, and community members, this study utilizes a Critical Race Theory of education in examining the school-to-prison pipeline for black male students. In doing so, the authors highlight the particular role educators play in the school-to-prison pipeline, focusing particularly on how dispositions toward black males influence educator practices. Recommendations and future directions are provided on how education preparation programs can play a critical role in the transformation of black male schooling.
If you would like to share your story about how your institution or organization is revolutionizing approaches to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Quality and Impact; and Inquiry and Innovation, please contact Katrina Norfleet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AACTE’s Committee on Meetings & Professional Development met in the national office, July 29-31, to plan the 2020 Annual Meeting. During the busy three days, members of the committee utilized feedback from AACTE’s pool of reviewers to create a rich and diverse program from submissions received through AACTE’s Call for Proposals. We asked Committee Chair Kimberly White-Smith to tell us more about the power and timeliness of the upcoming conference:
“In the wake of the murderous attacks, rooted in white supremacist ideology, against communities of color in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, the theme of ‘Disrupting Inequities: Educating for Change’ is even more relevant today than a year ago when AACTE’s Meetings & Professional Development Committee first assumed the charge and created space for research and practice that promotes systemic change. Accepting the title of educator imbues each of us with a responsibility to use our knowledge, skills, minds, and hearts to walk beside the communities that we serve. It is imperative to support and uplift these communities during such tragic times.
Education is one of many tools used to transform the status quo. The 2020 Annual Meeting strands were specifically developed to explore the ways that education can be used alongside other key strategies to move the needle on equity. The intention is to demonstrate how advocacy, practice, and research can co-exist and support the movement of re-envisioning education in our country. Content presented at the Annual Meeting will further support our work in each of these areas: