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Materials and resources for addressing Ferguson in your classroom

my life matters

Several years ago, I wrote a quick post highlighting some of the problems that can happen when parents fail to talk about race and race relations with their kids. The post used research from a book called NutureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman and a Wired article by Jonathan Liu. In their book, Bronson and Merryman disprove many of our assumptions about how kids grow up thinking about race and race relations.

One of the the first statements that they make in a chapter concerning race:

It is tempting to believe that because their generation is so diverse, today’s children grow up knowing how to get along with people of every race. But numerous studies suggest that this is more of a fantasy than a fact.

According to Liu and the NutureShock research, here’s how to go about raising racist kids:

Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”

Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.

Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your own ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.

The chapter’s basic premise?

Many families (especially white families – the authors claim 75%) don’t talk about race in appropriate ways. When those conversations don’t happen, kids unknowingly grow up racist while denying that fact by claiming that they “don’t see color.”

It’s an interesting argument that seems to make a lot of sense.

So . . . we need to do a better job of discussing race and white privilege and opportunities and immigration and all sorts of stuff that makes us uncomfortable. Because it makes us better people and makes where we live better places.

But because talking about race and issues like Ferguson makes us uncomfortable, we will often not work very hard to make it happen in our classrooms. But there is lots of stuff out there to help specifically with the Ferguson issue.

Because we can’t not talk about it.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Other places you may be talking about it, and here in StL we might in a while after things calm down, or maybe our middle and high schools are talking about it but in elementary right now our main goal is to provide a sense of routine and normalcy for our kids in a world that to many of us here seems to have gone mad. We had an inclement weather day today due to an unexpected ice storm but it will be interesting to see how the kids are handling all of this when they come back. I’m sure at least one of them had someone they know effected by the Black Friday “die-ins”. It’s hard right now. I do want to talk about it with my son (a fourth grader) and we have some but emotions are so high right now I think we need processing time, I know I do.

    December 1, 2014
    • glennw #

      The specific events in Ferguson and the broader issues behind them affect people in different places in different ways. And you and your students have to find the right path that works for you.

      But I think that the conversation about race and race relations needs to be something that is not pushed aside because we think it’s going to go away. It is difficult. And I’m hoping that teachers and students feel free to process and talk and think in ways that make sense to them. I also hope that this list of resources can help teachers figure out what that looks like where they are.

      (I did run across another interesting resource that might be useful to helping to start the conversation by focusing on science rather than emotion:

      Good luck.


      December 2, 2014
      • I wholeheartedly agree that the conversation needs to happen and with specific guidelines in place as the topic can become heated at any time but right now it’s especially difficult here in the StL area. Hopefully as things calm down we can start talking more again. Thanks for the Mother Jones link that looks like a wonderful resource!

        December 2, 2014

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