This post continues our #NewTeacherVoices series featuring pre-service teachers. Today’s guest blogger is Clamentia Hall Jr. He is a double major in elementary education and language arts in elementary education. Along with being an advocate for democratic education, Clamentia hopes to create more opportunities for students to experience the arts with his music education & academic support project called My Gift From Above.
Diversity is a fact of life and schools are not exempt. Race is not a negligible concept within the classroom. Teachers cannot afford to take a colorblind approach to teaching because race absolutely does have an impact on educational and economic opportunity. Educators that teach or promote colorblindness counteract the focus of democratic education and standby to the repetition of cultural misrepresentations and stereotypes.
A democratic education is one that goes beyond just helping students to develop the skills necessary to be successful. A democratic education fosters self-worth and purpose within the student, teaches active communication skills, and encourages civic and community involvement. A democratic education should allow students to challenge and discuss topics; especially those that directly relate to the demographics of their own school and community.
Community involvement gives students the opportunity to discover their possible calling while also developing a purpose for their lives. David Orr, author of Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect, states that “a calling has to do with one’s largest purpose, personhood, deepest values, and the gift one wants to give back to the world.” Educators should give students as many opportunities as possible to have these types of experiences and by practicing colorblindness in the classroom, students potentially miss or neglect the opportunity to get involved.
Teachers that practice colorblindness eliminates a safe space for students to discuss race. Students then miss this opportunity that may develop misunderstandings and internalize stereotypes about those who are different than them. Students will undoubtedly draw their own conclusions about race if they are deprived of the opportunity to learn about them in a healthy way.
Gloria Boutte, doctor of psychology, educational research, and childhood development as well as co-author of Moving Beyond Colorblindness in Early Childhood Classrooms, explains a study that was conducted in a second grade classroom. In that study, students were asked to explain and/or illustrate what they believe the words racism means. One second grade student responded, “I think racism means hurting people,”. Another student said, “Racism is when black, brown, and white people don’t like each other.” Out of all the responses I read, I was most intrigued by the student that said, “I think racism is people that want Mexicans to leave.
These responses are a testament to the fact that most students have thought about race and racism at some point. Students do have some understanding of race, they are receiving information about race and racism, and truly can benefit from discussing it. Without positive teacher involvement, students can potentially receive false information from media and other sources. Colorblindness hinders students’ ability to construct positive and accurate views of different races and cultures.
As current and future educators, we have a responsibility to welcome questions and discussions about race and racism. Colorblindness works against the purpose of schools and democratic education. It has no place in the classroom. We can no longer be bystanders to the recurrence of cultural misrepresentations, nor the unequal educational and economic opportunities given to students of color.