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|by Jenice L. View
Textbook mentions of the modern Civil Rights Movement highlight the year 1963 as the time when the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom showcased Dr. King’s speech known as “I Have a Dream.” Occasionally, they will also reference the Children’s Crusade and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., or the murder of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss., as isolated acts of resistance and racism.
Yet, it was a pivotal year as direct action, voter registration, and important strategic shifts occurred nationwide after several years of active and public struggle. Writer James Baldwin referred to the events, 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, as the “latest slave rebellion.” A deeper understanding of these events, their interconnectedness (domestically and internationally), and the antecedent and subsequent events helps students “read” history and their contemporary world with a keener eye toward coordinated action. (For a list of some of these events, see Teaching About 1963 in 2013: Civil Rights Movement History Resources).
To support teaching the modern Civil Rights Movement beyond “I Have a Dream,” Teaching for Change is raising awareness about the 1963 anniversaries that shed light on the everyday people who organized in their communities to struggle for freedom and justice.
|In 1980, the Council on Interracial Books for Children published the book Guidelines for Selecting Bias-Free Textbooks and Storybooks. “Ten Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism,” a shorter version of the book in pamphlet form followed. One of the first guides written for teachers and families, it became an invaluable tool for hundreds of thousands of people. Both the book and pamphlet have been out of print for several years. Rethinking Schools published their adaptation of the original Guidelines in 1994. Here is another adapted version of the original pamphlet.|
Children’s books continue to be an invaluable source of information and values. They reflect the attitudes in our society about diversity, power relationships among different groups of people, and various social identities (e.g., racial, ethnic, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, and disability). The visual and verbal messages young children absorb from books (and other media) heavily influence their ideas about themselves and others. Depending on the quality of the book, they can reinforce (or undermine) children’s affirmative self-concept, teach accurate (or misleading) information about people of various identities, and foster positive (or negative) attitudes about diversity. Children’s books teach children about who is important, who matters, who is even visible. Consequently, carefully choosing quality children’s books is an indispensable educational and child-rearing task.
It is important to offer young children a range of books about people like them and their family—as well as about people who are different from them and their family. All of the books should be accurate and appealing to young children. Fortunately, there are some good anti-bias children’s books, which are available as a result of the ongoing activism of many individuals and groups over many years. However, while choices have improved over past decades, the lack of quality multicultural kid’s books currently being published has frustrated many communities. The number of children of color in the United States continues to rise, but the number of books published by or about people of color stays the same or even decreases.
District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC
Edited by Matt Dembicki
On November 1, 1950, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola,
two Puerto Rican nationalists, attempted to assassinate President Truman. Their
goal was to draw attention to the U.S. colonization of Puerto Rico and the
repeated legal and military measures to deny Puerto Ricans self-determination.
At the time, Truman was staying at Blair House while the White House underwent
repairs. The two men converged on Blair House and, after a shootout that left
Torresola and one policeman dead, Collazo was arrested and imprisoned.
District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC tells a slice of this story in “Truman,” by Art Haupt, Rafer Roberts, and Wendi Strang-Frost. In their version, three journalists on their way to Blair House happen upon the gunfight. In its aftermath, the young photographer is pressed into service to record the crime scene while his coworkers interview the police lieutenant. Truman leaves for his next engagement, saying “[a] president has to expect these sorts of things,” and all assembled marvel at his sang-froid.
“Truman” reveals some of District Comics’ major shortcomings. Like many other stories in the book, the line between fact and “creative liberties,” as editor Matt Dembicki puts it, is unclear. Were there actually journalists at the scene or were they inserted into the story as a framing device, along with their extensive dialogue? And if an effective framing device was needed, couldn’t the story have been better told from the perspective of Oscar Collazo, rather than the wooden, possibly fictional journalists and policemen who talk like soft parodies of 40’s gangsters? Whose DC history is being told, and why?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it’s the presence of justice.” Consistent with that perspective, the impetus for anti-bias education work is rooted in a desire to build just early childhood programs for all children. Early childhood education plays a part in the creation of socially just, culturally inclusive societies where all families are able to raise their children in the context of who they are and where all families have the resources to raise children who can truly thrive.
Early childhood education is a powerful bridge between the family and the larger society; however, this connection is not automatically a positive one. Why and how the bridge is constructed matters. Our societies are complex—exhibiting and promoting strong, contradictory themes regarding how we treat human beings. Early childhood programs can be grounded in the aspirations and rights articulated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Children. Or they can be created to ready children to conform to society as it is, with all of its existing racial, class, and gender power dynamics.
In order to unleash the power of early childhood education to help reduce racial and ethnic divisions and build peaceable communities, we must overcome major challenges. While children are at the heart of our work, they are not the only key element. Teachers and parents, infrastructures of early childhood education, and larger economic and social-political dynamics in our societies are all “contested ground” for the anti-bias education community.
Contested grounds are those places where we can and must work to create change. By identifying and analyzing obstacles, we can better prepare ourselves to build impactful, anti-bias early childhood education programs. In this piece, I explore a few key contested-ground issues. In the second piece, “Change Strategies,” I suggest ways for us to engage in these contested grounds—and in so doing, put anti-bias, culturally inclusive visions into practice in early childhood education.
By Amy Rothschild, early childhood educator and Teaching for Change volunteer
Banned Book week provides us the chance to reflect on what is and what isn’t available for us to read at different moments in history and different places. We think of Orwell, and we think of more recent events, like the banning of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, AZ.
Government censorship, of course, is just one element that determines what we can and cannot read. People often overlook another cultural phenomenon that can have a similar effect: publishing industry censorship. Each year there is a scarcity of excellent children’s picture books published. Missing are titles that reflect the realities of students’ lives and communities while encouraging children to think beyond the headlines.
It took almost 100 years for an amendment to the Constitution that forbade the sale of people and enslavement with the enactment of the 13th Amendment in 1865. Photo: Emancipation Day Parade, Richmond, Virginia, Monday, April 3, 1905. Library of Congress.
September 17 marks Constitution Day—a federal observance that
recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Often glanced over in
textbooks are the controversies that surround the writing of the
Constitution and issues that persist today.
As Bill Bigelow writes in the latest If We Knew Our History article, “Students deserve a more critical and nuanced exploration of the Constitution—one that is alert to the race and class issues at the heart of our governing document…
“Asking students to think critically about the Constitution is not a demand for them to come to any particular conclusion about the Constitution and those who drafted it. Rather, treating the Constitution as a product of social conflict and written by partisans in that conflict implicitly gives students permission to become thinkers…
“On this Constitution Day, let’s encourage schools to teach outside the textbook as part of a broader curriculum of critical thinking.”
Help us reach a larger audience through three easy steps:
By Amy Rothschild, pre-school teacher and Teaching for Change volunteer
I teach in a preschool program at a public school, and while
my teaching team and I have ample freedom to follow the children’s interests in
our planning, our school does place a high value on the teaching of nursery
rhymes. Nursery rhymes are to early childhood
curricula what Frost and Poe are to high school--we may come to love them, but
we teach them first out of obligation to a “common cultural knowledge.” But
what exactly is--or should become--common cultural knowledge for students from
diverse linguistic, racial, and national backgrounds?
At my school we stock books showing a wide range of families and realities, many from Teaching for Change’s selections. How hard could it be, I wondered, to find a little space on the shelf for nursery rhymes, considering they would be a part, and not the whole, of what we read and learn? Some nursery rhymes, like Ten Little Indians, reinforce negative stereotypes and roles and teachers should avoid them. Others are more mundane--folks baking pies, sitting on tuffets--hard to understand, but not unconscionable. I assumed that while nursery rhymes have an Anglo-Saxon origin, there is no reason that only white people can be depicted wishing upon a star. But practically every felt-board piece, website, puzzle, and book I found preserved the link of nursery rhymes to whiteness and Eurocentrism. White Little Bo Peep counting her white sheep, white Mary bringing her white lamb to her all-white school.
Enter Nina Crews’ The Neighborhood Mother Goose. Crews spent three years choosing settings in her Brooklyn neighborhood to stage child-appropriate nursery rhymes, and the result is a phenomenally engaging book that I am proud to show my students. One four year-old African-American boy called out at the page for Hey Diddle Diddle: “Hey, that boy looks like me when I was a baby!” Such moments of seeing oneself reflected positively in the world are vital for children--they need to see themselves both as agents of change and in more everyday moments, like those that Crews presents.
Of course, in addition to contemporary illustrations paired with Anglo-Saxon nursery rhymes, we need to offer our children chances to learn rhymes and poems from many languages and traditions. Teachers who talk about nursery rhymes extol their benefits for teaching children rhyme and awareness of the sounds in words, and for increasing their oral language-- overlooking that these are the benefits of short texts in general, not the exclusive rights of Jack Horner, “good boy” though he thinks he is.
In that spirit, the list, and we welcome your suggestions. First, a note: The list presents a wide variety of songs and poems for young children. Too often, teachers fall into the trap of presenting the “normal” nursery rhymes and the “other” or alternative one. That framing is inaccurate and fails to take into account the growth and concurrent development of distinct literary traditions. Each of these works is a complete and self-sustaining reality.
Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat [With CD]
By Nikki Giovanni, Kristen Balouch, and Michele Noiset
The Neighborhood Mother Goose
By Nina Crews
The Neighborhood Sing-Along
By Nina Crews
Pio Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes
By Alma Flor Ada, Vivi Escriva, F. Isabel Campoy
Tortillitas Para Mama: And Other Nursery Rhymes
By Margot C. Griego, Barbara Cooney, Betsy L. Bucks
Skip Across the Ocean: Nursery Rhymes from Around the World
By Floella Benjamin, Sheila Moxley
Diez Deditos and Other Play Rhymes and Action Songs from Latin America
By Jose-Luis Orozco, Elisa Kleven
Down by the River: Afro-Caribbean Rhymes, Games, and Songs for Children
By Grace Hallworth, Caroline Binch
Watch a YouTube clip from the event:
Event summary submitted by Shilpa R. Sharma, educator and Teaching for Change volunteer.
The event co-sponsors were: Immigrant Youth Movement, Teaching for Change, Busboys and Poets, Institute for Policy Studies, UCLA Labor Center, United We Dream, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and the United States Student Association. The book is a publication of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education.
We commemorate Howard Zinn’s 90th birthday this week with an article by Bill Bigelow celebrating Zinn’s wisdom and underscoring the importance of teaching a people’s history, as the new school year begins and the election season heats up.
Bigelow writes, “This week—August 24—would have been the 90th birthday of the great historian and activist Howard Zinn, who died in 2010. Zinn did not merely record history, he made it: as a professor at Spelman College in the 1950s and early 1960s, where he was ultimately fired for his outspoken support of students in the Civil Rights Movement, and specifically the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); as a critic of the U.S. war in Vietnam, and author of the first book calling for an immediate U.S. withdrawal; and as author of arguably the most influential U.S. history textbook in print, A People’s History of the United States. ‘That book will knock you on your ass,’ as Matt Damon’s character says in the film Good Will Hunting.
“It’s always worth dipping into the vast archive of Zinn scholarship, but at the beginning of a school year, and as the presidential campaign heats up, now is an especially good time to remember some of Howard Zinn’s wisdom.
“Shortly after Barack Obama’s election, the Zinn Education Project sponsored a talk by Zinn to several hundred teachers at the National Council for the Social Studies annual conference in Houston. Zinn reminded teachers that the point of learning about social studies was not simply to memorize facts, it was to imbue students with a desire to change the world. ‘A modest little aim,’ Zinn acknowledged, with a twinkle in his eye.” Continue reading.
The newest article in the Zinn Education Project’s column, If We Knew Our History, is “Fists of Freedom: An Olympic Story Not Taught in Schools” by The Nation sports editor and Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin.
As Dave Zirin mentions in his column, it has been almost 44 years since Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the medal stand following the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and created what must be considered the most enduring, riveting image in the history of either sports or protest. But while the image has stood the test of time, the struggle that led to that moment has been cast aside.
When mentioned at all in U.S. history textbooks, the famous photo appears with almost no context. For example, Pearson/Prentice Hall’s United States History places the photo opposite a short three-paragraph section, “Young Leaders Call for Black Power.” The photo’s caption says simply that “…U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised gloved fists in protest against discrimination.”
The media—and school curricula—fail to address the context that produced Smith and Carlos’ famous gesture of resistance: It was the product of what was called “The Revolt of the Black Athlete.” Amateur black athletes formed OPHR, the Olympic Project for Human Rights, to organize an African American boycott of the 1968 Olympic Games. Read more.
Published on GOOD Magazine and The Nation. You can help us reach a wider audience in three steps: