The partisan divide over politics and racial justice has reached a boiling point in the United States. How do we begin bridging those divides? One way is to start in the classroom; much of the conflict that arises among individuals and in communities comes from a lack of mutual understanding or appreciation for people from different communities, religions, or cultures.
The stories in this collection explore how teachers and community leaders are tackling tough conversations with students, young and old, who are ready to learn about their own biases, embrace what makes others different, and make new neighbors feel welcome—even when they don't speak the same language.
- What is the goal of culturally sustaining pedagogy?
- What are some common obstacles to anti-racism training?
- How has the Springdale school district adapted to the unique needs of their Marshallese parents and students?
- Solutions Journalism Network has been working on a set of conflict mediation and journalistic intervention strategies under the umbrella of "complicating the narrative." How can these techniques be used in campus or community programs for racial sensitivity and implicit bias? What problems might they help solve?
- What kinds of work in anti-racism or implicit bias training are happening in other countries around the world? Use the Solutions Story Tracker to find 2-3 articles and compare them to the American examples described in this collection.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
article summaries and themes
In the rural town of Springdale, Arkansas, Suevon Lee explores just how a school district integrated students coming from the Marshall Islands by encouraging them to share their culture. The district created a "Stomp Club," where Marshallese students share traditional dance styles from their culture, and provided Marshallese liaisons who are culturally cognizant to help families stay actively engaged in their children's education by removing possible cultural and linguistic barriers.
Back on the East Coast, Amadou Diallo writes about teachers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who are confronting their own implicit racial biases and learning to be more culturally proficient through peer-guided discussions. In the small town of Mount Vernon, Ohio, a place with a history rooted in racism, Brittany King shares the story of a hate crime that became the catalyst for Tamara Parson to start the Diversity Coalition, a decade-long project to showcase different cultures in her town and ignite uncomfortable but fruitful dialogues about tolerance and inclusivity.
In Seattle, Washington, Ananya Garg writes about how "culturally sustaining pedagogy" manifests as increased opportunities for students from marginalized groups to discuss identity and learn about history through lessons that steer away from the typical narrative.
Finally, in Rochester, New York, Justin Murphy writes about how the Rochester City School District has addressed racial inequity by making it a long-term practice of incorporating "restorative practices," and empowering students to be "catalysts of change
- Culturally sustaining pedagogy attempts to center and support diverse backgrounds and identities while avoiding cultural assimilation and suppression. It's an approach to education that uplifts and supports populations that have historically been erased by formal schooling.
- For people of color, common obstacles to participating in community trainings include fears of becoming (more of) a target for violence and harrassment; it also takes an emotional/psychological toll on the leaders of color who do this form of work for their communities. For white community members, bias trainings might cause feelings of defensive that lead to disengagement: acknowledging their role in systemic racism threatens their identity. Trainings also face a simpler logistical challenge regarding time and funding; this kind of work is often abandoned when life presents other demands on participants' time and energy.
- The Springdale school district has invested financially in the success of the Marshallese community by hiring cultural liaisons who do translations and other work helping the immigrant population succeed. The district also works to honor and uplift the students' culture, rather than force them to assimilate, by providing resources for and encouraging participation in Marshallese activities like the stomp team. Administrators actively work to understand and meet the needs of the families by holding informational sessions, being considerate of the differences in cultural norms, providing translations, and accommodating communication and outreach preferences.
- Answers will vary. Encourage participants to consider multiple categories of Complicating the Narrative questions (amplify contradictions and widen the lens; ask questions about motivations; listen more and better; expose people to the other side and counter confirmation bias) or research the looping technique.
- Answers will vary.