Mica Pollock, with Reed Kendall, Erika Reece, Abdul-Rehman Issa, and Emilie Homan Brady
University of California, San Diego, Department of Education Studies.
Published July 2023 in the Journal of Leadership, Equity, and Research. Pre-released publiclyhere onschooltalking.orgin May/summer 2023 with the journal’s permission. Please send correspondence on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Across the country, effort is underway to restrict discussion, learning, and student support related to race and gender/sexual identity in educational settings, targeting schools with state legislation and politicians’ orders; national conservative media and organizations; Board directives; and local actors wielding media-fueled talking points. To date, few analysts have yet explored in detail educators’ lived experiences of these multi-level restriction efforts and local responses to them. In this article, we analyze 16 educators’ experiences of 2021-22 restriction effort and local responses, with an eye to potential effects on student support and learning. Educators interviewed emphasized their recent experiences with talking about race and LGBTQ lives, with many emphasizing threatened punishment by critics for discussing these topics. Context mattered tremendously: While some educators enjoyed support and freedom in race and diversity-related discussion and learning, other educators described intensive restriction effort emanating from local, state, and national pressures. Respondents also indicated that responses from local district leaders, school leaders, and other community members amidst such multi-level restriction efforts were crucial in effecting restriction or protecting the ability to talk and learn. Data from this interview study suggest that the nation may be heading toward two schooling systems: one where children and adults get to talk openly about their diverse society and selves, and one where they are restricted or even prohibited from doing so. The fate of our nation’s teaching, learning, and student support is up not only to the nation’s teachers, principals, and superintendents, but us all.
Pollock, M., Kendall, R., Yoshisato, M., Lopez, D., & Reece, E. (2022, April.) Keeping the freedom to include: Teachers navigating “pushback” and marshalling “backup” to keep inclusion on the agenda. Journal of Leadership, Equity and Research, 8 (1).
Pollock, M., & Matschiner, A. (2022, August). “Well, what’s wrong with the Whites?’: A conversation starter on raising expectations for inservice professional development on race with White teachers. Urban Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/00420859221119109
Pollock, M., Lopez, D., Kendall, R., Yoshisato, M., Reece, E., & Kennedy, B. C. “Next steps toward an inclusive country? Inviting and amplifying youth voice in public anti-hate messaging.” Journal for Multicultural Education.
By Mica Pollock, Emilie Homan Brady, Benjamin C. Kennedy, Samantha Prado, Ramon Stephens, Abdul Issa, Chenoa Musillo, and the #USvsHate team
We at #USvsHate condemn with rage the massacre of human beings in Buffalo by an openly white supremacist teen. We grieve the losses of Roberta A. Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young, and Ruth Whitfield, and injuries to Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington, and Christopher Braden. We extend our most heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of each and every one of these individuals. We also want to recognize, share in, and bear witness to the grief, pain, and fear that is being experienced in Black communities and communities of color across the country targeted by racist violence.
We redouble our commitment to working daily to support youth and teachers to refuse white supremacy in all its forms.
We pause, and describe our commitments below this line.
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This massacre was fueled by white supremacy, a philosophy that is centuries old and core to racism itself. Refusing white supremacy takes ongoing work from all of us. In the image below, designed for K12 environments, we together refuse this core ideology. We refuse and reject any situation that treats people of color as less worthy than white people. We refuse and reject racist harm, harassment, and racially unequal opportunity in education. And we continue to work every day to support young people to recognize and undo everyday versions of white supremacy and other common forms of injustice, bias, discrimination, and unequal opportunity that hurt Black people, other people of color, and all of us.
This is unacceptable. Politicians and even parents should not try to limit youths’ rights to learn in school about their country and one another. This effort to restrict learning is especially outrageous while youth are learning hate from politicians and media figures themselves.
Instead, all people of conscience must persist in antiracist education in K12 schools. We need accurate and inclusive K12 education if we are to grow a nation of young people who can take care of one another — and lead a future country that works for everybody.
Youth learn to be antiracist through learning history and analyzing current events; through direct discussion and unity activities; through reading literature offering diverse experiences; and through authentic relationships in schools where everyone is treated like they belong. Youth also learn through raising their own voices to articulate their own experiences with and viewpoints against hate, bias, racism, and injustice. Book bans and educational gag orders chilling discussion of racism and erasing diverse viewpoints and accurate history fundamentally restrict students’ right to learn to take our nation forward — forward into a future without racist violence and harm.
Young people can handle conversations about racism that arise from accurate history teaching, from authentic friendship and dialogue, and from exploration of the world’s great literature. And to disrupt the cycle of hate-born violence, they must learn. We all must learn.
We say in shared grief and resolve,
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We invite critique of/input on this message, which we are trying to shape for everyday school walls. Contact us at email@example.com.
We also share in closing this message by a fifth grader, who submitted to #USvsHate anonymously. Other antiracist messages can be found on usvshate.org. All can be downloaded for classrooms.
Background/Context: This paper shares K12 educators’ efforts to marshal local support for the act of basic inclusion: welcoming all communities as equally valuable. We share data from a national pilot of #USvsHate (usvshate.org), an educator- and student-led “anti-hate” messaging project. In interviews, participating educators revealed careers of “pushback” against even their basic efforts to include (mention or empathize with) marginalized populations. They also shared five key forms of “backup” they had learned to marshal to keep such topics on the agenda. Building on scholarship positioning basic and deeper inclusion work as the unarguable task of schools, we explore how keeping the freedom to undertake even basic inclusion efforts requires teachers to preserve agency through assembling local backup — supports from other people.