Welcome to our current dialogue.
We ask that you post an initial response to one or more of these questions from October 21st-28th, 2019. Then, please respond to at least two posts to generate dialogues across contexts and experience. The dialogue period will be from October 21st-November 1st, 2019.
Read A Talk to Teachers by James Baldwin
Watch James Baldwin on Education
Review Teaching Tolerance’s Let’s Talk: Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics With Students
You are invited to respond to one or more of these questions. (To post, please log in using a Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or WordPress account. Be sure to introduce yourself, and tell us where you’re coming from…literally and/or figuratively.) Please feel free to share experiences, dilemmas, questions, or information about particular contexts of teaching and learning (e.g., where you student teach, teach, study, or participant-observe) as you explore these prompts. You may also feel free to recommend or cite texts (e.g., articles, books, films) that may be of interest to others on a thread.
What are your thoughts about the following quote? What do you think Baldwin meant? How does this connect/disconnect with your own experiences in school?
One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.
Baldwin argues that, “any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible — and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people — must be prepared to ‘go for broke’…you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance.” How might you consider a social justice and antiracist curriculum in the current political climate?
Baldwin writes very specifically about the experience of Black Americans. How do you think the experiences of other non-dominant people or groups resonate with what Baldwin has to say in his Talk with Teachers?
At the end of the essay Baldwin writes: “I don’t think anyone can doubt that in this country today we are menaced — intolerably menaced — by a lack of vision.” What is YOUR vision for the education of youth?
How does the work in your discipline or current/future classroom connect with this vision? How are you engaging (or how might you engage) daily practice towards these ends?
Leave a Comment
My name is Leland, I grew up in Huntington Beach CA and I’m currently studying at CSULB. I think the initial quote from the discussion prompt is very powerful. Baldwin is suggesting that because education mirrors social aspects of America, it is built upon many injustices, inequities and stigmas. Being educated means finding out about the realities and history of our social identities which can cause a lot of angst or anger for many. If one is educated on the inequities and their own positionality they can then find their own voice and help to advocate for social justice and change. Baldwin suggests that this shouldn’t be a choice for the educated person, but rather an obligation.
In my own experience, I was lucky enough to have educators that empowered their students for the most part and made them believe that they can achieve at a high level. I believe being able to think critically and introspectively is another important point as it relates to what Baldwin says. In all honesty, it wasn’t until I took this multicultural class this semester that I truly began to search within myself and examine my own cultural bias’ and perspectives that have influenced my actions. However, I think Baldwin is saying that it isn’t enough to recognize ourselves as educated on certain social issues but to respond to these issues through implementing real change.
As a white male, I could read or research all day and night about the injustices that have existed for minorities in our society and still not know what its like to live one day in their shoes. However, as an educator I want all students to know that they each have an identity, a culture and a unique voice that contributes to the larger society. No one should have their voice go unheard or their culture not celebrated because it’s integral to their own story as a person. Navigating a curriculum that employs social justice and anti-racist material is something to take seriously in the current political climate. Much like we’re doing in this class, I would want students to communicate openly about their values, norms and beliefs. I could initiate this by having students do research about a culture that differs from their own or show them material that would question their own preconceived notions or stereotypes. A movie that I often think about which challenges racial norms and has the ability to empower students is, “Finding Forrester,” This movie depicts a black student living in New York who is a gifted writer. However, he is also a great athlete and is challenged by his teacher at his school who doesn’t believe that he could create such great literary work, because of his own bias’ and prejudice. It’s a great movie and one I recommend to everyone.
Even though Baldwin highlights the injustices of blacks specifically, his words can resonate with other non-dominant groups for many reasons. Native Americans for example had rich cultural ties to this nation and over the years they were forced to assimilate to a culture of whiteness. I can’t imagine being a Native American student and learning more about the heroics of Christopher Columbus than of the rich history of my own culture that has seemingly been buried and for the most part forgotten.
My vision as an educator of today’s youth is to unfog the lens. Or in other words allow students to see how their own identity can contribute to a better tomorrow. As someone seeking their PE credential, I want students to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of comfortability. I also want them to realize that you don’t have to be athletic or love sports to appreciate movement and how it can improve your well being. Introducing students to non-traditional games, dances or group activities can foster a sense of belonging and teamwork that can help students with their self-efficacy. Having students research other sports or games played all over the world and in different cultures can reveal new ways of thinking about movement and relating to others.
I resonated with a lot of what you said in your response. I think it is important not just that we introduce particular texts that invite students to engage in open discussion but also to ask them to think critically about what they are reading and about themselves as an individual. I think there would be an understandable amount of discouragement from students who do not identify with a status quo or establishment, or that the education system is not ‘cut out for them’ and that is a key factor that we as educators must work hard to overcome and see that such notions do not reach our classroom so that all of our students feel valued and heard no matter their background.
I also recognize that it is important that we acknowledge weaknesses in the system and do not allow those weaknesses to affect the growth and development of students in how they learn and approach education. I feel as though every so often we must tear down certain barriers that are for a time rigid and abrasive to progress and allow students of the future to formulate their voices and identities to fill in the gaps and position themselves in a world that they feel best works for them. As you aptly pointed out in respect to the historical whitewashing that has occurred in America, it must be hard to describe to someone on the ‘winning side of history’ how it must feel to be part of a culture that is ignored or forgotten.
Blake, Thanks for the comment. I agree that educators need to be advocates for all students and their well being. Unfortunately, a lot of schools these days have limited resources and have lowered standards for students in lower SES communities. I believe teachers need to go into the classroom and not only teach the content but get the students to question the fabric of our society and the school system itself. A lot of students see success as bubbling in the right answers on a test but they often miss the bigger picture. The bigger picture of course is the society we live in and how they can work to change it for the better, so everyone’s voice can be heard and valued.
I also would like to add that in today’s controversial political environment it’s important to be transparent with students about many issues that can affect them. Since they will be the leaders of this country one day, I believe giving substantial background on issues is essential before just throwing it in students faces and saying ‘what do you think about this?’ Having an open dialogue about contemporary issues that they may not understand fully can sometimes be difficult to navigate. Within the discipline of PE I want students to have an established respect for other peoples world views while being culturally responsive. Having worked as a PE aide and having run different activities, many students during group games will want to only include their close friends Sometimes students can feel left out in PE because they may not have confidence in the skill being taught or comfortable working with each other. As a teacher I would hope to teach students that they should seek out anyone who doesn’t have a group or partner to come and join their respective group. ‘Treat others how you want to be treated’ is a simple but true saying that can go a long way in helping establish positive student behavior towards others.
Technology in this day and age also plays a big part in what students hear and learn in and out the classroom. I would want to use technology in the class to help improve student’s desire to participate and learn. Having students create their own profile or slides within google classroom to introduce themselves, their likes, background and hobbies can help students connect with each other and establish more tolerance.
I think that the society in turmoil that Baldwin was talking about is still in place today. Black students are still facing the same uphill battle when it come to education, equality among other things. teachers need to be aware that the black student is one that is multidimensional and one who needed a very different format in instruction, morale, and motivation to learn. They often have to overcome so much just to sit in a classroom with other student in a society that has not made room for them, and do not appreciate them. It is a serious need to save the black male student from giving up on the advantages of education when as a black community he are still fighting for basic civil rights. Black students need to validated in their experiences and the wisdom into issue stemming for generational oppression. Black children are worth it and his society needs to finally stand up and grant them the resources and the just due to them through I revamping of how these children are educated. They are important, they are a part of the future of this country and the world and society needs to acknowledge that fact and begin reform because in order to educate these types of black children their home and world experiences outside of the classroom need to be present in classroom instruction.
Everything you wrote here is 100% correct. The society in turmoil may even be worse in my opinion – not as much through methods of segregation or blunt oppression, but by this colorblind lens that people are pushing to be the norm in classrooms. This is so constrictive to people of color. It strips away their culture and their heritage that sets them apart from white people. The colorblindness is attempting to universalize the practices and the teachings that predominantly white institutions have labeled as successful and force it upon everyone else. This attempt, to me, seems like a huge reason for why people of color feel they are not welcome in school or understood through the curriculum.
There is little room for students of color to connect and enjoy the content presented in classrooms.
This observation is coming from someone who is white, grew up in a predominantly white and very wealthy area in Georgia, thereby attending predominantly white and wealthy schools with indefinite and seemingly never ending amounts of resources being given to us. When I moved to Norfolk and started submersing myself in the schools here for things like observation hours for classes, it was a complete culture shock. I was mortified at the lack of resources and some instances I saw of blatant disregard that teachers had for some of their students who were ‘othered’ by their heritage, their dialect, or their disinterest in the content. It was a step into the real world for me, and it made me realize that change is NECESSARY. Accepting new content is a must. Reallocation of resources to schools who are in need of more than others would help the opportunities for those students in low income areas at least have the same resources available to them. All of these changes are going to be made through reform and policy changes. We, especially children of color, are the future. We will make this happen. Otherwise, the same inequities will remain, thereby laying the same ‘trap’ that society has put black students and students of color in.
I like your view on technology in the classroom. It is a powerful tool and should be used. I also like getting students to make a small presentation about themselves. As a student nearing the end of my time in school, I am getting tired of the stand and say blah blah blah about yourself. Would be nice to make something like that and personalize it. As long as I don’t have to present that to the classroom.
Most certainly, technology is influential in what students learn and I love that you plan to use technology in your classroom to encourage participation to learn about their classmates backgrounds and interests. Your statement about how simple the state “treat others how you want to be treated” is 100% accurate, but sometimes I believe individuals, especially children, sometimes treat others how they’ve been treated, or how they’ve seen others being treated, which can be a result of technology’s influence, among other things. That is why I believe your use of technology in the classroom can help adjust how students may treat their classmates of certain backgrounds.
Audreanna Johnson, You bring up a good point that sometimes, children treat others how they’ve seen others being treated. I believe children learn a lot from seeing and hearing their parents or peers engage in behaviors. Technology should be used to help kids understand others, and the content of the class more, not isolate themselves. Being a model of good behavior and setting class expectations can help students see that the teacher cares about them and the choices they make.
After reading Baldwin’s essay I am left speechless. The essay has very strong statements that many, as minority races, can identify why. James Baldwin dares to say thing that no one else has dared to say.
Taking the quote by Baldwin, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.” This has a lot to say about what our responsibilities as educated people are. I totally agree with James Baldwin, someone that is educated, and values education knows that this is their responsibility to help towards a change for society. I truly believe this this correlates with my vison and goals for my future students. As a sociology major, I have always thought that I earned my degree to help those in need. As a future educator this is my goal, to teach my future students in a way in which they are motivated to create a change. I want a change for my society and my way of contributing to this change through our youth.
Baldwin states, “Now, if what I have tried to sketch has any validity, it becomes thoroughly clear, at least to me, that any Negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational system runs the risk of becoming schizophrenic. On the one hand he is born in the shadow of the stars and stripes and he is assured it represents a nation which has never lost a war. He pledges allegiance to that flag which guarantees “liberty and justice for all.” He is part of a country in which anyone can become president, and so forth. But on the other hand he is also assured by his country and his countrymen that he has never contributed anything to civilization – that his past is nothing more than a record of humiliations gladly endured.” (1).
This quote was beyond powerful to me, thinking about my experiences. Baldwin is referring to African Americans, but as a Mexican I can say that our experiences are very similar. As a first-year generation, I am documented and I am entitled to full citizenship rights. As an American citizen, we are promised to be taken care of and be provided with the same quality health and education as those from a majority race. In my situation my mother is undocumented, but still pays taxes, obeys laws, and contributes to the United States. Referring to what Baldwin states in his essay, it seems like I have the obligation to represent my country and contribute to it. In a sense this is what we are taught since we are young and when we start school. Ironically, in our schools we are never tough how our ancestors contributed to the country, our history, we have systems like the school to prison pipe line, and our standards are lowered. Continuing with this, like Baldwin states, our own country ensures that we have a clear vision of the negative and unwanted perspective towards our people. Examples of this is by degrading us through violations, deportations, labeling us as rapist, criminals, and treating us like such. Adding all this up we have unequal treatment, unequal rights, unequal education, and social stratifications, among many other things.
It seems like an essay change to adapt an antiracist and social justice curriculum. If we incorporate an equal vison of all races, teach students their history, and treat them like human being we can start moving towards a positive change to our society. Much of this has to do with our policy making and reforms. In “Governance and Finance of U.S. Schools” Parkay states, “School boards play a critical role in the U.S. education system. However school boards have been criticized for not educating themselves about educational issues…” (187). If those in higher authority than us, are making changes in our schools without knowing what the issues are creates a disservice to teachers and students. If politicians do not understand that we need to included culture in order to empower all out our students, then there will never be a change. Policymakers frame solutions to educational problems based on business or marketing techniques. If our students are seen as something else other than students, as a society, we will never get passed social stratification and reproducing the same social class.
Adding to this, I agree with Baldwin that we as educated individuals have the responsibility to change society. In order to do this, my vision as an educator is to incorporate culture in my lessons to empower all of my students to think outside of the box. To think of themselves as equal to everyone else and encourage them to question society and fight to change it.
I absolutely love your response and agree wholeheartedly that the educated do, indeed, have a responsibility to change society. It doesn’t have to be in big ways, we all have to contribute the way in which we are best able. In other words, every little bit counts. I admire you personal story as a way to underscore your point, and it is very necessary, as you stated, that schools teach students about their history and treat them all as humans. I would like to add to that, not as topics to be discussed in history class, or just another learning standard, but as humans with value whose struggles left us with something valuable to build on and not shame their legacy.
I was also moved by Baldwin’s statement about the American education system forcing African Americans to run the risk of schizophrenia. Not only has this system failed to lift up people of color, it has actively held them down. From the perspective of an educator, my understanding of Baldwin’s message is both heartbreaking and infuriating. As teachers, we are often the primary figures of authority for all students during these incredibly formative years. The promise of America tells our students that they can be who they want to be if they work hard enough. With this promise in mind, they enter our classrooms and all too often it is the case that this formative authoritarian system fails them completely. When we take this perspective, it should come as no surprise that in addition to the inherent biases of police, the business of private prisons, and our judicial system, those same students would be rightly skeptical of any authority figure as an adult, which adds to the disproportionate number of African American and minority inmates. Generations of this systemic failing have brought us to the crossroads we come to today. We can either embrace diversity in our classrooms and lift up every one of our students by addressing biases within ourselves, or we can forfeit the promise of America and continue to fail the children that come to us with hope for the future.
Hi, I am Lindsay and I come from Orange County, California. I completely resonate yet struggle with Baldwin’s quote of “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person” (Baldwin, 1963). I resonate with this because it is everything I believe in, yet I struggle with it because the road can be dark, lonely, and frustrating when you go this path.
To begin with, my world was rocked when I entered my AP US History class my junior year of High School. And it was rocked in the best way. Although my family was much less wealthy than my peers (single dad), I still lived in a society surrounded by materialism, image, and superficiality. Although I loved school and thinking deeply, I still fell into the pool of desiring the cutest clothes and the coolest things. I cared SO much about shopping and would save all my money, so I could “look cute.” I cared ALOT of what people thought about me, how I looked, and how “cool” I was. I placed high, high value on this, and it was the foundation of a lot of my decisions.
Everything changed the minute I walked into AP US History class, and I am forever grateful. The first day of classes, my professor called us out in the best way. He claimed things like “You don’t know what your country is truly founded upon.” He told us how we come from a country that has killed, slaughtered, taken, and robbed and that that was our history, and that we NEED to be aware of it. He called out our materialism and how “all we cared about was shopping” and that that was our biggest worry, which it was. I do not know how he did it, but he did it in a way where you knew that suddenly, you would never be the same, and that you wanted to change. I can still remember an internal switch going on inside me. It was like my eyes were opened for the first time, and I resonate with what Baldwin says, when he mentions some people living forever without knowing their identity/history.
Through that AP US class, my teacher showed, taught, and revealed the truth of American History without sugar coating any of it. He challenged our current beliefs and taught us how “our country” was the blame for all the Native American hardship, since we STOLE their land. He also revealed the true story of Slavery and what WE AMERICANS DID. I couldn’t believe I had been walking around so blindly my entire life, and I was convicted in the best way.
From that class, I was forever changed and learned to think critically about everything and not take anything at face value. As Baldwin states, “ The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity” (Baldwin,1963). I learned to do this, and it has been a formational, vital part of my being as I grew from teenage to adulthood.
However, as I near my mid-twenties( I am now 28), I have really, really started to feel the struggle of living critically minded and have felt what Baldwin talks about when he says, “But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around”(Baldwin, 1963). I 100% feel this, and sometimes that rejection and hardship get me down. When I confront a friend or mentor about it, they often tell me “You think too much, this is the way the world is, you can’t change the system, you will drive yourself crazy!” Although I stayed strong for so many years, sometimes it does feel like the struggle to fight against the current can be too much. Thus, I found this read “A Talk to Teachers” revitalizing, empowering and rejuvenating as it reminds me that it IS good to critically think, challenge social norms, ask questions because this is how society changes! What an amazing reminder in a time of defeat.
My twin sister and I, both deep thinkers, experience the struggle of thinking critically in a world that pushes back. We don’t want to reject society completely, but we also don’t want to play by its game, so my question is, how does one proactively engage in this? How do you be at war with society without completely ostracizing? How do you do it in a healthy way? After reading this speech, I am beginning to think the answer is to “change society.”
One huge struggle/example of this is with the school system. I absolutely have a heart for students and to be a positive light and care in their lives. I also want to teach because there is a huge need, and what best way to serve if not serving the young people? However, I struggle with so much of the systems of education and the problems it contains including standards, testing, non-life applicable studies, and shoving students into boxes that do not fit their identity. In other words, the school systems do not serve all students because students are complex and do not simply fit a standard path. This is especially problematic as the schools get more and more “college-based” though not all students are meant for college..etc.
Thus, I am at war with myself/society at times, and even start to think of choosing a different career path because of the frustration. Again, this is where people tell me to stop “thinking so much,” but I cannot help but be a critical thinker and passionate about problems..etc. However, after reading this speech, I think an alternative way to handle this is to “create change,” instead of quitting. I like Baldwin’s point that this is HOW society changes. It changes with people who see the wrong and do something about it. I hope it is possible with the amount of backlash and “the most brutal, and the
most determined resistance” (Baldwin, 1963).
I am grateful to have read this speech and to be reminded that my frustrations are not in the way (as society would say), but instead are the flames of the fire of change.
Hi Lindsay , you have made some very interesting points in which I agree with. First, when you mentioned that school systems do not serve all of our students needs; I’m completely agree with you. I am currently working as an educator now and between the standards that each child is required to master and the credit hours in which they must obtain; we are missing key elements in preparing them for success. Daily, I speak with my students just to see where their mindset is and time after time, I realize they are lost. Our students need us as educators to teach them how to operate outside of school. A lot of students lack identity and history. Students have no clue who they are or what they want to become in future years to come. They live in a world where all they see is the glory of one mans success and not the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get to that level. So many students are focused on the material things of life that they bypass everything that doesn’t glitter.
Hello fellow educator/teaching candidates. My name is Esbeyde Sánchez. I attend CSULB and am currently in the single subject music credential program with plans to student teach next semester. As a Mexican-American woman who is brown, a lot of the experiences that Baldwin briefly mentions in both the video and speech, resonate with me and my experiences in both primary and secondary schooling. In my understanding the “paradoxes” of his quote refer to the positive social values that we are meant to learn in school vs. who gets to enjoy the pleasantries of those values.
In early education (PK-3rd Grade) children develop social skills that are new to them, since they are around humans that are unfamiliar, in environments that exclude the comfort of ‘home’. Much of the time spent in the classroom is building vocabulary to express emotions, learned content and to communicate (both verbally and nonverbally) values that are accepted in society. One of these values include: respect (usually through means of promoting kindness, silence when others speak, sharing, patience, etc.) What I think Baldwin refers to as the stage of “the point where you begin to develop a conscience” is this early development stage: the stage of major social, emotional and cognitive acquisition.
However, Baldwin also mentions that at this same stage, we (humans) reach the “war with your society”. In this development stage, children (as we learn in our classes) learn heavily through modeling. However, if the model practices racism, discrimination and obvious unfair preferences/rejections, how can children possibly learn to lead a society or rather- engage a society with a completely different attitude and perspective? The equitable and fair society model is far from existing- therefore I find it difficult to ask children and simply leave it to them to reconstruct and educate a new model. This “war” is an ongoing on, that children often in minority groups, experience day to day in what would seem to be the simplest of social situations, which is why in my opinion Baldwin references this relationship as a paradox.
As teacher candidates/ pre-service teachers we are currently being asked to teach from a model that is not implemented everywhere. Culturally responsive pedagogy is not implemented in every school, or even at every department in one school- and it is understandable. The culture changes and it is difficult to succeed 100% with this implementation. However, the intent and attempt for change in the model is not heavily present, nor is it held accountable. I do agree that we have the job of beginning to educate students with positive framework as early as possible, however we have to be strong and united. Baldwin references the resistance that we will face when trying to strive for change in our curriculum in order to understand and advocate for social justice.
In our current political climate there is no doubt that increasing tension is arising, however one thing that exists in common despite these tensions is our physical place in this word. As humans, we all develop social, cognitive, emotional and physical skills that we strengthen and vary over time: these are what we need to focus on in the classroom in order to advocate for social justice. In my content area (music) I see many opportunities to incorporate activities such as composition, improvisation and music listening in order to guide students to make connections with similarities that they personally have as well as respect each other’s differences. In a situation like improvisation, the majority of students are placed in an uncomfortable position- but they are in it together. Providing these environments allow for teachers to guide students to build a community amongst themselves, ensuring content achievement and more importantly: human collaborative achievement.
My vision of education for youth connects with my ideas for daily practices in my future classroom, such as frequent conversations about music and music making in my classroom. One of the most powerful tools I find is allowing students to talk about their musical interests and experiences, rather than only telling them how to interpret pieces that are meant to be performed in concerts. Secondly, introducing students to music that extends outside of Western-European composers in also a tool that I intend to use. ALL music has components that should be taught such as dynamics, articulation, expression etc.. however currently, in many schools, students are only exposed to such a miniscule percentage of what is out there in music. Providing opportunities to change that can expand the framework of music for students.
In my experience, I was very lucky to have instructors that acknowledged and chose to learn about my musical background (mariachi) and engaged me to participate in the music programs. Many of the resources on the “Teaching Tolerance” page I find helpful, however I want to be clear that we have to go far beyond teaching tolerance. To tolerate does not mean to understand. Perhaps that term “tolerance” which simply chosen for the alliteration purpose. However, what we should strive to teach is understanding and acceptance, whereas tolerance leaves room for lack of understanding. Baldwin mentions in the video that education is a billion dollar industry, where the least important factor of that industry suffers the most: the child. This is a powerful statement and connects with the lack of understanding that exists for many of these students.
My name is Diana and I am currently attending CSU Long Beach for the Single Subject Credential Program in Social Science/History. James Baldwin wrote a powerful speech, especially when placed within the context of the Civil Rights era, on the realities and purpose of public education in American society. This is an important primary source because of the way Baldwin reflects on his own history and experiences with racism by paralleling it with others and demonstrating how it fundamentally changed him. Baldwin’s quote on the “paradoxes of education” highlights an important point about the difficulties and struggles many students and even teachers face when they become conscious about their station/status within society and “find [themselves] at war with [their] society.” As an Asian-American living in Southern California, I have personally experienced this “strange” feeling of becoming more aware of myself and the complex intricacies of the society I lived in—especially after high school and beyond. Instead of confining myself to the inner workings and conservative mindset of my family and hometown of Garden Grove, I expanded my knowledge and thinking by taking on a more liberal but also centered and progressive standpoint on a broad range of topics and issues in college. I became influenced and inspired by my peers and mentors who contributed different and powerful perspectives and points of views about race, gender, and cultural history in our class discussions. Baldwin makes a great point when he states that “it is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person” because our future roles as teachers/educators has the power to improve society and bring about important and relevant change through our students as well as our political motivations to transform schools through educational policies.
To create a “social justice and antiracist curriculum in the current political climate,” I believe it is incredibly important to provide students with a broad range of topics, conversations, and resources from different perspectives and cultures about race and gender. This is especially true today when it comes to teaching my discipline because students are constantly bombarded with “fake news” and information that may or may not be credible. Now more than ever, students need to be able to use the skills that they have learned in various classes including History to assess the information they are coming across. Instead of picking the first link on Google, ask “Where did it come from? How did it get here? Who is the author? When was it made? Why was it made?” As for how the experiences of other non-dominant people or groups can resonate with what Baldwin said in his “A Talk to Teachers” speech, the struggles that minorities all face in the United States are one and the same. The histories we are taught were made by the “victors” and I can see why Baldwin argues that “what is upsetting the country is a sense of its own identity… if you are compelled to lie about one aspect of anybody’s history, you must lie about it all.” Americans believe they are fighting a “good war” and the desire to “make America great again” when they have become blinded by their country’s own myths and history. I completely resonate with Baldwin when he talked about New York and the “white world” because there are places in California that I still feel uncomfortable going to today.
My vision for the education of youth in this country today is relatively simple. I want students to be more aware of their surroundings and place in society. Instead of going with the norm, challenge and ask questions that make people uncomfortable like why things should be the way they are. I want young people to be culturally responsive so that they can build their own understandings of the past and become active learners in the process of learning and interpreting the past. Furthermore, I believe that students need exposure to multiple historical texts on a regular basis and start realizing that the textbook should be considered one of many sources rather than the source of information. The work in my discipline connects with Baldwin’s vision because I truly believe there are multiple sides in history and to understand the historical context of an event, time, place, and figure, students must come up with their own unbiased and balanced view of them. There is never a “right” or “wrong” answer in history—instead, it is based on your interpretation of events and what kind of sources you can use to back up/defend your claims. Educators must also work together to meet the needs of students to maintain effective instruction. In the past, teaching History consisted of following a designated curriculum provided by the district where students were expected to memorize and reiterate the information they just learned. Nowadays, there seems to be more emphasis on teaching specific historical thinking skills—which will allow students to communicate and collaborate in a society that values different cultures, perspectives, languages, and world-views. Therefore, I think it is important for teachers to put forth a classroom model where students can collaborate, explore, and exchange their unique knowledge perspectives so that they can become more deeply rooted, reflective, and maintain shared understandings of the world. This will not only allow them to become more connected to each other but it will also push them to act upon it and change it for the better.
I really enjoyed your response! My husband is Chinese/Vietnamese and has had the same issues while living in Texas. We are now residents of Virginia and there are still looks and stares as if we are aliens. I am African American and our son identifies as Asian. He looks nothing like me and we are reminded almost daily of our differences. The world has changed but not enough. There is no respect for people and their own personal journey. Baldwin sheds light on a topic that still exists today! They say that history has a tendency of repeating itself. Unfortunately, in this political climate, it looks like it has. Why can’t we just be human? Why can’t we accept that we are different but the same in many ways. Nobody is better than anyone else! We each go through the same cycles of life whether rich or poor, black or white. Once people realize that WE all need each other for survival maybe we can start to see a change for the better.
Hello! Thank you for your wonderful and powerful response. I am so shocked to hear that your family receive looks and stares as though you guys are “aliens.” While part of me understands why (Virginia seems like a rather conservative state), I am sad to hear that our society is still “backwards” in many regards. You’re absolutely right that the world has changed but it simply hasn’t changed enough — especially with the sad of state of affairs in Washington today. We are all currently living in a divided society with more anger and animosity than in the last 10 years. I personally think it’s amazing that your family is so unique! I agree with you that at the end of the day, we are all humans and Americans. We may come from different backgrounds, religion, race, and location, but we all have the same and firm belief in the future. How else can we call ourselves future educators?
Hello everyone, my name is Daedre and I am from Orange County CA. I am studying at CSULB to get my credential to teach high school/middle school math. To begin, Baldwin’s quote is impactful on us as future educators. The point that rings clear for me is that, in the bigger picture, what we must teach our students to do above all is critically think and challenge authority when they deem it is the right thing to do. He says, “The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity.” He implies that our most important goal as teachers is to teach our students the skill of objective analysis and independent thinking. According to Baldwin, this is a gift that children have from a young age inherently through their natural curiosity of the world. As he puts it, “Children, not yet aware that it is dangerous to look too deeply at anything, look at everything, look at each other, and draw their own conclusions.” This instinct this becomes squashed as they age and become members of society, and also though school, when this is something that should be enhanced and valued.
Our classrooms will be a microcosm for the society in which the are situated, reflecting any social injustices that exist around them. Our job as teachers will be to find those injustices and displays of inequity around us and work to find a solution. It should be a goal of ours to provide equal opportunity and equal access to our students. This is something we should strive to model in our classrooms. While Baldwin speaks in his letter of the experience of Black Americans, other non-dominant groups will certainly resonate with his experiences. For example, when he says that society is structured not to benefit those non-dominant groups, but for someone else’s benefits, this is something that could be relatable to other non-dominant groups. Furthermore allied is the idea that in school students are not taught the histories of those non-dominant groups nor their cultural contributions to society. These are sentiments that I am sure can be shared beyond Black Americans but by any non-dominant people of group in a society.
Baldwin comments that we are menaced in this country by lack of vision. This, I’m sure, is often true. However, I feel personally that in the environment in which I have submersed myself in my educational journey, I am surrounded by people with vision. In the college of education at CSULB I am encircled by peers and professors who are independent and critical thinkers and for me it is an inspiring domain to be a part of, and for that I am very grateful. Furthermore, not only have my peers and professors provided a hugely positive backdrop for me as a future teacher, but also my experience observing teachers has been a motivation for me to have faith in our current educators and also us as future educators.
This ties in with my vision for my future classroom, in that I would like to see it as an opportunity for change. I foresee it as an window to grasp ahold of that ability children have to deeply look at something because they have no fear, and foster that thought process. If we are able to do this with our students we will be encouraging them to think critically and independently, and this is the ultimate goal in the big picture. It is though this that we will accomplish the development of responsible citizen in our community, who according to Baldwin have an obligation to “examine society and try to change it and to fight it.” The Let’s Talk web page above has many ideas on approaching these issues, however I agree with Esbeyde in her discussion above when she mentions we need to go beyond teaching tolerance, because this wording in and of itself implies a deficit viewpoint. We should be not tolerating but embracing and learning from our classroom’s cultural diversities. Only in this way will we begin to be culturally responsive in our pedagogy.
My name is Gracie and I am a teaching candidate, and I am also an African american and these topics that Baldwin mentioned I too have become familiar with during my educational journey. I think that he was speaking on that fact that children of color or those of minority in this country will constantly struggle in a educational institute that was not meant to educate them. He shed light that so many social issue and problems in American education come for the inability for true equality to be achieved in this country. Baldwin speaks to the fact that there is more one just academic achievement that is involved in educating children. Kids of color face stresses and worries that white kids rarely experience into adulthood. That is not said to shame any one group, but to let it be known that the need to reform education in order to save future generations is to pay more close attention to factors existing in and out of the class. Baldwin connects the fact that our country can not continue to compartmentalize the affects of a unrelenting social prejudice towards anyone deviant to western European standards. I do not mean to harp on color so much, but at the same time it is one of the more serious problems that plague the educational system in america.
Hello Daedre, I really enjoyed reading your response. A few things stood out to me that I believe are important to the school systems. First, when you mentioned equal opportunity and equal access for every child. This is honestly an area in which I struggle with in my current classroom. As an English speaking teacher I have several students who do not speak English at all. I find it to be frustrating on both the students and myself frequently. The students and I try hard to make ends meet but I believe they are not receiving equal opportunity because they have no clue what I am saying and vice versa. There needs to be a change in the education system when it come to English language learners. Next, I wanted to point out the statement you made about the teaching of history. I do agree that here in America we don’t teach enough on other ethnicities history. I understand that we are in America, so knowing American history is important. However, there should definitely be a time we’re we focus on world history.
My name is Jason, I grew up in Cypress (Orange County, CA) and attend CSULB as a single subject credential student (Physical Education). James Baldwin’s initial quote is remarkably strong, accurate, and relevant to me. I believe Baldwin truly wanted to hold the educated individual accountable for challenging societal norms because they are no longer ignorant to the unfortunate truths of the power dynamics within it. I completely agree with this quote because education should expand the mind enough to interpret the inequalities in our society as a solvable issue as opposed to a status quo that must be upheld or a societal certainty that cannot be changed.
Although Baldwin was speaking for the African American experience, I believe his claims can resonate with the experiences of most people from non-dominant groups in society. Baldwin mentioned that children look at everything around them and make their own conclusions about why their family or marginalized group is in the predicament that they are in. This is problematic because students (from non-dominant groups in society) may recognize their lower stature in society while simultaneously being only marginally taught about their unique historical background. Thus, how would we expect them to have high expectations and standards for themselves? So many students are taught a partial or even false history regarding their cultural background that they are tricked into believing they belong in a lower level of society than others. I also believe he made a great point about how the country becomes upset at people (from non-dominant groups) gaining their own sense of identity. I have seen this in the U.S. recently with LGBTQ identity. As opposed to embracing individual identity, many people from the dominant groups that fit the societal norms of identity expectations often challenge Trans-identified people or same-sex couples. For example, until 2015, many same-sex couples could not even get married in their home state and would be forced to travel long distances to find a state that would allow them to. It eventually required a federal law to be passed for all states to accept these marriages as legitimate. This is just one of many examples of how our society marginalizes non-dominant groups of people and the great lengths many must go in gaining their own sense if identity. For cases like this, education can serve the purpose of informing our youth of the past struggles for same sex marriage so that they can be members of an even more accepting society moving forward.
My vision for the education of our youth is for each student to know the worth of their individual identity. In physical education, I can promote this by encouraging students to participate in physical activities regardless of the physical shape they are currently in. I can encourage girls to participate in sports that society is commonly telling them is just for boys. I will implement units with sports or fitness activities that are derived from various cultures or locations around the world to promote a stronger sense of identity in some students and a stronger sense of acceptance in others. Most of all, I do not want to simply promote “citizenry” in my students because that will never lead to societal change. Rather, I want education to guide students to embrace their individual characteristics and backgrounds, accept the backgrounds and identities of others, and become a compassionate, contributing member of society.
Jason, I enjoyed reading your post. I was drawn to your post because I am also a future physical education teacher. Additionally, you shared a lot of thought-provoking ideas. Your vision for education is phenomenal. I, too, agree that students should be encouraged to pursue their ambitions. Students sometimes lack the support that is needed for them to feel empowered to take leaps of faith. As educators, we must strive to fill that void through interactions with our students and the materials we present in our classes. I was pleased to read that you plan to include units that expose students to various cultures and locations is com. This is essential to foster understanding and unity among individuals. As you mentioned, such actions also promote appreciation and more in-depth knowledge of one’s self.
What a great read! I also believe that the country becomes upset at people from non-dominant groups for gaining their own sense of identity. Our professor assigned an article to read entitled, “Why Are All Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?”. In the article it asked “why do black youths in particular think about themselves in terms of race? Because that is how the rest of the world thinks of them”. It makes me wonder how can anyone become angry or offended at non-dominant groups for growing into their identity when we (non-dominant groups) are constantly reminded that we are of a “lesser” group.
My name is Dana and I am pursuing my Single Subject – Mathematics Credential at California State University, Long Beach. I think that James Baldwin wrote an incredible and extremely powerful speech that is so important for us, as future educators, to read. His quote, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person” challenges not only us, but all people who are educated to take a stand and challenge what society has become. This is something I did not understand until I entered college. I grew up with a lot of privilege as a middle-class, white female, so I was blind to the injustices in the world. When I got to college and began working in education, I began to see that people needed to be challenged, and I had the education to do it. I saw that my privilege was something I needed to use to speak up for those who may not have been heard.
When I was in school, my teachers never challenged me or my classmates with topics related to social justice. In college, I was lucky enough to have a job that did challenge us to have those hard conversations, and I realized that those conversations needed to be had with younger students. I am very thankful that I was given the opportunity to learn about social justice and the experiences of my coworkers. As a teacher, I want my students to feel comfortable enough to share their stories with me and be open to having difficult conversations with their classmates. I will challenge the verbiage they choose to use in the classroom and make sure everyone feels like my class is a safe space. I want my students to have somewhere they feel comfortable to be themselves and embrace their identities because unfortunately, the current climate doesn’t allow a lot of people to feel safe being who they are.
Although much of Baldwin’s speech was related to the experiences of Black American’s, I think what he says can easily be applied to non-dominant people and groups. At the end of the speech, Baldwin discusses what he would do as a teacher of Black American children, and he talks about how those students have to constantly return to the streets and dangers they live in after school. I think that although this was directly related to Black American children, it can be related to a lot of students we will work with as teachers. So many students don’t live in situations that we wish they could, and those students come from many different backgrounds.
As a future math teacher, I want to not only change the mindset students have of math, but I want to help change their mindsets about the world. I want to challenge my students to be better people and I want them to feel comfortable enough to challenge me back. Often times, students don’t feel like they can challenge society because they don’t think what they have to say can make a difference, but it is our job as teachers to encourage our students to speak up and challenge what is going on in the world. I think the first step to making this vision come to life is creating a classroom that is a safe space for students from the beginning. I will explain that my class is a place where students are welcome and encouraged to share their stories and backgrounds and challenge the stereotypes society has created. I will use my students’ funds of knowledge to create math tasks that they can relate to and identify with. I also hope to incorporate topics like social justice, socioeconomics, ethnicity, etc. into my math lessons so students can become comfortable having those more difficult conversations.
My name is Daniel, I grew up in South Gate, which resides in Los Angeles, California and am currently in the Single Subject Credential Program at CSULB. Baldwin’s A Talk to Teachers resonated with my own experiences and beliefs that I have personally gone through as a Mexican American growing up in a largely Latin/Hispanic community here in Los Angeles. His stance on an a society’s need for obeying rules and the fall of society can be aligned with our thoughts and stances in our country today. As educators, it can be easy to label a student that is non-compliant or that has behavioral issues as a lost cause. The educational system should have practices to reach the student on an individual level to figure out the main problem, but as a society, we view individuals in these situations as someone that does not deserve the assistance they need. The need for punishment seems to be the main idea to miraculously solve a student’s problems, which can also be said about our prison system here in the U.S., which branches into the “schools to prison pipeline” topic as well. My own experiences growing up were similar to Baldwin’s discussion about knowing what’s meant for you as a child and the things that obviously are not meant for you. Feelings of anger grew in me, and once I was in my early 20s, backhanded compliments became my tipping point and I stopped being apologetic for my skin tone, my accent, and my ability to speak two languages. Baldwin also discussed the systems and policies placed in order to maximize the profit off of African American slavery, he states “This is why America has spent such a long time keeping the Negro in his place. What I am trying to suggest to you is that it was not an accident, it was not an act of God, it was not done by well-meaning people muddling into something which they didn’t understand. It was a deliberate policy hammered into place in order to make money from black flesh.” This statement not only made me think about slavery, but the exploitation of non-dominant groups used to maximize profits and create an unjust social structure based on skin color and class. I see examples of this everyday when I drive around my community. I see individuals that remind me of family members I’ve met in Mexico, I see individuals that will work or sell anything just to make end meet. These individuals are not here to “take over”, they’re here to provide for their families in anyway they can. Just because laws are in place that make them criminals now, does not mean they’re violent individuals or drug dealers. My parents came to this country the exact same way, back when immigrants were not demonized but were sought after for the labor force here in the states. Rules and laws are meant to be observed and changed based on simple morals of humanity, and history has done a great job of showing some hideous ideals that were once thought of as “normal”.
My own vision of proper education in a classroom, specifically in physical education, will inform every student of the possibility for their own success. I’d tell every student that they are valued in my classroom, no matter what nationality, what ethnicity, what skin color, what religion or anything else that can be used to bring them down. As young adults, they will no doubt be in control of their own paths. With responsive pedagogy, every student learns the importance of their education. There will never be one good reason for a professional educator to purposely put down a student, we are focusing on bettering the young adults of the future to grow into the best possible version of themselves. That in itself is the main reason I chose to get into the education field, and I don’t envision that ever changing.
Hello fellow contributors, my name is Kattia! I grew up in Southeast LA and currently studying at CSULB.
After reading Baldwin’s essay, and listening to his speech, I felt a strong resonance to his words. Primarily the quote, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.” I have always thought about education as a reflection of the principles of society, and how easy it is for impressionable youth to have “good teachers”. But what exactly denotes a “good” teacher? As Baldwin mentions, it is all subjective. A good teacher in theory is one who reflects the ideals and values of their surrounding environment, yet if that environment is built upon racist ideology, as a Mexican American, what does that say about my positionality in that institution? In an institution that is supposed to go against me, limit my resources, and consider my people to be lazy or up to no good. In an institution that sets up these precedents, as a teacher, combating these stereotypes are essential in “changing society”. By establishing a diverse curriculum. By teaching my students the richness in cultures, and how it is an asset, as opposed to a hindrance. Empower students who in history have been marginalized for their differences. All of these are acts of defiance to the status quo. Seeking to change the institution from within. As Baldwin describes it, “a society in which is desperately menaced, not by Khrushchev, but from within.” Meaning, not by false pretexts of outside forces, rather our own foundation. Obviously times have progressed since this speech was made, and strides have been accomplished, however there is much work to still be done. Schools are still as segregated as they were before. Education standards are not equalized, and opportunities are not guaranteed to everyone. It’s an ongoing fight, that must be done if one chooses to go in the education field. The idea of being prepared to ‘go for broke” stands. As teachers, we must be resilient. Whether a minority or not, we must stand by values of inclusion, diversity, and empowerment. Giving back power to all students, as opposed to the selective teaching that has been done in the past.
I speak upon the wrongs, as I am a product of an LAUSD school that was neglected, constantly battling for funds, and lacked foundational prep. Teachers were disconnected from their students, viewing us as paychecks and liabilities, as opposed to young people with futures. Although I myself am not African American, I can identify with what Baldwin speaks upon because it applies to the experiences of other non-dominant people. The dual identity one must take on, being a scholar and attempting to be integrated into society, while recognizing that you’re doing all this for a nation that is constantly against you, and has attempted to erase any of your people’s past contributions. It’s indeed a conflicting predicament, and as future educators we need to ease transitional thoughts. We must mitigate insecurities among out youth of feeling that this system is against them thus they cannot attain anything. Yes, we have to let them see the faults of our system, but allow them to understand that there is hope, and that lies under one’s own resilience and perseverance in education.
Every kid has the capability and potential to learn. We just need to let them see that.
my name is Gracie Solomon I am a senior at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va in the teacher prep program. I too think that every student has the potential of learning as well. I know that from my own personal experience growing up in the inner city school in and out of foster-care, I had to take care of my two sibling and my drug addicted mother when she was around. I dealt with so much even before even making it to school to think about learning. I saw a lot of my peers turn to the streets to support their families over investing in their education. I saw girls having babies after babies starting in ninth grade. So I know all to well the level of dedication teachers and administrator have to have in trying to educate those types of students. In an ideal world where we did not have to deal with racism, slavery, Indian assimilation camps, etc it would be easier to reforms the current broken education system. It in my opinion is not until we as educators start validating a students experience in and out of the classroom will we see a true change for the better for students in america.
My name is Albert Vazquez, and I am from Garden Grove, California. I am currently enrolled in the Single Subject credential program for History/Social Science at Long Beach State. Beginning with James Baldwin, I believe that he had a tremendous amount of courage to say phrases like these, especially as a Black, gay male. My overall thoughts about his quote, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person,” is that he does an immense job in appealing to all those who are educated. At first, I had a difficult time understanding and wrapping my head around what he meant about the impact that educators had. However, after reading through the article, I have a better understanding of his quote. Many, if not most, of the educators, follow the procedures that society gives us; however, Baldwin has an interesting interpretation in letting those that are educated to make a difference. It is almost as if society duplicates a copy of every educator, providing him or her with knowledge, but without allowing the educator to disrupt society with the knowledge gained. Baldwin demands that those who are educated do something with that knowledge to change society and not let society have a predetermined plan for you like everyone else. This quote by Baldwin sparked a memory from my middle school teacher who said to the class that he was teaching to make a difference. Of course, the whole class thought that it was cliche to say something like that. However, he has practically been the only teacher to blatantly say that he is not scared of disrupting society to make a bigger difference. Therefore, my experiences with other teachers demonstrate that many of them fell into the trap of just becoming another product of society with no desire to make a difference like my middle school teacher who was honest about making a difference and disrupting anything that society predetermines for us.
Creating a social justice and antiracist curriculum will have to begin with me, the educator. Because of my discipline, it is easy to have students believe that Eurocentric ideals are the norm. Therefore, it will become my job to expose the students with material that will expand their brains beyond what they think and to have them question if everything they know is potentially not true or possibly skewed. The material that I will provide will essentially incorporate conversations about various topics that schools typically disregard, and so they will have more opportunities to “think outside the box.” Eventually, it will be more about life skills that the students learn that will help them succeed outside of the classroom. And what I mean by success, is to go out into the world and make a difference. Some students may make smaller or more substantial differences in this world, but the main idea is to have the students engaged in disrupting society with their knowledge.
Other people from non-dominant groups will have the opportunity to defend themselves to not be the person they are incorrectly labeled as. Especially with Latinos and Asians, who even have diverse people within each race; they will have the opportunity to stand their ground when they are mislabeled as someone they are not. For example, to Baldwin, he was not a ‘nigger’ even though others labeled him as one. The same concept will apply to Latinos or Asians when they are labeled as strictly “Mexicans” or “Chinese.” If that ethnicity does not apply to them like a lot of the times it happens, then the person who is name-calling everyone incorrectly will have to learn that categorizing or labeling people will not work. The overall impact is that it all goes back to the non-dominant person from a group having a sense of identity to step up and defend his or her case to simply be labeled as what he or she wishes and not what others want upon them.
My vision is simple. THERE IS POTENTIAL in education for youths. So, instead of highlighting the challenges that everyone seems to envision for education in youth, let’s discuss how the potential can overcome any challenge we face at the moment. Even if it is a little potential, it is enough to say that change is capable. Therefore, I have a vision for education among youths to take a full right turn into letting students have more agency. I believe that students, as they get older, lose the opportunities to make a decision of their own. It seems, and it’s true that more students from kindergarten have more opportunities to make decisions of their own. Therefore, I want to give the students opportunities to make decisions of their own, because that little potentially or any potential, will allow them to succeed in life. And again, that will come back to first letting the students have more control over their decisions.
My discipline, History, is a perfect subject that allows me to have a better vision for the youths in education. As previously mentioned, education is very Eurocentric, and so if we get the idea into the children that the Western perspective that we live with today is not the same as other people from other parts of the world view it as, it might actually get the students to ask questions. All it takes is for students to ask questions. Adults are always complaining because young children always ask too many “dumb” questions, and so if a student asks something about disrupting Eurocentric ideals, we might have a change after asking essential questions. Overall, thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I hope that this post serves you well.
The quote, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society,” was a quote that particularly stuck with me as well. This pivotal point in education and in adolescence is the point in which students are aware of the societal structures they have adhered to, by choice and by indoctrination, and the classroom must allow for reexamining and questioning of these societal ideals that students find uncomfortable. A classroom that does not allow for open criticism of established norms is one that will never successfully foster the potential of its students, and I believe this because the classroom should be a space for teachers to aid students in shaping their own ideals, rather than guiding students towards the conclusions of their educators. I do not necessarily believe that education is a reflection of what is anticipated and expected from society, especially given the lack of structured civic duty emphasis in public school systems, but rather the levels of average knowledge about varieties of topics in juxtaposition to what is anticipated. This juxtaposition, rather than inclusion of civic and social expectation, breeds a lot of personal uncertainty about student’s potential career paths and college careers. The focus is not on equitable distribution of knowledge in order to create a body of students that can prosper, in their individual paths and thus contribute to progressing society, but rather on providing a baseline for students and nothing more. It is interesting you note the segregation of school systems being “alive and well” in the context of funding, or rather lack of funding. One could argue that an economic system based upon the inequitable reception of funds due to housing income taxes, that are often a direct correlation of what one could detail as “segregation” between class structures, is an entirely flawed system in itself. I have always felt that the distribution of funding to schools needs to be altered because of the vast discrepancies based on the class structure of the varying areas receiving and giving funding.
Hello, my name is Joel Perez and I come from Long Beach, California. I’m currently attending Cal State Long Beach and a candidate in the Single Subject Credential Program for Physical Education. In the following quote, I feel that it was a powerful message to all people in the world despite of who they are. Being educated you have more windows of opportunities that you can pursue or change. What I mean by change is that he or she can make a difference or change within a specific system. Some examples are school, political, society, and economic system. However, being educated can also have its own obstacles. In the following quote Baldwin mentioned, “When you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society” (Baldwin, 1963). Even before I started my college career I was a young Hispanic male adolescent that was becoming a product of his environment. I was letting society portray who I was. However, I began to change my mindset and started to do better for myself, especially in my education. I started to realize a lot of things and my eyes were open wider than before.
I believe to create a social justice and political climate is we have to look into today’s new society for ideas to teach our students. We as future educators need to provide different topics such as race, gender, and cultures that we have here in the United States and around the world. We can make students have conversations with each other and use their critical thinking aspects. The more the students know of what’s going on in their society the more they will understand themselves. In Physical Education, not only I will teach students loco motor skills and motor development but also the social aspect of being in the class, working with each other to achieve a goal, enhance leadership, and discipline to an individual. These are important traits that are carried on not only in physical activity but in life as well.
My vision for the education of youth is that I want the students to know that they have so many available resources that they could use. Keep them proactive and knowing what they are capable of. We as adults are the role models sometimes look down upon our students. In the following quote, “As adults, we are easily fooled because we are so anxious to be fooled. But children are very different. Children, not yet aware that it is dangerous to look too deeply at anything, look at everything, look at each other, and draw their own conclusions. They don’t have the vocabulary to express what they see, and we, their elders, know how to intimidate them very easily and very soon” (Baldwin, 1963). All teachers should not ever intimidate their students and encourage them to be better. Lead them into a pathway where education can create for them better opportunities. Therefore, we have to implement different curriculum’s and teaching methods within different time centuries in society. Every time frame is different from now in the present and to the future. That’s the art of learning, you learn and you keep on learning something new every day. We need to teach the new upcoming youth this to better our youth education.
In my discipline, my goal is to create a program for students to can gain confidence and love for physical education. Even if some students are not in the same level of fitness as others, as long if they put in a great amount of effort I will still provide positive feedback. No student should be treated differently from the rest of the group; we are all equal in gender, race, level of fitness, and as a class. Therefore, teaching students will teach them the role of leadership, discipline, how to work under pressure and personal life decisions that will bring them to success. Teaching students will provide different developing skills necessary to improve their motor skills. During the process, the students should find it being fun and develop a passion to a specific activity. They should also not only rely on themselves, but also with their classmates and giving each other positive feedback and working together. Also, as physical educators we will provide positive reinforcement based on effort rather than results. In addition, the area that the students will be participating will be safe and a healthy environment for all the students.
Hi Joel! I decided to reply to your post because I, too, am a future physical education teacher. Your thoughts were very insightful. You mentioned that you would encourage all students and treat them equally. By doing so, you will make an excellent role model for your students. Educators should not only teach their students about inclusivity and respect but also model such qualities for further affirmation. Social issues have risen in sport and physical activity settings in many situations. We can use such circumstances to provoke meaningful discussions and equip our students with a broader range of knowledge.
Hi. My name is Brittany Johnston. I grew up in Mar Vista, located in Los Angeles, and am currently getting my Credential at Cal State Long Beach. James Baldwin’s, A Talk with Teacher, shows the inequalities of Black Americans in the 1960s. These struggles and inequalities can resemble those seen in 2019. To be an effective teacher for all students, it is important to become educated on the past and present issues seen outside and within the education system.
Our education system is diverse. Though “students of color account for more than half of the student population (Gollnick & Chinn, 2017),” our system is still lacking equitable experiences for all students. Baldwin states, “the crucial paradox which confronts us here is the whole process of education occurs within a social framework and is designed to perpetuate the aims of society.” I feel, that the aims of our society today are based on the “dominant cultures” views, which were based on Anglo-Saxon and European Americans’ values. To be accepted one must assimilate with the dominant culture and if not they can be socially isolated or like Baldwin states seen as “a kind of criminal.” These experiences of being lost in the dominant culture can resonate with other non-dominant groups such as Asian Americans. The article, Teaching and Learning with Asian American and Pacific Islander Students, explains how these students are complex social beings whose needs are not researched individually and are blended in with other cultures. Dr. Lee states, “not considering the students as racial and complex social beings is problematic and harmful because their issues are seen solely within a cultural difference framework” which “suggests their problems can be overcome by assimilation into the dominant US culture (Lei, 2006).” Overall, each student has their own needs and are worthy of the highest quality education that includes resources and financial equity, which was not provided in the 1960s, and we continue to see in the education system today.
Today, schools see most of their financial support from local sources such as local property tax, so if you live in a lower-income area you are most likely not going to see the quality resources and facilities you might see in other areas. I think the financial inequalities seen relate to Baldwin statement on the criminal conspiracy. Students in low-income areas begin to realize they are not supported, that the system is not made for them and in turn, “when you begin to develop conscience, you might find yourself at war with our society.” If students are in a system that is not beneficial and in place for them to be successful, then why follow the laws within that system.
I hope to become a Physical Education teacher. P.E. classes in Los Angeles usually have around 50-60 students. Within each class there is a diverse number of students from different cultures, races, socio-economical statuses, and so on. One of my visions for my classes is to provide opportunities for students to learn from each other’s experiences. I will strive to create a community within the classroom and that starts by showing all students that I care about them and their experiences. I want students to share how they are feeling about society, the hardships they have endured, and their successes. I feel, by providing opportunities to learn and grow together will be a small step in the right direction. Another goal as a future educator is to stay involved with educational politics. The book Becoming a Teacher suggests, Teachers can often feel powerless when they express ideas of what is taught and how it should be taught but need to continue to try, to stay involved, because as James Baldwin says, “It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”
Gollnick, D., & Chinn, P. (2017). Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society (10th edition ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Lei, J. L. (2006). Teaching and learning with Asian American and Pacific Islander students. Race Ethnicity and Education , 85-101.
Parkay, F. (2016). Becoming a Teacher (10th Edition ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc. .
My name is Arlene, and I am a single-subject credential student at CSULB for History. I feel that Baldwin makes a strong point in his essay, outlining the ways that the concepts of democracy have been set up as a system of oppression towards racial minorities in America. His quote, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person,” is the driving argument for educators to be the change that the country needs in order for their students to have a fighting chance at obtaining their rights as U.S. citizens, no matter their race, religion, etc. Teachers can give students the tools to challenge the social norms that have been set up against them and to question the authorities that govern over them as well, as it is society that has constructed a system of thinking that will discriminate and hinder racial minorities opportunities towards a better life.
Social justice has always been a prevalent issue in this country, and students have often taken it upon themselves to make themselves heard. Too young to vote, and overlooked, students, have taken measures to give their input on political discourse through school walkouts or sit-ins, and other forms of protest. In spite of their age, kids are aware of the harsh realities that lay in front of them; the decisions that the adults around them will have long-term consequences on their own future, and in some cases, long after those adults will be long gone. Today, this fact still rings true. Our youth are aware of the daunting factors that are setting up a tense political climate in the country, and it’s important for them to know that it is within their power to change what they feel is unjust. History has shown us how organizing and fighting for one’s rights can bring change time and time again, and it is a process that must continue and live on in future generations through their school curriculum, set up in the appropriate ways.
I think any person of color could relate to many of the experiences that Baldwin outlines in his essay. All racial minorities have not been persecuted in the exact same ways, but they do share the same traumas of having endured extreme difficulty in trying to be accepted within American society, and often times this leaves a generational-trauma that is passed along each to each generation. For example, the times that my family and I have stepped into a facility or neighborhood that is frequented by predominantly white communities, a sense of discomfort does linger in me. It may not be overpowering, but it’s still there. Baldwin follows up a similar vein to this saying, “You don’t know what it means. You know – you know instinctively –that none of this is for you. You know this before you are told. And who is it for and who is paying for it? And why isn’t it for you?” American society was constructed by white men for white society, and it’s taken hundreds of years for people of color to claim this society as their own as well, and unfortunately, this struggle does involve feeling displaced in many ways.
History teaches us the importance of being able to think critically, and being able to challenge the things that are placed in front of you. You need to be able to question everything around you in order to find the answers to the things that you don’t like within your environment. That’s one of today’s issues; people take what they see on social media, television, etc. and forget that there are biases at play in every one of these outlets. My goal is to ensure that my students can walk out of the class with the abilities to formulate their own opinions having done the necessary research and critical thinking to discover the truth about the world around them and build their own identity within American society.
Hi, I am Gracie and I am from the Central Valley in California. I currently attend Long Beach State. After reading the quote, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person,” I resonated with these words once I got to college. My content area is history, so leading up to college, I did not feel like I was aware of the realities in history and in our country today. It was not until I began taking college history courses, that the content began implementing different perspectives and changing the Eurocentric narrative. I think my school experience leading up to college was very dis-empowering for all students who did not conform to the dominant culture that includes white, middle/ upper class, Americans of European descent. How can students be engaged in history, or any other subject matter, if they do not feel connected or see their cultures being implemented into the curriculum? I think everyone has a different experience in schools, but I think most non-dominant people and groups would feel underrepresented in school curriculum. Because I am white, I could never understand what most people face in this country, but I can see how the school curriculum is providing a disservice to students who are not white.
I think Baldwin shares powerful ideas about the realities of society in 1963, but the problems that he mentions are still very prevalent today. I think my duty as a teacher is to be fully aware of the injustice that has taken place in our country and to be open with my students about it. Baldwin mentions that our country today has a “lack of vision.” It would be easy for us teachers to put posters on our walls that read “No Racism Allowed” or “Racist Free Zone,” but that would not correct or help change the ideas about race that have been ingrained in our minds since we were children. I think the “lack of vision” that Baldwin mentions must be corrected in schools. Because our society places a high value on schools, that is where change can occur.
The vision for my class would be to implement all the students cultures into the curriculum. In a history class, I think there are so many ways to incorporate different cultures and empower the students by doing so. In my future class, I will be open with my students about difficult topics such as racism. I will get to know my students and allow them to get to know me. While I do not have firsthand experience with the social injustice that many of my students will face, I can still hold respect for them and make connections with them by talking through issues and allowing my students to have a voice of their own. One of the main goals I have for the curriculum, is to be sure to highlight non-white cultures and empower all of my students by incorporating their own cultures or interests into the content. Implementing the vision I have for teaching could be difficult, especially because of the way society works. As future teachers, we now have the duty of making changes in the system. Students must be aware of the current issues and understand why our country is the way it is. I think a culturally responsive history class will give students the opportunity to question the injustice and racial tensions in American society and create an identity of their own.
Hello everyone. My name is Maddi, and I am from southern California. Reading “A Talk to Teachers” and watching this brief clip of James Baldwin on education had a bigger impact on me than I expected. As a person who has grown up in a relatively diverse community and has read many, many different people’s commentary on their experiences as black and brown people in America, I almost felt as if I had as full of an understanding as any non-black or brown person could have. Reading those words back to myself now, I realize how incredibly ignorant that is. I truly will never – and should never – stop learning from other people.
I also think that this phenomenon ties into Baldwin’s statement that “precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society…as an educated person.” Learning and advocating for change are two aims that must be both continuous and simultaneous in order to better society. I made the mistake of thinking that I knew enough for now and was quickly proven wrong. If I were to go into my future classroom with that mentality, I would quickly fail my students. In order to be “at war” with my society, to make meaningful, positive change, I must model the type of learning that I want my future students to practice – constant, critical, reflexive learning.
As a future physics teacher, I doubt that I will have many opportunities (certainly none built into the standard curriculum) to tackle social justice issues head-on; however, I do not want to turn a blind eye to social issues outside the classroom that my students will undoubtedly carry in with them. Additionally, I believe that it is the responsibility of science teachers of all disciplines to teach students to think critically, particularly when it comes to debates surrounding climate change and the future of technology. Though these are not immediately identified as social justice issues, it is important to make students aware of who benefits most from new technology and who suffers most from climate change.
Of course, as Joy Lei writes in the article “Teaching and learning with Asian American and Pacific Islander students,” race does not exist as a black-white binary. The parts of Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers” that struck me as a non-black, biracial person were the parts about identity and ignorance about history. This struck me because it seems to me that denying a person or group of people of their identity is a technique used to assert power over them. My mother, an immigrant from Taiwan, always wanted to feel more American after a lifetime of being made to feel ashamed of her heritage. I grew up with her lamenting her sleek hair (because she wished it had the texture of whiter hair) and her “Asian” eyelids. I also remember only vaguely brushing over the history of Chinese exclusion in America in my US history class without much attention or detail. It’s as though, since Asians have been elected to be the “model minority,” their history is dismissed. From my own observation and some commentary I’ve heard from other Asian Americans, this lack of education on our history has led to a collective identity crisis – one that is detrimental to all minorities. Asian Americans are expected to assimilate more completely into the dominant society and benefit in many ways similar to white Americans. Then they are held up on a pedestal in order to dismiss the strife of other minority groups whose cultures have been more recently and more violently rejected. This connects directly to Baldwin’s assertion that, over time, the dominant culture “created myths about the world.” These myths ensure that the dominant culture remains dominant and minority cultures remain divided.
I am personally quite uncomfortable discussing racial issues with others because I fear I lack understanding of the history and nuances of all of the issues. However, I know that, in today’s social and political climate, it will be important for me to be able to facilitate conversations about social issues in my classroom. I am thankful for Teaching Tolerance’s resources regarding techniques that can be used in order to navigate those tough conversations, and I intend to continue learning new tools for supporting productive dialogue in my classroom. That being said, I believe my biggest role to play is in helping my students develop the ability to assess the validity of various sources and arguments and to be able to find more information on a topic before believing what they hear in the news or on social media. I am currently working with a small team of other educators and teacher candidates to design an interdisciplinary unit on cultural literacy and climate change that I believe will be very important in the coming decade. Teaching, as a profession, is always evolving as the world becomes more interconnected and social conflicts more volatile. As Baldwin states, “The society in which we live is desperately menaced…from within.” I believe that that “menace” is the division between people of different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc. that we seem to see more and more each day. We as teachers are in a prime position to make a positive difference. And it is our responsibility to do so.
Hello everyone, my name is Fabian Perez. I am from Paramount, California, and I am attending CSULB to be a mathematics teacher. My vision for the education of the youth is to teach students skills that will allow them to be efficient in society. I want students to learn valuable topics in school such as reading, writing, communication, arithmetic, using technology, culture, etc. All of the topics students learn in school will allow them to work efficiently in our society no matter what field of work they want to work in. My vision for the education of the youth also includes encouraging students to become academic scholars. I want all my students to be life-long learners by learning new and useful information every year. In the reading by James Baldwin, he states, “…the boys and girls who were born during the era of the Third Reich, when educated to the purposes of the Third Reich, became barbarians. The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated” (1). The issue James Baldwin is addressing here is that during particular periods in time, society has different goals or visions for the students. Students are not always conscious or they don’t understand why they are in school. My future work in teaching mathematics will connect to the issue James Baldwin is addressing. I will make my vision and goals clear day one that I want my students to be efficient in society and be life-long learners. My dad would always tell me “This is the country of opportunity. You must work hard to achieve your goals. Nothing is impossible.” I believe in my dad’s words. There will be obstacles many students of non-dominant groups will face, but nothing is impossible. I will share this message with my students so they may understand and possibly share my vision for the education of the youth. I will engage my teaching practice toward my visions during post-exam sessions. I will encourage all my students to have a growth mindset and reflect after receiving their test back. I will tell students that received a high mark to continue working hard and I will tell students who did poorly to seek out help during office hours, ask questions, form study groups, and or practice more. I will encourage poor-performing students to make a change to ensure they learn more and thus perform better on the next exam. I want my students to pass my class and do well in school so they can graduate high school, get accepted into a great university, and work in the field they are passionate about.
Hi, my name is Tyra Cleveland, I attend ODU to be an English teacher. I really understood your point and I completely agree. Students should strive to be life long learners. They should constantly want to learn and be taught new things. This is important to drive into them at an early age so it sticks with them throughout their entire lives. This can be achieved through encouraging lectures but also through being more hands on with them like you discussed. Letting them know that one bad grade or not knowing how to do something should not stop them. Letting them know that it is okay and encouraged to ask for help because everyone needs help from time to time. We need more teachers with this mindset, great post!
I like your statement: My dad would always tell me “This is the country of opportunity. You must work hard to achieve your goals. Nothing is impossible.” I believe in my dad’s words. There will be obstacles many students of non-dominant groups will face, but nothing is impossible. This is so true! No matter what race, age, ethnicity, gender, or disability, YOU can do anything that you put your mind too! This topic is so prevalent today! Education should be free and afforded by everyone! Truly afforded with the same opportunity, materials, and teachers with great visions for the future! We need to model what we want to see in this world as teacher! We have been given a huge responsibility in this world and we need to take full advantage or it PROPERLY!
After reading Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers” and listening to his speech on education, I can understand the rage and anger he feels about how public education is an institution only set up for “citizenry which will only obey the rules of society” (pg1). I was enlightened to the many factors that create social injustices for African Americans in the 1960’s, and living in the ghettos of New York. I truly believe your environment can be stronger than a person’s will to progress in regards to upbringing and evolving from a primary discourse community to other discourse communities that provide social and emotional scaffolding which empower the people. When James Baldwin states, “One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person,” I think he means that as a person, it is your duty to enlighten others after you are aware of the social injustices that our society has created in order to support our youth’s future by eradicating or deconstructing how our public education systems operates.
As a future teacher, I would like to teach tolerance by incorporating culturally- responsive pedagogy with social and emotional scaffolding that empowers students. I would provide learning content that is inclusive to all students’ prior knowledge so they can find themselves in the learning content. In regards to how I might consider a social justice and antiracist curriculum, I would provide collaborative group activities and discussions on current issues that are relatable to current novels read. For example, my core subject to teach is English, and I could design a whole unit on the social movement, “Black Lives Matter”, (BLM). I would make the connections historically to a few decades ago to the civil rights movement, which Baldwin is referring to on a collective scale. This learning content would provide understanding of how social movements are created and constructed to provide freedom for minority groups who are seeking an end to racial discrimination. Being absolutely aware of how history was experienced though multiple perspectives produces a radical change in a student’s heart to go beyond the limitations set is a world that is viewed from a predominantly Eurocentric lens. I believe with Baldwin that, the purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions….., to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not”(pg1). This statement rings true for me, because I can connect this to my experience in public education. During my middle school years, I was oppressed by a teacher that told me that I would never go to college, because I was lacking motivation to comply and complete my school work. During that time in my life, I felt that most of my teachers gave us all busy work to do in class that did not help us to think outside of the box. I knew early on as a child that the world operated in a certain way which puts people of color or minority groups in this tight vice, which clamps their spirit from growing. Historically, I think about the Native Americans, who were taken from their families, and sent to boarding school so that they can learn how to be “civilized”. I wonder if I will be participating grudgingly in the same perpetual influences that oppressed my ancestors. To this day my grandparents on my father’s side will not claim their own ancestry, because of how American society dictates the minds of minority to assimilate into the dominate culture.
I feel concerned about my decision to move forward in teaching when Baldwin’s argues that public education throughout history and overtime has constructed a world that does not empower people but oppresses them to the point of having the world’s weight on their shoulders. Baldwin’s claims, “that any negro who is born in this country and undergoes the American educational system runs the risk of becoming schizophrenic” ( pg. 1). I do not think he is being sarcastic, maybe facetious, because he even laughs at his statement after saying it in this speech on education. I can see where he is coming from because as a child I was oppressed by my white grandparents to believe that I need to only claim myself as white, so that I would have less problems in life, which is frustrating to believe and tolerate as a young adolescent trying to find their own identity. Today, I work in a trade school where the majority population of students are male African American and Latino students. I observe their daily struggles, and often talk to them about the social and emotional challenges they face in overcoming the labels that society has placed on them even before they were born. These unremitting truths that taunt their minds and consciousness which creates a state of depression. They are treated as depressed, and put on medications, which oppresses them even more. In reality, depression is anger turned inward and our youth today in the education systems are being oppressed not only by race, but by psychotropic medications. These medications have many side effects that lead some of these students to suicide and feeling more hopeless before they started them. I observe that educational systems are oppressing students not only by what they teach them, but by sedating their minds to even process what they are learning. This is a way to control the anger that has not been dealt with from prior generations of oppression. Baldwin declares that another mask needs to be taken off when, “He is aware that there is a terrible weight on his parent’s shoulders which menaces him. And it isn’t for long- in fact it begins when he is in school- before he discovers the shape of his oppression”(pg.2). As a witness to these truths, I will not give up when faced with adversity, because my heart says I can still make a difference in the lives of others as a mentor and teacher.
My vision, hope, and dream is to provide and participate in an educational system that empowers students to think for themselves in order to create social and emotional intelligence. I am only a small part of a great whole, but I feel that is my duty to help these students overcome struggles by making them aware of the political injustices that are current within our world today. I will support their minds to find their true selves, and pursue their educational goals without putting restrictions on them by highlighting their strengths in what they do know. My goal is to make a safe space for children to learn and grow. My past experiences in the public education gives me the insight to do better for my future students, because I know that there were many obstacles I faced. Most of these challenges were handled and guided by the support of my women mentors, who knew the road map and all the trails I needed to climb in order to get to my goals set. I believe many students need support outside of home in order to get grounded in learning that is accessible.
As upcoming teachers, we hold a heavy responsibility. We are taking on the task to educate the next generation and help them learn about our content area but even more importantly the world around them. As James Baldwin points out, our education system occurs within a social framework and as some argue, the purpose of school is to educate students how to live within the “aims of society”. As teachers, within all the standards and expectations we are required to meet, we have a lot of freedom in the decisions we make on how we teach our students. Baldwin discusses the experiences of Black Americans and how our country has designed education to teach Americans in a way that shines light on White Americans and spreads myths on the greatness of the country. In a way, our American history acts as social media does today. People tend to mask their imperfections and failures online and try to make themselves look greater than others, always doing the right things. White Americans in history have done the same thing and have put down Black Americans. Of course, sadly this can be said about many other non-dominant groups as well. To counteract this, Baldwin comments that responsible teachers must be prepared to “go for broke”. We have to be willing to consider how our society is set up now and use our freedom in what resources and methods we use to take a risk in teaching students the “failures” of past generations but how we can change that. Baldwin says we need to be prepared “go for broke” because we need to be prepared to endure at times uncomfortable and difficult conversations with our students. It won’t be an easy task as a teacher to take this responsibility and help students to critically think about the world around them when for years we continue to see similar outcomes from years before but if we don’t take a stand and do our utmost to help students challenge what society says is true there will never be a change.
As a future physical educator, I hope to teach my students to challenge the current social structure. Discussions won’t come up as easily as they would in a social studies classroom environment. However, physical activity many times requires teamwork and cooperation with each other. They’ll learn to work with others, break stereotypes, and learn to see all people no matter how similar or different to each other they can be and view to accept and relate to them. That can be a small step to seeing the world differently than how Americans tend to view each other. At first I imagine it will be difficult, because students might not respond in ways I hope but overtime hopefully I gain the confidence and more wisdom and continue to “go for broke” in hopes of helping students view the world differently than history has framed it to be and makes slow changes.
It is interesting to see how Baldwin’s words affects a physical educator. I agree that by “going for broke” teachers are being held accountable in a way that most hierarchical symbols will not have to face in their lifetimes. Teachers are the common thread between everybody. Everyone has a teacher that they remember from their 12 long years of school. Physical Educators have a very good opportunity to teach students in a way that boosts teamwork which is hard to do in a classroom setting. By being out in the field and playing hard, students are able to stretch out their limbs and invite others into their circles.
I agree with your statement as educators we hold a heavy responsibility.
I agree with this point because not only are we required to teach our students all content areas, we have to ensure that we are educating and exposing our students to what is going on in the world through open dialogue. I love how you mentioned that as educators we have to take risk, we have to become the challenge we want to see. We need to set up opportunities where students can learn about the world! As educators we have to be ok with discussing having those open conversations where students might not agree with one another but are still respectful to one’s opinion. I really hope through this we will gain the confidence to push this into our classroom, I believe this will help our students in the future.
Hello all, my name is Jose Rodriguez E. and I am a Single Subject Credential Student (Social Sciences) at CSULB. American society shapes the way that people navigate life and develop their identities. By the time students come into the lives of teachers, American society has already shaped the way students think about life. It has shaped the way they have come to normalize the events that they see on the daily. In some cases, the things that youth see are criminal. Criminal because in poor communities, the rates of violence, drug abuse, poverty, and overall lack of opportunity has become normal for students who live in low socio economic communities. Therefore, as candidate educators, we must allow students to question what is normal versus what it should be. What is normal to society, does not make it right. Therefore, educators clash against the ideas and values of society in order to create opportunities for students to grow, and be mindful of who they are, and what they should become. If educators fail to do so, and students become members of society who merely obey, as Baldwin states, could lead to the destruction of this American society.
In addition, responding to the “Go for Broke” question, I had many teachers throughout my life who practiced a go for broke mentality. In most if not all of the cases, the teachers who did so were usually the best, and most liked teacher’s that remain in my memory today. It is important to do so, because students have the ability to read the intentions and work habits of teachers. If teachers are in the filed to collect a check and go home, the students will react accordingly. However, teachers who push the limits of what students are capable of doing, are usually the most effective at teaching content, but teaching life skills. Furthermore on how to implement social justice and antiracist pedagogy in the current political climate, it is up to educators today to go beyond the classroom. Race and social reform are issues that affect students no matter if the teacher is having discourse about it or not. If we want to push our students to become independent thinkers when they become adults, we must take an antiracist and social justice curriculum seriously. In this climate, the political figures in power have enabled racist people in the US and around the world to openly say their racist ideas, anti Muslim sentiments, anti LGBTQ+ sentiments, and diversity. People are no longer afraid to say these things in public because the president uses similar words as well. Calling brown people like myself racist, generalizing Latinos as Mexicans, banning refugees from conflicted areas that the US has bombed and waged wars in, and so many more. An antiracist curriculum would allow students to be able to defend themselves but also to defend those who are in solidarity with the struggles of life. Social justice curriculum allows students to participate against those who feel the right to say despicable things to people of color, sexualities, religions, etc. Allowing students to become educated on things that can directly affect them is necessary in this political climate.
Furthermore, although I am not a Black American, I am a Mexican American who for most of my life lived in a community that was split even between black and brown people. My community is South Central LA, neighboring other areas like Compton, Watts, and South Gate. Most of which, are low socio economic communities. What I see in my community and what I saw and experienced in middle and high school was that poverty, drug use, gang violence, prostitution, single parent homes, and many other things were very common amongst many of my peers. I consider myself fortunate enough to have both parents in my life, to live in a single family home, to have a father who had a job, and furthermore that I was able to come to a University and broaden my education. Not everyone in my neighborhood has the privilege that I have. However, all the negative things were for the most part normalized in my community. Drug sales in the bathroom were normalized because it was the hustle (These were normalizations that students had, including myself in high school. For safety, we did not want to alert the authority due to fear of retaliation). Underage sex and teen pregnancies were normalized because it was cool to have sex. These are current issues that affect brown and black youth in “ghettos” or low socio economic communities. These were and are still possibly normalized today. Therefore, I believe that Baldwin would argue that these normalizations are criminal to the youth and that teachers should be playing a role in challenging these norms. Teachers are adults that students interact with the most. Teachers should be able to talk about difficult subjects with their students. A lack of discourse does not solve anything. It only feeds the vicious cycles of the normalizations of poverty, drugs, gang violence etc. Teachers should be able to talk to students about why poverty exists in their communities. How can students improve their situations. Why drug abuse is wrong. These difficult and often taboo subjects must be discussed with students because they are normal to them.
Fourthly, my vision for the youth is success. As I previously stated, my community and I assume other communities just like it do not produce many people who are successful. What is success even varies in my community. I know one of my peers for example, who is actually doing very well for himself in the music industry. In my community, he is successful because he has money now. Compared to some of my friends who are in are about to get their bachelors, they are not really seen as successful because the degree does not mean anything because they do not yet have money. Therefore, my vision would be for students to succeed, but more importantly too critically think about what it means to succeeds. I want students to learn skills that can help them out in whatever allies of life they choose to pursue. Although I personally find history interesting, I realize that everyone has their own likes and dislikes. So even if I were to get the biggest hater of history in one of my future classes, I would at least like to teach life skills like reading, writing, and speaking that he or she could use in whatever he or she wanted to pursue.
Finally, the classes that I am currently taking and the classes that I have observed give me hope. I have observed the middle school that I used to attend and the atmosphere is completely different. Students are brilliant and they want to succeed. They want to go to college, they want to work, they want a bright future. They have set their bars high at such a young age, that it makes me hopeful that students in my community now are beginning to question what has been the norm since before I was even born. At high schools, social justice curriculums have been implemented and teachers that I see have students who are able to organize. Organize community clean ups, setting up stop sign on dangerous streets, putting up street lights, doing food drives, etc. These are things that students in my generation were not even considering. I believe it is due to the wonderful efforts that good teachers are putting in all over LAUSD. The classes that I am taking now are reinforcing my attitudes of what a actions are taken by good teachers.
Hello, my name is Angela Borlasa and I am a Single-Subject Credential student at CSULB for music. I am from Laguna Niguel, California. After reading the quote about having the “responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person,” I have come to think that it means that we must challenge our students and ourselves as future educators to think critically about everything we are faced with and learn about. I resonate with this point because I feel that it has been such a slow development of my conscience over the years of my life, and only now after graduating college do I realize how at war I am with the society I grew up in and the society that I believe that we can amount to in the future. I think that Baldwin says “when you begin to develop a conscience” he is referring to the early developmental stages of childhood in which children learn what is right and wrong, in the eyes of our present and dominant society. From when I was born until I was six years old, I grew up around only affluent Filipinos (being Filipino myself, being born in California, then moving to the Philippines) and have lived in an affluent white community since I was eight years old. Spending most of my life growing up with only affluent Filipino and White people, I felt that I was kept away from understanding and communicating with others who have had different life experiences from me. Until I came to college in Long Beach, California, I had no idea of the gravity in other people’s lives and what they have been through and continue to face. That being said, my conscience really developed in the past four years and only continues to do so the more I learn about the world and people around me. I had always been expected to pursue, attend, and graduate from college, and was fortunate enough to have the resources available to me to achieve all of those societally imposed goals: I had a supportive counselor, teachers, friends, parents, and community, all of whom were tight knit, had connections, and made sure I saw the finish line of graduating. What I didn’t realize was how privileged I was to have all of those things because that is not the reality of minorities elsewhere. I now see the injustices that minorities face in society and especially the “billion dollar industry” of education. I know now that there is the reality of not having supportive educators or educational staff believing that their students can succeed in life, in pursuing, attending, and graduating high school and college. It hurts to know that there have been, still are, and will be people who truly believe that of their students.
I realize that over time, “bad faith and cruelty” have perpetuated society and it will take many more generations to filter it out. I think that our generation of teachers, constantly being trained and reminded to implement practices of culturally responsive pedagogy, to be mindful and know how to be inclusive of students with exceptionalities, being trained on how to manage classrooms effectively, we can begin to start social justice and antiracist curriculum once we get out into the field. Reading the “Teaching Tolerance” handbook was helpful, but I hope that we teach well past tolerance and more into understanding and acceptance. I know that I would not like to be just tolerated, and I think that the poor word choice was used to be a catchy title, but even that action in itself must be a more mindful decision, especially when choosing to enact those practices within a classroom. I believe that in my elementary music classrooms I can achieve social justice and antiracist curriculum by intentionally and mindfully choosing repertoire that is multilingual, multicultural, and spans different eras and epochs of this and other countries, hopefully engaging students through feeling a sense of connection to the content and being curious about what else is out in the world. I foresee and expect pushback from the community and parents, but how else do we educate students if we cannot have the difficult discussions, especially at a young age when students can be brutally honest, inquisitive, and with hopes to understand each other and the world around them? Joy Lei writes in her article “Teaching and learning with Asian American and Pacific Islander students,” that Asians are a “model minority” and in my middle and high school education there were always self-deprecating jokes about being a “good” or “bad” Asian (not achieving high enough in academics, having other interests outside of academia, etc.). There has been omission of my Filipino heritage from history books in schools. If not complete omission, there is a brief paragraph on the Philippines in world history course text or quick mention of Filipino support in World War II.
My vision for the education of youth is one where students can learn to critique, challenge, and analyze the world around them. I also hope for my classroom to be a safe environment where students can share their thoughts and feelings on any number of topics, especially regarding controversial ones such as sexuality, race, class bias, among others, and that our class can engage in meaningful conversations on all of these topics. Using tools from past experience, components from “Teaching Tolerance,” and apt preparation of these discussions, I think that students can and should engage in these conversations starting at a young age, since they will grow up to consolidate and refine their understanding of society, its function, and how we all play a part in it. Through music, I believe that my students can learn about the history and experiences of people around the world, as well as experiences unique to multicultural people here in the US.
The following deduction is based on a paper I wrote while in the elementary credential program as well as my experiences afterward in the secondary and special education credential programs.
The general deduction:
Teachers are told that they have to go for broke but the very game that they are told to go for broke is rigged against them. Education is a game of self-belief. The parents that have placed additional value on education want to believe that their children can succeed and so programs like GATE in Long Beach Unified represent, to both themselves and their child, that they can succeed. In reality, one or two students are at the level that GATE was originally created to cater to. The other students are often students pushed into the program because their parent has imprinted education as a fundamental value, have the support and resources to ensure their success when faced with difficult school projects (e.g. tutors, technology, or parents who have the time and can take the time out of their day to lead their child in the right direction), have projects tailored to their cultural or background that is easily synthesized and tailored to background. These students are encouraged to go for broke and to believe in themselves. If they fail, they are redirected towards success. Students that exist outside of these programs, who try hard on something they’ve enjoyed are seen as “try-hards”. Peer students often dismiss the effort and accomplishments put into their work
When those students go for broke, even with minor success, they go for broke in a culture/environment with peers that discourage it. Those students stay broke and try to hide in anonymity. Lessons of “don’t touch that”, “you can’t do that”, “you can’t have that”, “you can’t go to the restroom”, “you can’t sharpen that pencil”, “you can’t use that computer”. When this is the culture that surrounds going for broke, these “you can’t” moments will always win out.
Prior paper: Connection being that the problem is bigger than generations of anything. The problem is the labeling and the implicit associations that students make between themselves and education/learning/ability.
Mark Twain. Henry Ford. Thomas Edison. John D. Rockefeller. Winston Churchill. These are some of the most gifted minds of the 19th and 20th century. Each and everyone of them either did poorly in school or dropped out early. While school systems have come a long way since these gifted individuals graced their ranks, educating minds such as these is surrounded by controversy. How does one quantify who is gifted and talented? What sort of skills go into being gifted and how can those skills be evaluated? What kind of programs are there for the gifted and talented? What are the difficulties and consequences of such programs? These are just a few of the questions that this essay will answer. Although there have always exceptional students in general education classrooms, the best ways to evaluate such students and offer programs that fulfill their needs is a difficult task filled with controversy
Use Rethinking Gifted Education to add more to or change this portion of the paper. While IQ tests may say differently, defining intelligence is not as simple as giving everyone a little number that represents how gifted they are. There are important characteristics that make up a gifted and talented student, not all of which are covered by a general IQ exam. Defining what these characteristics are is just the first of many controversial steps. Some define these traits as verbal precocity, perceptual sensitivity, persistent concentration, superior memory, multitasking skills, curtailed learning and reasoning, flexible thinking, metacognitive awareness, speedy processing, and philosophical thinking. While this is a reasonable list of characteristics, other programs have entirely different quantification of characteristics. For example, the GATE program in California broadens the list by looking at six categories, instead of specific intellectual characteristics, such as “intellectual ability, high achievement, specific academic ability, creative ability, leadership ability, visual and performing arts talents.” As one might be able to tell, these are two very different approaches to identifying gifted and talented students. One approach looks at individual markers of intelligence while the other approach looks at a much larger picture, even judging charisma by attempting to incorporate leadership ability. Although both have widely different methods of judging intelligence, it is fairly obvious from these two examples that in order to define intelligence one must analyze many different aspects of cognition. Therefore, by virtue of the large range of criteria, these studies agree that, in order for a student to qualify for gifted and talented programs, the student must display just one or two unique intellectual abilities. To have a child that is talented in nearly every category is considered a rare gift.
The next step of most of these programs is identifying a student with such characteristics. There are a few different approaches to identifying these students. The two most notable of these approaches are the traditional approach and the portfolio profiling approach.. The traditional approach focuses on defining students as “being gifted and nongifted based on their performance on norm-referenced standardized tests. Higher scores indicate that the students have more of the traits that are associated with giftedness.” Thus, the traditional approach utilizes a variety of sit down exams to a quantitative approach to assess a child’s giftedness. Portfolio profiling approaches involve compiling profiles that use more open ended performance assessments and document students progress over time for the specific talent they have been identified to possess. Thus, the portfolio profiling approach utilizes a wider range of tools to determine the giftedness of the child. Some programs, such as California’s GATE, combine these two forms of assessment. For example, the GATE program in California uses teachers and school staff to nominate students and then, once the child has been quantitatively tested for giftedness in a number of ways, asks a district psychologist to develop case studies for their appropriate talent. This means that if a student is identified as a high achiever, the case study will “demonstrate their achievement two or more years above grade level.” If the student is identified for their leadership ability, the study will examine their role in “student government activities, social service leadership positions, and other civic organization positions.” Thereby, the GATE program utilizes both methods by not only assessing the student traditionally through tests but also by developing case profiles to document the progress of specific talents over time. Although there are two standard approaches to assessing a student’s giftedness, nevertheless some programs, such as the GATE program in California, use a combination of these methods to determine whether or not a student qualifies as gifted.
So far this paper has determined the appropriate characteristics of a gifted child and established ways to identify those children. The next critical step on the road to gifted education is developing effective material for those talented students. When it comes to developing curriculum for children in these programs, the road to gifted education splits into many different pathways. Should there be cluster grouping? Should there be a focus on enrichment? Should the curriculum be about acceleration? The questions and approaches never seem to stop. James Borland’s book, titled Rethinking Gifted Education, examines 10 or more different approaches to gifted education and deduces that the sources focus on talent identification and development. Simply put, differentiated education is the focus of most gifted and talented programs. The California GATE program, while it does offer varied methods of differentiated education, takes it a step further through cluster grouping in which gifted students are mixed with high achieving students placed in one advanced classroom. The purpose of this cluster grouping is to ensure that the progress or enrichment of these students is not slowed by the average learner. Therefore, curriculum that focuses on the talent of the individuals is still developed in cluster grouping, however the difference is that learning takes place in a classroom filled with peer members of the GATE program. So, despite the fact that the road to gifted education splits in many different directions, these roads are still filled with many of the same shops that all advocate various forms of differentiated education specific to the needs of the child.
Eventually, the road to gifted education comes to an end, arriving at a classroom that is presided over by perhaps the most significant member of the education process: the teacher. If a teacher is ineffective and does not do their job then a student, no matter how gifted they are, will learn very little. This paper established that the curriculum for gifted students is largely supposed to be individualized. Thus, it makes sense that most scholars agree that teachers should be trained to provide this specialized instruction. For gifted students this means that teachers should be able to provide students with challenging curriculum and instruction that is specific to the student’s area of talent. This is not to say that the teacher him or herself has to be or have been a gifted or talented student. As David Richard Willings makes clear in his book, The Creatively Gifted, “provided that a teacher is relatively mature and secure in his self-concept … there is no reason why such a teacher should not appreciate and bring forward a creatively gifted child.” The only requisite to teaching gifted and talented students is the ability to develop appropriately enriched curriculum specific to the needs of the child.
The more and more one reads into the journey to gifted and talented education, the more it seems like this long and winding road does not necessarily have to be a road to educating just the gifted. Rather, this road might simply be retitled as the road to education. While the identifying and evaluation of gifted students is somewhat unique, the end results establish an understanding of the unique skill sets of students. In the general education classroom, general assessments throughout the education process, such as benchmark testing or just chapter tests, deduces where the average student’s strengths lie. Just as in gifted and talented programs, it is recommended that a teacher offers differentiated instruction to students in the general education classroom. The variety of programs offered to gifted and talented students are often times offered to general education students, or at the very least should be. For example, independent study programs are available to the average student as well as the gifted program. Enrichment activities, which are extremely common in gifted and talented programs, are usually not necessarily dependent on the mental capacities of gifted students. In fact, enrichment programs are often offered to students in the special education programs to help facilitate understanding. At face value, the road to effective gifted education share a great deal of similarities with the road to effective education.
The truth is gifted programs are given more opportunities to understand and nurture the individual talents of their students. Not only are their students tested heavily to understand these details but the programs they are accepted into are much less rigid than that of a general education classroom. Take the California GATE program as an example. While the standard method of teaching in the GATE program, cluster grouping, reflects the structure of a general education classroom, students are still offered a great deal of other methods to meet their needs. One approach is independent study which provides better opportunities to explore one’s interests and could even involve receiving instruction from a skilled mentor in such an area. While this is available to the average student, there is no outside pressure that pushes students into these programs. Not to mention, if the average student does participate in an independent study program, while the fountain of information provided by the gifted and talented assessment procedures is available for the gifted students in independent study programs, there is nothing comparably comprehensive that the general education student will likely have participated in which will be made available for their own independent study program. Thereby, students that participate in gifted and talented programs have better tools to help them understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Other benefits to gifted and talented programs include the fact that gifted and talented students are more likely to be exposed to differentiated instruction and enrichment activities. While this should not necessarily be the case, the specific emphasizes on such instruction and activities within gifted and talented programs and the access these students have to extra forms of instruction outside the classroom ensures this. There is also something to be said about the benefits of constructing homogenous classes of gifted and talented students. This often results in a positive learning environment in which all the students are focused on the comprehensive enriched learning at a fast pace. Thereby, when homogeneously grouped together students are ideally in a classroom that challenges students. So the benefits of such a gifted and talented are derived from the fact that students have access to a higher quality of education through the opportunities the support of their program offers them.
As beneficial as these programs can be, there are also a number of consequences that can result from them. Gifted and talented programs often result in labeling consequences both for gifted students and for the average general education student. As William and Susan Steinback note in their book titled1 Controversial Issues Confronting Gifted Education, gifted students “may be viewed as ‘showing off,’ an ‘egghead,’ a ‘brain,’ the ‘teachers pet,’ snotty, or arrogant.” At Fremont Elementary, in Long Beach, California, one teacher personally viewed the consequences of such programs on gifted students, “My friend hated it. They were known as the nerds and were made fun of by the rest of the kids at the school. They came in every day, their work was listed on the board, and they sloshed their way through it. He definitely worked hard, alone, at that list but felt the whole experience was a big negative.” The gifted student, observed by the teacher, was labeled a nerd by his fellow classmates. This label affected his self-esteem which ultimately lead towards his disappreciation for the program as a whole. Labeling does not just occur to the gifted children, either. Those not participating in the gifted programs are implicitly labeled ‘non-gifted’ resulting in a number of consequences that might discourage such programs. For one, children learn who is considered smart, who is not, and the category to which they belong. A lot of times gifted and talented programs are grouped in clusters where a small number of gifted students are placed into a regular classroom with a mix of other high achieving students. All the students in the classroom with the gifted students immediately get placed in the ‘smart’ category while the high achieving students in the other classes are grouped into the ‘not-smart’ category even though many of them are as smart or smarter than many of the students in the class with the gifted students. A science lab teacher at elementary level in the California GATE program was privy to GATE cluster classes as well as regular classes. Having a unique view of both groups of students, she noted, “often kids in the regular classes were getting just as high of scores or higher on their science tests as the kids in the cluster class but had to suffer through being labeled ‘stupid’ or ‘dumb’ by students in other classes that they were outdoing.” This type of labeling, often a result of students that were not a part of the gifted or talented programs, has negative consequences on a child’s self-esteem and self-concept. Thereby, the labeling alone, not to mention other various forms of consequences, that springs up as a result of gifted and talented programs can affect both gifted students and general education students negatively.
The journey on road to gifted education is filled with many different forks in the road that affect these programs in various ways. These forks in a very long road start at the beginning with the various characteristics attached to gifted students. The road then forks again at the evaluation process with various roads springing up for the traditional evaluation process involving a series of tests, other roads involving profiling or case study methods, and yet more roads combining these two aforementioned methods. Yet more roads spring up when trying to determine the best way to educate these students and the specialized instruction the teachers of these students should be trained to administer. When analyzing this road to gifted education it very much resembles the road to effective education however, gifted students are given a better support base and more opportunities for effective education. While this is beneficial, the execution of gifted education can also lead to a number of consequences, particularly the consequences of being labeled as a ‘nerd’ for gifted students or being unfairly labeled as ‘not smart’ for those that do not participate in such programs. In the end, the journey is long and arduous with a number of important considerations at every single fork in the road.
Hello, fellow pre-service teachers! My name is Breanna Couffer and I am currently working towards earning a single subject teaching credential in Biological Sciences at California State University Long Beach.
Baldwin’s statement concerning one of the paradoxes of education was both eloquent and full of truth. As a white female who was raised in the conservative South and in a middle-class suburb, I’m all too familiar with the pressure to align tightly with the status quo. I was taught from a very young age to be quiet, follow the rules, and to be all-together un-objectionable. To disrupt the society in which many people akin to myself -in terms of appearance and social location- benefited from would be to go against the infamous and regularly used southern phrase “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” What people often forget to consider is that something being “un-broken” for some will undoubtedly be “broken” for others due to this world’s diverse population of people. I connected this to when Baldwin later spoke about Americans not being “cruel; They just didn’t know you were alive. They didn’t know you had feelings.” People have a strong tendency to protect what works for them without considering the harm or inequitable consequences for others and it is our duty as educators to teach our students- the future leaders of this world- what it means to think critically and independently, to disrupt this norm, and to promote true justice and equity for all. We as teachers are responsible for bringing humanness back into education and thusly back into the world.
In my future classroom, I imagine this being done through a variety of avenues. Firstly, I desire to create a classroom community that honors individuality, openness, the promotion of knowledge, and the freedom to be critical. This will require diligent reflection on my part in regards to acknowledging how my positionality- with all of its facets- can and will at times bias my epistemology. By doing so, I will be modeling for my students one way in which I expect them to practice being socially aware individuals. The creation of this environment will also be dependent on the use of community- parental/familial and cultural- to provide knowledge that would allow the creation of a curriculum that is responsive in a variety of ways. In addition, I hope to be able to promote my students’ abilities to critically think about their world through facilitating difficult conversations and encouraging them to think of themselves as activists- of many realms (ie. social, political, environmental, etc.)- who have the power and capability to create both knowledge and change. Nurturing this type of mind frame and skill set will aide my future students on their journey to becoming compassionate and resilient adults entering a society that is seemingly stuck ignorantly valuing short-term “success” for few rather than long-term betterment for all.
Baldwins’ experiences described in his “Talk with Teachers” are universal for many minorities throughout the United States. I see this type of prejudice in my region particularly targeted towards the Latin X community. There’s unarguable economic, social and racial segregation amongst the neighborhoods, resulting in inequitable funding for the students in our schools (since much of our funding comes from property taxes). In the district I work in as an aide, the schools each have labels and stereotypes. Many students know and openly talk about what “type” of people attend each school and the equipment and resources within the schools display the inequitable tale of funding mismanagement and allocation. For example, the school I am at currently has- relative to other schools in the district- minimal funding though it contains one of the highest percentages of minority (largely Hispanic) and socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Over the past few years, they changed to block schedule with the hopes of allowing students to take more classes and to standardize themselves with the rest of the schools in the district. Unfortunately, they were not able to hire enough teachers and support staff, causing many teachers to have to monitor/ supervise students during their conference periods and many students to be forced into various electives against their choosing and/or to go months into the school year with incorrect schedules, only to have to start from scratch in classes where they’ve missed nearly 8 weeks of instruction.
My vision for the education of youth is to encourage future generations to view themselves as thinkers, creators, and changers. Furthermore, I want to teach my students how to be independent and confident societal disrupters. The sense of being able to create one’s own identity and purpose will, in good faith, give them the freedom to promote societal change. In science, in particular, one of my main goals aligning with this vision is to empower my students to think of themselves as scientists by including each of my students in culturally responsive units and lessons. Fulfilling this vision will entail unending surveying, assessing, record keeping, and reflection on my part. I also hope to be able to incorporate many “citizen science” activities into my curriculum (where people without a collegiate science background contribute data for various studies and causes) so that my students can see how everyone, no matter their circumstance, can create change in and out of the lab or the classroom.
Hello, my name is Angel Blanco. I am currently a single-subject credential student for Social Studies at California State University Long Beach. I currently live in Long Beach. After reading the piece from James Baldwin, I understood that this piece may have been written earlier since it mentioned things like Khrushchev and communism with references from the 60’s. Baldwin was a product of his time and early on he understood the social stratifications that particularly African Americans faced in this period and further on. He advocates the need for social change but through the students.
Furthermore, He shares how education shapes students and determine their identification in the world, society. In my current class for multicultural pedagogy we talk about many things that have to do with race and background, and there is a lot of overlap in other classes that mention similar things. I have never been oppressed in the ways that Baldwin mentions but as educators we must learn to look beyond our understanding because even though it may not affect us directly, things that Baldwin mentions affect others around us. What he emphasizes is that conforming to this would be just as bad as those who aim to oppress. So, we must fight for it “The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.”
Baldwin also talks about through education students can challenge and question things for themselves. Personally, I am a strong believer in morals. I believe education as a tool for awareness and to fight social injustices like the things Baldwin talks about. As a history student, I understand the cold war may have influenced in the progression of civil rights in the country, but the history of oppression has long existed throughout the world as well as in the country. As a society we need to acknowledge and recognize things like this in order for us to move forward, as Baldwin shared “It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”
What is YOUR vision for the education of youth?
My vision for the education of the youth of America is to create an open space where all types of people feel welcome. I hope to establish an environment that is positive and welcoming, in which no student feels discouraged for their race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or social class. As an English teacher, I have the opportunity to provide texts that promote this idea of acceptance and co-existence and that is exactly what I intend to do in my future classroom. By making a classroom with this as my goal, I think this would help students understand themselves and the world around them better. I intend to help students become open-minded members of society, who practice being kind and moral above all else.
How do you plan on getting this across to students? Plenty of teachers strive for this, and sure, we all tell them on the first day that bullying will not be tolerated, but in a classroom of 25-30 students, how can we actively suppress toxic behavior? Not only is it impossible to hear everything that happens inside the classroom, but there are more and more ways to communicate outside the classroom, and on a similar note, there are some people who have a twisted sense of humor, and it may sound like they’re being awful to eachother, when they’re actually joking. Obviously not every student who says something awful is going to be joking, but how to we tell?
My name is Ashton Gray, I’m a senior English Education Major at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Baldwin’s quote,
“One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely… an educated person,” suggests that once a student gains an education they are duty bound to contribute and add collaboratively to society. Gaining a conscience only suggests that you are no longer a part of the masses, as information is processed through your own world view and out put in the actions that as a citizen of America you take, one must be ready to act on the thoughts and passive ideas that occur to change society. Resultantly, gaining an education is a privilege that must not be taken lightly as civil rights are suggested to be carried out by educated masses. I would argue that those who take their education with an agenda that it is a tool for the facilitation and shaping of the future.
I am Adriana Rodarte. I totally agree with you that education should not be taken so lightly. As educated people we need to put our skills in play in order to create a change in society. I liked how you phase we we become once we have become educated. We are no longer part of the masses, and therefore with our higher skilled thinking and as future educators we will help our future students think outside the box and question our society in order to create a change.
Hey Ashton, my name is Angel Blanco I’m from Long Beach currently attending CSULB. I also believe the quote you pulled is very powerful and like Baldwin shares. He writes how strongly he feels about this not only using education for social mobility but also, those with it have a responsibility to take initiative and use it for the greater good shedding light into many of the problems that exist in society in general. Educators should prepare all students to really make this transition possible by creating awareness.
Great Post Ashton,
Your view on the importance and role of educators couldn’t be more clear. I’d like to think that every educator thinks this way but unfortunately we all know that isn’t possible. But for those of us that do take our role as educators seriously, we play a vital role in shaping the minds of students that need role models and need to be supported in order for them to find success in anyway they’d hope for.
In considering the political climate of modern America, I believe that the discussion of race and social justice are far easier topics to discuss with young people given the increasingly progressive atmosphere we inhabit. I particularly like the comment “you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal and the most determined resistance” to describe how vastly different the experience of each individual is within the system of humanity. By using this “fantastic and brutal” terminology, Baldwin encourages discussion, even when it is not pleasant or within the realm of comfort because being uncomfortable and honest is what breeds change and progress. I agree that there is a great lack of vision within the school system of our country, and that it is rooted in the desire to achieve a specific standard of averageness. The lack of vision resides in the system’s suppression of creativity and individuality in teaching practice, school practice and progressive disciplinary technique in favor of harsh punishment and guidelines. I would counter this pervasive lack of vision by advocating for my classroom as a progressive, creative, open space in which discussion and new practice is welcome. I believe in mindful approaches to discipline that never take a child from the learning environment as punishment, rather focusing on the healing aspect of personal issues in order to best aid the student to contribute. I will engage in practices that demonstrate the value of each individual student’s voice and opinion. I will allow students to share and provide them with tools that best advocates for themselves within the context of the English classroom. I will continuously counter the lack of vision by being forthcoming with my own vision for education with my students so that they are knowledgeable about the importance of the texts we examine, read and reflect upon.
Great post! Where are you writing from? I especially like your comment of ‘being uncomfortable and honest is what breeds change and progress.’ I believe this to be true for many advocates of social justice. The need for change doesn’t stem from comfort, it stems from wanting something better which can be met with a lot of resistance at times because people will often challenge what they don’t understand. Another part of your post I found interesting was the mindful approach to punishment or disciplinary action in class. While I believe it is true that you should avoid removing someone from the learning environment if you can, there are instances where I think its necessary such as if that person is an immediate threat to the safety of others in the class or themselves. Although I’d love to hear more about mindful approaches that can help with any disciplinary issues with students. I like your vision of focusing on the individual student’s voice and connecting that to the curriculum. Thanks for sharing
Thanks for the post! You have some inspiring goals set for your classroom regarding equality of education, and creating a safe environment for your students where everyone is heard and their experiences and opinions are valued. I agree with your comment about the lack of vision in the school system and the “desire to achieve a specific standard of averageness.” We need to push all students to exceed at a level that they didn’t think was possible and guide them along the way. We need to empower the youth to speak their minds and be confident in themselves to use their voice and that relates to your goals within the classroom, creating a “progressive, creative, open space in which discussion and new practice is welcome.”
I agree that there is a lack of vision in our public education system but I think that it starts with the appointment of non-education related professionals to the school board and other positions of power. If I am to do my job effectively, I do need to evaluate the students progress, sure, but having so many standardized tests and so much restriction all imposed by people who have never studied behavioral development or effective teaching strategies really negatively impacts an educators ability to focus on teaching the material, especially when in some areas you have to maintain a certain pass rate to keep your job.
I find your commentary on our education system’s lack of vision very interesting, especially your statement that its source is a “desire to achieve a specific standard of averageness.” I love your wording there. I have always been very interested in and concerned with standardized testing and how we measure success in our students. It seems as though your vision for your future classroom places value on the parts of learning that are not being tested, just as my vision for my future classroom does. When people think of physics, they do not often think of individuality being of high value, but I’d like to change that. As you said, a suppression of creativity has caused a lack of vision. I want my students to know that there is room for creativity and individuality in science.
I really appreciated your use of the phrase “a specific standard of averageness” to describe the lack of vision within our country’s school system. As a future science teacher, I am constantly thinking about the “how” and the “why” as I create lesson plans. Therefore, I feel encouraged by the increasing incorporation of “nature of [science/math/english, etc]” activities that are becoming more prevalent amongst some of the newer public school state standards. However, while the written standards are a great “step 1” when considering inserting purpose and engagement into public education, testing students’ TRUE understanding of these standards has proven to- as you said- result in a measurement of a “specific standard of averageness” with no consideration of the unique persons being tested. In our teacher preparation courses, we learn concurrently about making education individualized while also being taught that we must teach effectively enough so that ALL of our students satisfy the same standards using identical methods of state testing. I often wonder what individualized assessment might look like at the state level, and what sort of problems and solutions wold arise from the students being assessed in the same formats that we are taught to teach them.
My vision for the education of youth is a broad but aspiring one. I hope that in the future the youth can learn and participate in the classroom without being scared of what their peers might say. Their is such a negative stigma on being a “nerd” or “bookworm” and I know that it holds back a lot of children from embracing their love for literature and learning in a public sphere. I hope that more youth get into reading, writing for fun, possibly even poetry more, in an age where it is so easy to get caught up in your phone and video games. A lot of kids go straight to their phones and game systems when they get home from school, there is time for that, but it would be beneficial if they were continuing the skills that they were learning in school and practicing more. Also exploring new texts that they might not read during class, and jotting down ideas for what they think about daily can help them start to realize what type of person they are becoming and their likes and dislikes. I hope that more classrooms become anti-racist and more welcome to different religions so kids can feel like they can relate to certain texts and feel more comfortable in the classroom, a sense of belonging. This would not only inspire their want to learn but also keep them grasped into said information. I hope of a future where students ask for help more when they need it. Too many times when I was in school I would see my peers just sitting around not doing the work because they did not know how to do it, but they also did not want to ask for help. Maybe out of fear of being laughed at by their friends, or just laziness. This is not ok, but making the classroom setting welcoming and letting the students know that it is ok to be wrong or not know the answer would definitely help with this. Just an overall embracing, caring, welcoming, positive, encouraging and loving setting in the classroom is my vision for the education of youth.
Thank you for sharing about the need for students to fully embrace their love for learning, without being possibly scrutinized for it. As a future teacher, this is a notion I have not fully-considered; thus, I am grateful for the opportunity to critically evaluate my position on this, and how I can help students to feel more comfortable in the leaning environment, and confident to express the intricacies of their academic talents. Moreover, it i s disheartening to consider the prospect of students not wanting to participate in class activities due to the fear of being laughed-at. I agree with you, it is important to set the expectations at the beginning of the school year, that bullying, and laughing-at others will not be tolerated. I agree, it is completely acceptable to be wrong, and students should be taught that we learn from these instances.
Thanks for sharing,
Hello Tyra! With your first point of stigma around words such as “nerd” and “bookworm” I find it interesting that often these terms are applied as students get older and more segregated with reading levels. In the very first stages of education (kindergarten, first grade), students are all collectively learning to read and write together- therefore that learned behavior and connotation to those words have not begun yet to form. This behaviors I believe are also reflected in learned attitudes toward social justice issues. With your idea (like most of ours), the vision is to create a safe environment that does not leave room to create these stigmas and negative behaviors.
Your vision of education stood out to me, because you mentioned how technology can be a distraction to a student’s time for learning. I agree with you on this observation, because I have also experienced it myself while being a student in college here in California. There are many distractions in our world that confines humanity to not think creatively about certain issues. I like how you suggested that we need to jot down daily notes for ourselves like a daily reflection which will benefit us to develop in more ways not just intellectually. Personally, I am a poet, and have always written down notes to myself to think about life differently. Poetry does help people to find their voice, and express themselves in a way that is liberating. I can see your connections to Baldwin’s talk to Teachers when he states that, “the purpose of education is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself”(1). I hope that you can create in your classroom environment the welcoming space for your students to open up and learn that you speak about.
Hello-my name is Matt Robertson. I am a graduate student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk VA with the intention of being an English teacher. I am currently a school librarian in a private school where I would also like to teach.
One of the primary challenges I would face as a teacher in my school with regards to the Baldwin quote is that a large portion of the students are from the white majority population. I don’t believe many of these students would agree “that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society”. I think that many of the students in my private school have had less hurdles to overcome to feel as if they belong to society. In many ways our society is built for these more privileged students. I do believe that one of my primary challenges as an English teacher will be to energize these students to understand why the second part of the Baldwin quote is a charge for them to take up. They aspire to be educated people and so it is their responsibility to change society. Hopefully through their classroom experiences they come to empathize with members of our society who come to consciousness feeling at war with society and become change-makers within their communities to make our society more just.
You make an excellent point; in which, the quote may not resonate with certain populations, especially those in economically, and racially privileged ones. It is hard for others to critically analyze someone else’s perspective, when all they have ever known is a void of strife. However, I do believe, that they can learn about the in-depth meaning of the quote, when taught. However, a surface-level teaching method would most-likely not suffice. They would need a thorough understanding, along with specific examples as to why exactly someone in the marginalized population would feel this way. Numerous, examples could be given.
I completely agree with you, that our society is socially-constructed for the direct benefit of already privileged people and students. All standardized testing methods consider the privileged population. As you mentioned, we do need change-makers in our society, because it is critical that we start developing a more equitable and valid environment for all people.
Thank you for sharing your response,
I appreciate your comments. I agree that it needs to be a deep dive with regards to teaching methods that get to the heart of what it feels like to be an individual in a marginalized community. The class texts will play a dominant role in providing structure to a curriculum that “flips the script” on the content provided by the typical literary canon. How refreshing would it be to focus solely on texts written by and featuring members of marginalized communities? Although I see reasons for hope in my school’s English curriculum, there is always more work to be done in this area to expose our students to more voices and perspectives.
Hi Matt, my name is Daedre and I am a student in the single subject credential program at Cal State Long Beach in California, studying to teach high school math. I appreciate your recognition that the students in your private school have had less hurdles to overcome and thus may feel a disconnect with Baldwin’s sentiments, and that this will be one of your primary challenges as a teacher there. Society, as you put it, is built for these more privileged students. This is congruent with the statement from Baldwin’s A Talk to Teachers when he conveys the feelings of the non-dominant groups, and how those groups come to realize society is structured precisely NOT to benefit them, but someone else. Addressing this in yours and all of our future classrooms will be imperative.
This idea brings me to a reading our class did earlier this semester, How Does Your Positionality Bias Your Epistemology, in which the author states “Through recognizing and analyzing the culture in which we are positioned, and that therefore cannot help but mold our world views, we take steps to become more aware and more objective. We come to know the world more fully by knowing how we know the world,” (Takacs, 2003, p.29). In other words, recognizing how our own positionality shapes our epistemology is the first step in understanding that of those around us. This is an essential component of becoming the culturally responsive teachers we strive to be. Takacs goes on to state “Only by listening to others can I become aware of the conceptual shackles imposed by my own identity and experiences.” I feel this ties in with your hopes to create a classroom experience for your students which will enable them to empathize with members of society outside their own domain.
I agree with you that having students from privileged backgrounds whose physical attributes fit the mold of the dominant culture in society can make it difficult to see a need to “be at war with society”. How can we expect our students to empathize with minorities or underrepresented groups in our country if they do not personally understand the struggles and inequalities that they have faced? Well, in my opinion, that void of understanding is what James Baldwin believed should be at the very core of our educational system. It is of the utmost importance that a multicultural curriculum be deployed in these environments so that they are constantly informed and reminded of the role of race and culture in the history of our country. James Baldwin believed that “teaching the real history liberates all, not just that minority group” and that is why it will be so beneficial for students of the demographic of your school to be taught in a way that challenges them to critique the society that they live in. It will benefit both those who are suffering (or who have suffered) from society’s inequalities as well as those who have not by educating them on accurate historical truths and the unfortunate aspects of our society that has led to those inequalities. Eventually, it will be the responsibility of these students to make a positive impact and change in our society and that starts with how they are being educated today. Thanks for sharing!
jyedse435–I appreciate your words. I love the Baldwin quote about “teaching the real history” and the connection you make with a multicultural curriculum. We are lucky to live in a time with so many diverse voices being published and as teachers we only have to look so far to bring these important texts to our students. Hopefully this growing trend in publishing will continue to snowball into an avalanche of multivoiced, multicultural literature.
Hi Matt. What I think is important for our students today is that they are CONSTANTLY exposed to others’ culture, experiences, etc. Most of us accepted the current white-washed curriculum as normal because that is what we were exposed to for so long. What’s to stop us from doing that with non-white cultures? The more we read Native American texts in an English or history class, the more it becomes normal to see, hear, and think about their experiences. Also, one thing I have learned about adolescents is that they value their teachers opinion very much. Whether we want to admit it, we do have some control over what our students choose to believe (for the record, teachers should not intentionally do this, but you can’t help it from happening). Knowing this, we have the power to present different narratives and our students start to see the relevance in them because a trustworthy person introduced it to them.
It’s difficult to ignore the fact that the structure of education can sometimes have a negative impact on the perceptions of children who may perceive themselves as non-dominant or even non-traditional students. It’s important for educators to acknowledge that reality in our students and that our students wrestle with notions of this of this negative reality and learn to cultivate a positive conversation so that their voices can be heard and grown within the classroom and within the community they live in. The experiences may be diverse across cultural and ethnic boundaries but in terms of being seen, or not seen, carries a particular veil or weight that is shared in those communities and it is important that those voices are heard.
Good point!. I think the culture of and structure of public schools often reflects the larger society. This society that we currently live in still has issues with race, religion, and personal identity which can all affect how students see themselves and relate to others. I think the job of the educator should be to liberate students from any bias’ and make them feel comfortable just being themselves and being able to ask questions about why things are the way they are. Teaching critical thinking skills and incorporating multicultural education can help all students appreciate their own identity, background and individual voice within the classroom. thanks for sharing
My name is Lindsay, and I live in Southern California. I totally agree that education can sometimes have a negative impact on how children perceive themselves. I am a math tutor, and my students are very “real world” smart, yet they look at their math scores and think that they are failures. I think this can have a huge effect on how they perceive themselves. Also, the design of school is not for everyone. Some students love to move around and work with their hands, and I think that traditional schools don’t normally allow or celebrate that. I think it is hard because although teachers might have great ideas, they still have to follow certain rules from higher-ups.
I like what you said about cultivating positive conversations in our classroom in order to counteract this negative perception.
My name is Rachel Strasburger, and I am from the Huntsville, AL area; and, I will be responding to the following question/quote:
“What are your thoughts about the following quote? What do you think Baldwin meant? How does this connect/disconnect with your own experiences in school?”
“One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.”
The quote reflects the reality of our current educational climate and educational policy. The unfortunate awareness, that is essential to be empowered as a critical thinker, comes with a cost. The cost, being, the internalized disappointment of reality, that almost feels uncontrollable. It is a deep frustration, that you want others to understand. I infer, Baldwin means he is frustrated with society, and realizes most are not conscience to the mistreatment of African Americans. Most are not conscience to realities of being under-privileged; and if they are, they are not concerned with the welfare of others. It is a paradox, because once you are free, it is almost as if you are in a prison of your own mind. You cannot escape the lingering thoughts of wanting to live in a more equitable society. Being a member of the oppressed and marginalized population, it is hard to escape the stigmas that others have cemented, surrounding you. Further, when Baldwin says, “you must find yourself at war with society..” he writes this concerning how the dominant population does not seek to understand or help the marginalized; typically, they aim to remain dominant. The marginalized population has been historically silenced. Baldwin suggests, it is the marginalized population’s duty and responsibility, if concerned, to make the difference. Thus, I do agree with Baldwin to an extent, and believe that if I view myself as an educated person and am unhappy, that it is my responsibility to make the change. However, I disagree to a certain extent. The reason being, it is difficult to challenge dominant ideologies, especially with the holders of such having vast control of educational policies, politics, and the media. Nevertheless, this quote connects with my own experiences, by way of, I felt marginalized, and excluded from certain spaces. I have even been blatantly told that I do not belong, because of who I am. I did see minor changes settle into my life as I began to stand-up for myself, by not allowing others to tell me who I am and what I cannot be. In a way, it personally confirms Baldwin’s quote in my life.
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My name is Dana and I am a Single Subject Credential student at California State University, Long Beach. I really enjoyed reading your post because you brought up a lot of important aspects of Baldwin’s quote. Something that really stood out to me from your response was that although you agree with the quote, you also disagree to an extent because it is hard to stand up to dominant ideologies. This is a concept I personally really struggle with. I have had a lot of education on social justice and culture and how to be culturally responsive, but it can be scary. As “educated people” we do become prisoners of our own minds like you stated. We see all of the bad that is happening around us, but it can be so difficult to challenge something that has been going on for so long. Although it is scary to have the needed conversations, it is so necessary. I believe that if we, as future educators, surround ourselves with a system of support in our fellow educators, we can help make the change that needs to be made.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Rachael…..Thank you for sharing your heart and being real. As I read and listened to Baldwin I heard his heart and his passion and when I heard the statement “when a man develops a conscience he will find himself at war with society” I had to ponder on that for a moment. My question concerning the statement is who is he aiming that towards. In your thoughts, you have pointed out that it is directed towards the marginalized thus it is they who stand at war with society and you did an incredible job explaining your point of view. In some ways, it seems that education can take us to the place that we don’t want to go instead of helping us reach the goals we have in life. Education, in my opinion, should free us to live out those dreams and to take hold of the future with courage, and allow nothing or no one to stand in our way.
I completely agree Rachel. Referencing Baldwin and your overall response, with awareness comes responsibility. It’s disheartening with such an awareness, and feeling educated but unable to take radical action that will amass to a more crucial change, that the feeling of defeat is far more common in this realization to circumstance and especially conscious awareness of a quote like this. However, I also feel like that is exactly what Baldwin is speaking to. Students/readers/educators can feel this way or they can take action, even if it’s something as simple as continuing the conversation and that’s how, at least to my interpretation, movement’s in society get momentum.
My name is Jason and I am from Southern California and attend CSULB. I think you brought up a great point about how most people are not conscious to the realities of being underprivileged. For a lot of people, it is difficult to relate to or have a full understanding of something like being underprivileged when they have never experienced it themselves. It is so easy to turn a blind eye to facts that uncomfortable to deal with. Or, like you said, even those that do recognize that there is an imbalance of power and access in society do not care enough about the welfare of others to do something to make a change. In my opinion, those who have gained the knowledge of these inequalities and are not emotionally disturbed and determined to do something about it have not been truly educated in the eyes of James Baldwin. Of course, you pointed out that standing up to make these changes can be difficult when the dominant culture seems to have a stranglehold on educational policies and politics. That is exactly why it is so important for us as future educators to “go for broke” and try to change this cyclical nature of regurgitating mainstream ideologies and give each individual student the feeling of safety and self-worth when exploring their true identities. It will be our job to give a voice and stronger sense of agency to the marginalized population in our country and being emotionally invested in each individual student is the first step. Thanks for sharing!
My name is Daniel and I’m in the Credential program at Cal State Long Beach. Your post and interpretation of Baldwin’s work really resonated with me. It can be hard and frightening to stand up for yourself when you feel marginalized, especially at a young age when you are embedded in a school setting that expects you to assimilate to standards you may not have experienced before. I grew up in a Mexican-American household in a largely Latin/Hispanic community in Los Angeles. As I grew up, I finally was able to grasp that stigmas followed me around because I allowed them to and never spoke up against them. After high school, and once I began attending college, I was finally able to stop using stigmas and stereotypes that helped pushed me down. I stopped being apologetic for the color of my skin and the culture that made me who I am today, and I can not see any other way for me to finally be at peace and happy within myself.
Hi, my name is Shannon, I am in the Single Subject Credential classes at California State University, Long Beach. I believe that everyone is educated differently and because of that difference, the world you see may be very different from the world of the person next to you. Now keeping this in mind, education needs to have choices and no one should be educated with only one choice to learn from (or one perspective) and then there’s the question, if you are being educated through one perspective, if you agree with the perspective, is it because it is what you believe or is it because that is what you were taught to believe. This is why it is up to you, to get a variety of perspectives on the issues that you are passionate about and areas you want to learn. It is how you will truly develop as an educator.
As a future history teacher, I must be able to teach my students in different ways. Not just different modes of learning through like presentation or video; but through many different perspectives. History is known for being very Euro-centric because when we first started teaching it, everything we knew and studied was based on something that a white male wrote. But now, students need to hear about events in history from multiple perspectives that we now know about. For example, when teaching about American slavery, instead of just reading about it through the eyes of the white men slaveholders and Northmen, we now can see it through the eyes of the African American Slave (enslaved or free), or from the white man’s wife who sneaks food to the slave children. Now, students can see how an event unfolded in multiple perspectives and through this, they can understand it deeper while also experiencing the different cultures. A teacher needs to be able to show her students the great big world right through her little classroom. She much teach tolerance and understanding of the world and how it is comprised of many different races, ethnicities, religions, and cultures. It is vital that the teacher teaches them that everyone is equal and no one is better than another.
One time that I felt that one of my teachers failed to teach an understanding of different cultures was in my 7th grade Language Arts class. My class was learning about Anne Frank and her diary and the textbook had a play based on passages from her diary. My teacher assigned roles for almost everyone to read. I was a shy student then and didn’t like to read out loud. However, once my teacher had gotten to the final and most important role, “Anne Frank,” she called on me to read her part and said, “Shannon, why don’t you read the part of Anne Frank since you can relate to her so much.” I was shocked by this. Yes, I was Jewish, but what else did I have in common with her? I had no siblings, I did not like to write, and I DID NOT have any family in Europe during the Holocaust. My family from both of my grandparent’s sides came over right before World War 1. So why did she think I should relate to her so much? Because of preconceived notions about Jewish people. She believed that just because I was Jewish, I could relate to someone in the Holocaust. It was then that I really wanted to become a history teacher because I wanted to be able to teach my students about the different cultures of the world and to have them understand them and their people in return. I wanted to teach understanding and how to treat everyone equally without stereotypes so that in the future, another kid won’t get embarrassed as I did. None of my peers in the class ever forgot about that and I was teased for being Jewish and for being like Anne Frank, even though I’m actually not.
As Baldwin states, we are “intolerably menaced, by lack of vision,” I fear that students will grow not with the evolving tide but against it. With all of the scrutiny of today’s world, the children who are our future are being influenced by the chaos in the world and by the media. I will strive every day to teach my students how to be accepting of anyone and everyone and I hope to be a constant bit of joy, comfort, and truth in their lives. If the world and the media put bad and menacing thoughts in their heads, then we as young minds educators must teach them to block it and be the best they people they can be.
Shannon, thank you for sharing the real raw experience you felt within you history class. It’s remarkable, the experiences that shape us when we are children. I am constantly amazed at how rapidly the world is changing within the classroom due to students who aspire to do better. It is that spirit that will drive the next generation to critique our practices standing up for the education and civil rights they perceive they are due. I am encouraged by your audacity and moxie to place acceptance and respect into the hearts of young people around the country. Keep with it.
Ashton Gray, ODU
Thank you for sharing this provoking and personal narrative! I am studying to become an English teacher, but I have always had a deep love of history. I want to know more about the beautiful and diverse people around me. I also seek to be better equipped in order to introduce students to multiple perspectives. It makes me think about how James Baldwin is addressing the gross mistreatment of black students, but this in a way is a single story narrative. In my ‘The Teaching of Literature’ class we are learning about ‘the danger of a single story’ which is a TED talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am applying it to other parts of my life as well. I recently read the Declaration of Independence for an America history class and I was shocked to read not only about the sections about slavery that were omitted, but also the parts of the text that are hostile to Native Americans. Not to mention the fact that women are not truly or clearly included in our nations definition of liberty. This is my way of including multiple perspectives. I am glad that we will have thoughtful teachers like you in our future!
I think you bring up a great point about perspective. Your story about your history teacher was interesting in that it showed how narrow her world view was on different cultures and religions. In her eyes she may have thought that she was attempting to pull you out of your state of shyness but in reality was pushing you further by allowing her bias or shortsightedness show itself in the classroom.
I’m glad there are still more individuals still interested in teaching history. It is an ever growing subject that is increasingly more important every day.
That’s a really tough story you share about your history teacher comparing you to Anne Frank. Happy that you have taken that incident and transformed it into a force for good in the world that moves beyond stereotypes to embrace the special qualities of the individual. Best of luck in your teaching career!
Hello, my name is Courtland Gates, and I am an African American male. I currently reside in Huntsville, Alabama seeking a Masters in Special Education. I am from Roanoke, Alabama, a small country town bordering Georgia’s state line. I want to premise my reflection by sharing that I thoroughly enjoyed “A Talk To Teachers” by James Baldwin as well as the YouTube selection featuring his ideas on education. I am intrigued with Baldwin’s connection of social consciousness to an immediate war with society to protect one’s body and identity. I agree with Mr. Baldwin’s stance. Before children reach an age of maturation, their perspectives are relatively innocent, of course cases vary. Very view toddlers rationalize what their subconscious observe daily and their confidence, participation, and friends usually convey this. As the conscious presents itself to innocence minds, one cannot help but notice the vastly different realities that exist amongst the diverse communities represented in the classrooms. This is a confusing and uncomfortable period of time for children of color.
I recall a time where I was forced to adapt and gain acceptance from my elite advance peers, who were predominately white, as a result of high test scores. I recall only reading text that presented my race in a demeaning or a dependent state. I regretfully remember an incentive school trip in which a group of my white classmates began to scream racial slurs at an African American driver with seemingly no consequence but being told to settle down. These instances are damaging to the mental stability of the youth and reinforces a false identity that is often times accepted without proper guidance. America and evenly as important our school systems should not be a place where people of color have to work twice as hard to break even. This ultimately informs the children to accept half of everything, as stated by Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between The World and Me. I’ll conclude by stating, my goal is not to gain pity from any potential reader but to give insight to the idea presented by Mr. James Baldwin. However, I desire the reader to know that the identity of people of color will continue to be attacked through generational textbooks and traditional learning environments. As educators, it is imperative that we be more flexible and inclusive in hopes of protecting each students’ dreams, each students’ confidence, and each students’ identity.
Hi Courtland Gates, my name is Esbeyde Sanchez. I am from Anaheim, California and am studying for my credential in music here at CSULB. As a Latina, I have had experiences as well where I felt pressured to assimilate to a dominant white culture, and my most negative memory of any part in my education- was when my immigration status was question by a Band Booster parent- and then told I would taken off the list to go the trip. He assumed that I was, as he directly stated, “a liability” and could not go on the trip, even though I had finished paying it off already. He had not even asked me about my residence status before he made this ‘decision’ (FYI I was born in Garden Grove, California). To this day, that was one of the most hurtful educational experiences I had ever had. This was supposed to be a fun trip for the jazz band performing on a cruiseline- I did end up going, after going through the process of defending my place to attend to the trip. This experience is what truly came to mind when I read the word, “at war with your society”. I agree that moments like these can be damaging for mental stability, as they were for me. However, I ALSO agree, that these experiences are not shared for pity, but rather to generate understanding that situations are real- and can be prevented by taking the time to be human with students.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Mr. Gates. When you recalled a situation where your “white classmates began to scream racial slurs at an African American driver with seemingly no consequence but being told to settle down,” it resonates with a familiar situation. It aligns with the concept of “boys will be boys” where negative behaviors perpetuated by young men is deemed as acceptable and without consequence which may enhance the feelings of entitlement and the lack of understanding to a particular privilege. I believe that sharing and exposing these experiences gives those who have trauma the opportunity to be validated when at the time, it’s mostly internal processing. Literature states that young minds begin to notice the impact of societal nuances early on, like in Mamie and Kenneth Clark’s “Doll Study” in the 1940s which helped Brown v. Board of Education (1954) on the effects of segregation. As a woman of color, I am consciously working to unlearn the social stigmas on myself and others and continuously learn how to find my place as a person and a future educator. In terms of multicultural education, we have to be critical to provide our students the skills to think critically and be proactive in dismantling benevolent racism and sexism.
Thank you for sharing such a personal and provoking example of your life. I am particularly interested in your inclusion of the word ‘flexible’. I too would love to see our societal views become more flexible. Society is prone to shift, but I believe that firm and strong individuals that are grounded in simple and basic truths about the world and the way that we we can change the future for our children is something that can also be flexible. We need a continued call to action. I am challenged to consider what I am doing to achieve this better future. Thank you for your commitment to special ed students, another marginalized group.
My name is Melissa and I am a student at Old Dominion University. I have so many thoughts about the quote that it is difficult to put all of them into words. Not so good for an English major, but I feel like this is a heavy duty topic. I did, however, put together a collection of thoughts rather than a polished essay.
“One of the paradoxes of education was that precisely as the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person”
We all go into education with the intent to make a difference in children’s lives. I say children, not child because I have never bought into the whole “if I touch one person then it was worth all the pain/struggle/ etc”. My job, our job as educators is to reach all of them on some level using every trick in our bag of tricks, every tool in our toolbox. Sometimes we have to fill our bags and toolboxes with experiences that we learn through trial and error as we go because textbooks and classes can only offer so much guidance. It is difficult to not cave under the pressures from school board and society. The pressures to not fail a student, to teach to the test without teaching to the test, to keep up with pacing guides, are very real. Over time, after trying to keep up with all of these pressures and feeling like a failure, you will reevaluate.
You realize that you are not doing these children justice by focusing on test scores instead of mastery. You realize that you are not teaching, you are simply regurgitating information because there is no time for anything else. You realize the state has it all wrong.
Therefore, we have to do better by these children. Ideally, we could push against the state requirements and teach our content, maybe not to complete mastery, rather than to the test. There has to be an end to these often unrealistic requirements. It has resulted in our children reciting information instead of learning it and applying it. We owe our children more than that.
I remember when I was in school, I attended a Catholic school. We took the Iowa Basics tests every year but our teachers taught us a topic until we got it; there was no moving on because the state said so. We need to return to that.
Hi Melissa, my name is Daedre and I am a student in the teaching credential program at Cal State Long Beach in southern California, and I am studying to teach high school mathematics. I really appreciate your comment that it is our job as educators to reach all of our children on some level, using every trick in our bag. You are absolutely right, and we do need to fill our bags with as many tricks as possible, that is precisely the reason that forums like this one, where we can share with educators from all over the country, are so useful. I also happen to be a mother to 4 boys, and have had the privilege of knowing many of their teachers over the years. It’s those teachers that try to connect with the kids, on any level possible, that ultimately have the biggest impact on the students. It’s true that we may lose sight of this once we are dealing with the pressures and politics of our new jobs, including as you mention the pressure not fail our students and the temptation to teach to the test. If we can keep in mind our purpose and passion for the education and the children, we will achieve our highest potential and so will our students.
My name is Dana and I am currently a Single Subject Credential student at California State University, Long Beach. I am studying to become a math teacher and I would ideally like to teach at the middle school level. While I was reading your post, I really resonated with your idea of making a difference in all of our students’ lives. It is very easy for teachers to fall into the idea of “if I touch one person..” as you stated, but it really should be our goal as teachers to reach as many students as we can. It is difficult because there are a lot of politics and hierarchies in education, but this is something we should all really strive for. I also appreciate that you mentioned the injustice of focusing students on test scores rather than their overall development in our content areas. This can be difficult because a lot of pressure is put on teachers to get their students to the proficient and advance levels of testing, especially in subjects like English and Math. I am hopeful that with the introduction of Common Core, schools will start to look at the overall development of their students rather than judging them based off of one assessment.
Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts! I really enjoyed reading your post!
Thank you for your heart-felt response to this topic. I too believe as educators we go in with the intent to make a difference in students lives somehow, regardless of content learned. Our educational system puts so much pressure on teachers to have a curriculum that can be retained and projected out onto test scores, which does not define a student’s learning achievement fully. I observe too the pressures to not fail as a student, and when they graduate they are not equipped with the basic skills to keep a job or balance a check book. I currently work at a trade school where we provide basic life skills to learn trades and apply to college. These students are first generation college attendants, and they are challenged by having to relearn some of the social structures that the educational systems builds for some minority groups James Baldwin talks about. I agree with you on how to learn by trial and error, and to find meaning in the learning content beyond what the teacher instructs and what is read in the text book. I hope that you can provide the practical learning tools that you describe in your response. Best of luck to you!
I am James Pike from Huntsville, Alabama and I am 53 years old and I serve in the Special Education Department in the Huntsville City Schools. I have two grown chidren Hannah and Tyler. I have a wonderful son-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren. I have a blended family and that story is for another time. I am a Baptist pastor and have been for 18 years. My B.S. degree is in Theology and I am seeking my Masters in Special Education (K-6).
Courtland as I read both of these same articles I am definitely challenged to be an educator who seeks to see all students succeed instead of fall into the pits of our morally corrupt society. As a poor white boy growing up in rural Alabama in the early ’70s in an all-white community with a family who was devout Christians and lived before me what truly the Golden Rule was to look like. They also taught me what it meant to Love my Neighbor as I loved myself meant. My parents are the greatest people I know. I admired James Baldwin’s writings but I didn’t agree with his attitude towards white people as a whole when it came to Christianity. I will be the first to tell you that white people in some areas especially the South live with their heads in the sand when comes to equality and racial prejudice. I am pastor and my first church was in South Alabama in a small town in Baldwin County. This church was small in number and for a student, it helped me do what I loved. As you would see in these small towns there would be black churches and white churches but they never mixed. I didn’t believe that way and when I started going door to door I started to get to know the white folks and the black folks. Over a period of time, I began to get to know the community. I would go to the black church after my service and they would treat me like royalty. I would set upon the platform with all the elders of the black church. After that was service was over they would go to my church. This started a battle that I never intended to be in. Little did I know that the church I pastored had a history of members who own slaves and I found this to be true because I found the records. They had a segregated church. The blacks slaves set a section designated for them. They weren’t allowed to mingle with the white people, which is still appalling to me today.
As I began to reach out to the schools I led this little church to go to the school and host a block party at the school. We had black kids and white kids all mixed together. We had a great time. I was invited into their homes and I eat with them and cried with them through some hard times. During that same week, I hosted some revival services where I invited a guest evangelist to come down and preach. Low and behold my new black friends who I had built a trust relationship came because I invited them. I had mixed families and when I say mixed I say blacks and whites and blacks and Muslins who came. We saw the love of Christ tear down the walls of racism that held this community apart. I spent many hours with my new friends who saw Jesus in me and the love I truly had for them. I was called by many of my peers in the area a radical charismatic and they didn’t agree with my theology but I knew it was much deeper than that. They didn’t like me becasue I was doing what they didn’t have the guts to do. Baldwin said it took guts for a black man to get an education. But does it really? What we need are guts to stand up for what is right for all people. However, that all sounds good but I would fight against racism hard in this church. I rebuked members for using the “N” and told anybody who could find in the Bible that Jesus said that it was wrong for whites and blacks to marry to bring it to me and I would believe it but I had no takers. I left the church because they told me they weren’t going to change which hurt my heart. I had the Black lady who was married to the Muslim man told me she wasn’t going to come back to my church because it was causing me to much pain. In response to her, I told her that was the kind of pain I was willing to endure. I can only pray today that her husband who seen Jesus in his wife and me will be heaven with me.
People matter to me and whether your a poor white, poor black, rich white or rich black person we all bleed the same blood. We all are created in the image of God and all people deserve the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Baldwin is right to some degree about education, but I believe education starts at home. It wasn’t at the schoolhouse or the church house I got my education it was in a little country house in the middle of nowhere that I learned how to live, work, read, write, love, and respect people regardless if they were different than me. What we need is more parents going for Broke instead of putting the pressure on educators. We want our children to think on their own then the foundation starts at home. What we have today is not an education problem or even a race problem we have a parent problem. The only pressure I feel today as a white man with a blended family is to be the best husband, best dad, best grandfather, and the best Christian I can be for my family first and for others second. If I can’t impact my family I can’t for sure impact others.
Hello James Jeff Pike,
Firstly, thank you for sharing such a personal story with us, it warmed my heart to read that you are one of the people who examples “going for broke”, especially when you went into detail after the discovery with those preferences in that church. “It was the pain that I was willing to endure” was an incredibly powerful statement that resonated with me- I wish to have had a mind and heart like yours during certain times in my education when I was belittled and discriminated. However, I have hope for the future of teachers that will continue hopefully to continue work like yours- tearing down racial barriers, especially in education.
My name is Lindsay Sepa, and I am a 28 year old credential student in Long Beach, California. As a Christian, I definitely felt the same when I read what Baldwin wrote about his experience with Christians. I definitely do not think all Jesus followers act the way that he said, however, I do think that ALOT of them do and this was probably Baldwin’s experience. I don’t want to get into all things religion, but there are so many people who fall under the name “Christian,” and that word holds so much that I don’t even like calling myself that most of the time. I usually just say I am a Jesus person.
I experienced a lot of what Baldwin did with Christians and how in a sense they acted hypocritical..etc. and I almost left the church because of it. If it wasn’t for my involvement in Young Life where I truly met people that had a faith I could follow, I probably would have left the church. Anyways, that to say, I agree that not all Christians are like what Baldwin experienced and I am glad you said something. However, I do believe that a lot of them are, and that was his experience.
I also like what you said about education starting in the homes, but what about the children who grow up with parents who are not there either physically or emotionally? I do agree with you in that that pressure should not just be on teachers, but I do think education does hold some of that responsibility.
Maybe working out both would give the most benefits? Just thoughts…
Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed your post!
Hey James, I am Angel Blanco and I am from California currently attending CSULB. The story you share is very powerful and inspiring. In these times sometimes things like you shared can inspire people and bring communities together in the way it can and should be. Despite the barriers and the institutional structures that exist in the world, I believe in order to create change, we must be willing to “go for broke” like Baldwin shares and you have mentioned. Our society needs leaders educated and not to really take those risks and take a stand for what they believe in and addressing something that is not right. I could relate to a similar story when I was younger in middle school that involved a kid who was being picked on because of his orientation- the way he dressed- I ended up deterring the aggressor by simply using my influence and physical presence. At a young age, I was surprised looking back and fairly proud of myself for doing things like this at a young age, it serves as a foundation for me to really take on the role of an educator that seeks to influence and advocate for changes. We need more leader advocates like you to really aim for changes in our varying communities.
I am a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white presenting Native American, Jewish female Masters Candidate in Secondary Education with a specialty in Biology transplanted to Huntsville, AL from Denver, CO.
I disagree with some of the statements of Baldwin. I feel that public education is not a racist institution. Many of the institutions of this country were built in an effort to level the playing field between different socioeconomic groups and have been retrofitted by modern society to be universal for all skin colors. I feel that the leaders within that institution and teachers are racist or biased. It is painful to see so much racial division in the discussion of the problem. Though I belong to some non-dominant group, this intersects with the dominance provided by my skin color.Therefore, I am considered by my contemporaries of skin color related non-dominant groups to be the problem. Frequently, I am treated as such. One such discussion about me, the white woman, as the problem occurred in one of my classes. This man was discussing aspects of African-American culture and shaming white women for not being accepting of “black men with their hands down their pants” and finding that threatening. He went on to state that we, as in white women such as myself, should learn to understand that a male standing in public with his hands down his pants on his genitals is ok and should not be viewed as a threat to safety. I wonder if he has ever been sexually assaulted.
I wish there was more focus on the solution. I do not feel that the appropriate long-term solution is further derision nor division between groups. I also do not feel that the solution lies in assimilation of different cultural groups. I do not like the melting pot analogy. I do not feel that different cultures in America must lose their individuality to fit into society. I prefer a salad analogy. Every part of the whole retains their flavor, their shape, their color. However, you put them all together and add a bit of light dressing to it making it a cohesive dish retaining all the pieces of the parts.
I half concur with you. The institution of education itself is not intentionally racist and there is an active goal to improve education for everyone with an emphasis on urban and minority education largely because it is the urban and minority environments/student collection for which modern education fails to help the most. That said, education fails on a much broader scale than just at the urbanized level. I think I’ve come to understand this in my own way and, as a partial, result of how education failed me but also because of the ways that I caused that to happen, despite being given access to the traditional line of success through my, genuinely, family of educators (both immediate and extended). As a side point, I used to say that education is the family business but it’s probably more poignant to say that education is the family culture. Unfortunately, I spent most of my youth rejecting that and I had to bear the consequences ever since. Privilege is valuable and, in our society, the privilege of highest value is effective education. I totally agree, though. It’s not a white, suburban or rich thing (though that definitely helps because it presents access to more resources to support learning because of the cultural value learning/education has within these subcultures and educational development is a result of those who cared to value and develop it). Unfortunately, for me, a stable learning environment came from my peers & friends so I could transfer schools where my family could better guide the environments/teachers that I learned and developed under. This resulted in a ton of other issues that ultimately disrupted my education. Still, that’s my own short comings. Put most others in my shoes and they would have thrived.
“for me, a stable learning environment came my peers & friends so I could NOT transfer”
Hi Megan. Although I can see the point you are trying to make, I respectfully disagree with it. The educational system was built in an inherently racist way from its very beginnings through racial segregation. Although we wouldn’t necessarily say that the policies set in place force racial segregation in schools today, there is still the issue of segregation in schools today. The racism perhaps stems in the ways that its policies are being enforced. Often times, racial minorities fall through the gaps simply because the system set in place does not meet their immediate needs, be it English language development, extra tutoring, or even something as simple as an afterschool program. That, I believe, is the point that Baldwin is trying to make here. He is coming from the position of a man who witnessed firsthand the systems failure to meet racial minorities’ needs, and the barriers people of color faced (and face today) in trying to achieve social mobility.
Hello Megan. My name is Dominique. I definitely believe in everyone being entitled to their opinion, but as a female, Christian, heterosexual, African-American, black-feminist, single mom, pre-service, undergraduate candidate in English-Secondary Education, I wholeheartedly, yet respectfully, disagree with your statement that education is not a racist institution. It is also unfortunate that you believe many institutions in this country were built to “level the playing.” Institutions only “appeared” to level the playing field to make people believe that is what they were doing. For example, if you examine the concept of the “American Dream,” you will find that the hegemonic class never actually intended for the laboring class to get ahead. What did happen, and what continues to be perpetuated, is that they sold the laboring class this false dream of upward mobility through hard work only to make it appear that they can get ahead. In reality, the laboring class, on a large scale, could never get ahead because they do not own the resources needed for them to be able to get ahead. Furthermore, they are barred from having dealings in areas that would allow them to get ahead.
The same can be said for education. Many non-white people believe that they can get ahead in life by getting an education (they can to an extent). What they may or may not be aware of is that there are barriers put in place for non-whites to NOT be successful. The New York Times published an article that cites a study conducted by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau. They followed the lives of black and white boys from wealthy backgrounds and found that even though both races of boys grew up with similar backgrounds, once they reached adulthood many of the white men maintained their socioeconomic status while that of the black men dropped significantly. The study cites outside, changeable factors as the culprit. Even when black men attempt to better themselves, they are met with barriers that exist in this country’s racist institutions, most notably, the one where they spend most of their time-school.
The very fact that this discussion board exists helps to prove racism is and has always been in education. If education is not racist, then we never would have had to integrate schools. If it were not racist, there would not have been the Little Rock 9, Ruby Bridges, Larry P. vs. Riles, and, since you live in Huntsville, Sonnie Hereford IV. There would also be no Desegregation Consent Decree being handed down by the U.S. Dept. of Justice to Huntsville City Schools. Yes you are right: racist school leaders and teachers fuel racism, but they only perpetuate what was already built into our schools. Additionally, if you believe that society is reflected in our schools, and it definitely is, then education HAS to be racist since racism exists in our society and it most certainly existed during the establishment of our education system in America.
I do agree with your analogy that America should be more like a salad than a melting pot.
Check out these sites for some good info:
The New York Times’ 1619 Project
Hello all! My name is Nicole and I am a 9th grade English teacher in Winston-Salem, NC.
Baldwin is shaping the way that I think about teaching writing by helping me consider why it is important to give my students a voice in social justice. Baldwin expands on the notion that there are groups of people wrought with silence who NEED to have a voice in order to take their lives back, their country back, and ultimately their identity back. He makes me think about the ways in which writing can give the voice to the silent child who still doesn’t understand why their lives have been shaped as such.
I can use writing as a way to give students a platform to speak about their lives and their communities. It’s a way for them to find out how to dig the truth out beyond what their textbooks tell them and to look closer at their own histories and communities, thus helping them understand their own identity and shaping the adults they will ultimately become.
Note: I live in the 5th largest city in NC, yet with today’s political climate I feel like I’ve stepped back into the backwoods of NC’s past. Race, minority, and low socio-economic issues are at the forefront of conversations on local news outlets. There is a lot of public response to current issues that make one feel like they’ve stepped back into the Jim Crow-era. As a teacher in a Title I school, I am realizing that just as much as Baldwin called for a voice from the silent and oppressed 50 years ago, it is my duty to help my students find theirs now so that they can tackle the community that is closing in around them and trying to push them back out.
Thank you Nicole, I appreciate your acknowledgement in how influential writing can be especially for our students who need a voice or for those who haven’t found it yet. It’s an intimate way to recognize the inequities on a micro and macro scale to empower students to be proactive “disruptors.” I’m a teaching credential candidate for Health Science and the backlash or removal of health related programs is discerning for me especially for Title I schools where funding is always an issue for LAUSD. I’d like to learn more about how or if you have those conversations with your students on how the climate is taking a step “back into the Jim Crow-era.” I think English and History teachers have more opportunities to dive into these challenging topics.
Thank you for your post! I am a currently a student at Cal State Long Beach working to get a credential in Physical Education. I too think it is important for students to find their voice. I like your idea about “writing as a way to give students a platform to speak about their lives and their communities.” It is a way for them to think critically about subjects they might not feel confident just yet in speaking about. I hope in physical education I can help students find the confidence to speak and learn through each others experiences and understand the value in themselves and their peers.
I love that you are reevaluating your methods of teaching writing. I am especially passionate about giving the students a voice without fear of test scores and learning standards. I have found that many writing prompts are so generic that they can almost seem like a waste of both the teacher’s time as well as the students. An example locally is the cell phones in schools prompt. I feel like telling someone downtown to give it a rest, move on. Find something more significant to get these children to write about. The prompt appears year after year and the kids are bored with it. I sometimes wonder if districts are afraid to dig too deeply into social issues- as in the old adage “ignorance is bliss.” If we refuse to acknowledge social injustices, do they go away? Just imagine the things that can happen if we give the children a voice with no restrictions!
I’m Gracie and I am currently in the credential program at Cal State Long Beach. I think it is great to here from people like yourself who are teaching now in order to get a better understanding of what it could be like for us still working to get our credentials. I liked that you mentioned the importance of using writing to allows students to find their own voice. It is so important for students to have a platform to speak their own truths. It is important for us as teachers to give our students the history of their communities and the tools to implement change within them. I am working to become a history teacher and I think there will be many opportunities to teach students about the history of injustice in our country and show them how history has shaped the society we live in today. Giving them insight into why our system is so unequal will help them make changes in their own communities.
My name is Alexandra, and I am currently at UNCG to become an educator. The part most important about this quote is the fact that it relies heavily on one’s conscience. However, I feel Baldwin fails to understand. that the human conscience is taught through education and familial morales. Not only is Baldwin talking about being academically educated, but also he is stressing the need for our students to be morally educated as well. Your conscience relies on the assumption that you have been taught “right” from “wrong”. This is problematic because what is “right” and what is “wrong” is not only sometimes trivial but also at times controversial. There are many things in life that are black and white, yes or no, right or wrong answers, but some fall in this weird gray area. This gray area derives from home education where families bestow their own morals into a child. No families morality is exactly the same. From this quote I feel his definition of “educated” doesn’t expand to umbrella all intelligences.
I think the point is social/cultural connectivity. We need to strive to work better with and believe in others no matter their group/cultural background. It is through that process that society was built. In the words of the Care Bears: sharing is caring. I think it’s kind of apparent that society sucks at both caring and sharing (when it comes to those we don’t know). This has, generally, left a huge portion of society (with plenty of brilliant minds) kind of get left behind in the process.
Story time! I used to run the club soccer team and, the semester I (and most of the rest of the team left), the reigns were handed over to an enthusaistic but incredibly dependable Hispanic from Santa Maria, California (Jairo). He was an engineering student that almost decided not to go to college (just because). CSULB (California state university of long beach) has an incredibly supportive club program, called the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) who helped support and give him access to a much better college education/opportunities. He did a number of internships at MIT during the summers and winters and, last spring, he graduated with his BSME (don’t quote me) in Mechanical Engineering as well as (quote me) a scholarship to MIT to fully cover the cost of a PhD in Robotics. Jairo almost didn’t go to college. At college he found a society that offered him, to put in unpopular terms, privileged education. All that really means is that he had good educational guidance and the wherewithal/motivation to follow through on the opportunities made available to him. So, the point, I suppose, is that if Jairo had grown up 10 years before, when the college had less value in Santa Maria and there was no SHPE to help guide his education, he would have just been another average student with untold potential. Kid could have just as easily been a car mechanic on a whim despite having the genuine mental capacity to work & develop Teslas.
I don’t think there is a right and wrong in here. I think there is a need to raise the value of education in underdeveloped areas, like Santa Maria, so that kids like Jairo can help society grow & develop. Right now, the majority of them don’t even go to college. I think that’s what Baldwin is generally arguing for. Help the Jairos get to college because it”ll benefit everyone.
Alexandra, I find it awesome that you chose to critique Baldwin instead of taking his points and running with them. To that degree, I understand that your premise suggests education and familial upbringing are vital instruments within the forming of the conscience. I think that as a teacher one can educate not only academically but also morally, and socially. Students will take away more than just the lessons you taught from textbooks, but also will learn the way you carry yourself and see the example you set in class and outside of class. Solid post!
What an interesting concept, it’s hard not to bring this into consideration now. One’s upbringing (aside from the education they get in the classroom) is bound to be an essential component in how one’s perceptions could differ and overall develop on the topic of morality. After looking at your response, this quote may be fitted for general interpretation but as you mentioned, likely to be hindered in regarding education in the broader sense of what goes into the span of a student’s development.
Hello! My name is Hannah Ficklin and I am a preservice high school English teacher from the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Before I begin student teaching next semester, my professor has asked my class to read “A Talk to Teachers” by James Baldwin. Here are some of my thoughts.
I am sure all of you find yourself as daunted by the task of creating a “vision for the education of youth” as I do. I think we are rightfully daunted if you share this feeling with me. I recognize going into this profession that I have both the opportunity and responsibility of teaching my students. Obviously, we will read, write, study and listen to the English content I will present, but more likely than not, the lessons that will stick with the most will be the ones I teach them about being an adult member in this society, both through explicit and implicit instruction. Like Baldwin says, society depends on those who make changes to propel it forward. Knowing that I will work with students months before they are thrown into joining society or going against it. My vision for the education of youth does surround preparing students for civil life, but not to always conform to it. I will teach my students to stand up for themselves by teaching ways to intellectually enter the conversation and how to behave so that your words are taken as your words. I will teach them to question things is something does not seem right. I will teach them that despite what many people have to say about argumentative writing, all writing is personal, and so too should those which argue their points. I want my students to know that simply by entering a society, they should have a place in it and if they don’t, I will show them how to make one.
I liked reading your vision for your students. I also feel the immense weight of responsibility that will be handed down to us as educators. We are responsible not only to our students but to their parents, school administration and the community as well. I think that your vision aligns neatly with the concepts of passing down critical thinking skills to our youth as they learn to navigate a world dominated by the constant flow of information and social media. It is important that they be able to think independently of that constant feed in order to be the change that they want to see in society.
I agree completely with your vision for the education of youth. Not only do we, as educators, want to give students the tools to succeed, but we also want to give them the ability to decide for themselves what they believe and what they think is right. Many people view school as a place where kids become brainwashed by whatever popular belief is most prominent in the town. For me, going to a school in a small town, everyone believed in the same thing and if you veered from those beliefs, you were seen as a bad person. It is important as educators that we do not let students grow up thinking this way. Despite our own beliefs, we need to help them understand that they are entitled to be whoever they want, regardless of who agrees with it or not. This concept often gets lost, because people don’t like to get into controversial topics, but teachers should be encouraging such things and bringing light on all kinds of issues in the classroom. By doing this, we allow students to coexist in a setting where different opinions are valued and different beliefs are still heard. We teach them how to have civil disagreements, which is important in this political climate these days. By avoiding hard topics, we create a stigma around people who do not think the same way we do and this sends the message to students that they can only get along and be friends with people who worship the same god, vote for the same president, have the same background, etc. even though it is extremely wrong.
I like that you say you would teach students to stand up for themselves and how to intellectually take part in conversations that are hard to have. It’s a great skill to have in and outside of the classroom, one that many people lack these days. Teachers need to teach students how to be upstanding citizens, who have respect for others while also willing to stand up for their beliefs. That, I think, is the key to creating a successful, contributing member of society. Out of differences of opinion, we have gotten so many good things and teachers should always be encouraging this.
I enjoyed reading your comment. I feel the same way about a lot of the stuff you mentioned. Thanks!
-Rylee Toler, ODU
I am a current AAMU graduate student, and I will be responding to the following discussion question:
At the end of the essay, Baldwin writes: “I don’t think anyone can doubt that in this country today we are menaced — intolerably menaced — by a lack of vision.” What is YOUR vision for the education of youth?
I agree that students should learn knowledge, such as their alphabet and numbers. Students should also acquire skills such as counting money and critical thinking. However, education needs to speak to the affective domain as well. Students and teachers are people. Although it is an evident fact, it is often overlooked because test scores and other achievement criteria are usually at the forefront. My vision for the education of youth is filled with hope, high expectations, and freedom. We must teach and prepare the “whole” child to enter adulthood.
Students should feel hope that their tomorrow will be better than today. During interactions with students, I have noticed that many of the students lack self-confidence and support. As educators, we should encourage our students to strive to reach their goals and obtain significant accomplishments. I plan to use daily affirmations as one way to uplifting my students. Through my field experiences, I have realized an inspiring word from me could be the only one my students hear that day.
High expectations can drive students to attain great success. Furthermore, we must meet our students where they are and help them to reach and surpass those high standards. Educators must be able to teach students at all achievement levels. Additionally, we must celebrate personal growth and victories to captivate and enrich our students’ educational experience.
Freedom should also be granted to students in their education. Baldwin mentioned that many parts of history are omitted or modified. I disagree with this practice. Students should be given the freedom to explore topics of interest and initiate debates and discussions. We should not shelter our students from reality. Knowledge empowers individuals; therefore, we should provide and facilitate safe spaces for learning and growth. As mentioned in the article, Let’s Talk: Discussing Race, Racism, and Other Difficult Topics With Students, it is our responsibility as educators to fulfill such duties. It is also essential to teach and require respect in such settings. Upon leaving our classrooms, our students should be better equipped to engage in everyday life activities with all individuals, even if we do not necessarily have the same views. We do not have to agree with everyone, but we should at least respect them.
Hello I Jenk…..I say yes yes to your philosophy of teaching. Some days as I am in the classroom I wished I could take some my students home with me and just care for them as all students deserve. We have become do bogged down and pressured to perform as teachers we have missed the mark of what education is all about. One of the greatest teachers I ever had challenged me to excel and work hard everything I did in life regardless what I was doing. Education is a preparation for what is ahead of plus it’s a reminder of where we have come from. I like you believe we need not to hold anything back from our students. We learn or should learn from the mistakes of our past and through our tragic mistakes we dare not to ever go there again. How do we do this? One student at time. One class at time and One day at a time. The words of Proverbs 23:7 says“For As a man thinks Within himself so he is….” so let us encourage this generation to see who they are and who they can become.
Hey everybody! My name is Vanessa and I am from Los Angeles, CA currently studying at Alabama A&M in Huntsville, AL. After reading Baldwin’s essay I have a deeper commitment to making good use of the platform I’ve been given. It is true that we as teachers spend a large amount of time with our students on a daily basis, and it is critical to the overall success of the African American student to see success represented and their history correctly taught. Social justice has its place in education on all levels and we as educators must find appropriate ways to incorporate lessons on being a responsible citizen and caring neighbor.
My vision for education of today is an environment that encourages students to take an active interest in learning while education them on practical ways to succeed in life. My dream is to create a learning environment that fosters the educational development of all students and providing opportunities to explore career paths and personal interests. I want to create and environment where all students feel welcome and capable of achieving their best; where African-American and minority students can be given the same opportunities denied to them in other settings.
I am working in the technology field presently, however my current field of study is preparing me to meet the needs of a marginalized community within education; the special needs community. While SPED and IDEA are topics buzzing within education there is a serious need in many areas for reform and improvement to the services provided currently. My goal is to offer a program that meets the needs of this community as well. It is a large undertaking, but as Baldwin said in his essay “ we must be willing to go-for-broke”.
I love that you pointed out the importance of placing an emphasis on creating a space that accurately and positively represents African Americans. I think a lot of schools, although very progressive, forget to actually change their curriculum and their lesson plans to meet the needs of all diverse students. Like you stated, there needs to be more time and energy put into discussing social justice issues as a class, so that all students feel like they have a voice and like what they say carries value. With how whitewashed history and literature has been and still is, students need to have better forms of representation that do not play into stereotypes.
I like your vision and how you mention that you want to create a classroom where African-American and minority students feel like they have the same opportunities. Teachers often forget how much power they actually do have. The way a teacher runs a classroom and the standard they set for their students will reflect the students’ abilities to be successful and have hope in themselves to do their best.
You had many excellent ideas and thoughts and I truly enjoyed reading them!
Rylee Toler, ODU
Im Gracie and I am currently in the credential program at Cal State Long Beach. I agree that we have the opportunity as future educators to take action and give our students the opportunity to make changes in their own communities. You made a great point by stating we need to allow our students to see their own histories in the curriculum and to teach it correctly. I am working to become a history teacher and think this is so important. Most schools teach the Eurocentric narrative in history, one that focuses on the wealthy, white perspective. As a history teacher, I can implement many different perspectives and give my students the skills to question the society they live in today. I can provide the reasons why our society is shaped by our past. I think it is important to by inclusive and incorporate each student into the curriculum to give them all a voice and place value on their individual experiences.
Baldwin is talking about a specific group of people that are struggling with education, and it is based from him only seeing the struggle through a specific lens. We can say that his reach is narrow and not focused on a whole set of groups that are struggling with education but it is hard to tell someone to see it from different perspectives if they never have experienced it before. Even in the beginning Baldwin says he may be making an extended reach by talking about how teachers can do their classrooms but he was going to tell his opinion from a sort of perspective of a motivational speaker. It can be considered as a teacher in a sense, but it is mainly focused on getting their audience to see something new.
My vision for students are to inspire the stimulation of asking questions where they do not understand, and find different techniques that will help them acquire these answers. Learning is an ongoing process where students need to find solutions to the questions that they think of throughout the course. I want to help students draw their ideas and go through the process of finding how their thinking leads them. The vision for students is to be confident and comfortable with asking questions, so that they will not feel ashamed of not knowing every answer. This ties into Baldwin asking the question of how can teachers go beyond these issues for certain groups, even though it is based around a specific kind that he may have witnessed firsthand.
– Jasmine in North Carolina
As an educated person and also has a future educator, I feel like it is important to understand who is sitting at the desks in your classroom. Educators have the future in their classrooms and for that small portion of each day of the week, you have the chance to shape their minds. I believe that as an educated person, I do have a responsibility to change society, not all of society, but the portion that is sitting in my class. While in my classroom, my students can only learn if I am educating them. I can teach students texts all day long, but it is the skills that I teach them that will help them contribute to society. I have spent several years gaining an education and now I will take my education and use it to teach my students. It is then up to my students to take their own education that has been taught to them and use it to change society.
Sabra from North Carolina
My vision for the education of youth is one where their own creatively unique individual voices will be heard. Rather than being squandered by societal pressures and adults who no longer have a say in the matter of how their life is or should be. We often forget about the world outside our own bubble and focus and home in on petty trivial squabbles amongst ourselves, such as who is president, what did the Kardashian do, and who is who in entertainment and media. We often forget the basic morals that we stand on and tend to forget that the students look to us for an understanding in learning; not an understanding in our own personal agendas.
My vision is that we go back to the ideology of speak once and listen twice. To listen to our fellow neighbors with an open mind rather than suddenly assume they are wrong due to not believing the same as we do.
Camille in North Carolina
Baldwin’s essay helped me visualize what I perceive to be my vision for the education of youth, and that is most definitely quality over quantity. I want to ensure that the youth get the absolute most out of a lesson, unit, assignment, or whatever it may be rather than simply completing the task, accepting a grade/evaluation, and moving forward. I believe that classrooms should consist of smaller amounts of students, as teachers who are teaching 15-20 students as opposed to 30-35 students will be able to ensure their students are obtaining the knowledge and learning instead of doing the bare minimum to get by. These smaller amounts of students will make time to approach students individually much more plausible for educators, and I strongly believe that both grades, as well as comprehension of the curriculum will vastly improve. This will also benefit SLL, gifted learners, as well as all learners as smaller class quantities will mean that teachers can adhere to specific needs of their students a lot easier and swifter than the enormous classes they are currently having to juggle, as three-four classes of 30 students a day is an easy 90-120 students that a teacher has to make sure are comprehending the material that is being put out and this is quite stressful and intimidating. My teacher vision will ensure a more beneficial learning environment for students as this is highly important, however my vision is also to help guide teachers as this learning process is difficult for educators to balance as well and this ideology of quality over quantity will make creating comfortable classroom environments for both teachers and students a reality, thus signifying the pattern of the “circle of life” that schools consist of, as the students keep the teachers afloat and vice versa, making for one important circle that must be held together by learning under what i think would be the most beneficial mindset, and that is without a doubt “quality over quantity.
Kyle from North Carolina
My name is Natalie A. I’m currently a senior at University of North Carolina in Greensboro majoring in English Education. I just want to give a few thoughts on what I think about Baldwin’s quote. I agree with Baldwin’s quote on when developing a conscience you find yourself at war with society. (I would argue that we are born with a conscience but that’s neither here nor there) I think we look at history in any area of the world we see that we as a people have always loved doing what benefits us the best and often that tends to be evil and selfish (because we only care about ourselves and not others). So when we see evil in the world being praised as righteousness and we find ourselves disagreeing with it and seeing it for what it is, we then are now fighting with society. If you think of any great social change or civil rights hero, they were completely at war with society in every aspect of the word. I think is especially applicable today where if you don’t think a certain way or believe a certain you are labeled as an evil human being who wants to only hurt others. If society deems you evil (often times when you’re not, thought don’t get me wrong their are the exceptions) it’s often because you are striving to do the right thing. In my own experiences in college, I often don’t speak my own separate opinion towards a teacher because I have experienced a teacher trying to fail me because I disagreed with their viewpoint, which is never right. I think almost everyone in the world can attest to have facing that problem.
My name is Dazcha Mitchell-Davis and I am a High School Educator. I wanted to answer the question on my VISION for my students. My whole purpose rather philosophy for teaching is ” Restore, Teach, and Prosper”. In this day and age so much of our nation and societal views are miscontrued; we have a difficulty acknowledging who we are and what our purpose is as educators. I have ran into various people who often give up or are burned out by their students. Some even have a difficult time wanting or desiring to inspire and develop youth that do not look like them or resemble and cultural similarities. My vision for my students is a 3 step process; 1. Restoring the student as a whole. Implementing strong positive role models and self awareness and identity back into the individual. Providing with the necessary resources and steps to help HEAL the students and restore a sense of excitement in education. 2. Teach – implementation of positive views of one self, build the student back up as whole. Ensuring that each aspect of life for the student has a positive light shinned upon him/her. Building character, high critical thinking, and teaching basic human kindness. Lastly, Prospering I want to watch my students prosper and continue to build upon the fundamentals that they have learned. The best feeling in the world is to watch your babies (students) grow into the open minded, loving, and respectful humans and be able to teach others to want to follow in the same foot steps.
I really enjoyed your response! What you said truly resonated with me because I am of the firm belief that building positive relationships with students is so incredibly important. Your vision sounds absolutely wonderful because not only is it student-centered but also culturally responsive as well. Much of what you said reflects what I am currently learning in the teaching credential program at CSU Long Beach. Your focus on the more human aspect of teaching is such an inspiration! Many times, we are taught to only think about what skills and content knowledge we can teach to students and completely forget that they are still so young, impressionable, and learning. I absolutely agree with you that seeing your students grow, both academically and personally, is an amazing thing. Even though it can be heartbreaking because you’re also saying goodbye, I am constantly reminded of the fact that I believe in them and that they have such a bright future ahead of them. Not only are they advancing forward in their education but I know that they will become amazing human beings/adults later on.
Good evening my name is Jazzalyn Ballard and I am obtaining my Master’s Degree at Alabama A&M University here in Huntsville, AL. When it comes to the text of James Baldwin I can say as a black woman I can agree to most of what he is saying. As a 9th grade teacher in a Title 1 school, I do believe that you “go for broke” when trying to educate new generations. When Baldwin said this, I think he really meant that as a passionate educator, you will end up taking on the burdens of your students. Many times I find myself caring for my students and going the extra mile when it’s nowhere titled in my job description. Current generations are raised by technology, young parents, multiple siblings in the house, or a one parent household. When you allow all these circumstances to come into play, many students come to school because it’s the law, to get a meal, or to escape from home situations. As an educator, you find yourself taking on a child’s outside problems while trying to educate them at the same time.
“A talk to teachers’” can be perceived multiple ways. An educator I believe Baldwin is expressing what is really going on in America and how it affects a black man growing up. I believe that non-dominant groups of people are fully aware of what is going on in America. It’s no surprise that black men and women continue to come up short no matter how hard they try to succeed. I believe that some lines stated in the article may be an eye opener to some but not most. This behavior towards blacks has been going on for decades. Towards the end of the essay, Baldwin expresses that we are “intolerably menaced.” As an educator, my vision on the education system for the youth is clear; cut back technology. I believe that technology has robbed most of our students from reaching their full potential. Textbooks, pens, pencils, and paper is what most schools are lacking. I understand that we are in a world where technology has taken over such as no longer having to use a key to open our front door at home. In the school system, kids need to know how to use textbook by searching topics in the table of contents, or turning to the index to find a specific word. Education needs to be more engaging inside the classrooms. Everything is done individually on the computers with very little collaboration in the classrooms. Teachers should be forming relationships with their students and pushing both academics and personal life growth. The education system is completely different from ten years ago and I believe we should go back to some old practices. Currently in my classroom I allow my students to have open guided discussions with me. This means, weekly I pick a topic in which they are interested in and we discuss it. This goes over well, because it allows the students to see that everyone has and is entitled to their own opinion. My students allow me to know when they don’t understand a standard or if they don’t feel comfortable taking a test at the moment; because our line of communication. This type of feedback allows me to grow as an educator and a woman at the end of the day. So my biggest take away would be to build relationships with your students and never count a student out of his or her education.
Greetings! My name is Breona Lawrence and I am a first grade teacher in Huntsville, Alabama. I am currently studying Early Childhood Education at the prestigious Alabama A&M University.
I will be answering the following question
Baldwin argues that, “any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible — and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people — must be prepared to ‘go for broke’…you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance.” How might you consider a social justice and antiracist curriculum in the current political climate?
I agree with Baldwin’s agreement, I believe that as educators we must set a foundation that focuses on equality and justices. Teachers should ensure that they are embracing a vision of social justice in early childhood education. By teaching social justice in your classroom, you give your students the opportunity to engage in authentic examination of their world and make positive changes. As an early childhood educators, I believe that educators should create lesson plans to teach and open discussions for social justice. With this, students will learn how to value and appreciate other peoples views and opinions. A social justice curriculum will teach students and give them the opportunity to have equal access regardless of their race, culture, gender or sexuality. I believe that a social justice and antiracist curriculum will require teachers to become more knowledgeable about other races, cultures, genders and sexuality so that they can properly teach students how to value others. I believe that this can only happen through authentic modeling.
My name is José and I am a student at Cal State Long Beach, and I agree with your comment. I also think that social justice is an important issue that should be present in education. I am a teacher candidate in history and I believe that history allows students to learn about so many cultures. The curriculum in history allows teachers to teach about different people, and civilizations. Therefor I would assume that implementing social justice into my future class can be possible. I say assume because unlike yourself, I have yet to teach a class. Furthermore, I also believe that people should be able to “value and appreciate” each other, which is an idea that is not very relevant in America today due to various global events and due to our own governments rhetoric. Teaching young adults (and children) that diversity is positive instead of a negative can create solidarity between people in a time when wars, discrimination, and divisive discourses are present throughout the world including the United States.