Education Week - February 17, 2016 - (Page 21)

Beware the Racist Subtext Of Children's Books T By Alvin Irby iStockphoto Given these issues, how should we be evaluating the effectiveness of preparation programs? First, we should evaluate programs by their success in preparing educators to teach an increasingly diverse U.S. student population. We do not mean "success" only in terms of students' standardized-test scores, but also in terms of their physical and mental well-being, as well as their ability to pursue futures of their choice, and interrupt systems of privilege and oppression. Preparation programs should also be evaluated by the opportunities provided in preservice coursework for candidates that allow them to reflect on PAGE 23 > COREY DRAKE is an associate professor and the director of teacher preparation in the department of teacher education at Michigan State University's College of Education. TERRY K. FLENNAUGH is an assistant professor of race, culture, and equity in the department of teacher education and a coordinator of urban education initiatives at the university's College of Education. More routinely, I hear students say they don't have time to read for pleasure. Very few of my high school seniors report averaging eight hours of sleep a night. Family dinners, they tell me, are rare occurrences. Those behaviors, which researchers say are norms for young people, are obviously not the fault of overworked teachers. But how can we counteract such trends, or even criticize them, if we fall into them ourselves? How might educators take care of themselves? First, we can historicize ideas about work and its place in our lives. Toiling long hours, according to historians and anthropologists, is a relatively recent development. Hunter-gatherer societies and subsistence-farming cultures worked far less than do modern Americans; many averaged three to five hours of labor per day. While industrialization begot our modern work pace, social activists and labor unions made the eight-hour workday a political goal as early as the mid-1800s, and they often achieved that end. It has become fashionable to bash unions, and the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, seems likely to erode union clout further by making it easier for teachers to opt out; yet, the fact is that unions have been key promoters of self-care for educators. Second, school leaders can do much more to prioritize teachers' well-being. At the most basic levels, they can ensure that teachers have time built into their workday to think, use the bathroom, and eat lunch. Administrators can shield teachers from unnecessary meetings by canceling them whenever the agenda is inconsequential. Principals also can investigate links between teachers' student loads and grading practices. How many assessments should we be asked to score in a marking period while teaching 80 to 130 students? Online grading portals put pressure on teachers to assign more work, but district leaders should ask how meaningful it is to do so and whether the costs to teachers (and students) are worth the benefits of quantity. Teachers should get time and money for sabbaticals to further their education. We should have, at the very least, some mandated time to stay home with a sick child, take parental leave, and tend to our health and personal matters. Finally, we teachers have to assume responsibility for taking care of ourselves. We need to put down our laptops, stop grading papers, and go for a walk. We have to read books that challenge and deepen our intellects. We should make dinner for our families and find time to enjoy it with them. We should get together with friends and share a laugh. We must ask ourselves questions about how much money we really need. We should show our students, through the examples of our own lives, that they can lead healthy, multifaceted existences and not be slaves to their careers. Taking care of ourselves this way might turn out to be even more inspiring to kids than setting our hair on fire. n CHRISTOPHER DOYLE is the director of global studies at Watkinson School, a private, coeducational, independent day school for grades 6-12. He is also an adjunct assistant professor of history at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. he devaluation of black lives doesn't happen overnight, nor is the process of dehumanizing those associated with blackness limited to a single ethnic group. The stereotypical representations-or omission altogether-of people of color in modern children's literature promote a Eurocentric worldview and value system that denotes nonwhiteness as inferior. Too often, children's books are assumed to have white or animal main characters unless assigned an essentializing ethnic label such as AfricanAmerican, Latino, or "diverse children's literature." Reflecting on the importance of who gets seen, when, where, and doing what in books for children has led me to conclude that children's literature represents one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the fight against bigotry and racism in American culture. Paul Verhaeghen and other social psychologists have used word analysis and pattern recognition to show how reading material influences the adoption of stereotypical and racist views. Other researchers have found that stereotypical word pairings such as blackpoor, black-violent, white-wealthy, and white-progressive in standard American reading material for adults literally prime Americans to be racist. While, to my knowledge, there has been no similar analysis of stereotypical word and image pairings in children's literature, a growing number of people recognize the need for diversity in children literature. A grassroots organization, aptly named We Need Di- " Children's literature represents one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the fight against bigotry and racism in American culture." verse Books, advocates changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all children. After a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2014, WNDB partnered with Scholastic to offer a special collection of diversity-themed books for young people. As a former New York City elementary school teacher, a professional stand-up comedian, and a budding social entrepreneur, I am also working personally to inspire young black boys to identify as readers. In 2013, I founded Barbershop Books, a community-based literacy program that places child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops to increase black boys' access to and engagement with culturally relevant, age-appropriate, and PAGE 22 > ALVIN IRBY is the founder of Barbershop Books, a program that places child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops. Previously, he taught kindergarten and 1st grade in New York City public schools and served as an education director at the Boys' Club of New York. iStockphoto EDUCATION WEEK | February 17, 2016 | | 21

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - February 17, 2016

Education Week - February 17, 2016
Preservice Programs Seek To Head Off Teacher Biases
Black Male Teachers a Rarity
Consolidation Fight Erupts In Vermont
In Cities With Choice, Single- Enrollment Systems Hit Hurdles
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Letting Students Work From Home Adds Policy Twist
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Q&A: Principals Urged To ‘Shadow’ Students
Study: Showing Standout Work To Students Can Backfire
U.S. Manages to Reduce Share Of Low PISA Scores— in Science
Blogs of the Week
Lawmakers Pledging to Keep Close Eye on ESSA Implementation
Obama Budget Doubles As Policy Document
Blogs of the Week
Five-State Study Examines Teaching Shifts Under Core
Kansas High Court Strikes Down Stopgap Aid Formula
State of the States
Increased Accountability of Teacher Prep Gives Equity the Back Seat
Self-Care Is the Educator’s Core Standard
Beware the Racist Subtext Of Children’s Books
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Dispatch From Flint, Mich.: Our Water Crisis Is a Crisis of Trust

Education Week - February 17, 2016