Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Rethinking Race In the Classroom

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 3, 2009

[Originally posted at: Newsweek]

The day my ninth-grade english teacher, Mr. Buzzell, assigned my class “To Kill a Mockingbird” still sticks in my mind, mainly because I remember being the only one in the room excited to tackle the Harper Lee classic. Unlike most of my classmates, I’d already read the book about a white lawyer representing a black man accused of rape during the Great Depression. I’d also seen the movie twice (my mother loved Gregory Peck). Mr. Buzzell was a British-born white teacher attempting to explain the complexities of racism and injustice at a mixed-race school in Augusta, Ga., so the class discussions were pretty lively.

Maybe it was because we were in the Deep South that most of my classmates weren’t much offended by Tom Robinson, the black field hand accused of raping a white woman. His slurred speech, substandard English and deference to the white people around him weren’t exactly foreign to many of us who knew elders who’d employed some of those same tactics in an effort to simply survive.

But that was more than 20 years ago, in the ’80s, when rap was just beginning on the streets of New York, Ronald Reagan was president and African-Americans were struggling to land significant positions within government. It is indeed a very different world today, a place where hip-hop dominates popular culture around the world and the president of the United States just happens to be an African-American man named Barack Obama.

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In early January, just before Obama’s inauguration, John Foley, a white high-school teacher in Ridgefield, Wash., penned a guest editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that suggested it was time to stop teaching books that readily use the “N word.” Stories that portray African-Americans as inarticulate and unintelligent souls in need of white America often offended both his black and white students. Foley identified “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men” as three books that needed to be reconsidered immediately.

[Read the rest of this post at: Newsweek]

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