Tag Archives: educational equity

#294: How Woke?

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Substitute plans laid out in plain sight and handouts ready
that should keep my sophomores honest and hard at work,
I head off this morning to a professional workshop in a district
populated by mostly white kids and staffed by mostly white adults
to have brave conversations about race. Even while the graduation
rate for students of color in our district looks good, and we know
that we are in large part doing a credible job to close the gap,
we know our work is not yet done, that it’s only begun,
that even though my curriculum is less about dead white guys
than it’s ever been, at the freshmen and sophomore levels
including a Native American writer, two Latina writers, a Jewish
American, two Puerto Ricans and one Korean American essayist,
only two dead white women, English and American, and Shakespeare,
we are doing our level best to be inclusive, progressive, to present
a variety of voices and points of view, to offer the lens of great
literature through which to speak to students about equity, about
race, about racism, about oppression, about microagression,
about marginalization, about white guilt, white privilege, allies–
there is no escaping it. And frankly, even in the face of a student
asking me this fall, “is everything we read going to be about race,”
I would not want to go back. There’s no turning back. And I am
fine with that. It is essentially THE American issue, isn’t it?
And yet, I wonder about myself and my colleagues,
once we have checked our assumptions and checked our
multitudinous privileges, and done due diligence to create equal
opportunities for all our students no matter their race, no matter
their class, no matter their gender or gender identification, no
matter their sexual orientation, no matter their creed, how deep
must we go? Knowing we will make mistakes along the way and fail,
how perfect must we strive to be? How much more WOKE can
we get? There’s no end point. There’s no finish line. We keep at
it as long as we go on and it’s exhausting and exhilarating and
exciting and righteous–but heavy, heavy with the weight of
so much justice. As imperfect beings, riddled with our own
contradictions and weaknesses, are we up for the job?

We have to be. We see the alternative at the highest levels,
and we cannot stand for that.

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#73: Unstuck In Time (Don’t Know Much About History)

79-The-Only-Good-is-Knowledge-The-Only-evil-is-ignorance

The student reading a William Stafford
poem mistakes the 1930’s for
The Civil War in America—when, you know,
there were electric elevators.
The first impulse, if only
inside of a thought bubble, is to make fun,
but the second, more reflective response
is a deep sadness. The kid is unstuck in time
and unstuck in culture,
has no idea when the Civil War took place,
probably believes the elevator man in Stafford’s poem
was a slave, and countless other pieces
missing altogether, the result of more
days of school missed than attended,
and the ones attended, for her, ill suited,
and who knows what else in her life
and the lives of her family prevented
her from learning the most basic
fundamentals of American history.
I don’t hold it against her.
Instead, I am angry about the circumstances
that lead to this kind of ignorance,
feel that she has been cheated in some
significant and grievous way
against which I am totally ill prepared
and unsupported to do meaningful battle in her defense.

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