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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24208

Title: Anti-racism in Teacher Education: Rethinking our Practice
Authors: Wane, Njoki
Keywords: anti-racism
teacher education
Issue Date: 2003
Publisher: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Citation: Orbit (2003) vol. 33, no. 3
Abstract: At the beginning of each course I ask students to join me in creating a space where we can engage in dialogue that challenges our opinions, attitudes, values and beliefs; a space where we feel safe to talk about issues of power relations and interlocking systems of oppression. In addition, I challenge students to examine their own biases and stereotypes that influence the ways in which they interact with others (Conle, 2000; Finney & Orr, 1995). The essence of this exercise is to counteract impasses that may arise and create a polarization of ideas. At the outset, I share my belief that I consider instances of conflict or tension within my classroom as moments of potential learning. I also emphasize the complexity of the issues involved, for instance, the course reinforces that there are no easy solutions to practical educational issues. Consequently, I make students aware that rather than offering a "how to list," the course introduces them to different ways of seeing the world. In this way, I urge students to think critically about education as a social and political institutional tool. At the outset, we need to acknowledge that most of our student teachers are isolated from a significant portion of the population they are likely to teach. In fact, they will likely have little or no knowledge of the variety and strengths of people outside their communities. Such lack of familiarity will result in many teacher candidates relying on stereotypical, homogenizing understandings of racial and cultural groups. Assumptions that Aboriginals are alcoholics, for example or that Blacks are criminals, which are justified by the rhetoric that "they have chosen to live that way." Such uninformed thinking demonstrates a lack of appreciation for structural issues, which affect the way in which society operates. More specifically, these belief systems fail to acknowledge that society does not provide equal opportunities for all its members. Ignoring these realities, students from middle class backgrounds feel justified in asserting that "These people need to work harder--I have always struggled to better myself." And hence the myth of a meritocratic society is perpetuated. This biased thinking also obscures the fact that power and privilege are accorded only to select groups, based on social markers such as gender, class, race, sexual orientation and able-bodiedness. Further, many students forget the historical trauma, the legacies of colonialism, slavery and contemporary consequences within which many non-white populations find themselves saddled. There are several barriers that could make introduction of an anti-racist pedagogy difficult: unconscious and institutional racism, systemic racism and stereotypes. Unconscious racism is deeply embedded in an individual's personal belief system and may interfere with an individual's ability to accept more inclusive ways of teaching. We must recognize that knowledge is socially constructed and mediated by sociocultural, historical and institutional contexts. In my view, a school curriculum must present students with socially relevant and challenging new knowledge so that they, in collaboration with their teachers, can engage in a meaningful dialogue and become more informed members of their communities. Maina sees this in four dimensions that include:
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24208
Appears in Collections:Faculty (SESE)

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