This past Thursday, October 25th, I tuned into the live stream of the AERA Brown Lecture, featuring Dr. Richard Milner and his research on race within education. He discusses the never ending cycle of racism and how it is ingrained within our educational system. He talked about many issues within our curriculum, lack of diversity within educators, and the way educators react to behavior. Although there were a lot of interesting facts shared that night, there were two that stuck with me heavily and I am still picking them apart.
Dr. Milner states that educators must stop sending students out of the room as a form of punishment. When looking at the percentages of our nations student population, less then a quarter was made up of black students. Then looking at the percentages of students that are reprimanded within out of class suspension or punishment, the minority of black students turns into a shocking majority. This shows that our black students are punished by exclusion more than white students. Dr. Milner had a great analogy for this problem: when a child falls off their bike, we as parents do not just take the bike away and tell the student to walk away, no we tell them to get back up, and help them try again. Educators need to start thinking this way when it comes to punishment so they can help the students understand their behaviors and how to handle themselves better for next time. Educators need to start addressing behaviors instead of ignoring them by sending the student away. Teachers are also quicker to reprimand black students over white students, so not only does this need to change, but we need to ask: why does it happen?
The other idea from Dr. Milner that stuck with me may be the root of this problem: avoidance. Dr. Milner states that from day one students are taught to avoid issues like race and gender, due to the fact that teachers fear approaching them. We as humans avoid issues that may be seen as taboo or not normal; so avoidance when it comes to gender or race passes the message along that those are not normal. By educating students on different races, culture, or gender identities educators can start the process of acceptance instead of avoidance. I, as a future educator, plan on using my classroom as a space to teach students about all humans that exist in our world so that way when they go out and meet someone that may be different from them, they do not avoid them, but instead they accept and learn about each other’s differences. Avoidance is the never-ending problem that exists within our system, and its time for change.
For any educators that may be reading this, I highly advise reading the novels by Dr. Milner Rac(e)ing to Class, and Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There; they have helped me expand not only my personal beliefs, but my hopes for helping students within their own self growth.