An examination of how curriculum choices can perpetuate White supremacy, and radical strategies for how schools and teacher education programs can disrupt and transform racism in education
When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum isn’t an anomaly. It’s a systemic problem that reflects how Whiteness is embedded and reproduced in education. In Reading, Writing, and Racism, Picower argues that White teachers must reframe their understanding about race in order to advance racial justice and that this must begin in teacher education programs.
Drawing on her experience teaching and developing a program that prepares teachers to focus on social justice and antiracism, Picower demonstrates how teachers’ ideology of race, consciously or unconsciously, shapes how they teach race in the classroom. She also examines current examples of racist curricula that have gone viral to demonstrate how Whiteness is entrenched in schools and how this reinforces racial hierarchies in the younger generation.
With a focus on institutional strategies, Picower shows how racial justice can be built into programs across the teacher education pipeline—from admission to induction. By examining the who, what, why, and how of racial justice teacher education, she provides radical possibilities for transforming how teachers think about, and teach about, race in their classrooms.
Picower (What's Race Got to Do with It?), an education professor at Montclair State University, delivers an impassioned and well-documented look at how racism becomes embedded in American classrooms, and what can be done to root it out. Assignments that ask students to "identify the positive and negative aspects of slavery" and textbooks that remove references to Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan are not "random, singular examples of poor judgment," Picower writes, but evidence of a "broader system of racism" in U.S. schools that actively harms students of color. She explains how standard curricula upholds white supremacy by erasing the actual history of slavery and oppression, and "paint a false narrative of equality"; she then presents case studies of white student teachers learning to "reframe their understandings about race" and become active "co-conspirators" in the project of "dismantling Whiteness." Picower also discusses how to handle "White fragility," and notes the harm white people can do while "bumbling through learning about racism in cross-racial groups." She skillfully combines theory and practice, and draws on firsthand testimony and expert evidence to bolster her case. Education scholars, classroom teachers, and school administrators will heed this urgent call to dedicate themselves to racial justice.