This week is a week in which A levels results were received and many young people start preparing to go to university; school holidays are drawing to a close; and many people on the other side of the classroom, teachers and academics, start thinking about their plans for the new year, too. But this week is not like any parallel week in other years. Sandwiched by fascism in America claiming an anti- fascist death, and the heinous attack in Barcelona, young people and their teachers are returning to a very different classroom than that of the end of last year. This piece is a start of a reflection for those who have the responsibility and a privilege to teach, answering the question: what can we do?
The first thing to bear in mind is that there is no such thing as a neutral classroom. Ignoring topics such as Grenfell Tower through Charlotteseville won’t make them disappear from our students’ minds. So the first mission for teachers- of any subject and all levels- is to consider how they contribute to narratives around us. Is your curriculum all white? Is it all upper-middle class? Is it all male? How do you handle class, race and gender relations in your classroom? If you have always pushed aside these issues, you are not neutral, but you are presenting a façade of neutrality, which is a deeper wrong. There are fantastic resources available for re-considering our curriculums, and it is our responsibility to consider them, especially today.
The second thing to bear in mind is that these are difficult issues and likely to make our classrooms far more challenging, for us and our students alike, than we left those classrooms. That old truism: educate, agitate, organize holds more than ever. This is an easy task ahead, but there are plenty of organisations available for us to consider our tactics, from trade unions to feminist, anti-fascist and anti- racist organizations. Although each of us will face a classroom alone, none of us are alone in the struggle, and none of us will face unique problems. This is a time to remember there is strength in numbers and solidarity will generate more solidarity.
The third thing to bear in mind is that our work is intimately related to our life outside the classroom, as life for our students and colleagues is intertwined. Use the same force and passion in resisting intrusion of fascism and racism to our campuses and schools to discuss, explain and understand where our students are coming from. No one should be made uncomfortable for not knowing; and education is the only way out from this dark time into the light.
This week Barack Obama’s tweet made history with over one million retweets of one of the finest quotes on social justice, from another great anti-racist, Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” We should constantly remind ourselves- and each other- that it is an honor and a privilege to teach, that there is no such thing as a non- public intellectual, and our role is first and foremost to teach love and unteach hate.
For instance: American focused resources: http://blogs.ncte.org/index.php/2017/08/there-is-no-apolitical-classroom-resources-for-teaching-in-these-times; British focused anti- colonialist resources: http://www.newappsblog.com/2015/06/why-is-the-university-still-white.html feminist resources (mist of arts and sciences, and some on feminist pedagogy) http://liberalarts.utexas.edu/cwgs/_files/pdf/resourcelist.pdf radical reading list: https://www.socialism.com/drupal-6.8/educational-resources?q=node/288 anti-fascist reading list https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6FX_x2dbvXqblpZQ3JuUTYxTnM/view these are aimed at academics but contain resources than can be easily simplified and taught in all levels of education.