Dr. Amy Stuart Wells
Since we first launched the Reimagining Education Summer Institute in 2016, much has happened in the U.S. to remind us that we are not a colorblind country. The events of August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia are only the latest reminder of this fact.
In 2010, Michelle Alexander published The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, followed by Ava DuVernay’s 2016 film, 13th: From Slave to Criminal with One Amendment. Both of these powerful depictions of the American criminal justice system, along with daily news reports of police shootings, bust wide open any colorblind mythology left.
And still, if I had a dollar for every White educator or parent who told me with great pride about their or their children’s colorblindness, I would be a rich woman. While most of these educators and parents are well-meaning, their “blindness” is not to the color of people’s skin but to the systematic way in which our educational system has tried to ignore the central role of race and culture in our collective understanding of “ability,” “intelligence” and the “achievement gap.”
Education has the simultaneous potential to reproduce racial and ethnic inequality and to transform that inequality into a new way of understanding culture, knowledge and justice. Many of us entered this field because we believed in the transformative potential of education. But too often we try to work toward that potential using pedagogical and assessment tools that work against it. Too many of our current educational policies and practices run counter to the knowledge base in our field that informs a better way of teaching, learning, knowing and being in a multicultural society.
As one participant from the 2016 Reimagining Education Summer Institute noted, this is a “mind-blowing experience” that provides the tools and support needed to tap into our educational intuition about learning and child development – social, emotional and cognitive – in culturally complex classrooms and schools. Our program is organized around four sequential themes to take you on a journey from reimagining to action:
Monday: Why Reimagining? – The knowledge of our field enables us to achieve real integration and enhanced learning for all students IF we can reimagine the transformative promise of education…
Tuesday: Racial and Cultural Literacies – Our goal should be to teach ourselves and our children to recognize, respond to and counter inequality related to race and certain cultural orientations.
Wednesday: Equity Pedagogy – We must embrace teaching strategies that foster racial and cultural literacies to support all students in reaching their highest potential while sustaining a just, humane and democratic society.
Thursday: Culturally Sustaining Leadership – 21st-century educational leaders must value the multiple understandings of racially, ethnically and culturally diverse learners, including those not measured on standardized tests.
The amazing staff, faculty and students at Teachers College, Columbia University as well as close colleagues from several other institutions who are coordinating and presenting the 2018 Institute look forward to welcoming you to New York City. Together we are a movement, a force to be reckoned with and the epitome of the transformational potential of our field.
Amy Stuart Wells
Professor, Sociology and Education
Director, Reimagining Education and The Public Good
Teachers College, Columbia University