Building School Culture: Two leading authors discuss teacher activism
Nearly 20 years ago, Lisa Delpit introduced the phrase "Other People's Children" into the lexicon with her book of the same name (subtitled Cultural Conflict in the Classroom). This past spring, TC science education expert Christopher Emdin published For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’All, Too, building on his headline-making work with hip-hop education.
Delpit and Emdin met on the stage of TC’s Cowin Conference Center this past week for “Teacher as Activist: Bridging the Educational Divide” – part of the Teacher Activist series co-hosted by TC’s Vice President’s Office for Community and Diversity, Teaching Residents at Teachers College, and the Office of Student Development and Activities. Brittany Chambers, a doctoral student in TC’s Adult Learning and Leadership program, moderated the discussion. (Watch a video of the event.)
“In teaching in Papua New Guinea, Alaska and Philadelphia, I came to realize that you can’t just change the instruction or the curriculum to help marginalized students,” said Delpit, who teaches at the College of Education at Southern University A&M in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “You have to change the culture.”
In his own teaching experience in urban schools, Emdin said, he found that students of color often “lacked a vision of excellence for themselves in the classroom, but they did see excellence in their culture at large – in hip-hop and in their churches. We need to create that sense of excellence in our school culture.”
TC Provost Tom James praised both speakers for challenging educators to question their most basic assumptions by asking What does it mean to be a teacher? What does it mean to be at Teachers College? And how do you define what it means to be an activist? “Thinkers like the two of you, who’ve lived courageous lives, are helping us to think about those questions and to remake ourselves in the process of answering them,” said James. – Robert Florida
Published Friday, Sep 23, 2016