Welcome to our beloved community and to a professional development experience like no other. The 3rd annual Reimagining Education: Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Schools Summer Institute 2018 brings together more than 400 educators from 24 states and 6 countries to learn from and support each other as we collectively reimagine what education can and should be. Our efforts to develop a more meaningful, engaging and high-quality education system for all children will be challenging, but incredibly rewarding.
We do not begin this journey, as many do, by focusing on the “problem” of racial segregation. We, at Reimagining Education, see segregation as a symptom of a much larger issue. Racial segregation would not be possible were it not for a set of pervasive beliefs about ability, intelligence and knowledge as they relate to race. The reality is that we live in a society in which many people have been taught that there is a hierarchy of these traits of ability, intelligence and knowledge, and that they correlate with different racial/ethnic groups. This is known as a “racial hierarchy,” with Whites at the top and other racial groups relegated to places below.
The problem of living in a society that is steeped in such a belief system is that even those who have a critique of it live within structures that reflect it. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of education. When we think about whose knowledge and understanding is most valued in the larger society, it is no accident that the one institution most responsible for shaping future generations – our educational system – has been constructed to support a racially hierarchical way of valuing some insights, perspectives and not others.
Yet, while our schools too often reflect larger inequalities in society and the hierarchies that perpetuate them, so too can our schools be the sites of emancipatory possibilities. They can be reimagined to no longer serve as the engines of reproduction but to be the engines of social transformation. That is why we are here and why 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 through the creation of schools in which all students’ experiences, cultures, and ways of knowing are valued. But we can only achieve this IF we can reimagine the transformative promise of education.
TUESDAY: Racial and Cultural Literacy | Our goal should be to teach ourselves and our children to recognize, respond to and counter inequality related to race and certain cultural orientations – to recognize the ways in which a racial hierarchy has shaped our understanding of the world, and to actively work to dismantle that hierarchy within ourselves and our society.
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 faculty, students and staff at Teachers College, Columbia University as well as close colleagues from several other institutions who are coordinating and presenting this 2018 Institute welcome you and embrace your journey here to New York City and to this work. Together we are a movement, a force to be reckoned with and the epitome of the transformational potential of the field of education. Welcome!
Amy Stuart Wells
Professor, Sociology and Education
Director, Reimagining Education Summer Institute and The Public Good
Teachers College, Columbia University
Phillip A. Smith
Associate Director, Reimagining Education Summer Institute
Ph.D. candidate in Education Leadership
Teachers College, Columbia University