Social Justice Curriculum and Teaching Practices

This is an important article by Gloria Ladson-Billings that makes the case that we are not really teaching teachers how to incorporate African American culture into their teaching practice.  GLB is the most renowned of the culturally responsive teaching scholars.  This article would fit well with reading Christopher Emdin’s book: For White Teachers Who Teach in the Hood...And the Rest of Y’All Too. A speech by James Baldwin directed at teachers.

“I began by saying that one of the paradoxes of education was that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society.  It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person.  And on the basis of the evidence – the moral and political evidence – one is compelled to say that this is a backward society.  Now if I were a teacher in this school, or any Negro school, and I was dealing with Negro children, who were in my care only a few hours of every day and would then return to their homes and to the streets, children who have an apprehension of their future which with every hour grows grimmer and darker, I would try to teach them -  I would try to make them know – that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal.  I would try to make each child know that these things are the result of a criminal conspiracy to destroy him.  I would teach him that if he intends to get to be a man, he must at once decide that his is stronger than this conspiracy and they he must never make his peace with it.  And that one of his weapons for refusing to make his peace with it and for destroying it depends on what he decides he is worth.”  

Holistic Epistemology: Native Common Sense by Dr. Manu Aluli Meyer  

This provides a framework for acknowledging the wisdom within people. anchors knowing in native Maori and Hawaiian wisdom and quantum physics.

For White Folk who Teach in the Hood: and the Rest of Y’all Too by Christopher Emdin (Helen/Kris)

Available in the Teachers' Democracy Project Library - email us at to check out the book

Also available on Amazon

This is a great book for anyone to learn techniques for understanding how students think about teaching and learning. It also gives highly practical advice for how to work both inside and outside the classroom to include students in lesson planning and teaching techniques.  Emdin eases us in gently to the idea that much of what passes for good or okay teaching in majority black and brown schools in low income urban America is oppressive and mirrors the oppressive structures and practices of the rest of society.  He tells the story of how Native Americans and other indigenous peoples have been sent to school to erase the native, the “savage” from their bodies.  He refers specifically to the “Carlisle School” where young Native Americans were stripped of their clothes, their language, their songs, their music and their ways of interacting and made to conform to a White/European ideal of communication far away from their families.

He notes the collection of short stories titled: The Ways of White Folk by Langston Hughes as an illustration of what happens when “the world of one group does not seamlessly merge with that of another group because of a fundamental difference in the way they are positioned in the world.” (P. 15)

He proposes instead an approach called “Reality Pedagogy”:

Reality pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning that a primary goal of meeting each student on his or her own cultural and emotional turf.  It focuses on making the local experiences of the student visible and creating contexts where there is a role reversal of sorts that positions the student as the expert in his or her own teaching and learning , and the teacher as the learner.  It posits that while the teacher is the person charged with delivering the content, the student is the person who shapes how best to teach that content.  Together, the teacher and students co-construct the classroom space.

Reality pedagogy allows for youth to reveal how and where teaching and learning practices have wounded them.  The approach works toward making students wholly visible to each other and to the teacher and focuses on open discourse about where students are academically, psychologically and emotionally. (P. 27)  See page 28-29