University teaches how to combat ‘whiteness in schools’

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A recent conference hosted by Columbia University’s Teachers College focused on integration and inclusion in K-12 education, and included workshops on how teachers should handle white privilege in their classrooms, challenge microaggressions and address “Eurocentric pedagogical approaches.”

In July, the “Reimagining Education” summer institute conference focused on “opportunities and challenges of creating and sustaining racially, ethnically and socio-economically integrated schools,” according to its website.

The event, which mostly consisted of K-12 teachers and principals, had one presentation called “Whiteness in schools.” It gave a history of whiteness and discussed how whiteness and white culture shapes what happens in schools.

Another workshop talked about “ways to face white privilege in the classroom.” The workshop demonstrated how to use “activities and critical dialogue around white privilege to connect personal responsibility to pedagogical possibilities for the classroom.”

There was also a “Deconstructing racial microaggressions” workshop in which those who attended promised to stop racial insults at their schools.

And the workshop, “Teaching for social justice,” sought to challenge colonialist and racist pedagogies.

Institute director Amy Wells, a professor of sociology and education at the Teachers College, said she conducted this conference due to her belief that the “missing piece” regarding issues of integration in education is what takes place inside the classroom.

Overall, the training concentrated on increasing educators’ ability to identify racial microaggressions and understand their effects on students of color and helping educators “gain accountability in taking remedial action to overcome racial biases that lead to microaggressions.”

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