SCET Journal 2020/2021

Race Matters »

social justice-oriented curriculum includes students’ personal and cultural identities, explicit instruction about oppression and power structures, and connec- tions between curricular standards and social justice issues. Student engagement in critical literacy and social justice work is not easily attainable without es- tablishing a community of trust. Students must reach a level of comfort to engage in open, honest conversa- tions about issues of race, class, gender, and privilege. There is a false notion that social justice education lacks rigor and connection to the state standards when it serves as an impetus for fostering higher-ordering thinking skills. Social justice education promotes criti- cal consciousness in our students, which forces them to be in a constant state of awareness and think deep- ly about topics or issues from multiple perspectives. Rigor and text complexity are not limited to works from the canon. Dover (2015) states that social justice approaches prioritize reading diverse texts, cultivating critical literacy, and examining injustice in literature and life within language and literacy education. She defines teaching for social justice as “an attempt to use one’s position in the classroom to promote social and educational reform within and despite repressive educational conditions and mandates” (p. 518). She conducted a study based on the following research questions: “How do ELA teachers conceptualize teaching for social justice, and how do they reconcile that vision with the demands of teaching amid restric- tive curricular mandates?” She attempts to “interrupt the false dichotomization of academically rigorous and justice-oriented teaching by examining approaches to teaching for social justice with a standards-aligned ELA curriculum” (p. 518). The results of this study prove that teaching for social justice can be rigorous and related to the state standards and underscore its efficacy as a teaching strategy for teaching critical and higher-order thinking skills. Linguistic Justice “When a race is deemed substandard in society, so is their language.” Language carries culture and to deny any human the right to their home language is the ultimate act of dehumanization. In this section, I will make the case specifically for Anti-Black Linguistic Racism that often manifests itself in schools. Tradi- tionally, teacher attitudes have reflected the belief that Black Language is intellectually inferior and must be

eradicated. While there is a growing body of knowl- edge on African American Language (AAL), or Black Language (BL), there are gaps between theory and practice, and teachers remain ill-prepared to address the literacy needs of diverse learners. April Baker-Bell’s noteworthy book, Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy (2020), is a call to ac- tion to dismantle Anti-Black Linguist Racism and white linguistic supremacy. In this compelling piece, she interweaves research, theory, and practice to illustrate how current pedagogical practices in school settings do not honor the identities and lives of Black students. She examines the interconnectedness of racial and linguistic hierarchies to explain how people’s language experiences are not separate from their race. She insists that how a Black child’s language is devalued in school reflects how their Black lives are devalued in the world. African American students are constantly made to feel inferior because of their speech. The constant correcting drives many students to become reticent to communicate orally. Some students even hesitate to write much because they fear being returned a paper lost in a sea of red ink. Well-intentioned teachers are guilty of believing that if they prepare their students to speak appropriately in White mainstream, this will help lessen their encounters with racism and discrim- ination (Moore & Baker-Bell, 2018). Teaching students of color to assimilate to Standard English serves as a reminder of their second-class status in society and that they need fixing. Smitherman (2017) contends that a major area of linguistic education is when teachers become obsessed with “correcting” grammar rather than teaching students about the power and variety of language. Even black educators unknowingly “rein- force a system of white supremacy and uphold racist policies and practices that legitimize your own suffer- ing and demise,” not realizing that standard English is the result of white supremacy (Baker-Bell, 2020, p. 6). Historical and current practices in curriculum and instruction do not recognize Black Language as a lin- guistic system and English/Language Arts instruction has been focused on eradicating Black Language from the classroom. Throughout their entire grade school education, Black students are taught that to achieve academic success or be considered intelligent they must rid themselves of Black Language. Betina Love (2016) describes such acts as “spirit murdering,” which




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