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Interrogating Whiteness and Relinquishing Power

White Faculty’s Commitment to Racial Consciousness in STEM Classrooms


Edited By Nicole M. Joseph, Chayla Haynes and Floyd Cobb

Interrogating Whiteness and Relinquishing Power: White Faculty’s Commitment to Racial Consciousness in STEM Classrooms is a collection of narratives that will transform the teaching of any faculty member who teaches in the STEM system. The book links issues of inclusion to teacher excellence at all grade levels by illuminating the critical influence that racial consciousness has on the behaviors of White faculty in the classroom. It functions as an analytical tool, scaffolding exemplary examples to inspire readers to engage in the complex and difficult work of assessing their own racial consciousness and teacher effectiveness. White pre-service teachers in STEM education rarely see the importance of the link between race and the teaching and learning of mathematics, in part because the White faculty who are teaching these subjects rarely engage in the study of racial projects in STEM. From this perspective, the authors of this book contend that the classroom is a racialized environment that, if not addressed, can reproduce racial structures and hierarchies in cyclical ways.
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9. Challenging Patterns to Change My World: Using My Personal Evolution of Critical Race Consciousness in Mathematics Teacher Education



Exploring issues of race in the predominately White space of teacher education presents significant challenges. As a White female, I have found limited success with guiding prospective teachers in secondary mathematics methods courses to interrogate the influence of Whiteness on mathematics teaching. In my experiences, explicitly naming race in conversations with prospective teachers can lead to awkward silences and hurt feelings. I sometimes fall into the common trap that ensnares many White critical pedagogues—offering broad, critical questions to avoid naming race explicitly (Allen, 2004). Although more comfortable, this approach fails to highlight the role of racism in perpetuating inequities in mathematics education, and even when Whiteness is challenged directly, White prospective teachers often find ways to maintain and enact their dominant racial ideologies (Picower, 2009).

Despite the daunting challenge, I have committed to taking a direct approach when discussing issues of race with prospective teachers in secondary mathematics methods. My efforts to explicitly name mathematics education as a racialized space are usually met with resistance. Reactions have varied from angry denial (e.g., “I’m not a racist!”) to hopelessness (e.g., “The problem is just too big”). Such responses are unproductive because they rarely inspire change in teaching practice, but I am confident that my efforts to bring a critical race perspective into a secondary mathematics methods course are important. Guiding White prospective teachers to develop critical race consciousness requires sustained effort across the teacher education ← 151 | 152 → curriculum (Picower, 2009), and...

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