Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Second Edition
Edited By Anthony J. Nocella II, Priya Parmar and David Stovall
Chapter Sixteen: A Reason to Be Angry: A Mother, Her Sons, and the School to Prison Pipeline
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Don’t be so fearful of anger or cynicism from students. I often felt that only one attitude was allowed [in this class]—a happy, cheerful, hopeful attitude. My sense was that you wanted to squelch hostility or cynicism. However, there is a place for these feelings.
This critique appeared in the anonymous course evaluations that I (Letitia) collected on the last day of teaching Education and Cultural Diversity at a small private liberal arts university in a Midwest metropolitan area. My first reaction was to feel defensive. I had been making genuine efforts to expose the class to the nature, causes, and effects of prejudice and to help them understand its profound impact on our K–12 classrooms. I had also tried to infuse the class with some sense of optimism, in the hopes of inspiring my students to foster meaningful change in their future classrooms. This student was directly challenging my approach, and I was forced to ask: Had I been teaching the entire class through Pollyanna glasses? Had I been too afraid of anger and rejection from students who had never been exposed to institutional racism in our schools? Though I had called for critical discourse, had I also inadvertently discouraged “too much” critique of our schools?
My second reaction was to guess who had written the critique, and I was certain it had come from Bridget. Bridget was an older, white, non-traditional student in the class. During class...