Teaching racially sensitive material...

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by MissEducation, Jan 10, 2010.

  1. MissEducation

    MissEducation Companion

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    Jan 20, 2010

    Hmmm...interesting discussion :)

    I have gone ahead with the book, although to offer evidence of how I am preparing my students, we actually haven't started reading the novel itself yet!

    I teach English and Lit as a block, so the themes of RoTHMC are also our themes for our research papers - all are connected with the African American "experience." We have been studying Brown vs. the Board of Education and the Civil Rights movement (which I realize is after RoTHMC takes place) and have discussed how certain words that were used by civil rights leaders in the 50s or 60s (negro or colored) are not p.c. or acceptable now. I think this is gearing the kids up to hearing these used in a more negative way in the book.

    We are studying Mississippi history tomorrow and I have actually learned a lot ... didn't realize that freed slaves and their descendants were actually treated better in the years after the Civil War than in the 20th century. I think another important theme for studying this historical time period which many of my kids will relate to is the fact that this was a difficult time for black people and poor white people, and this is a theme used directly in the book.

    I'm sure I'll make some mistakes, but so far my kids seem mature enough to handle most of what I've thrown at them, and I of course will continue to prepare them for parts of the book that may be difficult. They read about the Holocaust last year, so they have handed difficult topics before.

    I understand the p.c. world we live in, but the book is on my school's list of books we MUST choose from, and it was really my only choice if I wanted to tie it in with research. Since the list was approved by my admin, I know they will be supportive of any problems.

    If I run into trouble, so be it. :)
     
  2. mkate

    mkate Comrade

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    Jan 28, 2010

    So, how's it going? Care to update?:)
     
  3. MissEducation

    MissEducation Companion

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    Feb 25, 2010

    Why sure, even though this post is way old! Haha.

    So far so good. If anything, the only problems I have with the "n-word" is one boy who tries to make a big deal out of it every time it pops up in the book (which is actually not TOO often.) He gasps, looks around in an overly dramatic way, etc., even though he KNEW it was coming because we discussed it previously. The kids REALLY enjoy the book and they don't find this kid's behavior funny, so they just ignore him, as do I. (We do not actually use the n-word in reading, we substitute.)

    My biggest problem so far has been that some of the kids like the book too much and have read way ahead of others!
     
  4. miss tree

    miss tree Rookie

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    Feb 26, 2010

    I agree with previous posters that books such as this have to be taught with sensitivity and a lot of discussion about context.

    I disagree with the view that basic literacy skills should be taught separately from wider social concerns.

    I find that even students with poor literacy skills respond very well to challenging and interesting texts, and that this greatly assists them to develop their literacy skills.

    I believe an English teacher's job is not just to prepare kids to earn a living, but think deeply and critically. English as an academic subject is underpinned by humanist philosophy which is all about asking the big questions.
     
  5. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Mar 5, 2010

    I know I've brought up the book Maniac Magee so many times on here that you'd think I'd written it, but, that's because it so wonderfully deals with the topic of race (and other sensitive topics - homelessness, illiteracy, segregation). Though written on the 5th/6th grade level, the themes are complex. The main character is a homeless misfit who does not see race. He stumbles into a town that is literally divided in two along racial lines. I'd recommend this book as a prelude to teaching any other higher level novel with sensitive themes.
     

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