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Reading, Writing, and Racism: Disrupting Whiteness in Teacher Education and in the Classroom

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An examination of how curriculum choices can perpetuate White supremacy, and radical strategies for how schools and teacher education programs can disrupt and transform racism in education. When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum An examination of how curriculum choices can perpetuate White supremacy, and radical strategies for how schools and teacher education programs can disrupt and transform racism in education. When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum isn’t an anomaly. It’s a systemic problem that reflects how Whiteness is embedded and reproduced in education. In Reading, Writing, and Racism, Picower argues that White teachers must reframe their understanding about race in order to advance racial justice and that this must begin in teacher education programs. Drawing on her experience teaching and developing a program that prepares teachers to focus on social justice and antiracism, Picower demonstrates how teachers’ ideology of race, consciously or unconsciously, shapes how they teach race in the classroom. She also examines current examples of racist curricula that have gone viral to demonstrate how Whiteness is entrenched in schools and how this reinforces racial hierarchies in the younger generation. With a focus on institutional strategies, Picower shows how racial justice can be built into programs across the teacher education pipeline—from admission to induction. By examining the who, what, why, and how of racial justice teacher education, she provides radical possibilities for transforming how teachers think about, and teach about, race in their classrooms.


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An examination of how curriculum choices can perpetuate White supremacy, and radical strategies for how schools and teacher education programs can disrupt and transform racism in education. When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum An examination of how curriculum choices can perpetuate White supremacy, and radical strategies for how schools and teacher education programs can disrupt and transform racism in education. When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum isn’t an anomaly. It’s a systemic problem that reflects how Whiteness is embedded and reproduced in education. In Reading, Writing, and Racism, Picower argues that White teachers must reframe their understanding about race in order to advance racial justice and that this must begin in teacher education programs. Drawing on her experience teaching and developing a program that prepares teachers to focus on social justice and antiracism, Picower demonstrates how teachers’ ideology of race, consciously or unconsciously, shapes how they teach race in the classroom. She also examines current examples of racist curricula that have gone viral to demonstrate how Whiteness is entrenched in schools and how this reinforces racial hierarchies in the younger generation. With a focus on institutional strategies, Picower shows how racial justice can be built into programs across the teacher education pipeline—from admission to induction. By examining the who, what, why, and how of racial justice teacher education, she provides radical possibilities for transforming how teachers think about, and teach about, race in their classrooms.

30 review for Reading, Writing, and Racism: Disrupting Whiteness in Teacher Education and in the Classroom

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    I would like to begin this review with a thought experiment. I have taken perhaps the most egregious passage of this book and will change only what the passage is referring to. How do you as a reader feel about the (barely) revised text? "That's this Black s***. You just did all this privilege. You don't even f****** know it. You have lots to learn--f*** your critical race theory (123)." Do you consider this revised statement to be obvious truth, or a racist statement? In short, do you, as a rea I would like to begin this review with a thought experiment. I have taken perhaps the most egregious passage of this book and will change only what the passage is referring to. How do you as a reader feel about the (barely) revised text? "That's this Black s***. You just did all this privilege. You don't even f****** know it. You have lots to learn--f*** your critical race theory (123)." Do you consider this revised statement to be obvious truth, or a racist statement? In short, do you, as a reader, have a proper view of justice and equity that recognizes reciprocity at the basis of genuine justice, or do you believe that justice is a matter of identity rather than consistent standards of behavior? While it would take a book at least as long as this one to deal with the errors and debunk them in detail, there are some fundamental issues with the book that are easy enough for a reader to see. While justice is often spoken of in this book, the author appears to have no proper understanding of what justice is, and this book reads like the account of a Jewish progressive woman detailing her struggle sessions rather than like someone who has a even a basic grasp of the fundamentals of the subject of this book. What the book reveals is that critical race theory--and critical theory of any kind really--deserves the same kind of critique that it levels on others, and that as it is conceptualized and understood it is hopeless to understand or attain genuine justice. This book is mercifully short at less than 200 pages in length. The book begins with a foreword as well as with a heated but ultimately inconsequential introduction about the supposed problems of a curriculum that is so white that it challenges the racist presuppositions of students of color by forcing them to see through the perspective of whites, which is apparently a privilege that only belongs to people of color to do in reverse. After that come discussions of curricular tools of whiteness (1), which the author finds objectionable in a selective fashion. This is followed by the iceberg of racial ideology and curriculum, where the author is blind to its obverse (2). After that the author seeks to reframe understandings of race within teacher education by engaging in leftist indoctrination (3), and again, selective double standards. This leads the author to advocate the disrupting of whiteness in teacher education that she would never countenance when it comes to blackness or Progressive thinking in teacher education (4). Finally, the author discusses the biased nature of humanizing racial justice in teacher education (5), after which the book ends with acknowledgements, notes, and an index. And rather than making me upset, this book really demonstrates the sorry state of justice among the Progressive left. The foundation of any just view is reciprocity, and this book fundamentally lacks an appreciation of that. Throughout the book the author points to it being traumatizing for black students to be forced to imagine what it would be like to think and behave like a white slaveowner, or even an ordinary white person. If this is so, there is something defective in demanding that white people try to place themselves in the point of view and perspective of people of color, but apparently trauma is something that is only a problem for people who are not white. Many of the assignments that the author views as problematic are in fact ways for the student to gain an understanding of people and need only to be expanded upon, so that a student could imagine oneself in the point of view of a runaway slave, those people who might meet the runaway slave and provide shelter and advice, the master seeking to regain his supposed property, the sheriffs and newspaper editors who work in the logistics of protecting the slave system, and well-meaning outsiders. One of the fundamental problems of politics in the contemporary period is that Progressives simply forget that those who do not share their defective worldviews are in fact human beings who deserve to be respected and treated as such. It would be unjust to forget that Progressives, for all their moral blindness and hypocrisy, are people as well.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amy Gonzalez

    The first few chapters made me think more deeply about how the four I's of Oppression (and Advantage): Ideological, Institutional, Internalized and Interpersonal work together in enabling the cycle of racist practices to continue in schools. The last chapters focus on how teacher programs designed as cohort based racial justice programs hold the promise to breaking those cycles. While I agree with that as someone who graduated from a similar teaching program and have mentored students in them, i The first few chapters made me think more deeply about how the four I's of Oppression (and Advantage): Ideological, Institutional, Internalized and Interpersonal work together in enabling the cycle of racist practices to continue in schools. The last chapters focus on how teacher programs designed as cohort based racial justice programs hold the promise to breaking those cycles. While I agree with that as someone who graduated from a similar teaching program and have mentored students in them, it's just the very, very beginning. I am having a hard time these days talking about teaching programs without talking about how teacher burnout is a serious problem (and has been before the pandemic). I am interested in how the work laid out in these programs can truly sustain when teachers are actually in the thick of an unjust system. Also, how do teachers continue to do the work when they are separated from these cohorts and are now in different school cultures spread out across the country? This is where I turn to nonprofits like Education for Liberation and Abolitionist Teaching Network for some of these answers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kris - My Novelesque Life

    RATING: 4 STARS Reading, Writing and Racism is written by a white woman looking at the American education system. It is not just about the individual teacher that is to blame for the racism in curriculum. On the whole, the education system will not be looked at or changed until we actually look at it from another lens. Usually, we will only hear about incidents that are overtly racist, if it gets posted on social media and the school administrators feel pressured. They do not feel pressure to cha RATING: 4 STARS Reading, Writing and Racism is written by a white woman looking at the American education system. It is not just about the individual teacher that is to blame for the racism in curriculum. On the whole, the education system will not be looked at or changed until we actually look at it from another lens. Usually, we will only hear about incidents that are overtly racist, if it gets posted on social media and the school administrators feel pressured. They do not feel pressure to change the system, look at the curriculum, get feedback from parents and children, get professional aid in updating in what and how all children are taught. Either BIPOC are erased, downplayed or actually lied about. Looking at history through the "white lens" is just one viewpoint. It is beyond that, but that is something that I am passionate about. I am not articulate enough to give this book justice, but I think it is a book that definitely opens your eyes.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melinda Frank

    I appreciated Picower's analysis of power and whiteness in education. This book provides a scaffolded view of how whiteness function as an individual level, an organization level, and a system level. I believe that this book is a good book to start your exploration of racism in education. Picower provided thoughtful examples of educators she has worked with while also bringing in a wide variety of voices from various racial justice programs. As an educator that is very early in her career, this I appreciated Picower's analysis of power and whiteness in education. This book provides a scaffolded view of how whiteness function as an individual level, an organization level, and a system level. I believe that this book is a good book to start your exploration of racism in education. Picower provided thoughtful examples of educators she has worked with while also bringing in a wide variety of voices from various racial justice programs. As an educator that is very early in her career, this was an accessible and thoughtful text.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Everyone going into education NEEDS to read this

  6. 5 out of 5

    William Schram

    Garbage. "Reading, Writing, and Racism" oozes Social Justice from every pore. I will admit that some of this was helpful, but most of it was insulting. If you are a teacher and your lesson includes a mock slave auction, you might want to rethink your model. That is the sort of common-sense idea that comes from this book. Furthermore, is this Bree Picower sure that she isn't getting punked? Remember? That show with Ashton Kutcher? Some of these math problems could come straight from The Onion. A lo Garbage. "Reading, Writing, and Racism" oozes Social Justice from every pore. I will admit that some of this was helpful, but most of it was insulting. If you are a teacher and your lesson includes a mock slave auction, you might want to rethink your model. That is the sort of common-sense idea that comes from this book. Furthermore, is this Bree Picower sure that she isn't getting punked? Remember? That show with Ashton Kutcher? Some of these math problems could come straight from The Onion. A lot of the book is devoted to forcing white people to "examine their privilege." I can understand the trauma of learning about Columbus, but was the man a total jerk or a product of his time and culture? Attempting to whitewash history makes me angry, but it also makes me furious when people tell me to apologize for something I didn't do. That is why I dislike Christianity and Original Sin. I didn't eat a magic apple on orders from a talking snake. One positive aspect of this book is the length. If I thought further on it, I could come up with more, but I don't care.

  7. 5 out of 5

    LeeAnn

    There is a lot to process in this little book. While the main portion of this book is directly targeted at teacher education, those of us who are veteran teachers still have plenty to study and learn from this book. The most important thing, I think, is that each of us as educators take a long look at what we teach, the way in which we teach it, and why. That's the most important take-away from this book. "While only some may be actively contributing to #CurriculumSoWhite, many are doing nothing There is a lot to process in this little book. While the main portion of this book is directly targeted at teacher education, those of us who are veteran teachers still have plenty to study and learn from this book. The most important thing, I think, is that each of us as educators take a long look at what we teach, the way in which we teach it, and why. That's the most important take-away from this book. "While only some may be actively contributing to #CurriculumSoWhite, many are doing nothing to interrupt it." That should be our call to action. The author writes, "Teachers teach what they believe about how the world works," and we certainly need to DO more than just TEACH. I think perhaps people's problem with this book is that is uses primarily modern examples, instead of the deeply "researched" examples we think we deserve. Honestly, the fact that there are so many modern examples for the author to choose from should point to the fact that the problem is here and now, and only growing worse. Time to disrupt Whiteness. And teach to our children.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kea4

    ‘#curriculumsowhite: Examining Teachers’ Racial Beliefs to Interrupt Whiteness in the Classroom’ is the title but where does it stop? What about differences in religion, different cultures, sexism in the classroom and so on. When is enough finally enough? How about bring failing school districts up to par first so that all children can learn and be in a safe place during the day. Or having that one mentor that pushes them to go further? But there is not one word about that issue in this book. My ‘#curriculumsowhite: Examining Teachers’ Racial Beliefs to Interrupt Whiteness in the Classroom’ is the title but where does it stop? What about differences in religion, different cultures, sexism in the classroom and so on. When is enough finally enough? How about bring failing school districts up to par first so that all children can learn and be in a safe place during the day. Or having that one mentor that pushes them to go further? But there is not one word about that issue in this book. My advice is turn off social media. It does no one any good. Whatever happened to the basics of reading, writing and math? Preparing children for the real world? You are there to teach not to push ‘radical justice teacher education’. This is our tax dollars at work? If this is the future of our education system its time to consider homeschooling your children. https://theworldisabookandiamitsreade...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Mattice

    This is an amazing book especially for educators. Mainly white educators. We have to acknowledge our own privileges and the importance of being coconspirators in the movements of racial justice. By looking into our own education and re-educating ourselves we not only become better educators but better people.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    If you are a teacher, this is a must read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    A must read for teachers

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cappy

    This book has a very niche audience: those operating in or building education programs centered on racial justice. That said, the detail of this book serves that audience very very well. Per FTC guidelines, be advised that I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Wow. An absolute must-read for teachers, teacher educator program and parents... Deeply personal, thought-provoking and challenging, I am re-examining every part of the teacher prep program that I am part of.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary Jane

    I took my time reading this during planning periods and took notes while I read. This should be required for all involved in education - for school boards to parents and everyone in between.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    I really appreciated this book's focus on antiracism and education, specifically teacher education. It made me reflect a lot on my own positionality and how that influences my approach to students, curriculum choices and delivery of information. The book also led me to reflect on my own teacher training program and how race, especially 'whiteness', played a mostly unacknowledged but highly significant part. The first part of the book was most directly useful to me, though the last part about ant I really appreciated this book's focus on antiracism and education, specifically teacher education. It made me reflect a lot on my own positionality and how that influences my approach to students, curriculum choices and delivery of information. The book also led me to reflect on my own teacher training program and how race, especially 'whiteness', played a mostly unacknowledged but highly significant part. The first part of the book was most directly useful to me, though the last part about antiracist teacher training programs was interesting - I didn't know programs like that existed. I listened to the audiobook and next hope to get a paper copy so that I can see the list of works cited, as there were many references the author made that I'm hoping to follow up on soon.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Janeen Pizzo

    Understanding whiteness and its role in education has been a focus of mine for the past year and this text grows my understanding further. Bree Picower uses the first two chapters to explicitly outline what happens in classrooms, explains how whiteness is used as a curricular tool and shares multiple examples of teachers engaging in racist practices. The second half of the book looks at teacher education programs and how they can shift their approach to teacher preparation into one that puts rac Understanding whiteness and its role in education has been a focus of mine for the past year and this text grows my understanding further. Bree Picower uses the first two chapters to explicitly outline what happens in classrooms, explains how whiteness is used as a curricular tool and shares multiple examples of teachers engaging in racist practices. The second half of the book looks at teacher education programs and how they can shift their approach to teacher preparation into one that puts racial justice ahead of everything else.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    I was hoping this book would cover more than just elementary education; as someone who works in the post-secondary field I didn’t find this book super relevant to my work. The title including the key words “Reading, Writing...” to me implied more focus on academia (i.e. reading critically, and making sure my writing is anti-racist). I do think this is a useful guide for teachers of younger students.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alivia

    Incredible read and will be transformative in my own instruction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean Kottke

    A bracing application of key ideas from White Privilege, Stamped at the Beginning, and We Want To Do More Than Survive directly to teacher education.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jill Adams

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben Chleboun

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate Faulkner

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Eaton

  24. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Hill

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nic

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marcy

  27. 5 out of 5

    cindy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Andersen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Posner

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Hand

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