There's an article by Joel Connelly in the PI that there was some irony that one of the first acts of our new mayor, Ed Murray, was to go to see the Race exhibit at the Seattle Science Center. (It has now ended.) (Thanks to Johnny Calcagno for the heads up.)
The irony is that just across the way at Seattle Center is Center School where Seattle Public Schools allowed one family to upend a vital conversation about race and privilege in one teacher's class. That teacher is Jon Greenberg. It is a great article and a great topic. From the article:
Because of what happened at Center School, a fear of being
“Greenberged” weighs on teachers who would have students weigh in on
subjects, and personal experiences, that make some people
uncomfortable. The curriculum for Greenberg’s Citizenship and Social
Justice class sits unused in the teacher’s garage.
“The credibility of the district to navigate race is on the line,”
Greenberg warned the board. “Teachers across the city are afraid to
broach the topic because of the example that has been made of me.”
As Greenberg put it bluntly in his letter, “Rather than punishing
educators for teaching issues of race, you should be training more
teachers to do this important work.”
Minority parents at Center School have reacted as if slapped in the face.
“Silencing the discussion on race and gender, as a society,
effectively returns some of us to the back of the bus,” wrote Rachel
“Suspending the curriculum on race, especially based on only one
family’s complaint, sent a very powerful negative message to students,
particularly students of color, about who has power,” Patricia Lee added
in her letter.
The involuntary transfer of Greenberg is going to arbitration, which the district is at least a 50-50 bet to lose.
The investigation has left the district vulnerable to Greenberg’s
appeal. The clumsiness of district bureaucrats’ actions precipitated
an uproar, albeit a polite uproar.
On top of this, Center School has experienced an alarming faculty
turnover over the last couple of years. Greenberg was an anchoring
presence. Citizenship and Social Justice had been in the curriculum for
It's difficult to know what to say without someone getting upset. But, as was pointed out in both this article and in my thread about this blog, some conversations ARE uncomfortable. That doesn't make them wrong.
My experience is that the topic, depending on who you are and your own background, can be a hard conversation to start. Everyone comes it with their own experience, their own ideas and, most of all, their own way to talk about it. I think it is a good idea to have someone with an established curriculum and skillset who is able to help people navigate that conversation.
To me the most difficult hurdle is to get away from finger-pointing of "you people" or starting from "everyone is a racist but me" with "racist" being a hugely spine-stiffening, mind-closing term or sitting with your arms crossed and smugly believing, "not me."
The big difference is in educating people on what racism feels/looks like to others rather than just labeling people.
It's interesting because people want public schools to do so much. Social work, health care, socialization and yet the one thing that could do the most to change lives - talking about race and relationships - the district will not do in any real way. You never see this on the list in the Strategic Plan.
All this on the heels of Richard Sherman (of the Seahawks, if you aren't keeping up) and his 15-second emotionally-charged outburst after the AFC Championship game that has kept sportswriters in business and may provide the narrative for the Super Bowl.