Mentor: Dr. E. Scott Fletcher, Assistant Professor of Education
Racial Identity, Race Relations and Racism: A Full-Year High School Course
The lack of education and knowledge about issues concerning race and racism among the general American public, particularly students who attend predominantly white institutions, has become increasingly problematic over the past decade. Despite increased attention to race and racism, silencing in schools has become an instructional and cultural “norm” (Fine, 1992). Although the multicultural education movement is growing rapidly, few high schools in the United States require their students to take courses dedicated to dealing with race, ethnicity, or any perspective that is not based on the “majority” culture (Nieto, 1992; Pinar, 1993). This lack of education only perpetuates the stereotypes that teenagers receive from many adult members of society and the media about people of color, thus adding to their fear of people from other racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Because I believe all schools should offer complete multicultural curricula so that every teacher would be taking diverse cultural and racial backgrounds into consideration, I have created, as a starting point, a syllabus for a yearlong high school class on culture, race relations, and racism. The syllabus is based on current theories of racial identity development, white racial identity, and multicultural education; my project includes a rationale, lesson plans, and a supplementary annotated reading list. In creating the lesson plans, I used the process of racial identity development, a six-stage process moving white people from their first contact with people of color to a deeper understanding of their racial identity. I use this approach because, while most students of color have a strong understanding of what it means to belong to a certain racial group in the context of American society, most white high school students do not have a general understanding of what it means to be white in this country (Sleeter, 1993); indeed, some are not even aware that racism still exists. Because adolescents are at the age where they are developing their own identities, I feel it would be most beneficial for white high school students to confront the racial aspect of their experience so that they may in turn develop more effective forms of resistance to racism, and become active anti-racist leaders in their schools and communities. The class will also help students to develop the capability for positive interaction with others who are of a different racial or ethnic background than their own. When taught and fully integrated into the curricula, multicultural education becomes a strong basis for fighting racism in society.