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College hosts lecture addressing intersection of race, education

| Thursday, April 12, 2018

Professor, author and former teacher Julie Landsman spoke on her experiences with race and teaching in a lecture Tuesday at Saint Mary’s, sponsored by the education department, Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership and the Office of Civic and Social Engagement.

Landsman said she has been involved in issues surrounding race since college.

“Being involved in the civil rights movement was one of the most difficult things, because of the [familial] estrangement,” Landsman said. “It was one of the biggest losses. I don’t want to minimize what the work does, and how our country is divided, but I’ve never regretted it not a day it or a day of teaching.”

Landsman’s views on education and race were sprinkled with antidotes about her time teaching. Landsman said her time teaching led her to realize the need for self-reflection on educators’ own views of race.

“This [a moment when a teacher realizes there own prejudice] is a teachable moment for yourself,” she said. “That risk you take can change the lives of a young student.”

The use of reflection plays an important role in identifying the role of race in your teaching, Landsman said.

“We need to think about what we think a classroom needs to look like,” Landsman said. “Kids can be chatting and doing stuff and they are still getting work done. … I think a lot of us have preconceived notions about how our students need to perform.”

These preconceived notions are what fuels insensitive teaching, Landsman said, as teachers often have a desire to attempt to fix everything.

“It is very tempting for us to jump in and think that we can explain it all,” Landsman said.

Landsman said she believes this need can lead to assumptions being made.

“It is important to counter a deficient assumption that we have about different groups of people and different neighborhoods — we always look at what is wrong when actually those neighborhoods have great strength and resilience,” Landsman said.

“There are some dangerous things we can do as a teacher such as thinking of ourselves as saviors — thinking, ‘I’m going to save them all,’ when that isn’t the truth,” Landsman said. “They might have a strong grandmother who was raising them and is doing a wonderful job. All I saw were the deficits in their lives, not the good things.”

Landsman also said it was important to recognize representations of race, especially in history.

“There is a big, big problem with curriculum — with hueing to the textbook — because our textbooks are terribly biased and we need to look at the stuff that is not there. And you can be sure that the stuff that is not there is the stuff about people of color,” Landsman said.

There is value in addressing the way Americans address race, Landsman said. She advocated for self-examination of how to view race and renew conversations about it.

“What happens when we talk about race is that white people tend to stand back and not talk about it because they don’t want to offend, and the thing is to jump in,” Landsman said.

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