It is your first week of school. A colleague saw a cobra behind the middle school cafeteria. He says, matter-of-factly, that your school is within a “jungle.” Another colleague says there is a “jungle” within your school. A path to tropical rainforest just outside the backdoors where kids eat during lunchtime. You can’t tell what’s inside or out when walking through the school. What you can tell: it’s hot as hell. 88 degrees (Fahrenheit – 32 Celsius) year-round.
Your body is saying that you need to decolonize your clothes. Dress shirts with pit stains lose their formality. Khakis become wrinkled after hours of shifting uncomfortably in your desk chair. Wool jackets boxed away. But still, you dress “properly” for the cultural climate of your school but not the seasonal one of this new land.
Etiquette becomes a nervous condition.
“Hi, you must be…”
Another colleague extends their hand to greet you. You extend your own and feel the pool of sweat trapped in your armpit trickle down your ribcage.
You wish more colleagues would confuse you for the other Black person who was hired this year. At least then, you wouldn’t feel obliged to shake hands while correcting them.
Your previous head of school in the UK said you would have to cut off your hair when moving here. It will get “frizzy” she said, fixing her gaze on your already “frizzy” locs.
You did not cut your hair, but perhaps there is a black top hat for you to wear or the Emperor’s clothes for you to don. Something to distract your new colleagues from the fact that your body is trying to decolonize your clothes.
Your edges and new growth running from the pursuing standards of Victorian respectability. But aren’t these nice trousers? They were tailored somewhere in Asia to have a European look so that it appears you have dressed appropriately for gainful employment.
And you ask, “How can we teach who we are dressed in someone else’s clothes?” What parts of your identity do you cover? And in turn, when you are not even comfortable in your skin, what curriculum do you cover? Cover not in the sense of scope and sequence, but cover in the sense of whose stories and whose histories do you cloak with invisibility?
How long before your body rejects its uniform? How long before a uniformed curriculum begins to see the richness of difference? Will it be one afternoon when the heat becomes so unbearable, and your colleagues can discern one Black person from another? Shaking hands at the lunch table in a dress shirt that makes you seem more refined and approachable, will you feel yourself bursting at the seams? Will the stitching of textbooks begin to unravel under a blazing sun?
Will you flee to the back of the cafeteria and run out to the “jungle” like Paul Robeson or Brutus Jones? Strip off the Emperor’s clothes and disintegrate back into yourself…? Will the canon implode into itself? And out of the ashes, create itself a new story that isn’t new at all, but spoken with decolonized tongues that have been silent for too long and written hands that are finally free.
Most change leadership models fall under the following ten commandments:
An accepted need to change
A viable vision/alternative state
Change agents in place
Sponsorship from above
Realistic scale & pace change
An integrated transition programme
A symbolic end to the status quo
A plan for likely resistance
A locally owned benefits plan
(Grint, 2008, p11).
There are examples and is evident in my reading and blogs, e.g. my action plan for change, and Kotter model here.
Grint, 2008, described two types of problems:
1) Tame or Critical
A Critical Problem, eg a ‘crisis’, is presented as self-evident in nature, as encapsulating very little time for decision- making and action, and it is often associated with authoritarianism – Command (Howieson and Kahn, 2002; Cf. Watters, 2004 in Grint 2008). These are problems that require a decision at a point of crisis.
Where Tame problems are ‘complicated but resolvable through unilinear acts’ with definite answers the uncertainty is limited and known. Wicked problems are complex; the issue can not be differentiated from the environment; the difference between tame and wicked may also be dependent on the available resources.(Grint, 2008)
Examples in Schools
There is a gas leak, and the boiler is out.
A timetabling issue – a member of staff has requested to part-time hours.
Staff resistance due to a move to academisation to create more leadership autonomy.
Wallace 2004 refers to management as the tasks which maintain the daily status quo and leadership as visionary strategic thinking. Wallace describes the meta task of ‘orchestration’, where leaders step into the role of management in times of crisis until systems and structures are replaced, then leaders step back into their ideological positions. The management role is the solving of Tame problems and leadership the wicked ones.
Critical situations need a decision, which may require an authoritarian response, I am aware of the negative connotations of such. However, as a school leader, I have encountered various examples of people who come solely to for an answer, for a decision, to be led. There is nothing inherently wrong with authoritarianism in the circumstance.
Tame problems should be solved through management, supported through structures. Leaders may have to step into these roles, as mentioned earlier. Wicked problems require questions rather than answers; these issues cannot be solved without the environment as a whole; therefore, the environment and the people in it must be included in the solution (through the questioning).
Problems are rarely discrete. However, recognising that problems will move between the three types may be helpful in determining future actions as a leader. (Grint 2008)
‘it is often the case that the same individual or group with authority will switch between the Command, Management, and Leadership roles as they perceive – and constitute – the problem as Critical, Tame or Wicked, or even as a single problem that itself shifts across these boundaries. Indeed, this movement – often perceived as ‘inconsistency’ by the decision maker’s opponents – is crucial to success as the situation, or at least our perception of it, changes.’ (Grint, 2008, p14)
Oppression is solely due to the bias of those in power; it is because, in the utopia of a ‘more equal’ society, people with segments of power will have to relinquish that very same privilege.
Privilege may be described as notes being stuffed into your pockets as you walk down the street; The analogy misses the source of those resources, that money comes from the pockets of the oppressed. (Zeus Leonardo)
Where there is a power imbalance between two sets of people, the lines of power can only flow from oppressor to oppressed. From white to black, from men to women, from able-bodied to disabled, from hetero to LGBQ+. from cis to trans, etc.
Essential the roads equality, egalitarianism and equity are simple:
People in power need to relinquish that power to people who deserve it.
With the case of white supremacy, the lines flow from white people to people of colour. To solve white supremacy, white people need only to relinquish their unearned power to people of colour — further equity for the intersections of men to women, cis to trans, straight to LGBQ+, etc.
None of this above is the fault of the oppressed. No matter how a person of protected characteristics behaves, they are NOT responsible for their experiences of societal oppression; anything converse to this is pure and merely victim-blaming.
Bring this back to race; I am often told to adjust (my speech or actions) or act differently concerning my activism by white people. Before I go on to make my point, I am being dictated to by people who benefit from the oppression that I face and fight, how I should go about dealing with that day to day experience. If you don’t see the issue with that, please stop reading and go back to earlier blogs on oppression in the equity section.
However, I am aware that it often falls on the shoulders of PoC to enlighten educators about these issues. The burden of education, questioning, nudging and straight out calling out is emotionally exhausting it’s akin to constant swimming against the current. Please do not take my willingness (when I am up to it) as a responsibility.
[33:48] And when you really want to take away, to oppress, and to prevent, you have to have a reason for despising your victim. Where racism exists as an idea, it was always a confidence game that sucked all the strength of the victim. It really is the red flag that the toreador dances before the head of a bull. Its purpose is only to distract, to keep the bull’s mind away from his power and his energy, to keep his mind focused on anything but his own business. Its hoped-for consequence was to define Black people as reactions to White presence.
[35:46] It’s important, therefore, to know who the real enemy is, and to know the function, the very serious function of racism, which is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up.
Toni Morrison #citeblackwomen
Hence, part of ‘white supremacy’ function is to distract (Toni Morrison) and so are all form of this blatant abuse of power. Victim blaming is a form of distraction. It’s time we start tackle the issues around oppression and *supporting* the victims.
Kilgarth and Gilbrook Schools are a hard federation of under-funded, maintained SEMH schools for children who are often coping with complex learning difficulties and distressing personal circumstances, in an area among the most deprived in the country.
In order to break the cycle of aspirational deprivation we often have to contend with, we set out on an ambitious project; we wrote to inspirational figureheads from around the globe, asking them to send us a signed photograph and some words of wisdom. We hoped to show our pupils that they do not need to face the challenges of the future alone and that they should aspire to achieve great things. With the support of some local companies we collated the remarkable responses that we received and created a book; a copy was given to each student, with the hope that it would raise their personal aspirations. Staff and governors were also given copies, recognising the important role that they play in developing better outcomes for our school family and wider community. Our award-winning ‘Aspire’ project became the inspiration behind the naming of our new federation of schools.
Taking the learning from our project, my top five tips to raise aspirations, and promote well-being, amongst young people would be:
Have high aspirations at the heart of your vision
We spent over 12 months developing a mission statement, vision, and values for our schools and engaged all stakeholders, including students, teachers, families, governors, psychologists, and members of the local community. The result of our efforts can be seen in our mission statements.
Research has shown that the skills involved in resilience are almost as important as cognitive skills for achieving educational qualifications by adulthood. To raise awareness of the importance of resilience we have a number of positive quotes adorning the walls in our school, one of which is: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” The design of the displays was produced with the help of the students so they ‘bought into’ these values.
Create a culture where young people are offered a second chance
Who are we to judge? When our students make mistakes we always allow them the opportunity to have a second chance. When challenging behaviour is displayed we should be very careful not to label children; we should not be asking ‘what is wrong with you?’ rather we should be asking ‘what happened to you?’ and ‘how can we help you overcome these challenges?’
A recent study from the Manchester Institute of Education explored the links between academic attainment and children’s mental health. They reviewed gender differences and their findings suggested that increased testing and academic pressure in schools are likely to have a negative impact on mental health (particularly in girls). Their report also indicated that children’s experience of school may be critical to the onset of mental health problems. To promote a positive outlook, staff at both schools have embraced a coaching culture. This was originally introduced to support the emotional resilience of staff working in challenging environments, but we have also researched the positive impact that coaching has had on pedagogy. Professor Walter Mischel, creator of the famous marshmallow test, suggested that using goal oriented thoughts helps us to develop levels of self-control which also further develops our resilience.
Professor Roy Baumeister researched negativity bias, i.e. the fact that we tend to remember and focus more on negative experiences. During these times of high stakes accountability, I believe that we should focus on delivering as many positive experiences for young people as possible. The latest research into neuroplasticity shows that the brain remains plastic throughout our entire lives and that by explicitly rewarding specific, positive behaviours we want to encourage, we are able to ‘hard-wire’ them into the young people we work with. Psychologists call this ‘The Matthew effect’ and it is based on accumulated advantage, namely the happier you are, the happier you will become and that by sharing happiness, you will be able to boost others’ well-being.
We absolutely must commit ourselves to raising children’s aspirations but should also be mindful that with a reported ‘child mental health crisis’, emotional well-being should also be at the front of our minds; it should not be an optional extra. I will leave you with the quote from the inspirational Liverpool boxer, Natasha Jonas, who personally handed out the books to our boys, following a series of boxing masterclasses she led for them:
“You have three names in life. One you are given, one you inherit…and the other you make for yourself.”
I am in progress, trying to figure out how to best be a guy right now. I understand some obvious don’ts, some obvious do’s, but there’s a whole lot of mess in between. I’m trying to figure those things out. Trying to figure out how to stumble through these things without doing more damage.
Admittedly, I am behind. I’ve done a lot of work on what it means to be white, to understand how race and racism work in our country. I’m no expert there either, but I’ve been putting in the work. I have a lot more to learn about gender, a lot more to do to see, really, the ways that sexism shape our experiences. I, like many, I imagine, have found this moment to be one I cannot look away from, cannot stop thinking about, but I’m not sure exactly what it means yet for men, for me.
I see men struggling with this everywhere. They want to supportive, yes, but also that’s hard when it seems so many men everywhere, most likely all of us, have been some part of the problem. Men are hearing phrases like ‘toxic masculinity’ and worrying that all of masculinity is being labeled toxic. I see men acting like an awful lot is being asked of them.
We need to be better. This much should be glaringly obvious. This moment in history is not about us, it is from us. So, men, we have work to do. We do. Me too.
It is ok to be a man.
No one is telling you that it’s not. When someone says, “men have hurt me,” or “men can be dangerous and damaging,” or, even, “men are trash,” we feel it. We feel like they are saying it’s not ok to be a man, but that’s because brains are dumb, and any time we feel a little uncomfortable we go into full on oh-my-god-i’m-being-attacked mode. We run away from what’s been said at moments that we should be listening hardest.
But no one is telling you it’s not ok to be a man.
It is ok to find women attractive. Have you seen them? They’re very good looking, and it is ok to think so. No one is saying that you can’t think or hope for or share sexy things sometimes, but the purpose of women is not to be attractive and have boobs around you.
But we shouldn’t comment on the bodies of the women around us, shouldn’t reduce them to being objects of attraction, shouldn’t stare or grab or send that text that says, “hey, we just met, let me tell you the things I think about your body,” or “what an interesting spreadsheet of cost analysis you shared in the meeting today, also, here’s that picture of my penis you didn’t request.”
No one is saying that you shouldn’t find women attractive, but your attraction to women does not excuse actions that make women around you feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or undervalued.This is not a high bar for us to climb over. Like, this should be the easy stuff.
Part of the work ahead of us is to figure out how much we’ve internalized some concept that women are less-than, that their value as a colleague or friend or person has anything to do with how attractive we may or may not find them. This is harder stuff. We grew up in this, we swim in it all day. This is part of the process of this piece, that I had it out there and was checked on how much my “don’t objectify women” stuff still objectified women. Yes. Yep.
So it needs to be ok to be sexual, right? But also we cannot do it at the expense of respecting the whole real humanity of the women around us. Yes. This shouldn’t be the hard stuff, but it is kinda the hard stuff.
Look, sometimes work crushes and work flirting is the only thing that gets us back in the door the next day. But also, look, we need to know when it’s ok and welcome. We need to understand where lines are, need to understand that silence isn’t consent, that silence is often the loudest “no” that can be made without all the “just joking just relax just complimenting just guys being guys.” It’s not that hard, really, to know if someone is interested in that kind of attention from you and in that moment, not hard to ask or be clear or know people well enough to but if you do think it’s hard, if you do believe that every interaction you have with a woman is a potential trap to you being branded a pervert and predator, then trust your instincts and leave women alone.
So I think that’s what people mean, that’s what I understand that they mean, when they talk about toxic masculinity. The phrase is not an attack on all of masculinity. The phrase is meant to highlight that there are pieces of masculinity that have been perverted in a way that encourage and excuse causing harm to others and yourself. Icky masculinity.
We may feel like the options in front of us right now are to behave as we’ve always behaved and blame the outrage machine or over-reactions or political correctness for all these stories being such a big deal, or we can chop our genitals and sit at home alone for the rest of our lives. But, actually, there’s a whole bunch of area between those two things, a whole magical space called “being a decent human to other humans.” Again, this should be the easy stuff.
Men. Think about the times you’ve been the most angry in the last few weeks, the last year, the last time you called someone “Bitch.” How much of your anger, or even discomfort, was caused by someone saying you didn’t get to have or do something that you really wanted? And why does that make us so damn mad? Why does it scare us so much?
A lot of guys are scared. I get that. I’m kinda freaked out. I’m sure I’ve been the guy who made someone uncomfortable, and probably unsafe, and probably unvalued. I know that I never intended to. I know that when I’ve been called on it, I have gotten this spikey pit in my stomach that made me want to give up on talking to women forever, but I also know I didn’t mean to, which only kinda makes it a little better.
And though it may feel like every interaction with women we have or have ever had is this minefield we are all certain to stumble in, the reality is that the women in our lives are giving us thousands of chances to get this right. They want so badly for us to be one of the good ones. They want us to try. A witch hunt doesn’t typically have a thousand second chances for the hunted.
I’d like to be one of the good ones. I’d like to be an ally, you know? But that’s not a word I think should be self-applied, and I have most certainly not earned it yet. I’ve been that other guy. I’ve never meant to, never had the intent to make someone uncomfortable or use my body or my voice or my position to make any woman feel uncomfortable, and certainly not in any way that she would feel there is no option but act like it’s fine. I’ve never tried to be the guy on the other end of #metoo, I would never want to have done that, but it’s also impossible to imagine I haven’t. Fuck. I didn’t know.
Still, though, it was my responsibility to know, right? Before the flirty comment or the joke, or whatever I did that was creepy. It was my job to know it was ok before I did those things, to know the impact those jokes and comments, that where my body is and the danger it could represent, to understand how my interactions with women are impacted by the history of interactions between all men and all women.
Maybe we don’t start at “he’s probably a good guy” and we don’t start at neutral. We start, very often, at “This man may do, say, or try something that may harm me.” Listen to the women of the world right now. We’ve earned it. Now, it’s our job to do better. It’s our job as men to do whatever is necessary to prioritize the safety and comfort of the women around us.
Kubler Ross is commonly used to describe the five stages of grief; however, the same process is mirrored by stakeholders in most organisational changes. All reticent to change and consequent resistance is due to a fear of loss, losses of the norm and other possible options.
Elisabeth Kubler Ross describes the stages as standard defensive mechanisms that humans move through to manage change. She states that progression to the acceptance/decision is unique, is not linear in terms of time or even consequential.
Some people in your schools may spend longer than others in certain stages and even some that regress back to a phase they have already visited. A skill of leadership is to recognise and act accordingly to where the organisation is and to where individuals lie.
Denial: If I don’t say it out allowed, it will not happen — a completely natural phase where the vision and alignment must be set.
Frustration: I believe this is misplaced fear, a telltale sign is that the anger is typically misplaced.
Depression: This is the critical stage as followers will bounce back to frustration f they are motivated to experiment.
Experiment: This stage involves the most hand-holding. Leaders should give followers the resources and time to progress, no matter how tentatively.
Decision: Once followers have bought in, use their participation to recruit and support others on their journey.
There is an act of violence white youths attack each other with machetes, the news reports it as,
Media Outlets have reported:
Seven police officers were injured after they were called to reports of 100 people – including youths and thugs with machetes – fighting in the entertainment complex Sun City just after 5.30pm on Saturday.
Five teenagers have been arrested, including a girl aged 13, after a violent fight involving 100 people broke out at the packed Vue cinema in entertainment complex Star City near Nechells on Saturday evening
Supt Ian Brown, from Police, said: “This was a major outbreak of trouble which left families who were just trying to enjoy a night out at the cinema understandably frightened.
“We worked quickly to move the crowds on, but were met with a very hostile response and officers had to draw Tasers to restore order.”
As a result, the violent film Joker has been pulled from cinemas, in the movie, violence is glorified, and scenes of riots and violence are frequent.
The above is an obvious parody, of course, the Joker hasn’t been banned. However, Blue Story by Andrew’ Rapman’ Onwubolu has, from Vue cinemas. From what I have read here are some points.
1. The youths were at the cinema to watch Frozen 2.
2. The children were not black.
3. Blue Story is rated 15, and the teenagers involved were younger than that.
4. The Blue Story is centred around a pacifistic storyline ( I can’t be sure as I haven’t seen it, for obvious reasons).
What do you think are the possible reasons for this reaction by Vue cinemas?
As educators, this is an excellent opportunity to educate about perceptions, censorship and power. This week, please do consider discussing with your pupils that certain groups are much more likely to be vilified and other groups are given critical acclaim.
I would advocate using VTS style (visual thinking strategies) to explore further.
VTS was developed by Yenawine and Housen in the late 1980’s for use in museums and art galleries,
‘VTS uses art to teach visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills–listening and expressing oneself. Growth is stimulated by several things: Looking at art of increasing complexity; answering developmentally based questions (what’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can we find?); participating in peer group discussions carefully facilitated by teachers.’ (Yenawine in Spring et al 2017)
Yenawine argues that VTS offers a ‘new paradigm that nurtures deeper learning’ and gives participants’ permission to wonder’ (p. 163). It is now used by educators in many museums (Yenawine, 2013).
In pure VTS, facilitators are not supposed to provide any praise or context for the art- works that are discussed. This is meant to create space for participants to think openly, vocally and socially – using the artworks as inspiration and subject matter (Simon, 2010, in Yenawine, 2013).
What is going on in the actions of the cinema?
Who are the people involved in the crime?
Who are the people impacted by the decisions made?
This will be scheduled and posted at a time when I feel it is right to do so.
I woke up yesterday morning to another hate-fuelled massacre, let me call a spade a spade, the El Paso shooting was a terrorist act from a white supremacist. The conversations and quite rightly have started around gun regulations in the US.
I could help myself from thinking that gun regulations aims to provide a sticky plaster around the whole issue*?
What causes this hate? Who is responsible for these shootings?
People carrying atrocities are held personally responsible, yes, this certainly is not a vindication or a plea for mercy with concerns to that. I wholly believe that these people should be brought to justice and be held responsible for their actions.
Now, come with me here, let’s move away from the individual and shift the lens to society.
I would like us all to look at the racist to anti-racist spectrum and judge where ‘society’, people on the whole falls. The majority of people making up the society. This is available free here.
I would suspect you would not conclude that society is anti-racist from the above diagram.
The diagram below is the pyramid of white supremacy.
Each tier of the pyramid is based on the layer below it. It cannot exist without the structural integrity of the whole pyramid.
Do you engage in the colour blind narrative?
Do you show white solidarity: stay silent when racism happens because it makes your life easier?
Do you deny the existence of white privilege?
Do you actively engage in the white saviour complex?
Do you support immigration policies that disproportionately impact on people of colour?
Do you choose to be apolitical to not engage in politics?
Do you engage in conversations which lead with ‘the not all white people’?
Do you think racism is ever due to the actions of people of colour?
Do you think and propagate the myth that we live in a post-racial society?
Do you think pro-black initiatives are ‘racist’?
Do you take part appropriation of culture?
Do you enforce hair policies which disproportionately impact on people of colour?
Do you choose to be complicit in an ethnocentric curriculum?
There is no such thing as ‘not racist’. There are only two options racist and anti-racist.
If you fall on that pyramid. You are adding to the issues. You are holding up the structures. The impact of your actions are cumulative and ultimately lead to the acts of atrocities, murder and genocide.
Yes. we are responsible. Yes, I’m saying we’re promoting a white supremacist agenda.
If this makes you uncomfortable. I am glad, now the choice is clear. Choose your side because the days of us having it both ways are over.
*As I am born and bred in the UK; I am obviously not in favour of guns in any form.
Written by Sofie Bergland, Norwegian Study Centre, University of York, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.
“The pain of not addressing racism is all the more dangerous particularly in educational spheres where the minds, subjectivities and futures of minoritized youth are influenced.” (Solomon et al. 2006).
The statement above explains vividly why the educational arena is an ideal place to start challenging racist and ‘white ignorance’ attitudes. The evidence I have come across towards institutional racism within the British education system is overwhelming. As a Norwegian teacher trainee, I will have a substantial responsibility when it comes to dealing with and addressing ‘race’ issues in the classroom in the future. On these grounds, it has been essential for me to study and critically question how I can bring this new knowledge into my future profession. In this piece, I will primarily address the experiences with racism in teacher trainee courses in the UK. However, as a Norwegian citizen, I will also provide an outlook on the issue concerning ‘race talk’ in Norway. These claims emphasize the need for anti-racism and diversity training in ITT courses in both the UK and Norway.
The department for British education states its purpose is to “ensure that education builds character, resilience and well-being” (GOV.UK 2019). Likewise, the government in Norway believes “all people are equal regardless of what makes us different” (Government.no 2019) and refers to maintaining ‘human dignity’.
Although these thoughts represent what we continuously strive for, it is not the current reality for many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people (BAME). Studies from the UK demonstrate there is “unintentional racism towards students”, “little support and engagement from teachers” and “prejudice-based bullying” (Bain 2018) starting in primary and continuing throughout high school. Their “well-being”, which is stated as a fundamental principle, is not maintained when having to face involuntarily disadvantages and discrimination in school. Between the years 2014-2017, reports of racial hate crimes increased by 50% in schools in the UK (Bain 2018). Consequently, the time to reflect upon the construction of teacher training courses has never been more necessary.
Teacher trainee experiences in the UK
A study published by Bhopal and Rhamie (2014) explores the various encounters teacher trainees had with ‘race’ and racism in their courses. The first significant encounter was the conflict on dealing with ‘otherness’. The issues following the notion of being different was either not recognised or “could not be tackled” (Bhopal 2014). It was concerning social class background. However, the trainees felt the “physical markers of race” (Bhopal 2014) were the most prominent regarding ‘otherness’.
Secondly, some felt that diversity and inclusion “were important goals to be aimed for” (Bhopal 2014), but few believed it could be achieved. A prevailing view regarding significant concerns in today’s society is believing that one person’s actions will not make a difference. This opinion is not only experienced with racism, but also regarding climate change and political voting.
Lastly, the trainees experienced “racist assumptions” based on racial perceptions. Several of the participants in this study were of BAME backgrounds. They reported mostly positive experiences. On the other hand, they encountered episodes of stereotypical attitudes and isolation “from their White peers” (Bhopal 2014). The research demonstrates that teachers also experience racism in the classroom. Generally speaking, the majority of the trainees “did not feel equipped” (Bhopal 2014) to handle racial incidents nor to discuss ‘race’ and ‘otherness’.
‘Race-talk’ in Norway
The outcome of an observational study by Svendsen (2013) about Norwegian classrooms in relation to ‘race-talk’, brought five issues into light when deliberating this topic. The aim of the study was to highlight how racialised topics were discussed between students and teachers. A vast majority of the teachers were White Norwegians. The study concludes that through “denial of ‘race’…racism is enacted in the classroom” (Svendsen 2013).
The first problem was how educators and students defined racism differently. To the teachers, the term was simply reserved for skin-colour based incidents. On the contrary, students related the word to ethnicity, culture, religion and skin colour. With the students’ understanding of racism, racial acts are results of “the insurmountability of cultural differences” (Svendsen 2013). General confusion about the definition of the concept of ‘race’, leads to responses such as it is “too close for comfort” (Svendsen 2013) and is often why the topics are avoided in the first place.
Second, the emotional state and prior experiences will determine the approach to situations. One teacher used an example of ‘cultural conflicts’ that received negative responses from the students. The teacher tried to explain the topic of immigration in terms of being ‘thrown out of the library’ for wearing caps. This effort to ‘neutralize’ the political issue of citizenship and immigration control, assumed ‘cultural conflicts’ were driven by “unequal power relations” (Svendsen 2013). By using such examples, the educator put teachers in a position of power and subliminally removed the students’ voices. This incident indicates the lack of prior experiences and knowledge the teacher has with cultural conflicts. In addition, a student reacted by yelling “because we are foreigners” (Svendsen 2013) to the question about why they were thrown out of the library. The reaction might have been catalysed by prior experiences or more awareness about the topic.
The third issue that arose was rejecting the existence and saying the concept of ‘race’ was dated. A specific incident sparked this conclusion. The word ‘neger’ was brought up by one of the students. The educator stated it was a “historical term” (Svendsen 2013) and refused to acknowledge its relevance in racial discourses in today’s society. His lack of ability to talk about ‘race’ in a critical way, was determined by “anxiety of being cast as a racist” (Svendsen 2013). I believe this is true for many teachers: they lack deep knowledge about the concept, have not questioned their own perceptions, and are afraid to come across as racist.
Fourth, discussing only the negative sides of immigration. An attempt at having a class discussion on the theme of immigration, lead to negative stigmatization related to the term. Instead of focusing on the misconceptions and stereotypes people might have when thinking of immigration, he focused on the negative effects. The students with immigrant parents tried to “rid themselves of the bad feeling the topic had landed on them” (Svendsen 2013). Is this a case of ignorance or unawareness of a student’s identity?
Lastly, believing that all human beings are of the same race. To close up the ‘discussion’, the teacher asked the students to write down “that all human beings are of the same race” (Svendsen 2013). This task given undermines the history and oppression of BAME people, and the current racial incidents that are taking place.
Considering the five main conflicts that derived from the study by Svendsen (2013), I have created a simple list containing crucial points suggesting how teacher trainees can start tackling the institutional racism in education.
1. Acknowledge the existence of ‘racism’ and ‘white privilege’.
2. Present an accurate definition of ‘race’ and ‘racism’, so that both the teacher and the students have a common understanding of the terms.
3. Prior experiences and judgements have to be dealt with beforehand. Teachers have to critically analyse their own misconceptions and stereotyping.
4. Address the negative misconceptions surrounding the term ‘immigration’ and how it is often portrayed wrongly by the media.
5. Discuss the concept of ‘colour-blindness’ and why it is not an option. It is about acknowledging the struggles and discrimination BAME people have faced for decades.
6. Know your students in a way that when bringing up these concepts no one offended.
In the end, it all comes down to what qualities we want students to face the world with? Excellent academic work and leadership or being open-minded and critical thinkers? Education has become a place of prestige and a competition on acquiring the best results. Where are the fundamental values of kindness and respect in this picture?
Bain, Z. (2018). ‘Is there such a thing as ‘white ignorance’ in British education?’ in ETHICS AND EDUCATION. Volume 13, Part 1. Pp 4-21
Bhopal, K. & Rhamie, J. (2014). ‘Initial teacher training: understanding ‘race’, diversity and inclusion’ in Race Ethnicity and Education. Volume 17, Part 3. Pp 304-325
Government.no (2019). ‘Core curriculum – values and principles for primary and secondary education’ Viewed at
Svendsen, S. H. B. (2013). ‘Learning racism in the absence of ‘race’’ in European Journal of Women’s Studies. Volume 21, Part 1. Pp 9-24
Solomona, R. P. & Portelli, J. P. & Daniel, B-J. & Campbell, A. (2006). ‘The discourse of denial: how white teacher candidates construct race, racism and ‘white privilege’’ in Race Ethnicity and Education. Volume 8, Part 2. Pp 147-169