#BoycottVue Power and VTS in our Classrooms

‘The Joker has been pulled from the cinema!’

Pran Patel

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). 

Possible questions:

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?

What is the message?

References:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/breaking-vue-bans-blue-story-20949659

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/breaking-blue-story-film-banned-20950780

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/birmingham-star-city-attack-machete-arrest-cinema-police-evacuation-a9215511.html?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1574588505

Lauren Spring, Melissa Smith & Maureen DaSilva (2018) The transformative- learning potential of feminist-inspired guided art gallery visits for people diagnosed with

 mental illness and addiction, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 37:1, 55-72, DOI: 10.1080/02601370.2017.1406543 

Yenawine, P. (2013). Visual thinking strategies: Using art to deepen learning across school disciplines. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. 

 

El Paso: A Teachers’ Mea Culpa. Whose Fault?

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.

Activity 1

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.

 

cropped-antiracistbinary.png

I would suspect you would not conclude that society is anti-racist from the above diagram.

White supremacy is typically associated with burning crosses and white hoods, this ‘toxic association’ is problematic (future blog coming September 2019).

The diagram below is the pyramid of white supremacy.

img_4475

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.

Lack of Anti-Racism and Diversity Training in ITT and ITE courses in Britain and Norway

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 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). Click To Tweet

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’.

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… Click To Tweet

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.

some felt that diversity and inclusion “were important goals to be aimed for” (Bhopal 2014), but few believed it could be achieved. Click To Tweet

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.

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.… Click To Tweet

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?

References

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
https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/verdier-og-prinsipper-for-grunnopplaringen—overordnet-del-av-lareplanverket/id2570003/ .

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

Why I’m No Longer Speaking About Allyship at Diverse Events

‘Allyship is about sacrifice; everything else is stamp collecting.’

Pran Patel

Zeus Leonardo describes privilege as walking down the street and money is snuck into your pockets without you knowing. The ‘walking down the street’ analogy fails to acknowledge the source of that money. Zeus succinctly and quite rightly states that the money comes from the pockets of the oppressed. (Zeus Leonardo)

I fundamentally believe that if you are born with an unearned advantage or a novel way of thinking about it, the distinct lack of disadvantage. We have to use this privilege to enhance the life experiences of the oppressed. Remember, those advantages exist because of their disadvantage.

This process is often called allyship. What is allyship? You may have heard me say that ‘allyship is about sacrifice; everything else is stamp collecting.’

This process is often called allyship. What is allyship? You may have heard me say that 'allyship is about sacrifice; everything else is stamp collecting.' Click To Tweet

The whole point of allyship is to redress the balance, to use that proverbial unearned money to:

  1. To amplify the voices of the silenced (oppressed).
  2. To use my systemic privilege to support those without privilege.
  3. To give up the systemic privileges which we did not earn and use them to do the above.

I have previously spoken at WomenEd and other feminist events as a #HeForShe, after a recent reflection, this is an act of entitled male privilege in its self. If my aims are listed above, does speaking on allyship ever achieve any of them?  

What Does Talking About Allyship Achieve in a Diverse Space Achieve?

“But Pran as an advocate, you may encourage others to recognise and use their privilege.”

Every time I have entered that space, I have always met enthusiasm from numerous women but very few men. Rarely multitudes of men who would benefit from a message of solidarity or a call to allyship are present. Equally, men who would buy a ticket and make their way to a WomenED event are floating voters. 

The more I think about it; my conclusions are tending towards the only thing I am doing is taking up space. 

1. Taking that spot from a woman.

2. Pulling people (the audience) away from other workshops run by women. 

3. The only person who benefits is me from the feeling that I am redressing the imbalance, where I am likely causing damage.

The only person who benefits here is me. Allyship is not for the privileged; it’s solely a for the oppressed. I will continue to use my privilege to advocate, lift and support those who by an accident of birth who are not as advantaged as I am.

The only person who benefits here is me. Allyship is not for the privileged; it's solely a for the oppressed. Click To Tweet

What should I (as an Ally) be doing?

Earlier, I said allyship is about sacrifice, what does this mean? it’s using your voice and power to elevate. That means enquiring at an interview why you don’t see a diverse panel and walking away if that HT doesn’t value diversity. It means enquiring pre-booking if a panel includes women/women of colour and giving up your place (and pay) and using your networks to find a more representative authentic balance panel.

That means enquiring at an interview why you don't see a diverse panel and walking away if that HT doesn't value diversity. Click To Tweet

As with all these things, I have no fixed position and I am still undecided. Do please let me know your thoughts and we can co-construct together.

Completely coincidently, WomenED have announced their 4th Unconference follow the tweet below for more information.

 

“Ticking All the Boxes” or “Ticking All The Boxes”: Children’s Literature, Diversity and Quality

Dr Meg Roughley, NSC, U of York (via a moment of Catherine Johnson’s Freedom)

Representation of ‘diversity’ versus ‘quality’ of writing: this is a theme that keeps popping up, no matter how many times it’s whacked on the head.  Just last year, Lionel Shriver quizzed (in The Spectator, of course) Penguin Random House’s ‘new company-wide goal’ to increase the representation of minority staff and authors:

“Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’ȇtre as the acquisition and dissemination of good books.  Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK population with statistical precision.  Thus from now until 2025, literary excellence will be secondary to ticking all those ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual preference and crap-education boxes….  Good luck with that business model.  Publishers may eschew standards, but readers will still have some.” (www.spectator.co.uk/2018/06/when-diversity-means-uniformity)

Drunk on virtue, Penguin Random House no longer regards the company’s raison d’ȇtre as the acquisition and dissemination of good books.  Rather, the organisation aims to mirror the percentages of minorities in the UK… Click To Tweet

Shriver has come right out and said it, but the accusation runs like a murmur through the sanctioned literary classes.  Listen, and you can hear it everywhere: ‘pandering’ to demands for ‘diversity’ leads to substandard writing which benefits no-one.  It isn’t true, of course.  The only truth revealed here is the conservatism of a literati entrenched in Oxbridgean notions of “good books” and literary “standards” and fearful of change/loss of power.

When it comes to children’s literature, those murmurings don’t die down.  Even amongst those who consider writing for children a lesser sort of writing, there is an assumption of loss of “quality” if the work offers representations of diversity outside the parameters set by the status quo. Just what is meant by “quality” is never really made clear.  What is “fine writing”?  Are we meant to refer back to TS Eliot, FR Leavis and The Great Tradition?  Should we be comparing everything to Shakespeare?

Are we meant to refer back to TS Eliot, FR Leavis and The Great Tradition?  Should we be comparing everything to Shakespeare? Click To Tweet

I’m going to duck around these questions, because I have become sceptical about the thinking behind that thinking, and I don’t think children are particularly bothered by it anyway.  From what I’ve observed, children want two things from a book:  an interesting story and some useful information. We do know this — right from its beginnings in the 17th century, children’s literature in English has had the dual purpose of ‘pleasing whilst instructing’.  The instructing bit is obviously very important, especially to educators and parents, but so is the pleasing bit without which much of the instructing might not be absorbed.

Few things are more pleasurable than a good story, one that affects us both intellectually and emotionally.  Those are the first two boxes a story has to tick:  it has to be interesting and it has to move me.  If it also ticks others by, say, giving me an unusual sort of hero or different knowledges, so much the better, I say.  For me, its “quality” is all bound up in the satisfactions it affords me, my heart and my mind.

As an example of a truly satisfying story that ticks many boxes, let’s take a look at Catherine Johnson’s Freedom( available here https://amzn.to/2KyxjZ3).  Just to assure you that we’re not relying on my judgement alone, it won this year’s Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction, so clearly some well-informed people think the same.  Set in London in 1783, Freedom is the story of Nathaniel Barratt, a 10 year old enslaved boy brought by his owners from Jamaica to England to tend a cargo of pineapple plants intended as a wedding gift.  When Nathaniel, who thought he would be free in England, finds out that he, too, is to be a wedding gift, he runs away and soon finds himself in the company of Black abolitionists and embroiled in the famous Zong legal case. (In 1781, 132 enslaved Africans were thrown overboard from the slave ship Zong, and the ship’s owners went to court to get their insurers to compensate them for the loss of ‘stock’.)   Lots of ticked ‘diversity’ boxes, here:  our hero is an enslaved boy who will triumph without a ‘white saviour’; other principal characters are Black abolitionists; the tale is based on an actual historical event which it re-presents with a focus on real people who ‘White’ History has erased.  On top of that, as one of the judges, Darren Chetty, has commented, “Johnson’s writing is a masterclass in the maxim ‘show don’t tell’ – through the point of view of her protagonist we are brought into his world and yet we are afforded space to emotionally engage with the story she offers us.” (https://littlerebels.org/2019/07/10/catherine-johnson-is-the-2019-little-rebels-award-winner/)  So, it also ticks the ‘well-written’ box.

As an example of a truly satisfying story that ticks many boxes, let’s take a look at Catherine Johnson’s Freedom ( https://amzn.to/2KyxjZ3 ).  Just to assure you that we’re not relying on my judgement alone, it won… Click To Tweet

Let’s have a look at a bit of the ‘show don’t tell’ wizardry.  In Chapter 6, Nat has just run away from his mistress’s home after an undeserved beating.  With no knowledge of London, he sets off to find a kind sailor who had befriended Nat on the ship from Jamaica and told Nat to find him at his sister’s pub if he needed help.  Nat relates, “I kept running and running for what felt like hours, down what seemed like a thousand streets, all lined with high buildings” and all looking the same.  A footman shouts at him to “Get off” and a carriage driver almost runs him down.  He is utterly lost, confused and forlorn.  But, then, he is then plucked from under the horses’ feet by someone who he, initially, thinks “looked as angry as the footman”.

His salvation from death by carriage is followed by a series of realisations:  his ‘saviour’ has an American accent and a face “darker-skinned than my own”, and he is “worried not angry”.  As Nat wonders if he can trust this stranger, “[h]e bent down and his eyes were dark brown and uneasy.  ‘I know what you are,’ he said.  ‘I can help.’”  The colonial accent, dark skin, dark brown eyes all mark the old soldier and street performer, Shadrack Furman, as someone like Nat.  This impression is sealed when Shadrack “pulled his shirt away from his collarbone:  there was a mark, a brand, of interlocking letters – ‘if I am not mistaken we have much in common.’  He saw me nod and covered up again.”  The momentarily revealed indelible true thing, the mark of oppression that they share beneath their clothes, suggests a connection that is deep, essential, and something to be relied upon.  In Shadrack we can trust: “[if] anyone asks, tell them I’m your father”.  (There is not space here to go into the hints of the story of Shadrach with Meshach and Abednego in the book of Daniel, but it is worth acknowledging in passing.)

The immediate effect on Nat is that he is now, with a “father” to hand, secure enough to notice, for the first time, details in the surroundings.  Where before everything looked the same (“The garden square looked exactly the same as the one I’d fled.”), he now sees shops with “bowed-glass windows, bright coloured fronts, red and blue and yellow.  Gloves displayed in fans like flowers, hats, lace, china that the old mistress would love in her house and that the young master would love to smash.”  From terror and confusion to trust and clarity:  this is the difference that Shadrack, the branded Black father figure, has made to the boy lost in a threatening White world of privilege.  And, it has all been done without any explicit description.  We haven’t been told:  like Nat, we are seeing.

Shadrack leads Nat from the shops full of expensive, frivolous things to “a street of bakers and saddlers, shops of the more useful sort, and he pulled me into a grocer’s shop.  Inside, it was warm and smelled of coffee and spices….”  (This is not the first, and it won’t be the last, time Nat finds relief in a working-class setting.  The class associations are also worth noting in passing.)  The grocer’s is run by a real person, Frances Sancho, daughter of Ignatius Sancho, an important historical figure about whom we find out more as the story progresses.  Nat, whose mother and sister had been sold away from the Barratts’ plantation in Jamaica, is enthralled by Frances — “a tall brown woman … with bright skin and black braided hair, she was such a beauty I was struck dumb” —  who will feed and clothe him. From terror and confusion to trust and clarity to warmth and safety in a ‘maternal’ space:  this is the arc on which Chapter 6 has taken us.  It ends with Nat full-fed, fathered and mothered, falling asleep in an armchair, “in the flicker of candlelight.”  Naturally, things will change, threats will rear their heads, action will subsequently occur, but for the moment, we and Nat know where safety lies.

This is a book for ‘middle-grade’ readers (upper primary/lower secondary), and it ticks the pedagogically relevant boxes of ‘accessible language’ and ‘stimulating narrative’, on top of the ‘diversity’ boxes.  Click To Tweet

This is a book for ‘middle-grade’ readers (upper primary/lower secondary), and it ticks the pedagogically relevant boxes of ‘accessible language’ and ‘stimulating narrative’, on top of the ‘diversity’ boxes.  However, more than that – or despite that, as Shriver might contend – it is a complex fiction with some real psychological depth.  Whether or not the child reader consciously takes all of that on board, they will be absorbing layers of meaning and good aesthetic principles, and they will likely find that satisfying, even if they couldn’t say why.  There is nothing “secondary” about writing like this, absolutely nothing.

The Sins of the Father

Reggie is a young boy, 16 years old, blonde hair, ruffled and permed with a fade, he finished his GCSE exams last summer and is currently looking for work. He is white, middle-class, and delighted with life.

Reggie is a young boy, 16 years old, blonde hair, ruffled and permed with a fade, he finished his GCSE exams last summer and is currently looking for work. He is white, middle-class, and delighted with life. Click To Tweet

Jenny is a young girl, 16 years old, brunette hair which is held out of her eyes by a self-cut fringe and a scrunchie. Jenny finished her GCSE exams this summer, and she’s also currently looking for work. She is a member of the global majority, working-class, and is not very happy with life, where Reggie had food on the table every single night. Jenny grew up where her personal needs were neglected because of the circumstances of those in her care.

What if I told you that Jenny is in that situation because Reggie’s father had stolen from Jenny’s family.

What is the just outcome here?

Would we expect Jenny’s family’s stolen wealth to be returned? Possibly even with an apology and interest too to factor in for the damage done to her family.

Activity 1: Do not skip through the questions, read each one and then takes some time to reflect and answer it:

What happens if Reggie’s father has passed away since the crime?

Then the wealth from his estate should surely be recompensated?

What if it wasn’t Reggie’s father, but grandfather?

What if Jenny lives in another country?

Should the wealth and consequences of Reggie’s family history be paid back to Jenny’s family?

I doubt any of you who are reading this would disagree that when we cause damage compensation is a just consequence. There should be a returning to the rightful owner with considerations the consequent impact.

I doubt any of you who are reading this would disagree that when we cause damage compensation is a just consequence. There should be a returning to the rightful owner with considerations the consequent impact. Click To Tweet

Is ultimately Reggie responsible for Jenny’s outcomes? Reggie had no role in the activities of his forefathers. I’m sure that Reggie has worked very hard, like his father and grandfather, but they were given a leg up through the immoral deeds of their ancestry. Reggie’s family gained a distinct advantage, and this advantage comes with inflicting disadvantage on Jenny and her family (this is a zero-sum game).

The myth of a meritocracy fogs the way we view this in a systemic sense. As a British-born citizen, I have reaped the rewards of the Great British system, and yes, I have benefited from them greatly. However, without acknowledging that these benefits have come at least in part from colonial oppression would be willful ignorance on my part.

Pran, Are you saying that the people who are born today should pay for the sins of those born hundreds of years ago?

I am saying we should all understand where our chances in life have come from they have not just have materialised. Then making the leap that our starting point is independent of how hard we work is not as stressful.

I am saying we should all understand where our chances in life have come from they have not just have materialised. Then making the leap that our starting point is independent of how hard we work is not as stressful. Click To Tweet

For this to work:

1. We have to willing look objectively, at the risk that everything you know may have been distorted.

2. Disregard the fear of losing what we have. Expect this to be uncomfortable.

3. In our practice as educators- do we consider the meritocracy as a myth? do we teach the above to the next generation?

and now, dig deep, and answer this question.

4. How do you and I go about redressing the balance?

The College Years – Race

Guest blog from @HalilMrT1

I remember that office so vividly that if I were to close my eyes I could tell you almost every detail of the room. I could tell you about the paintings on the walls, the colour of the walls, the paraphernalia on his desk, the books on the shelves and the ridiculous curtains that were still allowing (in my opinion) too much light through – what was the point of them?… I was having to shield my eyes from the sun coming through the thinly veiled window.

What was the point of the meeting? Why had I been summoned to his office? To the heads office! My college headteacher has called ME into his office!

I was outside a few minutes before just chatting with a friend – we were talking about very important issues – “man what are you going to wear to the end of year ball?” – I mean what’s more important!? Then, out of nowhere, my form tutor walks over and tells me that the head would like to see me in his office. Sandeep (the friend I was talking to) put his hand to his mouth and took a sharp intake of breath “ooooyah!” – he didn’t have to say anything else.

The head was looking directly at me, I was looking everywhere else but at him. He proceeded to speak…

“Halil we have noticed your attendance has slipped, this is unacceptable. There are other people who would love a place at this college” I knew what he was implying – my place at the college was under threat.

They knew why my attendance had slipped, but they didn’t understand. They knew my mum was unwell.

What they didn’t know or understand was what it is like to be the older (male) sibling in a Turkish Cypriot family. The expectation on my shoulders to support my father in the kebab shop that we had at the time. My Baba never asked me to help, I made the decision to. I felt I had to. My duty. I suppose it’s all linked to the stories my father used to share with me about how he used to help my Ali Dede – pronounced deh deh (grandfather)-  particularly through the spring and summer months, selling watermelons around the other villages near his own in Kıbrıs. Family first. Son helping father. Family responsibilities.

What they didn't know or understand was what it is like to be the older (male) sibling in a Turkish Cypriot family. The expectation Click To Tweet

I mean how could I watch him struggling to look after my mum who couldn’t work because of her illness (another blog for another time) and running a business that had just been set up?

“You don’t understand what it’s like for me…what family means to me. I’m not you, someone else can have my place I don’t care, you don’t understand!” my response was swift.

What I really meant was –  “you don’t understand my culture/you don’t understand what I ‘have’ to do!”

He looked at me, silent. I am sure he was not expecting the response I gave him…and I was not expecting his.

“Halil, I don’t think I do understand. Come and see me again tomorrow, we’ll work something out. Maybe we can look at adjusting start times for you for a short while – you have a bright future I don’t want it wasted”

Halil, I don't think I do understand. Come and see me again tomorrow, we'll work something out. Maybe we can look at adjusting start times for you for a short while - you have a bright future I don't want it wasted Click To Tweet
That act of understanding, kindness and compassion was so important as I know I would not be where I am now in my career if it had not been for his reaction.

I did see him the following day but I didn’t need a change of timetable as our meeting made me open up to my Baba – he sorted it. My dad had this saying “as long as Baba is here everything will be ok”. He had a way of making everything better no matter how bad things were. He’s not here anymore – and for a short time, after he was “taken” everything was bad – he wasn’t here to make it better. But I’ve come to realise that he is here (I’m holding hand to my chest) and I take great comfort in that.

It is so important to look at each situation on an individual basis. Take time to understand the whole person.

At my school the stories, backgrounds and lives that make up each child is taken into account – our children know they are cared for.

As long as we are all here for each other everything will be ok ☺️.

#belong #care #persevere #succeed

Do You Actually Value Diversty?

This Guest Post comes from Adele Bates 

“My vision for education is one in which all differences are included and welcomed; education is flexible, relevant and leads towards positive social change.”

It’s a grandiose statement that took me a while to come up with (thanks to my brother), but it does encompass the kind of education I want to be a part of and advocate for.

Sometimes this is challenged – I am required to walk my talk, even when it’s awkward.

Most of the time I feel like I am in a privileged situation and in a lot of instances I sit in the majority, this was the case recently: I was booked to speak for a conference. As I got off the phone, having negotiated my fee and the content I would deliver, I realised I had forgotten to ask about the programme’s representation of people of colour. My first thoughts were: do I need to? Then doubts crept in: they’ve already booked me now with me not asking that question, will they think I’m a job’s worth? Would they have booked me if I had asked that question? And the big one, what if their response was:

We don’t have any people of colour on our programme at the moment, but if you want to give up your slot on the programme for someone you can.

– what would I do in that situation? How far am I willing to be an ally?

Whilst I sat with these moral dilemmas, I dropped the organiser an email asking the question. Up to this point we’d had pretty quick back-and-forward communication. After asking this question, it took two days for them to reply – in the virtual-world-context this seemed like a long time. This delay fuelled my insecurities: should I have brought the issue up? Is it my place to when I’m not a person of colour myself? Will I still work with them if they give me a negative response?

Whilst I sat with these moral dilemmas, I dropped the organiser an email asking the question. Up to this point we’d had pretty quick back-and-forward communication. After asking this question, it took two days for them to reply – Click To Tweet

Which got me thinking further – I was going through this inner turmoil around the situation, even though I was in the position of privilege: what must it be like for my colleagues and friends who are people of colour who can’t not bring their colour into the conversation? In lots of educational settings still, just being person of a colour who is a teacher, leader or person of influence is a political statement in itself. I know this one, sometimes by saying the name of my partner I know a political statement has been presented, because I am do not conform to the heteronormative (when really all I wanted to do was have a moan about her not doing the washing up or something).

There was a lot of debate over the summer over on #edutwitter about representation and people of influence and people in positions of privilege giving a platform and voice for minority groups. I saw a lot of things that disheartened me coming from teachers. A lot of what I read did not fit in with my vision of education –  a place where all differences are included and welcomed.

In this instance, the organiser got back to me and said “great, is there any people of colour you can recommend who speak on the topic?” It was at that point I realised that I couldn’t(!). So I then spent an hour and a half remembering people I had met, looking for friends of friends, reading people’s work – so that I could make some recommendations.

In this instance, the organiser got back to me and said “great, is there any people of colour you can recommend who speak on the topic?” It was at that point I realised that I couldn’t(!). So I then spent an hour and a half remembering… Click To Tweet

Again, it took extra work to for me to advocate equality for a minority group. This has happened before, when leading on PSHE lessons I have spent extra time going through search engines to ensure that my resources visually represent a range of people – that a usual ‘group of teenagers drinking’ wouldn’t show. This is a similar debate when discussion positive discrimination: by ‘doing extra’ or ‘creating extra opportunities’ for minority groups we are not being ‘equal.’ However, my belief is, that until society/education has become equal we will have to make more of an effort and take extra time to ensure we are at the same level  – be that representation, pay, work opportunities etc. It was an important thing for me to do in this situation – to walk my talk.

It brings up the question of ally-ship and what it actually means:

How far should we go?

How far do we put ourselves out or inconvenience ourselves?

How much extra time do we spend making equality happen in our classrooms and schools?

Maybe even sacrifice? I didn’t have to answer the question: would I give up my position to speak for a person of colour? – this time.

This post can also be viewed here.

Is Equal Fair?

Activity

Two pupils commit the same violation. One is white; the other is black. If the white pupil struck out, and you discover that they are the victim of bullying.

Would you consider that before you decide on the consequence?

Answer honestly, and answer with the whole picture in mind.

Two pupils commit the same violation. One is white; the other is black. If the white pupil struck out, and you discover that they are the victim of bullying. Would you consider that before you decide on the consequence? Click To Tweet

arms bonding closeness daylight

Should we treat black pupils in the same way we treat white pupils when considering sanctions? Click To Tweet

The following is from the testimony of my pupils and my own experience in the United Kingdom.

Society bullies people of colour. Imagine being excluded from most of the community, imagine:

  1. Being told repeatedly that your culture is not as valued as the culture of those in power, society bullies people of colour.
  2. Being told through an education system that your culture is not as valued as the culture of those in power, imagine
  3. Being told that a person in power is going to anglicise your name because they do not value you enough to learn your name.
  4. Being followed in shops by security:

“Because ‘darkies’ commit crimes in the UK, that’s why we’re following you around.”

  1. Being asked (as an adult) if you are a waiter/ security while at the TES awards or queueing for a meeting at Portcullis house.
  2. It goes on.

 

What do you want, Pran?

I am not saying that pupils of colour should or should not be sanctioned. However, there has to be an acknowledgement of the world in which we live. The majority of teachers I have worked with, networked and served under are either oblivious to power structures we live under or acknowledged and accepted it as the norm.

What do we do?

Step one is to acknowledge the differences in the life experience of every pupil. Then we need to incorporate this into your behaviour policy. One size fits all systems serve no one well. The only people who benefit are leaders and educators, as the procedure takes away the work needed to unlearn and the work required to incorporate the whole picture into your decision; Schools do not exist to make teacher’s lives better. More on this later.

This process is by no means restricted to race. Class, gender, colour, sexuality, ableism, etc. all should be incorporated into your big picture while this is hard; this is also fairer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Organising An Event?

This is an amazing toolkit from Penny Rabiger.

This toolkit is designed to be a starting point for event organisers. Whether you are part of a grassroots organisation putting together an event as a volunteer, or if you work for an organisation where this is part of your paid work, you will need to ensure that your event is high quality, represents the people and the issues that are important to the sector you serve, and that you are not consciously or unconsciously doing things that may perpetuate a narrow view of the world or that may exclude voices from typically marginalised groups being included in the programme. Similarly, if you are asked to speak at a conference or to take part on a panel, there are proactive things you can do to ensure that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem. Intentions are important, but outcomes are what matter most.

This toolkit is designed to be a starting point for event organisers. Whether you are part of a grassroots organisation putting together an event as a volunteer, or if you work for an organisation where this is part of your paid work,… Click To Tweet

Continue reading at:

https://tenpencemore.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/organising-an-event-a-toolkit/

https://www.bameednetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Organising-an-event_-a-toolkit.pdf