News Office | ILLINOIS
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Promoting guidelines for equity and justice among future school leaders is not enough to fight systemic racism, according to researchers in a new study.
Instead, school leaders need educational and professional development programs that cultivate an understanding of the fundamental role of ‘whiteness’ in public education and teach them the skills to dismantle racist policies and practices that. negatively affect students of color.
Nathan Tanner, graduate student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and co-author Anjalé D. Welton, professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, co-authored a wrap-up study that examined whiteness in education and how anti-racism preparedness could help education leaders address long-standing inequalities.
Defined in the study as racist policies, structures and social cultures aimed at maintaining the power and privileges of whites, whiteness is a pervasive problem in public education that receives too little attention in preparation programs. principals, said Tanner and Welton. Historically, whiteness has been the ideal and standard against which the behavior and academic performance of all public school students have been judged.
Tanner said the whiteness is also manifested in standardized tests that reinforce certain belief systems or ways of knowing that do not reflect the true knowledge or abilities of minority students, and as perhaps efforts at educational reform. well-intentioned, end up exacerbating existing problems.
“We have a story of how we implemented education reforms that didn’t consider the roles of whiteness,” Welton said. “Are we adding a quick fix but not decompressing racist belief systems and practices?” There is no miracle cure or anti-racism snake oil. This is a difficult work. We need to think deeply.
Although most anti-racism efforts in education have focused on teachers, “school leaders have a huge role to play in the process of challenging whiteness and developing cultures and staff. anti-racist, ”Tanner said.
However, in a recent survey conducted by Education Week, 82% of educators said they received no anti-racism training during their preparation programs.
Many university education programs only offer one or two equity courses, often electives towards the end of the programs, signaling that these issues are not a priority, Tanner and Welton said.
“Anti-racism values and skills should be built into all courses,” Welton said.
In addition to thoroughly and critically examining the fundamental role of racism in public education, these programs should encourage educators to become more racially aware and develop the skills necessary to identify and eliminate prejudice and oppression. in their schools.
While educators’ commitment to equity and social justice can be fostered during college or professional development programs, most alumni come out of these preparatory programs still lacking the tools and ability to translate these values into. action plans, Welton said.
As school leaders, when attempting to change biased policies or structures that negatively affect students of color, they may find themselves ill-prepared to counter the reluctance they receive from staff or community members. who feel their power is threatened by these efforts, the researchers wrote. .
Likewise, educators of color may find themselves working in isolation as the only one or one of the few non-white faculty or staff at their school. And they can bear the brunt of the responsibility for anti-racism initiatives in their schools, rather than being collaborative efforts undertaken with their white colleagues, Tanner and Welton said.
Despite decades of persistent calls for greater representation of racial minorities in educational leadership, there has been little progress in diversifying the field. People of color are still under-represented at all levels, from elementary and secondary schools to universities, according to the study.
To increase the representation and retention of racial minorities and better prepare them to challenge inequalities, Welton said “we need to ensure that they are mentored and mentored during their teaching internship, and that they have the possibility of creating and practicing organizational and anti-racist activities. to change job. We also need induction programs for principals and political discussions on preparation programs for university teachers.
The study was published as a chapter in the “Handbook of Social Justice Interventions in Education” (Springer Nature Suisse, 2021).