Today, along with 8 other faculty, I took this bus full of kids to see Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the must read article of the summer: The Case for Reparations.
The talk was amazing. Coates even made time to speak to our students beforehand.
I think Coates talk was also super challenging for my students (see my Storify post with quotes from Mr. Coates). I don’t think atone has ever talked to them about race or racism in this way before. I’d say our daily existence is much more one of thinking that everyone within our idyllic 400 person community gets along, and racism is something mostly of the past that exists “out there.”
Now here’s the interesting part—my students loved it. Their ideas where challenged and their thinking was pushed hard, but they loved heart someone who is direct and doesn’t talk about racial tensions, but instead simply calls white supremacy and racism out for what they are.
I often think that my students are ready to handle difficult problems from the get go, and a lot of my growth as a teacher has come from learning to strip away scaffolding and hand holding and let students wrestle with challenging problems on their own and with their classmates. I’m always astounded by the progress they make.
It occurs to me that discussions about race and other difficult issues don’t need to be all that different. Students are ready to think about difficult, thorny problems without easy solutions, and they would better off if we let them do so often.