An interview with Professor Chris Emdin on the problem with “hero white teachers” in poor, predominantly non-white school districts:
“I think framing this hero teacher narrative, particularly for folks who are not from these communities, is problematic. The model of a hero going to save this savage other is a piece of a narrative that we can trace back to colonialism; it isn’t just relegated to teaching and learning. It’s a historical narrative and that’s why it still exists because, in many ways, it is part of the bones of America. It is part of the structure of this country. And unless we come to grips with the fact that even in our collective American history that’s problematic, we’re going to keep reinforcing it. Not only are we setting the kids up to fail and the educators up to fail, but most importantly, we are creating a societal model that positions young people as unable to be saved.”
I taught high school in America for two years in a pretty damn affluent area under very different circumstances, obviously, but even there I was surprised at how often the higher-ups thought that mere charisma from the teachers could make up for an obvious lack of institutional support. Let’s call it the Dead Poets Society fallacy, or the Great Man / Woman theory of pedagogy.
Dr. Emdin’s book sounds really interesting.