teaching tolerance | Not in Our Town

teaching tolerance

When you hear the words identity safety, you might immediately think it has something to do with “identity theft.” Identity theft refers to when someone steals your name and financial identity, so you can no longer use your credit cards or fully function as yourself. How would it affect you psychologically to have your identity stolen? Uncertain, defensive, afraid to trust?
This blog is the second in a three-part series that links three important ideas—implicit bias, stereotype threat and identity safety—all backed by research. Republished with permission from Teaching Tolerance. By Becki Cohn-Vargas Not In Our School Director Most teachers want to be fair to each student. How many times have you heard educators say, “I treat everyone the same”? But is this even possible—or desirable? When we ignore differences, even in the absence of overt negative stereotypes, implicit bias is still at play—and there is another detrimental force that can flourish under the surface: stereotype threat.  
As educators, it may seem overwhelming that, in addition to addressing overt racism in our classrooms and schools, we also need to tackle unconscious racial prejudices, known as “implicit bias,” not only in our students, but in ourselves. However, it is possible to address implicit bias, and the solutions are in our hands.
In preparation for reading Farhana Zia’s The Garden of My Imaan, a lovely young adult novel about an American Muslim girl named Aliya, my students and I wrote down what we knew about Muslims. I teach in a public middle school where the majority of students are white and Christian, so I expected a steep learning curve. I encouraged all the students to write down their thoughts and ideas and to be open and honest about their thinking. Sometimes I would chime in and contradict incorrect ideas, but mostly I would just record student thoughts on the whiteboard as they recorded their thoughts on our worksheet.
This originally appeared in Teaching Tolerance.  Illustration by Chris Buzelli In Meridian, Miss., police routinely arrest and transport youths to a juvenile detention center for minor classroom misbehaviors. In Jefferson Parish, La., according to a U.S. Department of Justice complaint, school officials have given armed police “unfettered authority to stop, frisk, detain, question, search and arrest schoolchildren on and off school grounds.” In Birmingham, Ala., police officers are permanently stationed in nearly every high school. In fact, hundreds of school districts across the country employ discipline policies that push students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates—a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline.
Upstander Spotlight: Queen Creek High School Football Team Chy Johnson, a 16-year-old student with a genetic brain disorder, was being relentlessly bullied at Queen Creek High School in Arizona and would come home in tears every day. Her mother reached out to Carson Jones, the starting quarterback of the school’s football team, for help. Carson could have simply reported the bullies to his coach or principal, or even ignored the request altogether. Instead, he went above and beyond, inviting Chy to eat lunch with him. Now, Chy eats lunch with Carson and the rest of the football team every day, and goes to every football game to support “her boys.” We admire how Carson and his teammates defied the social restraints of high school to help a bullied student.   Upstander Spotlight: Giants Pitcher Sergio Romo – “I just look illegal.”
Mix It Up Day at Lunch Day—an annual event hosted by Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program—was recently called a “nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools” by The American Family Association. The AFA is an anti-gay evangelical group that is asking parents to keep their children home on Oct. 30 to avoid Mix It Up Day activities, according to the New York Times. This week, Not In Our Town Executive Producer Patrice O’Neill spoke with Teaching Tolerance director Maureen Costello about the controversy and why activities like Mix It Up Day pave the way for accepting and safe schools. Patrice O’Neill: What’s the idea behind Mix it Up Day?
  Our growing list of national and regional partners in the Not In Our Town: Class Actions National Community Engagement Campaign includes: