Black Teachers and Students Matter
The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for [themself], to make [their] own decisions…To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way [they achieve their] own identity.
— James Baldwin, A Talk to Teachers
As educators working in the Exploratorium, we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and believe that Black teachers and students matter.
Black students are entitled to high-quality educational opportunities and spaces in which their learning journey is appreciated, their existing knowledge, interests, and history are leveraged, and they are able to nurture strong, healthy identities as learners and contributors to a democratic society.
Research indicates that Black teachers make a difference for all students. Black teachers are entitled to respect, appreciation, and the support and resources they need to thrive, both personally and professionally, in anti-racist educational settings.
Our Vision for Anti-Racist Science Education
We are working toward a vision of anti-racist science education. Inclusive science and science education should provide opportunities for all individuals and communities to investigate the natural and designed world around them by asking and answering their own questions. The Exploratorium has focused on creating equitable, inquiry-based science education experiences for all students, in all classrooms, and we hold ourselves accountable for expanding representation and inclusion of Black teachers and learners in science, engineering, and tinkering.
Here are our core beliefs and a continually evolving list of resources we’ve found helpful around race and racism and their roles in science education.
We believe Black teachers need and deserve mutual support and community.
A resource for supporting Black teachers in concrete ways:
- The Black Teacher Project is a nonprofit organization with a mission “to sustain and develop Black teachers to lead and reimagine schools as communities of liberated learning.”
We recognize that Black students are as interested in studying science as other students, but are excluded through the current actions of teachers, professors, and other students, as well as broader forces that make it harder to ameliorate the effects of generational discrimination.
Resources for understanding the long-standing exclusion of Black students in STEM:
- In this groundbreaking report, TEAM-UP uncovers long-term systemic issues within the physics and astronomy communities that contribute to the underrepresentation of African Americans in these fields and makes important, actionable recommendations for community-wide efforts to reverse this trend.
- It’s Not “Talent,” it’s “Privilege”, is a summary by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman (2019) based on his team’s research. The original research is published here.
We believe that all teachers must self-reflect and deepen their learning around systemic racism and its manifestations in schools and classrooms.
Resources for deepening learning about systemic racism in education:
- The National Equity Project provides a range of professional development opportunities for administrators, teachers, and leaders to “reimagine and redesign their systems for equity.”
- We Want To Do More Than Survive is a book by Dr. Bettina Love, in which she persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements.
- James Baldwin’s address, “A Talk to Teachers” delivered to teachers on October 16, 1963, addresses the challenges of education to prepare children to grapple with the myths and realities of U.S. history. It remains a relevant read today, almost 60 years later.
We believe that conversations about race can and should happen in all science classrooms.
Resources for discussing race in the science classroom:
- Beginning Courageous Conversations About Race (from Courageous Conversations About Race by Glenn E. Singleton & Curtis Linton, 2015) provides conversational norms and strategies for teachers to engage students in productive discussions about race and racism.
- Understanding Race, from the American Anthropological Association, is a collection of classroom activities to help students explore race from historical, cultural, and biological perspectives.
- The Underrepresentation Curriculum (URC) is a free, flexible curriculum for STEM instructors to teach about injustice and change the culture of STEM. Using tools such as data analysis, hypothesis creation, and investigation, students look critically at science through the lenses of equity and inclusion.