Stop eliminating lessons where students celebrate other cultures! This reduces the chance of students learning about other cultures.
Recently I have had resources removed from Teachers Pay Teachers for these two reasons: "Resources where students are required to speak from the perspective of victims of or participants in traumatic events may trivialize the experiences of affected individuals or groups" and "Activities where students write from the perspective or otherwise roleplay as people from specific cultures may disrespect or marginalize individuals from associated communities."
Now I would understand removing resources that are disrespectful of certain groups, but I don't understand removing resources that CELEBRATE the heroes or culture of marginalized groups. Specifically, my worry is that so much of our curriculum already barely mentions other cultures in a positive manner. If we now take down the resources that we do have, teachers are even less likely to teach about these cultures in a positive manner.
Why are we removing celebrations of other cultures?
There are hundreds of Christmas plays available. In these students can act out the Judeo-Christian Christmas story and no one blinks an eye at it. However, my Light Up the World with Celebrations holiday play which has students pretending to be various students from all over the world celebrating different celebrations, in different ways, all with the joining theme of light, was removed. So now when a teacher is looking for a way to include diverse ideas into her classroom, they will have one less option. But none of the Christmas options are removed. This means that rather than making these other holidays, like Kwanza, Hanukkah, Eid and Diwali less marginalized, it makes them more so. Now I have other resources for these holidays - Vocabulary Packets, Presentations, and Cookbooks. However, this play is what the teachers actually use during those crazy, harried, days before winter break.
Since Teachers Pay Teachers chose to remove the play from my store, you can now find it on my Free Resources page here on my blog. I want to make sure that teachers have a chance to use it if they feel as I do that all holidays should be celebrated for their importance, not just Christmas.
Does acting out interviews trivialize the heroes of other cultures?
The other three resources that I have had to update are my Mister and Me Novel Study packet, my Black History Project and my Women's History Project. All of these included an acting out element. Playing pretend. Looking at life from a different perspective. All of those higher level thinking skills that make critical thinkers.
I removed those acting out activities because I was told that this was trivializing an experience of a marginalized population. I would like to note that the activity I took out of my Mister and Me Novel study is the EXACT same activity that is in my Charlotte's Web Novel study. I was not asked to remove the activity from the Charlotte's Web Novel study, which means that kids CAN act out a chapter from a fictional book about a white girl, but CANNOT act out a chapter from a fictional book about a black girl. To me this increases marginalization, rather than decreasing it.
Now, please don't get me wrong. I don't want students acting out a slave auction. I don't want them acting out segregation. But interviewing an African American hero about all of the success they have had? I think that is a great way to learn about the heroes of all groups. Again, no one blinks an eye at someone doing a mock interview with George Washington. Why is it wrong to have students create the same mock interview with Barrack Obama?
As a white woman, I always try to double check everything to make sure that my resources celebrate all students. I don't ever want to have students feel left out in my class, even inadvertently. But by removing these resources, I feel that many teachers will just not bother to teach about diversity. I wish we lived in a world where our African American, Native American, Asian American, Women and other marginalized groups were celebrated in our general ELA and Social Studies curriculums. But for the most part that is not true. So we as teachers need to bring that element to the classroom. We as teachers need to make sure that the heroes of all groups are celebrated, not just the heroes of white males.
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