Teaching Racism In School

by Amelietessier on September 29, 2014 - 12:41pm

The article ‘’Teacher’s lesson about racism offends his bosses’’ by John Kass in the Chicago Tribune from June 5th, 2014 explains that a teacher was put on administrative leave from school because he taught ‘’racism’’ to kids.

This article talks about a middle school history teacher, Alan Barron, who taught racism in his own way. This teacher had 36 years of experience in teaching American history. He showed an old video where white were putting on blackface for theatrical acts. He wanted to show them a lesson on segregation and racism by showing them this video where they saw how white were superior to blacks. A school administrator saw Alan Barron give this course and was really shocked so he decided to bring the teacher to the main office, where he learned he was expelled from the school. He was then on leave for more than 2 weeks before returning to the school, because parents were furious about this decision and the story went national. This teacher was about to retired but because of his action; he couldn’t participate to the big school banquet, where he would have had an award thanking him for being such an exemplary teacher. Barron had no bad intention, he only wanted to teach what was offensive with racism and blackface like any other subjects that are offensive but are correct to teach. It’s a part of the history and it’s his job to teach history. He do not want to ignore some part of history just because it can hurt. What he taught happened for real and parents said that their child learned a lot from this class. Parents and students were not offended by this course, but the administration of that school was.

This article by John Kass really represents what we learned in class. It talks about racism with whites and blacks and how blacks were mistreated by whites many years ago. It also shows how whites were taking power over blacks and how whites felt so superior to blacks. Moreover, it reminds me of the Jane’s Elliot video we watched in class ‘’A Class Divided’’. This video was about a teacher who taught racism to her students in her own way. She did the ‘’blue-eyed/ brown-eyed’’ experiment where children were divided by eyes colors and one group at the time, were in the inferior group and after in the superior group. Superior group was told that children were more intelligent and had privileges while children of the inferior group were told that they were not intelligent and not as good as the superior group. The purpose of this famous experiment was for children to see how it felt to be a minority. Her experiment also went international because the results were surprising and she was the only one who dared. Alan Barron and Jane Elliott both had the same purpose, which was to teach to their students the history of racism and to show them how whites were harsh towards blacks. Jane Elliott’s experiment was conducted in 1968 and Alan Barron taught his racism story of whites putting on blackfaces for theatre in 2014. Jane Elliot’s experiment had a big impact on students but was really shocking for other teachers and for parents. However, the seniors of the school were in favor of her teaching method of racism. At that time, parents were more shocked with this teaching because no one ever did this to their kids and discrimination was still really present. These days, parents are more open to this kind of teaching because they know it happened and there are still some prejudices about black so they want their children to not have these kinds of ideas towards blacks. Now it’s the contrary than before, it’s the administration of the school that is not in favor for theses teachings methods on racism and discrimination but parents are supportive to these. A weakness of John kass’s article is that it does not tells us in details what was the video he showed his students really about. Instead, he perfectly shows what were the consequences Alan Barron had and why he reintegrated the school. Also, I loved when he said that teaching history sometimes means to teach things that happened that were offensive. He is totally right. It’s not because something can offend that a teacher has to not teach it. Like Barron said, he taught things that have really happened because he is a history teacher. Nothing was wrong with his teaching and children had to learn that and how whites were toward blacks before. Also, the title caught my eyes right away because it is very captivating and it makes us want to read the article to know what happened. Another weakness I found is the conclusion. I would prefer to know what happened to the teacher when he retired and his teachings methods rather than finishing the article with an allusion with George Orwell’s ‘’1984’’ novel. I would also have appreciated to know what happened to the school after this huge news that went international.

In short, this article represents perfectly what we covered in class such as racism and races inequalities. It has also a big link with the video ‘’A Class Divided’’ by Jane Elliott that we watched in class. The article is well done and gives us many details about what were the impacts on Alan Barron, the history teacher. On the other side, the author should have give us more details about the video Alan showed to his students that put him on administrative leave for teaching a subject that was supposedly controversial.

Should we agree to let teachers teach racism in the way they want to?




Kass, J. (2014). Teacher's lesson about racism offends his bosses. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-06-05/news/ct-kass-met-0605-2014...


I am responding to this article because the title did captivate and wanted to read more about how racism is taught at school, although I did not think that it would be about a teacher getting fired for showing the history or racism. When reading your article the first think that did came to my mind was the video we watched in class where Jane Elliott is teaching her young school kids about racism in a very direct way. I do agree that you made the connection of Jane Elliott when you responded to the article, because it probably is very hard for teachers to teach about racism without people getting hurt or offended. Other than that I also agree that sometimes, especially when it comes to history there are things that we will learn that can be about touchy subjects but have to be taught to us. Kind of like this class as a whole, racism is a subject that can easily offend people and your whole article discusses in a way that teaching aspects on racism is hard. One thing that I wonder about the article was that this teacher had been teaching his subject for 36 years and it was only in 2014 that his bosses got offended and expelled him. This makes me wonder why they could have not said anything before if they knew what was being taught in his class.