Dia de Los Muertos Altar

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

I am ashamed to say that I have lived in San Antonio for over 30 years and only became aware of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a few years ago. The holiday originated in Mexico, but is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd by people all over the world who have Mexican heritage. With its proximity to the American holiday of Halloween on October 31st, as well as the proliferation of skulls and skeletons, Día de los Muertos may be confused by some as another excuse to wear costumes and ask for candy, but those are not the purposes of Día de los Muertos. Instead, it is a time to remember those who have died — not in a mournful way, but one of joyous respect. Private altars dedicated to dead relatives and friends are built in some homes, while a number of families visit graveyards to clean and decorate the resting places of those no longer living.

Special traditions are observed during this holiday, including one of the most famous: sugar skulls. Unfortunately, coloring or decorating sugar skulls may be all that non-Mexicans learn about Día de los Muertos in school, and those activities in and of themselves are not the most meaningful way for students to understand another culture. (Tomorrow’s Anti-Racist post will be about how to examine whether or not an action or activity is an example of cultural appropriation.) I have collected some resources that include short videos, websites, and lesson plans you can use in this Wakelet.

If you have any other suggestions for resources or if I made any mistakes in my explanation of Día de los Muertos, please let me know.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Altar
Día de los Muertos Altar Display at Pearl Brewery in 2018

MC Hammer

Jon Stewart, M.C. Hammer, and Data

I spend a lot of time curating random things that interest me (see my NEO post on my curation methods here) , and I sometimes find obscure connections that inspire me to group them together into a blog post. As I was browsing my “Blog Ideas” Wakelet after my morning dog walk, I rediscovered a couple of resources I’d saved that correlated quite well with the podcast I’d just been listening to, Smartless. First, I’ll share a screen shot of this tweet from @AlvinFoo:

Next up, I have the updated Interactive Media Bias Chart, which has also been included in my Wakelet for “Evaluating Online Information.” (My daughter had originally shown me this site when she was taking a Journalism class last year, and I found it fascinating.) Whether you agree with its findings or not, it’s definitely worth discussing with older students when talking about current events and/or the reliability of news sources.

And, lastly, I have a quote from Jon Stewart that he attributes to M.C. Hammer (beware an expletive near the beginning) — and it is something we should never forget when looking at any data, including standardized test scores in education (click here if the embedded audio does not appear below):

There is nothing quite so satisfying as finding a way to tie together so many seemingly disparate topics in one post, so I consider my work done for today 😉

Teacher Checklist for Current Events

As school boards, districts, and states pile on bans of teaching Critical Race Theory in the classroom without even understanding what they are censoring, others are substituting vague language in weak attempts to disguise these racist laws. I am not a lawyer or a history teacher, but I oppose any efforts to restrain students from learning the truth and exercising their own critical thinking on the lessons that could be learned from that truth. I also think it’s important to keep things relevant in the classroom, and that means that current events should not be ignored. Facing History has a free checklist for educators to use for planning purposes when considering current events. You will need to create a free account on the site in order to download this editable PDF, which also has links to reliable news sources as well as suggested strategies to use during student discussions. Armed with this and a list of the state standards you are addressing, you can be prepared to help students make connections between the past and the present, as well as to their own personal experiences.

I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of Anti-Racism Resources. Click on this link to find more!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
laptop with news on screen on wooden table

Free New York Times Webinar for Discussing Race and Racism in the Classroom

The New York Times is offering an on-demand webinar for teachers to learn about ways to use the NYT resources to discuss race and racism in the classroom. This is a free webinar, but you will need to register in order to access it. You will be able to download a certificate as evidence of professional development hours. In addition, there are comprehensive resources available here. Nationwide attempts to discourage and even outlaw discussions like these make it more important than ever for these conversations to happen. I will be adding this resource to my Anti-Racism Wakelet. You can find more links to free materials to help you actively stand up against racism there.

black pitcher on table
Photo by Viktoria Alipatova on Pexels.com

Juneteenth

I confess that I never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas. Even then, it took years before I realized it was an actual historical event, not just a fun portmanteau. To learn more about Juneteenth, which is now a Federal holiday, you can read this article from Learning for Justice. Another good resource is this article from The Kid Should See This about the Google Doodle for Juneteenth, which includes a video and narration by LeVar Burton. For a teaching resource (if you happen to be in school still, or want to bookmark it for next school year) this page from PBS has good discussion questions and video links while also bringing up the reasons some anti-racists may not be in favor of Juneteenth as a national holiday. For information about the symbolism of the Juneteenth flag, pictured below, see this page.

This resource will be added to my Anti-Racist Wakelet. You can currently find more than 45 other resources at that link.

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

UPDATE 6/25/2021: For an excellent breakdown of Critical Race Theory, see this document by Sylvia Duckworth.

When news about the teaching of Critical Race Theory becoming a “hot-button” topic started trickling into my social media feeds, I knew I needed to do some research. I had never heard of CRT, and I suspect the issue may even be new to many history teachers. That’s why I thought I would include a few links on the topic in this week’s anti-racist post. I did my best to look for different perspectives on CRT because I think it’s important to understand why people support it as well as why people would like to ban it. The first thing I noticed was, well, there are a lot of words in any article I look for a definition. So, as often happens, I think that people are trying to simplify something that is quite complicated.

The first thing those of us new to the term need to know is that, “CRT is not itself a substantive course or workshop; it is a practice. It is an approach or lens through which an educator can help students examine the role of race and racism in American society,” as Janel George writes in this article for EdWeek. George goes on to explain, “In the K-12 classroom, CRT can be an approach to help students understand how racism has endured past the civil rights era through systems, laws, and policies—and how those same systems, laws, and policies can be transformed.”

What, then, is the threat of Critical Race Theory, according to its opponents? Some people believe that it vilifies White people, and some Black adversaries believe that it actually promotes racism. “I don’t know about you, but telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are Black is racist – and saying that White people are automatically above me, my children, or any child is racist as well,” stated Keisha King to the Florida Board of Education, according to this article by Sam Dorman of Fox News.

Polarizing attitudes like these generate anger on all sides. I even felt enraged before I knew anything about Critical Race Theory. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for teachers to find themselves in the middle of these battles, and then put into the precarious position of dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. In this NPR interview with Scott Simon, Julian Haynter, a professor at the University of Richmond, advises, “That racial reconciliation is not a zero-sum game, that we can tell a more complete story of American history without making people feel guilty or being made to feel guilty.”

In the Twitter thread below, you can read some other valid points, made by author and historian Justin Hart (@foredoma74):

It seems that many people are forgetting that teachers are practiced in giving information while we remain neutral. I’ve had students discuss and question me about: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, gun control, and hunting many times over the years, and have never revealed my very strong feelings about any of these issues. We give them the facts and tools to make their own decisions. Though there may be some unprofessional educators out there who “indoctrinate” students, the vast majority of us recognize the value of diverse perspectives and values. More importantly, we want all of our students to feel safe and treasured, so the better educated we are, the better we can help them.

As someone who was never taught about the Tulsa Massacre, Jim Crow laws, or Japanese Internment camps during my K-12 years, I am an advocate for giving our students a complete picture of our past so we can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and do better in the future. Learning for Justice has curriculum materials for “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” here. And Edutopia has a very helpful article by Hedreich Nichols for “Productive Classroom Debates on Sensitive Topics.”

Skipping over the difficult parts of our history, where we were anything but heroic and benevolent, will continue to weaken us as a nation, and contribute to destroying us from within.

This post will be added to my collection of Anti-Racism resources here.

Tower of Reconciliation, Tulsa, Image by redkudu from Pixabay