This is a history-centric follow up to my post asking Who Should Occupy the Classroom?
The Rethinking Schools blog has an interesting post called “Occupy the Curriculum” up, by Bill Bigelow. There, they celebrate responses to the Zinn Education Group’s Facebook page question: what are you teaching now:
Chris Conkling is teaching about “Forced removal of Native Americans/Andrew Jackson.”
Ariela Rothstein is teaching about the “Haitian revolution and the effects of colonialism on the Caribbean.”
Samantha Manchac is teaching about “the early women’s movement” from Chapter 6, “The Intimately Oppressed,” in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
Bigelow celebrates teachers’
defiant “We’ll decide what our students need to learn, not some distant corporation” needs to happen in schools across the country
While I think the re-evaluation of what is taught in history classrooms to include erased and marginalized history is important and necessary, I think those of us who approach things from non-tradiational perspectives miss the point when we ask “what should be taught,” rather than “how should it be taught?” If we teach our students different information in traditional methods, it’s not radical nor transformative; we’re just stuffing a different ideology down students’ throats, and we’re no better than teachers who consider the textbook the curriculum.
Rather, we need classrooms that develop democratic citizens capable of of original, critical thought. I don’t care too much if my students read Zinn. I do care that students in my class could become the next Zinn (or Burke, for that matter).
Radical educators need to ask their selves, “am I a teacher who happens to be radical?” or, “am I a radical educator?” It’s the latter group, who equip students to make their own independent and potentially radical decisions, that give me faith for the future of the world. The former group, who think they’re radical because of what they teach, are just reifying existing power structures.