RIC students learn about teaching painful truths

Tricia Rose, a professor of Africana studies at Brown University and author of "The Hip Hop Wars," spoke to over 100 local educators and RIC teachers-in-training at the 12th annual Promising Practices Multicultural Conference and Curriculum Resource Fair on Nov. 7.

"… I can think of 45 things you could be doing…on a Saturday, and none of which would involve being here trying to grow, trying to face difficult things, to learn new things," Rose told the attendees.

Rose’s rapid-fire presentation expressed her view on the role of multicultural education, asserting that teaching about difficult topics such as racism, sexism, homophobia and classism is not going to produce instant results.

“You can’t skim these issues that unsettle what we think and what we know. It takes time, it’s really a process."

She offered the audience four suggestions on how to help them to teach difficult and complex topics related to multiculturalism.

First, Rose explained that painful honesty was required when dealing with these difficult subjects. “We have to be honest. We can’t evade or use euphemisms,” she said. “I’ve had people speak for 30 minutes about racism and never use the word…it’s like a magic act.”

Tricia Rose, center, is joined by Promising Practices co-chairs
Gerri August, left, and Lesley Bogad, right.
Second, she commented on the need for educators to see people as both individuals and members of groups. Teachers need to understand and respect group affiliations as much as individual identities.

Her third point was that educators should teach about oppression and also teach about solutions and resistance to it. She said teachers should use examples of everyday people rather than just emphasizing leaders, like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. She also mentioned that teachers’ examples of resistance come from the dominant group.

“It’s important to show that people work across groups because people often feel that's impossible,” Rose said.

Her final suggestion as to how teachers should approach these topics was to differentiate group-based structural inequalities and to separate them from the actions of individuals. She explained that certain group factors such as race, gender and class exist, and that teachers should not take personal responsibility for the actions associated with those factors.

Over 100 attended the Promising Practices Multicultural
Conference and Curriculum Resource Fair on Nov. 7.

Rose taught the audience a pledge, which she has used in the past, to teach students to acknowledge their own identities and taking responsibility for their actions as opposed to the actions of their groups.

Rose concluded by emphasizing the importance of teaching despite some of the downfalls of being an educator. She described it as “a work in hope and a work in progress and one that we should really be proud about and that we should never let anyone prevent us from keeping our attention on.”