Ms. Mac and Her Fight for Inclusion

“Ms. Mac” is how she wanted us to refer to her.  She was one of these energetic people that, now that I think about it, was visibly passionate about teaching.  I had her for our state level “social studies” course in middle school.  I remember two things that she told us.

1) ‘Never fill out the space next to “Race / Ethnicity” on your standardized tests.’

2) “I will never put a false  “true / false” question on on a test.  I don’t want to put false information into student’s heads!”

This was probably my first foray into diversity and inclusion.  Being from a slightly rural area (High school less than 1,000 students), diversity for us translated into race.  Back to Ms. Mac.  She was from the low country of South Carolina where she and her classmates had been involved in the Briggs v Elliot Supreme Court Case that was handled as one of the five included in the infamous Brown v Board of Education case.  For her, education had been a fight to be included… at all.  She was quite the fighter.  Her teaching passion may have arisen from having to fight for the same educational opportunities that could be found in the “whites only” schools.  She grew up in a system that could use racial profiling and standardized tests to make a case against her and the “blacks only” schools she attended.  I think that when she warned us about this profiling she was thinking about Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan who dissented against his peers in cases of “separate but equal.”  He said that “Our Constitution is color-blind…“, something I heard in Vendantam’s NPR interview.  Our society would prefer to handle diversity as though we were all blind to color.  While that would be great if we could all just be considered people, Vendantam suggests that it is not enough.  In reading about our “hidden brain” it certainly makes sense that dominance of media by one group or another would create a societal norm that even a 3 year old could detect.  I don’t know what will have to come next to disrupt these norms but I think we are making progress, slowly but surely.  We can’t all have someone as exuberant as Ms. Mac, but we might be sitting beside someone who is just as interesting…  Our role as educators should foster cultural learning through inclusive practices.  To do otherwise would be denying our students the chance to learn outside of their own norms.

 

As for Ms. Mac’s second thought, she would have loved arguing with a few of my professors about critical thinking and teaching!

5 Responses to “Ms. Mac and Her Fight for Inclusion”

  • Homero says:

    James,

    Thanks for sharing. It’s great that you were able to have such an inspiring teacher in high school. I wonder from your experiences whit her class, what things you think we can start doing to promote inclusive classrooms?

    Also, what types of conversations should we be having regarding race, ethnicity, and so many other things. I also don’t believe in “color-blind” because I think it’s important to recognize we all have different colors and that is not a bad thing, that is also I wonder why she recommended to not answer questions regarding your race/ethnicity. Although I have so many issues on how complicated is to fill those questions some times, I do like to reflect my race and ethnicity every time I can.

    Best,

  • EdwinG says:

    James, Ms. Mac sounds like a great teacher! I agree with you, we are making progress towards a more inclusive society and it is in our hands to make the classrooms of the near future ones in which we can learn from different perspectives.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Zach DeSmit says:

    Awesome post, and what a truly inspiring teacher. I like your connection to the hidden brain. It is all too familiar to see racial profiling and stereotyping in our news media. What message is that sending to the youth of America? I feel it sends us down the road of perpetually screwing up this touchy situation that shouldn’t even be a situation in the first place.

  • Aaron Atkins says:

    Not marking an ethnicity on a standardized test – I try not to, if I’m thinking enough about what I’m doing, not mark it on anything where it’s not required, and if it is required I mark ‘other.’ Hate the idea of being collated or cordoned off.

    AS for your teacher – there were a few I’d heard stories about in middle school and even high school, but rarely did they share those stories, stories of their own educational struggles. I think if they had, it may have helped illustrate some of the issues/concepts they were trying to hammer into our heads.

  • Rabih says:

    Nice post! Concerning Ms. Mac’s two statements, both are definitely great. The first should be applied for us to start forgetting about those difference that separate us, and the second should be applied for false facts not to be stuck in student’s minds. I always hated those true/false questions, specially the tricky ones, because they provide you with false data and you’ll start doubting the correct data.

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