Friday, October 14, 2011

james banks.

I really was meaning to write this earlier, but life has of course been crazy and I never got around to it.

For those of you who don't know, because I am going to be a Spanish/ESL teacher it is almost a given that I am really into multicultural education. I like studying about things like racism, sexism, discrimination and its effects, and learning how we as teachers can change things like this.

Dr. James Banks, one of the most renowned educators/researchers/speakers in multicultural ed from the University of Washington, came to K-State last week to talk about many things related to these topics. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go, but I'm glad I did. This man has got to be one of the most influential people in education today, and I got to listen to him for an hour and a half. So I guess this is my review and thoughts on what he had to say.

He opened with the fact that our schools in the United States are often more focused on testing and scores than on teaching our students to be humane and to treat one another well. He read this letter that a certain principal wrote to his new teachers every year. This is what it said:

"Dear Teacher,
I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no man should witness:
Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates. So I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your students become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human."

Even in the elementary classroom I am working in now, I see the beginnings of stereotypes, discrimination, and bullying. And some teachers do nothing to stop it. I won't be that teacher.

He also talked about cosmopolitanism. Now, honestly the first thing that came to my mind was Cosmopolitan magazine (which I don't read and could probably write a whole 'nother blog about). I had no idea what this word meant, but I like his thoughts. We need to educate our children to have allegiance to all people as humans. His example was mourning the loss of men and women in other countries to things like war, famine, and disease, like we mourn the loss of our own people due to these things (and other things).

The last thing he said that hit me was this:

***note: I was really unsure whether I should post this, because, well, me and Dante probably don't agree on everything, and I don't take this quote literally. But I get what he's trying to say.***

"Dante said the worst place in hell is reserved for those who, in times of crisis, were neutral. If this room were on fire, would you sit here and be neutral?" We need to educate our students to be people who stand up for others. Too many students are bullied constantly and people (students and teachers alike) stand by and watch it happen. I realize that Dante was not talking about bullying, but one thing that Dr. Banks said was that the world's most momentous problems come from people who don't know how to get along.

What if our students graduated from high school and knew how to love one another, how to really think through and solve social problems, how to become "world-changers"? Many students are just passed along and never cared about, never invested in, and never taught anything outside the curriculum. I know, I'm not a teacher yet, and I don't know everything. I know there'll be days when I'm fed up and tired and I don't want to teach anymore. But until a day like that comes, I want to be the best teacher I can be, and I think that includes so much more than just the curriculum. I have been blessed to have some pretty great teachers in my life who are now my friends, and I hope that is what I can become to my future students.

"Be ashamed to die until you've won some victory for human kind." - Horace Mann

You can listen to Dr. Banks HERE.

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