Former U of M prof invites educators to frank discussion on systemic racism in education
They call it the talk. It’s the term BIPOC parents use to describe the discussion they have when preparing their children for their first police encounter—and hopefully come away from the experience unscathed.
For generations, these fears have persisted throughout BIPOC communities. Now they’ve resurfaced with the Black Lives Matter movement, gaining attention worldwide. Fears have turned to outrage over a growing list of tragedies—from the police-shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., to George Floyd in Minneapolis. From Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., to Daniel Blake in Rochester, N.Y. This week, protesters again took to the streets over a court’s decision in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Closer to home, Canadians are also taking to the streets over racial violence and injustice.
Historically, racial tensions rise in concert with times of social and economic unrest. This time, however, Cranston says conflict has been exacerbated by political divisions.
“In tough economic times, people try to protect who they think are their own,” Cranston says. “Now, the politics that surround us—to the south but also worldwide—has us more polarized along the lines of who belongs in a community and who doesn’t.”
Amid these escalating divisions, U of M’s Education Alumni Association is hosting Cranston’s talk with educators on Sept. 30 to discuss racial inequality in education.
When academics can take all this privilege that we’ve got and put it in service of humanity, a particular segment of humanity who can’t access the resources we do, we’re going to leave the world a better place.
Titled, “Institutional Racism and the Implications for Faculties of Education,” the lecture is first in the Faculty of Education’s Distinguished Lecturer series for the 2020-21 season. This year’s series will focus broadly on the theme of reconciliation.
Cranston acknowledges Canada is rooted in a deeply segregated, and racist history. And, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recognizes that education has a fundamental role to play in addressing those issues.
To that end, Cranston plans to speak about the systemic elements in the way that schools are organized and how people conduct themselves in schools. While progress has been made to address issues in K-12 education, there is room for improvement, he says.
Cranston calls attention to the lack of racial diversity in the teaching force, people in leadership positions in schools and school systems—from school divisions to the post-secondary level. On a related note, Cranston points out he is one of only two non-white deans of education nationwide in a field of over 50.
“In a country as racially and ethnically diverse as Canada, there is a systemic issue— and it’s not just simply representation, but on the visible side that’s how we see it,” Cranston says.
In addition to diversifying representation in the workforce, Cranston suggests developing cohorts of students, to create welcoming and supportive environments.
Turning to faculties of education, Cranston suggests reviewing how courses are structured and what kinds of materials are used in those courses. For example, ensuring sources extend beyond dead, white males to include authors from diverse backgrounds.
Cranston also considers his approach when working with diverse communities, expressing interest in the topics they need researched or supported in order to build and develop capacity in those communities.
“I spend as much time as I can in communities asking them, as a person who has a fair amount of privilege as an academic: ‘What do you need from me?’ I try, whenever possible, to put myself their service,” Cranston says. “When academics can take all this privilege that we’ve got and put it in service of humanity, a particular segment of humanity who can’t access the resources we do, we’re going to leave the world a better place.”
What: Institutional racism and the implications for faculties of education
When: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Zoom video conference.
For more information, contact:
Charlie McDougall, communications coordinator, Faculty of Education, Charlie [dot] McDougall [at] umanitoba [dot] ca