Classroom Anti-Racism Curriculum Applications

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A new study used data from an online crowdfunding platform for U.S. public school teachers to document the effect of the police brutality events and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that followed on requests for anti-racist study programs. The study found a significant increase in requests for books about or by African Americans after local BLM protests related to the death of George Floyd. Most of the requests concerned children under the age of 10 and also included material representing the cultures of other minority groups. By analyzing the impact statements submitted by teachers after using the material, the researchers concluded that they were using the books to stimulate conversations related to issues of race and social justice, including themes of representation, self-esteem, empathy and acceptance.

The study, conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), is to appear in Management science.

“Given the political polarization of the country, the reluctance of teachers to discuss race and the financial difficulties of public schools, the impact of racist events on speech in the classroom remains uncertain,” said Ananya Sen, professor. information systems and economics assistant at CMU’s Heinz College, co-author of the study. “Our study demonstrates the impact of BLM on a fundamental outcome crucial to bringing about systemic change: conversations with children about race. “

Systemic racism has been rampant in the United States for generations. Over the past decade, incidents of police brutality and the subsequent BLM protests have highlighted issues with racial justice, peaking in the summer of 2020 after Floyd’s death. In this study, the researchers used requests for books made by teachers on DonorsChoose.org, the largest crowdfunding platform for public school teachers in the United States, as a measure of teachers’ intention to discuss race-related issues in their classrooms.

The researchers quantified the impact of high profile racist events from 2010 to 2020 on teachers’ willingness or ability to introduce a curriculum that describes diverse cultures and themes related to police violence and racial justice. Specifically, they looked at requests from teachers on DonorsChoose.org for one of nearly 28,000 books on or by African Americans eight weeks before and eight weeks after 14 high-profile events of police brutality and 5,000 BLM protests. from 2012 to 2020; they compared them to a set of requests on the Career Preparation Resources platform.

The study identified more than 24,000 anti-racist projects on the platform. Demand for books skyrocketed after Floyd’s murder; there has been no change in the number of claims after all of the other racing-related events over the decade. This means that the number of anti-racist books acquired as a result of all the events of police violence over the past decade has been surpassed approximately three weeks after Floyd’s death.

After Floyd’s death, more than 90% of requests for books featuring requested African-American authors or protagonists were successfully funded, according to the study, allowing teachers to acquire books worth $ 3.4 million and reach over half a million students. The increase in requests came mainly from teachers with students under the age of 10 (preschool to grade five).

In addition, the study found a sharp increase in requests for books describing Latin, Asian, Muslim and Jewish cultures, suggesting a general demand for a more inclusive curriculum. By analyzing the impact statements submitted by teachers after using the material, the researchers concluded that they were using the books to stimulate conversations related to issues of race and social justice, including themes of representation, self-esteem, empathy and acceptance.

Finally, more requests for anti-racist books were made in schools in towns where BLM protests had taken place after Floyd’s death than in towns where such protests had not taken place. Demands from teachers in cities that have staged BLM protests surged in the week after the first protest, and teachers’ statements included for the first time specific references to BLM protests.

“Children develop social attitudes around issues such as race and gender at a young age,” says Saharsh Agarwal, a PhD. student at CMU’s Heinz College, who co-authored the study. “Disposing of $ 3.4 million in pounds to hundreds of thousands of students in public schools across the United States demonstrates the power of local protests and highlights a key BLM strategy. “


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