The Myth of Racist Kids (Hart, 2009) - Discussion activity

This activity is designed to be carried out as an online discussion task, but it could be easily adapted for use as a taught session. Its online/independent nature was developed in response to the lack of available time on the particular programme on which it was used, and also for tutors to get a better idea of the ideas and views of the particular cohort, so that input could be tailored accordingly. It is important to stress however, that this was only part of the input relating to 'race' equality that the trainees received. The activity was used at the start of input relating to 'race' equaility within a module which considered equality and diversity more generally. The activity was used with primary undergraduate students, but could be adapted for use with post-graduate trainees or those working in different phases. It is important to stress that this is not suitable as a stand-alone activity as it is intended to be the catalyst for discussion and debate, and to enable student teachers to critically reflect on their own ideas about 'race' and racism within education/

The trainees were asked to access a summary of Adrian Hart's (2009) The Myth of Racist Kids, and to consider how his ideas were represented by popular newspapers. They were then asked to access online responses to Hart's ideas, namely, Jenny Bourne's Institute of Race Relations posting (http://www.irr.org.uk/) , and Robin Richardson's response on the INSTED wesbite  (http://www.insted.co.uk/). They were then asked to post their own reponses to the ideas contained within the respective links on the University discussion forum, and to begin to explore and unpack  their own views and ideas relating to 'race' and racisms.

The activity was considered to be useful for the following reasons:

-it provided an opportunity and space for trainees to explore their own ideas about racism without being 'talked at';

-it allowed the opportunity for tutors and peers to respond to ideas in a context which was not felt to be threatening;

-it encouraged trainees to think critically about racism and also the role of the media - many of the trainees who did the activity came from contexts they described as 'predominantly white' and some initially expressed apprehension, reluctance, or, in a small number of cases, even hostility towards the idea of discussing racism;

-it encouraged trainees to consider the complexity of racism - some admitted being 'seduced' by Hart's ideas until they had read counterarguments and it prepared them for the input which followed the task in that they were much more open to being involved in discussion and debate and had starting points upon which they could draw;

-it encouraged trainees to realise that racism is an issue with which they will have to engage whatever the context within which they are working.

 

Tutor's reflections:

The publication of Hart's (2009) The Myth of Racist Kids worried me as an ITT provider committed to engaging all future teachers in recognising their roles in addressing racism. I felt that it provided fuel to those trainees who regarded racism as something in the past, something underpinned by 'political correctness', and, perhaps more worryingly, a 'can of worms'  best left to others to deal with. The online discussions which ensued as a result of the trainees' reading were sometimes heated and, in some cases, exposed the work that is still left to do but more than anything, they ignited trainees' interest. While I am not so naive as to think that any input relating to 'race' is enough to address racism in the longer term, the trainees' postings made me more committed than ever to give 'race' and racism a prominent place on the ITT Programmes in which I am involved, and to hopefully sow seeds which will continue to germinate and develop as our trainees enter the teaching profession.

I would particularly like to thank the authors of the reponses to Hart's ideas and  the tutors and trainees who contributed to the activity.