Dr Paul Crowhurst: The unreal prospect of unteaching racism

Stuff co.nz 14 July 2021 – 
Family First Comment: Excellent commentary 
“Yet this latest form of racism that teachers must address can’t even be seen because apparently it is so deep in our psyche that we don’t know it is there. Unconscious bias is hard to define and identify, meaning it will be very difficult to teach. And, we thought getting algebra across to kids was tricky.”

OPINION: Teachers and school leaders are currently trying to get their heads around the Teaching Council’s latest initiative–Unteach Racism.

Recently released using a video monologue from Taika Waititi–of Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor Ragnorok fame–Unteach Racism expects all teachers to demonstrate Thor-like fortitude to address what has been historically one of humanity’s more divisive topics–racism.

Racism isn’t what it used to be.

In recent years there has been a move away from characterising actual people and groups as racists towards seeing our social system as fundamentally racist.

Systemic racism–as this phenomenon is knownrefers to the societal forces that favour certain racial groups. The argument for systemic racism has been advanced by a host of popular books including White Fragility by Robyn DiAngelo in which the privilege experienced by white people emerges as the great injustice of our time.

The argument for systemic racism in New Zealand is built on several premises. The first is that Pakeha have been responsible for establishing societal structures and therefore benefit at the expense of other groups.

Herein we find the first issue that teachers will find problematic to navigate–it is not obvious that Pakeha have been intentionally manipulating society to suit themselves. There are ethnic groups in New Zealand, many who start from humble beginnings, that not only do better than Maori and Pasifika but also do better than Pakeha too.

The second argument for systemic racism is that the unconscious bias of Pakeha causes them to act in ways that oppress Maori and other racial minority groups. Unconscious bias (implicit bias is the correct psychological term) refers to those attitudes and stereotypes we all hold but don’t know about.

Yes, racism is real, happens today, and should be addressed in schools when it can be seen and heard.

Yet this latest form of racism that teachers must address can’t even be seen because apparently it is so deep in our psyche that we don’t know it is there. Unconscious bias is hard to define and identify, meaning it will be very difficult to teach. And, we thought getting algebra across to kids was tricky.

Dr Paul Crowhurst is Principal at Papatoetoe East Primary School in Auckland. He also teaches educational leadership at post-graduate level. All views shared here are his own.
READ MORE: https://www.stuff.co.nz/opinion/300349542/the-unreal-prospect-of-unteaching-racism

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