Teaching About Race: An Educational Forum

By Robert Barrett, Jr., Copy Editor

On Wednesday, Oct. 11, The University of Akron and The LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education held “Teaching About Racial Inequities in American Schools,” an educational forum. The purpose of the forum was to discuss how to talk about race-related issues in schools.

The forum had a townhall format with a panel of a diverse group of educators and psychiatrists. The event was moderated by Dr. Brad Maguth, researcher and associate professor in the Department of Curricular and Instructional Studies.

Dr. Nidaa Makki, an associate professor in the Department of Curricular and Instructional Studies, gave opening remarks which posed a question to the audience asking them how teachers are to facilitate classroom discussions about race-related issues.

Larry Weigle, an Akron Public School educator who retired in 2006 after 35 years of service, talked about his experience of seeing the Akron’s schools diversify from when he first attended them. He said the experience of attending the schools and then teaching in them changed his outlook on race, allowing him to see racial inequities and how it is necessary for educators to discuss those inequities.

Dr. Bridge A. Ford, former director of the Center for Urban and Higher Education and author, said that it is essential for students to understand and identify racial inequities. She said teachers must engage in self-exploratory activities regarding racial problems. Dr. Ford also said that there is a disconnect between reality and curriculum which has led to higher expulsion and dropout rates for black students.

Dr. John Queener, a professor in the Department of Psychology and a licensed psychologist, talked about creating a safe environment. He said that this is key for educators to create a safe environment for students. “If you can only talk about race from your perspective, then you are not educated,” he said to the audience.

Rose Langstaff, graduate and teacher at Firestone High School, and Erin Saal, a teacher at Firestone High School, gave separate talks on being white and talking to students about racial inequities. Saal encouraged the audience to acknowledge their race when talking about race-related topics in the classroom.

Following the opening remarks by each panelist there was a question and answer session with the audience to conclude the forum. For more discussions and information on race, students and community members are encouraged to attend Rethinking Race events at the University in the spring.