Altering American History
This is a collaborative art and figurative language integrated unit. This unit is intended to be taught in the art classroom, students home classroom, and provides individual and co-teaching opportunities.
Rationale: As educators, teaching an accurate and inclusive American History will provide all students with equitable opportunities to learn who they are among others. Not teaching American History accurately by erasing groups of peoples' origins is forcing assimilation into school's teachings and a discriminatory practice in education. Forced erasure by stripping away, deleting, or ignoring cultural identities has instrumental, relational, and expressive consequences. Frequently and historically marginalized communities accurate history teachings have been absent in schools’ curriculum. As educators, if we are not providing an inclusive history that reflects diverse cultural identities, we may unintentionally (or intentionally) promote erasure and assimilation. This can impact the instrumental beliefs and interpretations that students from historically marginalized backgrounds have about schooling and their teachers. These instrumental beliefs impact students’ relational beliefs (making sense of the world through experiences or lack of) and can have a lasting negative impact on students from historically marginalized backgrounds.
This work provides an opportunity for all students, including those who are not from marginalized backgrounds, to examine their own biases, learn about the cultural identities and histories of marginalized communities, and continue on a path of truth and reconciliation by making a commitment to keep learning about communities from it's members to deepen our understandings of their experiences, expressions, struggles, and triumphs.
Forced cultural erasure in education can produce a symbolic expression of intellectual, cultural, and linguistic derogation, denigration, and stereotyping. The relational beliefs have educational consequences and societal factors affecting minority education experiences and outcomes such as Black students not performing on par with their white counterparts in school. In this the achievement gap between students is connected to Black students having fewer educational opportunities than White students in almost every American school district. These equal opportunities include accurate historical teachings. For example, Societal and school practices of erasure may lead students from historically marginalized communities into a dual frame of reference, where they may think who am I in a school community that erases my cultural identity and what is my place in American History? “Culture, it turns out, is the way that every brain makes sense of the world. That is why everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, has a culture. Think of culture as software for the brain’s hardware. The brain uses cultural information to turn everyday happenings into meaningful events.” (Zaretta Lynn Hammond) Without a place of belonging for students from historically marginalized backgrounds in the teachings of history, we are forcing instrumental adaptation to a specific path for successes and survival as a minority in a white world. When considering schools' and districts' data of the success of minority students, we must also consider the structure that places value on specific groups of peoples' cultural identities in a school’s culture and representation of those cultural identities through language, learning, relationships with teachers and peers, and the benefits schooling provides.
This project is grounded in a continued commitment to seek truth and reconciliation for historically marginalized communities. The healing power of bearing witness to the accurate history of others develops an intentional understanding, empathy towards others, synthesizing of differences, and opportunities for authentic belonging in the social setting of schooling.
Deconstruction and Reconstruction
Who are the Black cultural ambassadors you seek out for information, guidance, advice, and knowledge that helps you learn and discover your cultural identity? (Cultural ambassadors can be artists, dancers, musicians, actors, and writers that tell the story of different cultures through the art form.)
Why is it important to consider our histories and cultural narratives through a lens that is both empathetic and critically thinking? What can we gain from this practice?
What art forms (visual and performing art and writing), artists/writers and their work serve as cultural ambassadors to help you feel most connected to and celebrate Black Culture in your life?