High Schools, Race, and America's Future: What Students Can Teach Us About Morality, Diversity, and Community by Lawrence Blum (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2012)
Lawrence Blum, a UMass Boston professor and the author of a memoir about teaching a course on race and racism to high school students, has great faith in the moral reasoning of young people who learn about the truthful history of race in the Americas. In his teaching memoir, High Schools, Race, and America's Future: What Students Can Teach Us About Morality, Diversity, and Community, Blum argues that young people develop as civic, moral, intellectual, emotional, and social beings when presented with accurate information on race. When this information is shared in a mixed-race classroom, they develop a "civic attachment to a broader group of future fellow citizens of our national political community" than most students encounter in mixed-race classes and schools (187). According to Blum, "racial literacy"--the reasoned moral discussion of race in a mixed-race group--should be a part of every high school curriculum. Indeed, his vision of racial literacy appears just as urgent and compelling an "outcome" of secondary education as other competing literacies measured on increasingly high-stakes tests.
Blum's teaching experience makes a great story for Americans interested in learning and teaching about race in a clear-headed and collaborative way. In this review, I will distill Blum's story into a few principles that his course put into action, explicitly or implicitly.
Teach race locally.
Blum concretely identifies the diversity of the urban high school where he taught his class, the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS), as the result of progressive housing laws. These laws created affordable housing in Cambridge, a city with extremely high housing prices, and ensured that students of diverse household incomes were sent to school together in the same buildings. Following a national pattern, students of color are underrepresented in advanced classes despite the overall integration of the school. Blum's goals at CRLS were two-fold: 1. He wanted to teach high school students about the historical roots of racial inequality in the United States in order to increase their "racial literacy"; 2. He wanted to teach an "advanced," "college-level" course on race to a group of students whose racial demographics mirrored that of the larger school. (Black and Latino students...