Saturday, August 10, 2019

Living Under Racist Terrorism Impacts Learning

Young indigenous victim of colonial settler terrorism.

A whole generation of BIPOC children and college students in the US are being negatively impacted by the climate of fear that is being perpetrated upon them by the unrestrained white-supremacist movement and the government that supports this abomination.  Their mental health, their educations and their lives are all being stunted and slowed down by these racist attacks by settler colonists.

According to Zaretta Hammond in her astounding work, "Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain,"  students should be able to feel safe and confident to be able to become a self-sufficient learner.  Becoming a self-sufficient learner means the student becomes involved in their own educational and personal development by reflection and by being warmly challenged by an instructor who has earned their trust.  A dependent learner is always dependent on someone outside themselves to take charge of their education and are thereby passive learners who often give up because they have come to depend upon help.  They have a fixed mindset and not a growth mindset.

Photo from Hammond Text
Hammond, Z., & Jackson, Y. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students.

One of Hammond's four elements of the academic mindset is, "Our belief in our ability to move about our world freely and control our external world."  This helps the student begin to believe in themselves, especially when the observe progress because of their hard work.  If the student does not feel they can move about freely, say for instance--they feel like their parents might be arrested by ICE, or that they themselves might be shot by the police because of the color of their skin--then the student's amygdala will be sent into threat reaction.

Human Brain

If the amygdala is sent into a threat reaction, learning cannot occur.  The amygdala is sent into threat reaction when the brain feels threatened.  It triggers the fight or flight reaction and learning is the farthest thing from what can occur at that point.  The student just wants to survive, they just want to get out of there.  The student cannot learn when this occurs.

As I write these words there is an attack on Latinx people in the US.  White supremacist have purposely targeted us and have murdered many in CA, TX and OH just in the past few weeks.  There has also been a string of immigration arrests in the US--leaving many children without their parents on the first day of school.  This creates a general fear in the Latinx community throughout the US.

WE (BIPOC) ARE BEING TARGETED AND WE KNOW IT!

Black Americans are under constant attack as well.  Not even safe in their own churches, Black Americans have to put up with daily racist humiliations like the recent mounted police officers leading a walking black man through town by a rope.  Black Americans, no matter what their age,  are often shot with no reason by the police and so-called vigilante criminals.  This creates an unsafe environment that is perpetrated by the dominant culture, who are also in charge of the educational system.  This can lead to distrust and set off a threat reaction in the amygdala and thereby impact learning.  


Image Source

All of the above lead to an unhealthy climate for children of color.  Granted, before 2016, it wasn't great for BIPOC kids in the US, but today the climate has worsened.  Today, even US citizens are arrested by ICE because they are Latinx.  This creates a climate of fear for our children.  If they are Latinx and old enough to understand what that means, they fear losing their parents--no matter what their citizenship status.  This creates an unsafe environment that is perpetrated by the dominant culture, who are also in charge of the educational system.  This can lead to distrust and set off a threat reaction in the amygdala and thereby impact learning.  

Our BIPOC student's brains are  are being turned into fixed mindset brains.  We need independent learners more than ever in our struggle for social justice.  Independent learners require a growth mindset.

Illustration from Hammond, Z., & Jackson, Y. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Our children's brains are being damaged by this treatment and we need to talk about this.  Our children face so many obstacles already--now we are facing a neurobiological attack in addition to the regular attacks we AND OUR CHILDREN face daily.

Some things YOU can do:

Fight against the current administration's acceptance of white-supremacy.

Make your classrooms more welcoming.

Post up images of BIPOC leaders, educators, business people and scientists in your classroom.

Talk about the racist attacks that are ongoing with your students.

Honor their feelings and ask them to express themselves--to provide counter-narratives to the racist narrative that is ongoing.

Build trust with your BIPOC students.

Demand excellent work from your BIPOC students.

Buy this book and learn more about culturally responsive teaching and the brain!

Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain by Zaretta Hammond

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