IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa educators recently assembled at the University of Iowa to learn how to “teach Ferguson.”
A panel of professors and activists are using the death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson as a segue to broach everything from economics to the supposed privilege of teachers.
The training description says Brown’s death “reminds us of the complicated web of perspectives, biases, privilege, discrimination, and systemic oppression in which our students are struggling to make sense of the world and form identity.”
“Basically we sort of tried to find a representative swath of folks who can speak to various aspects of the issue,” moderator Will Coghill-Behrends tells the Daily Iowan.
But the speakers were decidedly lopsided in favor of progressive academics and race activists. There was no input from the law enforcement community, for example.
“It’s important for us as a College of [Education] to respond to a need in our community, and so we’re putting on this event because we know that teachers really struggle when it comes to discussions about race [and] racism,” Coghill-Behrends, director of the Teacher Leader Center, says.
Speakers said before teachers could broach the subjects they believe are important, teachers need to look critically at themselves.
They claim Iowa teachers are “99 percent white,” according to CBS 2.
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The training description says, “Unfortunately, classroom teachers are often at a loss for resources and supports to discuss complicated and sometimes intimidating topics like privilege, power, systemic oppression, and racism.”
“I can’t tell you how many classrooms I’ve been in where teachers use us and them in racialized terms without even acknowledging it to themselves,” one of the speakers, Jeanette Gabriel, says.
“Kendra Malone, a diversity resources coordinator in UI’s Chief Diversity Office and one of the panelists, said she hopes to help educators question their own positions of privilege, enhance their emotional intelligence around the pain racism causes, and understand racism both as a form of cultural trauma and a systemic structure of oppression,” the Press-Citizen reports.
Strangely, none of the speakers nor their rhetoric actually addresses what happened in Ferguson. That is, of course, a teenager robbed a liquor store, a police officer pursued a suspect matching his description, they scuffled in the patrol car and the suspect charged the officer. Then the officer shot him.
There has been no evidence to suggest race played any role in the events.
But that’s apparently not how Iowa students will learn about it.
“We are living in two dramatically different countries, and most white Americans don’t even know about it, or recognize it,” Gabriel says.
So with these educators in charge, the lesson will be about “biases, privilege, discrimination and systemic oppression.”