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Teachable Moments Not Just for Kids

By Susan Naimark

By Susan Naimark

Teachable moments around racism was the topic of a summer 2008 Rethinking Schools editorial. While relevant curriculum is critical, we don't need to wait for new social studies textbooks to be adopted to identify such teachable moments. A simple look around our schools is an equally compelling starting point.

I recently began writing about my experiences as a white middle-class parent whose white children went through the Boston Public Schools. In my sons' elementary school, the parent organization was over half white?in a school where 85 percent of the students were children of color. This imbalanced parent involvement was too often interpreted as "those other parents just don't care about their kids' education." As I got to know some of the parents who did not come to our meetings, I heard a different story. And as I met parents from other schools through my citywide parent organizing work, I found these stories to be recurring themes. Stories about working two and three jobs, not having reliable transportation, not speaking English adequately to feel comfortable communicating with school staff. While these barriers to participation are not unique to parents of color, I also learned how many parents of color had their own hostile childhood schooling experiences holding them back.

When I talked with parents who faced these obstacles, they expressed as much concern about their children's education as the parents who came to our parent meetings. The confluence of racism and poverty created a host of obstacles to their involvement in our school.

That was 15 years ago.

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