What Decentering Whiteness in American Education Looks Like

Giving Compass' Take:
  • Kelly Niccolls, Rebecca Midles, and Susan Enfield discuss what decentering whiteness means, and how it can be applied to education in America.
  • How was whiteness centered - or not centered - in your education? How can you support efforts to decenter whiteness in your life and work?
  • Read about critical race theory in classrooms.

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There is a narrative surrounding decentering whiteness in American education spaces. It is substantiated by culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum. It incorporates trauma-informed practices and whole child support. It names ways that traditional systems oppress and harm children. It identifies ways education structures minoritized students who do not subscribe to the white normative culture and ways of learning. It tells a story of where the work should go and how progress is being made.

In reality, there is little to any real progress that has been made in our American education system since its inception, and in fact, in our current politically charged post-Trump atmosphere there is a reenergized resistance to anti-racist efforts and aligned attempts to decenter whiteness in our learning cultures that organize school board elections and legislation to prohibit any challenge to the power of whiteness in American school systems.

Decentering whiteness is not decentering white people. Whiteness is not emblematic of a race of people; it is the pervasive dominant culture in the United States. This culture erases any validity of other cultures or ways of being. It is the normed reference for what is often “proper,” “appropriate,” “successful,” and “worthy.” American school systems are set up, implemented and measured by whiteness standards.

Instead, we should be focused on the concept of personalizing learning for every learner that centers the agency of each learner, and not the righteousness of education systems. This change in teaching and learning challenges prevailing theories and assumptions about how humans learn and collaborate. It also changes the way we see society, roles, personal and group identities. It changes the way we see ourselves and one another. It also changes the DNA of American educational institutions.

Read the full article about decentering whiteness by Kelly Niccolls, Rebecca Midles, and Susan Enfield at Getting Smart .


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