Over the rainbow

rainbowThere is a common misconception in the public in general and in education specifically. It would sound something like this: “African-American history is for black kids,” or “”Women’s Studies is for girls.” It has plenty of other incarnations, but you get the drift. If you are going to be a teacher ANYWHERE, you need to have a firm grasp on the concept of cultural competencies. I am going to focus on an African-American perspective here for the sake of space, but you should substitute in Latino/Latina studies, Gender studies, Native Studies, and so on.

See, the idea that these specific focus perspectives only serve the folks that fit that category is what brings responses such as “all lives matter” to things like the Black Lives Matter campaign. We (meaning here, American culture) want to believe that we are inclusive, but we aren’t and we get defensive when we are called out on it. I feel safe in saying that because, if I stopped most any white person on the street and asked who Nat Turner was, we would have less than a 1% pass rate. (Of course to be fair, not many can id the Bill of Rights either.) The point is, integration in America has always meant that “minorities” become like the Euro-based culture. The more accurate word would assimilation, you know, like the Borg.

The problem is, I was raised with phrases like “the great melting pot” and “all the colors of the rainbow,” so that is what I expect. I also have come to realize, as an adult, that that perspective is much more productive and functional than the reality we are attempting to continue with this bury-our-heads-in-the-sand mentality. My life is richer and of more value to the community as a whole because I have opened myself to be educated about a variety of non-Euro-based cultures that exist here in the US. Never have I felt this a threat to my Irish/Scottish American heritage. I grow larger, not smaller by being inclusive rather than exclusive.

We need to find a way in American education to teach about all of our history and be able to point out problems and not feel like we have to see ourselves as terrible because we made mistakes. Humanity as a whole has not done wonderfully well in the morality category. Accepting that you are not perfect is a good way to start making a change. Ask anyone in AA.



  1. kathyafinch · October 31, 2015

    I couldn’t help but smile at the beginning of the sentence “I grow larger…” Sorry. but I needed a smile on a Saturday morning. Now onto the comment – I think you and I grew up and were greatly influenced by folk music lyrics, Peace-nik and “Jesus freak” lyrics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. “C’mon people, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” We heard it, we embraced it, and we still attempt to embody it. Unfortunately lyrics after that time period were not as encompassing of others and we are reaping the results.


  2. Jeff Bean · November 2, 2015

    Let’s see if we can teach past it.


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