A two-day virtual “teach-in” kicks off Thursday morning at the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education with the goal of examining the role of K-12 and higher education in building greater racial equity.
The event follows a summer of sustained protests against police killings and mistreatment of people of color, including George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. The teach-in is called “Make Good Trouble” Now, a reference to the late Civil Rights icon, Congressman John Lewis.
“It’s a mandatory event. Classes have been canceled. No staff will be doing any work, typical office work, for the next two days,” said Suzanne Rosenblith, dean of the school, adding that the teach-in will address everything from counseling and psychology to the widespread lack of teacher diversity.
“One question is, ‘Who goes into teaching?’ And if we think about the experiences that many Black and brown people have as K-12 students, why in the world would they choose this as their profession?”
Rosenblith also said the teach-in is part of the school’s “soul-searching” around its commitment to becoming antiracist and hiring more faculty of color. The school’s Department of Learning and Instruction, which trains future teachers, has only one Black tenure-track faculty member at present. Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino professors also make up less than 3% each of UB’s total tenure-track faculty, according to university data.
“If we want to move beyond just beliefs, like, ‘I believe we should have more diverse faculty. I believe we should have more diverse teachers,’ you’ve got to, you know, roll up your sleeves and do the work,” Rosenblith said. “And I think that’s where too often we fail. We say these things, they sound really good, but what do we change in our practices?”
Speakers at the virtual teach-in this week include Dr. Bettina Love, an esteemed researcher on abolitionist teaching, and Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, president and founder of one of the top 10 global diversity consulting groups, as named by The Economist magazine.