Goodbye Atticus Finch, hello “Antiracist Baby”. #DisruptTexts is coming to a classroom near you.


Critic calls movement’s goals “almost criminal”

Tony Kinnett first encountered the ideas behind #DisruptTexts in 2016 while teaching in rural Indiana.

“There was a teacher who was changing the way she taught some of the books that were normally taught in her middle school class,” he said. The College’s solution. “She basically left out a lot of classical literature in exchange for a few modern pieces written by more diverse authors.”

After meeting others who wanted to cut the ‘ethnically white’ classics into his masters program, Kinnett – educator, curriculum developer and co-founder of Examining the painting – knew something was wrong. Although they claimed the classics weren’t diverse enough, he noted a deeper reason for the change.

“In reality, it was that they were the building blocks of Western civilization,” Kinnett said. “Therefore [the authors] at odds with the collectivist ideas supported by the #DisruptTexts movement.

According to his website, #DisruptTexts is “a community and local effort by teachers to challenge teachers to traditional canon” using an anti-racist lens. This push for a “more inclusive, representative and equitable language arts curriculum” has left beloved and tried novels in the dust.

Take “Kill a Mockingbird” as an example. Few would call Atticus Finch problematic, but #DisruptTexts has no qualms about doing so. By their Analysis, he is a white savior who “does not see the need to publicly disrupt the judicial system”. Not an anti-racist, certainly not a hero.

#DisruptTexts wants more teachers to adopt this approach to literature. This summer, they show educators how to do it.

Preparing to disrupt the new school year

As part of its professional development program, Heinemann Publishing sponsors two workshops featuring the four co-founders of #DisruptTexts. For $ 125, teachers can spend the day at a Zoom seminar to learn how to advocate “anti-racism” in their own schools.

July 20 and August 11 sessions align with the four hearts of #DisruptTexts principles: interrogate personal biases, focus on “Black, Aboriginal and Voices of Color” literature, apply critical race theory to teaching, and work with other “anti-racist educators”.

Similarly, the National Write Center (funded in part by the US Department of Education) is hosting a conference on July 21. speak on “Anti-bias literacy instruction for stronger readers, writers and thinkers” with #DisruptTexts co-founder, Tricia Ebarvia.

Many smaller workshops, which are not directly affiliated with #DisruptTexts but cover comparable content, also take place. Both teachers and academics are accommodation one on the use of young adult literature for teaching social justice with Christina Dobbs, professor at Boston University, and the TCNJ School of Education is to concentrate on teaching LGBTQIA literature in high school.

The #DisruptTexts movement has gained ground in recent years. In 2020 alone, its co-founders spoke at webinars with PBS, the National Board of Certified Teachers and several universities; have been published in several academic journals; and have even appeared in the New York Times, as they all on their website.

Partnership with publishers

While #DisruptTexts aims to reach teachers directly, they have also made deals with companies that create children’s books and classroom materials.

Heinemann Publishing, which produces professional resources for teachers and classroom programs, not only hosts a workshop featuring #DisruptTexts, but also named #DisruptTexts co-founder Julia E. Torres as one of its 2018 -2020 comrades. One of the other co-founders, Tricia Ebarvia, was also a scholarship holder in 2016-2018.

Heinemann did not respond to questions from The College’s solution concerning the workshop or its association with #DisruptTexts. He is not the only publisher to collaborate with the movement.

In November 2020, Penguin Random House and #DisruptTexts co-published a guide comprising eight books and accompanying material to help teachers introduce new texts into the classroom.

The first lesson, intended for students in Kindergarten to Grade 2, focuses on the book “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi. Teachers are encouraged by the guide to ask questions of six-year-olds such as “What does anti-racism look like in action?” “,” What is advocacy? “” And “What is the difference between kindness and anti-racism?”

One of the goals of the lesson is to make sure they “understand that just being nice doesn’t automatically mean they’re anti-racist.” For Kinnett, this narrow perspective is one of the main reasons #DisruptTexts is harmful to students.

“Take all the racial elements and put them aside. The Western canon is only an objectively better literature. Kinnett said. “It is a superior form of language. It forces you to think. Plots are not spoon fed to you. The moral of the story isn’t so black and white, it’s like watching an after-school special on PBS.

Another lesson from the Penguin Random House guide suggests replacing “The Great Gatsby” with “Juliet Takes a Breath” – a book about a “queer Latinx woman” interning with a feminist writer in Portland. He urges teachers to help adolescents “feel comfortable knowing that they can read ideas about sexuality, gender and the beliefs associated with both.”

The eight lessons include a list of key concepts and vocabulary at the end. Words include microaggression, intersectionality, patriarchy, colonialism, and toxic masculinity.

Kinnett warned that these kinds of buzzwords can create problems for people pushing back program changes. When critics don’t understand them, it allows supporters to simply call them “stupid.”

“In the #DisruptTexts movement, the big thing you’re going to see is ‘culturally relevant pedagogy’, which is a concept of pimping at best, and a horribly racist concept at worst,” he said.

Culturally relevant pedagogy means teaching in a way that students will understand, depending on the culture they come from. While this sounds good on the surface, Kinnett argues that it often deteriorates by off-center an abstract idea of ​​”whiteness.”

“Culturally relevant pedagogy is not about adding new material,” he said. “It’s about tearing up old materials to make room for new ones.

You don’t have to burn books, just call them racist

Ray Bradbury once said that you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. You just have to get people to stop reading them. Now Bradbury himself is part of the discouraged ‘white cannon’ activists want remove schools.

#DisruptTexts says it is against censorship and banning books. This is not what happens in practice.

When Kim Parker, co-founder and “literary organizer” of #DisruptTexts request its Twitter followers which texts should be discarded, the teachers were happy to cut everything and anything traditionally taught.

“What book (s) have you taught in your career that you are now ready to let go and stop teaching? Why? ”She asked. Hundreds of responses poured in condemning everything from“ James and the Giant Peach ”to“ The Great Gatsby, ”“ To Kill a Mockingbird ”and Dr. Seuss.

The #DisruptTexts website features stories from educators who have successfully changed texts in their classrooms. Carrie Mattern, a high school teacher in Michigan, dismissed “To Kill a Mockingbird” in favor of “The Hate U Give”.

“After reading” The Hate U Give “and researching the names on page 443 for our research project to honor Black Lives Matter in Schools Week, we entered a discussion about healthy relationships that Thomas provided to readers. in the text, ”she said. mentionned at #DisruptTexts.

Another teacher inspired seeing #DisruptTexts on Twitter “took all readings from white authors except” Autonomy “,” On Civil Disobedience “and” The Great Gatsby “.

These changes are being implemented in the name of growing diversity. Yet in many cases, Kinnett suggests, they actually limit it by suppressing the richness and variety of the Western Canon.

“Frederick Douglass said that the works he was studying – the selection of the Western Canon – set a man free. It literally gives young men and young women the tools to recognize their abilities – that God made them these beautiful creatures and individuals who are capable of just about anything, ”he said, noting that the Western Cannon himself helped build the culture and civilization that came to an end. slavery.

“Some of the modern texts they complete may be OK books,” he said. “I think we should have various writers and modern stuff, but classical literature, throwing in such delicacies, academically, is almost criminal.”

“Put your house in order first”

For concerned parents, Kinnett says the most important way to push back against movements like #DisruptTexts isn’t through advocacy. It is to engage with the children at home.

“Advocacy is important. It is extremely important to keep school boards on a solid footing. After all, in writing our CRT Toolkit, one of the things we are talking about is advocacy. he said. “But unless you have to get your house in order first, you can’t.”

Examining the paintingcritical race theory toolbox is designed to help parents understand and push back the ideas behind movements like #DisruptTexts. Yet the See again insists that the first job of parents is to teach their own children.

“It may involve a working-class adult in the United States picking up some of these great literary works and browsing them with their children,” Kinnett said. “[Parents] need to read to the youngest. They need to read what the children bring home. And they need to invest in what their child’s seventh grade English class is teaching them.

MORE: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Madness Reaches Northern Canada

IMAGE: Rachel Gonzalez / Flickr

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