An examination of how curriculum choices can perpetuate White supremacy, and radical strategies for how schools and teacher education programs can disrupt and transform racism in education
When racist curriculum “goes viral” on social media, it is typically dismissed as an isolated incident from a “bad” teacher. Educator Bree Picower, however, holds that racist curriculum isn’t an anomaly. It’s a systemic problem that reflects how Whiteness is embedded and reproduced in education. In Reading, Writing, and Racism, Picower argues that White teachers must reframe their understanding about race in order to advance racial justice and that this must begin in teacher education programs.
Drawing on her experience teaching and developing a program that prepares teachers to focus on social justice and antiracism, Picower demonstrates how teachers’ ideology of race, consciously or unconsciously, shapes how they teach race in the classroom. She also examines current examples of racist curricula that have gone viral to demonstrate how Whiteness is entrenched in schools and how this reinforces racial hierarchies in the younger generation.
With a focus on institutional strategies, Picower shows how racial justice can be built into programs across the teacher education pipeline—from admission to induction. By examining the who, what, why, and how of racial justice teacher education, she provides radical possibilities for transforming how teachers think about, and teach about, race in their classrooms.
About the Author
Bree Picower is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Montclair State University. She is the codirector of the Newark Teacher Project and the Critical Urban Education Speaker Series. Picower has previously published Practice What You Teach: Social Justice Education in the Classroom and the Streets and coedited Confronting Racism in Teacher Education: Counternarratives of Critical Practice and What’s Race Got to Do with It? How Current School Reform Maintains Racial and Economic Inequality. Connect with her at breepicower.com.
“Picower’s call to action to become co-conspirators in abolitionist teaching should be required reading for teacher-preparation professors, teachers, principals, and superintendents . . . Picower’s honest introspection about her own positionality builds an ethos of racial humility and dedication to dismantling racism in education.” —Booklist
“Picower’s book [is] nothing less than a handbook for White people to relinquish power to people of color while also committing to laboring for justice in cross-racial educational communities.” —The Christian Century
“This is a must-read for all future and current teachers interested in racial justice in the classroom.” —Wayne Au, editor of Rethinking Schools
“A necessary provocation for conversations about the racist ideologies that teachers can unwittingly bring into the classroom and the real consequences of those ideologies for children of color. Perhaps most importantly, the book suggests meaningful ways that teacher prep programs can reframe their pedagogy to disrupt white supremacy rather than perpetuate it.” —Eve L. Ewing, author of Electric Arches
“This book is essential reading for teachers, parents, and everyday citizens looking to dismantle White supremacy and expand justice.” —Marc Lamont Hill, author of Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond
“Picower has decades of commitment and experience in racial justice education, and it comes through in every page of this book. With both passion and precision, she makes the default of whiteness in school curriculum visible. I felt captivated by every page and heartened that such an accessible and transformative resource is available to teachers.” —Robin DiAngelo, New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility
“If you consider yourself an ally in the struggle for racial justice, you cannot turn away from this book!” —David Stovall, author of Born Out of Struggle: Critical Race Theory, School Creation, and the Politics of Interruption
“With powerful insights and concrete suggestions for transformation, Reading, Writing, and Racism is certain to help teachers, teacher educators, and administrators rethink their roles in preparing the nation’s teachers.” —Sonia Nieto, author of Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education
“Coupling an urgent call to action with the practical supports required to act, this book offers a vision for and examples of the kind of humanizing, healing practices that successfully prepare teachers to struggle for racial justice through their everyday work. For those committed to rooting out the curricular violence of Whiteness, this book is right on time.” —Carla Shalaby, author of Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School
“Reading, Writing, and Racism is a clearly written, no-holds-barred gem of a book that every teacher educator must read. Drawing on her incisive critique of curriculum and teacher ideology, along with interviews with racial justice teacher educators, Picower cogently frames how whiteness works in teacher education, while showing us how to upend it.” —Christine Sleeter, coauthor of Transformative Ethnic Studies in Schools: Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Research
“The egregious, racist actions of a subset of school teachers that have gone viral on social media may seem like outliers in an otherwise just system and profession, but they are not, as argued compellingly in Reading, Writing, and Racism. What and how we teach, and who teaches, and how we prepare them should not be presumed to be somehow immune from the long legacies of white supremacy and colonialism that have shaped US schooling from its very beginning. Reframing and reorienting more forcefully toward racial justice requires tackling these legacies head-on in programs that prepare, support, connect, celebrate, and hold accountable educators—and Bree Picower offers us frameworks, models, and hope for doing precisely that, when the need could not be more great.” —Kevin Kumashiro, author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture