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Centering Young Black Women’s and Girls’ Voices in STEM Participation in the United States  

Kara Mitchell, Carla Wellborn, and Chezare Warren

There has been growing scholarly interest in Black girls’ and young women’s matriculation across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. This interest is fueled by the STEM field’s maintenance of a largely White and male culture, despite the passage of Title IX laws in the 1970s. This exploration of Black women’s and girls’ STEM participation has been incredibly important for extending what is known about this group. Less discernible from the extant literature is Black women’s and girls’ first-person sensemaking about the moments, people, incidents, and environments that determine not just their participation but also their persistence into and through higher education to complete a STEM undergraduate degree. The language of trajectories implicates life course, growth, and development in ability over time with age and experience. The various environments influencing young Black women’s and girls’ learning about STEM, and their decisions about how or if to participate in STEM, are informed by constantly evolving understandings of their intersectional race–gender identity. This identity is changing over time as they grow older and come into contact with various STEM learning opportunities, people, and places. Young Black women and girls are keenly aware of race–gender limitations imposed on them by dominant cultural norms, institutional agents, and experiences with institutional policy and practice. Such perspectives are shaping how they come to view themselves aside from STEM and the decisions they make at each point on the STEM pipeline specific to their desire to own a STEM identity despite their subject position as a race–gender minoritized person in STEM subjects and majors.

Article

Race and Gender Intersectionality and Education  

Venus E. Evans-Winters

When recognizing the cultural political agency of Black women and girls from diverse racial and ethnic, gender, sexual, and socioeconomic backgrounds and geographical locations, it is argued that intersectionality is a contributing factor in the mitigation of educational inequality. Intersectionality as an analytical framework helps education researchers, policymakers, and practitioners better understand how race and gender intersect to derive varying amounts of penalty and privilege. Race, class, and gender are emblematic of the three systems of oppression that most profoundly shape Black girls at the personal, community, and social structural levels of institutions. These three systems interlock to penalize some students in schools while privileging other students. The intent of theoretically framing and analyzing educational problems and issues from an intersectional perspective is to better comprehend how race and gender overlap to shape (a) educational policy and discourse, (b) relationships in schools, and (c) students’ identities and experiences in educational contexts. With Black girls at the center of analysis, educational theorists and activists may be able to better understand how politics of domination are organized along other axes such as ethnicity, language, sexuality, age, citizenship status, and religion within and across school sites. Intersectionality as a theoretical framework is informed by a variety of standpoint theories and emancipatory projects, including Afrocentrism, Black feminism and womanism, critical race theory, queer theory, radical Marxism, critical pedagogy, and grassroots’ organizing efforts led by Black, Indigenous, and other women of color throughout US history and across the diaspora.

Article

African Centered Education  

Kmt G. Shockley

African centered education (ACE) is a type of pedagogy and educational practice that centers the needs and interests of Black children and communities by requiring educators to become familiar with the issues, problems, and perspectives that exist within Black communities. Pedagogically, it involves including ideas and practices that come from African cultural groups (such as Ashanti, Zulu, Wolof, etc.) into the educational process. Several theories provide the major constructs upon which ACE is articulated, namely: (a) an understanding that Black people are, in fact, Africans; (b) an understanding that all people identified as being of African descent are Africans with a common aim and destiny, a sentiment called Pan Africanism; (c) the practice of re-Africanization, which relates to adopting aspects of indigenous African cultural practice into one’s life; (d) the adoption of traditional/indigenous African values, such as the ancient concept of Maat, into one’s life; (e) the practice of Black nationalism, which relates to believing that people of African descent constitute a nation that must be built for survival and sustainment; (f) an understanding and belief that educational institutions for Black children must be fully controlled by people of African descent; and (g) an understanding that there is a difference between education—which is the type of knowledge transmission process that Black youth need in order to solve problems and build institutions within their own communities, and schooling—which relates to the culturally mismatched training process that Black children are receiving in schools which prevents them from being able to use their “education” to solve problems and build institutions within their own communities.

Article

Urban Teaching and Black Girls’ Pedagogies  

Menah Pratt-Clarke, Andrea N. Baldwin, and Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown

To discuss and understand urban teaching and Black girls’ pedagogies, the fundamental premise is that Black girls are not monolithic, but complex and nonhomogenous. Black girlhood studies recognize that, because of their intersectional race, class, and gender status, Black girls have different experiences than Black boys and White girls. Core themes in Black girlhood include self-identity and socialization; beauty and self-expression; popular culture, hip hop, and stereotypes; violence; systemic discipline in schools; and resiliency and survival. Responding to the unique experiences of Black girls, Black women educators developed and adopted a pedagogy that focuses on and centers Black girls and Black girlhood in all their complexity. Using a strengths-based approach, Black girls’ pedagogy is built on a Black feminist and womanist framework that recognizes the need for culturally informed curriculum and classroom experiences, more Black women educators, and a commitment to an ethics of care.

Article

Special Education and Gender in the United States  

Nickie Coomer and Chelsea Stinson

Historically, Western hegemonic order has been established through cultivating and legitimating social categories of difference. Schools, among other institutions, reinforce difference through marking ability, race, and gender to signify which bodies are productive, deficient, or dangerous and therefore in need of control. This process of differentiation and control is evident in the social, political, and education contexts of disabled youth whose race, gender, and sexuality are read, controlled, and resisted through policy and pedagogy. Through the processes of hypervisiblity, pathologization, and underserving of Black girls in schools, and especially within special education, this animates the nexus of gender, race, and disability. Parallels are drawn to paradigms of the female body and femininity, where difference is constructed as inferior to the normative male body. Similarly, special education policy, practice, and literature conceptualize disability as subtractive difference, wherein what is considered a “deficit” relies on a subtractive interpretation of a normative body or a normative way of being. In this regard, disability, gender—and, crucially, race—are often thought of as a negative departure from a normalized embodiment. In special education, such normalized, essentialist approaches to gender, race, and disability contribute to the disproportionate overidentification of some social identities and the underidentification of others, most often along raced and gendered lines. Importantly, disabling processes are institutionalized in education through the mechanism of special education, which not only serves as an instructional and academic response to a student’s disability but also acts as an institutional process that determines a student as disabled. The determination of a student having a disability is mediated through law, policy, and interpersonal interaction between school professionals and parents and caregivers. Disproportionate identification has been the focus of research, and studies show that overidentification occurs most often in disability categories that are considered “subjective”: for instance, specific learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. Such identification has an impact on students’ learning; opportunities to interact with their peers in general education settings; access to high quality, challenging curriculum; and opportunities to engage critical thinking in educational activities that go beyond direct instruction. Disabling processes in schools related to the intersection of disability, gender, and race, in particular, are mediated by the local, cultural interactions of school personnel and are evident in the ways in which Black girls, in particular, are disabled in school.

Article

Black Male Preservice Teachers  

Dawn N. Hicks Tafari and Janeva Wilson

Institutionalized racism in the American education system has resulted in a crisis plaguing young Black boys from their preschool years and continuing into their pursuits in higher education. This is manifested as various forms of racial and gendered oppression, which is causing a disparate gap in Black males’ educational success and achievement. Racism and bias on the individual and systemic level have short- and long-term implications for Black male students and Black male teachers. Negative experiences in primary and secondary education make it more difficult to recruit and retain Black male teachers. The presence of Black male teachers is not only imperative to diversify a field dominated by White women but to also enhance the educational experiences of young Black boys. The diversity of students is not reflected by those teaching them, which exacerbates issues facing Black males in primary education, Black male preservice teachers, and new teachers. Understanding and addressing the barriers that young Black men face in education can yield efforts to support their success not only as students but as teachers. Establishing an inclusive and encouraging space where young Black boys can flourish in school can promote a more inviting place for Black male teachers to shine. Young Black boys who see educators that resemble them are positively impacted in areas of academic performance and personal growth. Young Black boys being introduced to mentors that understand and relate to them is instrumental during their formative years, as they can witness Black men succeeding in the face of adversity. An increased presence of Black male teachers in education is not the sole solution for the troubles and oppression that young Black boys face in education. However, they are a valuable asset to the education system, as well as the lives of students who benefit from their existence.

Article

High Stakes Testing and Educational Inequality in K-12 Schools  

Ronald W. Solórzano

The ubiquitous use of high stakes tests in K-12 schools in the United States has a deleterious effect on students of color (e.g., Black and Latino). Punitive policies related to test outcomes, such as retention and graduation, have been particularly damaging. In fact, the historical use of tests has been linked to exclusionary and racist motives resulting in discriminatory practices in college admissions while leading to genetic and cultural deficit theories to explain low achievement for students of color. The legacy of these early uses of tests has maintained its adverse presence in today’s educational landscape. National data on grade retention, high school dropout rates, and achievement indicate that students of color are disproportionately penalized by school-based policies resulting in an unequal educational experience. Unfortunately, these trends have been persistent reflecting achievement gaps between White and Asian students and Latino and Black students, and where, in most cases, no meaningful progress in eliminating these gaps has been made. English learners are particularly harmed by these policies and tests since language and opportunity to learn (OTL) concerns persist. Trends of low achievement are attributed to poorly resourced schools, cultural deficit theories employed by school personnel, and the invalid use of tests. Schools could serve students better by employing a curriculum and instruction that is culturally and linguistically relevant, that integrates communities and schools to critically analyze their educational and social-political status and agency thus empowering both for lasting change. Furthermore, teachers need to be empowered to be instructional leaders who critically evaluate their curriculum and instruction so as to educate and liberate students of color.

Article

Diaspora Literacy, Heritage Knowledge, and Revolutionary African-Centered Pedagogy in Black Studies Curriculum Theorizing and Praxis  

Joyce E. King

The original mission of Black Studies is producing consciousness transforming knowledge, and teaching for social change in close connection with Black communities, not mimicking other disciplines in producing esoteric knowledge for establishment legitimacy in the academy. Two principal pillars for Black Studies curriculum theorizing and praxis have been: (a) knowledge making as (and for) consciousness transformation and (b) social change for (and as) Diaspora literacy knowledge making also refers to the ability to “read” various cultural signs as continuities in African-descended people’s experience. As a foundation for collective cultural agency, Heritage knowledge or group memory, refers to a repository or heritable legacy that makes a feeling of belonging, peoplehood, and communal solidarity as an outcome of education possible. Vèvè A. Clark, scholar of African and Caribbean literature, African American dance histories, and African diaspora theatre, coined the concept of Diaspora literacy in a 1984 paper analyzing allegory in Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé’s novel, Hérémakhonon, which situated an Afro-Caribbean women’s identity quest in postcolonial West Africa. Clark later revised and expanded the concept to denote a narrator’s or reader’s ability to understand and/or interpret the multilayered meanings of stories, words, and other folk sayings within any given African diaspora community. Heritage knowledge takes the unjust system out of the center and puts the Africanity of group memory, the Black perspective, which is the cultural foundation that generates people’s collective cultural agency, at the center. While Heritage knowledge is a cultural birthright of every human being, the experience of Blackness as “ontological lack” obstructs and denies African people’s humanity and agency. These conceptual tools and revolutionary African-centered pedagogy provide opportunities for consciousness transforming education for Black liberation. Such theoretical concepts and praxis in Black Studies are neglected in curriculum theorizing discourse and praxis. This is so even though curriculum is viewed as racial text and reconceptualists focus on autobiography, subjectivity, identity, transformation, and more to define curriculum as a process (currere) not an object of study. Likewise, curriculum theorizing has yet to become an identifiable subfield within the transdiscipline of Black or Africana Studies, notwithstanding decades of institutionalizing curricula in higher education since the 1980s, including a National Council of Black Studies curriculum framework. Because African-descended people’s continent of origin and history, as well as Black children, their families, and teachers have been maligned in society, the radical introduction of African content in Afrocentric curriculum and pedagogy is needed to change the quality of education and to create new understanding of the racial politics of knowledge for all students and teachers. Revolutionary African-centered pedagogy aims to undo “twisted thinking” about Africa; challenge the oppressive educational system’s vision; defend students from self-hatred, and support agency for those who have been marginalized by hegemonic concepts, themes, and curricular ideas. The aim of examining relevant theoretical, epistemological, curriculum, and pedagogical developments in Black Studies and Black education scholarship is to clarify the meaning, significance, and implications of (a) African diaspora/s as a concept in education, political discourse, and method in Black Studies; (b) what deciphering Africanity in Diaspora literacy consciousness and Heritage knowledge reveals about the importance of the Black (Studies) perspective; and (c) revolutionary African-centered pedagogy as a philosophy and method of teaching for consciousness transformation.

Article

Womanist Inquiry for Social Justice in Curriculum  

Sabrina N. Ross

Womanism is a social justice-oriented standpoint perspective focusing on the unique lived experiences of Black women and other women of color and the strategies that they utilize to withstand and overcome racialized, gendered, class-based, and other intersecting forms of oppression for the betterment of all humankind. Much of Womanist inquiry conducted in the field of education focuses on mining history to illuminate the lives, activism, and scholarly traditions of well-known and lesser-known Black women educators. Womanist inquiry focusing on the lives and pedagogies of Black women educators serves as an important corrective, adding to official historical records the contributions that Black women and other women of color have made to their schools, communities, and society. By providing insight into the ways in which processes of teaching and learning are understood and enacted from the perspective of women navigating multiple systems of oppression, Womanist inquiry makes a significant contribution to studies of formal curricular processes. Womanist inquiry related to informal curriculum (i.e., educational processes understood broadly and occurring outside of formal educational settings) is equally important because it offers alternative interpretations of cultural productions and lived experiences that open up new spaces for the understanding of Black women’s lived experiences. A common theme of Womanist curriculum inquiry for social justice involves physical and geographic spaces of struggle and possibility. Indeed, many of the culturally derived survival strategies articulated by Womanist scholars focus on the possibilities of working within the blurred boundaries and hybridized spaces of the in-between to achieve social justice goals. In addition to the provision of culturally congruent survival strategies, Womanist inquiry also provides sources of inspiration for contemporary Black women and other women of color engaged in curriculum work for social justice. The diverse forms of and approaches to Womanist inquiry in curriculum point to the fruitfulness of using Womanism to understand the intersectional thoughts and experiences of Black women and other women of color in ways that further social justice goals.

Article

Performance-Based Ethnography  

Durell M. Callier and Dominique C. Hill

Performance ethnography invokes both familiar and strange recollections regarding a set of practices, methodological innovations, and epistemic orientations and challenges. This is particularly true when considering the ways performance, ethnography, and education intersect. Delving into the pedagogy, politics, and possibilities of performance ethnography in qualitative educational research, this article highlights the implications, deployments of, and engagements with the methodology in the field. To do so, key definitional offerings of performance, ethnography, and education are provided, enactments of performance ethnography within educational research, contexts, and applications are examined, and the “politics of doing” as a tool in performance ethnography is proposed. Upholding the contested nature of performance studies, this article outlines the utility of bridging performance, pedagogy, and education to foster new possibilities for teacher-student dynamics, the facilitation and understanding of embodied knowledges inside and outside schooling contexts, as well as how educational research can be conceptualized.

Article

A History of African American Teachers in the United States  

Rhonda Jeffries and Toni Williams

The trajectory of African American teachers is traced from the establishment of Africans as educators in the United States to their current work as community agents of change. The historical access of education for African Americans is explored, leading to the creation of the role of Black educator for Black people. Significant trailblazers in the profession are highlighted as trendsetters who disrupted concerted efforts to withhold education from Black people, and descendants of this work continued the fight throughout the desegregation era to the present are also discussed. Gendered constructs of African American educators are examined in relationship to cultural norms that have shaped the profession, concluding with a review of the implications of this professional role for Black people and the Black community.

Article

Gender, Intersectionality, and World-Making Possibilities in Education  

Dara Nix-Stevenson

In the sphere of education, there is an ongoing conversation of world-making possibilities related to centering gender and its intersections in educational contexts. Central to this notion is a triangulation of family, school, and community. The world-making possibilities of this triangulation is bolstered by six characteristics: shared responsibility for student learning among school staff, families, and the larger community; seamless and continuous support for learning from birth to career; creation of pathways that honor the dynamic, multiple, and complementary ways that students learn; supportive culture for learning both in the classroom and throughout the community; opportunities and processes to foster advocacy for student learning; and quality education and learning opportunities for every child. Moving beyond this notion, a racialized and gendered dimension considers the influence of institutionalized racism and anti-Blackness in society on the academic success of children.

Article

1964 Freedom Schools in the United States  

Kristal Moore Clemons

The 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project served thousands of children and adults in over 40 Freedom Schools created to combat voter suppression and encourage youth to engage in the Civil Rights Movement. The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project included three main initiatives: Freedom Schools and community centers, voter registration on the official state rolls, and a freedom registration plan designed to independently elect a slate of delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Voter registration was the cornerstone of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and approximately 17,000 Black residents of Mississippi attempted to register to vote in 1964, but only 1,600 of the applications were accepted by the registrars. The Freedom Schools utilized a curriculum focused on the philosophical tenets of the Civil Rights Movement, arithmetic, reading, writing, and African American history. The purpose was to supplement what children in the various counties in Mississippi were not receiving in their traditional public school setting. Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), reinvigorated the contemporary Freedom Schools movement in the 1990s. The CDF’s Black Community Crusade for Children saw the CDF Freedom Schools program as an intergenerational collaboration between Civil Rights Movement–era activists and younger generations.