There is a troubling pattern of racialized rhetoric to education activism. The latest to come to my attention is from Grant Wiggins, president of Authentic Education. He begins the short post with a definition of apartheid and ends it by making a parallel to teachers having separate eating and bathroom facilities from students.
I’m not kidding:
Huh! Where is there apartheid like this now?
In schools everywhere. Separate eating places and toilets for teachers and for students.
Wiggins clearly says that he being a little provocative. He underestimates himself. In eliding the racialized history of class distinctions he is being majorly provocative in all of the worst ways. He isn’t alone.
I have talked about how class analysis of contemporary higher education labor issues baldly ignores the racist roots of its activism. Too often the rhetoric coming from real, substantive, meaningful education activists lazily deploys racist imagery and history to evoke emotional responses. Poorly paid teachers and adjuncts are slaves, education is a new civil rights movement (as if Brown v Board wasn’t both about education and the “old” civil rights movement), and teacher bathrooms are apartheid.