In this episode, I talked with Ali Michael
on her award-winning book, Raising Race Questions: Whiteness and Inquiry in Education
(Teachers College Press, 2015). According to a 2014 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, white teachers comprise over 85% of the K-12 teaching force in the United States, whereas as of 2011, 52% of the public school students were white students, 16% black students, 24% Hispanic students, 5% Asian and Pacific Islander students, and 1% American India or Alaska Native students. In many urban areas, white teachers are teaching classes in which a majority of the students are non-white. In such a context, how is the issue of race addressed in American schools? How do white teachers connect to their students of color? Or simply, is it necessary to raise race questions?
In Raising Race Questions
, Ali Michael worked with a group of white teachers to inquire about race and schooling. She has masterfully shown to us, how teachers can become more racially competent through asking difficult questions, building inquiry groups, and working on personal and interpersonal reflection. The book offers four guiding principles for teachers to inquire about race and racism: (1) the inquiry aims to make teachers and classrooms more whole than creating fractures; (2) teachers’ and students’ positive racial identity matter; (3) a multicultural curriculum is not sufficient for building an antiracist classroom; (4) racial competence can be learned. These principles are inspiring and helpful for not only teachers, but also all the citizens who care about the issues of equity, inclusion, and social justice. Raising Race Questions
won the 2017 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award. Its author, Ali Michael is the co-founder and director of the Race Institute for K-12 Educators. Other than this book, Dr. Michael also published regularly on popular and professional media such as the Huffington Post
and Independent Schools Magazine
Pengfei Zhao holds a doctoral degree in Inquiry Methodology from Indiana University-Bloomington. Among her research interests are qualitative research methodology, youth culture, identity formation, and comparative sociological and educational studies. She is currently working on a book manuscript studying the coming of age experience of rural Chinese youth during and right after the Cultural Revolution.