Social Studies and Education Student Luke Bolton’s Reflections on “Race and Membership” Workshop ☆

Luke Bolton is an Initial Certification student in Social Studies and Education.

It has only been a year since I decided that I was going to change my career path from international relations to social studies education and only two months since I started classes at Teachers College. Coming so recently to the study and practice of education, much of the content, as well as the skills and perspective, are entirely new to me. So the Facing History workshop on race and membership seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to explore such an important topic as well as consult with fellow educators about their own experiences on the subject. As this was my first Facing History workshop however, I had no idea what to expect.

Although I entered eager to jump into the content of the weekend, the course started on a more reflective note, making personal identity diagrams and discussing how social conceptions shape our identity. This discussion, as well as the later sessions on eugenics, laid the groundwork for our efforts the following day to define race. Our fascinating discussion on the topic demonstrated how “race” has no scientific foundation but is only a social construction. This conception is an important step when addressing its social implications, especially for students discussing the issue.

In addition to personal reflection, the workshop covered an incredible amount of content at a whirlwind pace. The facilitators chose four related topics: boarding schools for Native Americans, the American eugenics movement, the Little Rock Nine and Brown vs. Board of Education, each of which we could have easily studied for a week! Through film, photos and primary sources, we explored each of the issues continually reflecting on the issue of race in the United States and exploring how to include Facing History’s incredible curriculum into our own teaching.

As a recent convert to the field of education, I also appreciated the varied activities we were shown, each illustrating a different way to approach the content. Whether it was human barometers, silent dialogue over poetry or journaling, the facilitators worked to give us a variety of different tools we could apply in our own classes.

The opportunity to speak with fellow educators about issues of race and education was also invaluable. As we are all so busy outside of class, it is rare to have an opportunity to work together and focus on a single issue, reflecting and sharing experiences and knowledge. But these focused and engaging discussions occurred during the sessions as well as the breaks and I appreciated being able to speak with more veteran teachers, especially those who already had experience applying Facing History curriculum in their schools.

Although the two-day, 9-5 workshop went by in a rush of activities and discussion, I am glad to have participated. For someone who has so recently entered the field of education, such experiences are incredibly important and will help both my future students and I to engage in the fascinating and controversial moments that make history one of the most interesting and rewarding subjects in school.

To read more about TC’s relationship with Facing History and Ourselves, click here.