Friday, May 31, 2019

Role playing in history class

This pops up in my timeline every few weeks it seems: a role playing scenerio from a teacher either is framed in a problematic way or goes badly askew. This piece from Slate discusses just that and why.
A teacher may wish to teach students about the history of American slavery and may think that “feeling” their way through that history is the best way to do it. But historical empathy is much more complex than this idea assumes. In a critique of the common idea that students’ historical empathy might prompt them to adopt democratic habits and acquire an affinity for social justice, professor of education Megan Boler writes, “Passive empathy is not a sufficient educational practice. At stake is not only the ability to empathize with the very distant other, but to recognize oneself as implicated in the social forces that create the climate of obstacles the other must confront.” 
This recognition of personal implication is an extremely significant intellectual and emotional leap, and one that many white adults—including teachers—have not, themselves, made. King pointed out that the teacher’s position in relationship to this history was important. Someone teaching a lesson about the Confederacy, for example, might have family members still sympathetic to the Confederacy—or she herself might be. Before teaching these lessons, he said, “Teachers need to really get in there, to understand themselves as a racialized human being.”

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