Teacher Writes Book to Encourage Discussion About Race in the Classroom

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Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

Richard Milner is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, educating primarily in the School of Education. He recently published a new book, Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms, a book about bringing complex, yet important, discussion about race into the classroom. This pairs well with literature featuring racial issues and non-white main characters.

Milner says he wrote the book because he found that educators shied away from bringing race into the classroom. It seems the issue proved too complex for educators to tackle in the classroom. He had been having conversations about race in his classroom for years, and found that sharing his experiences was integral to helping other educators successfully engage students in the conversation.

Milner says that part of the problem is in the conflict between the realities taught in school and the realities students live every day. The key is to address what’s going on in the world outside of the classroom walls by integrating those events into lessons. In the case of literature, this comes more naturally than a science or math class. The power of literature is in the potential to cause an emotional response. If tragedy strikes a neighborhood and a short story reflects the pain, it becomes a powerful tool for the educator to facilitate a healing process. The same is true with the racial tension in America and the rich selection of literature dealing with African American struggles.

Ultimately, Milner’s book is intended to challenge the firewall of silence surrounding issues of race in the classroom. He says that many times, principals and teachers tell him that they don’t experience race issues. He wants to show them that the students experience something different than the educators see within four colorful walls. He wants to effect change on a broad level, no matter how challenging it may be to the status quo.