Report Finds White Characters Still Dominate Learning Content

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by Samantha Tucker, Senior Editor, Culturally Responsive Education

“From the 1600s, in this nation, until about the mid-20th century, our explanation for disparity—racial disparity—was genetic. We literally said that one group of people is not as good as another group of people.”

-Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings
President of the National Academy of Education
Professor Emeritus of UW-Madison Pedagogical theorist, creator of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Sam TuckerFor most in educational publishing, the recent efforts of state politicians—and their legislation banning topics like race, gender, diversity, discrimination, and equity from the classroom—is nothing new. America as a nation seems warily adept at watching, if not exactly surviving, the pendulum swing. Every four years or so, policy veers left or right. As my stepfather, a middle school history teacher likes to say: “Just wait a few years, Sam. Things will start moving in the other direction.”

In truth, little has changed in educational publishing, regardless of perceptions of political ambidexterity. In a recent EdWeek article, Sarah Schwartz explains that analysis of “more than 160 studies and published works on representation in children’s books, textbooks, and other media,” proves the pendulum rarely swings much farther than right of center. Research shows the majority of texts continue to be dominated by representations of white male children, alongside harmful and stereotypical representations of BIPOC, women, and people of additional historically marginalized communities.

To assist in the making of equitable education materials, our team at Westchester has developed a rubric based on the pedagogical theories of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, the brilliant, distinguished teacher and scholar quoted above. We use this rubric in our Culturally Responsive Education Reviewing Process, wherein editors and reviewers audit client materials and offer actionable feedback on changing the fixed representations within our industry. Most importantly, these editors and reviewers offer the perspectives long missing from educational publishing. Our team taps into their own intersectional identities to both assess and adjust client materials so that all children can see themselves in their own education.

My stepdad is correct in one of his assertions—I am a person who does not prefer to wait; the EdWeek article proves that in aiding the necessary evolution of educational materials, one cannot begin early enough.

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