Parent organizer Hashim Jabar was volunteering in a 3rd grade classroom during a lesson on genealogy. He watched as a classroom of all Black students read from a handout defining family members, such as uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers. In contrast to the makeup of the classroom, the handout showed pictures of all white people. He questioned how the children were supposed to be engaged in this lesson that was not engaging them and was not relevant to their lives. Worse yet, what message were the students internalizing about themselves and their families who were not represented on the pages?
This experience led Hashim, through his work at West Dayton Youth Taskforce and Racial Justice NOW! to run a successful campaign to introduce culturally relevant curriculum in Dayton Public Schools, winning a change in the course of study to implement the two books, Mis-Education of the Negro and Up from Slavery.
Situations like this are happening all the time in classrooms across the country. In response, more and more educators, parents, students and community leaders are calling for the adoption of school curricula that are relevant to the students in the classroom.
Culturally Relevant Teaching is a term created by Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994) to describe “a pedagogy that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.” Culturally relevant teaching essentially means that teachers create a bridge between students’ home and school lives, while still meeting the expectations of the district and state curricular requirements.
In October of 2017, during the Dignity in Schools Campaign national week of action, the West Dayton Youth Task Force (WDYTF), Racial Justice NOW! (RJN!) and the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) released the beginning of an ongoing project- the Culturally Relevant Curriculum and Culturally Responsive Schools Toolkit. This toolkit is a compilation of information from a variety of sources. This information is shared online for free and trainers can be brought in to your respective locale for additional and specified training. Download the full toolkit preview HERE. You can also view our past culturally relevant webinars HERE. Please continue to visit this page for updates.
Curriculum – the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program; the courses that are taught by a school or college.
Pedagogy – the science and art of education, specifically instructional theory; the art or science of teaching; instructional methods.
Culture – the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life shared by people in a place or time).