Typhani Harris | October 2016

ARTISTIC Critique of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood

This summer Dr. Chris Emdin published his text For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too, and immediately received judgments based on the title alone.  Similar to judging people based on the color of their skin, many prejudged the book on the based cover.  Dr. Emdin himself admits the cover was meant to create a reaction, and if we take away the cover and focus on the inside, this text offers valuable advice for anyone who teaches in urban or those who teach in the hood settings.

In 2013, I introduced the ARTISTIC critique, a way to critique art that spirals through the levels of Bloom’s.  For the next two weeks, I will be using the ARTISTIC critique to analyze two texts that shed light on social justice in education.  Check out the original ARTISTIC critique article.

AFFIRMATION: Positive assertions

Dr. Emdin provides a clear pathway to meeting students where they are and embracing and fostering students‘ identities within the classroom.  Not only does he introduce a background historical and empirical discussion, but he also includes tangible ways to make the research come alive in the classroom.  He has organized his chapters into 11 C’s: Camaraderie, Courage, Chuuuuch, Cogenerative Dialogues, Coteaching, Cosmopolitanism, Context and Content, Competition, Clean, Code Switching, Curation, and Computing.  It is an easy and enlightening read that disputes the “savior” complex in inner city schools and instead reveals the ways in which all educators can connect to all students.

REFLECTION: Opinion based observations

As I began reading this text, I found myself nodding and exclaiming praises, literally out loud.  Within a couple hours, I had completed the entire book and was searching to find when Dr. Emdin might be speaking so I could meet the professor who wasn’t afraid to print the truth regardless of backlash.  His introduction to reality pedagogy was not only tangible but provided an understanding of teaching urban youth or those who teach in the hood.  I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the text because it took a concrete and analytical look at where our institutions sometimes fall short.

TECHNIQUE: foundational elements

The foundational elements are concise and easy to follow.  Although he includes quite a bit of research, he presents it in a colloquial way making it feel like he is just having a conversation with a group of friends.  He surrounds his claims with research and life experience as well as strategies that can be used in the classroom immediately.

INQUIRY: Questions for the author

My largest question for Dr. Emdin is how do you handle the plethora of people who merely glance at the cover and turn away saying it is racist, ironically this comment comes from many people who probably have never actually felt racism.  My school is currently using this text as our staff book this year, and I can’t believe how many teachers have said they are not going to read it because it’s racist.  Usually, I come back with “the fact that you just said that solidifies your own racism.”  Frequently, they are quick to judge the book by its cover, kind of like judging a person by their cover (or their “color”).  Nowhere does the cover make a judgment, it doesn’t say white folks can’t or shouldn’t teach in the hood, it is just advice for all of us (no matter the color) on reaching our urban youth.

SUGGESTION: recommendations for the author

I have read this book multiple times, and I am not sure what I would suggest to Dr. Emdin.  I think that what he has done in preparation for the text as well as since its release are all applicable.  I would like a follow-up, and that would be my only suggestion.  What now?  What next?  My suggestion is another text that follows up with more ways that we can support our students and their teachers as we push the envelope of the traditional education landscape with teach in the hood process.

TRANSLATION: Interpret the author’s intent

I believe Dr. Emdin’s intent was shed light on how best to reach our urban youth.  I also believe he knew the best way to do this was through the use of shock and awe to discuss the often uncomfortable reality.  I believe he knew the title would spark conversation and uncover realities and he was willing to take that risk…to make bold statements because (to quote Dr. Emdin in his speech on March 31, 2016) “the minute tension comes is when you know it is making a difference.”

ILLATION: Overall evaluation

Overall, Dr. Emdin took a great risk by exposing the truth behind reality pedagogy and urban education.  Being a half black half white female educator in an urban school, I have run into my fair share of interesting situations.  Whether it be the time my 3rd grade teacher told my mom I was too loud and fidgety to be successful in class, or the time in 9th grade when my good friend wasn’t allowed to take me to homecoming because my dad is black, or recently when I was told that “talking black doesn’t make me black,” what does that even mean??  All of the situations I have encountered have made me the educator that I am today, one who believes in reality pedagogy, and Dr. Emdin literally put it into words for me.

CREATION: Recreate the work

As a dancer, I recreate with movement, but since I don’t have time to do that…I leave you with Dr. Emdin’s website.  Check out #HipHopEd and Science Genius and see the amazing things we can do with STEM, Arts Integration, Hip Hop, Reality Pedagogy, and Urban Education.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.