Through Student’s Eyes: Combating Racism in United States Schools

As an African American parent, grandparent, woman, and educator I strongly believe in the need for multicultural education. I am delighted to have discovered Through Students’ Eyes, which addresses how power, white privilege, institutionalized racism, individual racism, the minority achievement gap, and equity impact student learning.

Donaldson’s research examines how an antiracist curriculum can empower students. As an educator and researcher, Donaldson has documented the experiences and solutions shared by students and educators who participated in her High School and Middle School Arts Projects and her Teacher Project, developed to develop teachers’ antiracist education awareness across the United States.

Fourteen students are profiled, eight of them African American. As a result of participating in the High School Project plan, one student stated, “I’ve learned that racism is indeed a problem but that people are willing to come together to deal with it and that races can come together and work to improve a situation and make things better because in our case we had Hispanics, whites and blacks, and everybody worked nicely together. I’ve learned that people are just people. The whole experience was a powerful thing and we can take a lot of positive steps.”

My own community is working at empowering students and educating teachers about cultural diversity and racism just as this student from Donaldson’s study has suggested. Donaldson supports such local efforts, stating, “Since studies reveal that students of color perceive racism more from teachers than from their peers, a more in-depth study should be done. Both student and teacher attitudes should be researched to address why many white teachers fear addressing issues of racism. Such research could be helpful in designing professional development programs such as the Teacher Project. It is also necessary to further explore the connection among racism, student underachievement, and the high dropout rates of students of color.”

Donaldson has given parents, teachers, administrators, and community members an inside look at what it means to be a student of color in our schools. I will continue to refer to Through Students’ Eyes as I work with issues of multicultural education, equity in education, leadership for equity, and empowerment of students against racism.

reviewed by Stephanie Dahlquist, MBA, MAT, former high school English teacher and Title I Parent Liaison at two elementary schools, is currently a community member of the Education That Is Multicultural Council for Carroll County Public Schools in Westminster, Maryland.