Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tough Topics

In the past few sessions some difficult topics have come up unintentionally. At these points the scholar and sociologist in me comes out, and I'm not quite sure that my students appreciate or understand my interest.

One issue was welfare, which came from our use of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) Cards on a financial literacy vocabulary list. One of my most vocal and outgoing students began to talk about how his family has an EBT card- which, of course, was never asked. I didn't mind him sharing details about his financial situation if he felt comfortable, but the problems started when he began asking others about using EBT cards and claiming that it was only Black people who used them (not as bad as it could have been though, I suppose, since this student is Black). Now, the scholar in me thought "oh what an interesting moment to talk about the stereotypes of the Black community and ideas about poverty and government assistance!". The 'teacher' in me however was shocked and mortified about what this student had said and how uncomfortable he was potentially making the other students in class. We shut the discussion down pretty quickly, but I still wonder how I could effectively facilitate a discussion on this topic.

Today another issue surrounding race came up. Our school has an indoor ice rink attached but no ice hockey team. Supposedly, the school used to have an ice hockey team- but that was years ago. One student chalked it up to 'white flight'- which is actually probably true. I tried to turn that comment into a teaching moment- talking my students through the link between people who are wealthy (as my students perceived the participants in this 'white flight' to be) and the existence of a hockey team- discussing the cost of participating in hockey, buying equipment, etc. I worry, though, that instead of inspiring my students to think about the connections between income and various types of organized sports, I simply reinforced the stereotype that the White population is always wealthier than anyone else. oy.

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