Tyrone Howard: Schools Need to Use Honesty in Discussions of Race

Commentary in Education Week focuses on ways that educators can discuss race with students.

UCLA Professor of Education Tyrone Howard has published a commentary in Education Week on the need for teachers to be candid with students in discussions on race. In “When We Talk About Race, Let’s Be Honest,” Howard, who founded and directs the Black Male Institute at UCLA, calls for a more fearless approach.

“As an African-American university professor who works with teachers locally and nationally, most of whom are white, I have seen firsthand that race is an ever-elusive topic in many discussions,” he states. “One thing is clear though: Not talking about race and race-related events leaves students misinformed and curious and contributes to the ongoing tensions that exist in our country. By now, most students have seen the events in Charlottesville on social media or have heard their parents and peers discussing them. As they start a new school year, some may wonder: Why aren’t we talking about this?

“The uncertainty that many educators have about discussing race is nothing new. However, when contentious race-related events occur, many classroom teachers respond with ambiguity, avoidance, and outright fear,” Howard writes. “This has to cease. Teachers need to be bold, courageous, and willing to engage students honestly about race, no matter their age.”

Howard cites the tendency of educators – of all colors – to take a “colorblind” approach. He says that “… the goal must be for all teachers to develop the competencies to engage their students in race related discussions.” He says that teachers must become more knowledgeable on the historic and continuing struggle for equality; be prepared for conversations that will not end smoothly; and help students to understand that there is no place for hate in a civil society. In addition, Howard says that school leaders must provide guidance for teachers in addressing topics of race.

To read,”When We Talk About Race, Let’s Be Honest” in Education Week, click here.