Research has shown students do better in school when they have teachers who look like them. They also report feeling more cared for; more interested and invested in their schoolwork; and more confident in their teachers' abilities to communicate with them. But for a growing number of American schoolchildren, that's not the case – because while more than half of American public school students are not white, the vast majority of their teachers are.
That dynamic is one of many factors that has led to what University of Georgia professor Bettina Love calls the educational survival complex – a system in which educational reformers train students with test-taking skills to get them to the next grade. Instead, as Love argues in her new book We Want To Do More Than Survive, educators should infuse their approach with the "urgency of an abolitionist," teaching about racial violence and oppression as well as resistance, joy and social change.
"Teaching should be a part of your activism ... You can't want educational justice from 8-3:30," Love told On Second Thought. "I'm asking for a lifestyle. I'm asking for this to be how you see the world; not just something you do in your classroom."