Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Are you relevant? Are you culturally relevant?

With the arrival of the Beloit Mindset List, we who teach and are much older than our students are reminded of our age!  We may remember wrist watches and phones with cords.  And maybe we NEVER watched MTV as a kid.  And perhaps we understand references to Dirty Harry and John McEnroe.

The list, though, raises another issue and that is cultural relevancy in the classroom.  The Mindset List has a tendancy towards a majority culture in an era when our society is more diverse than ever.  Cultural relevance is the practice of thinking about the differences in your classroom and making your content relevant for students from diverse backgrounds.  What would the Mindset List look like if it reflected cultural relevancy?

We could expand the mindset list:
  • Students today have never heard of an LA Riot (any of them) and didn't see Rodney King on TV,
  • or have seen a Spike Lee movie.
  • They think we've always had an MLK day.
  •  The year 1980 marked the opening of a decade of public controversy over US refugee policy
    ACT UP is more than acting up with your parents
  • The women in college don't have to get a guy to co-sign a loan--because they are women.
  • Students haven't heard of Geraldine Ferraro.
The lesson is, be relevant!  When you bring examples into class, think about the cultural representation.  Even when you use student names in a scenario, vary the types of names that you use.  Consider these and other ways to connect with your students.

Even if you used to own an 8 track.

Links to cultural relevancy:
Center for Culturally Responsible Teaching and Learning
Teaching Diverse Learners: Cultural Responsibility


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