Academic journal article High School Journal

Perceptions of Teaching Race and Gender: Results of a Survey of Social Studies Teachers

Academic journal article High School Journal

Perceptions of Teaching Race and Gender: Results of a Survey of Social Studies Teachers

Article excerpt

This study reports the results of a survey on teaching race and gender from a sample of high school social studies teachers (N=309) across Massachusetts. Using critical race theory mixed methods, the results showed that (1) social studies teachers reported that they were comfortable teaching about race and gender, that race and gender inequity should be addressed in the social studies classroom, and that they regularly covered race- and gender-related topics; (2) teachers at moderate-poverty schools were more likely to teach about Latina/o, Asian, Arab/Middle Eastern, and Indigenous people than teachers in low and high poverty schools; and (3) teachers responded that race and gender were not adequately covered in the curriculum and they wanted more professional development on teaching race and gender.

Keywords: survey, race, gender, curriculum


Over the past decade, several major events have highlighted persistent racial and gender inequity in our society. We have seen the police killings of numerous Black and Brown women and men. We have seen continued racial and gender inequity in society, with stubborn gaps in economic, political, and social opportunities between men and women, and White people and people of color. We have seen populist movements emerge and politicians elected using rhetoric and political platforms that espouse sexist, racist, and xenophobic ideas. At the same time, we have seen multiple social movements, such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, challenge the nation to renew its focus on justice for all. As teachers, teacher educators, and researchers, we wanted to know how, in this moment, teachers are grappling with race and gender in their classrooms.

As the "integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence" (National Council for the Social Studies, 2010, p. 3), social studies should be the school subject where students grapple with issues of racial and gender inequity. Yet, gender and race are often missing from the social studies curriculum (Crocco, 2008; Howard, 2003, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 2003; Noddings, 1992, 2001; Tyson, 2003). This study attempted to better understand social studies teachers' perceptions related to the teaching of race and gender. We set out to understand if recent events were influencing how teachers thought about gender- and race-related issues and, if so, did they also report doing this race and gender work with the students.

In this survey, we purposely paired race and gender. Across the research on gender and race in social studies education, it is clear that both social constructs are viewed by many teachers as controversial or taboo, which results in their marginalization as topics in social studies (Chandler, 2015; Crocco, 2003; Engebretson, 2014; King & Chandler, 2016; Noddings, 1992, 2001). This survey gave us a chance to compare how teachers report teaching race and gender. In this study, we asked the following questions: (1) How are social studies teachers teaching about race and gender? (2) How does the teaching of race and gender vary by student population? (3) How does the teaching of race and gender vary by teachers' race and gender? (4) What would support teachers in teaching about race and gender?

Theoretical Framework

This study used critical race theory (CRT) (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Tate, 1997) and critical feminist theory (CFT) (hooks, 2000; Lather, 1992) as its lenses. Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) described CRT as having three main assertions: First, race is a significant factor in determining inequity in the United States. Second, U.S. society is based on property rights, rather than human rights. Third, the intersection of race and property creates an analytic tool through which we can understand social and school inequity. Hooks (2000) described feminist education for critical consciousness as including three main critiques of society: First, people have been socialized to accept sexist thinking. …

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