Academic journal article JCT (Online)

A Living Curriculum of Place(s)

Academic journal article JCT (Online)

A Living Curriculum of Place(s)

Article excerpt

I write America for the ones I will mother

Who won't be just Black or white

But, who won't want to be an "other. "

Their parents chose to love

And to rise above

What is less understood.

They looked beyond the skin

To the heart of a fiend

And saw their future.

They envisioned the complexion and hair texture

Every feature

The beauty of two races creating one.

I write to multiracial America.

-Rosie Baker, Elementary Gifted Education Teacher,

Mobile, Alabama, 2011

Autobiographical Roots of the Inquiry

MY MOM gave birth to me, a white male, in 1980 at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. At the age of six, my family moved from multiracial Lansing to the largely white nearby suburb of Okemos. We moved so that my two older siblings and I could attend the affluent community's well-regarded public schools. My mom soon came to teach at Okemos' lone middle school; my dad worked for the State of Michigan's foster care program. Toward the end of my high school years, I decided that I wanted to follow in my mom's occupational footsteps and become a teacher. When I then left Mid-Michigan for Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, I experienced my first geographic move as an adult. My family remained in Okemos, and I still thought of Okemos as my home, but I wasn't living there.

Dartmouth, an Ivy League school with a strong conservative history-but not conservative in an ecological sense-was a difficult place for me even though Okemos had some similar elements. I wanted to be a teacher, but in my sophomore year, the College attempted to shut down the small Education Department that "produced" teachers. One of my roommate's mothers asked me, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" Her son took part in corporate recruiting. When I approached a history professor about inviting Howard Zinn to come to Dartmouth and a local high school to speak about his work (e.g., Zinn, 2003), the professor responded, "We don't care for him here."

I played varsity basketball while pursuing a degree in history and secondary teaching. In my junior year, I met a white woman named Erica, whom I would end up marrying three years later, but we didn't date at that time. In my senior year, I chose not to play basketball in order to do student teaching. Upon graduating from college with my secondary social studies teaching certificate, I moved to an ocean-side community in New lersey. For two years there, I worked as a tutor for a family with three children. During that time, Erica and I began dating. Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, she was living in New York City and then Cambridge, Massachusetts. We decided to get married, and so I moved to Massachusetts, where I took a job teaching social studies at a large public high school.

Although I didn't physically move to Mobile, my life did move there as trips in the ensuing years to see Erica's family turned the city into what I now think of as my second hometown. I quickly came to learn the names and pronunciations of streets and the city's geography. I ate at Erica's favorite restaurants alongside trying out new ones. I began to learn about the city and its region's history and current issues. In particular, largely through Erica's work (e.g., Frankenberg, 2001, 2005), I learned about Mobile's racial past and present.

Simultaneously, I was teaching "early" U. S. history classes ten miles south of Waiden Pond. I remembered learning about Waiden Pond as a high schooler in Michigan, but now I was teaching about Waiden, a spot where some of my students had gone swimming in the summers. What my students learned about Waiden and its most famous visitor, Henry David Thoreau, was certainly different from what I learned as a student in Michigan. I was also teaching about the history of race and racism in the U.S., using texts by Howard Zinn (2003), Ronald Takaki (1993), James Loewen (1995), and nearly everything published by Rethinking Schools, as well as historical writings and speeches by Bartolomé De Las Casas, Tecumseh, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Brown, and others. …

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