November Antiracst Read: We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, by Bettina L. Love
My November anti-racist read was We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, by Bettina L. Love. I experienced this book via audiobook, and then re-read the hard copy from my local library.
Here is some information about the book, from IndieBound:
Drawing on personal stories, research, and historical events, an esteemed educator offers a vision of educational justice inspired by the rebellious spirit and methods of abolitionists.
Drawing on her life’s work of teaching and researching in urban schools, Bettina Love persuasively argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities through radical civic initiatives and movements. She argues that the US educational system is maintained by and profits from the suffering of children of color. Instead of trying to repair a flawed system, educational reformers offer survival tactics in the forms of test-taking skills, acronyms, grit labs, and character education, which Love calls the educational survival complex.
To dismantle the educational survival complex and to achieve educational freedom—not merely reform—teachers, parents, and community leaders must approach education with the imagination, determination, boldness, and urgency of an abolitionist. Following in the tradition of activists like Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer, We Want to Do More Than Survive introduces an alternative to traditional modes of educational reform and expands our ideas of civic engagement and intersectional justice.
As a white teacher who worked in education for years before working to understand my own whiteness and complicity in systemic and educational racism, this was an incredibly painful read. I experienced the book the first time in audiobook form, and found that much of it passed me by, as my brain focused on my own teaching mistakes, reflections of decisions I had made in my classroom, and ways that my actions had been harmful to the children in my care. Shame is a powerful emotion, and can block out opportunities to learn and grow. So I decided to revisit the book in print form once I had processed those feelings, to try to get more from the text. Both book formats are powerful, although I think I preferred the audiobook (the narrator Misty Monroe is great, and the book has very small text, which is a struggle for me). Every reader’s experience will be different, but maybe this listen-then-read technique will be helpful for you, too.