Recently, we have seen widespread protests and campaigns in response to racial violence in America. This has also placed significant emphasis on understanding the UK’s role in racial inequality and is placing pressure on the Department of Education and local MPs to modify the curriculum. I am white and have a very limited understanding of racism and challenges faced by the BAME communities, however, I strive to educate myself and understand how I can educate students to combat racism and prejudices. As teachers, we play an active role in shaping how the future and current generations of young people develop their voice, take part in political conversations and handle matters of inequality. We owe it to our students to provide them with complete and balanced teaching.
As Geography teachers we constantly discuss global issues, explore other countries and use real-world examples to support teaching human and physical processes. I recently read Rosling’s et al (2018) ‘Factfulness’ and I was shocked to read how most of us have an outdated perception of the world which divides the world into two categories “Developed” and “Developing”. Rosling et al (2018) highlighted this viewpoint was accurate in the 1960s and that categorising the world like this paints a negative picture where we don’t recognise improvements in economies, healthcare, education, women’s rights and poverty.
Rosling’s et al (2018) work shows us how our misconceptions and misunderstandings about the world can be passed onto pupils, leaving us with a society which has an ingrained, outdated and negative view of the world.
We all have a bespoke perception of the world and other countries which has been influenced by our upbringing, our education, our media usage, our travel and our life experiences. I encourage you to reflect on these aspects of your life and consider how they have shaped your geographical perspectives. Like us, pupils will also have their own geographical perspective, and this will affect their opinions and learning. We must recognise how our perspectives influence our language, the resources we select, our teaching and ultimately our student’s views.
I emphasise the importance of reflecting on our own perspectives of the world and that we reflect on why we see the world this way. These reflections should then be used to understand more about our personal views and tackle any stereotypes or controversy we may hold. As Geography teachers, we discuss the world every day, and our perceptions of the world and race will influence our teaching.
Just as we encourage our students to think critically, engage curiously and reflect on their understanding, we should do so ourselves to understand our voice in this conversation. We should also encourage our students to reflect on their perspectives of the world and why they see the world in the way they do. The discussion between us and our students should be open, honest, challenging and respectful to educate them about racism and the power of their voice.
Ultimately, we must recognise our actions, words and geographical perspectives have a hugely powerful positive or negative impact on our students. We owe it to our students to reflect and address our perceptions and our voices.
Rosling, H., Rosling, O., and Rosling Rönnlund, A., (2018). Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World- And Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Sceptre: London.
Written by Emma Mason @MissMason_Geog
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