History and Education class participates in Book Talk with author of Color in the Classroom

| March 11, 2012

Together with the Gottesman Libraries, the Program in History and Education sponsored a Book Talk with historian Zoe Burkholder on February 28, 2012. Burkholder recently published Color in the Classroom: How American Schools Taught Race 1900-1954 (New York: Oxford, 2011). As described by the publisher, “Color in the Classroom reveals how activist anthropologists including Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead dramatically changed how American schools taught race. Anthropologists created lesson plans, lectures, courses, and pamphlets designed to revise what they called “the ‘race’ concept” in American education. They believed that if teachers presented race in scientific and egalitarian terms, conveying human diversity as learned habits of culture rather than innate characteristics, American citizens would become less racist. …Drawing on hundreds of first-hand accounts written by teachers nationwide, Zoe Burkholder traces the influence of this anthropological activism on the way that teachers understood, spoke, and taught about race.”

Organized by Professor Ansley Erickson to coincide with her History of Education in the U.S. class (A&HH 4070), the talk offered students in the Program and the broader TC community the opportunity to hear directly from Professor Burkholder about her research methods and findings. In a Q&A after the talk, Professor Burkholder spoke about the continuity of discussion of “culture” over “race” in schools and teacher education programs today. She also fielded questions from students concerned about the prevalence of “colorblind” discourse in contemporary policy debates about school segregation and affirmative action. Through Book Talks such as this, students in the Program and the community can benefit from the rich network of historians of education living and working in the New York metropolitan area. Hearing directly from scholars beyond TC broadens students’ exposure to a variety of approaches to understanding the history of education.