The author offers an analysis of the failures and insights she experienced working with adolescents at a progressive school while discussing how the students understood and experienced race and identity -- their own and that of others. While she encountered students who were willing to take her into their worlds, her efforts fell flat when her questions turned out to be about their experiences of race and class. In response to such questions, Bauman received, on the whole, confusion, a few stories that distanced the teller from the events, and queries about whether this was "what she wanted." At that point, Bauman decided to start over again. This time she attempted to enter into the world that the children wanted her to experience. She invited them to spend the next three months creating multi-media self-portraits, and along with this work, to talk with her and with each other about their lives. It was only after building trusting relationships over a long period of time that the students began to feel their way toward telling themselves, Bauman, and one another, the things that they already knew about race and privilege, about their doubts and discomforts, and about the things for which they hoped. Bauman went into her project expecting to affirm what she already believed about progressive and critical pedagogy, the nature of privileged identities, and her own work as a teacher and a researcher. What she found was a need to reeducate herself, finding that to ask children to talk about race, gender, class, and sexuality, is to ask that they unpack the most intimate of their stories in an environment in which they are unable to control either who their audience is or the uses that will be made of their words. Bauman also found that the students in some ways understood more than many adults around them seem to recognize: that omissions, exclusions, slurs, and misrepresentations do not exist only outside the walls of their progressive school but may also be part of the integral structure of a culture that equates community with niceness and comfort and that encourages the students to believe that silence about certain issues indicates a lack of bias.
Delicate Moments: Kids Talk About Socially Complicated Issues.
Occasional Paper Series,