Yes, curriculum can be violent—whether you intend it or not. Here’s what it looks like and how you can avoid it.
In order to reclaim our schools as sites of real learning and safety rather than suffering and racial trauma, it is necessary to help prepare teachers to critically examine what curriculum violence looks like within their discipline. Both prospective and current practitioners should continue to frame teaching as a reflective and reflexive practice by asking important questions of themselves and their curricula. Teachers should have continued support for professional development that is antiracist at its core and includes narratives of joy and resistance.
Most importantly, it is the wrong reaction for teachers to avoid teaching Black histories for fear of perpetuating curriculum violence. Remaining silent or choosing to omit certain elements of history has the same impact. We must want to do the right thing by our students, even if that means we have to struggle to learn more and seek feedback from students about the impact of our curricular choices. We should want to review and revise our existing lessons to ensure we’re not wreaking havoc on our students’ emotional and intellectual lives.
Avoiding Curriculum Violence
To avoid inflicting curriculum violence on your students, it’s key to adopt an antiracist framework and pedagogy. This adoption should include elements of self-reflection and interrogation. You could begin by contemplating these questions:
- What historical events or situations am I asking that students examine and experience?
- Are my lessons focused primarily on Black and Brown histories when faced with trauma, pain or death? Why?
Reflective practitioners can’t rely on intention as an indicator of good teaching. Intentions are limited and speculative. It is necessary to ask these essential questions of your school and your curriculum:
Is this type of racial trauma happening in my schools? In my classroom?
Are students forced to learn their history in ways that are ideologically violent?
Essentially, can we envision an education that is trauma-informed without being traumatic?