A Narrative Self-Study: The Intersection of Anti-Racism, Whiteness, and the Institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in K-12 Education

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A Narrative Self-Study: The Intersection of Anti-Racism, Whiteness, and the Institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in K-12 Education

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In November 2020, the school board governing Patinmay Public Schools (PPS) passed a policy change requiring ethnic studies coursework to graduate. For several years, numerous people have worked to make ethnic studies a possibility for all students. My story with ethnic studies in PPS, however, began more recently in August 2020. Utilizing methods from narrative inquiry and self-study, I examined opportunities and challenges encountered during the early stages of implementing the new ethnic studies graduation requirement. Desiring to be a co-conspirator (Love, 2019), it was critical for me to reflect on ways in which my identity as a white woman impacted my work implementing ethnic studies as a graduation requirement. By conducting a self-study, I hoped to grow in my own practice, with the ultimate goal of improving ethnic studies programming for students and teachers in Patinmay Public Schools. For this self-study, narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000) was utilized to explore, analyze, and make meaning of critical experiences from August 2020 to December 2021. By combining narrative inquiry with methods of self-study along with drawing on theories from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS), I developed a framework to analyze and interpret experiences, interactions, decision-making, and programmatic dilemmas in various social contexts. Further, I aimed to contribute to previous research and literature that examines whiteness , white identity, and race consciousness along with research on ethnic studies in K-12 educational settings.Findings from this narrative self-study add to previous research and literature on ethnic studies, interest convergence, and white emotionality. By passing a policy in which students are required to take ethnic studies to graduate, PPS appeared to be equity and justice-oriented at a time in which the nation was undergoing a racial reckoning. There was public support for the passage of this policy and district leadership was applauded for this monumental change. However, some folx in leadership positions were resistant to disrupt or change existing systems, which supports existing literature on interest convergence (e.g., Bell, 1980; Milner, 2008). Stories related to professional development, determining licensure areas for teaching ethnic studies, infusing ethnic studies versus stand-alone courses, protecting previous informal affinity spaces, and co-creation in our current educational system may be beneficial to both the ethnic studies research community and K-12 school districts across the United States. The narrative accounts exploring experiences of white shame and discomfort adds to existing literature on white emotionality (e.g., Ahmed, 2004; Love, 2019; Matias, 2016; Thandeka, 1999; Zembylas, 2018). Examining white emotions through the lens of anti-racism and belonging supports existing literature that as humans we fear abandonment and have a desire to belong (Lensmire, 2017; Thandeka, 1999). The findings illuminate that consciousness raising around white emotions is not enough. I argue that it is critical for white folx to also examine how emotions are being confronted and addressed—to take into consideration clean pain versus dirty pain (Menakem, 2017). Processing white emotionality through clean pain paves the way for healing. Through actions of transforming the self (brown, 2017), white folx become sites for disrupting whiteness and can better contribute to collective activism.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2022. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: J.B. Mayo. 1 computer file (PDF); 213 pages.

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Siebert, Molly. (2022). A Narrative Self-Study: The Intersection of Anti-Racism, Whiteness, and the Institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in K-12 Education. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/241315.

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