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David Ast

Title: Anti-Racism and Equity in Education

Session presenters:  David Ast (Equity Instructional Leader)

Organization: TDSB Equitable Schools

Contact information: david.ast@tdsb.on.ca

Brief description of workshop:

This workshop will invite participants to explore thoughts and attitudes around racism and related discrimination. Participants will develop a common vocabulary to describe the dynamics of racism, as well as understand the social construction of racism in terms of power and privilege. Practical strategies and resources for the school and for the classroom will be provided, with an emphasis on turning theory into practice.

Workshop goals:

  • To ground participants’ knowledge in the dimensions of racism and the connections between bias, stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, and systemic discrimination.
  • To allow participants to reflect on issues of power and privilege in relation to race and racism and how these manifest themselves in schools and classrooms.
  • To provide a conceptual framework for inclusive curriculum that moves from contributions and additions to transformation and social action.
  • To share classroom ready teaching and learning strategies that challenge racism.

Strategies used:

  • Discussion and definition of the terms bias, stereotype, prejudice, discrimination, and systemic discrimination and the dimensions of racism. 
  • Groups activity for the Power Triangle Activity where they respond to the prompt: “I know racism is happening when I see/hear …”
  • James Banks Continuum as a conceptual framework for moving from a contributions and additions approach to a transformation and social action approach to curriculum.
  • Participants then have the opportunity to engage with teaching and learning strategies that challenge racism and that can be incorporated into their everyday classroom practice.


Two key resources that support our work:

Lee, Enid, Deborah Menkart, and Margo Okazawa-Rey. (2006). Beyond Heroes and Holidays: A Practical Guide to Anti-Racist, Multicultural Education and Staff Development. Washington DC: Teaching for Change.  This interdisciplinary guide shares lessons and readings of how educators, staff, students, and parents can work together to transform the curriculum, rather than simply adding to current frameworks. It also goes beyond the classroom to address such issues as tracking, parent/school relations, and language policies. There are also many readings and lessons for pre- and in-service staff development.

Singleton, Glenn E. and Curtis Linton (2005). Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.  This text examines the achievement gap through the prism of race and highlights the need for candid, courageous conversations about race, power, and privilege.   It provides a series of modules that lead teachers through a process so that they may understand why inequity persists, as well as learn how they can develop an equitable and inclusive curriculum that promotes true academic parity.

 Issues which we continue to struggle with in our own pursuits of educational activist goals:

One of the key issues that I struggle with in my work is how to effectively challenge power and privilege among educators who are not willing to acknowledge its existence.  Using the ‘inside-out approach’ is a valuable tool for moving participants into a space where they can begin to reflect on how their power and privilege impact on the students they teach.  However, the lack of sustained and continuous time to work with teachers on this journey is a hindrance to systemic change.  As such, one-off workshops, such as this, have limits to their effectiveness.   

Next steps (E.g., Supports [theoretical or practical] that may enhance our ongoing or future practice):

  • Move the discussion of equity and inclusive curriculum beyond the realm of policy and truly embed these ideas in the reality of teaching practice.
  • In order for this occur, there needs to be sustained political and financial commitment from the Ministry of Education on down through individual school boards and into each school and classroom. 
  • Support for teachers who are on the front lines of equity work from their administration and colleagues.  As such, there needs to be accountability of all the actors in public education towards ensuring that schools are safe, caring, and inclusive environments that promote equity of access and equity of outcome for all students. 

“Big idea” that we want people to walk away with:

I would like participants to reflect on their relationship to power and privilege and how this impacts upon the learners in their classrooms.  Subsequent to this, the idea is then how do this relationship and its impact play itself out in their everyday practices, specifically related to an equitable and inclusive curriculum.  I would like them to consider where their practices are on the James Banks Continuum, and for them to consider how they move along towards transformation and social action.  Maybe more than “one big idea;” but rather, a series of interconnected big ideas that I believe we as educators must take to heart to ensure the success of all students.


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