Massachusetts Department of Education brief encourages educators to teach students as young as pre-school to “disrupt white privilege”


In July 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Education produced a document for Pre-school through Grade 3 titled “Brief 4: Creating Anti-Racist Early Learning Environments.” The brief is a summary of the topic, strategies and approaches for “high quality early childhood practices;” and includes a list of resources and references that were “used to develop the brief.”

The document states that classrooms have “progressed on a journey to address racial equity in a more explicit way.” The Department of Education brief highlights that there has been a rise in awareness related to “how prevalent violence and harm are” for various marginalized groups, and that these “lived experiences” have been part of these populations for “generations.”

The brief continues by exclusively highlighting Transformative Social Emotional Learning proponent Dena Simmons. The document outlines “five actions for teaching for an antiracist future” which comes from the 2019 article titled “How to be an Antiracist Teachers.”

These actions include students “Engage in Vigilant Self-Awareness” by cultivating self-reflection which “creates the opportunity to disrupt white privilege when it is witnessed and enacted.” The document states that the “focus (both content and values) in schools is Eurocentric” and that self-awareness is needed to “disrupt this.”

The second action step is to “Acknowledge Racism and the Ideology of White Supremacy.” The document states that students need to understand the “historical context of racism, structural racism, the social construct of race, and the ideology of white supremacy in the context of society as a whole and in schools,” and that it is the “first step in eliminating these harmful constructs and moving towards solution.”

Third, there is a call to “Study and Teach Representative History” to “better understand U.S. history in order to better understand how the education system today was built to perpetuate inequality.” The current system instead serves to “uplift whiteness.”

The final action step, “When You See Racism, Do Something,” states that educators must “Begin to reflect on and address disparities in how the academic resources, policies, admissions, hiring, grading, behavior management practices, etc. might be racist.”

The brief states that in order to be an antiracist educator, all who work with students must “actively work to dismantle the structures, policies, institutions, and systems.”

Some listed resources in the brief include “Teaching 6-Year-Olds About Privilege and Power,” “Educate to Liberate: Build an Anti-Racist Classroom,” and a link to Learning for Justice lesson plan search tool.