Keffrelyn Brown is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, in the department of curriculum & instruction with a primary appointment in the cultural studies in education area. Her scholarly interests focus on understanding how pre-service and in-service teachers acquire, understand and use sociocultural knowledge to address the teaching of underserved student populations. She is also interested in the educational experiences of and knowledge produced and circulated about African American (students). Her work has been published in Educational Researcher, as well as in several education handbooks and encyclopedias. Keffrelyn is an affiliate faculty member with the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.
In my university sociocultural foundations course I ask students—many of whom plan on becoming K-12 teachers—to list words they have heard used to talk about Black students. Every semester I consistently hear terms like: loud, lazy, gangster, troublemaker and at-risk and each time I am floored by the words shared. Neither these terms nor their connoted meanings correspond with words or perspectives used to describe students viewed as having the potential to learn. I am also saddened by the taken-for-granted way students approach this task. This is evident in the rapid, yet apathetic, nonchalant manner in which students come up with and offer these words. They do not question the negative nature of the terms, nor the consistency of the terms offered. It is not until we discuss the activity that students think about the implications this way of talking about Black K-12 students might have on their education.