In our last blog, we explored why it’s important us to take into account the context of what we create: our learners! If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.
This time around, let’s look at another VERY important topic: inclusivity.
Study after study has shown that there is no single larger influence in a classroom than a teacher (Cantrell and Kane 2013; Chetty et al. 2014; Rockoff et al., 2011). We hold a lot of power in the lives of our students! But as a famous comic book character once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We have a responsibility to empower all of our students—even (and especially!) the ones who aren’t like us.
Hollywood has long struggled to do this. Movies don’t do a very good job of representing and complicating the lives of marginalized groups. Although attitudes towards inclusiveness have waxed and waned over time, white, male, cisgendered perspectives in media continue to dominate at the cost of black and brown voices, religious minorities, and individuals in LGBTQIA+ communities.
For example, a 2021 study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, called “Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies,” found the following when they studied 200 popular movies from 2017–2019:
- 90.5% of these films did not feature a single Muslim speaking character.
- One film had a Muslim woman in a lead role; five films had a Muslim man in a lead role.
- There was only “one fleeting portrayal of a Muslim character that occurred in a US setting.”
- Only one Muslim man out of 8,965 characters was LGBTQ, and only one was shown with a disability.
This study highlights the same struggle in classrooms throughout the United States (2021). Ultimately, as teachers, we have the power and responsibility to change the dynamics of misrepresentation, marginalization, and minimization. We can do this in our schools and classrooms—no matter the grade, subject, or locale.
Content, just like our classrooms, needs to promote represent and embrace inclusivity.
While there is no single starting point for any educator to begin this process, making changes to how we create content is certainly a small yet measurable way to do so. Let’s be clear, this means that these efforts:
- Can’t be performative or just for the sake of show. It means featuring figures, events, and perspectives with the intention of creating change.
- Have to be long-lasting and deep. Doing a single “Black history unit” or a highlight of “famous female scientists” doesn’t cut it.
- Come from a place of understanding, growth, grace, and most importantly, listening.
As a ninth year history educator, probably the single biggest recommendation I can give is REFLECT. Here’s three questions I meditate on when I create content for my students:
- How does this content support those who need additional scaffolds?
- How does this content reflect the perspectives & narratives of marginalized groups or missing voices?
- How does content help result in a more equitable and supported society?
Take a look at this sample lesson from my World History course to see how some of these questions manifested themselves–especially the Street Fighter activity at the end!
So how do you create content that embraces inclusivity? Leave a comment below and share your ideas.