A book only teens could write

Two Princeton high schoolers — Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi — have published an important book that helps classroom teachers engage students  in the often difficult to discuss subjects of race and ethnicity. They had help from experts in the field, but because it is chock full of personal stories of children, teenagers, and young adults, it’s a book that only teens could write. The Classroom Index, on sale for $20, will be discussed on Wednesday, December 14 at 6 p.mlabyrinthpanelat Labyrinth Books (122 Nassau St, Princeton)

The 220 pages, with color illustrations, are organized beautifully for teachers — with intros on how to initiate discussion and clever indexes by tags. You can look for stories by identity (Latina,   Asian, African American) or by topic (economic, interpersonal, aesthetic, residential, familial). Teachers can use this trove of stories to bring new layers of meaning for any subject from physics to phys ed.

I found it fascinating for a different reason.With so many different stories from so many different kinds of people, I can be a voyeur. I can find answers to the hard questions that I might be afraid to ask.

If I were to live in a place where everyone looks like me, it would be hard to be friends with someone different. And even those of us who live in a diverse community — maybe we can’t get up the nerve to talk about sensitive topics with someone of a different background.

Some of these stories are raw and pungent. Some poignant. Some funny. The authors put each story in a useful educational context. As here:

“My substitute teacher caught two girls talking to one another. He automatically thought the Hispanic girl was asking for help from the White girl, but it was actually the other way round.” The comment: “Racial stereotypes and prejudice go hand in hand. Disregarding the dimensionality of members of one race and placing them into constrained boxes can cause harmful psychological effects….the number of Hispanics enrolled in two- or four-year college has more than tripled since 1993.” 

The panel will be moderated by the authors,  Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi, co-founders of  CHOOSE.  They are also members of the Not in Our Town Princeton boardDr. Ruha Benjamin, Not in Our Town’s lead racial literacy presenter will be on the panel, and she wrote the introduction. The panel also includes Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who supported the project. Also former Princeton High School English, History  Supervisor John Anagbo, and Princeton University Associate Dean Khristina Gonzalez

If you can’t go, buy the book to read and then give to a classroom teacher. The Princeton school have purchased many, but I’m betting there aren’t enough to go round. And then ask –is it being used?

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