- Published: February 5, 2022
- Updated: February 5, 2022
- University / College: University of Toronto
- Level: School
- Language: English
- Downloads: 35
Culturally Relevant Teaching in the American Educational System
The documentary Beyond the Bricks offers a very candid snapshot of the systemic failures of the American educational system in regards to relating to African American students. In retrospect over fifteen years ago a literary work The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children” highlighted a similar set of circumstances and proposed systemic changes that could be made to the educational system to better relate and teach African American children. Both “ Beyond the Bricks” and The Dreamkeepers are directly interrelated, separated by only time and a problem that is not getting any better.
Beyond the Bricks was released in early 2009; it focused on the goal of promoting solutions for a critical problem in American schools: the consistently low performance of African‐American boys in the public education system. The documentary chronicles two African‐ American students Shaquiel and Erick as they struggle to succeed in the Newark, NJ public school system. Unlike, other film portrayals of Black youth which introduce a philosophy grounded in the negative imagery associated with ‘ blackness and maleness’ in America, Beyond the Bricks offers a view of the Psycho-social trappings of the stereotyping within the system and its ultimate failings. Though the film focuses primarily on Shaquiel and Erick, the issues addressed extend universally throughout all African American communities. Beyond the statistics are the real stories of students like Shaquiel and Erick who must fight the indifference of the system to build a better future for themselves.
In The Dreamkeepers author Gloria Ladson-Billings examined eight exemplary teachers in the Mid-Western United States, their unique styles and methods, and how each affirmed and strengthened the cultural identity of their individual students. Originally released in 1994, the book highlighted the fact that quality education remains an elusive dream for most African American children. Even though the 1990’s offered many hopefully and encouraging signs that the situation was improving, the book left many readers and activists in a hollow echo chamber without a purposeful method of “ how to solve” the complex problem at hand.
Both The Dreamkeepers and Beyond the Bricks challenge the system and their audience to envision intellectually rigorous and culturally relevant classrooms that have the power to improve the lives of not just African American students, but all students. Where The Dreamkeepers stopped with the “ positive signs for the future”, Beyond the Bricks picks up the cause with a serious and sincere call to action in the form of the Beyond The Bricks Project (BTBP) and tool kit that hopes to move activists towards a systemic goal of breaking the “ school to prison pipeline” that exists for too many African American young men.
While both works are carefully crafted around similar concepts and ideas, the ultimate intent of both is dissimilar. The Dreamkeepers demonstrated the circumstances and a series of possible solutions. Beyond the Bricks re-stated the problem and takes it a step further by motivating action to fight against the situation. The viewpoints of both works are directly related in regards to the problem itself. Where the two differ is inside their stated purpose. As it stands both The Dreamkeepers and Beyond the Bricks differ in not just their medium, but also their intent to direct and orchestrate change. The Dreamkeepers focuses on the “ promise of the future” while Beyond the Bricks defines the malaise of the “ now” and offers a path to a solution that will benefit the plight of African American young men.
Ladson-Billings, Gloria. The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children. 2nd ed. New York: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.
Ford Foundation, Washington Koen Media. “ Beyond the Bricks” Educational Documentary and Project.” http://beyondthebricksproject. com/. Koen Media Group, 08 Sep. 2009. Web. 6 Feb. 2013. .