There is a common misconception that science is inherently neutral and objective, absolving it of any responsibility for racist beliefs and practices. Yet many of the scientific advances we celebrate are rooted in racism and sexism.

Many medical treatments and breakthroughs, including the latest developments in polio and HIV vaccines, Required HeLa cellsRemarkably, these HeLa cells were stolen in 1951 without the consent of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman.Furthermore, across the broad history of science, men continue to attribute women’s intellectual work in science, a common phenomenon known as Matilda effect.

While these stories show that science is by no means neutral, it makes teaching more complex than ever.Twenty-eight states, including the state where I teach in Texas, have recently introduced or passed legislation prohibiting teacher discussions Prejudice, Privilege, Discrimination and Oppression with students. As an educator trying to create a just, anti-racist environment for students, it feels like an impossible task in the current environment.

Over the years, I’ve seen in the classroom how science can produce results so differently based on gender and race that students themselves can’t see themselves in science. Given this data and my real experience as an educator, how can I teach science in an ethical and inclusive way when state legislatures try to ban this approach?

“Draw a Scientist” Test

Every year, I will be based on the famous draw a scientist test. Using the framework for this test, I asked students to name a famous scientist and then draw what the scientist looked like.In numerous studies implementing the test, researchers have learned that students tend to Attract more male scientists with ageand almost 80% are white scientists.

Unfortunately, after taking the test for the past five years — with responses from more than 500 students — this year’s results were about the same: 98% of the scientists named by the students were white and male, and only 18% of the drawings showed scientists is a woman. Also, in the same survey, less than 20% of my students thought they could become scientists. These results are important because who our students think are scientists influences whether they believe they have a place in science, and further illustrates how pervasive racism and sexism are in science.

beyond representation

When I first observed this trend in the classroom, I was curious to see how other science educators were addressing it. Unfortunately, of the many teaching conferences I attend, only a few acknowledge the intersection of science, race, and gender; those that do focus on increasing representation without critically examining the factors that contribute to underrepresentation. Additionally, the previously provided solution demonstrator has been completed. Yes, we can adorn our walls with posters of women and BIPOC scientists, but it takes more than a few posters for students to see the diversity of science.

Furthermore, representation in science remains an issue.In a study published last summer, researchers examined representation in commonly used biology textbooks and found that Only 8% of featured scientists are people of color. Even the standards I have to teach keep this trend going.each named person K-12 Texas Science Knowledge and Skills is white. This deletion sends an implicit message that women and scientists of color are not making meaningful contributions to science, which is both untrue and hurts students.

So what should educators do when the standards and resources we rely on are racist and misogynistic? Furthermore, how do we overcome the depletion of classroom resources for historically excluded scientists? Here are some key findings from education researchers studying the intersection of race and gender in science classrooms:

  1. Support your students by acknowledging and criticizing inequalities. Create space in your course for students to investigate and discuss the effects and causes of differences in scientific representation.
  2. Infuse your course multicultural perspective and contributions to scientific concepts and developments. Take time in your course to enumerate the important contributions of women and BIPOC scientists that inform fundamental concepts of science.
  3. Diversity alone is not enough.How Addressing Structural Racism and Sexism Reinforce Meritocracy and Equal Opportunity Myths. When engaging students with scientists’ stories, don’t simply state their accomplishments and contributions; as Dr. Manali Sheth suggests, build in time to explore “how racism can [and sexism] Mediate scientific careers and educational gains, struggles, and successes. “

Teacher status is important

In my first Scientist Spotlight, we read the story of Harvard Computer, where a group of white women painstakingly produced the first catalog of stars in the night sky. While making major scientific advances, they were banned from using telescopes and paid less than half the wages of men in similar jobs. After class, a student asked, “When will we learn about scientists who look like us?” While this is only my third scientist spotlight, every story I tell centers on white women in science . Unfortunately, in my efforts to raise the profile of women in science, I neglected scientists of color while teaching to a room full of black and brown students. That student was right to call me out.

As my colleague, Elsa Douglas, speak skillfully, “Building culturally sensitive classrooms for students of color means that white teachers must actively and consistently question their white identity and how whiteness is present in their curriculum and instruction.” As any teacher can tell you, students are the An expert on when someone isn’t real, they haven’t forgotten that I’m neither a woman nor a person of color. Therefore, every day I need to be willing to critique systems that I directly benefit from, provide opportunities for students to share their connections to these scientists’ stories, and acknowledge my inadequacies.

stories matter

It was a wake-up call for me when my survey showed that my students didn’t believe it was possible to become a scientist. The traditional way of teaching science wasn’t enough, and I’ve worked hard to change that narrative for my students ever since. Every year at the end of the eighth grade, my students write a paragraph about their college and career goals. Seeing the vast majority of students in science majors and careers makes me want my students to believe they have a place in science.

Erasure affects our students, especially those who do not see their identities reflected in the curriculum. Creating spaces to critically examine the complexities and contexts of these stories provides opportunities for students to think critically and add a human dimension to science where students can find connections and inspiration.

After massive public demonstrations calling for a nationwide reckoning of racism, many educators used this moment to reflect on how our curriculum can perpetuate white supremacy. Science educators need to engage in this conversation and think critically about how we can move beyond representation and make our classrooms a liberating space for all students.



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