Controversy: Colorblind Teaching

Colorblind teaching “prescribes ignoring or downplaying differences between ethnic and cultural groups. The colorblind approach is supposed to lead to greater equality and inclusion (Apfelbaum, Pauker, Sommers, & Ambady, 2010)” (Hachfeld et al., 2015). However, we believe that this approach does not help students and teachers should instead adopt a multicultural approach. In a study conducted, it was found that “multicultural beliefs were positively and significantly related to participants’ self-efficacy and enthusiasm for teaching immigrant students, participants’ integrative career motives, and their reported willingness to adapt their teaching”, while “the more strongly participants endorsed colorblind beliefs the less they reported being willing to adapt their teaching to the specific needs of immigrant students and culturally diverse classes” (Hachfeld et al., 2015).

“Teachers often have a desire to “not see color” and are hesitant to acknowledge race for fear of seeming racist or stereotyping students” (Byrd, 2016). Sometimes, teachers who implement colorblind teaching don’t necessarily have bad intentions, they may just be afraid of the consequences of their words and actions. While it may seem harmless to be colorblind, it is oftentimes more harmful for not only the students, but the teacher as well. By being colorblind, it ignores and erases some of the most valuable qualities that students hold. It diminishes a huge part of many students’ identities and it leaves students thinking that their race and culture are not significant to others.

Educators should make an effort to at the very least recognize race and culture in their classroom, and not just at a surface level. Many teachers use the “tourist approach”, which they may not even be aware of, but this approach essentially looks at culture through some of its basic characteristics like food or holidays. From one of the case studies, for classroom activities, “It appears that many teachers believe learning about ethnic holidays or food provides students enough awareness about different cultures, possibly ignoring other important aspects of those cultures (Bates & Lin, 2014, pp. 32).” The tourist approach is a good start to learning more about a culture, however, it’s more beneficial to teach past that. It also disregards other significant parts of a culture such as its history, people, traditions, beliefs, and values. According to Jackson, Lake & Lin, and Riehl, implementing a non-tourist approach looks like “assessing that cultural and ethnic materials and activities accurately portray the values or feelings of the group; ensuring that stories and books, especially fictional books, include ethnic and cultural characters that are considered strong, moral, good, and wise; eliminating any ethnic and cultural materials that communicate racist concepts, phrases, or words; and using only factual information that is historically correct” (as cited in Bates & Lin, 2014, pp. 30).

Below is a Ted Talk given by Mellody Hobson about the importance of not being color blind, and instead, being what she calls, color brave. While this video is not education-specific, it is still a good resource to watch!