Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2013 Issue »

    McIntosh as Synecdoche

    How Teacher Education’s Focus on White Privilege Undermines Antiracism

    Timothy J. Lensmire, Shannon K. McManimon, Jessica Dockter Tierney, Mary E. Lee-Nichols, Zachary A. Casey, Audrey Lensmire, and Bryan M. Davis
    In this article, members of the Midwest Critical Whiteness Collective argue that Peggy McIntosh’s seminal “knapsack” article acts as a synecdoche, or as a stand-in, for all the antiracist work to be done in teacher education and that this limits our understanding and possibilities for action. The authors develop this argument by questioning the lack of critique of McIntosh’s 1988 classic “invisible knapsack” article and sharing two narratives by members of their collective that illustrate problems with both the acceptance and the rejection of McIntosh’s conception of white privilege. This discussion illuminates how white privilege pedagogy demands confession and how confession is a dead end for antiracist action. The authors also explore how McIntosh’s ideas can lead to dangerous misreadings of student resistance. Acknowledging the initial fruitfulness of McIntosh’s ideas, it is time for us to move to more complex treatments of working with white people on questions of race, white supremacy, and antiracism.

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    Timothy J. Lensmire is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. His early work focused on how the teaching and learning of writing might be imagined and practiced as a form of radical democratic life. In his current work, he seeks to build descriptions of and to theorize whiteness and white racial identity in ways that serve antiracist teaching and teacher education. Lensmire’s writing has appeared in journals such as Curriculum Inquiry, Educational Researcher, Language in Society, and Race Ethnicity and Education, and his books include When Children Write (1994) and Powerful Writing/Responsible Teaching (2000), both with Teachers College Press.

    Shannon K. McManimon is a doctoral candidate in culture and teaching in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. Working with schools, universities, and nonprofit or community organizations, she focuses her research, writing, and teaching on antiracism, critical pedagogy, peace education, and social justice, frequently emphasizing the use of storytelling and narrative.

    Jessica Dockter Tierney is the assistant director of the Minnesota Writing Project at the University of Minnesota. Her recent academic work examines how young people make meaning of race through laughter and highlights embodied forms of critical engagement in classroom spaces. Her coauthored publications include “Mobilizing Emotion in an Urban Classroom: Producing Identities and Transforming Signs in a Race-related Discussion,” with Cynthia Lewis, forthcoming in Linguistics and Education, and “Redefining Rigor: Critical Engagement, Digital Media, and the New English/Language Arts,” with Delainia Haug and Cynthia Lewis, in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.

    Mary E. Lee-Nichols is an assistant professor of teacher education at the University of Wisconsin–Superior, where her work is focused on preparing future teachers as multicultural, antiracist educators. As a former teacher and principal, concerns surrounding educational policies and practices that continue to reproduce class structure and social inequalities in classrooms led to doctoral studies in culture and teaching at the University of Minnesota, where she received her PhD in 2011. Her dissertation research focused on the experiences of white teachers in predominantly white rural communities as they engaged in racial discourse with students. 

    Zachary A. Casey is a graduate instructor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. He is an award-winning teacher educator. His research centers on the intersections of critical whiteness studies and critical pedagogy as well as on multicultural education and practitioner inquiry into teaching and pedagogy. His published scholarship has critically examined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and, most recently, analyzed the racial and economic history of classroom management, in “From Neoliberal Policy to Neoliberal Pedagogy: Racializing and Historicizing Classroom Management,” Journal of Pedagogy.

    Audrey Lensmire is an assistant professor of education at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where she teaches courses in elementary literacy education and the social and cultural foundations of urban education and is actively involved in efforts to recruit, retain, and license future teachers of color. Her current scholarship focuses on how the emotional and embodied aspects of young women’s lives intersect with learning to teach. She is the author of White Urban Teachers: Stories of Fear, Violence, and Desire published by Roman & Littlefield Education in 2012.

    Bryan M. Davis is the superintendent of schools for the Columbus School District in Columbus, Wisconsin. His research interests include urban education and the influence of race in school environments. He completed his dissertation, titled “A Case Study of How White High School Administrators Make Meaning of Their Whiteness,” in 2011 at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. His academic writing with the Midwest Critical Whiteness Collective focuses on how school administrators can improve leadership through developing a critical perspective of race in their school environments. Davis was nominated for the 2013 Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year Award and completed the Wisconsin IDEA Scholars Program through the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2013.
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    Fall 2013 Issue

    Abstracts

    After Fisher v. University of Texas
    Implications for Education Research, Theory, and Practice
    From the Editors
    McIntosh as Synecdoche
    How Teacher Education’s Focus on White Privilege Undermines Antiracism
    Timothy J. Lensmire, Shannon K. McManimon, Jessica Dockter Tierney, Mary E. Lee-Nichols, Zachary A. Casey, Audrey Lensmire, and Bryan M. Davis
    Democracy under Fire
    Voter Confusion and Influences in Colorado’s Anti–Affirmative Action Initiative
    Amy N. Farley, Matthew N. Gaertner, and Michele S. Moses
    From Bureaucracy to Profession
    Remaking the Educational Sector for the Twenty-First Century
    Jal Mehta
    Dirt on My Record
    Rethinking Disciplinary Practices in an All-Black, All-Male Alternative Class
    Na’ilah Suad Nasir, kihana miraya ross, Maxine McKinney de Royston, Jarvis Givens, and Jalessa N. Bryant

    Book Notes

    Education, Justice, & Democracy
    Edited by Danielle Allen & Rob Reich

    Creating Innovators
    Tony Wagner (supplementary video material produced by Robert A. Compton)

    Inside the Black Box of Classroom Practice
    Larry Cuban

    Youth Held at the Border
    Lisa (Leigh) Patel