The Respecting Children blog has been concerned with linking research evidence to demonstrate how issues of social justice and inequality have recurred over the last forty years. The generation of empirical data is considered to be one way to support an argument and demonstrate a need for change within education policy or practice. Researchers working in the field of “race”, ethnicity and education have built up a sizeable range of data to demonstrate how “race” and ethnicity in intersection with other factors such as poverty impact on the educational outcomes of minority ethnic children (Strand 2014), or how ethnicity affects the experiences of Black and minority ethnic trainee teachers in schools (Flintoff 2014; Pearce 2014). In the light of the empirical evidence that indicates the effect of ethnicity on educational outcomes little appears to have been done in relation to educational policy. It seems little has changed since the Swann Report, “Education for All” in 1985. In fact “race” and ethnicity seem to be being erased from the educational policy landscape (Gillborn 2005).
The blogs entitled “A Classroom Story” and the other called “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” employed the technique of counter story-telling to respectively present narratives about the experiences of a Black male trainee teacher and that of a Black young girl in school. The method of counter story-telling has its roots in Critical Race Theory (CRT) which advocates that the system of power and privilege associated with “race” can be disrupted through the use of story-telling or counter story-telling which gives voice to those who are less advantaged and privileged thereby providing a counter perspective on the majoritarian stories we hear every day (Solorzano and Yosso 2002). Counter story-telling highlights the discrepancy between the lived experience of racialized minorities and the views and opinions of the dominant groups in society. The counter stories redress the imbalance evident within the dominant discourse. The CRT methodology of counter story-telling privileges the voices of those who are unheard thereby acknowledging that they hold and can create knowledge which is of equal worth thus shifting the locus of power (Delgado Bernal 2002).
Story-telling and the use of narrative is not confined to a minority research area it is used by others especially in the field of inclusive and special education (see Clough 2002). Yet the two blogs A Classroom Story and Goldilocks and the Three Bears provoked criticism because they were not considered to be credible sources of empirical evidence because they drew on a genre outside the remit of mainstream empirical data generation and research. Some consider that they are not research as we know it. I wonder if the deployment of story-telling narrative had been based around disability whether it would have elicited such a response. When the weight of empirical evidence gathered over the years on the exclusionary experiences of minority ethnic children, young people and teachers fails to shift the dominant approaches to policy, practice and the curriculum then other strategies can be legitimately used to give voice to the experiences of minority groups. In everyday life including the research domain the majority story is dominant. It is heard and perpetuated daily. The minority story is subjugated, unheard and attempts are made to silence these voices or stories. The narrative piece “A Classroom Story” was derided as fiction, not based on empirical evidence and deemed to be less worthy. There has been so much research on racism in various areas of education and society over the last 40 years and yet it still prevails. I wonder why? It prevails in the symbolic violence which seems to characterise the so-called post-racial era, where Black teachers and trainees are expected “not to make a fuss”; “not to pull out the race card” and pupils in school who experience racism are told to “take no notice, or “you’re better than them”. In the Independent (January 2014) an article on a ChildLine Report noted that there had been a 69% rise in children needing counselling due to racist bullying at school which involved Islamaphobia and the report noted that the bullying appeared to reflect the media coverage of Far Right activity and debates on immigration were impacting on children’s attitudes as was media representations of racial stereotypes which seems to be occurring simultaneously as race and ethnicity disappear off the educational and initial teacher training agendas. So the evidence empirical or otherwise shows that racism is still evident in our schools and society and that ethnicity still affects the outcomes of Black and minority ethnic children and young people. Yet we appear unable to take action to overturn such inequalities and so the status quo is maintained. Those of us working in the field of “race”, ethnicity and education need to find other ways to be heard. Narrative inquiry and the use of story-telling (also known as oral narratives) is a legitimate well established research approach (Chase 2010) allowing professionals as well as individuals to reflect on their experiences/practices.
The story of William was based on Black male trainee-teachers’ real experiences in schools which were gained through the traditional empirical research data gathering methods. The narrative is a composite account based on real Black male trainees’ experiences in schools, which they felt safe to share with a Black academic who used the story-telling approach to disrupt the dominant story only to have it reasserted through a dominant discourse which sought to undermine a novel approach to research in an attempt to regain supremacy. In an inquiry about racism in school one of my White teenage participants said, “White people like to feel they’re superior” thereby the dominant story is restored yet again. The criticisms of the counter-story blogs reinforce this contention that only White stories/voices are given credence and allowed to prevail. Can such exclusionary practices still be allowed to prevail?