MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction runs several programs that heavily emphasize racial issues in public schools. White privilege and prejudice some feel that one of those programs – an Americorps operation called VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) – may go a bit overboard by encouraging white students to wear a white wristband “as a reminder about your (white) privilege.”Geared towards high school students, the program “seeks to build capacity in schools and districts serving low-income families to develop an effective, sustainable, research-based program of family-school-community partnerships,” according to its Facebook page.That sounds reasonable enough.
But the program’s approach becomes a bit suspect when one reads the Gloria Steinem quote on the top of its webpage: “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”The webpage also offers a series of suggestions for high schools students to become more racially sensitive. They include: Wear a white wristband as a reminder about your privilege, and as a personal commitment to explain why you wear the wristband. Set aside sections of the day to critically examine how privilege is working. Put a note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder to think about privilege.
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