Title

Reading, Writing and Racism: Exploring the Impact of Racial Discrimination on the Cognitive and Social-Emotional Gains of Developing Youth

Focused Area

Improving School Climate for Youth-At-Risk

Relevance to Focused Area

This presentation will address the far-reaching impact of racial discrimination on children ranging in age from early childhood through adolescence, with specific emphasis placed on its effect on brain development, academic achievement, mental and emotional health, and socialization of school-aged, middle-school and high school students. The effects of children experiencing racial discrimination from their peers and/or the figures of authority in their lives (e.g. caregivers, teachers, etc.) can lead to behavioral problems that stem from low self-esteem/self-worth, depression, anger, sadness, etc. Moreover, if children begin to deem negative stereotypes concerning the race with which they identify as valid – especially those linked to intellect and ability – a self-fulfilling prophesy may result (i.e. Children may believe that they are incapable of grasping various learning concepts, thus becoming easily frustrated, giving up, etc.). With an abundance of research supporting the aforementioned, there is a need for change in educational policies in elementary, middle and high schools nation-wide, as well as comprehensive programs developed to address the magnitude and far-reaching effects of this growing problem.

Primary Strand

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance to Primary Strand

This presentation will highlight the impact of perceived racial discrimination on early brain development, and discuss the correlation between children believing racial stereotypes and their consequent academic performance. The presenter intends to highlight research conducted on when and how young children develop awareness of racial differences and learn to discriminate. Further, the impact that racial discrimination has on the social-emotional development of children (through adolescence) – specifically the possible development of depression, self-consciousness and low self-esteem – will be discussed, along with its interrelationship with low morale throughout the learning experience and impeded academic achievement. It will also examine its effects on children’s socialization, specifically their interaction with peers and figures of authority, such as caregivers, parents, teachers and law enforcement.

Brief Program Description

This interactive, eye-opening presentation will address the impact of racial discrimination on the cognitive and social-emotional gains of developing youth, with specific emphasis placed on its effect on the brain development, academic achievement, mental health, and socialization of elementary, middle and high school students. Teachers and advocates of children will benefit through honest, lively discussion, video excerpts and interactive activities.

Summary

There exists an extensive body of research to support the theory that racial discrimination affects the development of children from as early as three years of age, and continues to severely impede gains in cognitive and social-emotional development throughout adolescence, and ultimately, the lifespan. Evidence supports the theory that children develop an awareness of racial differences and learn to discriminate during the early childhood years, a critical period in which such stressors as discrimination can prove detrimental to long-term well-being due to its effect on brain development and neural connections. Myriad studies have deduced that as children in the middle childhood stage (6 – 12 years) and adolescence begin to perceive racial discrimination, they can experience such consequent effects as self-consciousness, depression, and the development of low self-esteem. This is especially so if they perceive their race negatively as the result of stereotyping. Studies show that racial bias can negatively affect the ways in which youth respond to various situations and daily tasks – ranging from social interaction with their peers and figures of authority (such as caregivers and teachers) to academic performance. For example, McKown (2009) found that between the ages of 5 and 11, children begin to discern racial stereotypes, and become aware that many individuals support these stereotypes – including those about the academic ability of certain racial groups. Consequently, this may result in said children believing the stereotypes themselves, which in turn, can impede academic success (i.e. self-fulfilling prophecy), and possibly lead to deviant behavior in subsequent years of life. The consistent results of countless studies imply a need for change in educational policies and highlight the importance of comprehensive programs designed to address this critical social issue. The presentation will consist of a discussion of the aforementioned, and will provide a three-tier program model designed by the presenter (for elementary, middle and high school students) that addresses this issue. The model will be presented interactively, with conference attendees participating as “students.” Attendees will be provided with transcripts of activities as a “take-home” to implement in their own educational setting.

Evidence

Several studies have been conducted in which children - ranging in age from three through adolescence - have participated in surveys, open-ended individual interviews, round-table discussions and interactive activities to aid researchers in learning when children develop awareness of racial differences and perceive discrimination. Moreover, longitudinal research projects have been conducted to track the long-term effects of children who perceive racism and personally associate with the targeted racial group. Disrupted brain development, emotional problems, socialization issues, and academic difficulty were identified as said effects. Through teacher/advocate-led open dialogue, group activities and counseling, some progress in addressing this critical issue has been made - but wide-spread education policy changes are needed, as are comprehensive diversity and anti-bias programs throughout schools and community organizations.

A sampling of the research that will be provided in the presentation will come from the following studies. This is not an all-inclusive list:

Clark, K., & Clark, M. (1939). The development of consciousness of self and emergence of racial identification in Negro preschool children. Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 591-599.

Gee, C., Walsemann, K., & Brondolo, E. (2012). A life course perspective on how racism may be related to health inequalities. American Journal of Public Health, 102, 967-974.

McKown, C. (2009). Developmental antecedents and social and academic consequences of stereotype consciousness in middle childhood. Child Development, 80, 6-15.

Mossakowski, K. (2003). Coping with perceived discrimination: Does ethnic identity protect mental health? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 44, 318-331.

Williams-Morris, R. (1996). Racism and children's health: issues in development. Ethnicity and Disease, 6(1-2), 69-82.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Roslyn J. Johnson-McCurry began her education at the University of Michigan, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language and Literature. After graduating, she moved to England to complete a Master’s (M-Level) Independent Study Module in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Upon completion of the program, Dr. Johnson moved to Atlanta, GA and completed a Master’s program in education. She began her tenure in early childhood education as a teacher and academic director, then transitioned into higher education. She has served for the past nine years as a clinical professor and faculty mentor in the Early Childhood Care & Education program at Southern Crescent Technical College, teaching such courses as Social Issues & Family Involvement, Guidance and Classroom Management, Human Growth & Development, Language and Literacy, and Health, Safety and Nutrition for the Young Child.

Desiring to take her love for teaching beyond the borders of the classroom, Dr. Johnson founded a consulting company which offers comprehensive trainings for education practitioners (P-12) and parents in the areas of Health/Safety/Nutrition, Emergent Literacy, Guidance/Classroom Management, Diversity/Anti-Biased Curriculums and Positive Parenting. This company has been redesigned to incorporate two new holistic health programs – one designed for education practitioners/families, and the other for individuals/organizations seeking wellness consulting.

Additionally, Dr. Johnson conducts trainings for such organizations as the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension, Head Start, the Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA), and the Georgia Association on Young Children (GAYC), serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Henry County Commissioner's youth foundation, a board member of several non-profit organizations, and founder of a non-profit organization for at-risk populations. Dedicated to continuing scholarship, Dr. Johnson also continues to conduct/present research, and collaborate with her peers on various research projects.

Start Date

10-23-2016 10:00 AM

End Date

10-23-2016 11:00 AM

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Oct 23rd, 10:00 AM Oct 23rd, 11:00 AM

Reading, Writing and Racism: Exploring the Impact of Racial Discrimination on the Cognitive and Social-Emotional Gains of Developing Youth

This interactive, eye-opening presentation will address the impact of racial discrimination on the cognitive and social-emotional gains of developing youth, with specific emphasis placed on its effect on the brain development, academic achievement, mental health, and socialization of elementary, middle and high school students. Teachers and advocates of children will benefit through honest, lively discussion, video excerpts and interactive activities.