Skip to main content

Black liberatory science education: positioning Black youth as science learners through recognizing brilliance

Abstract

The contributions, participation, and exploitation of Black people within science and science education are devalued within the cannon of science teaching and learning. This in part is due to the Eurocentric nature of science and education. As a result, Black youth participate in science regularly; however, it is overlooked, not recognized, and/or misinterpreted within formal learning experiences. In this qualitative case study, the authors address this tension through the oral traditions of storytelling which historicize Black excellence in science while centering the voices and engagement of youth as scientists. This work is guided by critical race theory as a means of critiquing science education and its practices. While presenting a counter-narrative to mainstream science descriptions of Black youth, the authors posit the role of liberatory science education for Black learners.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Annamma, S. A. (2015). Whiteness as property: Innocence and ability in teacher education. The Urban Review, 47(2), 293–316. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-014-0293-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baber, L. D. (2015). Considering the interest-convergence dilemma in STEM education. The Review of Higher Education, 38(2), 251–270. https://doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2015.0004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Banks-Wallace, J. (2002). Talk that talk: Storytelling and analysis rooted in African American oral tradition. Qualitative Health Research, 12(3), 410–426. https://doi.org/10.1177/104973202129119892

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bell, Jr, D. A. (1980). Brown v. Board of Education and the interest-convergence dilemma. Harvard Law Review, 518–533.

  • Bell, D. (1992). Racial realism. Connecticut Law Review, 24(2), 363–380.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berry, R. Q. (2008). Access to upper-level mathematics: The stories of successful African American middle school boys. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(5), 464–488.

  • Boyd, F. B., Ridgeway, M. L., & Nyachae, T. M. (2019). Is there lead in my water?: Employing a culturally compelling instructional perspective to teach for change. Multicultural Learning and Teaching. https://doi.org/10.1515/mlt-2017-0025

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. D. (2013). Trouble on my mind: Toward a framework of humanizing critical sociocultural knowledge for teaching and teacher education. Race Ethnicity and Education, 16(3), 316–338. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2012.725039

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bullock, E. C. (2017). Only STEM can save us? Examining race, place, and STEM education as property. Educational Studies, 53(6), 628–641. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131946.2017.1369082

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Collins, P. H. (2002). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.3395/reciis.v2i2.221pt

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, J., & Martin, D. B. (2008). Racism, assessment, and instructional practices: Implications for mathematics teachers of African American students. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 1(1), 10–34.

  • DeCuir, J. T., & Dixson, A. D. (2004). “So when it comes out, they aren’t that surprised that it is there”: Using critical race theory as a tool of analysis of race and racism in education. Educational researcher, 33(5), 26–31. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X033005026

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction. NYU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dumas, M. J. (2014). ‘Losing an arm’: Schooling as a site of black suffering. Race Ethnicity and Education, 17(1), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2013.850412

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duncan, G. A. (2005). Critical race ethnography in education: Narrative, inequality and the problem of epistemology. Race ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 93–114.

  • Evans-Winters, V. E., & Esposito, J. (2010). Other people’s daughters: Critical race feminism and black girls’ education. Educational Foundations, 24, 11–24.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fasching-Varner, K. J., Mitchell, R. W., Martin, L. L., & Bennett-Haron, K. P. (2014). Beyond school-to-prison pipeline and toward an educational and penal realism. Equity and Excellence in Education, 47(4), 410–429. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2014.959285

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Freeman, A. D. (1977). Legitimizing racial discrimination through antidiscrimination law: A critical review of supreme court doctrine. Minn. L. Rev., 62, 1049.

    Google Scholar 

  • George, R. (2003). Gratz and grutter: Some hard questions. Columbia Law Review, 103(6), 1634–1639. https://doi.org/10.2307/3593397

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gholson, M. L., & Wilkes, C. E. (2017). (Mis) Taken Identities: Reclaiming identities of the “Collective Black” in mathematics education research through an exercise in black specificity. Review of Research in Education, 41(1), 228–252. https://doi.org/10.3102/0091732X16686950

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graham, M. J. (1999). The African-centred worldview: Developing a paradigm for social work. The British Journal of Social Work, 29(2), 251–267. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjsw.a011445

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harris, C. I. (1993). Whiteness as property. Harvard law review. https://doi.org/10.2307/1341787

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howard, T. C., & Navarro, O. (2016). Critical race theory 20 years later: Where do we go from here? Urban Education, 51(3), 253–273. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085915622541

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jett, C. C. (2016). Building on Our Mathematical Legacy of Brilliance: A Critical Race Reflective Narrative. In B. L. McGowan, R. T. Palmer, J. Luke Wood, & D. F. Hibbler (Eds.), Black Men in the Academy: Narratives of Resiliency, Achievement, and Success (pp. 77–91). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, L. L., Jackson, J., Stovall, D. O., & Baszile, D. T. (2017). Loving blackness to death:(Re) imagining ELA classrooms in a time of racial chaos. English Journal, 106(4), 60–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • King, N. S. (2017). When teachers get it right: Voices of black girls’ informal STEM learning experiences. Journal of Multicultural Affairs, 2(1), 5.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kinloch, V., Burkhard, T., Penn, C. (2017). When school is not enough: Understanding the lives and literacies of Black youth. Research in the Teaching of English, 34–54.

  • Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97(1), 47–68. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315709796-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Le, P. T., Matias, C. E. (2018). Towards a truer multicultural science education: how whiteness impacts science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 1–17.

  • Love, B. J. (2004). Brown plus 50 counter-storytelling: A critical race theory analysis of the “majoritarian achievement gap” story. Equity and Excellence in Education, 37(3), 227–246. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665680490491597

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martin, D. B. (Ed.). (2010). Mathematics teaching, learning, and liberation in the lives of Black children. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203877708

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Martin, D. B., & Gholson, M. (2012). On becoming and being a critical Black scholar in mathematics education. Opening the Cage (pp. 203–222). Rotterdam: SensePublishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • McGee, E. O. (2016). Devalued Black and Latino racial identities: A by-product of STEM college culture?. American Educational Research Journal, 53(6), 1626–1662. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831216676572

  • McGee, E. O. (2020). Interrogating structural racism in STEM higher education. Educational Researcher, 49(9), 633–644.

  • Mensah, F. M. (2019). Finding voice and passion: Critical race theory methodology in science teacher education. American Educational Research Journal, 56(4), 1412–1456. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831218818093

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mensah, F. M., & Jackson, I. (2018). Whiteness as Property in Science Teacher Education. Teachers College Record, 120(1), n1.

  • Morales-Doyle, D. (2018). Students as curriculum critics: Standpoints with respect to relevance, goals, and science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 55(5), 749–773. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21438

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morris, M. (2018). Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. The New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Murrell, P. C., Jr. (2012). African-centered pedagogy: Developing schools of achievement for African American children. SUNY Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mutegi, J. W. (2011). The inadequacies of “Science for All” and the necessity and nature of a socially transformative curriculum approach for African American science education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(3), 301–316. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20410

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, S.L., (2016). Different Script, Same Caste in the Use of Passive and Active Racism: A Critical Race Theory Analysis of the (Ab)Use of ‘House Rules’ in Race-Related Education Cases (December 2016). 22 Washington & Lee Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice 297. https://ssrn.com/abstract=2883390.

  • Nelson, S. L. (2017). Still serving two masters: Evaluating the conflict between school choice and desegregation under the lens of critical race theory. BU Pub. Int. LJ, 26, 43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904817691845

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oakes, J. (1990). Multiplying inequalities: The effects of race, social class, and tracking on opportunities to learn mathematics and science. The Journal of Negro Education. https://doi.org/10.2307/2295617

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ortiz, N. A. (2020). (Ontologically) Black and proud. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/asnxh

  • Ortiz, N. A., Morton, T. R., Miles, M. L., & Roby, R. S. (2019). What about us? Exploring the challenges and sources of support influencing black students’ STEM identity development in postsecondary education. The Journal of Negro Education, 88(3), 311–326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parker, L., Deyhle, D., & Villenas, S. (1999). Race is. race isn’t: Critical race theory and qualitative studies in education, Westview, Boulder, CO.

  • Pitts Bannister, V. R., Davis, J., Mutegi, J., Thompson, L., & Lewis, D. (2017). Returning to the root of the problem: Improving the social condition of African Americans through science and mathematics education. In Catalyst: A Social Justice Forum, 7, 4–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ridgeway, M. L. (2019). Against the grain: Science education researchers and social justice agendas. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 14(2), 283–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-019-09939-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ridgeway, M. L. (2019). Deprogramming deficit: A narrative of a developing Black critical STEM education researcher. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 18(1), 11. https://doi.org/10.31390/taboo.18.1.11

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ridgeway, M. L., & McGee, E. O. (2018). Black mathematics educators: Researching toward racial emancipation of black students. The Urban Review, 50(2), 301–322. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-018-0452-2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ridgeway, M. L., & Yerrick, R. K. (2016). Whose banner are we waving? Exploring STEM partnerships for marginalized urban youth. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 13(1), 59–84. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-016-9773-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roby, R.S. & Berry, T.R., (2015). Respectability politics and acts of violence (Eds.). The Assault on Communities of Color: Exploring the Realities of Race Based Violence. Charlotte, NC:Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

  • Roby, R. S., & Calabrese, B. A. (2019). Historical exclusion as an onus for inclusion and home in STEM. In P. Boda (Eds.), Essays on exclusion: Our critical, collective journey toward equity in Education. DioPress.

  • Roby, R. S., & Cook, E. B. (2019). Black women’s sharing in resistance within the academy. Taboo, 18(1), 5–17. https://doi.org/10.31390/taboo.18.1.02

    Google Scholar 

  • Rodriguez, A. J., & Morrison, D. (2019). Expanding and enacting transformative meanings of equity, diversity and social justice in science education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 14(2), 265–281. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-019-09938-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seriki, V. D. (2018). Advancing alternate tools: Why science education needs CRP and CRT. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 13(1), 93–100. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-016-9775-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Solorzano, D. G. (1997). Images and words that wound: Critical race theory, racial stereotyping, and teacher education. Teacher education quarterly, 5–19.

  • Solórzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2002). Critical race methodology: Counter-storytelling as an analytical framework for education research. Qualitative inquiry, 8(1), 23–44. https://doi.org/10.1177/107780040200800103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stovall, D. (2013). Against the politics of desperation: Educational justice, critical race theory, and Chicago school reform. Critical Studies in Education, 54(1), 33–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2013.739192

  • Stovall, D. (2016). Schools suck, but they’re supposed to: Schooling, incarceration and the future of education. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 13(1), 20–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/15505170.2016.1138252

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wallace, T., & Brand, B. R. (2012). Using critical race theory to analyze science teachers culturally responsive practices. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7(2), 341–374. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-012-9380-8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walls, L. (2012). Third grade African American students’ views of the nature of science. Journal of research in Science Teaching, 49(1), 1–37. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20450

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walls, L. (2016). Awakening a dialogue: A critical race theory analysis of US nature of science research from 1967 to 2013. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(10), 1546–1570. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21266

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walker, E. N. (2006). Urban high school students' academic communities and their effects on mathematics success. American Educational Research Journal, 43(1), 43–73.

  • Watkins, W. (1993). Black curriculum orientations: A preliminary inquiry. Harvard Educational Review, 63(3), 321–339. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.63.3.26k2433r77v631k2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Winn, M. T., & Behizadeh, N. (2011). The right to be literate: Literacy, education, and the school-to-prison pipeline. Review of Research in Education, 35(1), 147–173.

  • Zamudio, M., Russell, C., Rios, F., & Bridgeman, J. L. (2011). Critical race theory matters: Education and ideology. Routledge. Bland.

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Monica L. Miles.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This manuscript is part of the special issue “Science education and the African Diaspora in the United States,” guest edited by Mary M. Atwater and Jomo W. Mutegi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Miles, M.L., Roby, R.S. Black liberatory science education: positioning Black youth as science learners through recognizing brilliance. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 17, 177–198 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-022-10109-4

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-022-10109-4

Keywords

  • Black/African American students
  • Science education
  • Critical race theory
  • Equity
  • Race