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Author responds to criticism concerning racist and ableist descriptions

By August 11, 2021Authors, News

Kate Clanchy has made a statement concerning accusations of racism and ableism in her book Some Kids I Taught & What They Taught Me.

The book, written by poet and teacher Kate Clanchy, was first published in 2019 but certain passages were recently criticised on Goodreads and Twitter. Readers took offence to the inclusion of awkward racial stereotypes such as “almond-shaped eyes”, “chocolate-coloured skin”, and the description of one student as being “so small and square and Afghan with his big nose and premature moustache”.

Another passage under fire describes two autistic children as “unselfconsciously odd” and “jarring company” where the teacher writes she was with them for “probably, more than an hour a week” and they “would irritate me, too, but for that hour I like them very much”.

This passage was highlighted by autistic author of Diary of a Young Naturalist, Dara McAnulty, who tweeted, “Some people didn’t believe me when I shared some of my education experiences and how teachers felt about me … We can understand how you really feel about us.”

Kate Clanchy at first responded rashly and defensively but has since put out a statement describing the whole experience as ‘”humbling”:

“I have been privileged to learn every day from wonderful students who have taught me about the world through their eyes,” she wrote. “As every teacher knows though, education is never complete. Many of the responses to extracts from my book, especially those taken out of context, have been difficult to hear; but I am grateful to those who took the time to challenge my writing, and to present me other lenses through which my words might be read. I will continue to strive for self-knowledge about my role in the classroom and the privileges I enjoy. I will also take time to reflect upon views of the many readers of colour who have responded to my writing to put these learnings into practice in my work as both teacher and writer.”

The publishers Picador also thanked those who gave their insights, and promised to strive for inclusion in the future.

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