Decolonize and Unlearn the Pedagogy of the Status Quo

(Part 1 of 2)

As educators, we often become aware of systemic issues that prevent our students from succeeding in life. Oftentimes, we have difficulties cultivating the much-needed support that our students need. And at the same time we lack the capacity to provide “custom tailored solutions” for our students. So, how can we become more efficient at this? Let’s start by looking into what we understand as best practice pedagogy.


“Pedagogy” is defined as a method of teaching. Ask yourself, “How did I come to learn about pedagogy?”

Central education systems such as public school education can be both structured and narrow In other words, there can be a lack of diversity as it’s often influenced by our own individualistic experiences — which is often influenced by the status quo of Western systems of education.

As a result of such influences, we’re less likely to meet the needs of our students of color. We’re often overlooking (or lacking) the capacity to explore and engage with diverse methods of teaching and learning as we ourselves are exposed to a limited amount of teaching methods.


Now, what do we mean when we say “students of color.” I’d approach this from the concept of “intersectionality.” Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and social theorist, was the first person to coin this term of intersectionality. It can be simply defined as an individual’s identity that is influenced by systems that oppress and benefit them.

For example, one could identity as being Black (race), undocumented (immigration status), and straight (sexual orientation). This individual’s race and immigraiton status can serve as a barrier to access various privileged systems, whereas the sexual orientation might work towards certain privileges, but that is difficult to predict- a great example of intersectionality.

Now that we’re clear in our conceptualization of intersectional and marginalized identities, we can look to a plan of action that UNLEARNS and DECOLONIZES our minds so that we can engage in inclusive pedagogy and diverse methods of learning.

Ultimately, we want to disengage from becoming codependent with methods of pedagogy that benefits a certain privileged class or identity.


It might sound like I just threw a bunch of theoretical concepts. But, let’s get real about this! Let’s start with accountability, when was the last time you actually thought about dismantling a factory model of education and encouraging socioemotional development for your students using indegenous or communal methods of pedagogy? Have you given honest thought to reflecting how your practice as an educator or facilitator harms students of color? Are we really honoring their ancestors by utilizing colonized methods of teaching to only oppresses and possibly harm our future generations.\.


Let’s take a real life example: standardized testing. It’s common knowledge studies have shown standardized testing scores are positively correlated with socioeconomic status (Capraro, Carpraro & Wiggins, 2000). In other words, the more wealth you have, the more like that you are to receive test prep training, and as a result, the more likely you are to outperform an underprivileged student who may not have access to the same test-prep resources. In other words, it only marginalizes students of color and this includes SATs, GREs, GMATs, MCATs and much more.


You might be asking yourself, how am I to create capacity to provide these resources or diverse methods of pedagogy? Well, I think it starts with intentionality and unlearning. In other words, listen to your students, listen to indigenous, and Black and Brown voices. Reverse the method of teaching by allowing your students to teach you what works best for them. Not everyone will come with statistics to prove their point, but personal anecdotes can help you become a better practitioner in your field. Storytelling is beautiful and it helps with socioemotional development, which is positively correlated with future career and educational success (Jones, Greenberg, & Crowley, 2015). Our ancestors often taught their future generations through various modalities of storytelling, art and play. Education cannot simply be assessed through books and tests. That is rather the capitalistic methods of individualism that negates the power of community.


Keep in mind that not everything we hear and see is always correct, be skeptical, question and challenge the status quo. Remember the marshmallow experiment, where we assumed the children failed to delay gratification (blame on the individual) because they can’t resist the temptation to grab the marshmallow. Well that’s wrong and it has been debunked (Watts, Duncan & Quan, 2018). Now, we know that children who are poor are more likely to be hungry and therefore more likely to grab the marshmallow. Let’s refrain from individualistic blame, and focus more on the systems that push individuals to act a certain way that harms themselves and others.


The goal of this article is to shed light on approaches that are exploratory and open-ended, where you use the facts and critical thinking framework to unlearn oppressive practices and embrace the diversity of pedagogical practices. No, we are not asking you to promote “politically correct” culture, a term often used to derail conversations around diversity and inclusion. Instead, we’re asking you to educate yourself and use your best judgment to harness the tools that best fit your practice as an educator, facilitator, or civilian who simply enjoys learning and evolving. Ultimately, we want to go on a journey of collectively acknowledging our history and troubleshooting contemporary problems as a community.

Awareness Matters — Educate Yourself

If you like this method of thinking and approach to decolonize our minds. I would appreciate it if you include us in your journey to “challenge oppressive norms, acknowledge our biases and grow as a community.”

Here at Capacity Building, we are looking for educators and practitioners such as yourself to partner with. We are Black and Brown scholars, educators and activists who provide training on topics related to diversity and inclusion.

Our course on “Racism in Education” is part of our go-to DEI toolbox with examples that are easy to grasp. All we ask you to do is think, reflect and grow. Some of the topics we touch upon are the “prison industrial complex” and “legacy scholarship.”

Feel free to email us at to learn more about our diversity, inclusion and equity online courses, training and workshops. (P.S. We’d be delighted to share a free course with you!)


Capraro, M. M., Capraro, R. M., & Wiggins, B. B. (2000). An Investigation of the Effects of Gender, Socioeconomic Status, Race and Grades on Standardized Test Scores.

Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., & Quan, H. (2018). Revisiting the marshmallow test: A conceptual replication investigating links between early delay of gratification and later outcomes. Psychological science, 29(7), 1159–1177.

Jones, D. E., Greenberg, M., & Crowley, M. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal of Public Health, 105, 2283–2290.

Crenshaw, K. (1990). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stan. L. Rev., 43, 1241.



Researcher🌿Psychotherapist🐙 Pup-Dad🦊 Jiujitsu practitioner🦋PhD student 🐰

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Alif Ahmed, LCSW, MS

Researcher🌿Psychotherapist🐙 Pup-Dad🦊 Jiujitsu practitioner🦋PhD student 🐰