“Black cat is bad luck, bad guys wear black, must have been a White guy that started all that!” – 3rd Bass, Legendary 80’s Hip-Hop Group (comprised of two White Guys)
A review of the Six Thinking Hats approach does lead one to conclude that it in fact promotes higher-level thinking among students. As an educator who has an admitted bias toward project based learning, problem solving activities, and democratic teaching methods, I am drawn to the approach and can appreciate the benefits it provides the students as well as the learning leader.
My problem with this approach focuses on an aspect that may appear benign at first, which is the assignment of the white and black hats. In a racially polarized region of our country, such as Louisiana, I believe that it is the teacher’s role to consider each classroom assignment to make sure that it is a) culturally responsive and b) aligned with education’s true goal: to open a limitless word of opportunities and possibilities to each student. By doing so, I find fault with the white hat representing the “straight up” factual, objective analysis, and the black hat representing the “bad”, negative, worst case scenario analysis. Of the six colors of hats used in the approach, the only one with a negative connotation is the one that is represented by the color black.
Imagine going into an all Black elementary school that is located in an urban setting to use this approach. Chances are high that these students may not come from households with an abundance of wealth, and their worldviews may be limited to what they have seen within the confines of said city; nay, said neighborhood. To present these students with an exercise that supports what their age-appropriate understanding may be telling them (white is good, black is bad) is irresponsible at best. Imagine teaching the same lesson using the approach at an all White, suburban school where the students have minimal contact with Black people. The same subliminal messages are being reinforced.
It should be noted here that I am not implying a racist intention on the part of educators who employ this approach. What I am implying is that as an education leader and as an African-American man, it is my responsibility to my race and to the profession to point out and attempt to correct situations that may be detrimental to both. Fostering the subliminal message of “white is good” and “black is bad” in the minds of impressionable children fits the description of such situations. No matter if the students are White or Black, helping to support a stereotypical notion that society is working overtime trying to get them to validate, does not help either set of students accomplish the true goal of education.