College of Education and Human Development

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Timothy Lensmire

  • Professor

  • Office Hours

    by appointment

Timothy Lensmire

Areas of interest

I explore the possibilities and problems of various critical pedagogies for how they can promote and embody radical democracy; and I explore how white people learn to be white in our white supremacist society.



Lensmire, T. (2017). White folks: Race and identity in rural America. New York: Routledge. White folks

Reviews in Ethnic and Racial Studies, The Point Magazine, Journal of Research in Rural Education
Eminent Americans, and JAAACS. Nominated for ICQI 2018 Qualitative Book Award.

Lensmire, T. (2000). Powerful writing, responsible teaching. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lensmire, T. (1994/2023). When children write: Critical re-visions of the writing workshop. New York: Teachers College Press. Open access second edition.


Lensmire, T. (2023). Guest. White Episode. Eminent Americans.

Recent articles and chapters

Lensmire, T. (2023). Reading whiteness with a little help from Bakhtin. In P. Badenhorst, S. Tanner, & J. Grinage (Eds.), Reckoning with the whiteness of English education. New York: Teachers College.

Badenhorst, P., et al. (2022). Doesn’t your work just re-center whiteness? The fallen impossibilities of white allyship. Journal of curriculum theorizing.

Lensmire, T., & Lozenski, B. (2022). Black mentorship against the anti-black machinery of the university. In B. Butler, A. Farinde-Wu & M. Winchell (Eds.), Mentoring while white: Culturally responsive practices for sustaining the lives of black college students. Lanhan, Maryland: Lexington Books. (discussion of chapter on video)

Lensmire, T. (2022). How white supremacy is reproduced in the relations of white people to other white people, with some notes on what this means for antiracist education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

Joubert, E., & Lensmire, T. (Eds.). (2021). Special Issue: Black Lives Matter and Rural Education. Journal of Research in Rural Education.

Miller, E., & Lensmire, T. (2021). Mammies, Brute Negroes, and white femininity in teacher education. Curriculum Inquiry.

Kinloch, V., & Lensmire, T. (2019). Editorial: A dialogue on race, racism, white privilege, and white supremacy in English education. English Education.

Lensmire, T. (2018). Introduction. In S. McManimon, Z. Casey, & C. Berchini (Eds.), Whiteness at the table: Antiracism, racism, and identity. Lanhan, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.


PhD, Michigan State University

Literacy education

Culture and Teaching


Research Foci

Teaching and learning writing as a democracy

My past research focused on the teaching of writing in schools and how this teaching might better serve democratic ends. Bakhtin’s writings on carnival and polyphony, and Dewey’s on creative democracy, have helped me examine, criticize, and reconstruct our ideas of the teacher's role, student voice, and community in progressive and critical classroom spaces.

Ambivalent white racial identities

My current research focuses on whiteness and white racial identity—specifically, I am attempting to re-imagine white people as racialized actors in our schools and society. My work is grounded in a black tradition of theorizing whiteness and draws especially on the work of the Reverend Thandeka, Ralph Ellison, and Toni Morrison. I conceptualize white people and their racial identities as profoundly conflicted, as ambivalent, and then explore what this means for our pedagogical and political work with white people in anti-racist projects.

Tim_Lensmire_3min from CEHD Academics on Vimeo.

Courses Taught

CI 8131 - Curriculum and Instruction Core: Critical Examination of Curriculum in Context. This course focuses on curriculum and schooling in the United States. We examine curriculum-making and struggles over schooling and its purposes in historical, sociological, and political context, drawing on a series of diverse and sometimes conflicting theoretical and moral positions, including feminist, queer, and Dakota.

CI 5145 - Critical Pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is taken up in this course, not as a single or finished thing, but as a multivocal and unrealizable word about how we might participate in the struggle against oppression and teach and learn together. We begin with Paulo Freire’s work and then extend and interrogate our initial understandings of critical pedagogy by reading work by indigenous, environmental, feminist, and postmodern scholars and activists.

CI 5464 - The Politics of Literacy and Race in Schools. This course explores the politics of literacy and race in classrooms, with politics understood both as how power plays out and in relation to creating democratic forms of life in schools. Bakhtin’s writings on language, Thandeka’s conception of white racial identity, and Ellison’s essays on race and literature are used as theoretical starting points for explorations of how the lives and work of teachers and students in schools take shape in relation to a larger, white supremacist US society.

CI 5422 - Teaching Writing in Schools. This course explores the theory and practice of teaching writing in schools. Particular attention is paid to gender and race. We begin by exploring writing workshop approaches to the teaching writing, and then criticize and reconstruct these approaches with the help of scholars working from various critical perspectives, including feminist, critical pragmatist, poststructuralist, and critical whiteness studies.

News Stories

Brainerd Dispatch, "A missed opportunity to learn from Tim Lensmire", June 7, 2021

Brainerd Dispatch, "Backlash over speaker prompts cancellation of BHS staff diversity training." May 26, 2021

ShepherdExpress - “White Folks: Race and Identity in Rural America”, June 19, 2018