Friday Shares (3-17-23) – Teaching Children to Question…

It was a busy week as I was fortunate to work with a few different organizations supporting their work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. With this, my volume of reading dipped a little bit. However, I did come across a post on LinkedIn from Dr. Sharla Horton-Williams that made me reflect a bit on the focus of the work that I have been fortunate to support with a number of educators from across the state of Massachusetts during the 2022-2023 school year. After leading a session titled The R Word: Skills and Strategies for Engaging in Healthy Dialogue About Race, Dr. Horton-Williams shared the following 3 big truths:

  1. We have race-specific outcomes in nearly every context of society.
  2. You can’t assign race-neutral solutions to race-specific problems.
  3. You can’t develop race-based solutions to race-specific problems without engaging in healthy dialogue about race. 

Reading these truths reaffirmed the need to be explicit in this work, especially in times where there is growing fragility among many (white) people around terms like equitySEL, and woke.  It also reaffirmed the need to ensure that an accurate account of our country’s history is taught so that our students have a clear understanding of why there are disproportionate outcomes in every context of our society. 

Beverly Daniel Tatum noted the following in Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?:

“Children can learn to question whether demeaning or derogatory depictions of others are stereotypes. When reading books or watching television, they can learn to ask who is doing what in the storyline and why, who is in the role of the leader and who is taking orders, who or what is the problem and who is solving it, and who has been left out of the story altogether.”

If we are committed to actualizing mission statements and equity statements that highlight the importance of ALL students feeling a sense of belonging and equal access and opportunities to thrive academically, then this is the work that is entailed. 

Some other things I read this week that have me thinking

4 questions to ask when committing to equity and anti-racism in schools – This article by Newton North Principal Henry Turner and Lainie Rowell is another great resource for educators who are looking to actively commit to anti-racism work in their schools.

Culture wars: Why social-emotional learning is under attack in public schools – Vox – From the article: “Social-emotional learning has long been accepted as part of curriculums across the country, from pre-K through high school. It’s backed by a large body of research and decades of practice.” Two initial questions: Why is this suddenly a target? Who is most impacted by the removal of these supports in our schools? 

Some things I heard/watched this week that have me thinking

Stand – This documentary about former NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a look back at how Abdul-Rauf was ostracized for exercising his right to free speech. It definitely has some parallels to the Colin Kaepernick story.  It is very powerful to hear the insights of some of Abdul-Rauf’s former teammates and peers looking back at this 20 years later.  I remembered Chris Jackson’s amazing play from March Madness back in the late 80’s at LSU, but was unaware of his NBA journey and how it came to such a controversial end. Definitely, a must-watch!

Some of My Best Friends Are Podcast – Why We Love and Hate Hollywood – summary from the website: Khalil and Ben go to the movies with the perfect partner: Jacqueline Stewart, the director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. They talk about how movies shape our lives, and why representation matters… on the big screen and at awards shows (Oscars still so white).

Into America Podcast – UPDATE: Into Injustice for Breonna Taylor – This episode highlights the findings from the Justice Department’s investigation of the Louisville Police Department.

Friday Shares (3-10-23) – Indoctrination or whitewashing?

In the last few weeks, I have spent some time thinking about some of the words that have taken on a negative connotation for some Americans. Why has the meaning of the words Equity and Woke been changed in some circles to immediately infer negative intent on the part of someone who would invoke them? In addition, there are often concerns about indoctrination being tossed in with the negativity surrounding these words. These concerns have led to the whitewashing of AP African American Studies by the College BoardBook Bans in some classrooms and other measures that are being taken by those who espouse the theory that will prevent the indoctrination of students. 

Just type indoctrination into your Google machine and click on news and see all of the stories you get about fears of indoctrination. It honestly made me look up the definition of indoctrination to make sure I was not missing something in this conversation.  According to the Oxford Languages Dictionary, to indoctrinate someone means the following: “the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” I cannot help wondering how denying portions of our country’s history and taking away so many books written by BIPOC and LGTBQ authors that allow all students to see representations of themselves (and for the majority of white students to learn about people and perspectives that are so unfamiliar to them) is not the epitome of indoctrination. Learning things about our country and the perspectives of our neighbors that we are unfamiliar with and having the opportunity to think critically about these things is a gift and provides a pathway to build understanding, connections, and empathy.

Not allowing this is divisive.

Some things I read this week that have me thinking

Abraham Lincoln Was Assassinated in the Name of White Supremacy | by Tim Wise | Jan, 2023 | Medium

Why Doesn’t America Have Universal Health Care? One Word: Race – The New York Times

Crazy rich autocracies: What are they doing better than democracies? – The Boston Globe

Understanding the intersectionality of hate

Florida Book Bans: Why Are Shelves Empty? – PEN America

Book Bans: Frequently Asked Questions – PEN America

US educational authorities must resist ‘anti-woke’ censorship

Some things I heard this week that have me thinking

How to Write the Past & Future with Clint Smith – This is from Some of My Best Friends Are… podcast with Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Ben Austen.

POD SAVE THE PEOPLE podcast – Come to the Present Day (with Nick Brooks) – As we finish the first full week of Women’s History Month, Kaya Henderson highlights 7 Things You Didn’t Know were Invented by Black women and DeRay Mckesson talks with author Nick Brooks about his new YA book Promise Boys, a book set a prestigious charter school in D.C. where the Principal is murdered and three boys of color, who are considered the primary suspects, need to find out who the murderer is to clear their names.

Friday Shares (3-3-23) – Equity added to the naughty list

I caught this post from the Bright Morning Team’s Instagram account and was definitely taken aback by the fact that the word equity has been added to the “naughty list”  in some school districts. This situation really isn’t much of a surprise after hearing multiple people explain that they equality to equity.  Just a look at the definitions of the two words starts to paint a picture as to why we need equity before we can get to equality.  

Per the Oxford Languages Dictionary, the term equality is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” Equity, on the other hand, is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial.” From an educational standpoint, equity means each child receives what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential.  This is a very common practice in many schools where students receive interventions for reading, math, or social-emotional learning to help them build fluency and skills where there may be gaps. 

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed the word woke and the importance of looking at the history of the word and why its connotation is changing in some circles. It’s important to ask similar questions with the word equity. What has this word meant historically and why are we looking at it differently? It is hard not to imagine that if equity is something that is being pushed aside then those promoting this would prefer inequity because the fact is that if we cannot openly discuss equity then we are certainly not going to be undertaking actions that can start to tackle inequities. 

The whole discussion on equity reminds me of an article from the Fall 2021 issue of Learning for Justice by Cory Collins titled THE CURB-CUT EFFECT AND CHAMPIONING EQUITY.  The article highlights the activism in the early 1970’s that led to curb cuts being poured onto sidewalks and how it benefited both individuals in wheelchairs and many others. The article also discusses the efforts of activist and policy expert Angela Glover Blackwell who highlighted the curb-cut effect as a framework for understanding the community-wide benefits of any innovation specifically designed to achieve equity for an underserved group.

The fact that we are even entertaining thoughts about equity being a negative word also reminds me of the research of psychologist and author Jonathan Metzl from his book Dying of Whiteness. Metzl’s research shows concretely that “American human frailty is in part man-made, rendered all the more tenuous not by invasions of them, the immigrants or pathogens, but by political choices made by us, the white electorate.” He asks the following question in his conclusion: “What might American politics look like if white humility was seen not as a sellout or capitulation but as an honest effort to address seemingly intractable social issues?”

Circling back to the Bright Morning Team’s post, if you find yourself in a district that is suddenly skittish about using the word equity, the Bright Morning Team is offering scholarships for educators in these districts.

Speaking of terms many white people don’t want to hear, there was a lot to read about Systemic Inequities (dare I say racism) over the last week:

In 2022, Black farmers were persistently left behind from the USDA’s loan system

‘Rampant issues’: Black farmers are still left out at USDA – POLITICO

Fighting to Grow: Black farmers continue to battle systemic discrimination

Farming While Black, Sowing the Seeds of Racial Discrimination in Farming | The Takeaway | WNYC Studios

Report: Black married couples face heavier tax penalties : NPR

Long prison sentences are cruel and ineffective: here’s the proof – The Boston Globe

Mainstream education often neglects Black history. TikTok, Freedom Schools and other resources are bridging the gap.

A few other things I read this past week

#TeachTruth Syllabus – Zinn Education Project

Right-Wing Campaign to Block Teaching for Social Justice – Zinn Education Project

How to Talk About Book Bans With Friends, Library Patrons, and More: Book Censorship News, February 17, 2023

Dr. Seuss is a beloved icon who also drew some extremely racist stuff

The ‘Dilbert’ Cartoonist and the Durability of White-Flight Thinking – The New York Times

Lastly, one short video

Bryan Cranston on why Make America Great Again can be construed as racist

Friday Shares (2-24-23) – A look into the history of whiteness

As I was catching up on some episodes of NPR’s Throughline this week, I listened to the episode from February 9 which was titled The Whiteness MythThe episode features the University of Virginia Professor Amanda Frost who details the history of whiteness in the United States as it pertains to the ability to become a legal citizen in her book You Are Not American: Citizenship Stripping From Dred Scott To The Dreamers.

The episode got me into a deeper dive into the history of whiteness. Below are just a few of the excerpts I found meaningful and a list of resources I found along the way.

Let me say it again: Whiteness has a history whose meanings change. Neither scholars nor ordinary people have been able to agree upon the definition of white people — who is white and who is not — nor on the number of races that count as white. Disagreement reigns and has reigned since the modern scientific notion of human races was invented in the 18th-century EnlightenmentNota bene: invented in the 18th century. (Painter 2020)

What appears to have some people confused is the way anti-racists differentiate between white people, on the one hand, and whiteness as a social, political, and cultural idea, on the other…Whiteness is inherently oppressive and racist because the history of the concept has been intrinsically bound up with creating and maintaining a racial hierarchy. It has no history separate and apart from oppression. But the people called white are not the problem. In fact, the anti-racist position is that whiteness was something done to so-called white people, which those of us so-called should reject. (Wise 2021)


Friday Shares (2-17-23) – Do You Prefer Being Awake or Asleep?

As we continue to see more news about states banning books and stopping access to teaching uncomfortable truths about our country’s past, it is even more important to do some homework to understand the throughlines that are present. As Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings noted in her talk on Cultural Relevant Pedagogy and Primary Sources to the Minnesota Historical Society this past August, “Because we don’t study our history, we act like everything is new.”

With the Stop WOKE act in Florida, continuing to be a top news story after the College Board’s decision to white wash its African American Studies course curriculum, it seemed important to take a deeper dive into the origin of the word “woke.” What is the history of this word? Where did it originate? Why has the meaning become negative? 

From a literal standpoint, it would seem that being awake would be a good thing as opposed to the alternative, staying asleep. This is where the quote from Dr. Ladson-Billings comes into play. Due to the lack of a commitment to discuss our country’s full history, there is an obliviousness to the explicit details of the story.  Those who are in positions to make these decisions (mainly white men) remain unwilling to pursue a more accurate portrayal of how we as a nation have arrived at our current position. Could we avoid this ebb and flow of pushes to “reconstruct” our country to a place where all men and women are guaranteed the same rights? 

Back to the history of the word woke, which according to an article from the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund titled HOW WOKE WENT FROM “BLACK” TO “BAD” notes that the use of the word goes all the way back to the 1920’s, “the use of “woke” as an in-group signal urging Black people to be aware of the systems that harm and otherwise put us at a disadvantage is documented as far back as the 1920s.”  Author Michael Harriot adds the following: “When you look at the long arc of history and America’s reaction to the request for Black liberation – every time Black people try to use a phrase or coin a phrase that symbolizes our desire for liberation, it will eventually become a cuss word to white people.” (i.e. Black Power, Black Lives Matter)

The post concludes with the following two paragraphs:

“It’s hard to get people to demonize human beings and lives and history. But it’s easy to get them to demonize a word. And if you can use that word as a placeholder for those people, for caring about those people, then it’s easy to demonize instead of saying, ‘We’re just gonna stop caring about people,’” Harriot concludes.

Okayplayer Senior News and Culture Reporter Elijah Watson agrees, “When I think of political figures like (Governor) DeSantis and the rampant fight against critical race theory — you are really trying to erase history and trying to erase knowledge that we need to grow better as a people. The fact that you are trying to hide these experiences all for the comfort of your white fragility is troubling, harmful, and, most importantly, dangerous. And that’s literally everything that woke goes against.”

Do those in control want to be better? Maybe a first question should be what does better looks like to you?

Recommended Read:

Who’s Afraid of History? – This essay from Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. weighs in on the importance of teaching the truth about our country’s history. Dr. Gates notes, “School is one of the first places where society as a whole begins to shape our sense of what it means to be an American. It is in our schools that we learn how to become citizens, that we encounter the first civics lessons that either reinforce or counter the myths and fables we gleaned at home.”

Lessons the Right Wing Does Not Want Taught – From Zinn Education Project, this page highlights three examples of lessons where students are able to explore U.S. History and develop a deeper understanding of our country’s past.  The site encourages readers to “Judge for yourself: “indoctrination” or an exploration of U.S. history that helps students think for themselves and shape a more just future?”

The Forgotten History of Eugenics – This piece from rethinking schools asks provides some much needed background into the Eugenics movement in the United States. In addition it poses the following important questions: “What is the economic and political context in which the contemporary version of educational reform is being touted? What are the assumptions about student learning that fuel the current wave of testing? What are the effects of this testing on the lives of students and the educational climate of schools? How do these tests affect the equitable distribution of educational resources and opportunities between different school districts?” 

Whiteness As Property – From the Harvard Law Review (1993) – “Professor Cheryl Harris examines how whiteness, initially constructed as a form of racial identity, evolved into a form of property, historically and presently acknowledged and protected in American law.”

Childbirth Is Deadlier for Black Families Even When They’re Rich, Expansive Study Finds –
This interactive page from the New York Times highlights the study, published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research that highlights “The richest Black mothers and their babies are twice as likely to die as the richest white mothers and their babies.”  The data shows that out of every 100,000 births, 173 of the babies born to the richest white mothers die before their first birthday as compared to 350 babies born to the poorest white mothers die, and 437 babies born to the richest Black mothers die. The data comes from a California study of 2 million births to new mothers between 2007 and 2016. 

Recommended Watch/Listen:

Bill Russell: Legend – As a lifelong Celtics fan, I learned a lot from this two-part Netflix documentary about the racism Russell endured. It is interesting to me that I don’t remember a lot of talk about the fact that Russell was the first black NBA coach or that the Celtics were the first team to play five black players together at the same time. The documentary highlights that while Russell and his teammates were winning all those championships, the racism he and his family endured in his white suburban Massachusetts community was despicable. The film also shows the incredible Civil Rights work Russell did alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and others. If you only know about Bill Russell’s incredible basketball resume, you don’t know Bill Russell.  Check out the trailer below:

Democracy-ish – This week’s episode featured Carol Anderson, best-selling author and Professor of African American Studies at Emory University. Check out this clip from the Democracy-ish YouTube channel and the entire episode here

More Stuff You Won’t Learn In AP – Friday Shares (2-10-23)

My daughter is reading Orwell’s 1984 in her AP English class at her school and with all of the fighting in some states to white-wash the history that is being taught I can’t help reflecting a bit on the following quote from 1984:

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

Ultimately, a philosophical question we need to answer is – what is the purpose of education? Are we hoping that students will have their heads filled with “facts” and information or do we hope they will be presented with different points of view and discuss these points of view and ask questions to better understand people, places, and experiences that in which they are unfamiliar?

Another person who had their work cut from the AP curriculum was best-selling author and award-winning journalist Ta-Nehesi Coates. In the interview with Chris Hayes (available below) from this past week, he gave his opinion on what the goal of education should be: “The goal of education is enlightenment, some deeper understanding of humanity.”

In reference to the backlash against his work and others Coates added, “Backlash happens when those that most want to maintain the status quo are afraid.

Another great interview worth watching from this past week was one that Ari Velshi did with Howard University Professor Nikole Hannah-Jones regarding her thoughts on the continued backlash against her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project. Like Coates, she stressed the importance of students gaining a deeper understanding of our history. “I want my child to learn complicated and nuanced things,” she noted. Jones also noted the importance of discussing interpretations of our history. “To say I disagree or wouldn’t say that is different than saying kids shouldn’t be exposed to this.”

The Truth Behind the College Board’s Decision…

As the College Board continues to try to explain the how and why of its decision to cut out major topics from its AP African American studies curriculum, the information coming out seems pretty clear as to the intentions. The College Board is a money-making organization that want to continue to have the same impact it has had historically in all 50 states. When a number of these states are now passing legislation that makes it illegal to have topics that might be considered “divisive concepts,” the College Board does not want to see a big reduction in access to its materials. Instead of taking a stand, they decided to provide a comfortable curricular pathway for states and districts where there is no appetite for teaching an accurate account of the history of our country. The organization had a chance to show its values and it did…making money is the College Board’s number-one priority.

A post earlier this week by Phil Lewis outlines a clear contradiction to the statements the College Board made about the revisions in the AP African American studies curriculum not being influenced by Florida’s pushback against certain topics. Lewis notes: “If you’ll remember, the College Board said in a statement that the major revisions were “substantially complete” by December 22, 2022, several weeks before “Florida’s objections were shared.” But this letter claims that the nonprofit has been working with Florida since January 2022 — an entire year prior.”

Why A White-Washed History is so Harmful

As noted by UCLA History Professor Robin D. G. Kelley, another scholar who had his work “revised” out of the aforementioned AP course, in an interview with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in the New Yorker, “Racism actually damages all of our prospects and futures.…what Black studies is about, is trying to understand how the system works and recognizing that the way the system works now benefits a few at the expense of the many…And I think people could agree with me that that’s why we do this scholarship: because we’re trying to figure out a way to make a better future. You know, that’s the whole point. And if that’s subversive, then say it, but it’s definitely not indoctrination, because indoctrination is a state that bans books.”

Recommended Read

Street Data – by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan – This is the best education book I have read in quite some time! I keep wishing I had picked up this one sooner. Dr. Chris Emdin writes in the foreward, “Instead of listening to the families and young people we should be designing schools to serve, we listen to test numbers and test scores and choose to believe anything but the most valuable source of data in our buildings: human experience.” The book definitely provides the why and the how of radically changing how we do school improvement.

More Street Data resources:

Black History Uncensored by MSNBC’s Ja’han Jones on the ReidOut Blog

Jones is highlighting works by authors caught up in the conservative movement’s school bans. Here are the important people in our country’s history that have been highlighted so far:

Florida is Burning from Multicultural Classroom Blog

PEN America has created a list of the 176 books that were banned in Duval County Florida as of February 10.

Recommended Listen

Into America podcast – With 2023 being the 50th Anniversary of the birth of Hip-Hop, Trymaine Lee is diving into the history of Hip Hop this month. The first episode, Concrete Jungle, talks about how the concrete jungle of New York in the 1970s led to the birth and spread of hip-hop and features some of the pioneers of hip-hop. The second episode, Broken Glass Everywhere, discusses how Hip-Hop artists used their work to use their music to pushback against police harassment.

Stuff You Won’t Get In AP Class

It is hard to understand why the outrage about Critical Race Theory did not quickly subside when the actual architects of the framework had the opportunity to explain its origin and intentions: “to develop laws and policies that can dismantle structural inequities and systemic racism.” (NAACP) Is there another reason that people would intentionally misconstrue the meaning behind this theory or block current students from learning and thinking about it, other than to maintain the status quo? The following quote from Victor Ray certainly resonates here:

To continue to better understand things like CRT that I was never taught in school, I will endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of these “divisive concepts” that some are trying to stop students from learning about. This weekend, Kimberlé Crenshaw appeared on Ali Velshi’s show on MSNBC over the weekend to discuss the controversy over the College Board’s decision to revise its Advanced Placement African American History Curriculum and cut out the following topics:

  • The Movement for Black Lives
  • Institutional Racism
  • Structural Racism
  • Systemic Racism
  • Queer Theory
  • Prison Industrial Complex
  • Mass Incarceration

As part of this revision process, the work of Crenshaw, one of the architects of CRT, has been cast aside due to the ongoing misinformation campaign that defines CRT as a theory that is intended to make white kids feel bad about themselves. Crenshaw, a professor at both Columba and the University of California, points out in the interview with Velshi that “Critical Race Theory is not teaching people that they are individually responsible, it’s actually somewhat doing the opposite. It’s saying that these things are the inheritances of structures: structures of the economy, structures of the housing market, and structures of policing.”

Professor Crenshaw goes on to add, “If you look around and see inequality and don’t have an explanation for it, you are going to think the deficits are in the people and not the institutions.”

The entire interview, which is just under nine minutes, is below.

Friday Shares (2-3-23) – College Board’s Predictable Decision

While the news stories continue about the state of Florida pressuring the College Board regarding some of the content of its AP African American Studies curriculum, there are a few things worth highlighting. First, AP courses are elective courses…This means that no one is forced to take them.  Second, the College Board is probably best known for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) which Carl Brigham, a noted eugenicist, developed. Dr. Tracey Benson, a school leader, researcher, and the co-author of Unconscious Bias in Schools highlights the problematic nature of the College Board offering an AP African American Studies course in his post on medium DeSantis v. Black Studies (2023): New Dog, Old Tricks. He notes, “Ultimately, the pretty package of developing and offering an African American studies AP course represents putting cracked eggs in a flimsy basket.”

If College Board wanted to look anything but disingenuous in this endeavor, they would have had a much more transparent process in the curricular decisions that were made around this course. They could have modeled the type of collaborative process that is necessary when fear-based tactics are used to pressure educators. As Lauren Porosof notes in her ASCD article Navigating Tough Curriculum Conversations, we need to ask ourselves reflective questions like “Is this curriculum making people unsafe or merely uncomfortable? Who, exactly, is uncomfortable? What might be the source of that discomfort.”  Porosof also notes that it is pretty common for adults to “mischaracterize experiences as unsafe when they’re merely uncomfortable.”  

The article concludes with a subheading titled “A Manifestation of Values.” Here’s the first sentence: “Creating curriculum is always a matter of deciding what’s most important for students to know and do, and what anyone considers most important reflects that person’s values.” In this case, it reflects the values of both the College Board and the Governor of Florida. In Florida’s case, there is some irony in the fact that the state is simultaneously moving towards permitless carry of weapons for residents over 21 while at the same time reminding teachers they could face felony charges for unapproved books in their classrooms

Recommended Listen/Watch

Democracy-ish Podcast – New episodes drop each Thursday. Here is the description of the podcast from the Democracy-ish website: “Democracy-ish is a podcast dedicated to fighting for democracy and preserving your sanity in a time when both are under active assault by forces committed to white supremacy and stupidity. For far too long our body politic has been viewed through an all-white prism that does not represent the multiracial nation that is the United States of America. Hosts Danielle Moodie and Wajahat Ali always keep it real, blunt and entertaining as they discuss how we can achieve a multiracial democracy and cover all the ground left behind by mainstream media and seek to make sense out of the nonsense.”

  • Last week’s, Bustin America’s Racist Myths episode featured Princeton History Professor Kevin Kruse who discussed his new book Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past , a collection of essays by historians which addresses some of the biggest historical inaccuracies about our country. The book includes an essay on Voter Fraud by Carol Anderson, author of New York Times Best Seller White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and Professor of African American History at Emory University, and an essay on Police Violence by Elizabeth Hinton, author of America On Fire and Associate Professor of History in the Department of History and the Department of African American Studies at Yale, with a secondary appointment as Professor of Law at the Law School.
  • This week’s episode, Banning Black History, discusses the College Board’s decision to delete som portions of its AP African American History curriculum after criticism from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Recommended Read

A few more articles on the situation with the College Board  

A Framework for Resisting Book Bans – by Daniel Liou and Kelly Deits Cutler in ASCD’s Educational Leadership

This a great article on Resisting Book Bans! The authors share a constructive and proactive framework that ensures diversity, equity, inclusivity, and social justice are prioritized.

4 Ways Anti-Blackness Shows Up In DEI – by Janice Gassam Asare in Forbes

Did you know research done in 2019 found that over 80 percent of Chief Diversity Officers were white? Gassam Asare notes, “Not enough conversation centers around how those of us hired to help eliminate workplace inequities are instrumental in perpetuating harm.”  The four areas she goes in-depth on in the article are: expertise, pay inequity, deprioritizing black issues, and aggregating all non-white employees.

Poll: Parents Don’t Want Schools to Focus on Culture Wars – by Eesha Pendharkar in EdWeek

New data indicates that two-thirds of voters feel culture wars distract schools from their core mission of educating students. Despite this data, the truth is that some states are continuing to pass regulations around “divisive concepts” and banning books that limit access to diverse points of view and cause fear in educators.

U.S. Public Education is Under Attack. It’s Time to Take a Stand – From Lynn Jennings at the Education Trust last February.

The article is as relevant as it was a year ago when Jennings wrote: 

“Education equity advocates and allies must stand united once again, for divided we fall. We must actively resist legislation and state policies that force educators to whitewash U.S. history and deny students the literature that will help Black students see themselves in history and for White students to develop empathy for those who don’t look like them.”

Black Visibility Matters: The Inconvenient Truths of Bias and Erasure – by Kevin Myles of Learning for Justice.

This article is from this past September and Myles’s words about inclusivity certainly resonate this week:

“We must operate in a heightened state of awareness to ensure inclusivity in all realms. Failure to operate on this high frequency means failing ourselves as human beings as we yearn to make the world a better place in which tremendous gifts and opportunities are not wasted because of bias and anti-Blackness.”

Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors – by Rudine Sims Bishop in 1990. 

As some may be aware, Bishop is referred to as the “mother of multicultural literature” for her groundbreaking research in children’s literature. Check out the short video here with Professor Bishop discussing the importance of Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors. 

Additional Resources

ADL’s online bibliography of recommended children’s and young adult books about bias, bullying, diversity and social justice.

ADL’s Monthly Featured Books From This Month back to 2011

UCLA School of Law CRT Forward Tracking Project – The CRT Forward Tracking Project (FTP) identifies, tracks, and analyzes local, state, and federal measures that attempt to restrict access to truthful information about Critical Race Theory (CRT), race, and systemic racism. To demonstrate the breadth of anti-CRT measures across the country, FTP provides a comprehensive database of anti-CRT measures across all levels of government and varying types of official action.

Friday Shares (1-27-23) – When Things Fall Apart

The end of this week came with the video released in Memphis showing five police officers brutally beating a black man, Tyre Nichols, who later died of his injuries. A couple of articles I read as I try to learn more about this man whose life was ended prematurely due to another case of unnecessary violence by police against a black person in this country:

Tyre Nichols’ killing by police — why is this still happening?

Tyre Nichols remembered as beautiful soul with creative eye

Learning for Justice has reposted its resources for Discussing Race, Racism and Police Violence which was first created in 2014.  It outlines how to facilitate conversations with students while also not adding to the trauma black students may be feeling. 

Other relevant reading/listening connections

When Things Fall Apart : Throughline : NPR

This week’s Throughline podcast episode was certainly timely.  The episode noted the following “In the United States, polls indicate that many people believe that law and order is the only thing protecting us from the savagery of our neighbors, that the fundamental nature of humanity is competition and struggle.”

The episode goes onto share the Two Wolves story which is often attributed to the Cherokee: “An old man says to his grandson, there’s a fight going on inside me. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves.  One is evil, angry, greedy, jealous, arrogant and cowardly. The other is good, peaceful, loving, modest, generous, honest and trustworthy. These two wolves are also fighting within you and inside every other person, too. After a moment, the boy asks, which wolf will win? The old man smiles – the one you feed.”

The episode also highlights Veneer Theory, a theory based on the belief that humans are basically selfish and evil and need “civilization” to save them. The episode offers the contrasting points of view of 17th Century philosopher Thomas Hobbes and 18th Century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Hobbes was a proponent of a strong government and did not think human beings would be able to refrain from killing each other, or from devolving into a state of mutual destruction without such a government. Author Rebecca Solnit noted the following:

“Hobbes’s idea that somehow you need authoritarian structures to control people corresponds really well to imperialism and colonialism, people who saw themselves as civilization imposing order on chaos.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, believed the lives of human beings in the state of nature was actually pretty good. Dutch historian Rutger Bregman summed up Rousseau’s thinking as follows:

“We were quite healthy. We had lots of exercise. We had a varied diet, and it was pretty peaceful as well. But then everything went wrong when we gave up our liberty, and we invented private property, and we settled down in villages and cities, and we created this thing called civilization.”

Ultimately, as we hear the varying narratives about incidents and events where there are various points of view (i.e. the murder of a black man by police), what wolf is being fed? Can we have a full view without knowing our country’s history and without having a good sense of our own identity and privilege?  

Speaking of history

The news out of Florida this week was that Governor DeSantis is looking at limiting what topics we can allow our students to learn about. This article from NPR gets into the discussion about the proposed ban on African American Studies in the Sunshine State. NEA President Becky Pringle summed things up with the following statement:

“When we censor classes and whitewash lesson plans, we harm our students and do them a deep disservice.”

Getting back to the Throughline episode above, what wolf does this narrative feed?

News Literacy is more critical than ever

As I watch some news outlets try to rationalize the killing of Tyre Nichols, I am struck by the irony that this past week The News Literacy Project just completed their fourth annual National News Literacy Week.  This non-partisan organization has amazing resources to help educators guide students (and adults) in being savvier about what they are reading and watching. This probably should have been mandated for all students back in 1987 when the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine.  Here is a list of resources for students (and adults) that can help us all better meet the main objective of the News Literacy Project and “determine the credibility of news and other information and to recognize the standards of fact-based journalism to know what to trust, share and act on.”

Concluding this week’s writing with the following reminders that resonated from yesterday’s webinars from the News Literacy Project:

Opinion Journalism should meet the following standards:

  • Credible opinion pieces are based on verified facts and employ sound, logical reasoning.
  • Opinion journalism does not seek to avoid bias or ignore opposing views.

Common Propaganda Techniques

Simplification – Making a complicated idea seem very simple.

Exploration – Manipulating emotions rather than weighing facts.

Exaggeration – Making its cause seem stronger or more popular than it is.

Division – Attempting to broaden and exploit the gap between “us” and “them”

Get the entire poster on Common Propaganda techniques from Newseum.

How can we move past ambivalence in our diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work?

A Boston Globe Article this week highlighted a unique experiential learning program that started in 1971 called Sidetrack. This program was a partnership between the predominantly white suburban community of Lincoln, MA, and the predominantly black urban community of Roxbury. The program was comprised of two classes of 7th graders and each class would have 50 percent of its students from Roxbury and the other 50 percent of the class from Lincoln and the classes would each spend one half of the year in each of the two communities involved. 

Despite the fact that the program showed great promise, the critics won out and the program ended after a year due to a lack of enrollment of Lincoln students. As Peter Thomson, both the author of the article and a student in the program put it, “Sidetrack and its vision would get mired in suburban ambivalence and recede into history.”  He later adds, “The biggest challenge to school integration programs has always been getting white families and communities to buy in.”

What does an unwavering commitment to the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work look like? I mentioned this last month and shared a t-chart from the San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools on what this unwavering discourse sounds like between educators. I also wonder what this unwavering discourse sounds like and looks like in classrooms and among students, families, and community members…