Friday Finds 10/21/22

One of the positives of being on sabbatical this year is having the time to do more reading, writing, listening and reflecting on how we can ensure more inclusive school communities where ALL members feel welcome and have a sense of belonging. We cannot create these communities without talking about systemic inequities (i.e. systemic racism) and creating actions to dismantle these systemic inequities.

As part of this writing and reflective process, I want to share some of the great books, videos, podcast episodes, and social media posts I am finding that can benefit others who share the same commitment to this critical work. The list below is the first of what I hope will be a regularly occurring publication here.

Podcasts

Leading Equity Podcast (Episode 266) – Why Aren’t We Talking About Eugenics in School Assessments with Dr. Byron McClure and Dr. Kelsie Reed – This episode definitely blew my mind with some of the information about the well-known cognitive and academic assessments (i.e. Stanford-Binet, SAT) that we have used in schools for decades. Dr. Sheldon Eakins’s guests for this episode were Dr. Byron McClure and Dr. Kelsie Reed, are both Nationally Certified School Psychologists who shared their insights on some of the systemic inequities that have been perpetuated in schools due to the reliance on these biased assessments. They also discussed the damage that we as educators do when we utilize deficit-based thinking and language and highlighted their new book Hacking Deficit Thinking.

Into America Podcast with Trymaine Lee (Episode 185) – W. Kamau Bell on Talking With White People About Race – In this episode, Trymaine talks with comedian W. Kamau Bell who uses his skills as a comedian to create entry points into conversations about race. Bell also references a new book he has co-written with Kate Schatz titled Do The Work! The book is a workbook for people who want to commit to actions around creating a more anti-racist world and breaking down the structures of White Supremacy Culture. The book is on order, so stay tuned for more on this! Bell describes the intention of the book as follows:

“Reading the book is not the work. The work is in understanding that the book is trying to say, unless you’re engaged in a regular anti-racism, like a process of creating anti-racism, then you’re not really doing the work. That’s the main message. So I would imagine every day if I did it, and I was like, can you tell me something you did today that created less racism in the world?”

Books

Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad- by Matthew F. Delmont – Add this to the long list of things they did not teach me (or anyone else) in school. The following quote from the Introduction to the book highlights much of the reason why:

From Life’s pictorial history of World War II in 1946 to Saving Private Ryan in 1998, white soldiers were presented as the iconic figures of the war. It’s hard to overstate the depth of the disrespect to the Black veteran whose sacrifice has been redacted from history.

Hacking Deficit Thinking – by Dr. Byron McClure and Dr. Kelsie Reed – This book was referenced above, but I wanted to share a quote from the introduction to this one as well. The following is the definition of Deficit thinking from the authors:

Deficit thinking is a distorted lens, focused on student weaknesses, that blames students and their families for student difficulties rather than acknowledging the impact of our practices and broader structural inequities.

One last resource I want to share is one that that ties together nicely with the theme of Hacking Deficit Thinking. The chart below is one that was shared on Twitter by the Due East Equity Collaborative and it highlights positive lannguage that we can use to discuss students as opposed to some of the deficit terms we sometimes fall back on.

Columbus in America from Zinn Education Project

As we reflect on today’s holiday which goes by different names in different states, it is important to reflect on the reasons that some have backed away from celebrating a day for Columbus. My question as I learn more about historical figures and events from history is why we are taught myths about “the founding” of this land that we live on and so many of the events that followed?

For more information on a more accurate portrayal of what occurred when Europeans “discovered” a so-called new land that had actually been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, check out the Smithsonian Museum’s page titled Unlearning Columbus Day Myths: Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the resources available at Native Knowledge 360.

My History with CRT

I still remember the first time I heard the acronym CRT. I was sitting in a high school class during my sophomore year back in the early 1980’s. The teacher told us that the box in front of us was a CRT. Imagine a CRT sitting in front of students in a classroom today!

For those of you who were not in classrooms back in those days, I am referring to a Cathode Ray Tube monitor. It was a big heavy box that acted as our computer screen back in the days of floppy disks and CPU’s or (Central Processing Units). Oh, those were the days!

Anyway, acronyms and computers have both evolved over the last 40 years or so since I left that high school classroom. Who among us could have predicted the volatility of the acronym CRT? Ironically, another one of the terms that CRT is an acronym for has also been around since about that time I was sitting in front of that monitor in my high school class. That term is Critical Race Theory, and it seems to upset many people as much as the use of profanity.

Honestly, as a school administrator with over 20 years of experience, I was unfamiliar with the term in 2020 when it started making the news and concerns started to be raised that schools were teaching Critical Race Theory. As phone calls started to trickle in from concerned parents, administrators would ask concerned parents and citizens to tell them about a specific lesson that emphasized CRT, but the concerns typically were more about anxiety related to this new term that schools had somehow seamlessly integrated into their teaching.

The timing of this really was a headscratcher since most schools across the country were on the heels of a year or more of fully remote learning due to Covid and nearly every parent in every district across the country had the opportunity to see and/or listen to lessons as teachers streamed their classes in real-time. Interestingly enough, during that entire year, there was no talk about CRT. But just a short time later, this term became the ire of many and through some act of magic, educators across the country were espousing it.

Pardon my sarcasm, but if you have experience working in schools you know that rolling out a new initiative, like the teaching of Critical Race Theory is not like hitting the on switch for a light. It takes a great deal of time to support educators in the implementation of a new math curriculum, nevermind an area of study defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Critical race theory (CRT) is a cross-disciplinary examination, by social and civil-rights scholars and activists, to explore how laws, social and political movements, and media shape, and are shaped by, social conceptions of race and ethnicity.

While I would be in full support of CRT being taught to students in schools, it would take a great deal of time and support for school districts to begin this work.

For a little more background on Critical Race Theory, check out the Legal Defense Fund’s website for some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about CRT. For a great deal more information on CRT, grab a copy of On Critical Race Theory by Victor Ray It is a very accessible look at CRT and shows clearly how the explicit teaching of the topic would benefit all of us.

Quotes I’m Pondering from The Sum of Us Podcast

All of the quotes below come from Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us podcast. You can check it out on both Spotify and Apple. It was an honest and uplifting look at some of the struggles that we have endured as a nation due to systemic racism. I highly recommend it!

But it’s become clear to me that it’s impossible to see where we’re standing if we don’t know what steps, we took to get here. And looking back to the worst parts of our history, well, it helps us know what we’re up against today.

To me to see political campaigns to ban books and oust Educators in this country just because they teach about sexism and racism, the goal seems to be to scare white parents and the tax dollars that follow them away from an integrated public good, even cutting School budgets and defunding libraries for teaching our full history for being too inclusive. So often, people want to cast the debate, in zero-sum terms, it’s black history versus American history, it’s tell the truth or protect children’s fragile psyches.

We can give people today a moral choice and say, there is a tradition of Heroes that is as real as the tradition of Oppression and Injustice and that you can’t understand one without the other. Teaching our full history allows us to ask, do you want to be like the hundreds of students in the black and white photograph yelling at Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old black girl as she tries to integrate a public school? Or do you want to be like the hundreds of white students who boarded buses for the South to register black voters during Freedom Summer?

Nothing about our situation is inevitable or immutable. But you can’t solve a problem with the consciousness that created the antiquated belief that some groups of people are better than others.

Since this country’s founding, we haven’t allowed our diversity to be our superpower and the result is that the United States is not more than the sum of its disparate parts but it could be But these stories have shown me, is that if it were, all of us would Prosper, we are so much more when the we in We, the People is not some of us, but all of us.

We are greater than and greater for the sum of us.

A Quote About Good Teaching

I recently listened to a past episode of the Leading Equity Podcast from January of 2022 where Dr. Sheldon Eakins spoke to Dr. Geneva Gay, one of the leading experts in multicultural education. Here is an excerpt that I have been dwelling on:

“There is no such thing as universal good teaching because somebody determines what constitutes good teaching and those somebodies are cultural beings. Their culture and their notions about what good teaching is and learning have been contaminated by their own cultural filters.”

When We Know Better…

A while back I wrote a post titled For My Children, Seeing All Sides which talked about the importance of supporting students to be able to deal with the barrage of information coming at them through various forms of media so that they are able to weed out the endless disinformation that is being spread.

Where do you go to find information that you feel is believable? Why do you think that these sources are reliable? Is it just because you tend to find things that support what you already thought?

As I reflect on many of the conversations from this past week’s Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ Annual Executive Institute, disinformation is also plaguing adults as school leaders are spending increasing amounts of time talking about Critical Race Theory and ensuring parents that it is not something being taught in schools. In fact the Massachusetts Association of School Committees tried to limit the concerns some parents have by putting out a short document pointing out what Critical Race Theory is and that it is not part of our curriculum frameworks in the state.

The fact of the matter is that it is our job is to teach kids to think critically not to teach them what to think. Attempts to limit the truth that we can share concerning the atrocities of our country’s past will only ensure that they continue.

Why would we endorse this?

We need to support our students as they read all of the sides and think for themselves…

This way, they will be able to affirm the wonderful words of Maya Angelou which highlight that “when you know better, (you) do better.”

Post #2 of 2021…Just Begin Again

What’s going to make you stronger, if the inner voice in your head is an enemy or an ally?

Dr. Kristen Neff

One of the things I got better at in 2020 was mindfulness and spending a little time meditating. The biggest takeaway from this practice has been to “just begin again” when things go off track. As someone who traditionally would spend a lot of time with self-loathing and being hard on myself when things would not go according to plan, I have finally realized that easing up a bit and showing myself a little compassion is much more productive than getting mired down in guilt.

The latest episode of the Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie Santos, Dump Your Inner Drill Sergeant, really highlighted the importance of self-compassion. Dr. Santos was joined by Dr. Kristen Neff, an expert on the topic of self-compassion, who noted that many people are more supportive of their friends than they are to themselves. It seems ridiculous that we would be so amenable to alleviating the suffering of others, but unwilling to give ourselves a break. Neff recommended that we reframe our missteps and think about them the same way we would if one of our family members came to us after a mistake or failure.

The best part about booting your inner drill sergeant out of the equation is that you will actually have more compassion to show others. The quote below from Dr. Neff is the one that I am going to try to keep at the forefront of my mindfulness practice.

In 2021…I will do better than 18

“The most difficult thing in the world is to write…If you are going to do it, you should be told it is one of the most difficult things to do.”

Jerry Seinfeld on Episode #485 of the Tim Ferris podcast.

As I think about things I would like to do more of in 2021, writing is at the top of the list. Looking back on 2020, I only made 18 posts in this space. There are a number of reasons/excuses and I don’t think it will really be helpful to list them. What I do know is writing is something that fills my bucket, much like exercise. So, I am just going to begin…

In past years I have set lofty goals and then dealt with the guilt of coming up short. Fortunately, the bar has been that was set for writing in 2020 was a low one. I know I can beat 18!

A few other things I will do more of in 2021:

  • Show more gratitude
  • Watch my nutrition
  • Continue to grow as an antiracist human and leader

More to come…

What Do You Mean By “The Media”?

Someone told me today that “the media” is blowing things out of proportion. As I listened and asked a follow-up question, all I could think of was the contradiction taking place in this conversation and in so many these days. The fact of the matter was that this individual did not really have a problem “the media,” what they had a problem with was any media source that disagreed with their point of view.

By Sollok29 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

We need to be clear that media is everywhere and where you choose to get your information matters. Are we taking in factual information or someone’s hypothesis of a situation? Are we reading facts or opinions? Are we watching a news show or a talk show?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about the importance of taking in all sides of a story or event. We cannot move forward constructively if we are not willing to look at other points of view and make informed decisions for ourselves. If we just cling to one source that maintains the narrative that we want to hear, then we will never really be well-informed.

For My Children, Seeing All Sides

There is a lot of misinformation floating around right now. I know we have talked recently about both misinformation and disinformation. Where do you go to find information that you feel is believable? Why do you think that these sources are reliable? Is it just because you tend to find things that support what you already thought?

It is more important than ever that we check our sources and spend a little time reading stories from multiple sources. With this in mind, I wanted to point out a site called All Sides. It will help you gain some perspective on the major news stories we are hearing about by providing articles from conservative sources (the right), liberal sources (the left), and more balanced sources (the center).

Check out the great chart below that helps illustrate what I am talking about. Make sure you are reading varied perspectives.