Educate All Students, Support Public Education

June 30, 2020

Becoming Effective Anti-Racist White Teachers (#4)

Filed under: Anti-racism,White teachers — millerlf @ 2:26 pm

 We white educators must listen to, learn from and respect the communities who send their children to our classrooms. Many of us white educators in urban settings grew up in cultures where “whiteness” is the norm. This demands transformation on our part – a life-long effort. Following are some quotes and questions for reflection that may be helpful in that process.

“We can unknowingly strive to be a racist. We can knowingly strive to be an antiracist. Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist.

Educators should “…enact a revolutionary pedagogy of resistance that is profoundly anticolonial and anti-racist. This is education as a practice of freedom…and it means implementing practices that both challenge curricular and pedagogical biases that reinforce systems of domination like racism and sexism while simultaneously creating innovation ways to teach diverse groups of students.” Fania E. Davis, The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice.

“Teachers entering the field of education must know this history–White supremacy and anti-immigrant hate–, acknowledge this history, and understand why it matters in the present-day context of education, white rage and dark suffering.” Bettina L. Love. We Want to Do More Than Survive.

“As teachers, we begin from the premise that schools and classrooms should be laboratories for a more just society than the one we live in. Unfortunately, too many schools are training grounds for boredom, alienation, and pessimism. Too many schools fail to confront the racial, class, and gender inequities woven into our social fabric. Teachers are often simultaneously perpetrators and victims, with little control over planning time, class size, or broader school policies—and much less over the unemployment, hopelessness, and other “savage inequalities” that help shape our children’s lives.” Editors of Rethinking Schools’ New Teacher Book.

Questions to ask ourselves as educators:

How do I ensure my curriculum is a “practice of freedom”, antiracist, engaging and liberating?

What are steps I can take to connect to the culture of my students, their families and guardians, and their communities?

In what ways can I work collaboratively to examine my work and its successes, but also to self-assess my thinking and practice to face my racial bias, mistakes and areas for improvement?

How can I intervene in any mistreatment of students I see?

From the belief that most educators want equity for their students, how can I work collaboratively to change the culture of my district?

Some white teachers and activists see themselves as the “most woke”. There is not room for arrogance in this work. How can I address this in my self-reflection and with others?

June 29, 2020

White Savior Complex and the White Hero Teacher (#3)

Filed under: Anti-racism,White teachers — millerlf @ 2:32 pm

Comments by Christopher Emden

What ‘white folks who teach in the hood’ get wrong about education

Christopher Emdin teaches at Columbia University Teacher College and is Associate Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia. He identifies a pervasive narrative in urban education: a savior complex that gives mostly white teachers in minority and urban communities a false sense of saving kids.

“The narrative exotic-izes youth and positions them as automatically broken,” he says. “It falsely positions the teacher, oftentimes a white teacher, as hero.”

He criticizes the “white hero teacher” concept as an archaic approach that sets up teachers to fail and further marginalizes poor and minority children in urban centers. In his book, “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too,” Emdin draws parallels between current urban educational models and Native American schools of the past that measured success by how well students adapted to forced assimilation. Instead, he calls for a new approach to urban education that trains teachers to value the unique realities of minority children, incorporating their culture into classroom instruction.

I think framing this hero teacher narrative, particularly for folks who are not from these communities, is important. The model of a hero going to save this savage other is a piece of a narrative that we can trace back to colonialism; it isn’t just relegated to teaching and learning. It’s a historical narrative and that’s why it still exists because, in many ways, it is part of the bones of America. It is part of the structure of this country. And unless we come to grips with the fact that even in our collective American history that’s problematic, we’re going to keep reinforcing it. Not only are we setting the kids up to fail and the educators up to fail, but most importantly, we are creating a societal model that positions young people as unable to be saved.

I always ask my teachers why do they want to teach and I can tell by their responses how closely the white savior narrative is imbued in who they are or who they want to be. I always say, if you’re coming into a place to save somebody then you’ve already lost because young people don’t need saving. They have brilliance, it’s just on their own terms. Once we get the narrative shifted then every teacher can be effective, including white folks who teach in the hood.

I know that folks hear the title of my book “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too,” and get upset. I’ve got folks who say to me “that’s inherently racist.” But no, because it’s a reality. The overwhelming number of teachers in an urban setting are white, come from different communities and are of different socioeconomic classes. Why can’t we name that? If we don’t name that then we’ll continue to have this disconnect between teachers and students. I want white teachers to teach in the hood, believe or it not. I’m for that. But I want them to do it in a way that makes them effective and not burnt out. Or have them do it and not think negatively about young people. Too many are teaching in the hood for 2 or 3 years, having bad experiences teaching students of color, leaving, then ending up being a lawyer or policy maker who inherently has these biases against young people of color. That reinforces the flawed structures that we have in place already. I’m about teachers being trained to be effective regardless of race.

We need more teachers of color, that especially more black males will benefit teaching and learning. But the title of the book is purposefully saying “and the rest of y’all too.” I think that we are functioning within a system that has white folks who are ineffective, but that same system creates black teachers with white supremacist ideologies and they’re just as dangerous as white folks who don’t understand culture.

Black teachers with white supremacist ideologies [are] just as dangerous as white folks who don’t understand culture.

Part of a system of oppression is allowing the folks who have the power to create change feel as though they’re responsible for keeping the narrative. So a lot of black teachers go into urban schools and within the first 3 months they become the king or queen of discipline. Why? Because the system sees a black face as a person who’s supposed to help them meet their goals. But I don’t want to meet those goals; I want kids to feel free. I want those kids to feel what emancipation is like in those classrooms, to feel like they can be themselves, their culture to be expressed. Just a black face in the classroom helps the kids to connect, but it’s not enough if that black person feels their role is to be the enforcer of a white folk’s pedagogy.

The repercussions of continuing urban education as is are around us every day from criminal justice to engagement with the political process, to higher incarceration rates and low graduation rates. The outcomes are right in our faces today. I’m not absolving communities from blame or parents from blame. But we know that schools that have more zero tolerance policies, youth are more likely to get involved with the criminal justice system. We know that schools that have these hyper rigorous approaches to pedagogy, youth are less likely to take advanced placement classes. So the place where the magic should happen is inside the classroom.

It’s not a tale of doom and gloom. I’m simply saying this is why it’s bad but there’s a way forward. And the way forward doesn’t cost a million dollars! It’s free! Teaching differently is free. Going into the communities and finding out how to do things better is free man! It’s not an issue of finance or an issue of wealth. It’s an issue of identifying that what we’ve been doing before just ain’t working.

Parts of this article is from a 2016 interview for NPR by  Kenya Downs

Kenya Downs is the digital reporter and producer for PBS NewsHour’s Race Matters and education verticals.

June 28, 2020

Assimilation (White Teachers, White Activists: Anti-racist Work #2)

Filed under: Anti-racism,White teachers — millerlf @ 9:52 am

If you are not prepared to change your thinking, you are not prepared to make real change.”

“The teachers of Black youth must believe in them. They must have faith in them and their community. They must trust them and encourage them and defend them.”  W.E.B. Du Bois

It is imperative that we break the assimilationist goal of colonial education in America. It leads to the school-to-prison pipeline. It reduces our students to fill the cheap labor force that serves massive exploitation by America’s moneyed classes.

Understand Internal Colonization

Kelly and Altbach define “classical colonialism” as the process when one separate nation controls another separate nation (3). However, another form of colonization has been present in America for many years. The treatment of the Native Americans falls into the category of “internal colonization,” which can be described as the control of an independent group by another independent group of the same nation-state (Kelly and Altbach 3). Although the context of the situation is different, the intent of the “colonizers” is identical. This includes the way in which the educational system is structured. Katherine Jensen indicates that “the organization, curriculum, and language medium of these schools has aimed consistently at Americanizing the American Indian” (155). She asks: “If education was intended to permit native people mobility into the mainstream, we must ask why in over three centuries it has been so remarkably unsuccessful?” (155). In a supporting study of 1990, census statistics indicate that American Indians have a significantly lower graduation rate at the high school, bachelor, and graduate level than the rest of Americans.

Assimilation and Colonial Education

The idea of assimilation is important to colonial education. Assimilation involves the colonized being forced to conform to the cultures and traditions of the colonizers. Gauri Viswanathan points out that “cultural assimilation [is] … the most effective form of political action” because “cultural domination works by consent and often precedes conquest by force” (85). Colonizing governments realize that they gain strength not necessarily through physical control, but through mental control. This mental control is implemented through a central intellectual location, the school system, or what Louis Althusser would call an “ideological state apparatus.” Kelly and Altbach argue that “colonial schools…sought to extend foreign domination and economic exploitation of the colony” (2) because colonial education is “directed at absorption into the metropole and not separate and dependent development of the colonized in their own society and culture” (4). Colonial education strips the colonized people away from their indigenous learning structures and draws them toward the structures of the colonizers (see Frantz Fanon).

Much of the reasoning that favors such a learning system comes from supremacist ideas of the colonizers. Thomas B. Macaulay asserts his viewpoints about British India in an early nineteenth century speech. Macaulay insists that no reader of literature “could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.” He continues, stating, “It is no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England.” The ultimate goal of colonial education is this: “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” While all colonizers may not have shared Macaulay’s lack of respect for the existing systems of the colonized, they do share the idea that education is important in facilitating the assimilation process.

The Impact of Colonial Education

Often, the implementation of a new education system leaves those who are colonized with a limited sense of their past. The indigenous history and customs once practiced and observed slowly slip away (see Paul Gilroy: The Black Atlantic). Growing up in the colonial education system, many colonized children enter a condition of hybridity, in which their identities are created out of multiple cultural forms, practices, beliefs and power dynamics. Colonial education creates a blurring that makes it difficult to differentiate between the new, enforced ideas of the colonizers and the formerly accepted native practices. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a citizen of the once colonized Kenya, displays his anger about the damage that colonial education wreaks on colonized peoples. He asserts that the process “annihilate[s] a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. It makes them see their past as one wasteland of non-achievement and it makes them want to distance themselves from that wasteland. It makes them want to identify with that which is furthest removed from themselves” (Decolonising the Mind 3).

Not only does colonial education eventually create a desire to disassociate with native heritage, but it affects the individual and the sense of self-confidence. Thiong’o believes that colonial education instills a sense of inferiority and disempowerment with the collective psyche of a colonized people. In order to eliminate the harmful, lasting effects of colonial education, postcolonial nations must connect their own experiences of colonialism with other nations’ histories. A new educational structure must support and empower the hybrid identity of a liberated people.

Author: John Southard, Fall 1997

June 23, 2020

White Teachers, White Activists: Anti-racist Work (#1)

Filed under: Anti-racism,White teachers — millerlf @ 4:10 pm

If you are not prepared to change your thinking, you are not prepared to make real change.”

“The teachers of Black youth must believe in them. They must have faith in them and their community. They must trust them and encourage them and defend them.”  W.E.B. Du Bois

The Philadelphia group BAR WE (Building Anti-Racist White Educators) Developed guidelines for white teachers and white activists for approaching anti-racist work.

  1. White people have a responsibility to work with other white people to build anti-racist identities and practices. It is not the burden of people of color to do that work for us. We can (and should) talk critically about racism and white supremacy, even if there isn’t a person of color in the room.
  2. True anti-racism training must be ongoing, and it must involve networks to support us in this practice. If we are going to confront racism and white supremacy in our lives and work, we are going to have to get uncomfortable and deeply question long-held beliefs. We’ll need to build and maintain relationships with other folks in the work with us. While one-off implicit bias trainings are a useful step, they are not enough. The work of building identities and practices that push back against white supremacy in our society must be an ongoing process.
  3. This work must be accountable to the people of color who find themselves targeted by racism on a daily basis. Though we as white people can challenge each other, this work should not and cannot be divorced from the experiences of people of color. We must be open and transparent about this work and these conversations with our colleagues of color.
  4. Humility must be central to this work. We must learn from and listen to people of color, especially our colleagues and students. We should also approach our work with fellow white educators from the perspective of fellow learners, rather than as experts.
  5. Talking about racism and white supremacy isn’t enough—conversation alone won’t change the oppressive conditions people of color face daily. However, discussion is an essential part of this work. Anti-blackness is something that we have learned over the course of our lives, and unlearning will take a lot of introspection and conversation.

June 13, 2020

Resolution to End Police Contract with Milwaukee Public Schools

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 8:10 am

Milwaukee Public Schools: Resolution Advanced by Directors Paula Phillips and Sequanna Taylor

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Public Schools for many years has contracted with the Milwaukee Police Department for School Resource Officers (SROs), the original intent of which was that they would be deployed in schools to respond proactively in the event of an emergencies or other situations requiring a police presence; and

WHEREAS, Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Police Department have been collaborating since 2005 to provide a police presence at high schools between 3:00 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to provide dedicated patrol and presence at such school-related events as dismissal, social/sports events, gatherings of outsiders, etc.; and

WHEREAS, Wisconsin Statutes, §119.55, Youth service centers, truancy abatement and burglary suppression, states as follows,

  • (a) The [school] board shall establish one or more youth service centers for the counseling of children who are taken into custody under s. 938.19 (1) (d) 10. for being absent from school without an acceptable excuse under s. 118.15. The board shall contract with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee for the operation of the centers.

(b) The board shall establish 2 youth service centers under par. (a).

  • The board shall pay the city a sum sufficient to pay the costs of salaries and fringe benefits of 4 law enforcement officers to work on truancy abatement and burglary suppression on a full-time basis.

WHEREAS, The Milwaukee Board of School Directors has declared that, as part of the vision of the Milwaukee Public Schools (Board Governance Policy BG 1.01 and Administrative Policy 1.01)

Schools will be safe, welcoming, well-maintained, and accessible community centers meeting the needs of all. Relevant, rigorous, and successful instructional programs will be recognized and replicated. The district and its schools will collaborate with students, families, and the community for the benefit of all; and

WHEREAS, Of 74,633 students in MPS in 2018-19, 89.9% (approximately 67,095) were students of color; and

WHEREAS, Research has shown that Black students are disproportionately more likely to come into contact with police in their neighborhoods than are other students; and

WHEREAS, Research has also shown that increased exposure of our students to police can have an effect on student performance due to the implications of the police presence that already exists in the communities in which they live; and

WHEREAS, The recent violent deaths of Alvin Cole, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, all African-American citizens, has re-ignited long-time fears and resentments about the attitudes of police departments across the United States toward African-Americans and other peoples of color; and

WHEREAS, Research has long proven that reduced classroom sizes, restorative practices, engaging culturally relevant curriculum, and mental health supports, do create safe, healthy, and joyful learning environments;

WHEREAS, In May of 2015, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors adopted Resolution 1516R-001, otherwise known as the Black Lives Matter Resolution, directing that

  • our district and schools and classrooms create safe spaces for dialog and support on issues faced in communities and schools related to policing, the educational process, and improving school safety;
  • quality restorative justice practices be expanded and deepened district-wide, with the goal of training all staff in those practices;
  • the district create an advisory council comprising community, parents, educators, and student to assist in reviewing, strengthening, and creating curriculum and policy related to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, the efforts to derail the school-to-prison pipeline, the broader historical experience of the Black community, and present schooling experience;
  • the above advisory council shall assist in implementing policy and curriculum and establishing quality dialog with staff, parents, students, and community;
  • student leaders of all types be called on to participate in advancing this discussion and implementation;
  • the effort includes discussions of biases, racial microaggressions, school-wide data on race and discipline, fears, cultural ignorance, and stereotypes of Black youth; and be it
  • these discussions lead to training of school staffs in methods of de-escalation, mindfulness, creating a culture of trust, and cultural relevance;
  • one of the goals of this process is be to strengthen bringing community into our schools and to strengthen schools as centers of support for communities; and
  • the district reviews its programs that may be contributing to unfair, unequal power relationships with community and school policing;

WHEREAS; In July of 2019, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors adopted Resolution 1920R-001, regarding Restorative Practices, directing that

  • MPS shall train all staff and students in selected cohort schools over a five-year period in restorative mindset and the use and application of Restorative Practices and ongoing training will continue to be offered to other interested district staff; a
  • That MPS shall develop a centrally located Restorative Practices Team, comprising four full-time Restorative Practice Coaches, who work in coordination with the Equity Specialist, the Violence Prevention Team and the departments of Black & Latino Male Achievement, Curriculum & Instruction, Research, Assessment & Data, School Safety, Strategic Partnerships & Customer Service and Student Services to support a cohort of schools in implementing a whole-school approach, to provide training and coaching in the use of materials and resources;
  • That this team shall collaborate with the Equity Specialist, the Violence Prevention Team and the departments of Black & Latino Male Achievement, Curriculum & Instruction, Research, Assessment & Data, School Safety, Strategic Partnerships & Customer Service and Student Services to review and develop discipline practices, policies, and procedures that shall incorporate the restorative framework in all of our systems related to behavior, culture, and classroom and school management; and

WHEREAS; we are uncertain of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the MPS district’s funding and are requiring the prioritization of funding towards resources needed to make schools safe; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors terminates immediately all contracts with the Milwaukee Police Department for the services of School Resource Officers and other personnel; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors directs the Superintendent to cease any further negotiations with the Milwaukee Police Department for the services of School Resource Officers and other personnel; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That that the Board of Directors directs the Superintendent to cease any contracts to buy or maintain criminalizing equipment including metal detectors, facial recognition software and social media monitoring software

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Milwaukee Board of School Directors directs the Superintendent to develop recommendations for utilizing money previous allocated for contract for serving and protecting the safety of the District’s students, with implementation to begin immediately with the 2020-21 school year; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That this plan is to be developed in cooperation with the advisory council established by the Black Lives Matter Resolution, the MPS Restorative Practices team, the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention, community partners such as the Running Rebels Violence Free Zone teams, and any other community-based organizations who may provide valuable input into the process; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Superintendent is to present these recommendations to the Board for its approval by the August 2020 board cycle; and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board directs its Governmental Relations Services to lobby the Wisconsin Legislature and the Governor to repeal Wis. Stat. §119.55.

June 11, 2020

Statement of support:

Larry Miller, President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors

I support the resolution put forward by Milwaukee Public Schools Board Representatives Phillips and Taylor, calling for ending contracts with the Milwaukee Police Department and deepening student-centered policies adopted in the 2015 Black Lives Matter resolution. I have called for a Special Meeting of the Board to be held June 18, 2020 at 5:30 P.M., for the resolution to be heard.

As eight of the MPS School Board members said in a June 5th statement, “… our schools and classrooms must be safe spaces for dialogue, listening to students, and support on the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. We have a responsibility to end the school-to-prison pipeline and ensure that the curriculum is anti-racist and culturally relevant.”

In that statement, we also stated, “…we call upon the Milwaukee Police Department to publicly renounce the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and other aggressive measures against peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment rights.” The history of policing in Milwaukee requires the same scrutiny and deep structural changes being proposed in Minneapolis and in other cities and states.

I support the freedom marchers in Milwaukee, across the state, the nation, and around the world. MPS students, staff, parents, and Board members, have joined the marches and proudly carried the banner of “Black Lives Matter,” opposing police brutality and calling for ending systems of oppression.

Saving funding from police contracts will help the district to better support students by providing more nurses, psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors, and mental health and trauma specialists. However, we recognize that the amount of savings will fall far short of the funding needed by our schools to meet our students’ needs, but it is a start in the right direction. It is time for all to get involved in demanding the level of investment our children deserve.

June 12, 2020

Never Forget Freedom Fighters!

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter — millerlf @ 3:02 pm
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is standing up to police near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

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