In Education as Reeducation. Hess and Addison call out organizations and educators for embracing “junk science and performative wokeness.” So much in that statement alone, I almost don’t know where to begin. I’ll start with a simple statement: Men who’ve enjoyed lives of white privilege, never having been harassed by police for the color of their skin, nor thrown out of a K-12 classroom because they looked at the white teacher funny, should steer clear of using words like “wokeness” because they have no clue. Period.
They allege that UnboundEd, an organization which I know and whose leadership I greatly respect “slathers its Common Core workshops with race-based rancor and junk science.” I’ve been to UnboundEd’s Standards Institute. Were I still a classroom practitioner, it would have transformed my teaching.
To label what is taught, from stage and in classroom, as anything based in malice or hatred is not only myopic, but ignorant: ignorant of the lives our children of color and poverty face on a day to day basis in America’s public schools; ignorant of the challenges faced by leaders to provide high quality, rigorous instruction. We live in a society seemingly happier to send Black and Brown children through a school-to-prison pipeline, to support the prison industrial complex, rather than fully educate them.
Their personal attacks on Kate Gerson were particularly troubling. I was in the room when Kate said, “…we are part of a systematically racist system of education” and that “we have participated in this paradigm through instruction and pedagogy.” I was next to her yesterday in a task force meeting at the Council of Great City Schools Fall Conference. As we looked at this year’s data from the nation’s large urban districts I watched her become physically ill at the level of systemic racism that supports a median 75 instructional days missed in school year 2016-17 due to out of school suspensions per 100 Black males in 47 of the member districts, with the highest number being 223. If you think systemic racism and implicit bias don’t play a role in numbers like these, you are wrong!
They go on to call out another noted urban school reformist, and another educator I am proud to call my friend and ally in the work to educate all children, Dr. Richard Carranza, Chancellor of New York City Schools for investing in anti-bias training for all Department of Education employees. This nation has a 400-year history of oppression and systemic racism. The old, white, male guard have a vested interest in continuing the practices that have oppressed people of color and suppressed their right to exercise their freedoms. When this nation fails to educate children of color, it makes it easier to incarcerate them. When Black and Brown children become incarcerated, uneducated adults, they are stripped of their right to vote. They cannot hold down a job. White men who currently have a tenuous hold on power at the highest level will lose that power if and when the majority of this nation have full and complete freedom and exercise the rights promised.
The browning of America is a clear and present danger to people who buy into the hype of Hess, Addison, and others like them. I imagine that White women like Kate Gerson, who have the presence and platform to highlight the ugly practice of implicit bias in today’s classrooms are a great disappointment and threat. Gerson, and others like her are on a mission. I am proud to have her as an ally in the work. Dr. Carranza, one of a many number of school leaders, Black, White, and Brown that shepherd our children in the nation’s public schools committed to that same work will not be dissuaded.
As an adult, I requested my K-12 school records. I read where one of my teachers remarked that I was “An articulate little negro girl.” I was fortunate. My mother was an educator. I enjoyed what some might refer to as a level of Black privilege in that I had an advocate for my educational opportunities. As one of what W. E. B. Du Bois called the “Talented Tenth” it is my responsibility to support this work. It is the right thing to do for our nation’s children.
I invite others of like mind and consciousness to join us in shining a light on the subtle hatred and bigotry that support the dissemination of “fake news” like that in Hess and Addison’s article.