Tuesday Reading List: Three Day Weekend Edition

Three-day weekends are a great time to reflect and recharge. Maybe even fire up the grill! Speaking of fired up: is the education world any less fired up today than it was on Friday?

Here's Brittany Packnett on a Tweetstorm about the voices of people of color in education (Note: I'm embedding the first tweet, then sharing screenshots for the rest, because it's just easier to read that way):


She's right about a whole lot of stuff here, but I'll reinforce two points. First, the conversation is not about partisan politics, but rather about elevating the perspectives of people of color. Let's keep that in mind as debates ensue. Second, this particular conversation did not "start" last week. Centering the conversation on a few strongly worded blog posts - many of which were written by white folks, including this guy - is counterproductive to that enterprise. We need to have a legitimate conversation about race in the field, and about the power and privilege that currently sits in the hands of the field's mostly-white leadership.

One institution that seems intent on shifting power and changing the complexion of its leadership is Teach For America. Sharif El-Mekki, a school leader in Philadelphia, sees that commitment in practice:

When I hire a teacher, I’m looking for someone who will work hard, collaborate with my team, listen and learn from constructive feedback, and engage my students. TFA corps members have come to us with strong academic skills, a high level of self-efficacy, and an ability to respond quickly to coaching ... Nadirah Sulayman is our Social Emotional Learning teacher, intensely focused on supporting students’ development of a positive racial identity and post-secondary success through her classroom instruction. Other TFA alums leading in our school community include Deanna Giustino, who serves as our network’s Physics leader; Adebunkola Samuel, who has been a Grade Team Leader; and Amber Daniel, who is our testing coordinator. Both Daniel and Samuel are Black female teachers [who] teach high level math-a counter narrative in some spaces.

Sometimes the conversation has to be this blunt, and Alma Marquez says "Sorry not sorry" for putting all of her cards on the table when it comes to tough conversations about race, ethnicity, and representation in education:

The conversation about race and public schools in our country is one that people in the education community rarely want to have. This is true for education leaders in the traditional education space and the education reform space. White folks are uncomfortable talking about their privilege because once it is on the table, it has to be addressed and then, negotiated. When the obvious is ignored, it is only people of color who have to navigate their feelings and thoughts about the fundamental unfairness of racism in education.

She has some tough questions for white folks, too:

Do you have bonds with people of color in this space? Are they part of your circle? Have they come to your home for dinner, a cocktail or been invited to birthday parties? If not, ask yourself honestly, why? Do they make you uncomfortable? White people are supposedly doing all of this for their children, right?

Our social circles are just as segregated, if not more so, than our schools. Alex Wagner took a look at some of the white people nationally who are trying to answer - or at least put themselves in a better position to answer - some of these questions:

Does white America bear the onus of addressing policies that marginalize minorities? To be sure, white Americans have historically advocated for abolition, participated in Freedom Rides, and led civil-rights marches. But now, in the 21st century, the battle has morphed into something different ... Against this backdrop, a few weeks ago, Jack Teter and Kyle Huelsman, two white, self-described Democratic activists in their mid-20s, created a stir when they announced the formation of their political action committee, the Can You Not PAC. Started “by white men, for white men,” the group’s goal is to discourage white men from running for office—literally, “Bro, can you not?”—with the idea that the many white men flooding the political process have edged out equally worthy (and potentially worthier) female, minority and LGBTQ candidates. ... Can You Not PAC has not threatened to curb white male dominance in elected office any time soon ... But in their way, Huelsman and Teter are making [a] point: It is incumbent upon whites to address issues that affect people of color, whether actively (through, say, conversation or protest) or passively (by taking themselves out of the game and allowing those best positioned to do the work to perform it).

DeRay McKesson, one of the most visible activists in the movement for Black lives and racial justice, says later in Wagner's piece that he finds the "Can You Not" strategy to be incongruous with the goal of actually organizing white folks. The idea that white folks need to be organized, though, seems promising. How folks get organized, what they organize for, and how their collective will is channeled, matters a whole lot. Andy Smarick looks at the Trump phenomena and shudders at that particular version of white organizing, but he thinks there's a better way, especially on the right:

But whether it’s Benjamin Franklin’s reaction to the Boston Tea Party, Burke’s to the French Revolution, or Barry Goldwater’s to the Harlem riots, the conservative’s reflex is to view uprisings suspiciously. But maybe our first response should be to seek out the powerless. Has an otherwise-just order been warped such that a group of people are now precluded from controlling their own fates? Or, worse, does the normal functioning of the current order naturally prevent a group of people from attaining the power necessary to lead satisfying lives? If conservatives are smart, we’ll use Trump’s campaign to better understand the dispossessed citizens who have supported him. If we’re wise, we’ll use it to develop a new role for the conservative in a riot.

It's not just the dispossessed who need to get active. Folks with power - white folks in particular - make many decisions that affect other people. If only more of those decisions involved sharing more of that power ...