Black Minds Matter too

My goal for this rule is to advocate to prepare all kids to be successful for an uncertain future. I believe we need to get better at teaching and preparing students who may have fewer resources than other children. Every child is born with a brain. Our responsibility, as educators, is to help prepare that brain for solving problems and have a quality life.

Yes, Black Lives Matter AND Black Minds Matter. I am troubled by the resistance, on the part of white people mainly, to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. I have not heard anyone who supports BLM say, “ONLY Black Lives Matter.” It seems to me that BLM’s goal is to stop killing black people who are unarmed by armed white people. BLM also wants society to start respecting and valuing the lives of people of color as much as they do the lives of white people.

What if the reverse was happening with the same frequency? There would be no limit to the resources used to stop the killing. Continuing to kill people of color, the poor, and those in under-resourced communities is not only an example of inhumanity. This is a faulty short-term strategy.

The willingness to do jobs few want to do is filled with a high percentage of people of color and the poor. I do not see a huge number of white people ready to go to the fields to cultivate our food. The fact is people in positions of power and control are the benefactors of those who are doing the hard labor.

From my experience in schools, for over forty years, when people quit talking, they tend to get physical. Physical pushing leads to aggressive action and devastating consequences. A rule I developed over the years is, ‘never confront someone on something they can’t change in fifteen seconds.’ Being black, a woman, or gay is not something people can change.  Being a jerk is something people can change. See a previous post on bullies and bystanders

I will never be black or a person of color. I will probably never be a woman or gay or many other things. I do have white privilege. That is why it is important for whites to stand up for people of color, men to stand up for women, and straights to support gay/lesbian issues. I still can’t understand how my friend who is gay is causing me a problem.

A strategy that is worthwhile is asking questions. This gives me the chance to learn, rather than make judgments about people and cultures that I have not personally experienced.

After reading “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Beyond Ally,” I asked two black people to explain microaggressions to me from their perspective. I was shocked by what I heard. None of that would happen to me. I was educated by their willingness to teach me from their experiences. This is another rule I have tried to follow is instead of making judgments, ASK QUESTIONS. In other words, keep talking to understand rather than making assumptions about people or events.

And as Kendi points out, people who want to combat systemic racism, should stand up against any policy or behavior that continues or promotes racist experiences.

There are some hopeful signs. Watching television I see more people of color in successful situations rather than portrayed in negative roles, more representation of biracial couples and children, and models of intelligent decision makers being represented by people of color.

So, looking ahead at the demographic reality, there will continue to be a decrease in white people as a percentage of the U.S. population. There will continue to be an increase in populations of people of color and mixed race families. Those who believe the future will be like the 50s, where segregation, abuse, and a caste system were firmly in place, are wrong. I also believe they do not see the tremendous potential of diversity, ingenuity, and embracing a world that is focused on making the planet a place that is life-worthy. Edward O. Wilson, a biologist said, “diversity strengthens.”  Let’s embrace the diverse intelligence that exists.

To the goal of helping America and the world become a better place, physical safety is primary. Every credible researcher I know cites physical and emotional safety as necessary in order to learn. As an educator, I know knowledge, skills, and collaboration will be required to use all the intellectual horsepower we have to solve and manage issues. I started thinking about Black Minds Matter. I googled the terms and found there was a book by that title.

In “Black Minds Matter: Recognizing the Brilliance, Dignity and Morality of Black Males in Education,” Dr. J. Luke Wood (2019), focuses on the culture of schools and organizations which are not inviting to kids and people of color. Being a professor, he gives some suggestions on how to improve relationships, engage students differently, and create safe environments.

I would like to focus on how to engage, energize, and expand the minds of our youth, especially Black minds. Once physical and emotional safety is in place, our challenge for PreK-12 (and beyond) is to prepare young people to deal effectively with the current and future realities. We need prepared minds to deal with an uncertain future. Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Our future depends on giving our young people the knowledge, skills, and thinking processes to prepare for a more complex world.

Ignoring this intellectual challenge will not serve any one of us well. America, and the world, will be dependent upon how well we teach Black students–and every color of student.  There is an African Proverb: Not learning is bad, not wanting to learn is worse. If we ignore dealing with teaching ALL children, we do so at our own peril.

Actually, we know how to do this. The real issue is whether or not we will take the necessary actions to assist our students.  It is being done in many locales. I don’t want to hear, “it can’t be done with these kids.” First, they are our kids.  Second, it is being done with all kinds of kids somewhere.

Here are some of the resources that have been helpful to me. I know there are others. Please let me know what you find most useful so I can learn more.

Saphier, Jon. (2017). High Expectations Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press

To deal with emotional safety, this is a must. Jon has provided fifty ways to help kids know they are smart. Once students believe they can learn, they learn.

Wagner, Tony & Dintersmith, Ted. (2015). Most Likely to Succeed.  New York: Scribner

Tony Wagner has written extensively about what we need to close the Global Achievement Gap, Creating Innovators, and this book with Ted Dintersmith.

Dintersmith, Ted. (2018). What School Could Be.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Here are examples from every state in our country where programs are succeeding.        This is a rich resource for possible ways to engage students.

Costa, Arthur & Kallick, Bena. (2009). Habits of Mind Across the Curriculum:  Practical and Creative Strategies for Teachers.  Alexandria, VA: ASCD Publications.

These 16 habits are research-based behaviors that good learners and leaders have identified as important as they continue to solve problems.

Duckworth, Angela. (2016). Grit: The Power and Passion and Perseverance.

New York: Scribner.

This research has demonstrated a positive relationship between ‘Grit’ and successful learning. Here is one of her theories.  Talent x Effort = skill. Skill x Effort = Achievement

Jackson, Yvette. (2011). Pedagogy of Confidence.  New York:  Teachers College Press

Yvette is part of the National Urban Alliance and does training in high engagement strategies. Many districts have Yvette providing professional development for under resourced students of color. 

Wolfe, Pat. (2010). Brain Matters. Alexandra, VA:  ASCD Publications

There are brain compatible strategies, gleaned from research, to help students learn. This resource provides several ways to engage students and increase retention.

In Closing

I heard the following quote over fifty years ago. In the late 60s, as a college student, I had the great fortune to attend a talk by a young black Congressman from Georgia. His name was Julian Bond. He concluded his talk by saying to the student body, who was mostly white, your Social Security, at the present time, is being supported by Tom, Susan, and Robert. Social Security in the future will be supported by Juan, Ming Li, and Abdurrahman. Teach everyone for a better future.

Students all over America are waiting and willing to give us, educators, one more chance to engage and ignite their learning.  Let’s not blow it. Let’s get to work for our future and theirs.

References:

Akbar, Maysa. (2020). Beyond Ally. Hartford CT:  Publish Your Purpose Press.

Kendi, Ibram X. (2019). How to be an Antiracist. New York:  Penguin.

Wood, J. Luke. (2019). Black Minds Matter.  San Diego, CA:  Montezuma Publishing.