Countering the ‘Alt-Right’ on Campus: A Guide

Once again, in light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, we have reached a critical point in our American democracy. We are being challenged by our freedoms of speech, rights of assembly, and our individual beliefs. The central point of our society is the assurance of the rights of each citizen to enjoy the freedoms afforded by the democratic tenets. However we view the events of late, it is nonetheless troubling to witness in the 21st Century. Young adults, much too young to have experienced life in this country that once characterized that which they believe is their Alt-Right/Nationalist/Klan mission,  are in active defense of an inhumane ‘past’  racist ideology.

Where did we go wrong, and where are we continuing to fail our children? What have they learned in school? What do we send our children to school for? This!Educators everywhere must reflect on their role and the information that we  impart or omit and neglect to include among the core curriculum— standards adopted by school districts nationwide.

When the President of the United States of America asks the question “Did George Washington have slaves?”, we should be convinced that it is in schools, in the classrooms, that we have got to do better.

Get this guide from SPLC, Southern Poverty Law Center, to help schools counter and prevent ‘Alt-Right’ movements from invading campuses…..

via SPLC Releases Campus Guide to Countering ‘Alt-Right’ | Teaching Tolerance

Here’s Why We Must Consider The Value of Social Studies Teachers

In honor of the 4th of July and Independence Week this year, the widely respected Brookings Institution Brown Center published an article called,” The state of the nation’s social studies educators “, to highlight the various roles that Social Studies(S.S.) teachers play in K-12 education. While reading the article, my position on the subject of textbooks and the systemic reliance upon a skewed eurocentric biased approach to document history as fact IS exactly what is wrong with public. These books from which teachers instruction are guided, is the education of  It is the S.S. teacher who frames and influences character development by what and how they teach U.S. and World History. Social Studies classrooms are learning environments where teachers influence and shape future lives, careers and the worldviews of young learners whose self concepts relative to others around them are developing.

It is in school that social mores, norms, traditions, and values are examined, questioned and demonstrate relevance. It is in this setting that children are supposed to learn the 5 W’s[who, what, when, where, and WHY] in context. However, history has never been fully credited for the weight it carries in the development of citizenship and human interactions. History can’t shape or change deeply adhered and revered family, or religious cultures, per sé, but it impacts and influences the way we view, perceive, regard and socialize with others who are different-and possess equally revered, personal cultures, experiences and values.

wonder child - Copy

Know not your history, and ye are doomed to repeat it!

 

We have been through a dark past in this country. The way we teach  history will greatly influence our actions, decisions and our life trajectory will be affected by the content and context of that which is taught in the classroom. Teachers are almost single-handedly responsible for the way we view government and will have an impact on whether we abide by and align ourselves with our established laws. If children aren’t given the whole truths of the world around them, and their relationship to the world, and most importantly the lives of the diverse peoples in the world, past and present, then we are doing great injustice, and instead of being parts of the solutions, we will be acting as parts of the problems in the world.

This leads me to say that while we’ve been blaming the ‘victims’ so to speak, the reason for so many black children failing in school, is not completely of their own doing. It is about what we aren’t doing- the educators, education system. The ONCE PURPOSEFUL, NOW SUBLIMINAL disregard of people of color in America, who have walked these grounds, many before the 1st settlers.  But, missing from history??

It is our fault and no one suggests changing this- just curriculum standards, teacher training, and all else is debated, but the very aspect of education that would change lives and boost achievement, literally, is overlooked. Would it be so difficult and painful to allow the truths which we hold as ‘self-evident’ to be openly taught and explored by children?

If students aren’t given “mirrors and windows” in history class, then this is another grave injustice to the millions of diversely represented children who attend our schools. If students are given too many windows and not enough mirrors, as they impact the histories being taught, then they will either be dismissed and disrespected by society and each another-themselves. Children see things much more clear than adults; more concrete. It’s either yes or no, up or down, black or white, important or meaningless. If we continue teaching in the same manner, we perpetuate anger, resentment, disengagement, and marginalization. We throw them into the underbelly of society-we cause anger, destruction, crime, bullying, terrorism, etc…

If no heroes are given to black children, they will not see much hope for their future and view themselves as ‘outside’ of societal importance. It is mind-boggling that educators expect these children to succeed in school and in life when there are no heroes-no lives fully explored that help bring relevance and motivate success, resilience.  They are secondary- OF LITTLE IMPORTANCE- and reduced to mere footnotes in our national history. Or, the very few noted personalities chosen are mentioned in the margins of the standard-issue textbooks, therefore minimally explored.

Embarrassingly acknowledged, teachers know very little about ‘diversity’ themselves, let alone having qualifications to teach it.

The remedy: Teachers, arm yourselves with new information, which may not necessarily be important to you[though it really is], but it is about your students and the truth!.

How does a child know for certain that they belong in school, can succeed in school, and that they can achieve any dreams or realize their potential? They are given 3-4 heroes, inspiring figures who look like them, if they are African-American, who have had similar experiences and struggles. These are their mirrors, and they don’t get enough in class.

There are so many figures in history, past and present, about whom all children should be taught, regardless of race.  Sure, there are some children who will succeed, despite the lack of knowledge and familiarity of people to look to for inspiration and affirmation. But, public education, specifically, teaches to the masses, and some is not good enough. We want all or most to succeed, right?

All children, in all ethnic, racial, and religious groups, need mirrors, and it is up to S.S. teachers to explore the world of the past from their eyes, so to speak. They need to see, feel, and learn about the familiar-themselves, their people, their ancestors, their country of origin. And they need to see the virtue, the positive, even amidst the struggles, hard times,…slavery. Stop telling children that there was a ‘magical’ event, or ‘magical’ being that appeared out of a terrible circumstance and miraculously changed the world-not for themselves, but for everyone. This is how we approach the teaching of American history.

Though this nation was founded upon a framework of racism, separatism, superiority, oppressive, narrow-minded premise, it is within the social studies class that children can grow, learn, and embody a truly tolerant, respectful and empathic mindset as global citizens. S.S. teachers can and do shape our tomorrows, by the manner in which they present, and examine my, your and our yesterday. A more inclusive, balanced, and honest discovery of yesterday, contributes to a more kind, respectful, non-discriminatory, equitable humanitarian society.

History is more than just singular or isolated events, it involves the examination of lives of the people who helped shape that event in history, and the examination of the ways their actions affected the lives of the people in that historical era. Glossing over history in ways that reduce real-life experiences to mere footnotes or 1 or 2 paragraphs on a page, denies the opportunity that lessons may be learned from history. Have any teachers ever asked, ” If we had the influence today, would we restore slavery? Why or why not?”

Ask a student,” What was the exact date that slavery was officially abolished?” How many students in a classroom of 25, would you think could answer that question? Do you know? We know it was in 1865, but that’s all students were/are taught. How can they begin to frame their own personal perspectives on that practice or any events which followed after that date, when they aren’t fully informed. Slavery- reduced to one statement…one sentence! That was a major practice in the shaping of policies, laws, stereotypes, narratives, and impacted every aspect of American life. Could this not explain, in large part, the divisiveness of today’s climate? We aren’t allowing ourselves to face the issues that surrounded  the socially-impactful decisions and practices, perspectives and policies and the lives they impacted.

Essentially, it is our duties to present truths, good and bad, embarrassing, shameful or proud truths along the way to the present. What has circulated across the world, is a standardized telling of ‘his-story, from his point of view, and disregarded the other sides of that truth. It is only then that youngsters can make informed decisions, and fully understand how it can happen that one person’s actions, words can reverberate and change lives, lifestyles, and society in general. Cause and effect, predicting the outcome, and other skills and thought processes considered ‘soft skills’ are gleaned from the study of history. History is people’s lives, and teachers of this subject must, must, must assume and own their responsibility to present and represent all lives. Teach outside the textbooks, until the textbooks reflect comprehensively inclusive facts.

When history comes alive in the classroom, it will be presented in its full richness as if it were virtual reality and will successfully facilitate empathic, tolerant, broad-minded compassionate and civic-minded learners.

This is Where You Can Launch “Book-Rich” Environments

Launching Book-Rich Environments

kids books

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), the National Book Foundation (NBF), the Urban Libraries Council (ULC), the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are joining forces to transform the nation’s public housing authorities (PHAs) into book-rich environments.

The Book Rich Environments (BRE) Initiative is a collaboration aimed to transform Public Housing Agencies (PHA) into book rich environments by bringing diverse, high quality books and other literacy tools into the hands of children and families living in HUD-assisted housing to improve literacy outcomes and ensure all young people, regardless of background, have the tools they need to reach their full potential.

Families and community organizations can find more information about learning through-out the summer from some of these BRE partners and supporting organizations.

From Urban Libraries Council (ULC) – tips for local libraries:

         Libraries Expanding Summer Opportunities

         Libraries at the Center of Summer Learning and Fun

From Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR):

         Summer Learning Loss Facts and Figures

From National Summer Learning Association (NSLA):

         Tips for Parents

         Tips to Help You Plan for Summer Learning

         Summer Opportunity Action Toolkit

         National Summer Learning Day Resources for Communities

         Summer Slide Infographic

From National Center for Families Learning (NCFL):

         Camp Wonderopolis

slide

Don’t fall down the summer slide

The long lazy days of summer – a welcome break from the regular school routine, but also the time when many students slip down the “summer slide.”  During the months out of school, students forget all about Langston Hughes and the Pythagorean theorem, and it takes them some time to regain what they lost when they return to school in the fall. Many children lose up to two to three months of reading and math skills, most significantly in spelling and math computation.  What measures can families take to keep children learning in the summer? Here’s a few ideas.

Read with your child – talk about the characters,  story, and any words they don’t know.

Model good reading habits – let your children see you reading everyday, everywhere.

Find books that serve as “mirrors” and “windows.” Check online lists like Firstbook’s blog.

Explore free or low-cost family activities in your neighborhood.

Don’t forget math and science!  Find opportunities and examples in everyday life.

Visit your local library.  Get your library card and check out the activities that are available.

As community members – think about what you can do through your organization to make learning resources available to the children in your neighborhood.

Summer’s not a dream vacation for everybody, but with plans and effort, it can be an opportunity for all children to stay off the “summer slide.”

kids read

Read, read, read! Learning happens during the summer, too. So, make every child’s environments during their summer vacation both fun AND Book-Rich’! Book-rich IS fun!

Don’t Forget To Celebrate the Important ‘Firsts’!

It is important for us all to recognize and celebrate milestones or the “famous [and not-so famous] firsts” in our lifetime. Not only a baby’s first steps, your first car, or first job, but there are situations, circumstances and events that are bigger than that, because they are bigger than us. Celebrate, for our milestones can positively impact the world.

We must begin to keep a watchful eye- mindfulness on individual firsts as potential impetus for cultural change, be it progress or regress. It is when those firsts go unacknowledged that we may miss a major turning point in our lives.

For example, it is known that blacks in this country have a history of being subjected to discrimination and the strategic denial of important freedoms, access and opportunity, systematically and system-wide.  With this insight, we must all celebrate occasions such as the special focus of this post! Every American, every woman, every black person, everyone, everywhere!

Celebrate the acceptance of Dr. Nancy Abu-Bonsrah, as Johns Hopkins’ 1st black female neurosurgery resident!

This represents an occasion in which a ‘ceiling’ has been lifted or ‘shattered’ in this country. In March, 2017, a black woman, native of Ghana, has joined the most prestigious John’s Hopkins Hospital School of Medicine staff as a Neurosurgery Resident. That is phenomenal!

Posted on social media-LinkedIn- where I learned of this milestone event, I am flabbergasted that, since it was acknowledged as noteworthy by one professional on that forum, only 3 likes and 2 comments have been made thus far, as I write.

We champion the first person to attend or graduate college, and replies or comments number into the hundreds. That is certainly a proud day, and a monumental achievement for any family, and we should recognize every time another person becomes a first in the family to reach towards “greater” heights. This time, though, it is greater than just ‘a’ family unit; it is for a much bigger group-racial, gender-based, and a Johns Hopkins achievement!…3 LIKES ONLY?!!!

How are we not extremely impressed? Because this time it is a black female resident in NEUROSURGERY! She has already earned her medical degree. This appointment doesn’t happen everyday where I come from. That announcement is absolutely phenomenal, and it represents another pioneer upon whose shoulders will lift so many others to follow. More firsts in the family, and many more proud families. Not intending to sound biased, but if it were a female of another ethnicity, race, or anything along those ‘narrow-minded’ lines, would we all celebrate and exalt the announcement to its appropriate place?

“Lest we know our history, we are unfortunately doomed to repeat it!“(a paraphrase)

This is why the general K-12 Social Studies curriculum, and the ‘standard’-issue textbooks need revision, rewritten and reality-based. Well, folks, another door has been opened, and we weren’t fully aware! We are largely blind to these things because history is not vividly contextualized or inclusively taught in our nation’s schools. Therefore, black and white children, grow into adulthood, some feeling optimistic and entitled, no fault of their own. Others failed to see evidence that motivated them to reach for or realize their potential because they were not encouraged or affirmed due to poorly taught history. Too many windows and insufficient mirrors for children in a world of rich examples of both.

Some children grow up to possess implicit biases, unaffected and unencumbered by a bothersome awareness of subtle imposed restrictions placed before their counterparts, and others grow increasingly angry and resentful of those biases which will negatively impact the quality of their lived experiences….and no one seems to know why any of these feelings exist.

I feel safe to say that this is a significant reason why prejudice, bias and racism still lives in the hearts and minds of Americans and gets passed on through generations. When we know what our history looked like, felt like and what life was like-how things came to be, we may just say to ourselves, “It could’ve been me!” That should give us all pause, and there but for the grace of God go I. Wake up and celebrate those firsts! Teach about those firsts, which are to be celebrated. Empathy emerges from the acknowledged appreciation celebrations.

For LinkedIn, the social media site for professionals, we should  know better and do better! WE are the adults who are supposed to carry the torches and light fires under future leaders! It is up to us to recognize that there is always room for growth, and that we grow  by celebrating others; we enrich our lives. As our awareness expands, we are to pass along and share this awareness to further enrich the lives of people in our spheres. It is our duty. ‘Information worth sharing’, indeed!

I still love the collegial dialogue, experiential focus and the awesome spirit shared on this forum, but am a little disappointed by the limited numbers who have made public acknowledgement of this accomplishment. We live, we learn, and THEN each one, teach one! Congratulations, Dr. Nancy Abu-Bonsrah….Johns Hopkins’ 1st black female neurosurgery resident!