Educate to Liberate

How Schools Dishonor Black History Month

As a lifelong educator having been blessed to work in every professional capacity imaginable, from: teacher, curriculum writer, academic interventionist, instructional coach, assistant principal, principal, chief academic officer and now as a graduate education professor – I have experienced my fair share of how school districts across the country uniquely (albeit clumsily) interpret the best way(s) to pay homage to the proud legacy, traditions and future aspirations of an entire nation of people during #BlackHistoryMonth. Sadly, I have also been witness to my fair share of #Fails in this regard. In light of being an educator always ready and willing to teach and in the spirit of full transparency, I wish to share my ideology re: the many ways that school districts across the country (often unintentionally) dishonor Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s brainchild for an annual month of recognition, and more importantly, how we can best rectify this aberration.

This morning, I watched a pre-recorded interview on a local podcast featuring education and government officials in order to support the guest appearance of a fellow educator and scholar historian. During the broadcast, I caught an interview that a local journalist had with an official from our Detroit Public Schools District regarding the special curricula offerings being interwoven into SS for #BHM⁠ ⁠. Though not at all surprised, it was admittedly disheartening and glaringly unacceptable that slavery/slave narratives were soon referenced when asked about the diversity of the #BHM curriculum being featured (sigh). #Miseducation is certainly alive and well.

Among the countless injustices of this flawed yet, all-too-familiar approach to acknowledge Black history is the glaring truth that our history does not begin with enslavement. All attempts to reference history through a warped American lens, distorted by centuries of White supremacist rule is disrespectful and disingenuous to the critical thought of ALL children who must be taught that all life has its origin on the continent of Africa. You see, this is not African-centered education or even a feel good, affirmation relegated to Black history, this is irrefutable, historic fact which must be taught as a mere starting point for dismantling the gross mis-education of all students. Further, the Detroitk12 system is not unlike all other school districts’ in that they must all be more mindful of the need to counteract the White supremacist ideology and mis-education inherent in the “slave narratives” which are all too common pitfalls of the antiquated state standards and comprise either the official or unofficial go-to curriculum choice for Black History Month and the entire academic year.

Though I must admit to being offended to the core, (please note for the record that vehement dissatisfaction for the racist U. S. school system is a sentiment shared by literally hundreds of academics, activists and people of good conscience whom I follow on Twitter), I must assume that school systems would DO better, if in fact they KNEW better. Well, it’s not rocket science, and the most informed and appropriate way to cease violating Black people in crafting a Black History Month curriculum is via explicit instruction from Black academic scholars and increased, unrelenting public demand from all people of good conscience. It bears repeating that Black history does NOT begin w/ enslavement. As such, BHM⁠ ⁠warrants infusion in every core subject and at every grade level. Most importantly, White female teachers – those who comprise the bulk of the teaching force of an overwhelmingly diverse majority of students – are woefully ignorant, academically unprepared and otherwise ill-equipped to deliver the truth of African/Black history (especially before the period of enslavement), without explicit instruction themselves and sans a targeted retooling of pedagogical policy, enhanced teacher education protocols and ongoing, job-embedded professional development training (which consequently, Educate to Liberate LLC provides across the country, with seamless accuracy and exceptional corporate/nonprofit consumer satisfaction).

As such, all educators MUST willingly and eagerly commit to being lifelong learners or resign. I realize that this prescription may sound harsh, but if in fact teaching is a calling then anti-racist and Culturally Responsive Pedagogy is a non-negotiable pre-requisite to the profession. Any perceived hesitation or refusal to submit to this “fix” of everything that is wrong with our educational system, means the perpetuation of the status quo and a curriculum of bias, exclusion and a guaranteed future of mis-education for all the generations of gifted, brilliant students who are not affluent and/or White. Trust me, our children deserve better and opting to retire is the absolute best service that the resistor could offer, because it’s no secret that you are doing more harm than good.

Finally, consummate educators like myself have formidable career records of 25+ years (and earned doctorates!) for having mastered #CulturallyResponsivePedagogy and can boast of a proud record for countering racism and gross mis-education in schools from Detroit to New York City. This passionate blog, my charitable efforts in the community and a lifetime of grassroots activism exist as proof positive that I don’t just “talk the talk”, on the contrary I (and countless others) “walk the walk” and stand ready and willing to assist, as needed to ensure that every school, in every district across the country is empowered to #EducateToLiberate. ✊🏿 We can do this educators. It takes all of us: Each one, Teach one and how affirming it is to know that we are valiantly supported by people the world over in our admirable efforts. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can be of any assistance to your conscious efforts to change the current narrative of mis-education.

Educate to Liberate

Religious Racism in Education

Having been raised as an African-American girl to college educated, activist parents in MI; there were two certainties in life – church and school. Like clockwork, active participation in these two institutions helped to inform my reality and shaped my unique view of the world around me. However, it never occurred to me that my seemingly idyllic religious and academic experiences were an anomaly and really not a universal component of other people’s lives. Who knew that while I was being taught love, tolerance, the Be Attitudes and the values of respect and kindness, others were being politicized as racists who regard White supremacy as their religious right? Sadly, I was completely uninformed of the dangerous and even unholy intersection between God and education which existed in much of society. In retrospect – I was soon to learn (the hard way), of the many evils lurking in a country boasting of religious principles, but founded on a long, sordid history of hatred, occupation by violence, war, mass annihilation, enslavement and oppression.

As a sixth-generation Christian with a maternal family history aligned with membership in the historic African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, I was a “born again” young person active in church as an acolyte, a junior missionary, youth choir member and served on the youth usher board. As a result of this active engagement, I developed an early, abiding love of God, church and of the Black religious experience. I was such a willing convert and Black church participant, that I can remember being anointed as “special” at a young age by church elders. This deference was likely bestowed for my unashamedly spirited solos in the children’s (and later), the young adult choir in which I sang loudly with a powerful, deep contralto voice. But my anointment may have also been bestowed for my fearless public speaking acumen-honed in the time honored, Black church tradition of reciting Easter and Christmas poems and being featured in various performances/theatrical shows. Whatever the impetus, my siblings and I and literally all the Black youth in our midst, thrived under the strict but affirming Black church culture of: discipline, love of one another, respecting one’s elders and honing our innate leadership skills and abilities. In fact, by the time I was in my late teens/early 20s, I had already been invited to (and excitedly agreed to), deliver a “trial” sermon in my home church of Greater Quinn AME in Detroit, MI. Though my future would later prove to be in teaching rather than preaching, these are fond memories for which I am eternally grateful. Yes indeed, life was good, God was real, and all was promising through my rose-colored, myopia impaired shades. Soon, my lack of knowledge of other people’s ultra conservative interpretations of religion was made painfully apparent.

You see in spite of this detailed and my seemingly idyllic religious upbringing in the Black church, the acknowledgment of my own religious ignorance of all the evils that the world had in store (from other Christians no less), had not yet begun to rear its ugly head. But after fast-forwarding to my early educational years – I soon learned the curious pattern that my most mean-spirited, unforgiving and overtly racist teachers were also the most outspoken and seemingly religious. As a child, it was admittedly confusing to reconcile the two extremes of God and hatred being portrayed in a unified portrait, but alas I was a long way from the “God is love” ideology of the Black church. Then later, in my undergraduate college years, I began to recognize the obvious chinks in the armor of my Black Christian ideology after reading voraciously and being exposed to the abject racism and evils committed all through history under the guise of religion. It was not lost on me or any of my peers that slave ships would be named Jesus and that essentially, the mass genocide orchestrated against my African ancestors were committed in the name of religion.

In terms of my spiritual maturity, after being on the intimate, Black college campus of Lincoln University, PA for just a few months and attending several Sunday services at our non-denominational chapel on campus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that most of my peers had also been steeped in a somewhat familiar Black church upbringing and tradition. This helped me to feel less guilty when I realized that most of us had chosen to abandon our strict, religious roots and universal behavioral expectations in favor of sleeping in, studying alone or with peers, engaging in liberal amounts of sexual activity or merely recovering from our spirited partying and drinking from the night before. Of course I was no exception, because though I started college trying to attend church regularly, soon there were countless obligations more pressing than chapel attendance and living a righteous life. So while a scant few of my friends had chosen to uphold the tradition of their religious upbringing and one or two had even gone so far as to join a rather openly devoted group of young Christians entitled “militants for Christ”, the bulk of us engaged in our fervent pursuit of personal freedom from the watchful eyes of our parents and sought academic distinction, maintained an optimistic post-graduate career focus and worked towards earning the lifetime accomplishment of our degree(s) all while partying every weekend and learning to navigate the world as adults. Ultimately, the marked separation between religion and education seemed cemented, until some returned to their Christian roots as educated, working adults, because such a firm foundation had been set during childhood.

Meanwhile other youth, like those attending Covington Catholic High School in KY and countless other conservative, religious institutions across this country have been steeped in practicing an entirely different religious tradition and worldview than that of the uniquely tolerant and all-inclusive ideology inculcated in the Black, Christian tradition. White students and even some affluent students of color, often attend religious institutions which blur the lines between right and wrong or God and curriculum. Such schools intentionally produce students like those wearing MAGA hats, the modern-day KKK hoods, who are adept at promoting racism and adorning themselves in blackface, within the protected confines of their own conservative institutions. These students, like Nicholas Sandmann, the young man at the epicenter of the recent standoff at the Lincoln Memorial, vehemently defends their right to disrespect elders and taunt others with their White supremacist ideology. Adding insult to injury is the fact that an entire nation has now come to the defense of a mob of young people (educated in a Christian school), wearing MAGA hats, chanting “build the wall” and antagonizing literally every group of people who crossed their path. Where/how is such hateful behavior exemplified by the young generation you might ask? They were thoroughly indoctrinated and politicized in Christian schools for most, if not all of their lives. Of course people’s homes and truly reprehensible upbringings are also to blame, but history dare not look any further than the churches, secular and religious schools as the primary institutions fostering the growth and development of modern day hatred and oppression. History has proven that Whiteness exerts its toxic influence on schools under the auspices of the Christian religion, no less.

In a recent, viral Twitter hashtag designed to expose Christian schools for the bastions of hatred which they far too often represent – the Evangelical Movement and toxic Catholicism was under public indictment for inculcating hatred, White supremacy, misogynistic beliefs and for the promotion of bullying and gross mis-education, among other criticisms. As proof, hundreds of thousands of testimonies were shared by people who had endured racism, homophobia, toxic masculinity and/or bullied beyond belief because they didn’t conform to a totally subjective, religious ideal. In one case, a man recalled being tortured because he didn’t appear “manly” enough. According to this victim, coaches would merely turn a blind eye to boys being towel-whipped or their heads being flushed down toilets for being thought of as “soft”. In other cases, history was said to be wholly rewritten and the Bible used as a fantasized weapon in order to erase the entire history of a people and to otherwise whitewash evolution. At least 43K people attested that they were taught that science isn’t real. Given this revelation, is it any wonder that the world’s climate crisis is now at hand? Other former Christian school students recounted harrowing stories of being forced to watch graphic videos of abortions and be pressured to engage in victim blaming behavior whenever sexual harassment or rape was reported on their campus. It came as no surprise that Evangelical schools were overwhelmingly exposed as being overtly racist, sexist and homophobic. Finally, my own personal contribution to relevant testimony used to expose Christian schools is that as divulged in my dissertation study of the pervasive mis-education of Black students in America, a Detroit parent revealed having overheard Catholic nuns monitoring (primarily children of color), while playing outside on the playground at recess and one of the nuns said “look at the little heathens”. Needless to say, such horror stories are endless. Clearly, our collective need to #ExposeChristianSchools is as warranted as the need to dismantle these dysfunctional institutions. This is imperative in order to have any meaningful impact upon curbing future generations of conservative extremists, racists, sexists and hate mongers who are thoroughly indoctrinated in so-called “Christian” schools.

Perhaps the most appropriate analogy to describe the potential dangers of the religious education experience is the phrase “religion is to school, what vodka is to driving”. Truer words were never spoken.

Academic Testing, Educate to Liberate, Racism

How Academic Testing is Racist

“Standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black minds and legally exclude their bodies”
~Ibram X. Kendi

The start of a new academic year, brings the promise of high-stakes standardized tests for all students. Educators are duty bound to ensure that our students are prepared to meet the rigors of a wide, unimpressive array of tests by endlessly drilling – the sad, yet telling, 21st Century form of teaching. The annual aftermath of the vicious cycle of standardized testing results in administrators and teachers being deeply disappointed, unfairly maligned and held solely accountable for our students’ annual, less than stellar performance ratings. Just as in life where nothing is certain but death and taxes; in formalized schooling, the only two certainties are testing and mis-education. To opt-out of high-stakes testing is rare. To believe in the accuracy and cogency of these #RacistAF litmus tests of one’s intelligence is at best, naive/clueless and at worst, disingenuous . . . dependent upon the source. We, the people, are collectively at fault for allowing a form of systemic racism, overt classism and oppression to exist and increasingly thrive for centuries. Though many will attest that academic tests are scientific and were uniquely designed to promote objectivity, this is a widespread myth. There is no more fitting portrait of the abject failure of standardized testing to determine one’s intellect and to serve as a weapon of institutionalized oppression than to examine history.

In 1869, Charles Darwin’s cousin, English statistician and pioneer of the western eugenics movement, Francis Galton, hypothesized in Hereditary Genius that “the average intellectual standard of the negro race is some two grades below our own”. As proof of the overarching acceptance of this racist notion, universal college entrance board exams were adopted in 1900 to monitor students’ progress in specific curricular areas, assess American education overall and to complement the wide variety of government policies designed to expressly benefit the elite class of society. In 1904, the French minister of public education tasked noted psychologist, Alfred Binet, with the development of the very first standardized test of intelligence. This was a feat which would eventually be incorporated into a version of the modern IQ test, dubbed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. Using a scientific study involving his two adolescent daughters – Binet later refined his theory of intelligence and in collaboration with his doctoral mentee, Theodore Simon, the two created an arbitrary measure of intelligence commonly referred to as the Binet-Simon scale. Even a condensed reference to the troubling history of the racist foundation of academic testing, like the Binet-Simon scale of intelligence, is relevant because it demonstrates the degree to which age-old assessment measures are used to perpetuate centuries-old social stratifications of wealthy, Whites as educated landowners and all other people as interminably oppressed.

Standardized tests are nothing more than arbitrary measures devised using White, female subjects as the norm and are imminently unqualified to assess the absolute undocumented genius of Black and Brown people the world over. In Binet’s own words, he was charged with creating an academic admissions test to regulate the formal inclusion of what he referred to as “subnormals”(also referenced as defective and/or retarded children), in schools after “being subjected to a pedagogical and medical examination from which it could be certified that because of the state of his intelligence, he was unable to profit, in an average measure given in the ordinary schools” (Binet, p.9, 1916). In terms of the non-politically correct and highly offensive terminology used to delineate those deemed to possess lesser intelligence? Binet outlined the use of “idiot as applied to the lowest state, imbecile to the intermediate and moron to the state nearest normality” (Binet, p.9, 1916). To be clear, a state of normalcy was only conferred upon those who comprised (or were deemed in close proximity to), people of European descent. These crude distinctions, though admittedly not understood in the same way by all practitioners, were ascribed to each student’s corresponding academic record of certificates to duly classify one throughout life. Moreover, the varying nomenclatures of the past in combination with the modern-day, vast disparity of academic test performance as driven by race and class – represents the grave imprudence and woeful inaccuracy of intelligence tests. Given Binet’s admitted stance that intelligence testing was limited, subject to variability and was not generalizable, it is noteworthy to acknowledge that the significance that standardized testing wields in the U.S. today, is vital to its function as a weapon to promote and legitimize the insidious myth of White supremacy.

Academic testing, like tracking, was traditionally favored as a means to avoid wasted resources on the race/class deemed unfit or otherwise relegated to servicing the needs of the wealthy, White elite. Thus in 2018, our continued allegiance to and widespread use of traditional academic tests of intelligence; despite evidence to the contrary to prove that they lack both precision and applicability outside of 19th Century, European culture – is an unforgivable crime against all of humanity. Inarguably, standardized test scores highlight only the grave disparities in race and socioeconomic privilege in American society. There can be no uniform method of academic testing devoid of fundamental flaws. By nature, people are as diverse as the day is long. Therefore, arbitrary measures of intelligence, used by either past or modern eugenicists to denote a permanent racial hierarchy are dated, overtly racist and have no place in 21st Century pedagogy. To the extent that colleges have begun to apply the research-based best practice of either diminishing the importance of, or eliminating the power of standardized tests altogether, in their admission decisions is instructive to the whole of society. Furthermore, since a single, standardized measure of intelligence created from the scientific study of the innate genius of Black minds would undoubtedly eradicate all modern illusions of White superiority – then an arbitrary scale derived from the use of White people is equally unacceptable.

Children, adults – ALL people, are innately gifted, uniquely crafted and should never be expected to conform to antiquated, cookie-cutter, standardized images of intelligence. What Francis Galton, Charles Darwin, Alfred Binet or Theodore Simon deemed as academically proficient is in fact racist to the core and unfit as a universal metric. Current educational policy reforms must be inclusive of an immediate de-emphasis upon (and the progressive removal of), standardized tests. Any reforms devoid of this non-negotiable, best practice operate only as an exercise in futility. In the interim, the same way that affluent Whites have long opted their own children out of flawed, demeaning and falsely representative standardized testing results – as a means of exercising their privilege and influence – all parents must duly exercise their right to uphold an uncompromising #EducateToLiberate standard of justice and equality by refusing to subject our children to the inhumanity of high-stakes academic tests. After all, the very idea of an achievement gap or even the notion of academic excellence, when based upon the inherently biased gauge of an ACT, SAT or countless other standardized, high stakes assessments are a misnomer. We must comprehensively eschew our dependence upon academic testing as it is a weapon of the racist, elite class to sustain racial hierarchy and universally accepted norms of oppression. Instead, let us commit to truly valuing the immeasurable diversity of all people by affirming our uniquely viable forms of genius in every form. Asé

Educate to Liberate

Embracing New Beginnings

In life, there are so many things outside of our control that having a familiar routine, job, place of residence and experiences seems comforting, even ideal in many ways. But I have found that a willingness to embrace the unknown and to experience life outside the boundaries of one’s own comfort zone is often the “secret” to a richly fulfilling life of divine purpose and destiny. It is only in throwing caution to the wind and stepping out on faith that many people can truly begin to understand their own inner strength and resilience. Honestly, how can we ever really discover who we are while nestled safely in the bosom of the “temples of our familiar”? I challenge every one of us to embrace a new beginning, in some substantive form or fashion – as an intentional means to start living a life on your divine-right path. This is a state of fearlessly living and in many ways, therein lies the secret of life: to have NO fear.

I will share just a portion of my own personal experience with starting over (again and again-smile), because there’s so much to learn in sharing and in hearing another’s personal testimony. From an academic perspective, in order to truly Educate to Liberate and/or teach a lesson of any worth you must also be willing to learn. You must possess a growth mindset and resist the inclination to project a fixed ideology on any given topic. How else can one learn anything without first being receptive to new knowledge, innovation and experiences outside of one’s norm? In my teens, 20s and 30s new, exciting experiences were almost always welcomed or initiated by my own wondrous, and adventurous approach to life. This is representative of an age-appropriate and healthy degree of embracing new beginnings and reflects both the natural naïveté and growth mindset characteristic of the young. Now in my 40s, it’s hard to admit but I have been much more reluctant to start over, at least by my own permission and without external prompting – as such, I forced the universe to respond accordingly and have had my fill of being forced to embrace new beginnings. All I can say is, trust me . . . Choosing your own ventures outside the “temple of your familiar” is far preferable to having the choice imposed upon you by the universe of life experiences! But, I digress, here’s my testimony:

In my teens and early 20s, I was fiercely proud of who I am and so enamored with the concept of living a life on purpose that I read voraciously, wore only African garb, legally changed my name to reflect my increasing knowledge-of-self and prior to meeting my soon-to-be husband I practiced my own, unique brand of sacred , all-inclusive spirituality. I even embraced a physically pure lifestyle of abstinence and a natural diet, health and beauty regimen. In many ways I reaped the full benefits of self-realization. Don’t get me wrong, while in college (my beloved HBCU), I admittedly partied, experimented with drinking and my vow of abstinence was tested repeatedly by brilliant and fine Black men (Lord have mercy); but to my credit, and owing to the strength of my inner resolve-I stayed true to my core beliefs and flourished as an on campus newspaper editor, disc jockey and Black nationalist speaker/leader among my peers.

Later, I was in my first year of my teaching career (then as a high school substitute teacher), when I met my husband and after several years of getting to know one another, dating and essentially being an inseparable pair, we married and began to cultivate a place of our own to call home. Despite my oneness with another person whom I felt destined to spend the rest of my life with, I was still uniquely fearless in every way and supported by my husband in all of my fearless pursuits. Namely, while working as a young teacher, I traveled to West Africa w/ a male colleague and with a large group of a dozen middle school students in tow. On this trip we endeavored to embrace African culture anew and explore life in our native culture for nearly two weeks, (while on a sanctioned school pilgrimage trip). During these years I traveled frequently, spoke in and around the Detroit nationalist community and embraced new experiences with regularity and self-determination. Little did I know, but the adventures of my young adulthood were soon to be replaced with a sobering dose of reality.

Soon after the long-anticipated birth of my beloved, only child, my marriage was irreparably rendered uninhabitable and despite my admitted heartbreak, fear and status as an inexperienced young mother I embraced the unknown and – started over again. In retrospect, my willingness to use the end of my young marriage as a learning experience ant to refuse to wallow in the depths of depression and despair (in spite of the validity of these emotions), opened my mind, eyes and entire life to unique blessings and new experiences that I had never even considered. After continuing to teach, and to single-handedly raise my daughter in the city, state which was unquestionably the “temple of my familiar”, I courageously embraced an unforeseen opportunity to teach, live and pursue an advanced degree in (of all places), my dream destination of New York! Although time doesn’t permit me the chance to truly unpack the unpredictable beauty in living in Harlem; then for many years living in Brooklyn (Baby, baby!! Ugh), all while nurturing my daughter into the strong, powerful and beautiful young woman that she is. I can honestly say that life in NYC is regarded fondly by both me and my daughter as the time of our lives and without this willingness to embrace the unknown, my life would undoubtedly be much less fulfilled and well lived.

Suffice it to say that now, in my 40s, life progresses in such a way that advanced degrees, job security and the predictability of hard-earned, bi-weekly paychecks (upon advancing in one’s career) – renders it near impossible to take any level of risks and to ultimately embrace the unknown. It’s almost expected of us, that a major component of responsible adulthood is a willingness to work, pay bills and to otherwise stay the course in pursuit of a rather elusive goal of having made it. Meanwhile, life is happening all around you/us and being experienced or thoroughly enjoyed by those willing to take a risk to embrace their extraordinary and divinely ordained path. Thus, even when you’re afraid to venture outside the norm, you are inextricably urged into uncomfortable, uncharted circumstances all along the way. In my observation, for those who have always lived life on purpose – God/the universe may impose a decidedly different path for you than your myopic, middle-aged vision will allow you to fathom . . . As such, you just might want to pay closer attention to the guideposts along the way to avoid being forced into an embrace of the unknown.

As for me, the newness and unexpected returns of embarking upon a new business venture, coupled with the loss of old, outdated relationships and all that was (seemingly) familiar is scary, yet unfolding nonetheless. And as I am consciously reminded and made aware through divine favor, countless special blessings and ever so subtle signs; new experiences are NOT punishment – no matter how they may initially appear (divorce, job loss, physical illness/injury/health challenges, pain of loss, etc.). On the contrary, in life and particularly on the pathways of love, light and divine intervention – there are innumerable new beginnings. I am ready and willing to continue to embrace these experiences, not because I’m being forced to, but because I welcome each new beginning. For therein lies the secret of life: To. Have. No. Fear. Asé.

Detroit, Educate to Liberate, School-to-Prison Pipeline

Over-Policed and Mis-Educated: The School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Detroit Free Press recently highlighted a Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) initiative to address the thousands of suspensions (16,000 to be exact), on record in the past year. Their proposed solution promises to exacerbate the problem of school suspensions by imposing a reactionary ‘holding cell’ of sorts, rather than pro-actively exploring positive behavioral interventions. The key initiative is as reprehensible and embarrassing as are the exorbitant suspension numbers, because this brilliant plan (Not!), calls for “Out-of-school suspension centers so that suspended students who must be removed from school are able to keep up with their schoolwork with the help of certified teachers” (Higgins, 2018). Seriously?! C’mon Detroit, you can and must do better than this. It would appear that countless public schools, nationwide, are unable to even mask their collusion with the prison industrial complex and exist not to educate but to continually funnel their Black and Brown students into the school-to-prison pipeline. This is a systemic problem whereby school suspensions/expulsions, referrals to law enforcement and/or alternative schools, and even school-based arrests have skyrocketed, thus blurring the lines between education and the criminal justice system. American students are over-policed and mis-educated, thus encompassing the school-to-prison pipeline.

The school-to-prison pipeline and its related implications must be examined as a very tangible consequence of the mis-education of Black students. Spending time out of the classroom for perceived behavioral deficiencies invariably leads to Black students falling further behind their peers, thus widening what is referred to as the achievement gap. A scholarly consensus on the salient link between mis-education and the school-to-prison pipeline appears to be best summarized in the statement that “schools and prisons do not sit on opposite sides of a metaphorical path, and the criminal justice system is not merely at the end of the pipeline–it is implicated all along the way” (Simmons, 2017). Further, the school-to-prison pipeline is an outgrowth of the premise of mis-education because research has indicated that systemic racial profiling or the criminalization of Black students begins in schools and is inextricably linked to their diminished academic performance (Malone & Malone, 2015; Simmons, 2017). In terms of how this epidemic is inherently racist, education statistics have long proven that Black students are far more likely to be disciplined than any other racial or ethnic group and to also receive longer suspensions. In fact, Black students begin the cycle of school suspensions as early as pre-kindergarten, throughout elementary and middle school and continuing through high school (provided they have not yet dropped out/been incarcerated). Ervin and O’Hagan (2013) quoted one school superintendent as saying, “We have a serious problem here. The data is clear that there is a disproportionate number of students of color being suspended and expelled”.

#EducationNotIncarceration. The asinine decision of the DPSCD to support out-of-school suspension centers rather than to appropriately counter the exorbitant suspension rate aligns with the data which proves that of the seven districts in the United States with the highest suspension rates – the sole commonality is that all had majority Black enrollment. According to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended or expelled. Although they are only 18% of the overall student population, Black students comprise 46% of those students suspended from school more than one time. The harsh reality is that “one in every three Black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 White males, if current incarceration trends continue” (Knafo, 2013). Students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers, and LGBT students are 1.4 times more likely to face suspension than their straight peers. In Ohio, a Black child with an emotional disability was 17 times more likely to be suspended than a White, non-disabled peer. A thorough consideration of each of these “risk factors,” exposes the prevalence of racist underpinnings of the school-to-prison pipeline. According to Winters and Bethune (2014), these examples outlining the degree of inherently racist school behavior policies and school suspension practices inscribe moral intention on the presence of Black children in U.S. schools, potentially robbing them of their youth, their future, and potentially, their lives.

Considering the reality that school disciplinary practices fuel the prison industrial complex, Detroit’s proposed out-of-school suspension centers are reprehensible and inexcusable. If given form, these centers will operate as a form of sanctioned, education funded, pre-prison factories. This initiative is especially unacceptable coming from Detroit as this school system is widely known for its Republican governor appointed style of mismanagement, dilapidated buildings, massive debt, and low academic achievement rates. Namely, DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti garnered high profile attention for his recent statement that Detroit children have been used as political “pawns” and that both racism and dysfunction have marked the primarily Black system’s operations for more than a decade. Vitti went on to proclaim that this “would never, ever happen in any White suburban district in this country”, and I daresay neither would these systems allow the presence of the school-to-prison pipeline.

It is no longer surprising, but admittedly heartbreaking, to bear witness to abysmal standardized testing scores and stagnant academic achievement rates in large school systems like Detroit, which find new and inventive ways to normalize high rates of school suspensions. American schools are failing our students in unprecedented fashion . . . and one of the most significant ways that mis-education takes form, is through the school-to-prison pipeline. A dearth of statistics prove that suspensions and expulsions are doing much more harm than good, in both education systems and in society as a whole. There are isolated cases of schools who have successfully conquered the disciplinary risk factors aligned with the school-to-prison pipeline. These schools are getting better results by rejecting zero tolerance policies, instituting intervention programs like PBIS, expanding upon counseling services and by exercising a wide range of outside of school agency referrals. The solutions are certainly not simple, and may even prove to be costly, but I suspect that the beneficial returns on a sound education are far more preferable to the disastrous impact of America’s alarming rate of mass incarceration. #EducateToLiberate