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.

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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, Lifelong Learning, Online learning

Why U.S. Achievement and Performance Lags Globally? A Failure to Own The Educational Process

A child’s first teacher is their parents. Among the most developed nations, there is no assumption that any government institution, school or individual should have greater sway over a child’s education than one’s family or oneself. Yet over time, schools have grown in power and influence to the extent that they are largely deemed accountable for all knowledge acquisition. The truth is that the most fundamental components of one’s learning occurs outside any institution. Parents, through an equal combination of language, behavior, explicit instruction and tacit experiences convey the most profound lessons to our children and these values are then effortlessly passed on to the next generation. This intellectual foundation, in turn, sets the stage for what should constitute a collective responsibility to embrace lifelong learning. Early on, children learn to value knowledge acquisition based upon the family’s approach and the overall emphasis placed on reading, speaking, social interactions and critical thinking, reasoning. To the extent that parents can engage, it is never too late (and always preferable), that adults take full control and ultimately own the educational trajectories of their own children. Recently released data (2017), from Pew Research Center’s international math and science assessments analysis indicate that “U.S. students continue to rank behind many other advanced industrial nations”, in fact a companion survey of members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science found that just 16% rank U.S. K-12 STEM education as the best or above average; 46%, in contrast, said K-12 STEM in the U.S. was below average. The fact that the U.S. is consistently outranked in Science, Mathematics and Reading by countries like Finland, Japan and China is no secret – however, a copious analysis of the reasons the U.S. is left behind is quite sobering.

Educators often lament that children are sent to school within the early childhood education phase, without having had the benefit of the vast knowledge “building blocks” to succeed in life. This initial learning includes much more than merely the A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s but comprises the a wide array of knowledge and is observable through a child’s natural curiosity, language acquisition, spatial orientation, and behavioral interactions with both peers and adults. Between the ages of 0-5 (and especially by age 3), before a child is even introduced to formal education, they possess a keen ability to develop an expansive brain capacity and to sustain a wealth of cognitive, social and emotional abilities. Because of the fact that during these pivotal, early childhood years, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second – the brain’s full lifetime capacity develops 90% before a child even reaches age 5. In essence, the brain’s intricate architecture is already largely pre-destined before any one of us has even been exposed to formal learning and behavior patterns taught in school. The importance of the early childhood phase cannot be overstated and this is the primary reason that parents must not relegate the education of their children solely to others. Clearly, every one of us is required to be intimately involved and engaged in the educational process from birth. This aggressive, all-encompassing quest for knowledge must then be sustained throughout life.

One of the more meaningful assumptions about the Educate to Liberate (ETL) ideology, is that every person, at every age and rank in life, has something more to learn. Our model and expressed objective aims to meet the multifaceted needs of all individuals and our clientele ranges from that of PK-12 school-aged children, college and graduate level students, to adults seeking to learn specialized skills, homeschooling parents, educators, institutional professional development needs and corporate/non-profit training modules. In both a surprising and affirming manner, over the course of the past year and a half of our incorporation and international launch, the ETL clients most receptive to our efforts to turn the tide of mis-education and to promote a knowledge-driven platform c/o online learning? None other than that of countless Chinese families, who have an impressive and globally recognized reputation for owning their own educational trajectory and in earning coveted roles of international dominance in nearly every industry for their esteemed record of achievement and business acumen. As an international school without walls, Educate to Liberate has been afforded the coveted opportunity to work directly with parents seeking to supplement their child’s education with English language instruction, and to reinforce any/all of the core subject areas in which their children fail to master in school. To my utter surprise and delight, I have taught students as young as Chinese infants, who learn via a phone, laptop or tablet while sitting on their parents laps to adults (all within a digital platform). I have since learned that China’s educational trajectory mirrors the system here in the U.S. in that primary education begins at age 6, however this is where the similarities come to an abrupt end. Their educational system has earned an impressive reputation and school is admittedly challenging and competitive.

In China, children are only required to fulfill 9 years of education and following the primary level and three years of middle school, students have the option to decide whether or not they would like to continue for 3 more years of senior middle school to complete their secondary education. Despite heavy academic workloads in school, Chinese students are tutored daily in order to maintain the rigor of their peers and classmates. After a long school day beginning as early as 6 am and ending between 4 and 5 pm, Chinese students are tutored in a wide range of core/priority subjects ranging from Math, Literature, English, Chemistry, and Physics. The school day though rigorous, is balanced by a 2-hour lunch/recess/nap break and relatively short holidays, school vacation days. From a negative standpoint, China is believed to be achievement obsessed and as such, education is a luxury (after age 15), meaning that only the affluent can meet the universally high academic requirements which include affording the high cost of one-to-one tutoring. On the contrary, here in the U.S. the public school day is shorter, admittedly less rigorous and the great American pastimes of sports, recreation, social activities and behavior/character education are all universal pre-requisites of the teacher/school institution, rather than appropriately regarded as left to the discretion of one’s parents and family. It is my humble opinion that such an inordinate focus upon outdated and exclusionary standards, curriculum and instruction and perhaps most oppressively, high-stakes, standardized testing, has rendered the U.S. educational system as largely inept and incapable of competing on an international scale. While the largely universal Common Core standards seek to incorporate increased rigor, communication skills, higher-order thinking and problem-solving expertise . . . our children still emerge as comprising an expansive achievement gap and ranking or as woefully unprepared when faced with the reputation of international scholarship.

The solution? Owning our own education, starting at birth and with an equal amount of curiosity, desire, involvement and engagement throughout the remainder of one’s lifetime. From an institutional standpoint, we must de-emphasize the importance of rote memorization and non-essential, albeit flawed American nationalist inspired theories (i.e. the purposeful re-writing of history), in favor of a purposeful and wide-ranging base of knowledge whereby geography, the truth of U.S. history and even biology and algebra are taught from a very young age, and in accordance with student interest. Gone are the days where subjective letter grades and culturally biased, inaccurate and misused tests like the ACT can cease to have relevance and weigh considerably in college admission decisions. Instead, we must embrace the educational ideals of empowering students to embrace their own creativity and natural genius at an early age, implement a more balanced and equitable standards-based grading system while increasingly devaluing the validity of historic college admission tests designed to inordinately favor affluent, White males. Only then will we be poised to acknowledge and reward the inherent genius of Black, brown, red, yellow and white and to close the gaping abyss of the U.S. achievement gap. We can finally begin to bridge the divide of the unique learning style of Black males (and to a lesser degree Black females), in that we are primarily kinesthetic, tactile, musical, visual, creatively inductive and oral learners – a non-conformist style which is otherwise diametrically opposed to the structured, linear, passive, deductive, written, rule-bound, standardized and conformist style of learning which predominates in American schools. While formal education rewards a hierarchal style and approach to knowledge acquisition, all other people of color operate within a communal culture which approaches learning in much the same way. Therefore, we must conclude that for the vast majority of America’s diverse student population, a bevy of unexpected and traumatic experiences of one’s life occurs during the foundational academic (or formative) years, wherein children interact with authority figures (White, female teachers) or other peers who may not be similarly raised or share common, moral beliefs. Parents naively assume that their own contributions to their children’s development has evolved to a marked state of closure and the vast majority of one’s growth and development is then subtly yet wholly transferred to a school system. This is a grave travesty and therein lies a common problem and societal misnomer, from which we must duly cease and desist.

Contrary to popular belief and even more common practice, there is no magic or appropriate age upon which we should cease engagement and interaction with the educational trajectory. If in fact knowledge is power (and indeed it is) . . . then we must own the educational process as a means to overcome the glaring societal and moral disparities of poverty, oppression, and mis-education to accomplish our diverse, lifelong learning goals and to achieve global recognition of unparalleled academic achievement and business success. It bears repeating that while parents are the first teachers, no government institution, school or individual should have greater sway over a child’s education than one’s family or oneself. Rigorous, affordable and lifelong learning is readily accessible c/o the Educate to Liberate LLC technologically savvy and online learning platform.

Please visit https://educatetoliberatel.wixsite.com/website or https://www.facebook.com/KnowledgeFreedomPower/ for more information on personalized, differentiated online learning options for lifelong knowledge acquisition, today.