Can We Identify and Create Instructional and Institutional Systems for ALL?

Play Video

Dr. Tyrone Howard is currently a Professor of Education in the School of Education at UCLA. In addition to this, he is the Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education to Strengthen Children & Families, the Director, UCLA Black Male Institute, the Director, UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, a published author, and much more.

Dr. Michael Conner

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Welcome to another episode of Voices for Excellence Podcast. But more importantly, we are celebrating Black History Month with the Black Excellence Series, and I am your host, Dr. Michael Connor, CEO and Founder of the Agile Evolutionary Group. And today’s episode, my guest is someone I have looked up to for years. And when I’m talking about years, when I was a chief academic officer in the Norwalk public schools, just reading Dr. Howard’s book and getting it signed and being in awe and everything, and then over the years, I developed a relationship with my brother, my fraternity brother as well, my education brother. And then at a point last year I went to Los Angeles and when I went to Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to go and meet Dr. Howard and just to catch up with education trends, just to catch up talking and just education in totality at UCLA, where he is a professor at. And then I told him, I said, Dr. Howard or I said, Frat, I’m going to write a book and I would love for you to write the foreword of my book. And this was going back to, when was this, March last year, Dr. Howard? And without hesitation he said yes. And then from there, he has been supporting me through my work, supported me when I was a superintendent and supported me through the book endeavor and writing the foreword to my book, Intentional, Bold and Unapologetic: A Guide to Transforming Schools in the AC Stage Education. I’m very appreciative for that. And it is with my honor to have or to bring to you Dr. Tyrone Howard, who is the professor of Education in the School of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles at Brentwood. He also serves as a director of the Black Male Institute and the Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children’s and Families. So without hesitation it is with honor to have my fraternity brother, my colleague, my brother just in general, Dr. Tyrone Howard. Dr. Howard, how are you?

Dr. Tyrone Howard

My brother, my brother, my brother. It is my sincere honor and privilege to be in your presence. I’m always trying to align myself with folks who are smarter than me, more talented than I am, more ambitious than I am. And so I’m doing that today because I feel like hopefully some of your genius can rub off on me. So I just want to say, frat, it’s good to see you. I’m excited to be here. Intentional, Bold, and Unapologetic. Come on, man, let’s do it.

Dr. Michael Conner

Listen, frat, I’m gonna end the podcast right now because with you just saying that, that’s just a major out for me, and Dr. Howard, like I said, it is such an honor. And I remember when last year I was really in that space of just trying to be like, what’s the next level of creativity? And going out to L.A. and calling you just saying, listen, I’m going to be out of Los Angeles. You want to meet for lunch? No doubt. Clear the schedule. That’s why I’m always going to appreciate you, man. But let’s get into the podcast because they don’t want to hear me talk. Everybody’s going to want to hear what Dr. Howard is going to have to say, but this is a fun question. And I love asking people on the podcast this question, but when stakeholders or when education leaders, teachers or whoever may encounter with your research, they might participate in a lecture series at UCLA or just listen to a keynote presentation. What song describes you in a research and education space? What song will come to mind format when people speak, listen and discuss educational trends with Dr. Howard?

Dr. Tyrone Howard

That’s a great question, Dr. Conner. I appreciate that one. So I’m a I’m a child born in the sixties. So the influence of Motown on me before I could even spell Motown was there. And so I’m a big Marvin Gaye guy. And so when I think about what might be a song, I think about what’s going on. I think about What’s Going On. Because my work is always trying to help bring awareness, try to awaken consciousness, trying to let folks know that we have some significant challenges before us. However, we have the capacity to be the solutions to those challenges, but we can’t do that unless we know what’s truly going on. And so I’ve tried to use my research and my scholarship as a platform to create awareness about what’s going on. I try to let folks know that there are pockets of success out there so they know what’s going on. So I think about Marvin Gaye, I think about that poignant question about What’s Going On, and I use that, though I didn’t think about it until you just asked this question, as a way to inform educational practitioners, leaders, policymakers, researchers, you name it. We have to know what’s going on if we’re going to be able to bring about solutions to some of the challenges that we face in education today.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yeah. And when you talk about solutions. First of all, What’s Going On, that’s just a classic masterclass with Marvin Gaye. But, I love the education interface because you just identified all tiers within the ecosystem, where they have to have that level of coherence of understanding what is really going on, i.e. the symptoms and root causes inhibiting black and brown students from moving forward, especially now at this persistent time in the AC stage of education. So after this podcast, I’m actually going to put on some Marvin Gaye What’s Going On. Look, Dr. Howard, when you said Motown, I was like, don’t let him go to Marvin Gaye. Don’t let him, and then he went to Marvin Gaye, because I knew he’s going to be something. So let’s move on to the next question. Right now you’re a professor of education in the School of Education at UCLA, and the director of the UCLA Black Male Institute and also UCLA’s Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children’s and Families. Now, we know that, in this space right here, specifically in the research and education space, those are really two big institutes that are really changing the landscape of education, really making people look at education fundamentally differently. But some of my viewers or some of my audience members might not know the key theory of action within those two institutes at UCLA. So just for a level setting purposes, what are each of those are institutes and how are their missions impacting communities and the education system in the AC stage of education?

Dr. Tyrone Howard

Yeah, no, I appreciate that. So just to give some context and some background, the UCLA Black Institute was created in 2010 and it was really organic in its genesis because it really emanated out of a real desire I had to do something as it pertains to the educational opportunities afforded to young black men. Much of my research had looked at black students and continues to look at black students. But as I spent more time in schools, more time and community spaces, there was something that was very apparent to me. And I’ve known this, but it became more prominent in my research. Something was different, something that was happening different for black boys and young men that I didn’t see happening in the other groups. I would go to school after school after school, whether it be large, comprehensive urban public schools, small, predominately white private schools. And I would always see black boys in the office, black boys who were being disciplined, black boys who were in trouble. And it became apparent to me that something was happening differently, not that there was something wrong with black boys and young black men, but I became concerned about what was wrong with the systems, the schools that serve them, or that are at least in theory, supposed to serve them. And then it kind of really was rooted to my own upbringing growing up here in Compton, seeing what happened to so many brilliant young black boys and young men who just did not have the opportunities to kind of blossom and flourish the way that so many other black men get the opportunity to do. And so it became a passion project, if I could just cut to the chase. A passion project that was deeply rooted in how do we do something different? And so our work for the last what, 13 years almost, has been really centered around research, policy practice and advocacy of young black boys and men trying to figure out how to begin to disrupt school to prison pipelines, how we begin to unpack issues around school discipline. We’ve even looked at issues around how we can better support black women. We’ve also looked at issues tied to black men and access to higher education. We’ve had a number of different kinds of work. We’ve done black men in pursuing teaching as a career field. So the focus has been there. How do we help support black boys and men across the continuum? And then that kind of ironically kind of situates itself with the work I do now with the Pritzker Center. The Pritzker Center has been focused on strengthening children and families, and a big focus of our work with the UCLA Pritzker Center is around youth who are in foster care. And again, the foster care work has been important to me for a number of reasons. One, my wife and I served as relative caregivers for two younger cousins, and that kind of opened my world up to what happens with the foster care system. And it is a doozy to see what happens in that system. And oh, by the way, when you look at that foster care system, a close to like 400,000 young people who are in care in this country, it’s disproportionately made up of… I say disproportionately, yeah, it’s disproportionately made up of black children. I mean, we’re about 13% of the population, but we’re close to about almost a third of the kids who are in Foster care. And that’s a deeply troubling number. And we are most likely to age out without reunifying with our families, we’re least likely to get access to services. And if you drill down even further on this, Mike, what you find is that black boys are the group of young people least likely to reunify and least likely to be adopted. So you have… and the data tells us that if you’re not adopted, and you transition out, the likelihood that you will find yourself homeless or in a carceral state at some point in time is significantly higher compared to if you get resources and get connected with family. So with the Pritzker Center, our work has been looking at issues around child welfare. You know me, I’m gonna always bring the racial analysis into it because I think that if we’re not looking at these issues through a racial lens, we’re missing some key indicators of what’s going on there. So in both of these works, in both these centers, the work has been connected to understanding systems change, which is tied to another center. I’m gonna drop this. I’m also tied to the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools. So all systems change is about structural change. That’s why your work around the status of education is so important, because we’re in a different moment right now. Post COVID after COVID, as you so eloquently write about. And so my work has really been at the nexus of trying to understand how we get systems to change and how we get structures to transform in a manner where they are more culturally attuned, more racially conscious, and more mindful of deep seated sort of socioeconomic disparities that continue to play opportunity in our country. So that’s what takes up all my time, is trying to get these centers to move in some kind of synergy to kind of bring awareness, but most importantly, Mike, and you know this, it’s about impact, how we have an impact. We can sit and talk about these issues all day, but I share the same compassion that you have that if we’re not making an impact on lives, then what are we doing?

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And thanks for that frat. Because when you outline, everything is being underscored with a racial lens, the nexus of systems redesign. It goes back to the word you said – impact. And I always like to look at things… how am I measuring the impact of the strategy, impact of the change, impact of whatever may be. But also kind of like going back to the outset of what you said, the work that you’re doing, both in the spaces with the UCLA Black Male Institute and then also the Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families, that is all indicative to outcomes that we see in our schools. Homelessness, we see that. There’s a percentage of our, I don’t have the exact data, but we’re starting to see homelessness rise in education. So those are the things that we have to be able to start asking questions. And yes, it is disproportionately represented because we have to look at it from a racial lens because Generation Z and Generation Alpha makes up 50% of public school right now. But I want to get down to this because you mentioned it going back to Compton, but you have several bestselling books, including writing the forward of my book, which is I just want to say thank you again, intentional, Bold and Unapologetic: A Guide to Transforming Schools in the AC Stage of Education. Having you, Tyrone, just write the forward, I could have at about 140 blank pieces of paper right there. But I’m going to unwrap your work in a minute. First, specifically when we talk about the AC stage of education, you kind of implicitly alluded to it within your last answer, but let’s go back to your formative years in education. When you were a teacher in Compton. Principals, instructional leaders and classroom practitioners… From your grounded experiences and in Compton, what strategies or advice… because you were applying those specific practices that are needed in the BC stage of education that are now needed to be replicated with a higher level of vitality in the AC stage of education… What strategies or advice would you provide anybody, cohorts or leaders, practitioners that are going to have to become more culturally relevant? Because today school demographics is the antithesis of what we saw 50 years ago.

Dr. Tyrone Howard

That’s right, spot on again. I’m big on understanding context. Education is national, but education is local more than anything else. And at this moment, what I tell school leaders and district leaders is that you’ve got to understand the very rapid nature upon which your demographics are changing and they will continue to change. I always ask leaders, think about what the demographics are today compared to what they were five years ago, compared to what they were ten years ago. And that transformation will be even more intense when you think about what it will look like five years from now, ten years from now. So I think the sort of the dividing line is that the work you do, Mike, is that when you look at where we were BC stage of education versus AC, we’ve got to ask different questions now in ways that we didn’t before. But as you eloquently lift up again in the age of education now right alongside all of the academic subject matter is you’ve got to know sort of the circumstances in which your young people are facing factors before they even step foot in the school. That’s where the AC stage of education now is. You’ve got to understand sort of the challenges tied to mental health, social/emotional well-being. You mentioned the issue a moment ago, for example, around the number of young people who are unhoused. That’s a reality that’s become all too real in the AC stage of education. We did a report recently that looked at in California, we’ve got approximately 270,000 that we know of, 270,000 young people who are unhoused. That matters for schools. Schools need to have adequate resources and supports to support young people who are living in shelters or cars or living on the streets. And oh, by the way, if you go talk to most teachers, and I’ve done this myself, so I know what they know about the McKinney Vento act, most have no clue what that is. So you’ve got federal legislation that’s designated for those who are unhoused, yet you go to two more schools, you ask about what kind of supports are offered through McKinney Vento. So most practitioners have no idea what you’re talking about. We’ve got to do a better job in this AC stage of education, of making sure that practitioners and leaders are able to adequately advocate for what supports are in place for young people who are experiencing homelessness, or if we can go one step further, food insecurities. We just have to recognize that if young people are experiencing anxiety or if they’re experiencing depression, anything we may have put together with that lesson is not going to get to first base. And so at this moment, I always tell my my pre-service teachers, those who are in training, that you’ve got to understand you are in the human beings business and that young people come to you with a complexity of factors, with layers of who they are, what they’ve seen, what they’ve experienced, what they hear. And you have to begin to address that before you can even get to the learning in ways that perhaps we did not talk about as explicitly when I first started becoming a classroom teacher. And, so when I say that folks, I was saying, so are you saying we have to put the personal and the social ahead of the academic? And I’m saying, no, it’s not one or the other. It’s a both/and. The two go hand in hand and for lots of students, this is… academics are relational. And do I trust you? Do I feel like you have my best interests at heart? So leaders have to cultivate that environment to support their practitioners to understand that education in this moment, as you lift it up, is so much more different. And you’ve got to be able to understand all the out of school factors which shape in-school factors.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And, as I was writing this down, the external factors and structural factors, I love how you eloquently put this, Dr. Howard, that we have to move from subject matter, knowledge domain expertise to now what I like to say, this divergent knowledge where it has to encompass dynamic expertise and not as one or the other, but it’s and. And I think that what needs to be foundational in the conversation, as you just put it, and I want to underscore and emphasize it, is that basic needs have to be a part of the conversation. And when we talk about basic needs, we have to add in a critical element or I should say, an apparatus of race. You’ve got to talk, going back to it, as much as people are trying to negate race from the conversation or try to nuance it as much as they can, which we saw the College Board do with the Florida curriculum. We can’t have nuanced conversations around or with race when it pertains to the specific elements that you highlighted. So very, very critical. But I think that capacity… it’s a shame that when we talk about homelessness, because this is something that’s very passionate with me with regards to students receiving the necessary resources and supports for that within schools, but just the basic element of knowing that a federal policy exists for these students and how can we get anywhere without having some of the basic constructs already identified, targeted and how we can advance that collectively? So, thank you for that. But moving from domain expertise to dynamic expertise, that means that everybody’s going to have to expand their specific capacities around the new dimensions of leadership. Do you think that’s going to be hard as a ecosystem, Dr. Howard, to be able to do that?

Dr. Tyrone Howard

It’s going to be difficult, but it’s necessary. I mean, what choice do we have? And I do worry, though, Dr. Conner, about the fact that we are already asking a lot of our leaders, we’re already stretching them, as you know, incredibly thin in terms of the kinds of ways they have to adhere to state, local district policies, how they have to think about support for teachers, HR matters, physical budgetary concerns. So there’s already a lot on the plate of leaders, as we know. And in this moment now, and I like that terminology use, dynamic expertise is going to have to expand because what we’re going to see right now, very soon, Doc, and you know this, is that a lot of states and districts are still, I wouldn’t say flush, but they’re still operating with COVID funds. The relief funds have been able to help sustain a lot of different interventions to support the program. But that money will soon dry up. And when the money dries up, what we must be clear about is that the factors and the challenges that schools and students face will not go away. They will still be in place because the effects of COVID will continue to last in the AC stage of education, as you lifted up. And we have to then figure out what will schools do, how will leaders be able to really sort of squeeze blood out of a turnip because as you see, decreasing enrollments in districts across the country, what you will see is a drying up of COVID relief funds, we are going to see a steady surge of the kinds of supports that students need. Leaders are going to have to make some hard decisions about what stays, what goes, how do you keep folks engaged? How do you stretch fundings? You will have to see perhaps special levies or initiatives or tax funds being put on the ballot because there’s going to be a situation where we’re asking leaders to do more with less. And that’s never easy. As you know, you’ve done this work far too long. And so I think we’re going to have to ask for more to be done, but it won’t be easy. And we just have to recognize that fact.

Dr. Michael Conner

And I think that when you were talking about whether it be segmented or comprehensive needs assessments, where you’re looking at programs with that program evaluation lens to see what size return on investment in a couple of years is going to be very difficult in education. Because I think that there were, and just saying specifically across the country, a few municipalities were actually not providing any additional resources because they were planting the COVID funding in order to offset taxes. And now we’re starting to see education and entities asking for huge percentage increases. But it was because of the fact that there was no ground to support from a city or municipal standpoint because they’re looking at the COVID relief funds as a plant to that. So it wasn’t supposed to be originated for that. But we did see districts across the country do that. But just moving on your your bestselling book, Why Race and Culture Matters in Schools. And All Students Must Thrive. I want to tell you straight up, everybody, I got both books signed. Because that’s my fraternity brother, that is my mentor that is one of the… he’s one of the best researchers in the country. So, of course I’m going to have those two books just from a supporting standpoint, but also from a learning standpoint. Those two books, they have this mega theme of addressing the core cultural issues at schools around student race, defining what high quality instruction looks like, and how to be culturally responsive. So with all of that, there’s this profound, dramatic change that needs to occur, as you said, in the AC stage of education. But we have to address racial equity and systemic cultural change. Those are right now, I should say, two taboos that you don’t want to talk about. So how do we change culture to achieve racial equity and excellence in schools? And how is this a part of the reimagination process for inclusion?

Dr. Tyrone Howard

Yeah, what I love about your Disruptive Excellence Framework, that kind of that you help to talk about systems and cultural shifts, right? Because what we oftentimes do in education, we look at how do we change or fix an individual actor or a group of actors? Because we got five teachers over here who need more support. We got six leaders over here that need support. And those are important steps. But I think at the end of the day, what happens and you’ve seen this before, you have a tremendous school that’s doing phenomenal work because they have a really dynamic leader who is helping to kind of make that place go. But the dynamic leader then leaves, and when that person leaves, all the the inertia falls apart because there weren’t cultural… there weren’t systems in place, there wasn’t a culture that would stand the test of time, that would supersede just an individual actor. So I think in order to change culture, we need to recognize a couple of things. But one is who are we serving? And I say the word serving very intentional because we must remember in schools we are serving, it is our privilege. It is our honor to serve people’s most cherished commodities, their children. So we need to know who we’re serving. And that’s where I always come back to what I lift up in my book, Why Race and Culture Matters, the changing racial demographics. For years we have seen these, what I call, majority minority districts in places like California, Texas, Florida, New York, all on the coast of the country. But now we’re seeing these changes happen in middle America, places like Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Tennessee. So the bottom line is, if you’re going to change culture, who are you serving? That means being in tune with the population shifts that we’re seeing. But that culture also has to be predicated on a set of beliefs that these are capable learners. So if you don’t have people who are in your systems, who have this firm set of beliefs that despite the fact that children come with some significant challenges and disadvantages that they still can be successful, then anything you try to do is going to be short sighted because people’s attitudes and beliefs will shape their actions. And so we have to then begin to ask people, what do you fundamentally think about kids who go poor? What are your deep seated values about what it means to help people who are immigrating to this country? We have to make sure that we have the people in place who have a firm sense of belief and possibility in the people that they are serving. And then the third piece I would add is really about what are the policies and practices that really help to put in place a climate or an ecosystem that is centered around racial equity. So we have to look at everything from the instructional practices that take place. What supports are in place to make sure that black and brown kids are not in schools where they’re getting what I call sort of this pedagogy of poverty, where it’s just busy work that just doesn’t prepare kids for a career in college. We have to look at things around discipline policies. Why do we continue to suspend black boys and black girls at a disproportionately high rate? We have to look at teacher supports in terms of what we’re doing there to make sure that we’re not losing some of our best and brightest practitioners. We also look at school funding policies because we see oftentimes in certain states you have what’s called opportunity hoarding or resource hoarding, where those more affluent districts are able to find ways to leverage certain opportunities that flow into their municipalities and not to the same degree where there’s the greatest need. So the changing of culture is predicated on having policies, practices, but also peoples and procedures in place that are sort of really anchored in this idea of the potential of the young people who we are serving. And part of the issue is changing of cultures is hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. I talked to a lot of leaders in schools and they will say, I want to change the culture in my school and I thought I could do it in the first six months and it hasn’t happened. I said, well, you can understand the turning the freight train, like a big freight liner, right? It takes a lot of energy and inertia to kind of get the right people in place, get the right people out, getting the right systems in place, doing… one of the things you lift up in Intentional, Bold, and Unapologetic is the importance of data. How do we know why, how… what data are we using to inform our decision making? And schools are in education all the time. We just do things because they’ve always been done this way. You ask someone about what data supports certain decision making, you get sort of some some awkward stares, but the goal here is using data to inform our decision making to begin to shift that. So when I talk about racial equity, folks say, well, why do you make it about race? Look who we’re serving and let’s look at outcomes. The outcomes continue to show that black and brown children are falling behind even further in some states compared to their White and certain Asian counterparts that want us doing something to say that we want to address those who are in greatest need. So I always maintain that the data tells a story. The question is, do we want to listen to the stories that our data is telling us? 

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And you know that I really appreciate you lifting my work because, I’m just looking at now… I put down a three piece policy practice, and you have said it, to be able to move culture change. Culture is a seismic shift. And because ultimately you’re trying to eliminate norms or you’re trying to eliminate inertia, trying to change mindsets, that’s a huge, huge, huge endeavor. And when you think about it, you talked about… when you bring up why do we have to bring up racial equity, the anchors of innovation science talk about big data and analytics. What are your data sets to be able to develop your questions, to drive your decision making, and to develop key indicators around the actual specific student groups of variables that we were just talking about, Dr. Howard? I mean, pedagogy of the poverty. I would hope that we can move to Pedagogy of Plenty and a stage of education that takes into consideration all of our students. Because I don’t want people to have this misnomer of the, I like to say, the misconception of critical race theory of how it’s being used and the pre-K well versus, say, pre-K -14 or 16 sector that we’re underscoring or underpinning to change. So your framework and association with our teaching learning organizations.

Dr. Tyrone Howard

So, I start with this critical wellness piece because part of what I say is that if young people are not well, they’re not going to learn. And part of what I raise with the critical wellness is that I think we have to be careful and we have to try to avoid this one size fits all when it comes to wellness, because many of the efforts that are in place now don’t take into account cultural nuances, language differences, racial uniqueness when it comes to how we begin to respond to people’s wellness. There are lots of cultural taboos that exist in black and brown communities when it comes to something, for example, like counseling or therapy. And so I’m not saying that we don’t do it. We just need to be mindful of those nuances. So wellness is about recognizing that until we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that people are whole and well, mentally, physically, psychologically, culturally, that’s the foundation of how we have to make sure that young people walking into our classrooms, walk into our schools, being at or near their best to receive whatever information we want to have with them. Now let’s go to critical pedagogy. One of the things I used to see in my years of spending time in schools like that, you walk into an AP class compared to a non AP class, it looks different. It feels different. The depth and rigor and complexity is different. In that elementary level, you go into a gifted class versus a non gifted class. There’s something different that students are getting. So why am I getting that with critical pedagogy? One of the key elements of critical pedagogy is about how you begin to introduce within classroom settings the idea of critical inquiry, of dialog, of questioning, assumptions, of challenging certain accepted truths. It’s about a deep seated analogy, sources of content that you engage in. That’s one of the fundamental aspects of pedagogy, questioning the world around you, questioning content. And so when I talk about these two examples of AP gifted classes versus non AP and gifted classes, one of the things that happens in those classes more times than not, is that there’s a strong encouragement of questioning and challenging and using academic discourse to understand content and literary analysis and ask about plot and sequence. The whole premise is centered around you questioning and challenging the content that you come into contact with. Because we say we want critical thinkers, we say we want analytical sort of minds. We say we want young people to begin to engage in the critique Socratic seminar, to be able to sort of use inductive and deductive reasoning. We say we want students to be able to identify the difference with primary and secondary sources and question why one is more valuable than the other. We want students to be in the spirit of inquiry, which is what critical pedagogy does. So for folks who get scared by critical pedagogy, i say, go take a look at what you see in many AP honors classes, I.B. courses, honors classes, a lot of that critical pedagogy. Now, people say, Well, what about–

Dr. Michael Conner

And Dr. Howard, if I could just interject. You just gave a really high level simplistic sequence definition of critical pedagogy. So just really fast, just for the audience. And this is kind of the question that comes up in groups, your definition that you prescribe for critical pedagogy is a different interpretation and articulation of critical pedagogy in schools. You know the question I’m about to ask, where are we getting lines mixed up? Because I’m hearing a high level instruct and that grounds rigor. I’m hearing instruction where the practitioner is the facilitator of learning, deepening levels of inquiry, being intentional, how they meet in specific levels of the knowledge taxonomies. But we get this polarization or politicized context of critical pedagogy. Where, why, how?

Dr. Tyrone Howard

Yeah, I think that we have allowed, not allowed, I think education’s always been political, but I think that the political-ness of education has become deeply polarizing. And so what happens is you get people who are not experts in this field who will take snippets of what they hear in the educational space or take catch phrases of what they hear in the educational space, and they create this entire narrative about what they are. And I think critical pedagogy and critical race theory are two prime examples. So, critical pedagogy, for example, has got… has deep roots in Marxism. And you look at the work of Paulo, famous people here that make Marxism. See, that’s why we can’t do pedagogy because you’re trying to create a socialist society and you’re anti-democratic and you try to take away our freedoms, and we’re not going to let you take away our freedom. So they take their small piece and they begin to sort of craft this entire narrative that says that’s why it’s bad. I always say that the devil is in the details and what we’re going to do is begin to disengage all the rhetoric and all the misinformation from what the true essence of some of these ideals are. Same thing if I can talk for a second about critical race theory. And you know, we can spend the next 2 hours talking about this one because now, critical race theory has become the boogeyman. And in education, it’s all the ails in Education, it’s all the what’s wrong with education. And, I’ve got so much to say on this one. I’m not going to do it because that’s for another time. But the issue I’m concerned about is that there’s such outrage, so much anger, so much just intensity around the thought that you… that critical race theory is teaching white children to feel bad about themselves. And God forbid we allow that to happen. Well, one of my initial responses is, well, where was all this outrage and anger when black and brown children were attending inferior schools and had to sit in front of teachers who did not see them in terms of their potential, who did not have their best interests at heart? What about the Arkansas, the Little Rock Nine, who had to have the National Guard come in and provide them escorts to be educated? Or Ruby Payne, when she went to school in segregated schools. And where was all the concern about how black children were feeling then when when that was the norm of the day? But I digress. I come back to the fact that if those young people were… if they had to experience racism firsthand, why is it such a bad thing for young people today to learn about that history? And from where I sit, critical race theory, again, let’s get past the fact that I’ve yet to see a teacher in a K-12 system show me a lesson, a unit, a textbook, an article that they’ve used to engage in any kind of instruction. So, number one, I’ve always said it’s not being taught in K-12 schools, so let’s just kind of stop all the outrage. This is why we do in higher education. This is what we do. Please, if anybody out there is listening who is seeing a critical race theory lesson, send it to me. I want to see it. I want to read it because I’ve yet to see it. I go to schools all across this country. I ask principals, I ask district media as board members, Show me the lesson. Show me the excerpt where we’re teaching third graders about critical race theory. But nonetheless it’s not happening. But if I can go to one final point on this, because I think that’s all said and done. Those who are looking at critical race theory as the boogeyman. What they don’t know is they don’t know the real genesis of where critical race theory comes from. Critical race theory emerges out of critical legal studies where folks like Kimberlé Crenshaw and Cheryl Harris and Richard Delgatto, legal scholars of color, were raising what I think are very fair questions about the ways in which the law, which is supposed to be colorblind, was not. And how do you begin to look at the ways in which racism was playing out and how legal actions were taking place. So they were engaged in writing, looking at case law, saying, look, how do people of color who are oftentimes innocent of certain crimes, but yet they get found guilty by all white juries. They had all this, this, this, this. And they beat around the fact that, look, racism, unfortunately, has been at the foundation of this country’s inception from the stealing of lands of indigenous peoples, the enslavement of Africans. The list goes on. So they were saying, these legal scholars, that we have to begin to examine race when it comes to the law. It’s a fair question. And in critical race theory in education, folks like Lori Lasen Billings, Danny Lawson, all were saying the same thing, that when we look at this country in terms of its opportunities for education, that there are some important racial questions we have to ask. Have educational opportunities always been afforded to nonwhite students? And we know the answer to that question is it has not. And how do we begin to think about how we create a more just, democratic society by creating the kind of racial equity that you lift up in your work, Mike, right? And so for anybody who says that critical race theory is the boogeyman, they’re missing the point. They have not read the work of Tanika Chapman. They’ve not read the work of Adrian Dixon. They’ve not read the work of Lindsay Perez Uber. These are folks who have said, listen, look at our policies, look at our textbooks, look at our funding mechanisms. Children of color have been harmed in the name of education. You are hard pressed to show me any data that will show that that has not been the case. So part of what we can do is we can have the practical discussion around CRT, around whether or not it’s taught in schools, which is a really a short conversation, because as I mentioned a moment ago, it’s not. Or we can have the theoretical conversation about what critical race theory does. And if you’re going to have an intellectually honest conversation, anybody who says they’re truly concerned about fairness, and an egalitarian society would say, that the questions that people in critical race theory raise are fair. Has racism been normal in this country since its inception? Yes. Should we be looking at oppression through an intersectional lens? Yes. Does experience or knowledge matter in terms of talking firsthand that people have experiences? Yes. And I can go on and on and on. But again, we’ve let this be politicized in ways it has taken on a whole new life of its own. I had a family member recently, a family member who told me, he leans conservative and that’s been that’s fine. But he told me that the critical race theory was the worst thing that’s happened to this country in the last, what did he tell me, last five years. And I told him, I said, wait a minute, were you around on January 6th? I said, did you see what happened to our capital? Why was that not a bad thing? Last time I checked critical race theory, no one died because of critical race theory. No one got attacked because of critical race theory and no one was assaulted because of critical race theory. But again, we make that out to be the boogeyman. And why? Because, again, it gets back to that taboo topic of race, the topic we just don’t want to talk about in this country.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yeah. And Dr. Howard, I wish… you know Erin Jones, she’s an author, former state assistant superintendent in Washington State. She brought up a great, great, great point where she said, we are unprepared to talk about race and we are grossly unprepared to even have remotely impactful conversations about race. But when you talk about this whole thing around critical wellness, critical pedagogy and critical race theory, I just don’t see how it is analogous to what people are describing today, because policy, textbook resources, funding… I just wrote a blog and it’s about to be released and it’s called Separate and Not Equal: Disrupting Education or Disrupting Pathway Tracks in the AC Stage of Education and two compelling metrics that came out of edge for us, 9% of black students are enrolled in advanced placement courses from 2020, 21% of our brown or Latino brothers. So basically we are less than 35%-36% of our students, black and brown students, in advanced courses. And if you think about the courses, why? Resources. There’s not enough teachers to teach those advanced courses. Not enough resources to even add more sections of courses. So when you think about who are those students that are being left out, black or brown students, and they represent 50% of Generation Alpha, Generation Z. But Dr. Howard, thank you because I wanted that… I wanted those misnomers rectified through you. Because we need somebody at the higher education space to be able to say no, no, no. Critical pedagogy is not this, this is what this is. Critical race theory is not this the genesis and impetus is this, and this is what it is. Even critical wellness underscores, that racial lens. But last question frat. And I want to ask you this. This is one of the hardest questions, but it’s the easiest question. It’s on, all you just need, frat, everybody that is showing up here as a guest on Voices for Excellence has not listened to the guidelines. So I don’t expect you to follow frames on this, but please take it how it is right. So what three words and only three words do you want today’s audience to leave our podcast celebrating Black History Month with in regards to being intentional, bold and unapologetic with regards to critical wellness, critical pedagogy, and critical race theory, and the AC stage of education.

Dr. Tyrone Howard

Know, Care, Act. Know, Care, Act. We need to know the conditions and circumstances in which young people around us are being educated today. We need to inform ourselves with information. Knowledge is power, so we need to know the second thing we need to care. We need to have the kind of human compassion that says that when we see any group of people suffering, we all feel some degree of pain. We need to care enough to say that, I need to ask myself in my complicit in the sort of disadvantage that someone might be experiencing. We need to care in a humanistic way whenever there’s a national or international tragedy. I watch the way we rally around people who are suffering. And I think that’s admirable. We need to be like that every day in our work, so we need to care and then finally act. We have to act. We have to act intentionally, if I might add. We have to act boldly, might I add. We have to act unapologetically, if I might add. We have to do something. Everybody can play a role – act. It can be local, it can be regional, it can be national, it can be global. But everybody has a role they can play act to eliminate all forms of oppression, act to eliminate all forms of discrimination, racism, and exclusion and sexism, homophobia, act to create a more just and loving world. So again, my three words are know, care and act.

Dr. Michael Conner

Know, Care, and Act. Especially that compassion piece. But the act, do something, if you don’t leave with any strategies or anything from today’s recording, please just do something because our kids are going to need it. For it has just been an absolute honor, honor, honor, honor to have you on Voices for Excellence within Black History Month on the Black Excellence Series. And again, thank you for writing the foreword to my book. Very appreciative brother.

Dr. Tyrone Howard

Appreciate you, brother. Keep doing what your doing.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And on that note, onward and upward, everybody. Take care. Have a good day.