#254: Nice White Parents
We’re almost in August, loyal readers, which means that school’s around the corner again. How did that happen? I don’t know about you, but for me, this year’s version of summer was the shortest in recorded history. For all you educators out there, I wish you every morsel of rest (and reading!) before heading back.
Leading this week’s issue is the first episode of “Nice White Parents,” the much-hyped podcast by Serial Productions that dropped this morning. I got up early to take a listen and recommend the piece to white parents and white educators.
If listening isn’t your thing, the other three pieces in today’s issue are also worth your attention. They explore the common theme of community — who’s in vs. who’s out, and in the case of John Lewis, how to make our community a better one. Please enjoy them and let me know your thoughts!
+ Tonight at 5 pm PT, loyal reader Telannia (please see her photo and bio below) and I are facilitating a discussion on “What Is Owed,” the brilliant article on reparations by Nikole Hannah-Jones. If you’ve read the piece and want to talk about it, hit reply, and I’ll send you the Zoom link. We’re both looking forward to a thoughtful conversation. Hope you’ll make it!
I still remember a Back to School Night in San Francisco, early in my teaching career, when I thought it would be a good idea, after concluding my presentation, to open the floor for questions. In a room of 40 parents, all but two Black or Brown, a white woman in the back of the room raised her hand, looked around and then at me, and asked, “What are you going to do to help my child in this classroom?”
Hosted by the outstanding Chana Joffe-Walt, “Nice White Parents” explores how liberal white parents may mean well but ultimately wield their power toward selfish ends, taking over schools, hoarding resources for their children, and exacerbating inequities.
“When we look for what’s broken, for how our schools are failing, we focus on who they’re failing — poor kids, Black kids, and Brown kids. We ask, ‘Why aren’t they performing better? Why aren’t they achieving more?’ Those are not the right questions. There’s a powerful force that is shaping our public schools — arguably, the most powerful force. It’s there even when we pretend not to notice it. If you want to understand why our schools aren’t better, that’s where you have to look. You have to look at white parents.” (62 min)
+ Also by Ms. Joffe-Walt: “LaDonna” and “The Problem We All Live With.”
Together, You Can Redeem The Soul Of Our Nation
John Lewis: “Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland, and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression, and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” (4 min)
I’m very excited to facilitate tonight’s discussion with loyal reader Telannia Norfar. Ms. Norfar is a math teacher and department chair in a public school in Oklahoma City, OK. She is entering her 16th year of teaching and is an advocate for improving educational experiences for BIPOC students. She uses student-centered strategies so that students become independent learners. One of her main strategies is Project-Based Learning. She is the author of Project-Based Learning in the Math Classroom. She is CEO of Neither Near Norfar, Inc, a consulting company that provides training on student-centered educational strategies. Telannia is a National Faculty Member for PBLWorks. Hope to see you at 5 pm PT!
After a poetry reading, Gary Jackson sips wine and tries to make small talk with two women eager to tell him that racial relations have improved and how “it doesn’t matter what color anyone is as long as you’re willing to listen.” Sensing awkwardness in the conversation, a third woman saves the day, steering the conversation back to the art and reminding Mr. Jackson that “everything’s always been this awful, but it’s getting better.” (2 min)
Disney World During The Pandemic Is Extremely Weird
“I should admit,” Graeme Wood writes, “that a Disney vacation, even in pre-coronavirus conditions, sounds to me like the most elaborate way to have a miserable time yet invented by humankind.” But in this hilarious, well-written article, Mr. Wood discovers that the Magic Kingdom, despite its problems, serves as a benevolent authoritarian regime, satisfying its obedient subjects, who don’t mind the constant surveillance and the $11 corn dogs. Maybe this is better governance than what’s outside Disney’s walls? (26 min)
+ Reader Annotations: Several of you listened to last week’s outstanding podcast with Bryan Stevenson. (Thank you.) Here’s what loyal reader Lisa had to say:
Stevenson’s interview was profound. I’ve had a Post-It on my monitor all summer that says “liberation.” It is the filter through which I move my decisions and thoughts. They are either liberating me and others or they are not. Period. But the most moving idea in the podcast was the imperative of truth telling. There is no beauty, no liberation, no healing without it.
Thank you very much, Lisa, for your thoughtful contribution. Loyal readers, if an article in this newsletter moves you, by all means, hit reply and let me know.
Thank you very much for reading yet another issue of The Highlighter. Let me know what you thought by hitting reply or by clicking on the thumbs below.
Also, let’s welcome our community’s 4 new members: David, Janna, Galiullina, and Feroze. I hope that you find this newsletter a solid addition to your Thursday email inbox.
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