Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool: Hundreds of professors across the country support Seattle educators in their day of action
Over 200 scholars and professors nationwide sign statement in support of the Seattle teachers’ October 19,, 2016 action to make Black Students’ Lives Matter in the district. The support for making Black Lives Matter in our classrooms has been widespread, yet some around the nation have also responded with messages of hate and fear. Dr. Wayne Au, Associate Professor in the School of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell and an editor for the social justice teaching publication, Rethinking Schools, put out a call to professors and scholars to publicly tell the Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle School Board that many experts in the field of education and beyond support Seattle teachers. Below is the statement and the list of 212 names and affiliations as of October 17, 2016.
We, the undersigned professors and scholars, publicly express our support for and solidarity with teachers of Seattle Public Schools and their October 19, 2016 action in recognition of making Black Student Lives Matter in our schools. We hope that these teachers are continually supported by the district, the school board, their union, and parents in their struggle for racial justice in Seattle schools.
Name & Affiliation (for informational purposes only)
- Curtis Acosta, Education for Liberation Network & University of Arizona South
- Alma Flor Ada, Ph. D., Professor Emerita, School of Education, University of San Francisco
- Annie Adamian, Assistant Professor, California State University, Chico
- Jennifer D. Adams, Associate Professor Science Ed and Earth and Environmental Sciences, CUNY
- Tara L. Affolter, Assistant Professor, Middlebury College
- Jean Aguilar-Valdez, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, Portland State University
- Lauren Anderson, Associate Professor of Education, Connecticut College
- Subini Annamma, Assistant Professor, Special Education, University of Kansas
- Zandrea Ambrose, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh
- Nancy Ares, Associate Professor, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
- Michael W. Apple, John Bascom Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
- Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, Teacher Educator–Montclair State University; EdD student at Rutgers Graduate School of Education
- Rick Ayers, Asst. Prof of Education, U of San Francisco.
- William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education (retired), University of Illinois Chicago
- Wayne Au, Associate Professor, School of Educational Studies, University of Washington Bothell
- Jeff Bale, Associate Professor of Language and Literacy Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
- Megan Bang, Associate Professor, learning Sciences and Human Development, Secondary Teacher Education
- Lesley Bartlett, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Teddi Beam-Conroy, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Elementary Teacher Preparation Program, University of Washington
- Lee Anne Bell, Professor Emerita, Barnard College
- John Benner PhC, University of Washington, College of Education
- Jeremy Benson, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Studies, Rhode Island College
- Dr Berta Rosa Berriz, Arts in Learning Division,Lesley University
- Dan Berger, Assistant professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Bothell
- Margarita Bianco, associate professor, School of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver
- Anne Blanchard, PhD, Senior Instructor, Western Washington University.
- Whitney G. Blankenship, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies & History, Rhode Island College.
- Aaron Bodle, Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education, James Madison University
- Joshua Bornstein, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, Felician University.
- Samuel Brower, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Houston
- Anthony Brown, Associate Professor, University of Texas Austin
- Kristen Buras, Associate Professor, Georgia State University
- Dolores Calderon, Associate Professor, Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Washington university
- Timothy G. Cashman Associate professor, social studies education, University of Texas at El Paso
- Keith C. Catone, Principal Associate, Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
- Charusheela, Assistant professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Bothell
- Minerva S. Chávez, Ph. D., Director, Single Subject Credential Program, Associate Professor, Department of Secondary Education, California State University, Fullerton
- Linda Christensen, Director Oregon Writing Project at Lewis & Clark College.
- Christian W. Chun, Assistant Professor of Culture, Identity and Language Learning, University of Massachusetts Boston
- Carrie Cifka-Herrera Ph.D. University California Santa Cruz
- Donna-Marie Cole-Malott, PhD candidate, Pennsylvania State University
- Ross Collin, Associate Professor of English Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Rebekah Cordova, PhD, College of Education, University of Florida
- Chris Crowley, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Wayne State University
- Cindy Cruz, Associate Professor of Education, UC Santa Cruz
- Mary Jane Curry, University of Rochester
- Karam Dana, Assistant Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Bothell
- Chela Delgado, adjunct faculty in San Francisco State University Educational Leadership graduate program
- Robert L. Dahlgren, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, SUNY Fredonia
- Noah De Lissovoy, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Texas at Austin
- Betsy DeMulder, Professor, College of Education and Human Development, George Mason University
- Robin DiAngelo, Adjunct Faculty, University of Washington School of Social Work.
- Maurice E. Dolberry, PhD. Lecturer, School of Educational Studies, University of Washington-Bothell
- Michael J. Dumas, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley.
- Jody Early, Associate Professor, School of Nursing and Health Studies, University of Washington Bothell
- Kimberly Early, adjunct faculty, Education department at Highline College & Applied Behavioral Science department at Seattle Central
- Education for Liberation
- Kathy Emery, PhD, Lecturer at San Francisco State University
- Joseph J Ferrare, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky
- Michelle Fine, Professor, City University of New York Graduate Center
- Liza Finkel, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, Lewis & Clark College Graduate School of Education and Counseling
- Kara S. Finnigan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education Policy, Warner School of Education, University of Rochester
- Ryan Flessner, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, Butler University
- Susana Flores, PhD Assistant Professor, Curriculum, Supervision and Educational Leadership at Central Washington University
- Kristen B. French, Associate Professor & Director, Center for Education, Equity and Diversity, Woodring College of Education, Western Washington University
- Victoria Frye, Associate Medical Professor, City University of New York School of Medicine
- Derek R. Ford, Assistant Professor of Education Studies, DePauw University
- Jill Freidberg, part time lecturer, Media and Communication Studies, University of Washington Bothell.
- James A. Gambrell, Assistant Professor of Practice, Graduate School of Education, Portland State University
- Arline García, Spanish Instructor, Highline College
- Mónica G. GarcíaAssistant Professor Secondary Education, California State University Northridge
- Brian Gibbs Assistant Professor of Education University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- David Goldstein, Senior Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington Bothell.
- Julie Gorlewski, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Alexandro Jose Gradilla, Associate Professor, Chicana/o Studies, CSU Fullerton.
- Sandy Grande, Professor of Education and Director of the center for the comparative study of race and ethnicity, Connecticut College
- Allison Green, English Department, Highline College
- Kiersten Greene, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, State University of New York at New Paltz
- Susan Gregson, Assistant Professor, College of Education, University of Cincinnati
- Martha Groom, Professor, IAS, University of Washington Bothell
- Rico Gutstein, University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
- Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Michigan State University
- Amy Hagopian at University of Washington School of Public Health.
- Jessica James Hale, Doctoral Research Fellow, Mathematics Education, Georgia State University Elizabeth Hanson, ESL Professor, Shoreline Community
- May Hara, Assistant Professor, College of Education, Framingham State University
- Nicholas Hartlep, Assistant Professor of Urban Education, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN
- Jill Heiney-Smith, Instructor in Teacher Education, Director of Field Placements, Seattle Pacific University
- Mark Helmsing, Coordinator of Social Studies Education, University of Wyoming
- Kevin Lawrence Henry, Jr., Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies & Practice, College of Education, University of Arizona.
- Erica Hernandez-Scott, Master in Teaching Faculty, Evergreen State College
- Josh Iddings, Assistant Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies, Virginia Military Institute
- Ann M. Ishimaru, Assistant Professor, University of Washington
- Dimpal Jain, Assistant Professor, California State University, Northridge
- Brian Jones, City University of New York, Graduate Center
- Denisha Jones, Assistant Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, Trinity Washington University
- Beth Kalikoff, Associate Professor, Univ. of Washington Seattle
- Richard Kahn, Core Faculty in Education, Antioch University Los Angeles
- Daniel Katz, Chair, Department of Educational Studies, Seton Hall University
- Mary Klehr, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education
- Courtney Koestler, Director of the OHIO Center for Equity in Math and Science, Ohio University
- Jill Koyama, Associate Professor, Educational Policy Studies and Practice, University of Arizona
- Chris Knaus, Associate Professor, University of Washington Tacoma
- Matthew Knoester, Associate Professor, University of Evansville
- Rita Kohli, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Riverside
- Ron Krabill, Associate Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Bothell
- Patricia Krueger-Henney, Assistant Professor, College of Education and Human Development, University of Massachusetts Boston.
- Saili Kulkarni College of Education Assistant Professor Cal State Dominguez Hills
- Scott Kurashige, Professor, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Bothell
- Gloria Ladson-Billings Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education UW-Madison
- Carrie Lanza, MSW and PhD, adjunct faculty, University of Washington Bothell
- Douglas Larkin, Associate Professor, Secondary and Special Education, Montclair State University
- Alyson L. Lavigne, Associate Professor, College of Education, Roosevelt university
- Clifford Lee, Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s College of California
- Kari Lerum, Associate Professor, Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, University of Washington
- Pauline Lipman, Professor, Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois-Chicago
- Katrina Liu, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, University of Nevada Las Vegas
- Lisa W. Loutzenheiser, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
- David Low, Assistant professor of literacy education, California State University Fresno
- John Lupinacci, Assistant Professor, Department of Teaching & Learning, Washington State University
- Wendy Luttrell, Professor, Urban Education & Critical Social Psychology, Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center
- Aurolyn Luykx, Assoc. Professor of Anthropology & Education, University of Texas at El Paso.
- Sheila Macrine, Professor, Umass Dartmouth
- Tomás Alberto Madrigal, Ph.D., Tacoma Pierce County Health Department
- Jan Maher, Senior Scholar, Institute for Ethics in Public Life, State University of NY at Plattsburgh
- Curry Malott, Associate Professor, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
- Gerardo Mancilla, Ph.D., Director of Education Administration and Leadership, School of Education Faculty, Edgewood College
- Roxana Marachi, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education, San Jose State University
- Fernando Marhuenda, PhD, Professor in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Valencia, in Spain
- Tyson Marsh, Associate Professor, Seattle University
- Carlos Martínez-Cano, PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
- Edwin Mayorga, Assistant Professor, Educational Studies, Swarthmore College
- Kate McCoy, Associate Professor of Educational Foundations, SUNY New Paltz
- Cynthia McDermott.EdD., Professor and Regional Director, Antioch University Los Angeles
- Jacqueline T. McDonnough, Ph.D., Associate Professor Science Education, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Kathleen McInerney, Professor, School of Education, Saint Xavier University
- Deborah Meier, MacArthur fellow, NYU fellow
- José Alfredo Menjivar, Doctoral Student, CUNY, Graduate Center and Humanities Alliance Fellow, LaGuardia Community College
- Paul Chamness Miller, Professor of International Liberal Arts, Akita International University
- Jed Murr, Full-Time Lecturer, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Bothell
- Bill Muth, Associate Professor, Adult Learning and Literacy, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Kate Napolitan, Teaching Associate, University of Washington Seattle
- Jason M. Naranjo Assistant Professor, Special Education University of Washington Bothell
- Pedro E. Nava, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Mills College
- Network for Public Education
- Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Tammy Oberg De La Garza, Associate Professor, College of Education, Roosevelt University
- Gilda L. Ochoa, Professor of Sociology and Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies, Pomona College
- Margo Okazawa-Rey Professor Emerita, San Francisco State University
- Susan Opotow, PhD Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
- Rachel Oppenheim, Director and Core Faculty, School of Education, Antioch University Seattle
- Joy Oslund, Coordinator of directed teaching, assistant professor, Madonna University, Livonia, MI
- Sandra L. Osorio, Assistant Professor, School of Teaching and Learning, Illinois State University
- Callie Palmer, WSU doctoral student/adjunct faculty at Linn Benton Community College
- Django Paris, associate professor, department of teacher education, Michigan State University
- Hillary Parkhouse, Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Leigh Patel, Associate Professor, Boston College.
- Summer Pennell, Assistant Professor of English Education, Truman State University
- Patricia Perez, Professor, California State University Fullerton
- Emery Petchauer, Associate Professor. College of Ed. Michigan State University
- Bree Picower Associate Professor Montclair State University
- Farima Pour-Khorshid, Teacher Educator, University of San Francisco and PhD Candidate at University of California, Santa Cruz
- Shameka Powell, Assistant Professor of Educational Studies, Department of Education, Tufts University
- Rebecca M Price, Associate Professor, UW Bothell
- Sarah A. Robert, Associate Professor, University at Buffalo (SUNY)
- Mitchell Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education, Michigan State University
- Rosalie M. Romano, Associate Professor Emerita, Western Washington University
- Ricardo D. Rosa, PhD., Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies,, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
- Wayne Ross, Professor, University of British Columbia
- Dennis L. Rudnick, Associate Director of Multicultural Education and Research, IUPUI
- Lilliana Patricia Saldaña, Associate Professor, Mexican American Studies, University of Texas San Antonio
- Jen Sandler, Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
- Jeff Sapp, professor of education, California State University Dominguez Hills
- Alexandra Schindel, Asst Professor, University at Buffalo
- Ann Schulte, Professor of Education, CSU Chico
- Simone Schweber, Goodman Professor of Education, UW-Madison
- Déana Scipio, Postdoctoral fellow, ERC & Chèche Konnen Center at TERC
- Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, Associate Professor, English Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
- Doug Selwyn, Professor of Education, State University of New York
- Julie Shayne, Senior Lecturer, University of Washington Bothell
- Sarah Shear, Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education, Penn State Altoona
- Mira Shimabukuro, Lecturer, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell
- Janelle Silva, Assistant Professor, School of IAS, University of Washington Bothell
- Carol Simmons. Retired educator, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle University Professor, Seattle Community College, Western State University, City University Professor.
- Dana Simone, Instructor, Foundational Studies in Education, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
- George Sirrakos, Assistant Professor of Secondary Education, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
- Christine Sleeter, Professor Emerita, California State University Monterey Bay
- Timothy D. Slekar, Dean, College of Education, Edgewood College, Madison, WI
- Beth Sondel, Assistant Professor, Department of Instruction and Learning, University of Pittsburgh
- Debbie Sonu, Associate Professor of Education, City University of New York
- Mariana Souto-Manning, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum & Teaching, Teachers College Columbia
- Jeremy Stoddard, Associate Professor, College of William & Mary
- David Stovall, Professor, University of Illinois Chicago
- Rolf Straubhaar, Assistant Research Scientist, University of Georgia.
- Katie Strom, Assistant Prof Educational Leadership, Cal State Univ East Bay
- Katy Swalwell, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Iowa State University
- Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant Professor, Dept of African American Studies, Princeton University
- Monica Taylor, Associate Professor, Secondary and Special Education, Montclair State University
- Cathryn Teasley, Assistant Professor, University of A Coruña (Spain)
- Adai Tefera, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Clarens La Mont Terry, Associate Professor, Occidental College
- Amoshaun Toft, Assistant Professor, School of IAS, University of Washington Bothell
- Sara Tolbert, Assistant professor, College of Education, University of Arizona
- Maria Torre, the City University of New York Graduate Center
- Diane Torres-Velasquez, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico
- Victoria Trinder, Clinical Assistant Professor, College of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
- Eve Tuck, Associate Professor of Critical Race and Indigenous Studies in Education, OISE, University of Toronto
- Carrie Tzou, Associate Professor, University of Washington Bothell
- Angela Valenzuela, professor of Educational Administration, University of Texas at Austin
- Manka Varghese, Associate Professor, University of Washington College of Education
- Julian Vasquez-Heilig, Professor, California State University Sacramento
- Michael Vavrus, Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies (Education, Political Economy, History), The Evergreen State College
- Verónica Vélez, Assistant Professor and Director, Education and Social Justice Minor and Program, Western Washington University
- Maiyoua Vang, Associate Professor, College of Education, California State University, Sacramento
- Michael Viola, Assistant Professor, Saint Mary’s College of California
- Donna Vukelich Selva, Edgewood College, Madison WI
- Catherine C. Wadbrook, MA, Med, Assistant Professor, Department of English and Journalism, Austin Community College
- Mimi Wallace, Assistant Professor, Secondary Education, McNeese State University
- Camille Walsh, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Washington Bothell
- Lois Weiner, Professor, Director, Urban Education and Teacher Unionism Policy Project New Jersey City University
- Melissa Weiner, Associate Professor of Sociology, College of the Holy Cross
- Michael Wickert, Professor of English an Education, Southwestern College, Chula Vista, CA
- Gabe Winer, English/ESOL Department Co-chairBerkeley City College
- Min Yu, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University
- Ken Zeichner Boeing Professor of Teacher Education, University of Washington Seattle
- Shelley Zion, Professor, Urban Education, Rowan University
The struggle for equitable education went to summer school, and the new school year is getting underway with leading Black organizations bolstering the movement against the central components of the corporate education reform agenda.
In an earthmoving decision for the education landscape, the NAACP — the nation’s oldest civil rights organization — voted at its July national gathering to call for “a moratorium on privately managed charter schools,” saying charter schools:
do not represent the public yet make decisions about how public funds are spent [and have] contributed to the increased segregation rather than diverse integration of our public school system…. Researchers have warned that charter school expansions in low-income communities mirror predatory lending practices that led to the sub-prime mortgage disaster, putting schools and communities impacted by these practices at great risk of loss and harm.
A moratorium would halt the granting of any more licenses to open new charter schools — that is, schools funded by the public but privately run and not accountable to democratically elected school boards. The NAACP announcement has corporate education reformers reeling. Rick Hess, director of education policy at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, said that if local governments adopt the NAACP’s proposed moratorium, “It would give a permanent black eye to the sector.”
If the NAACP’s stance on charters would bruise the corporate agenda, then the declaration from the Movement for Black Lives — the newest civil rights coalition, comprised of dozens of grassroots organizations around the country — would flatline it altogether. The coalition released a policy platform at the beginning of August that called for, among other things, a moratorium on all out-of-school suspensions and the removal of police from schools, replacing them with positive alternatives to discipline and safety. It also called for a moratorium on charter schools and school closures, and full funding formulas that adequately weigh the needs of all districts in the state. The Movement for Black Lives wrote:
Sixty years since Brown v. Board of Education, the school-to-prison pipeline continues to play a role in denying Black people their human right to an education, and privatization strips Black people of the right to self-determine the kind of education their children receive. This systematic attack is coordinated by an international education privatization agenda, bankrolled by billionaire philanthropists such as Bill and Melinda Gates, the Walton Family, and Eli and Edythe Broad, and aided by the departments of Education at the federal, state, and local level…. Their aims are to undermine Black democracy and self-determination, destroy organized labor, and decolor education curriculum, while they simultaneously overemphasize standardized testing, and use school closures to disproportionately disrupt access to education in Black communities.
Indeed, billionaire philanthrocapitalists have upended education over the past 15 years by backing a series of major policy changes — codified in the No Child Left Behind Act, the Race to the Top initiative and the Common Core State Standards. These policies have badly damaged education for all kids and have had particularly harmful effects on Black and Brown communities. Today, increasing numbers of people have discovered that these reforms are in reality efforts to turn the schoolhouse into an ATM for corporate America.
While their program for corporate reform is being eroded by research and rising grassroots movements, the corporate reformers are clinging to one last glossy brochure in the public relations portfolio — the one with photos of Black youth on the cover and promises that all of these reforms are really about civil rights and defending kids of color.
The president of the pro-corporate reform group Democrats for Education Reform, Shavar Jeffries, scolded the NAACP for its opposition to charters: “It’s a divide between families who are served by charters and see the tangible effects that high-quality charters are having, and some who don’t live in the inner-city communities, where it becomes more of an ideological question versus an urgent life-and-death issue for their kids.”
What these neoliberal reformers know, but don’t want you to know, are the findings of a recent study on charter school discipline practices. This comprehensive analysis found:
- Black students at charter schools were suspended 6.4 percent more often than white students at the primary level and an astounding 16.4 percent more at the secondary level.
- 374 charter schools suspended 25 percent of their enrolled student body at least once.
- Nearly half of all Black secondary charter school students attended one of the 270 schools that was hyper-segregated (meaning at least 80 percent of the student body was Black) and where the aggregate Black suspension rate was 25 percent.
- 235 charter schools suspended more than 50 percent of their enrolled students with disabilities.
Also of great concern for neoliberal reformers is the Movement for Black Lives’ opposition to the abuses of standardized testing. With the rise of a mass movement of teachers, parents and students opting out of standardized testing, the multibillion-dollar testing industry has been scrambling for talking points to maintain its legitimacy. The industry’s latest strategy for containing the movement against test-and-punish education policy is to pretend it is aligned with the civil rights movement. Take this sophistry on behalf of the testocracy from the Education Post, a website funded in part by the Walmart-funded Walton Foundation:
Spreading misinformation about testing threatens one of the primary data points that can be used by parents, teachers and lawyers to fight for the civil rights of children who have been under-taught…. Every time someone opts their middle-class kid out of an exam, they are impacting the validity of data that could be used in a court case to prove that students’ civil rights are being violated in their schools. Every time someone spreads the lie that teachers can’t do their jobs because of standardized testing, they give credence to forces who don’t believe that teachers should be accountable at all.
Forget the fact that the nation’s largest public school systems have more cops than counselors. Forget the criminal underfunding of our schools. Forget the racist corporate textbooks rampant in our schools. The testocracy would have you believe that the primary problem in education — indeed the real obstacle to civil rights — is the parent who opts their kids out of a standardized test, or the teacher who explains how the curriculum is being warped by having to teach to the test.
What the testocracy doesn’t want you to know is that standardized testing is a multibillion dollar industry, with the average student in the American public school system taking an outlandish 112 standardized tests during their k-12 career. They don’t want you to know that many schools that serve Black and Brown students have become test-prep factories rather than incubators of creativity and critical thinking, with testing saturating education at even higher concentrations in schools serving low-income students and students of color. They don’t want you to understand the way high-stakes tests are being used around the country in service of the school-to-prison-pipeline. A review by the National Research Council concluded that high school graduation tests have done nothing to lift student achievement, but they have raised the dropout rate. When one test score can deny students graduation — even when they have met every other graduation requirement — it can have devastating consequences. Boston University economics professor Kevin Lang’s 2013 study, “The School to Prison Pipeline Exposed,” links increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams to increased incarceration rates.
While it may be true that the students opting out today are disproportionately white, to portray the movement against standardized testing as a white movement is to make invisible the important leadership role that people of color have played around the country. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, a Black woman, is one of the most important leaders in the national movement against corporate education reform, and she led the union in the “Let Us Teach!” campaign against high-stakes testing. The Black opt-out rate reached 10 percent in Chicago last year. In Ohio, a recent study shows that communities of color and low-income communities opt out at nearly the same rates as whiter and wealthier ones. This past school year in Baltimore, the predominantly Black students in the Baltimore Algebra Project produced a brilliant music video against standardized testing — and then led a walkout during the PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] test, coinciding with the anniversary of the murder of Freddie Gray by the police, in an effort to highlight the school-to-prison-pipeline. And some of the biggest student walkouts in US history against standardized testing occurred in New Mexico at schools serving a student population that is roughly 90 percent Latino and Latina.
Nationally, the NAACP has yet to join the opt-out movement and advocate for civil disobedience in the struggle for authentic assessment and education justice. However, an increasing number of local NAACP chapters are raising opposition to the punitive nature of high-stakes testing and preparing for a struggle at the national level. In Seattle, the local NAACP hosted a press conference to encourage parents to opt out of the Common Core tests. As Seattle NAACP president Gerald Hankerson put it, “The opt-out movement is a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice in our region. Using standardized tests to label black people and immigrants ‘lesser,’ while systematically under-funding their schools, has a long and ugly history in this country.”
The increasing involvement of the Black Lives Matter movement in struggles to democratize education may come as a surprise to the obscenely wealthy, who are using their money to control public education and often fancy themselves civil rights crusaders. But it shouldn’t surprise the rest of us.
The struggle for education has been a part of every major uprising for racial justice that Black people have engaged in throughout US history. This includes resistance to the “compulsory ignorance” laws during slavery, the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau and public schools during Reconstruction, the debates between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois on the purpose of education during Jim Crow, the Brown V. Board Supreme Court lawsuit, the Freedom Schools of the civil rights movement, and the fight for Black studies programs during the Black Power era. The struggle for Black education has always been central to the fight for Black liberation.
Today, a new Black rebellion has erupted — from the sit-down protests on NFL fields, to the urban rebellions in the streets — galvanized by extrajudicial executions of Black people by the police and racist vigilantes. While the movement to defend Black folks from unaccountable, racist police has been the most prominent aspect this new movement, Black Lives Matter doesn’t end with the demand that Black people not be shot down in the streets. While there are certainly many prerequisites to achieving a society where Black lives truly matter, one of them, certainly, is confronting the long legacy of racist schooling and replacing it with an a consciously anti-racist education system.
A world where Black lives matter and Black education is empowering will not come easily. It won’t be funded by benevolent philanthropists. It won’t be promoted by corporate lobbyists or legislated by the politicians they own. It will only happen with an uprising beyond even the scale and militancy of the last century’s civil rights and Black Power movements. The contradictions of unhinged police murder of Black people in the “land of the free,” coupled with corporate education reformers’ racist schooling policies enacted in the name of “closing the achievement gap,” are already producing large-scale, renewed social unrest. The question of how powerful this movement grows is up to us.
Time to hit the books and take our struggle for public education Black to school.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
Jesse Hagopian is an associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. Jesse teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP standardized test. He is the editor and contributing author to More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (Haymarket Books, 2014) and recipient of the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of the Year” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. A survivor of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Jesse is an advocate for Haitian human rights. Visit his blog: iamaneducator.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jessedhagopian.
By Chris B. Bennett
The Seattle Medium
Jesse Hagopian, a community activist and history teacher at Garfield High School, recently reached a $100,000 settlement with the City of Seattle for an incident in which he was pepper-sprayed, without provocation, by a Seattle Police officer after he gave a speech at a community rally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2015.
At the time of the incident, Hagopian was on the phone with his mother– arranging plans for a ride to his two-year-old son’s birthday party — when Seattle police officer Sandra Delafuente assaulted him with pepper-spray.
“That day was deeply painful, and not only because of the burning in my ears, nostrils, and swollen eyes,” said Hagopian. “What hurt the most was the fear that I brought to my two sons who were deeply troubled watching me writhe in pain and pour milk on face to try to sooth the burning.”
The pepper-spray assault was caught on video and garnered millions of views online and was the subject of national and international news stories. As a result of the video, Hagopian was able to show that the incident was unwarranted.
“It is deeply disappointing that we are in this place again that we see how protestors and peaceful marchers are treated by the Seattle Police Department,” said Attorney James Bible, whose law firm represented Hogapin in his claim against the City. “I think the question that should be posed by many is what would happen if there, in fact, was no video in this particular case. We’d be stuck with nothing but the narrative of law enforcement and what we know now is that the narrative of the law enforcement rarely, if ever, matches the video that we’re able to capture and gather on occasion.”
Hagopian, to his credit, has turned the incident into an opportunity to support people who are making a difference in the Seattle area, as he is providing money from the settlement to support the work of groups and individuals to improve the plight of people of color.
At a press conference held Monday at the NAACP office, Hagopian announced the establishment of his Black Education Matters Scholarship for student activist. Hagopian presented three high school students – Marcelas Owens, Ifrah abshir and Ahlaam Ibraahim – with $1,000 to use in order to continue their work in the community.
Marcelas Owens has been on the recognized for her work both locally and nationally on healthcare and transgender issues.
Ahlaam Ibraahim hosts an annual Islamophobic event to educate people who may be afraid of Muslim people due to media bias. In addition, she also uses social media to address bad things that are happening in schools and has been instrumental in getting building improvements at some schools through her use of social media.
Ifrah Abshir helped lead the Transportation Justice Movement for Orca Cards in Seattle Public Schools. This started off as a quest to secure Orca Cards for Rainier Beach students that lived more than a mile from school and were getting to school late or missing school because they did not have the financial means to pay for bus transportation. The two-year battle culminated in the City of Seattle providing Orca Cards to low-income high school students in Seattle.
“I’m really excited to say that the real heroes in our community are the young people who are making big change and getting ready to make even bigger change,” said Hagopian. “We are going to turn all this pain into positive movement forward and into action.”
“Already you’ve transformed Seattle Schools,” he said of the recipients. “I can’t wait to see what you guys do moving forward.”
In addition, Hagopian also announced funding for the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation, and Families of Color Seattle – two community-based organizations that are also helping to make a difference in the community.
Africatown Center for Education and Innovation is an organization that has developed a concerted effort to change the trajectory of African American students by providing a culturally responsive learning community that fosters hope, resilience, and academic achievement.
Families of Color Seattle is a local organization that provides parenting support and cultural programming for families of color.
“It’s meant so much to me to see the work that you’ve done with families of color across Seattle to empower them and this is exactly the type of work that I want to continue to support in Seatttle,” said Hagopian about his donation to the organization.
Hagopian says that the awards are not one time gestures and that he plans to establish a fund so he can give out funds to deserving people each year.
“We’re going to put thousands of dollars into this fund, so people can get it,” he said.
As it relates to the pepper-spray incident, the outcome is bittersweet for both Hagopian and the NAACP.
“This is a victory in that it has received an outcome,” said Sheley Secrest, Vice President of the Seattle King County NAACP. “But this is a lesson that Seattle has already had the opportunity to learn. SPD should be ashamed because they know that they have a problem when it comes to policing these types of protests.”
“We’ve told them over and over again and the fact this it has cost them over $100,000 for their failure to learn from their mistakes is a lesson that as taxpayers we cannot afford,” Secrest concluded.
With the settlement the City of Seattle did not admit to any wrongdoing. The Office of Professional Accountability recommended that officer Delafuente be suspended for one-day without pay for her actions. However, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, reportedly, choose to give Delafuente an oral reprimand instead of suspending her.
As we enter the high-stakes testing season, a great uprising to opt out of these punitive and reductive exams is sweeping the country. So it’s no surprise that corporate education reformers–attempting to defend the multibillion dollar testing industry–have been launching aggressive attacks on the movement.
One such attack targeted one of the main rallying cries of our movement and the title of the book I edited, More Than a Score.
In “More than Score. Yes. Duh?” Erika Sanzi argues that it is obvious that students are more than a test score, “but that doesn’t mean that their scores on tests aren’t valuable to them, their parents, or their schools.” She goes on to ridicule people who believe that the overuse of high-stakes testing is distorting education, saying: “It is baffling that highly intelligent and otherwise rational people have chosen to latch onto this bumper sticker sounding slogan.”
Sanzi goes on to defend high-stakes testing, writing:
Our kids take swimming tests. They don’t lose the essence of who they are because they fail to float on their back for 30 seconds or tread water for a minute. They just try again next time. It’s probably safe to say we all know people who have failed their first driver’s license road test. They’ve all lived to tell about it, most even laugh about it, and it certainly doesn’t define who they are. It was a brief failure. Life is full of them.
Magnificent! Here you have the total confusion of the education “testocracy” distilled. Because the entire point of the opt out movement is to reduce the amount of multiple choice standardized tests and move to assessments like the driving road tests and swimming tests. However, imagine for a moment if we treated the swimming test like the standardized tests in school that Sanzi advocates. Imagine if we sat kids down in rows of desks and said:
This exam will test your ability to swim. Mark the bubble that corresponds to the best answer choice. Consider this sample question:
The fastest swimming stroke is the:
- crawl stroke
- fish kick
- None of the above
When you have completed this exam the results will be scored. If you score well, we will throw you into the deep end. If you score poorly, even if you are a great swimmer, you will remain in the shallow end. In addition, if too many of your classmates score poorly on this exam, we are going to close down your pool altogether.
As silly as this scenario seems, it is what corporate education reformers (including the Walton family, which helps funds the website Sanzi writes for) are imposing on our public schools. Worse, the attitude that if a child fails a test she should take comfort that it is only a “brief failure” is completely out of touch with the severely punitive nature of high-stakes testing these days, in which a low test score can mean a student does not graduate, teachers are fired, and whole schools are shut down.
The mass movement against standardized testing—including over 600,000 families opting out of standardized tests last year—objects to the fact that the average student in the public school system today will take an outlandish 112 standardized tests between pre-K and high school. However, this is not a rebellion against assessment. Our movement simply demands authentic forms of assessment.
Those that reflect actual student knowledge and learning, not just test taking skills; are educational in and of themselves; are free of gender, class and racial bias; are differentiated to meet students’ needs; allow opportunities to go back and improve; and undergo regular evaluation and revision by educators.
One important alternative to standardized testing is performance based assessment, which promotes inquiry, problem solving, and critical thinking. My colleagues and I at Garfield High School have began collaborating with the New York Consortium for Performance Based Assessment (The partnership is portrayed in one section of the new documentary, Beyond Measure). As Gail Robinson writes of the Consortium:
While most New York students must pass state exams in five subjects to graduate, the consortium’s 38 schools have a state waiver allowing their students to earn a diploma by passing just one exam: comprehensive English. (An additional nine schools have a partial waiver.) Instead, in all subjects including English, the students must demonstrate skill mastery in practical terms. They design experiments, make presentations, write reports and defend their work to outside experts.
The performance based assessment model is very similar to the process a PhD candidate undergoes in preparing a dissertation and defending it to a panel of experts. Multiple choice standardized tests are good at demonstrating students’ ability to spot what are called “distractor questions,” and students with the resources purchase test prep classes that are able to train students to eliminate wrong answer choices better than their peers. However, the ability to eliminate wrong answer choices is not authentic to most real life situations students will face. In the world outside of corporate education reform, students will need to be able to research issues, work collaboratively in groups, develop arguments, solve real life problems, and more. Performance based assessments at the Consortium schools allow students to engage in those real life skills–much the same as a swimming test.
The superiority of authentic assessment over multiple choice, standardized testing can be seen in part by the outcomes of the Consortium schools. A recent study shows that 77 percent of students who started high school at a Consortium school in the fall of 2010 graduated in four years, compared to 68 percent for all New York City students. Last year, 71 percent of students learning English at Consortium schools graduated on time, compared to only 37 percent of English learners around the city. Eighty-six percent of black students and 90 percent of Latino students at the Consortium schools are accepted into college, compared with the national numbers 37 percent and 42 percent respectively. Moreover, longitudinal studies show that Consortium school students complete college at higher rates–likely due to the emphasis on the very inquiry and critical thinking skills that are valued in college.
Parents and teachers across the country have united to demand an education system that recognizes children’s needs aren’t satisfied by filling in bubbles on an exam. So, before we throw our schools into the deep end, let’s demand authentic assessment now!
Jesse is the editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. You can view his TEDx talk “More Than a Score” or follow him on twitter: @JessedHagopian
“More Than a Score” TEDx Talk: Jesse Hagopian on the uprising against high-stakes testing and for a meaningful education
I recently gave this talk titled, “More Than a Score,” for the TEDx Rainer event at Seattle’s McCaw Hall theater. In this talk I advocate for the great uprising against reducing our children to a test score and I make an argument to opt in to authentic assessments–not only because it will better engage students, but also because the future of our society and planet depend on it.
Jesse Hagopian is a high school history teacher and associate editor for Rethinking Schools magazine. Jesse is the editor of, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. Follow him on his blog, IAmAnEducator.com or on twitter, @jessedhagopian
Because most of their arguments are increasingly discredited because of this uprising, they are desperately attempting to cling to one last defense of the need to subject our students to a multibillion-dollar testing industry.
Charles F. Coleman, Jr. supported this last ditch effort for the “testocracy” when he took up former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s argument that opposition to standardized testing was only from out of touch “white suburban moms.” Coleman has in the past written pieces in support of making black lives matter, but in this careless piece he dismissed the opt out movement as a privileged white effort:
Boycotting standardized tests may seem like a good idea, but hurts black learners most….White parents from well-funded and highly performing areas are participating in petulant, poorly conceived protests that are ultimately affecting inner-city blacks at schools that need the funding and measures of accountability to ensure any hope of progress in performance.
Here are six reasons why Coleman’s belief that opting out hurts students of color is fundamentally flawed and why his belief that accountability and academic success require high-stakes standardized testing is just plain old wrong.
1. Extreme over-testing disproportionately harms students of color.
Coleman admits in his essay, “there should be concerns raised over excessive testing and devoting too much classroom instruction to test prep.” But he doesn’t acknowledge how destructive excessive testing has become (especially for children of color) or credit the opt out movement for revealing the outsized role that testing is playing in education. No one—certainly not the media—would even be talking about the excessive testing in schools if it wasn’t for the opt out movement. And the amount of testing in the public schools today isn’t just excessive—it’s extreme. The average student today is subjected to 112 standardized tests between preschool and high school graduation!
But the crux of the issue is that the highest concentration of these tests are in schools serving low-income students and students of color. Schools that serve more black and brown students have become test-prep factories rather than incubators of creativity and critical thinking. The corporate education reformers behind high stakes testing, like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family want their own kids to have the time and support to explore the arts, music, drama, athletics, debate and engage in a rich curriculum of problem solving and critical thinking. Rote memorization for the next standardized tests is good enough for the rest of us.
2. Communities of color are increasingly joining and leading the opt out movement.
While it’s true that currently the students opting out are disproportionately white, to portray opting out as a white people thing is to make invisible the important leadership role that people of color have played around the country. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, a black women, is one of the most important leaders in the country against corporate education reform, and she led the union in the “Let Us Teach!” campaign against high-stakes testing. The Black opt out rate reached 10 percent in Chicago last year. PTA co-chairs Đào X. Trần and Elexis Loubriel-Pujols at New York City’s Castlebridge Elementary School (comprising 72 percent students of color) led the opt out movement there. They gained national prominence and helped to ignite the opt out movement across the country in 2013 when more than 80 percent of families refused to allow their kids to take a standardized test. The school had to cancel the test altogether.
One of the largest student protests against high-stakes testing in U.S. history occurred last spring when many hundreds of students in New Mexico—at schools that served 90% Latino students—walked out of school and refused to take the new Common Core exams. In Ohio, a recent study shows that communities of color and low-income communities opt out at nearly the same rates as whiter and wealthier ones.
In my hometown, the Seattle/King County NAACP hosted a press conference last spring to encourage parents to opt out of the Common Core tests. As Seattle NAACP president Gerald Hankerson put it, “…the Opt Out movement is a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice in our region. Using standardized tests to label black people and immigrants ‘lesser,’ while systematically under-funding their schools, has a long and ugly history in this country.”
Or check out the brilliant podcast, “These Tests Will Go,” The Opt-Out Movement in Urban Philadelphia, which documents the uprising of African American parents determined to make their kids more than a test score and fighting for the programs their kids deserve.
3. The federal government hasn’t punished schools for opting out.
Coleman argues that if the number of students taking the required standardized tests drops below 95 percent, the government can cut funding to schools, and that will be most damaging to students of color. However, the federal government has never—not even once—cut funds to a school district for its high opt out numbers. While No Child Left Behind initially had a provision for penalties against large opt out numbers, which carried over to the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the “testocracy” seems to be too afraid to use this clause.
Moreover, the opt out movement holds the potential to actually increase the amount of school funding. The many millions of dollars wasted on ranking and sorting our children with standardized tests every year could be spent on tutoring programs, counseling services, art teachers, nurses, librarians, music programs, ethnic studies classes, and many services our children deserve.
4.Test-and-Punish policies are cruel and inequitable.
High-stakes tests are being used around the country to label children and schools as failing, to prevent kids from graduating, to fire teachers, and to close schools. Chicago Board of Education voted in 2013 to close some 49 of the city’s public schools—schools that served approximately 87 percent black students. 71 percent of the schools had a majority African-Americans teachers and staff. The standardized tests the students take register racial and class bias, measure the lack of resources available to schools, and then provide cover for shutting them down.
A review by the National Research Council concluded high school graduation tests have done nothing to lift student achievement, but they have raised the dropout rate. African American, Latino, American Indian and low-income students are far more likely to be denied a diploma for not passing a test. High stakes tests often inaccurately assess English language learners—measuring their understating of English and the dominant culture rather than the subject they are being tested in. Boston University economics professor Kevin Lang’s 2013 study, “The School to Prison Pipeline Exposed,” links increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams to increased incarceration rates.
5) Standardized testing was invented by white supremacists and maintains institutional racism today.
Once you know the history of standardized tests in public schools, you can never fall for Coleman’s absurd assertion that, “boycotting standardized tests may seem like a good idea, but hurts black learners most.” Standardized tests first entered American public schools in the 1920s, at the urging of eugenicists whose pseudoscience proclaimed that white males were naturally smarter. As Rethinking Schools editorialized, “high-stakes standardized tests have disguised class and race privilege as merit ever since. The consistent use of test scores to demonstrate first a ‘mental ability’ gap and now an ‘achievement’ gap exposes the intrinsic nature of these tests: They are built to maintain inequality, not to serve as an antidote to educational disparities.”
One of these early eugenicists was Carl Brigham, a professor at Princeton University and author of the white supremacist manifesto, A Study of American Intelligence. Brigham developed the Scholastic Aptitude Test, known as the SAT. Some of the most important early voices in opposition to intelligence testing—especially in service of ranking the races—came from leading African American intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Howard Long. Horace Mann Bond, in his work “Intelligence Tests and Propaganda,” noted in 1924 what today we call the “Zip Code Effect”—what standardized tests really measure is a student’s proximity to wealth and the dominant culture.
6. There are better ways than high stakes testing to improve education for children of color.
Coleman asserts that, “Standardized testing, albeit imperfect, remains one of the best ways to ensure that teachers, schools, and school districts are held accountable for making sure children are succeeding.” A huge body of evidence contradicts this statement, and points to the power of an inquiry based pedagogy, coupled with authentic forms of assessment. Take, for example, the New York Consortium Schools for Performance Based Assessment. These fully public schools have a waiver from state tests and instead use performance-based assessments. Students work with a faculty mentor to develop an idea, conduct research, and then defend a body of work to a panel of experts—including school administration, other teachers, and outside experts and practitioners in the field of study.
If the testocracy is right—if it’s true that high-stakes standardized testing is the key to improving accountability and performance—then these New York consortium schools that don’t give the state standardized test should be the very worst schools in New York City. However, comprehensives studies show Consortium Schools have higher graduation rates, better college attendance rates, and smaller gaps in outcomes between students of color and their white peers than the rest of New York’s public schools.
Conclusion: Hold the system accountable
Coleman’s arguments lamenting students of color score worse on the tests than their white peers—without acknowledging the ways in which systematic underfunding of schools, poverty, and institutional racism have disfigured our school system—end up pathologizing communities of color rather than supporting them. The U.S. school system is more segregated today than at any time since 1968. The majority of students attending public school in the U.S. today live in poverty. The school-to-prison-pipeline (including disproportionate suspension rates and the use of high-stakes testing) has contributed to the fact that there are now more black people behind bars, on probation, or on parole than were slaves on plantations in 1850. As education professor Pedro Noguera has said, “We’ve developed an accountability system that holds those with the most power the least accountable.”
Our task must be to build multiracial alliances in the opt out movement that can produce the kind of solidarity it will take to defeat a testing juggernaut that is particularly destructive to communities of color—while causing great damage to all of our schools. And while must begin by standing up to the multibillion dollar testing industry by opting out, we must also create a vision for an uprising that opts in to antiracist curriculum, ethnic studies programs, wrap around services to support the academic and social and emotional development of students, programs to recruit teachers of color, restorative justice programs that eliminate zero tolerance discipline practices, and beyond.
Now, back to writing that opt out letter for my son.
Jesse Hagopian is the Progressive Education Seattle Fellow. Jesse teaches history and is the co-adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield High School–the site of the historic boycott of the MAP test in 2013. Jesse is the editor of More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. You can follow Jesse on his blog, IAmAnEducator.com, or on Twitter: @jessedhagopian
By Gerald Lenoir and Jesse Hagopian
Thanks to a long history of redlining, formerly black neighborhoods in cities around the country are continuously disappearing under the rapacious churn of financial real estate interests. But city blocks in prime locations aren’t the only things being lost. Gentrification is also happening in our classrooms and books, pushing out the past, erasing the lives and struggles of African Americans from our collective memory.
Take A Birthday Cake for George Washington, for example, a children’s book by Ramin Ganeshram published by Scholastic. In it, smiling, happy slaves wrap their arms around their master, the first U.S. president. In a Texas high school geography textbook published by McGraw-Hill, enslaved Africans are described as “workers,” rather than slaves, and placed in a section titled “Patterns of Immigration”—as if they came here looking for a better life. In Jefferson County, Colorado, the School Board adopted a proposal to avoid the use of materials in its advanced placement high school history curriculum that “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law”—banning, of course, any discussion of the lunch counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and other actions causing “social strife” and which are foundational for the Civil Rights Movement.
The Bill of Rights Institute (BRI), which offers whitewashed classroom lesson plans for teachers across the country, is funded by the infamous Koch brothers, Charles and David, who together have more wealth than Bill Gates. Educator Bill Bigelow describes how the Bill of Rights Institute “cherry-picks” events to hammer home a libertarian message about the sacredness of private property, and also how it offers “quiet cover” for Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman:
One section on the website is “Teaching with Current Events,” and includes a lesson, “Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine Laws…” Here’s the lesson’s first discussion question: “Florida’s ‘Stand-Your-Ground’ law states ‘A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.
While black history has long been redlined and ghettoized, the corporate wrecking ball is swinging with a renewed velocity, aiming at cornerstones of black history as part of a broader resurgence of racism in the United States. This gentrification of the contributions of black people to our society is sanitizing white supremacy.
These latest developments are preceded by the icon-ification of many historical black leaders. History books portray the “I Have a Dream” version of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., never mentioning his radical critique of U.S. society. You will never see this quote from Dr. King appear in any mainstream history book:
Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.
In 1999, the establishment’s absorption of the image of Malcolm X was marked by the U.S. Postal Service issuing a Malcolm X stamp honoring his contributions to human rights. Never mind that the FBI surveilled and harassed him and were complicit in his assassination. Meanwhile, civil rights leaders like Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer are left out of history completely—no stamps for them.
This paving over of black history, and failure to tell the true stories of black heroines and heroes paves the way for developers who destroy black neighborhoods and push out black people out of their homes.
The historic process of neighborhood gentrification began in the 1960s and has accelerated in the new millennium, as the gap between white and black wealth has become the greatest since 1989. Today, millions of African Americans are being displaced by so-called “free market forces” and are forced to relocate to suburbs without adequate services or job opportunities.
This transition in Washington, D.C., once known as the “Chocolate City,” is marked by the condominiums built on its historic U Street (one featuring a tanning salon on the ground level). In Seattle, there is a construction crane on every corner, while the rate of black homeownership has dropped by nearly half since 2000. The occupation of black neighborhoods around the country by police ready to use deadly force helps fuel the displacement and reassures the returning white gentry that they will be kept safe.
However, the engineers of the movement for Black lives are constructing one of the most powerful resistance movements in more than a generation, which is giving confidence to communities across the country to stand up and fight back.
In response to black community pressure, Scholastic pulled the children’s book from retail shelves and issued an apology. In the case of the Texas textbook, Roni Dean-Burren and her freshman son launched a successful Facebook and Twitter campaign forcing McGraw-Hill to acknowledge that Africans’ enslavement was not the same as white wage-labor, and to alter their online textbook. In response to the Jefferson County School Board proposal to effectively erase the Civil Rights Movement from history, hundreds of high school students from 17 schools staged a mass walkout. And in 2015, three conservative school board members were ousted in a recall.
And while the Koch brothers fund the creation of materials glossing over injustice and trauma inflicted on the black community by the killing of people like Trayvon Martin, social justice educators are occupying the curriculum with powerful lessons that connect his death to long legacy of state sanctioned murder.
Black Lives Matter activists have been demonstrating across the country, demanding an end to police brutality and murder. As we hit the streets, though, we also must hit the books. The struggle to de-gentrify textbooks is inextricably linked to black people reclaiming their past, present and future. Online, in neighborhoods, in classrooms, and in the streets, organized resistors are building a new black history on a foundation of equity and justice.
Gerald Lenoir is the former executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the San Francisco Black Coalition on AIDS (now Rafiki Services). He a member of the Black Lives Matter group in Berkeley, California and is a veteran of the 1969 black student strikes at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which led to the establishment of the Afro-American Studies Department.
Jesse Hagopian teaches history and is the adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield High School in Seattle, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP test in 2013. He is an associate editor for the acclaimed Rethinking Schools magazine and the editor of, and contributing author to the 2014 book, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing. He is also the son of Gerald Lenoir. Follow Jesse on his blog, IAmAnEducator.com, on Facebook or Twitter.