Today we’re joined by Dr. Sheldon Eakins. Dr. Eakins is an educator who has taught in elementary, middle, and high school settings, as well as an administrator. Currently, he is the Director of Special Education at a school in Idaho. In 2018, Dr. Eakins founded the Leading Equity Center, a professional development service, podcast, and resource hub for spreading cultural awareness, promoting equitable practice, and inspiring change to disrupt inequities in schools.
Each week, Dr. Eakins hosts a livestream and podcast that tackles a disruptive concept, from recruiting diverse applicant pools, to examining critical childhood studies, to being vulnerable with students. We highly recommend his work and would encourage you to check out Leading Equity on your favorite podcast player and visit https://www.leadingequitycenter.com/.
Sheldon Eakins Ph.D., Director of the Leading Equity Center, host of the Leading Equity podcast, K-12 educator, principal, and director of special education
0:00:03.1 Chris McNutt: Hello and welcome to episode 115 of our podcast. My name is Chris McNutt and I'm part of the Progressive Education non-profit Human Restoration Project. Before we get started, I want to let you know that this is brought to you by our supporters, three of whom are Corinne Greenblatt, Deanna Lough, and Abigail French. Thank you for your ongoing support. You can learn more about the Human Restoration Project on our website, humanrestorationproject.org or find us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. As a heads up, our inaugural virtual conference is from July 25th to July 28, 2022. If you're interested in exploring a human-centered progressive pedagogy, giving you the tools to change systems in your classroom, then this is for you. We've invited Dr. Henry Giroux, the founding theorist of critical pedagogy, Dr. Tanisha Jones the coeditor of Black Lives Matter at School and the Harvest Collegiate Circle Keepers, a student transformative justice organization. All will talk about building a better system and reimagining the classroom, plus there's five fantastic learning tracks to guide your learning and build a sustainable future. Tickets are still on sale, visit humanrestorationproject.org/conference to learn more.
0:01:25.9 CM: Today, we're joined by Dr. Sheldon Eakins. Dr. Eakins is an educator who has taught in elementary, middle and high school settings as well as an administrator. Currently, he is the director of special education at a school in Idaho. In 2018, Dr. Eakins founded the Leading Equity Center, professional development service, podcast and a resource hub for spreading cultural awareness, promoting equitable practice and inspiring change to disrupt inequities in schools. Each week, Dr. Eakins hosts a podcast and livestream that tackles disruptive concept from recruiting diverse applicant pools to examining critical childhood studies to being vulnerable with students. We highly recommend his work and would encourage you to check out Leading Equity on your favorite podcast player and visit leadingequitycenter.com.
0:02:12.3 Dr. Sheldon Eakins: It's interesting because I never thought I would become a podcaster, content creator, any of those things. I moved to Idaho about six years ago and it definitely was a culture shock, definitely was a change of pace than what I was used to. And what I found was I had a lot of students that were coming up to me and telling... Students of color specifically, they were coming up to me and telling me all these different things about their experiences in classroom and the hallways from their peers, teachers, principals, those kinda things and I'm like, I don't know how to help them. I feel bad, they're coming to me, they see another person of color, and so they were confiding in me. And it's like sometimes was venting, sometimes it was like "Okay, let's take some steps, let's do something about this." But I didn't have the terminology or the knowledge behind what was happening to them.
0:03:00.8 DE: And so I just got my PhD maybe a couple years before, so I'm used to doing research and interviewing. So I was used to researching articles, so I started just pulling up articles and Googling in Google Scholar, pulling up stuff on microaggressions, implicit bias, cultural responsiveness because I didn't really know much about these things, I didn't really have to pay much attention from my previous teaching experience, and so that's how I started the show. And that's the goal, is for me to provide the tools and resources necessary for educators to ensure equity at their school. And that's my goal is ultimately helping teachers which will ultimately impact our students and their families.
0:03:43.2 CM: The topics of your podcasts range everywhere from I would say the very basic like equality versus equity to more modern culture war issues like critical race theory, divisive concepts, bills, ongoing forms of censorship, both of educators and young people. And I'm curious just about your thoughts about the landscape today of professional development, teacher training, and teachers just having to teach in an environment that feels way more surveilled and controlled than it ever has before.
0:04:21.8 DE: I mean, you gotta look at the data as well. We got a lot of teachers leaving unfortunately because we got folks that want to do this work that are just now kinda... I think George Floyd was a turning point for a lot of people 'cause you had George Floyd coupled with COVID-19, so everybody's at home, sheltered in place, so a lot of people that never had experiences with such as police brutality or issues like that, issues with racism, that wasn't just part of their background, but you see this all over social media. And so you had a lot of people that are like oh shoot, these things are happening and then with COVID, it's like on the education side is like man, we got a lot of kids that are dealing with trauma at home that are dealing with losing loved ones to COVID or afraid that they're going to bring it home because they have vulnerable populations in the house. They have all these things happen all at one time. And so as a result, you got a lot of people there.
0:05:16.2 DE: And then I forgot, you had How to be Antiracist Comes Out, you got White Fragility book as well that is out, and so with all of these things happening and the way the media is kinda like shift our eyes and our place... Where we pay our attention to, I think that that was why a lot of people started to get on board with the equity work. But then of course, as a result, you got the pushback on the other side, where people are like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this not... I don't want my child learning about this," or "This is reverse racism," or "This is that and you're teaching our kids to hate America and you're indoctrinate... " all these words, buzzwords coming out. And it's funny because with the whole critical race theory, when that started coming out last... Was that last summer or so, I remember I wasn't as familiar with critical race theory. I was familiar with culturally responsive teaching, and which was to me is the official CRT if you will, but that's a whole nother conversation, but it... With...
0:06:16.2 DE: I had started doing research and thinking about the work that I do and the trainings that I do, how does that relate to what critical race theory is. And to me, it's just... I always relate it to the Candyman. If you ever watched that movie, Candyman, you say it five times, and then Candyman shows up and he does this thing. And I think that that is the pushback that we get is we'll just say that this critical race theory is just so terrible. And as a result, this is what's happening in your classrooms, this is what your teachers are teaching, which teachers don't teach critical race theory, it's on a whole another level, but again, if I'm not an educator, if I don't have the education background, if I don't know these things, and I'm hearing this on my favorite news station, and this is the stuff that they're telling me, "Oh, I should be afraid," that I should be afraid, so then maybe I am starting to be afraid. And I think a lot of this is just a way to deflect and to uphold White supremacy, to uphold the status quo, the way things have always been. Why are we talking about change? Why are we talking about this? This is ways to device our country and all that. Just negative stuff or reality is, I just think it's just... Bottom line, it's just a way to try to uphold White supremacy.
0:07:29.0 CM: It's so much more transparent than it used to be, which I think is, in some ways a good thing. At least that's easier to identify if someone is doing something that's something that you don't want in public. And I think about the growth of places like PragerU for example or other online right-wing stations, professional development networks even. PragerU is now developing educational packets they give out to schools on counteracting CRT which translates to counteracting, talking about race. It's like basic stuff that they interpret this as. And in your own practice and doing PD but also hosting your podcast, if there isn't a silver lining of more folks tuning into this work as a result of just more media coverage?
0:08:19.2 DE: It's an interesting question because yeah, honestly, I lost contracts, especially... I had a few groups I was working with in Texas, and I lost some of those contracts because there's this fear that he's a critical race theory and he's teaching this stuff. And I'm like, "No, equity is not critical race theory." But the problem is again here's... Now, equity used to be the umbrella, and then underneath equity, you used to have social-emotional learning, you have all these different areas, restorative practices, trauma-informed care, all these things fit underneath equity. But then critical race theory is starting to become the new umbrella for a lot of right-wing people, and then they just throw everything in there, buzzwords in there as, "Oh yeah, these are... " I remember seeing last summer a meme, was it a... No, it was an image that had all these different terms. And they took it down rather quickly because they got a lot of pushback on that. But it was just like all the words you could think of: Equity, privilege, culture responsiveness, all these... Inclusive, just social... Things that are just to me, basic stuff. And the thing I never really understood, it's like okay, we're okay with saying differentiated instruction, that never gets attacked.
0:09:38.9 DE: No one ever questions differentiated instruction, but if I say an inequitable approach, to me, they're very similar 'cause differentiation is just saying, "Okay, this child learns this way, this child will benefit from this type of instruction, this child would benefit... " IEPs and all that kinda stuff, that's okay. But if I say equity, it's just triggering and it's a problem. So sometimes I feel like are we just really spending too much time on semantics, and is that taking away from, again, supporting our students who have different needs? I think we can all agree that our kids all don't learn the same way. We as adults, we learn differently, and the same thing applies to our students. And so if I have a student that prefers to be more auditory or if I have a student that's more visual, these type of things, I wanted them... I don't know a teacher that says, "I want my kids to fail." I assume that all teachers want their kids to be successful. So what are those approaches that we need to take in order for them to be successful? And then again, that's where all these buzzwords really muddy the water and takes away from the experience of a student.
0:10:51.0 CM: Yeah, that makes me think of... I subjected myself to reading James Lindsay's book, I forget who it's written with. It's called... It's something like, The Guide to Counter Wokecraft, which is a book that is actually...
0:11:05.3 DE: Where do you even find his book? Where do you find...
0:11:09.9 CM: I had a Kindle Unlimited. It came with my Kindle that I bought and I... Popped up, it's the top-selling book in education. James Lindsay is one of probably the most alt-right educational speakers. He says terrible things both about equity but also just general public education. But the book is referenced by a lot of different organizations that are pushing for school choice, a lot of different organizations that are involved in the anti-CRT movement. And it just flat out says, "These are the words that you should be looking for," similar to that image that you just described or... I found this funny, it will say things like, "If they say words that you don't understand or that sound made up or that just sound left-wing... " It's in the book, "That you should come in... " And they give you advice for, basically to troll it, to come in and say things that intentionally make the argument sound either absurd or just to frustrate the person who's saying it with no debate over the policy or the implications of the policy, but more so just the concept of it being left-wing.
0:12:20.1 DE: That's what I'm saying, it's the language. That's where we're at. Again, a lot of us can agree, we want our kids to be successful and again, that we can agree that our kids learn differently, but the approach to help them out in their individual needs, again, it's really just to me, it comes down to a bunch of semantics. And because... I remember I did a Dr. King speech this past January in a school or... In Iowa actually, and I did a little Q&A at the end and the questions I was getting was like yeah, this is scripted from Fox News. This is the idea of like, "Equity is taken away from one person to give to other people." I'm like but you're making it... No, that's... First of all, that's not what equity is, it just again ensuring individual needs are being met, but when you think about resources, you make it seem like, "I only have five bucks, only have this much resources and so I'm gonna take this away from one person," by the way, who may not even have needed it, but I'm gonna take this away from somebody and give it to someone else.
0:13:25.3 DE: But we had to think of it from a larger scheme as far as resources being plentiful, I have access to Chromebooks, I have access to whatever these devices or these instructional aids, and so I'm gonna provide these instructional aids to the students that need this help, who have an IEP that says these are the supports that they will benefit from. Yet again, when we start saying certain words, it's an issue, long as we don't say those words and do the same task, then it's fine, but then you say those words, it's such a triggering moment for a lot of people.
0:14:03.6 CM: How do you recommend that educators navigate those waters? So one suggestion would be, I guess, try to stay out of the political terminology. Obviously you wouldn't write in your syllabus, I think that everyone has an unwritten rule of they're not going to put some of these things in their syllabus even if they might talk about them in the class because they know what the ramifications might be. And not because they're trying to be sneaky about it, but because they care about the kids in the room and they're just doing their jobs, it's what you do. How do you educators talk about these things and act on these things when they know that there's this almost looming threat of someone willing to call them out?
0:14:43.5 DE: From my experience, the main thing, whatever advice I would give to teachers that are wanting to do equity work but they're in districts or they're in schools or situations where, again, these works are deterring them or their confidence, or they're wanting to do this stuff, but they just feel like, "If I say the wrong thing, I could lose my job or I can get disciplined," or whatever it is. I think just simple things such as providing real-life situations and helping the students just to critically think. I think one of the challenges is, teachers, we tend to wanna have this level of control, and so we wanna really engage in dialogue in these conversations, give our take and give our point of view, and I think that sometimes is where things get a little challenging. My advice is always to say just... Just let the students talk, let them share how they view. Okay, you just talked about maybe gentrification, I'm a social studies background as well, so it's like okay, we're talking about gentrification. "The Starbucks wants to buy this building that historically has been in a Black neighborhood, they wanna take this building and here's how much it cost, students, what are your thoughts?"
0:16:01.2 DE: And allow them to dialogue in that. You don't have to necessarily be the main person speaking on it, but just listening to your students and hearing what they think. And if a student asks you a question, "What is your take, teacher?" Say, "You know what? I think I definitely have my points or my thoughts regarding this, but you know what? I'm really enjoying learning from you. I prefer to hear what you have to say." And so, you're putting it back there on them so that way you're not saying anything, you're not putting yourself in a position where you could again, potentially lose your job or any of those kinda things, but just again, allowing students to talk about it. And honestly if you can... I always tell people, if you can find a school where your administrators supports you, where you can engage these conversations, we can subtly instill this information to our students and help them, again, critically think, we're not indoctrinating, just allowing them to think for themselves.
0:16:58.8 DE: I have little kids, I have a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old, and I say, "Okay, here's a situation. What are your thoughts? You're a smart child. You're a smart individual. I love to get your point of view, what are your thoughts on this situation?" And then allow them to engage in that conversation as opposed to you just trying to facilitate everything and be the main one speaking.
0:17:20.1 CM: Yeah, I think that's a good way too, to just navigate the concept of divisive concepts as well as the laws themselves. It's interesting to note that almost all of those laws to my knowledge, as the long as students are the ones that bring up the concepts, it's perfectly fine to talk about them. And those concepts that are important for students to understand are going to naturally come up whenever you talk about pretty much any current event or issue in someone's community. And as an instructor, you don't want to provide your opinion, you can just complicate scenarios with facts, and over time... It's kinda like your opinion, but the exact same time, the facts are on your side, that knowledge is there. For years, we talked about... Speaking of gentrification, that exact concept, I taught in a community as the second highest opioid overdose rate in the country, and inevitably it would come up at some point during our social studies class, and the kids would just talk about things.
0:18:21.7 CM: And as soon as someone said something that was like... That's a little problematic, we just pull up a graph or a diagram and talk about that, not in an aggressive tone, not because I was upset, just like, "Hey, what about this?" And I was always surprised by students who maybe had more I guess right-wing leanings or libertarian, whatever it might be, we're super okay with coming around to that and having those discussions because it wasn't propaganda, it's just learning about stuff. In the exact same way too for students that form around... Or were little more left-wing, maybe had some not appropriate things to say about other people.
0:18:58.0 DE: Well that's why you had to have classroom norms. You had to set up those classroom norms, so you know this is how we're gonna engage in conversation. You might have a student that has a difference of opinion than you have, well, but we're gonna be respectful. Okay, we're gonna allow each person in this space to be able to share their thoughts, to share how they feel, and again, it might defer from what you believe in. But it's okay. I don't enter... When I personally do trainings for people, I tell them, I say, "Look, we're here together for an hour, we're here for 90 minutes or half day, whatever it is, we're here for this time, I don't expect to change your hearts and minds within this time frame. My goal here is to bring you some awareness, to try to provide some perspectives that you may not have considered, you can digest that however you wanna digest it, but there are still... I encourage you to further do education on this topic and learn more going forward."
0:19:54.1 DE: But if we don't set those ground rules from the beginning, like if we just jump right into dialogue, we jump right into these conversations, we jump right into these trainings without providing just some basic protocols about respect, about being in a brave space, about allowing voices to be heard and differences of opinion, is totally fine, and I think if we don't do that, that's where we get a lot of challenges, so I always try to make sure that I spend at least five minutes to just kinda go through some simple stuff. "Alright, now let's talk and here's what I think, and here's some resources that supports what I think, but if you have something different, let's talk about it. I love to know where you're coming from."
0:20:39.5 CM: Conference to Restore Humanity is an invitation for K-12 and college educators to engage in a human-centered system reboot, centering the needs of students and educators toward practice of social justice. The traditional conference format doesn't work for everyone. It's costly to attend, environmentally to unfriendly, and it doesn't allow everyone to engage or have a voice in the learning community. Our conference is designed around the accessibility and sustainability of virtual learning while engaging participants in a classroom environment that models the same progressive pedagogy we value as students.
0:21:14.2 CM: Instead of long Zoom presentations with a brief Q&A, keynotes are flipped and attendees will have the opportunity for extended conversation with our speakers, Dr. Henry Giroux, the founding theorists of Critical Pedagogy, Dr. Denisha Jones, educator, activist and co-editor of Black Lives Matter at School and the Circle Keepers from Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City, a student collective focused on social justice. And instead of back-to-back online workshops, we are offering asynchronous learning tracks. You can engage with the content and the community at any time on topics like anti-Carceral pedagogy, disrupting linguistic discrimination, designing for neuro-divergence, promoting childism in the classroom and supporting feedback over grades.
0:22:00.1 CM: The Conference to Restore Humanity runs July 25th through the 28th. And as of recording, early bird tickets are still available. It's $150 for four days with discounts available for individuals from historically marginalized communities, as well as group rates, plus, will award certificates for teacher training and continuing education credits. See our website, humanrestorationproject.org for more information. And let's restore humanity together.
0:22:33.0 CM: Circling back to what we were talking about earlier, these things have always been indicators of strong teaching. You could go to a teacher workshop a decade or two ago and get similar vibes from a discussion-based pedagogical activity. Things have changed though a lot in the last couple of years, in multiple ways. You're talking about this topic called performative wokeness. I think that that would be an interesting kind of thing to talk about here for a second. Do you just wanna describe about what that is?
0:23:03.4 DE: Performative wokeness, and I don't have the definition in front of me, so I'm just gonna paraphrase, and you'll get different... You hear performative wokeness, you hear performative equities type of... These type of terms. Again, me again, semantics, however, in a general sense, it's the idea of saying, "I support this, I support that. I'll put a Black Lives Matter flag up in my classroom." But that's as far as it goes. So, I won't speak up against police brutality. I won't address it. I'll just put a rainbow flag and say, "This is a safe space for LGBTQ+, but I'm not... Again, I'm not going to speak up."
0:23:45.0 DE: So it's more of, "Look at me. I'm supportive, I'm an ally, I'm this on or I'm that." But then there's no actual work behind it. People that don't have these personal identities, tend to... Those are the ones that usually are the ones with the Performative wokeness because it's like, "Oh, it doesn't personally impact me, but this is what's on the media right now. I turn my TV on and role reverses weight is happening right now, so I'm gonna be all about abortions, pro-abortion or whatever it is. I'm being about it. And then news cameras go off, we shift to something else that's happening in our country. And now I'm jumping on that, but abortion's still gonna be an issue six months from now, or a year or two years from now, but if the media is not highlighting it and then I'm not highlighting it.
0:24:32.0 DE: So sometimes people just kind of jump on the bandwagon and say, "Oh yeah, I'm all about this, or I'm all about that." But not really wanting to do any work behind it. I used to be very supportive of the word allyship, for example, and I've kind of shifted my thought and so instead of being an ally, I say, "I'm a disruptor," because to me an ally can be a safe word. And I've heard people say, "Well, disrupting just kind of seems a little bit more combative versus ally just seems nicer. It seems safer." And I'm like, "That's the problem."
0:25:03.8 DE: If you're telling me that allyship just seems nicer, seems safer. It protects me. I can be an ally versus saying I'm a disruptor that's gonna bring a different connotation towards it. But okay, but if you want change, if you really want, if you recognize that our systems that we have in place historically, in the way our educational system is set up, wasn't set up for everybody, and if you can recognize that, and that 200 years later, these things are still in place, these are what we're doing still and we want to make some changes, Yeah, you're gonna have to be a little bit more vocal and you're gonna have to push back. But if you're saying, "Well, I don't really wanna push back because I don't wanna call anybody out, or I don't wanna do this, I don't wanna do that." Then that's where that performative piece comes in.
0:25:50.6 CM: It kinda comes down to leveraging power and privilege and taking those mitigated risks because there's no denying that it's going to take risk to change these things. And there is always that element of, you probably are going to have an office meeting with the principal at some point [chuckle] or another if you're doing this kind of work. And I have a strong feeling that if you're doing this kind of work a lot, and depending on the school you're at, you're gonna have a lot of administrator meetings. But, if you navigate that in the way that you were talking about before, and you present the facts, run the classroom, how classrooms are run, you have that pedagogy behind you, chances are you can at least defend yourself, or if it still leads to more problems, well, you could go to the media, you could talk to people about it, you could really put up a shitstorm for people trying to mess with you. What are some of the things that go beyond performative wokeness in the classroom? What are the things that you would encourage educators to explicitly do with their students to actually fight for change beyond just the putting up the flag or the sticker or whatever?
0:27:00.1 DE: I've come across, most of us are familiar with culturally response, culturally relevant, culturally sustaining. A lot of us are familiar at least with the terminology there. But before all of that, there is multi-culture education by Dr. James A. Banks, and he talks about some approaches that we can take when it comes to learning about... Again, I'm a history person, so I'm gonna talk from a historical standpoint, by just kinda telling multiple size of the story. We talk about Lewis and Clark Expedition for example. We celebrate expansion of the United States, but how did that impact our indigenous communities? We forced them on... Well, not we, but they were forced on reservations, their land was taken, and we're excited 'cause we purchased land that wasn't even for sale, but again, we tell the story one way.
0:28:00.4 DE: Now, Lewis and Clark would celebrate those type of things and then Sacagawea is off sometimes. I remember my child, my daughter had a... They did a whole lesson on this. And it said the key players within the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark and Napoleon. And I'm like, "Okay, these are the key players? That's it?" And so [chuckle] my daughter, she's very militant. I ain't gonna lie. I mean, she knows her dad and she listens to the stuff that I say and we have conversations. And I said... So she came to me about it and she is like, "Dad, I don't feel right about this 'cause they're saying key players, but it doesn't say anything about Sacagawea." And I said, "Okay. We'll talk to your teacher about it. Let her know how you feel." And so she communicated with her teacher and basically the responses she got from her teacher was, "Well, yeah, they're the key players and I have a whole lesson dedicated to Sacagawea."
0:28:55.1 DE: I'm like, "Okay, so we're gonna do this by the way or contribution type of approach. But let's keep it real. Had it not been Sacagawea was very, very influential?" I mean, those gentlemen would not have been able to communicate with the indigenous communities that they met and that they encountered. They would not have been able to map the land without her support, without her help. It would have been a different situation. And to be honest, the whole Lewis and Clark Expedition was really a reconnaissance mission. It was just scoping out the land and finding ways: What are the weak points? How can we take over this land? As legit what it was, but again, we're not supposed to say it. We're not supposed to talk about the terrible things that the United States and a lot of people within the United States have done to get to where the United States is now. So I just say, "Try to teach lessons that provides a holistic approach as opposed to teaching in a European dominant perspective." We really need to... How did this impact other people?
0:30:01.1 DE: I'll give you another example. We talk about the stock market, what was it? The Crash and the great depression. But who was really impacted the most when it comes to stock market? 'Cause a lot of people of color didn't own stocks and that wasn't part of our experience. We were already in a great depression. And arguably, you could say, we're still trying to get ourselves out of that. But, it's highlighted from a European perspective, so as a result, "Oh, this is a big moment, a pivotal moment within our country." But you had groups of colored who were already in these situations, historically, from before, I don't know, 1930s or before that and because it impacted a lot of people that didn't... Because it impacted a lot of people of European descent, now it's a staple within our social studies as part of our standards and all that stuff, but again, how were other people of color already being impacted prior to and still today. We have to teach the whole story, but again, with this whole book banning and with all the censorship these days, they don't want us to share that information.
0:31:15.6 DE: It's not like we're telling lies. We're not making up stories. It's just they literally don't want us to tell the entire story. It's like if you have two kids that get into a fight and you only talk to one of those kids and say, "What happened?" And they'd say, "Johnny hit me and I didn't do anything." And then you just, "Okay, all right, so I'm just gonna punish Johnny because you told me the story. Thanks for letting me know and keeping me... Making me aware of that," but you don't question the other person, the other party involved in the situation. You're only getting one side of the story. You gotta get the whole thing.
0:31:55.1 CM: Yeah, it's also just inherently more interesting to get all sides of the story. I remember covering... We'd always open up with like the colonial era, and we would tell the story of Squanto. And just thinking about the question like how did Squanto know English? And the fact that the typical curriculum skips over the entire story of like, Squanto was a slave. He was in Europe, he learned how to speak the language, which is why when he came back he wasn't with his village. It was like the whole reason why he even bet up with these people. That's the origin of the story or covering, I remember covering, it was super dark, but the Philippines, American War, which is a war that I think that if you asked most Americans like, what is that, they wouldn't have any clue that that even occurred. And talking about with that with kids and saying like, "Why do you think it is that this is a war we don't typically talk about?" Well, it's because it was the war that was the most explicitly an aggression by the United States. There was no even, I guess fake reason [laughter] for going. We just kinda went and took it over and caused a genocide.
0:33:01.4 DE: Hawaii. We don't talk about Hawaii. We say we got 50 states, but how did we acquire Hawaii? Like that was taken from... Again, we celebrate these things, that's just kinda... Again, that is kind of how they want us to continue to teach history. But it's nice that America has 50 states, but some of those, again, the land that was acquired was taken and dominated and conquered and all these different things, but we just don't want to have those kind of conversations. Oh, there's such a ugly history behind the United States, but they'll love to highlight slavery, they love to highlight our indigenous folks and can keep the doors and all these, like we'll talk about when we conquered you, but we don't feel right talking about all of the different thing. We'll talk about your oppression, but we don't want to talk about, yeah, but what is our role within that oppression and why folks were being oppressed in those type of things. We don't want to have that kind of conversation.
0:34:07.0 CM: Interesting too, that kids are very receptive to these conversations. We would have conversations all the time about, is this unpatriotic to talk about these things? Like, is it okay to critique the country that you live in? Like, does this mean that we're any less proud to be Americans or that like we should revolt against like the entire government or whatever it might be. And kids would always share things like, "I'm just really appreciative that we're learning about these things. I had no idea. I feel like I'm more knowledgeable." At a very surface level, these concepts are incredibly basic. You learn about your history, you learn about everything that happened and then you try to do better knowing that information today, but with that...
0:34:48.9 DE: But that doesn't repeat, right?
0:34:51.8 CM: Yeah. This is a core concept in history. And I think too, it kind of branches out too to like an English. Now we're seeing like self censorship. There might not be explicit censorship of what books you pick, but I might intentionally not pick certain books knowing that there might be a debate around me picking, oh my goodness, I was just thinking of it. The book where the girl's friend is shot.
0:35:16.6 DE: The Hate You Give.
0:35:18.7 CM: The Hate You Give. Thank you. Yeah. That was a big one. I remember when that first came out, I feel like everyone was teaching that book, like it was commonplace. And you saw it everywhere. And then over time they're slowly slipping away from that syllabus because that book was covered by Fox News. It was covered by anti CRT folks. And people are afraid. They don't wanna bring that.
0:35:39.7 DE: But what's wrong with the book? That's the reality that happens. I don't know if it's because it is written by a Black woman or again, we don't want folks to feel bad. It's crazy how some of the books that are being banned and censored and all that stuff has real life concepts like, it's a historical... It is a fictional book, however, it's not like it's unlikely for something like this to happen. It happens. We literally have seen. Every now and then I'll see a list of all the unarmed Black people that were killed at the hands of the police. Doesn't mean that I hate police or any of those kind of things. I don't like police brutality. My father is in law enforcement, so it's not that I have anything against police officers, just we have police brutality. It's always been a thing and it is continued. Historically it's happened and then we see stuff happen on camera and still we see a lot of police officers get acquitted for their actions and things like that. So it's just a matter of trying to keep the status quo, keeping things the same. "We don't want change. We wanted to keep it the way it's always been." And I think that that's really a problem. So I like when students are like, "Thank you for sharing this information 'cause I didn't know. This is not a conversation that we have at home, or this wasn't a conversation that I've had in my community." So I'm glad to be able to learn from a different perspective.
0:37:02.4 CM: I think too, there's a way to extend that beyond just curricular. There's the curriculum element of ensuring that people understand factual information and they understand all sides of the story. Then there's also all of those other things that happen in school, which are also very much racist, target marginalized communities, etcetera. I think about things like how grades rank and file students, tracking policies, discipline policies, all these things that even before all of these conversations, including now, they aren't necessarily as spoken about because it's something that most people do without a second thought. There's an irony to me in failing students for not passing an assignment I have on social justice. The disconnect there of you just basically told this kid that now they are worse off than someone else and it could have lasting implications for them. That's just the way that we've always done things, at least in the mainstream. In terms of your work and equity and leading equity and the advice that you're spreading to teachers beyond just changing up curriculum for someone who's not a history teacher, an English teacher, humanities, that kind of stuff, what do they do now?
0:38:22.7 DE: So people will tell me, "Well you know, your humanities classes are really easy. Liberal arts are really easy to do, social justice and equity, that kind of thing, but I'm a math teacher, so all I got is formulas and equations." And I say, "Yeah, you can use those formulas and equations to create word problems." Problem is, we often just lean on... And including myself, I used to be the same way, we get our textbooks, textbooks gives us, "Here's the lesson plan, here's the worksheets, here's the assignment, here's the assessments or whatever," and we just lean on that, we rely on that, but we know that a lot of those textbooks that we have adopted into our schools and our classrooms and things like that, aren't as diverse when it comes to teaching content. So if I am a math teacher and I'm like, "Okay, I wanna do more than just put a flag up, or I wanna do more than have... Highlight inventors of color or highlight this mathematicians of color, which... "
0:39:27.1 DE: I went through school, I don't think I remember learning anything about mathematics of color, but our Egyptian history, when you think about pyramids, when we think about a lot of stuff, there's angles, there's so much there that you could bring into your classroom if you're a geometry teacher, just teaching about Egyptian... What do you call them? Pyramids and things, Sphinx and all that stuff that's out there. That's science, that's math, there's equations there. But rather than... And I say this with a caveat, rather than just saying, "Okay, we're gonna teach lessons and we'll just do one lesson this month on Egyptian culture or Egyptian mathematics", or whatever, but it needs to be embedded within the curriculum. So sometimes we just have to go a little bit beyond than what our textbook gives us, but really doing a little bit of extra work to create a better experience, especially when you have... And it really doesn't... It matters, but I go back and forth with this, 'cause people will say, "Well, that's great if you got a classroom full of Black or brown kids, but we only have White students in our classrooms." But I'm like, it benefits your White students as well, when you teach them, again, multiple perspectives.
0:40:41.7 DE: So just embedding in equitable, instructional practices, I think is really important. You can do that in math, you can do it in science, but if you just say, "Okay, it's a science class, we're just gonna do one, one special lesson, or even one unit on an inventors of color, or one on contributions from people of color," whatever it is you're still teaching from a one side... European perspective, and then you're adding in or doing a special lesson here and there, but again, it needs to be all-encompassing as part of your curriculum, something that we do every day.
0:41:17.9 CM: Yeah. Otherwise, it's very tokenistic, that concept too. Yeah.
0:41:21.5 DE: Yeah, it's very tokenistic.
0:41:23.7 CM: And also just like the idea of if... It makes me cringe but the idea of saying like, "I don't have any Black students, and so I'm not gonna teach these things." That kinda gives away the game of exactly how you think about people.
0:41:34.9 DE: But people they tell me that. They tell me that all... Oh, I live in Idaho, man, so I'll get people that'll say, "Well, I think cultural responsiveness, yeah that's really cool, but it doesn't apply here." And I'm like, "What do you mean, it doesn't apply? So your White students don't have any culture? Like, what does that even mean?" Like, there is... You've got folks from Europe. There's Italy, you got England, you got all... Russia, you got all these different countries, but what happens over time is, a lot of those students don't necessarily know all of their origin or they... "I think I have some Irish in my family." "Well, what... Do you speak Gaelic? Do you know anything about like the Irish culture, the food, those kind of things?" That's culture. But we say, "Oh, we can't be culturally responsive, 'cause we're don't have any student of color." But culture responsiveness, does that limit you just to race? There are so much, that happens within the things that we do, the things that we like, our traditions at home, the holidays that we celebrate. But again, if we think that, "Oh, well, I'm White, so I don't have much culture." No, you have culture.
0:42:34.7 DE: We do things. A lot of the stuff that we celebrate, the Christian holidays, a lot of those type of things that we do is culturally based. So you're doing your kids, your White students, a disservice, if you say, "Well, I only have one or two Black students of color." Yeah, so does that mean that they don't matter? Because it wasn't enough? I think everybody can benefit from learning a whole story as opposed to just part of a story.
0:43:01.3 CM: Right, I think it's also a good way to defend it and explain it to students and parents in terms of... There's always been this talk recently of the 21st century skills or soft skills, whatever it might be, a key part of that is empathy and caring about other people and these ideas, and even in a hypothetical world where for some reason, every student at your school is White, you still would want to know these things, so that way when you come across someone who is not White, you understand, like, you understand things, so that way you're not saying things like, "Hey, everyone in my class is White, so therefore they don't need to learn it." Because you would recognize that's not... Like, it's a hyper problem that they just kinda state that. Yeah, it just makes you a more complete person and it shouldn't be something that needs to be debated. So, I realize we're running close to time here, explain where folks can learn more about, yeah, what should they do next? Where can they go to see, Leading Equity, etcetera. And then anything else you wanna add to the end.
0:44:04.7 DE: Sure, sure. If you listen to this conversation and you're like, "Okay, Sheldon, you've given me kind of like some sound bites, a couple of tips here and there", and you want to learn more, you can definitely go to leadingequitycenter.com. I have a new book coming out in about three weeks, it's called Leading Equity, becoming an advocate for all students, and this book is kind of broken down into 10 different steps that we can take towards being an equity-minded educator. I provide talking points, 'cause people always come to me and say, "Okay, I get the what? Okay, these are some... I get what a micro-aggression is, I get what implicit bias discrimination, all these things, but I don't know how to approach my teacher or my colleague or my principal about these things." So, I have talking points in there. Here's the examples, this is what was said to me, this is how I responded, here's some way to create some classroom norms, here's some ways to talk about race, or things are happening in our community, the things that are happening on a national scale, these are some ways to have some dialogue in your classroom, here's some lesson plan templates, here's some journal prompts for you as you're working on your journey.
0:45:11.9 DE: So all of that is built into the book, so again, if you're trying to learn more, you can definitely grab the book. The podcast as well, I have two shows these days, man, I don't know what I'm doing, but why I have two shows, but I have the leading Equity podcast, and I have a live stream every Thursday called The Art of Advocacy, which comes out at 6:30 Eastern every Thursday. So, between all of that, the content's there, available, a lot of stuff is free, some of the stuff is paid, 'cause that's how I keep the lights on. But for the most part, I would say 80% of the content that I have out is free. I don't wanna be one of those people that just preaches, preaches, preaches about, "No, this is wrong," or, "The world needs to change," or, "Education needs to change." I like to give you steps like, "Okay, here's how we can change... These are some of the things that we can look at, and here's how we can approach it." As opposed to just saying, "Do better as an educator. Be an equity minded... " But like, no, it needs to be a little bit more, 'cause I recognize that there's...
0:46:08.8 DE: I mean, I was there. Four years ago, I didn't know anything. I just knew I was having an experience, I didn't know what it was called, but now I wanna be able to help people who are just starting on their journey and give them those steps to help them. I'm not a checklist person, so I don't believe that you can... "Okay, do these 10 things and you'll be officially equity certified." Because I don't find myself as a certified person, I feel like it's a journey, I'm still on a journey, I just try to stay a chapter ahead of everybody, but I'm constantly reading, I'm constantly trying to learn as much as I can, so I can be better. The reality is, there's gonna be experiences that my friends are having, my colleagues are having, my students are having, that I will never experience. But because I'll never experience it, does that mean that I should not care? Should that mean that I should not pay any attention to it? Or, can I, like you've mentioned earlier, try to develop an empathetic lens and try to understand where someone's coming from, and if there's something I can do to support them, if I have some level of privilege that could benefit them and I can utilize my voice or my professionalism or my position as an educator or leader, whatever role I have, if I can utilize that to support people, even if things don't personally impact me, those are the steps that I need to take.
0:47:30.4 CM: Thank you again for listening to Human Restoration Projects podcast. I hope this conversation, leaves you inspired and ready to push the progressive envelope of education. You can learn more about progressive education, support our cause, and stay tuned to this podcast and other updates, on our website at humanrestorationproject.org.
Leading Equity: Becoming an Advocate for All Students by Sheldon Eakins