An LYS Reader submits the following comment and question:
“Sean, changing the subject a bit, I recently attended the three-day Texas School Safety Conference in Austin. It seemed as if the number one goal of the presenters was to “inject” culture into everything dealing with education and that would be the cure of all of our problems.
But the overarching problem hasn’t changed, it remains inequality. White schools, communities, and administrators are not effectively dealing with special populations. When are educated people going to drop the backpack of liberalism and injustice and get to the root of the problem; great instructionally led campuses simply have fewer problems of any type
But no, it continues to be about race and I’m not sure that culture is the answer. My question for you is why does race continue to cripple us?”
As if we needed further proof that the LYS Nation is willing to discuss any topic that impacts students, schools and leadership.
First, culture and climate are important, but not as they were presented at the conference. You have to remember your early LYS training. Culture is the things that adults do on the campus and the way that they do them. Climate is either the positive or negative effect that those things have on students. Thus, the secret of managing culture and climate is to do more of the things that have a positive effect on students and to quit doing the things that have a negative effect. This tactic will quickly solve most of the problems facing the typical campus. But I understand that this was not the theme of the presentations that you attended.
Second, inequality is one of the major issues that we are still facing, but let’s attack the problem from a different direction. Campuses serving significantly at-risk populations are essentially doing it without any systemic support. Let me explain. The at-risk campus has to first deal with the basic human needs of food, clothing, shelter and security. Then they have to deal with health, mobility, discipline and community issues. Then they have to teach. That is a lot of brain power spread across a lot of significant problems. On the other hand, the mid to high SES campuses do not have to come up with immediate solutions to all of those critical issues. They have the opportunity to narrow the focus of their brain power. Unfortunately, they don’t. They keep doing what they have always done, wasting the opportunity to create meaningful innovations to the instructional craft that can impact every teacher and every campus. This forces the at-risk campuses to continuously tote a heavier load. This is the very definition of inequality.
Third, I won’t entertain the “white vs. everyone else” argument. Yes, there is racism. No, I have never walked a mile in the shoes of an ethnic or racial minority. But, the practical answer is proactive leadership and a campus that holds itself accountable to the performance of its most at-risk students and quits taking credit for the students that learn in spite of us.
Finally, the issues of race cripple of us when we know that we aren’t successfully meeting the needs of all our students. We can either admit that we have gaps in performance and work everyday to close those gaps or we can be defensive. I’ve been called a lot, but I’ve never been called a racist. Why? First, because I’m not. Second, because my poor, black, and/or brown students have always been better off at my schools than at the school next door.
Think Work. Achieve.