Education

What history?

education-1959551_960_720What a difference a few sentences can make. I just finished listening to one of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcasts for his series “Revisionist History.” In this episode, “Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment,” Gladwell explores the fallout from the 1954 Supreme Court Case Brown v. Board of Education.

The Supreme Court found that “separate but equal” was unhealthy for Black children, that being segregated was fundamentally “bad” for their psyche and self-esteem. But that was not what the NAACP had been fighting for.

From the mouths of two Black parents who took part in the court case, Leola and Oliver Brown, they had no complaints with their daughter’s school (Monroe School, shown below). They loved the teachers, thought the education was “fantastic.” They just wanted all Black parents to have a choice of where to send their children to school.

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From Gladwell’s podcast:

So what does the US Supreme Court do in 1954 in the Brown decision? It buys into the southern way of thinking about race. Leola Brown and the other plaintiffs say, “We have a structural problem. We don’t have the power to send Linda to the school down the street.” The court says, “No, no, no, it’s a psychological problem. Little Linda has been damaged in her heart.” That may seem like a small distinction, believe me it’s not. We’re still dealing with the consequences.

Those few sentences by the Supreme Court made a huge difference to children across the segregated South. What do you think happens when Black schools and Black teachers are ruled to be inferior? What happens to teachers and students deemed “deficient”? The fallout is huge. Listen to Gladwell’s podcast, or you can find a transcript of it here.

The New York Times published an excellent, related article earlier this year: “Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?”

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Embracing Creativity

Create space for something else…

Editor’s note: The police officers who were shot trying to protect the public should not be forgotten. I didn’t mean to exclude them by focusing on the journalists who were also murdered.

The attack on the Paris newspaper office Charlie Hebdo this week left me with conflicted feelings. The first, of course, was outrage at the murder of editors and journalists, who’s primary job is to communicate. As a former reporter and current writer, I felt the horrific sting of bullying — “Don’t write what we don’t want you to, or else you’ll die!” Can there be any more extreme form of bullying than threatening someone’s life if he/she doesn’t act the way you want them to?

And murdering journalists, for crying out loud! Yes, they often write what you don’t want to hear, but they don’t use bombs or Kalashnikovs to get their points across. And, yes, words are powerful. Words can hurt deeply, in ways that weapons can’t. But we have a choice in how we respond to those words. We can ignore them, refute them, or even agree with them. Bombs and guns leave no room for argument. That’s why they are the weapon of choice for terrorists, who have no true words to back themselves up.

My second thought was that if people respond to these attacks with more hatred, the attackers will have succeeded. I’ve noticed that when you are up against someone filled with hate and disgust, sometimes the only way to “deflate” them is to do the complete opposite of what they’d expect.

I’m not saying we don’t condemn these horrible attacks or not defend ourselves. I’m saying rather than let terrorists infect us with their abominable ideas, we respond with the antidote. What’s the antidote to hate? Loving each other. What’s the antidote to malicious violence? Defending ourselves wisely and with purpose, rather than responding in fear and vengeance. Opposite of disgust? Pride — at how far we’ve come in spreading rights like freedom of speech and equal rights for all people, regardless of their beliefs and backgrounds.

Maybe we can all do something to counter-attack terrorism. If you’re in a country where you are able to speak freely, spread the word about what you’re grateful for in an open society. If you’re not able to speak freely, perhaps you can share what brings people you know closer together — love? Telling stories? Good food? Nature? Beautiful art?

Instead of newspapers and news websites republishing the controversial cartoons — an understandable reaction to being threatened – I believe they should fill their pages with the opposite of terror. The ideals that the terrorists are fighting against — community, love, and freedom from oppression.

It’s easy to strike back against something hard and sharp. It’s a lot harder to fight something that’s moving and fluid and filled with an energy that can’t be harnessed.