This week I present you with a set of mostly depressing pieces—but end with a crowd-pleaser.
First, some pieces about integration in schools. Even very recent history can be helpful in achieving clarity on contemporary debates on race in schools. Find some links below that reflect on Brown v. Board, school integration in modern times, and an extended look at a particular middle school in Brooklyn. The current underneath all these pieces is that school integration in the US never really landed on its feet.
Second, two podcasts and one Twitter rant (from me) about teacher morale. Covid has made very acute and obvious some long-standing problems with educator culture in the US. The ultimate solution for this sort of burnout is not tactical or even strategic, but pedagogical: a different approach to education is not only more sustainable, but requires a different set of virtues and practices, which in turn permanently color one’s motivations for supporting students.
Agency and Identity
The Godfather of Critical Race Theory (essay) — Tomiwa Owolade writes about the counter-intuitive role that education policy played in the rise of Critical Race Theory in the US:
“Indeed, in many standard textbooks on the history of the civil rights movement, Brown v. Board is seen as the first big crack in the edifice of Old Jim Crow. But the founding father of critical race theory was skeptical about its positive impact.”
There are a number of perspectives, from both the political left and right, that view Brown v. Board as a significant failure. We’ll be writing about this in our Identity initiative and our History initiative in the near future.
In Minneapolis Schools, White Families Are Asked to Do the Integrating (article) — And this history is still being replayed. Sarah Mervoshs reported in November in the NYT about an integration effort in Minneapolis that is replaying many of the same dynamics of Brown v. Board. That includes skepticism on both sides of the integration drive.
“‘Integration never comes up,’ said the group’s founding director, Sonya Douglass Horsford. Instead, she said, Black families often express other priorities: ‘I want my child to be safe. I don’t want them to be harassed. I don’t want them to be discriminated against. I’d like the curriculum to reflect them.’”
Similarly, Chana Joffe-Walt’s podcast series from a couple of years ago, Nice White Parents, explores similar dynamics across the decades at a Brooklyn middle school.
(Caveat: both of these pieces are more interesting if you bring to the work a propensity to question some fairly left-orthodox assumptions that the journalists themselves seem quite happy to accept. With that in mind, they are both very much worth a look/listen.)
An Absolutely Devious Lick (podcast) — Anna Foley of Reply All summarizes two middle school student trends of misbehavior, one driven by TikTok, and one driven by the panic of good-natured adults. A simple, entertaining, and somewhat sad fable that captures some of the dynamics at play in our very demoralized educator culture.
How Do Schools Become Stressors? (Twitter thread) — I reflect on the cause of some of these dynamics. It’s not covid, but a preexisting background culture of martyrdom and defeatism in education. And I also talk about how we at Higher Ground actively avoid letting these causes become operative in our schools.
Becoming a Montessori Educator (podcast) — Okay, this isn’t actually about teacher burnout. It’s about the opposite: how to make teachers who are inspired in their very souls. Our conversation with AMI Montessori trainer Louise Livingston is now available in podcast form. Louise and I talk about the practice of Montessori as not just the development of skills but the development of virtues.
See you next week.
Matt Bateman, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Montessorium
More Montessorium Content
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Montessorium’s pedagogy and identity team share their radical approach to DEI, one that centers around respect for individual agency and emphasizes direct, individualized interventions grounded in deep personal relationships.
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