Accessed on June 29, 2020
Bettina Love described arriving at college and being pushed onto a “jock track”. She transferred universities, but that was a turning point in her life.
Gholdy Muhammad recalls reading a hadid about ways to respond to oppression. Reading and studying Blackness also helps her hold on to abolitionist teaching.
Dena Simmons was put in the “slow class” in first grade and advocated to switch. Then in high school, leaving the Bronx, she experienced tone policing and hurt. Returning to the Bronx as a teacher, she saw the way the system was set up to fail her students.
Q: (Brian Jones) How does White supremacy show up in schools?
A: (Dena Simmons) Tone policing, tokenization and objectification, over-managing, expectation of being super-people. The emotional labor of asking “am I safe to be Black here” is also work.
(Gholdy Muhammad). It shows up in the curriculum, in the interviewing questions (“how does anti-racism appear in your math curriculum” isn’t one of those questions. The questions focus on meeting “challenges”). It is in tests, in the emphasis on skills, in zero tolerance policies.
(Bettina Love). In education “we manage inequality”. We don’t remove it. Instead of removing barriers, they manage inequity (via directors of equity).
Q: (Brian Jones) White supremacy follow up
A: (Dena Simmons) “We can use anything in education to create harm”. Social-emotional learning (feelings) is often equated to promoting equity. But “if the school is steeped in White supremacy… then the curriculum is a White supremacist curriculum”. Without trauma informed instruction to address the trauma of racism, there is an issue.
Q: (Brian Jones) Abolition is being used about prison and police. What about schools?
A: (Betinna Love) “It is not a radical thing to want to be seen as fully human”. Abolition is a request to start over. “It is a push for everybody’s humanity”. See work by Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore. Eradicate the conditions that make it possible to treat children in the way they are treated within school. The system is oppressive. Build a community-based curriculum where children learn their history and culture, have the chance to play, and have access to healing. When you’re an abolitionist, you might not live to see the win, but you work thoughtfully and methodically, to justice.
(Gholdy Muhammad). “Stop putting fresh coats of paint on the same debilitating structures”. State learning standards, teacher evaluations, curriculum. Who authors these? In the 19th century, Black literary societies came together to strategize to improve social conditions with four learning goals: identity, skills, intellectualism, criticality (understand power). Teaching these four goals would teach the whole child.
Q: (Brian Jones). Black women and Black queer folks are important in this.
A: (Bettina Love) For Black queer women, the intersection creates deep knowledge of marginalization.
(Dena Simmons) There is so much erasure of the contributions of Black womyn.
Q: (Brian Jones). What about the shutdown of schools?
A: (Bettina Love). They canceled standardized tests, handed out computers, relied on the ingenuity of teachers, asked for flexibility and compassion, and asked parents to be partners. “Why did it take a pandemic” for this? Expelling children, school shootings, should not be normal. When schools reopen, that trust in parents and teachers should remain.
(Dena Simmons). Some students are thriving in the shutdown of schools. Learn from that. “The school has never known what’s best for us”.
(Gholdy Muhammad). Be urgent in pedagogy. Skills and knowledge are not enough. Students need to be able to agitate as antiracists.
(Dena Simmons). How will you change how you spend money, etc, grounding in anti-racism?
(Bettina Love). The work needs to happen in White schools, including anti-racist education.
(Gholdy Muhammad). Redefining achievement and success is important. “High performing” schools are not a positive model.
(Bettina Love). “Black parents care”
(Dena Simmons). The school can be a place of trauma for the parents.
Q: (Brian Jones) Resources people can turn to? Black Lives Matter at School movement. Four demands. Counselors not cops, hire Black teachers, end zero tolerance discipline, teach Black history and ethnic studies.
A: (Dena Simmons) For “woke” White people, start at home with racist family members.
(Gholdy Muhammad). See healpedagogies.com. A goal is to have curricular materials made by Black educators.
(Bettina Love). There are so many organizations doing the work. See “Unapologetic” by Charlene Carruthers
Q: (audience Q) Trapped in standardized tests, what do you do on a daily basis?
A: (Dena Simmons). In one example, as an act of resistant in a 7th grade classroom, talked through with the students about whether to take a standardized test (and the students chose not to).
Community organizing is also an act of resistance.
(Gholdy Muhammad). “Revise and modify the curriculum that is given to us”. “How can this unit plan help my students learn about themselves”? Plan towards advancing student thinking about equity, power, anti-oppression. “Collect the data you want to collect”. “If you value it, assess it”.
A: (Dena Simmons) Let’s ask our unions to demand these practices.
Q: Do we need to create our own schools?
A: (Gholdy Muhammad). “Black abolitionists… cultivated their own schools”. “A lot of power lies with the parents”.
(Bettina Love). “It is our money”. We pay the police, teachers, etc. “Understand the value and power we have as citizens”.
Q: Is abolitionist teaching anti-capitalist?
A: (Bettina Love). Abolition is anti-capitalist.
(Dena Simmons). The country is “built on stolen Black labor”.