coms 356: podcast Podcast #10 Ron Brown #3

Podcast Worksheet- ExposureThe Basics
Podcast Name ___________________________ Air Date_____________
Host(s) ____________________________
___________________________
Guest(s) ____________________________
___________________________
____________________________
___________________________
Welcoming in New Information
What did you know about the topic, the podcast host/s, the podcast guest/s before you listened to the podcast?
Language- Write down important vocabulary words pertinent to the podcast and key terms that were new to you



Quotations- Write down any quotes that you found stunning or that you found interesting



Ways Knowledge is Organized- (more quotable information)
Pertinent Statistical Information (Discovery Paradigm or Quantitative Data- information that is measurable,
systematized, repetitive, rigorous, accurate, valid)



Pertinent Expert Information (Interpretive Paradigm or Qualitative Data- information that is focused on meaning
making from “experts.” “Experts” have a focused knowledge on subjects, topics, phenomena, or self.)



Pertinent Critical Information (Critical Paradigm or Critical Scholarship- hidden narratives, power, equity, agency,
exploitation, oppression, asymmetrical power relationships, false consciousness, distorted communication, and push for social change)



Processing the New Information
The podcast made me think•


The podcast made me feel- (Profoundly not interested in if you liked it, this isn’t yelp, what did you feel?)



Active Action Steps-Have you sought out to additional information? Yes or No Can you apply to other classes? Yes or No
Reflection Summary- In a full one-page reflection tell me about the experience of listening to this podcast. What did you learn?
Podcast Worksheet- Exposure
The Basics
Podcast Name: On Being with Krista Tippett – The Erotic Is an Antidote to Death
Air Date: July 8, 2021
Host(s): Krista Tippett
Guest(s): Esther Perel
Welcoming in New Information
What did you know about the topic, the podcast host/s, the podcast guest/s before you listened to the podcast?
• I had not heard of Esther Perel prior to listening, and did know anything about the topic
Language- Write down important vocabulary words pertinent to the podcast and key terms that were new to you
• Erotic Intelligence – “But we have an erotic mind. And that erotic mind, it is infinite. And eroticism
thrives on the ritual and the celebration and the infiniteness of our imagination — and on the
forbidden, for that matter, too.”
• Desire – Desire is to own the wanting
• Eroticism is a transgressive force. It is about breaking the rules. That is erotic because it takes you
outside of the borders of reality and the limitations of life.
Quotations- Write down any quotes that you found stunning or that you found interesting
• “We’re walking contradictions, seeking safety and predictability on one hand and thriving on
diversity on the other”
• “When you listen deeply, deeply to the experiences of others, you stand in front of your own mirror,
and you transcend that aloneness”
• “Fierce intimacy is when you see people who tell you, there are certain things about their partner that
drive them utterly crazy and always have and will never change.”
• “Play is when risk is fun. But you can’t play when you are in a situation of danger, anxiety, or
contraction. So you have to feel safe in order to play. But if you do not play, you won’t experience
the erotic.”
Ways Knowledge is Organized- (more quotable information)
Pertinent Statistical Information (Discovery Paradigm or Quantitative Data- information that is measurable,
systematized, repetitive, rigorous, accurate, valid)
• No Statistical Information
Pertinent Expert Information (Interpretive Paradigm or Qualitative Data- information that is focused on
meaning making from “experts.” “Experts” have a focused knowledge on subjects, topics, phenomena, or self.)
• “It is the most fearsome of all intimacies because it is all-encompassing. It reaches the deepest places
in us and involves disclosing aspects of ourselves that are invariably bound up with shame and
guilt.”
• Passion is like the moon. It has intermittent eclipse. Passion will wax and wane and can also be
resurrected.
• Unconditional love does not exist. Love is conditional.
Pertinent Critical Information (Critical Paradigm or Critical Scholarship- hidden narratives, power, equity,
agency, exploitation, oppression, asymmetrical power relationships, false consciousness, distorted
communication, and push for social change)
• “And what happens is that the people who talk about freedom don’t talk about accountability
enough, and the people who talk about accountability don’t talk about freedom.”
• “And if you cannot do it with each other, you’ll go do it somewhere else. But you need to do it,
because if not, you die, if you don’t change to continue to stay alive.”
• And when people do it, there’s a sense of purpose, there’s a sense of aliveness, there’s a sense of joy,
there’s a sense of transmission — there’s no age. There is no age in the chronological sense because
you are in touch with life.
Processing the New Information
The podcast made me think• About the importance of intimacy in relationships
• About Erotic Intelligence
The podcast made me feel- (Profoundly not interested in if you liked it, this isn’t yelp, what did you feel?)
• More aware about the reality of maintaining and creating strong relationships
• More analytical when thinking about hidden narratives we have but have yet to realize
Active Action Steps-Have you sought out to additional information? Yes or No Can you apply to other classes?
Yes or No
Reflection Summary
I found this podcast super interesting and eye-opening. I honestly do not think I’ve ever listened to
anything that could compare to this, and the information that Esther Perel touched on. Perel touching on why
eroticism is more than sexuality, was something that I had never thought about nor made the connection. Prior
to listening to this podcast, I always thought of the term erotic as a word that was always used in a sexual
context. Starting from the beginning, I thought the lessons she shared about her two parents who survived the
holocaust and the key differences between living and surviving were super interesting. Her concept of living
and surviving played a big role in her message to the audience. She put this same concept in relation to
relationships and being in a dying or autopilot like relationship. Another thing she learned from her parents was
that luck always came first. Perel really stressed that in the end, everything comes down to an individual’s
imagination. We are in control of so much of our live when we change our perceptions and open our eyes to
living with a different narrative. She connects this back to her parents saying that her parents had the sheer
determination and imagined that they would hopefully see their family members again. Perel, also shared many
observations and lessons from her history of observing and exploring relationships. She named that there were
two kinds of growing apart, and that you could have either too much or too little of the thing that leads people to
grow apart. Perel shared that in order to be secure in a relationship, you must be able to anchor yourself, feel
rooted, and then also be able to get up to leave and go play without having to worry. An important aspect of a
relationship is having security that when one person leaves, they trust the other person enough to let go and
comeback. Overall, a theme within this podcast was the topic of eroticism. In this podcast we learned that the
word is more than a sexual context but is about the quality of experience and pleasure.
GENE DEMBY, HOST:
What’s good, y’all? You’re listening to the CODE SWITCH podcast. I’m Gene Demby.
Shereen is traveling this week. So as you know, for the past few weeks, we’ve been
looking at the very first year of the very first freshman class at Ron Brown College
Preparatory High School, which is here in Washington, D.C.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
BENJAMIN WILLIAMS: I’m here to talk about a new school that D.C. Public Schools is
opening in 2016.
MURIEL BOWSER: Welcome to the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School.
WILLIAMS: You are here to change the narrative.
BOWSER: We develop our young men academically, socially and get them ready to be
the fathers and young men that will lead our city forward.
CHARLES CURTIS: We’re at your house. We’re in your face. We’re in your business.
We’re caring about you. We’re at your momma’s funeral.
KAYA HENDERSON: You have to speak greatness into young people.
SCHALETTE GUDGER: I expect greatness.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
CURTIS: Greatness, period, day in, day out.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
WILLIAMS: Now, young men, I’m excited about this. That first 100 young men that
walk in that door are going to make history. My goal – when you walk in that door in
2016, you walk in as young men. But when you leave, you leave as men.
DEMBY: Ron Brown is an all-boys school. It’s a school aimed specifically at teaching
young men of color. But functionally, that means it’s almost all black boys. They’re the
students that struggle the most in the schools here in D.C., and they struggle the most in
schools nationally. Ron Brown is built on a restorative justice model, which means its
founders believe in trying to understand why a student might be acting out in class and
then try to get him to repair the damage done by his behavior.
So that’s a lot of talking with teenagers, which, as you might imagine, requires a lot of
work for everybody involved at the school. And the leadership is adamant that kids
should not be suspended. And Ron Brown is also an anomaly because almost all the
teachers and staff there are black men, which never happens. As you heard, about 2
percent of the teachers in the whole country – 2 percent – are black men.
But despite the really noble intentions of the people who founded this school, the first
year underscored just how big so many of these big societal problems that Ron Brown is
trying to tackle are. On this episode, we want to do some debriefing on the very
ambitious reporting you’ve heard here on the podcast on the last few weeks. So we’ve
invited back Cory Turner of the NPR Ed Team and Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week
to the studio to talk some of this out with us. They both spent a year reporting on this
story at Ron Brown. And y’all listeners had a lot of questions and a lot of feelings about
this story, and so did we.
So Cory, Kavitha, welcome back.
CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Thanks, Gene.
KAVITHA CARDOZA: Thanks for having us.
DEMBY: Some of the big questions I had were about socioeconomics at Ron Brown.
Most of the kids at Ron Brown were from low-income households, right? But there were
a handful of students there who were decidedly not poor. One of the kids had a parent
who was a member of Congress – Cory, you told me.
And not surprisingly, those were the kids who performed the best on the standardized
tests that all the kids at Ron Brown had to take. But some of those parents – some of the
upper-income parents – had issues with Ron Brown. Here’s actually tape of a mother
who was explaining why she was taking her son out.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)
ALICIA: I think that restorative justice works for some kids. Other kids, it’s not going to
work for. It would’ve worked for my child, but other kids from a different environment,
it’s not going to work for them. And there’s some kids that are used to certain things,
how they survive in their community. That’s not where my son is from. He can’t – he
doesn’t understand that, really. And I feel safer him being closer to home and with a
group that’s more like him. That’s all.
TURNER: Had something happened?
ALICIA: I really – I mean, I don’t want to talk bad about the school because I think the
concept is good. The teachers are good. The curriculum is good. It’s just that, to be
honest – how do I say it without sounding…
TURNER: I want you to say it exactly the way you feel.
ALICIA: Like, I’m not low income, so there’s different skill sets you need in your
environment. So this environment might be good for those kids. But I’m more about
academics. I’m a very involved parent. And I just feel, this is not where he needs to be.
DEMBY: Cory and Kavitha, like, how – from your reporting, from when you guys were
there – how did that gulf in income between those kids and the other kids at the school
play out, like, in the classroom?
TURNER: I was actually surprised by how little we saw the differences manifest in sort
of daily interactions between students. And part of that could be because the school was
really built around hiding that inequity as best as possible. So they had uniforms. The
school served not one, not two but three free meals a day, and they’re free to every
student. So, you know, there’s just no money changing hands. It’s – the inequity was
largely subtext. And because we knew, generally, who the more affluent students were
and could see who they were interacting with on a daily basis, there didn’t seem to be a
lot of clicking, a lot of subgrouping.
DEMBY: So for these upper-income parents, what was it about Ron Brown that
attracted them to the school?
CARDOZA: It was a lot of different things. So one family told us his son had been in a
private Catholic school for years and said the academic foundation at – without paying
the private tuition – was definitely – another parent said she really loved the idea of
going on all these trips and all this exposure, and that was wonderful.
And she said, even though the school wasn’t as academically rigorous as she wanted, she
said that it – she really wanted her son to be around black role models. And I would say
that beyond all the, like, kind of, individual reasons, I think there was a collective sense
that something different was happening at the school, and parents wanted to be part of
it.
DEMBY: So Ron Brown, obviously, is not that – socioeconomically, is not terribly
diverse, right? It’s mostly low-income…
TURNER: No, I mean…
DEMBY: …With a pocket of upper-middle-class kids, and – right?
TURNER: Oh, yeah. I mean, the data points we’ve used are – almost half come from
families that qualify for food stamps. So that’s a very real level of poverty. And we know
that the vast majority are considered low-income.
DEMBY: So you guys are ed folks. You’re ed reporters. Can you sort of break down how
much socioeconomic diversity matters in how students perform and whether or not
having a critical mass of middle-class or upper-middle-class kids moves the needle in
one direction or the other?
TURNER: Yeah. There’s a lot of good and interesting research on the importance of
socioeconomic integration – why it matters, what sort of effect it has on students. And I
actually just – I want to quote from an interview we did on the NPR Ed Team last year. It
was an online interview that one of my colleagues, Anya Kamenetz, did with Richard
Kahlenberg, who’s a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. They’ve done a lot of good
work on socioeconomic integration.
And Kahlenberg said this. “Kids who have big dreams, are expecting to go on to college,
are less likely to cause disruption, cut classes and are more likely to be academically
engaged. And on average, those peers are found more often in economically-mixed than
in high-poverty schools. It’s also an advantage to be in a classroom where your peers are
high-achieving. For example, children of professionals have bigger vocabularies on
average than low-income students, and that will rub off.
As for the parents – not attaching any blame – but middle-class parents are more likely to
be PTA members and volunteer in class. And that parental involvement benefits every
child in a school. And finally, the teachers deemed more effective are more likely to be
found in economically-mixed schools. That has to do with those first two factors. It’s
easier to teach in a school with fewer discipline issues and with parents who are there to
help out,” end quote. So, you know, it’s a whole suite of issues. The real question is not,
do students benefit? But how can we better integrate our schools along these lines?
DEMBY: Right. And I guess when you’re thinking about Ron Brown, if you had a critical
mass of middle-class kids or upper-middle-class kids, maybe you are then crowding out
some of the kids who you want this school to attract – right? – some of the kids who are
more marginalized, right? I mean, you wouldn’t want half of a class of 100 students to be
kids who are well-off, necessarily, right?
TURNER: It’s a give-or-take. One of the things Kahlenberg says in this interview is that,
you know, the hard work for many of our big-city districts that aren’t integrated and that
have really concentrated poverty in their schools is finding ways – generally using
magnet schools or selective schools – to entice these more affluent parents back into the
system that they’ve basically abandoned. And you could argue that Ron Brown is meant
to be one of those schools. It is a lottery school for a reason.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DEMBY: And we are back. Alright, so we have some questions on gender. Shereen’s not
here. She’s on a plane right now. But she’s been wondering this from the very beginning
when we first started talking about this project. Black girls, by all metrics, are
vulnerable, too.
CARDOZA: Absolutely, absolutely. We’re not going to burry you with numbers, but in
D.C., in terms of graduation rates, black boys fared the worst, followed by Hispanic boys
and then black girls. In terms of suspensions, black boys, again, fare the worst, followed
by black girls. Girls of color also deal with gender violence. They deal with family
obligations. You know, they are more likely to look after parents or little siblings, so they
do have a lot of challenges. We should say that D.C. has a charter school…
DEMBY: OK.
CARDOZA: …That is just for girls, and it’s located in Anacostia. But again, charter
schools draw from all over the city. You have to apply. It’s called Excel Academy Public
Charter School, and it serves about 700 students.
DEMBY: So we’ve been talking about how important it is and consequential it is for
people to have teachers who look like them – right? – because teachers of color are more
often empathetic. They’re more likely to recommend black boys to AP classes and things
like that. But I guess I was wondering what the research tells us about how important it
was that the student body looked like them. Like, what do we know about the
educational merits of single-sex schools like Ron Brown?
CARDOZA: So before we jump in with the merits of single-sex, I wanted to double down
on something you said which was so important. Johns Hopkins has come out with great
research that shows, if you have a teacher of color who looks like you in the third, fourth
or fifth grade, you’re 40 percent less likely to drop out of school, and you’re much more
likely to consider college as an option. So that’s huge. This…
TURNER: And that’s focusing specifically on low-income black boys.
DEMBY: Do single-sex schools work? I mean…
TURNER: I had a really good chat a while ago when we first started reporting on this
project with Erin Pahlke, who is an assistant professor of psychology at Whitman
College. I called her up because she was part of a team that did a really big meta-analysis
a couple years ago of single-sex school research. So we’re talking about 184 studies of
roughly 1.6 million kids across 21 different countries because obviously single-sex
schools is not specific to the U.S.
DEMBY: Sure.
TURNER: And she told me, there is not a difference between the outcomes from singlesex schools to coed schools. And that’s true across lots of different measures, from
performance in science, on verbal, general achievement, students’ attitudes towards
things like math or science. If you look at the high-quality studies, there just isn’t a
consistent difference.
DEMBY: Is the idea at Ron Brown that, OK, we’re going to take this marginalized
population, this population that’s really struggling, and put them in a place because they
have specific challenges – is less about the merits – the pedagogical merits of teaching
boys in a all-boys classroom?
TURNER: There’s just not good research to suggest that this sort of single-sex
environment is a panacea. It’s not necessarily bad. I mean, there’s not good evidence
that says, oh, beware. I think the challenge specifically with Ron Brown, though – if they
start seeing gains, real improvement, it’ll be practically impossible to disentangle…
DEMBY: …Which one of these things is the reason.
TURNER: …The factors at Ron Brown because it’s not just, it’s a single sex school, it’s
they – you know, they have a CARE Team of six or seven non-academic staff members
who focus specifically on social-emotional growth, you know? It’s – they take college
trips every month – you know, three square meals a day. I mean, like, there are lots of
things that made this school stand out. And so again, if they do start seeing gains, it’s
going to be really hard to unpack what worked.
DEMBY: So kings is the preferred term the school uses for its boys. The faculty call their
students kings. So kings is obviously designed to be really affirmative – right? – and
uplifting. It also is – you can’t really get around the fact that it is really patriarchal, right?
It is steeped in some very weird ideas about gender and power. And this is a all-boy
school. And I’m just curious as to, like, why kings? Why is that the term they decided
on?
CARDOZA: Let’s start, maybe, by hearing what former Chancellor of DCPS Kaya
Henderson said about the term king.
HENDERSON: Every single day when I was a little girl, before we left the house, my
grandmother would tell me, do you know you are the smartest little girl in the world?
You could be the president of the United States one day – right? – every day. And so I
grew up really thinking that like, you know, I was the best thing since sliced bread. I was
supposed to get 100 on tests. I was – because I might be the president of the United
States. It didn’t matter that there’d never been a black one, never been a woman. Like, it
was going to be mine because she spoke that into me.
When you call people kings – right? – it calls them to a different level of behavior and
leadership. When you tell kids that they are phenomenal and great – and these kids are
getting a steady diet of not that, right? So I think, you know, the educators that we
selected understand the challenges that our kids are facing, and everything that they do
is deliberately designed to counteract that and to uplift.
CARDOZA: Gene, I mean, we totally hear you because it was odd for us as well when we
first started going. You know, I would normally say kids, and it was like, oh, kings. And
you could hear the teachers too – didn’t you, Cory – I mean, correct themselves, stop and
say, kids, oh, no, I mean kings. Like, that was very much the first month, I would say.
I think some of it – when you say young man – some of it was to give them this idea, to
plant those seeds that they have a future. There is a long-term plan for them, while a lot
of them because of their age or because of what they’ve seen around them, might think
of very short term.
DEMBY: Yeah, just, you know, there are so few places in which black boys get to be boys
and get to be kids, right?
TURNER: Yeah, absolutely.
CARDOZA: Oh, I will say, they did use the term – so they call them kings, but Gene, I
will say they treated them like boys. There were hugs. They were carrying them upside
down. They were wiping away tears. They were, you know, hugging them. There was a
lot of nurturing going on.
DEMBY: I’m also curious about what life was like, from what you guys saw, for the
women in that space or the people who were non-gender-conforming who were either
teachers at Ron Brown or worked in the building. Like, what is it like to be in a space
that is so male and has a very specific idea about masculinity that it is projecting?
CARDOZA: There were a few women at Ron Brown. And most of them, unfortunately,
experience some level of sexism for the – from the students, and it’s hard to…
DEMBY: From the students.
CARDOZA: From the students. It’s hard to know how kind of pervasive it was, whether
it was a handful of students or from many students. But we heard this from the biology
teacher Cheryl Brown (ph).
CHERYL BROWN: This is a very sexist environment. Every woman that I’ve
encountered in this school has encountered some sort of slant or slur on a daily basis by
the students here.
CARDOZA: We had interviews with, like, all the staff, and we looked at the disciplinary
records, and there were multiple examples of sexist behavior. So female teachers were
called bitches in the hallway or in class. One student slipped a suggestive – sexually
suggestive note to a teacher. Another one touched a teacher on her bottom.
TURNER: He got suspended.
CARDOZA: That was one of the few rare suspensions.
TURNER: Yeah, I mean, I’ll add, I think one of the interesting things about the way Ron
Brown operates is, they address this in a really interesting and relatively novel way, I
mean, through restorative justice. So the student who slipped the sexually suggestive
note to a teacher had to circle up with that teacher. And I believe his mother was also
included in the circle.
DEMBY: Wow.
TURNER: And the teacher got to choose his restorative practice, the thing he had to do
to repair the harm. So they’re really thoughtful about the responses to this sexism as it
manifested in the classroom.
DEMBY: So full disclosure here – I am a former young black boy. Some of the stuff about
Ron Brown’s approach to masculinity and the way they discussed it really stuck in my
craw because it just reminded me of all these lectures I got growing up, being on the
receiving end of all of these talking-tos from older black men that sounded a lot like
respectability politics.
And we hear in your reporting that the kids at Ron Brown can’t dap each other up
during the day. They’re requiring the boys wear ties. That tie-tying thing is a trope in so
much education reporting and just in so many schools that are, like, doing intensive
mentoring of black boys, you know? We want to teach them how to tie ties because they
ain’t got no daddies – that thing.
And what they want to do, it seems, is to assimilate these boys into dominant culture,
and they seem to be sending this message, whether they intend to or not, that there’s an
acceptable culture that you’re supposed to belong to. So I’m just curious about how the
faculty felt about that messaging and this messaging about, like, what a successful – I’m
doing air quotes here.
TURNER: Well, we talked to every member of the staff and faculty about this at one
point or another over the course of the year, and several of the men there explained it to
me. Like, it was less about assimilation and more about aspiration. They wanted these
young men to think of themselves as potential professionals. And the tie was just the
currency of being a professional. You know, that was the way it was explained to us.
CARDOZA: I will say, the boys kind of – they grumbled in the beginning about the
uniform, but this year, they had kind of bought into, we want to look like we’re going
places. You heard that from the kids.
DEMBY: Yeah, I know I just…
TURNER: I think I still see your antenna twitching, Gene.
DEMBY: I mean, just thinking about all the lectures I got about sagging pants and the
way that there’s all these anxieties around the way young black men present themselves
– and I think there’s a way in which these conversations around, like, sartorial decisions
tend to be a little bit simplistic. Like, oh, well, if you were wearing clothes this way, if
you’re addressing this way, then you don’t want these things, or that you want to…
TURNER: If you wear a tie, you’re set.
DEMBY: Right. And if you have sagging pants, then you’re not. You know what I mean?
And I understand that what Ron Brown is trying to do is, like, present an alternative,
like, way of being in the world on a day-to-day basis. But I also feel like there is
something very, very, very prohibitive about this, like, idea of adulthood that they’re
presenting.
TURNER: I mean, I’ll just add one thing to this conversation – that the uniforms,
interestingly, became a real sticking point for several members of the faculty – especially
Mr. Greene, the algebra teacher – as the year went on because the uniforms on many of
the students – it wasn’t specific to a handful, it was many of them – got pretty ragged
over the course of the year. And I know Mr. Greene really made it a point in the
hallways, in the classroom and even in circle, once or twice, to say, like, you need to care
about how you look. You need to respect yourself. That’s what he would say.
This is the same teacher who gave us that line in Episode 2 I think it was about how, you
know, he was pretending to be, well, now I’m a Google executive, and I only want the
best of the best. Like, I want these students, every single one of them, to be able to, you
know, compete for a job at Google if that’s what they want. And his point to them, like,
religiously, was, you got to dress the part.
CARDOZA: The irony is, probably the one sector in which you don’t have to wear a suit
if you’re an executive is Google.
(LAUGHTER)
DEMBY: But I just, you know…
TURNER: Which may prove Gene’s point.
DEMBY: And it – and this is why – going back to the idea of respectability politics, like,
there are plenty of black men who are wearing suit and ties, and they’re pulled over by
the police, right? And I wish people could, like, sort of talk about that more, honestly.
Like, the fact that you’re wearing a suit and tie does not – it doesn’t obviate all the stuff
that goes in the word, all the gravity, all the drag that is – that, like, happens to black
boys. And it’s prescriptive about, you know, what, like, the right kind of culture is.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DEMBY: So there’s this pointed comment that we got from a listener that I wanted to
hear from you two about. It starts, quote, “So CODE SWITCH starts the podcast with,
can a school like Ron Brown work, when they should have started with, why do we need
a school like Ron Brown in the first place, and will this actually change life for the
average young black man in D.C.?” – end quote.
And so the way I understood this comment was to be about – like, talking about the drag
– right? – the gravity that is exerted upon people by racism, right? And Ron Brown, as
you guys have said before, is, like – is in the business of trying to mitigate the effects of,
you know, generational poverty, and all these other things and residential segregation all these things that are manifestations of racism in America.
TURNER: Absolutely.
DEMBY: We argue about this all the time – like, how much we need to, like, set that up
in the story because it’s gravity, right? It’s, like – it’s just – it’s a force with which we must
all reckon, but there’s sometimes value in explicating the fact that gravity is there. So I’m
curious as to what you guys make of a comment like that.
TURNER: This is the central tension for us every day as we do our jobs as education
reporters because so much about our education system today is about mitigating the
effects – the multigenerational effects of slavery, and institutional racism and, you know,
the profound, like, wealth gap and poverty that passes on from parent to child and back
again. You know, we see this at Ron Brown. We see this in so many schools that we
cover.
And, you know, it goes back to the conversation we had at the end of the last episode.
Like, what are schools for? You know, one school is not going to end racism in America,
and it can’t even try. It can only attack the symptoms. It can only, you know, give
students the academic tools they need to hopefully make it through college, as well as
the social and emotional tools they’ll need to survive not only college, but to do well into
life.
DEMBY: I mean it feels like – to some extent like we’ve – schools are the mechanism by
which we decided that we’re going to fix racism. And that’s – historically, that’s been the
case, right? I mean, there’s a reason you have the Little Rock Nine. There’s a reason you
have Brown v. Board, right? There’s this idea that schools will be the avenue by which
we address these social disparities – disparities is too passive – but by which we will
address these violences.
TURNER: You use the word decide, though. I’m not even sure it’s been – like, for me, it’s
kind of by default. Like, our schools have become our social safety net. We just put
everything on our schools, all the stuff that we don’t want to grapple with as a society you know, all of the inequities and the manifestations of those inequities. Year after
year, generation after generation, we just chuck them off onto our schools.
CARDOZA: I agree. And I think teachers and staff and educators, because of who they
are, they see children before them, and they try and do what needs to be done. But I
don’t think we’ve decided because if we had, we would be funding at proper levels. We
would have dealt with, you know, segregated schools. Like, we’ve not dealt with any of
that. We have, as Cory said, shoved it onto the schools to deal with it as best they can.
DEMBY: Oh, I’m not saying we’ve – like, we’ve decided with any sort of conviction. I
mean, to your point about default, it’s been a very passive choice in a lot of ways, right? I
mean…
TURNER: I mean, I think Brown v. Board is about as close as we get to real, like,
codified-in-the-policy conviction that this is how we should grapple with these issues.
But even our will to make Brown v. Board real and lasting fell apart.
DEMBY: Almost immediately, yeah.
CARDOZA: I used to do a series when I was a public radio reporter every year, and it
was called Beating the Odds. And it was, like – I would highlight students who have, like,
really faced severe challenges and do – and are doing fabulously, right? They’ve gone to
college on a full-ride scholarship. And I remember talking about this once, and someone
in the audience said, you know, why are we talking about beating the odds when it
comes to these children? We should be talking about changing the odds for them.
And so that’s the way I saw Ron Brown. Like, I felt, if we were changing the odds – so it
can’t just be one or two students who go to college or who to – or who succeed. If we’re
changing the odds where a lot of these kids are actually seeing their life path – like, a
different path available, then I feel like, yeah, the school has been successful. I mean,
they can’t take on the world. They are taking on a hundred kids at a time. And then my
hope is that there are ideas and things that we’ve – they’ve learned along the way that
can be transferred and scaled up and hopefully inform other schools.
DEMBY: In a lot of ways, the odds are the story, right? I mean – and Ron Brown is trying
to – I guess like you said, like, change the calculus a little bit in a very, very finite,
constrained space, right? But it sits in this world where the odds are what the odds are.
TURNER: Yeah, absolutely.
DEMBY: I mean, obviously, I want these kids to win, right? They’re swimming upstream
against all sorts of forces, right? The thing is, like, those forces are things that we could
do something about. I mean we – the societal we.
TURNER: We as a country – I mean, let’s be honest. Like, we need to talk about these
things at a much higher level than at the level of a school district.
CARDOZA: Or a school.
DEMBY: Or a school.
TURNER: Or a school – absolutely.
DEMBY: Obviously, there’s a lot here, and we’ve only just started to scratch the surface
of all of the stuff that this story surfaced. So Cory, Kavitha, thank you so much for
rocking with us.
TURNER: Thank you, Gene.
CARDOZA: Thanks for having us.
DEMBY: Please get some sleep.
CARDOZA: (Laughter).
TURNER: We’re working on it.
DEMBY: Cory Turner is a reporter for NPR’s Ed Team. Kavitha Cardoza is a reporter for
Education Week. All right, y’all, that’s our show. If you’re not already subscribed to our
podcast, please get on that. We’d love to hear from y’all. Email us at
codeswitch@npr.org or tweet at us. We’re @NPRCodeSwitch.
Today’s episode was edited by Shereen Marisol Meraji and Sami Yenigun and produced
by Maria Paz Gutierrez and Leah Donnella. Special thanks to our Education Week
partners Scott Montgomery, Kathleen Kennedy Manzo and Lesli Maxwell. Shoutout to
the rest of the CODE SWITCH team. I’m Gene Demby. Be easy.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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