GOOD

You Talk a Big Game About Diversity, So Why Aren't You Recognizing People of Color?

The NEA Foundation recently celebrated recepients of their Awards for Teaching Excellence, but people of color literally weren't in the crowning finalist's picture.


Actually, of the 36 total people who were recognized, only two were perceptible people of color—under 6 percent, which according to The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation is about ten points behind the national rate of 16 percent.

So, what exactly are we celebrating? Who are we honoring? What lessons are being taught through a ceremony short on diversity? Stark absences of diversity in any field, but particularly the field of education, are effectual declarations of retrogression.

When I first saw the five finalists pictured in a tweet, I immediately asked, "Where are the people of color?" Pictorial diversity is de rigueur in "post-racial" America. Surely our most symbolic gestures of achievement can have the racial diversity ratio of a beer commercial (typically one out of four). Sadly, I've grown accustomed to tokenism—having regularly served the role myself—because it provides a modicum of evidence that an organization is trying to be democratic. I certainly carry baggage in this discussion.

I truly believe underrepresentation is an extension of organizations not attending to processes that should demand inclusion. But I worry that the once fashionable excuse of colorblindness has turned into blatant resistance to inclusion. In the context of comedy, Jerry Seinfield expressed this backlash in a recent interview. Seinfield said, "People think [comedy] is the census or something, it's gotta represent the actual pie chart of America; who cares?" Likewise, educational organizations give out awards under the illusion of a colorblind process. Without purposeful efforts to be inclusive you get regurgitation of a privileged class.

Stark absences of diversity in any field, but particularly the field of education, are effectual declarations of retrogression.

I would never encourage Benetton, kumbaya award ceremonies that are equally as patronizing. But let's be clear, there isn't a scientific way to determine the best in teaching, nor is there a "right" mix of people to be in the picture. Awards are purely symbolic statements. Our ceremonies and top-ten lists should symbolize what we want to be as an organization, community and profession.

People don't wear their racial identities on their foreheads so I really don't know if the Teaching Excellence recipients didn't represent the membership. Passe blanc Creoles always go undetected. But seriously, it's very likely that NEA’s membership doesn't reflect the teacher population. How the NEA and American Federation of Teachers dealt with and continuously deal with integration impact the composition of its membership. Woodrow Wilson reports that if current trends hold, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of 5 percent of the total teacher force by 2020. At the same time the percentage of students of color will likely exceed 50 percent. We should encourage teachers of color to stay in the profession especially in ceremonies that are symbolic.

This is not to isolate NEA. "Some of my best friends are members." I've also challenged Teach for America, the education reform community as well as organizations that I've worked for to become more inclusive. As an aside, universities talk big game about diversity. Look at the percentages of tenured faculty as well as the composition of executive cabinet to gauge an institution's commitment to diversity. No one is clean.

The same issue came up last year when Michael Petrilli published "The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy (Crowdsourced Edition)." Petrilli received quite a bit of haterade because his list didn't include some obvious influentials. However, the most substantive critique was that the effort essentially became a list of the most resourced (privileged) educators in the country. Again, Petrelli attempted to create a methodology that never escaped the confines of privilege. The result was a list that rewarded the regular muckety mucks of education—largely white, largely upper-class.

From the Grammys to Forbes' 30 under 30 to Teaching Excellence: mainstream award ceremonies are more symbolic statements about who is a member of a clique—Macklemore did not have the better rap album—than anything else. Honoring seldom aims to break casts that produce our peculiar social molds. When the selection process doesn't seek inclusion, we never learn if the honorees are predetermined to win. Eventually, a lack of diversity ultimately strips the emperor of his clothes, leaving pock mocks of privilege bare. To the privilege go the spoils.

And while I throw salt on these ceremonies, I should note that teaches and educators who deserve awards don't seek them, nor should we. Real educators don't have the time or sponsors to meet the application deadlines. Moreover, I have to believe in a higher standard for educational excellence. We can't give power to authority that struggles to recognize people of color. I'm just saddened when significant contributors aren't recognized.

Education is often seen as an art, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But the NEA has thousands of black, Latino, and Asian beholders that should reflect an incredible tapestry of its membership. However, if the artistic expression is painted in "flesh-colored" tones, then beauty is clearly defined by the painter.

In 21st century America, if the crowning group photos of the award show, "top ten" or "most influential" list doesn't include people of color, then go back and start again. Honor without diversity is disgrace.

A version of this post originally appeared at The Hechinger Report

Articles
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture
NASA

Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

Keep Reading Show less
Science

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News
Courtesy of John S. Hutton, MD

A report from Common Sense Media found the average child between the ages of 0 and 8 has 2 hours and 19 minutes of screen time a day, and 35% of their screen time is on a mobile device. A new study conducted by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, found exactly what all that screen time is doing to your kid, or more specifically, your kid's developing brain. It turns out, more screen time contributes to slower brain development.

First, researchers gave the kids a test to determine how much and what kind of screen time they were getting. Were they watching fighting or educational content? Were they using it alone or with parents? Then, researchers examined the brains of children aged 3 to 5 year olds by using MRI scans. Forty seven brain-healthy children who hadn't started kindergarten yet were used for the study.

They found that kids who had more than one hour of screen time a day without parental supervision had lower levels of development in their brain's white matter, which is important when it comes to developing cognitive skills, language, and literacy.

Keep Reading Show less
Health