Mindful Musings

  • A Pathway To Being Better, Doing Better (Part 4 of 4)

    We have reached the final installment of this series on the pathway to Being Better, Doing Better. The previous 3 postings covered the thematic areas of telescopes, microscopes, and mirrors. In our final installment we take a look at resources that are intended to be "brief", and ideally serve as a springboard into one of our other thematic areas. This is why the final thematic area is called Binoculars and Magnifying Glasses. 

    As you work your way through the resources below they are certain to provide you with many moments of deeper thinking, questioning many things you have been led to believe, and providing broader perspectives on their subject matter. I actually found it quite useful to listen to the podcasts more than once since there was so much content I wanted to delve into deeper, hence me sharing many of the book titles I have listed in the previous posts. While the list below has been carefully curated, there is lots more to access beyond it. In fact, I would highly recommend subscribing to several of them since the episodic content is so well done and is literally food for thought.

    We Talk Different:
    Episode 35- "What Does It Mean To Be White" Edition Part 1

    Episode 37- "What Does It Mean To Be White" Edition Part 2

    Episode 27- The "White Fragility" Episode Part 1

    Episode 29- The "White Fragility" Edition Part 2

    Episode 99- The White Fragility with Dr. Robin DiAngelo Edition

    Code Switch:
    Code Switch Goes To College

    Ask Code Switch: School Daze

    Behind The Lies My Teacher Told Me

    Respect Yourself

    On Strike!! Blow It Up!!

    Love and Walkouts

    Revisionist History:
    Miss Buchanan's Period of Adjustment

    The Hug Heard Round The World

    General Chapman's Last Stand

    My Little Hundred Million

    Michael Eric Dyson’s ‘Sermon To White America’

    How Charter Schools Are Prolonging Segregation

    The Breakdown Episode 29

    The Good Ancestor Episode 1 and Episode 9

    The Atlantic: Myth of Meritocracy

    The Atlantic: Myth of Learning Styles

    While there are lots more resources I could share here this should provide a very solid understanding of how this thematic area works and hopefully be a catalyst for you to further explore your own learning in these areas. I hope to cross paths at some point soon with as many of you as possible to share thoughts around the content in this series and hopefully share ideas on how we can work together going forward. Thanks for taking the time to read and  listen.

  • A Pathway To Being Better, Doing Better (Part 3 of 4)

    As our journey together continues, Being Better and Doing better will take on a significantly higher mental intensity with the 3rd thematic focus. The focus now shifts to the mirrors category. Arguably one of the areas educators, and really people in general, have many challenges doing is looking at ourselves. Developing a meaningful sense of self that requires conscious and intentional thinking is a highly valuable awareness to gain. It helps us become more understanding of both our perspectives and ideally serves as an empathetic catalyst for better understanding of others. You cannot truly understand or empathize with another person until you gain a better understanding of yourself. Another layer to gaining a deeper understanding is looking at many of our societal institutions and how they influence, shape, as well as determine many of our core beliefs.

    All of the book titles below are intentional in facilitating a high degree of self-analysis i.e. introspection. These readings will prompt you to ask yourself many questions. Lots of those questions may create discomfort, and I will request that you sit on that discomfort and lean in as to why it is making you uncomfortable and how you can use that discomfort as a catalyst for your growth rather than as a way out. Use your experience in the readings to reflect on your conscious thoughts and actions. You may discover many truths about yourself that you were not aware of. Some of those truths may not be pleasant, but awareness is the first step to understanding. Once you have that understanding you can choose to be better. One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes associated with this is "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."  I sincerely hope to have opportunities to engage in conversations with as many of you as possible on these topics, in person. 

    I'd like to add special recognition for these posts, the conversations, and workshops led with Jeff Heil have added to my depth in this area as well. We talk about these topics very often and many of those conversations include Dee Lanier. Dee has a special Smashboard EDU expansion pack that any educator can use to further explore conversations in this area and provide a great framework for personal growth. I strongly believe that we must work on ourselves before we can truly to begin meaningful work with others.

    Now our list (there are many more that could have been added to this list):

    White Like Me by Tim Wise

    So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

    White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

    Teaching/Learning Anti-Racism: A Developmental Approach by Louise Derman-Sparks 

    Everyday Antiracism by Mica Pollock

    The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege by Robert Jensen

    Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race by Derald Wing Sue

    Note: I have recently added two more books to the telescope theme. They are listed at the bottom here.

  • Understanding Cultural Appreciation v. Cultural Appropriation


    Image obtained from New York Post


    There is a funny story I remember hearing some years ago by the late David Foster Wallace in a commencement address like this.


    There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”


    I thought of this joke again after having a conversation about cultural appropriation in a recent podcast I had the pleasure of being a guest. The podcast is Partial Credit and is run by my three close friends Jeff Heil, Jesse Lubinsky, and Donnie Piercey. In the episode, House of Horrors, which can be found here, we talked about Halloween among other things. More specifically, we talked about costumes and cultural appropriation. Note: this was prior to the Megyn Kelly incident regarding blackface.


    As a byproduct of that conversation I wanted to share a few ideas and thoughts around cultural appropriation as well as cultural appreciation. I will be posting a few follow ups to this since it is such a complex topic that deserves more than one blog posting. Essentially Cultural Appropriation can be defined as the taking of culture from one group for the benefit, entertainment, profit, and even humor of another. This is usually defined more clearly by the dominant culture doing this at the expense of other cultures. The other cultures usually represent marginalized people, those who have been denied a voice, and in many cases those that are not provided with a platform to speak for themselves. I remember a recent conversation in which I was told that in some schools there are teachers that post signs saying my culture is not a halloween costume. Or schools even posting signs like these around campus.

    Appropriation is usually obvious when it comes to costume wearing, but manifests itself in countless other forms. Many have seen it in music, food, clothing, art, and to a slightly lesser degree the vernacular used (these areas will be examined in future posts). It is important for me to share a personal definition of cultural appreciation as well since it is far more complex than a simple definition. I would characterize it as having a genuine or authentic interest in a culture; in learning about the history (the good and bad), the food, the music, the art, the language, the people and its perspectives. Also, taking the genuine time and interest to build relationships with members of that culture on the basis of that understanding. If you have an appreciation for a culture then it makes it much more difficult to appropriate it, because you are more likely able to recognize whether your actions will be taken as disrespectful or embraced/acknowledged positively by the people of that culture. The main thing that I want to do here is identify a clear difference between appropriation and appreciation.


    The following is a list of questions or conditions to consider when thinking about the differences:

    It is important for me to share that cultural exchange is very different than appropriation as well. An exchange requires the following conditions: each culture is on equal footing i.e. there isn’t a power structure involved. There are many examples in which an exchange has been beneficial to all cultures involved such as pasta, tea, and coffee to name a few. A definitive line can be drawn as well between exchange and assimilation. Assimilation requires a non-dominant or even oppressed culture to adapt/adopt the characteristics of the dominant culture to ensure acceptance and even survival.


    There are lots of examples I can share and here are a few that provide further information.

    Why blackface is wrong?

    Orange is the New Black(face)

    An appreciation for Malcolm X not appropriation.

    If there are elements of this post that bother you or make you uncomfortable please consider why you feel that way and imagine how it feels to the recipients of cultural appropriation where the feelings/damage are more deeply rooted; where the marginalization is more deeply affective; where the death is by a thousands cuts. This ties in to the story mentioned at the start, if you are part of the dominant culture sometimes things can be so normalized for you that you don’t even notice them. Water is so normalized for the fish, they don’t even notice its existence.

    I hope to foster more meaningful conversations around this as well as outline further details in upcoming posts, especially in the area of school/team mascots. Please give a listen to the podcast previously mentioned where we discuss Moana and I share a personal story of appreciation for the Maori culture.

    This is a great read around ways you can be supportive of Native Peoples and not appropriate culture. Take the time next month to see how many items on that list you can put into sustainable action. Culture is NOT a costume and "Don't even think about calling anyone/anything your spirit animal."