Posts Tagged ‘education’

She looked at him – somewhat meekly – as if asking forgiveness. Her eyes were joining yet avoiding.
“So I’ve never seen a Black man before” she declared. “No need to get all pissy about it! I grew up on a farm – just north of here. Ain’t no Black folk ‘round there. I mean – like – the’re these two Black kids – but they’re adopted like. They grown up like us. That’s the only two. I mean like the Packers and stuff!”
A slight smile drew to one side of her cheek. She remembered that everyone referred to them as the Pacoons ‘cause there were so many Blacks on the team. She knew it wasn’t right to say it just then…but it was funny.
He glared at her. His brown eyes searing deep into…searching every corner of her soul. But he knew that she was right. He just didn’t know how to say it. There is a way to be when someone confronts you like that. There is a way you learn to pose and spit right back at them.
It just didn’t feel real ‘cause her darkness was pure and honest. She hadn’t seen one of me in the flesh before. I so wanted to be pissed and tell her how racist she was – but it just didn’t feel true. She didn’t know what she didn’t know…and I didn’t want her to pretend. “Just tell me you don’t know!” he thought.
That’s exactly what she did.
– Despite her fear of being misunderstood.
– Despite her fear of seeming ignorant.
– Despite her not knowing the exact terminology.
– Despite her fear of coming forward.
– Despite her fear of being rejected by her own.
– Despite her fear of being rejected by yours.
– Despite her fear of having nowhere to call safe or home anymore.
– Despite her fear of losing friendships.
– Despite her fear of being scolded for approaching…or not approaching.
– Despite her fear of vulnerability of openness and disclosure.
– Despite her fear of blurting out stereotypes – and being punished for it.
…she stepped to him and said:
“Hey, I don’t know. I didn’t have reason to know. Nobody around me knew. They didn’t have reason to know. Quit bitchin’ an blamin’ and teach me what you know.”


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The coyote knew full well that despite his best efforts and the strongest ACME (sp) product available to him, there was no way he would ever catch the fleeting road-runner.  An anvil would crush him, he would fall into a deep chasm, or if all failed – they would go to commercial.  He knew it.  His wife knew it.  His children knew it. His neighborhood knew it. Every television show, book and movie reinforced it.  So he quit and drove a cab.  

In a recent self-identity study on 342 Afro and Indo-Caribbean students ages 8 – 11, respondents were invited to choose one of 5 male models (1 Asian, 1 East Indian, 1 White, and 2 Black) for the role of Medical Doctor, Security Agent, Police Investigator, Drug Pusher, or Janitor for an upcoming movie. 
Results indicated that
118 (35%) of students investigated chose the Indian model for the role of Medical Doctor in the movie, while 65 (19%) chose one of the two Black models for the same role.  Conversely, 63 (18%) of the students chose the Indian for the role of Drug Pusher while one of the two Black models was chosen to perform the role of the Drug Pusher by 168 (49%) of the respondents. 

In short: The East Indian students chose the East Indian for the role of the Medical Doctor.  The Black students chose the East Indian for the role of the Medical Doctor.  It was more likely for a Black student to choose a Black for the role of the Drug Pusher than it was for him/her to choose a Black for the role of the Medical Doctor.

Results suggest that regardless of the race of the respondents, East Indians were more likely to be perceived in the role of Medical Doctor – Blacks were more likely to be perceived in the role of the Drug Pusher. 

Of the 342 students tested, only 88 (26%) were of East Indian descent, while 254 or 74% were of Afro-Caribbean descent.

This study has very strong implications for the relationship between a child’s…a culture’s early identity development and academic success. It suggests that if evidence of success is not demonstrated within a child’s early environment (home, story books, neighborhood, movies, television shows, school, pictures, et cetera), the stories of “You can be whatever you want to be” are only rhetoric that we adults enjoy spewing for emotional and political release. 

…from a child the little coyote knew in his heart that there was no way he would ever catch the road runner…so he rejected that possibility – to himself.  Sad but True.   

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Unless we re-conceptualize education and recognize that we have populations and sub-populations that are delayed within the twentieth century…we will continue to struggle.

Unless we acknowledge that any education system is designed to support the requirements of the culture – as described by the dominant group…we will continue to struggle. 

Unless we come to grips with the fact that education has shifted from a process of learning to a process of readying for employment…we will continue to struggle. 

Unless we allow some level of privatization of our education (K-12) system allowing for greater challenge to our current poor-accountability system…we will continue to struggle.

Until we acknowledge that a two-day training seminar on an emotionally pregnant issue such as race does absolutely nothing to shift anybody’s level of readiness…we will continue to struggle.  

Until we realize that higher education is a business and all the rhetoric of multiculturalism, and diversity, and inclusive excellence does nothing until you show me how the shift is going to benefit my company financially…we will continue to struggle.

Until we quit recycling the same song and dance and the same singers and dancers…we will continue to struggle.

Until we make a concerted effort to search for competence (if we know how to define and recognize it) rather than comfort (to make us feel safe)…we will continue to struggle.

Until we truly acknowledge that we are struggling and quit the stories of whose fault it is, and realize that we are nearing the water mark…we will continue to struggle. 

Finally ~ the chat and the rhetoric are all good; the meetings and the seminars are all good; the marching and the placards are all good – but every time we exit the room there is a strong scent of urine that nobody wants to clean-up.  That’s okay.  We seem to have lived with it a long time.  We could put some Febreeze on it, or just ignore it, or hide it with a flower pot.  We seem to be pretty comfortable as…we continue to struggle.

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Inclusive Excellence: The Prologue – Revisited

Universities are Businesses:

Universities are businesses.  They are in the business of selling both their college name (Harvard, Brown, Columbia) and what may accrue from having had an educational experience at their institution.   Universities are recognized for their area of expertise – or projected area of expertise.  We can all agree that it is easier to sell a degree in some aspect of Technology from MIT than a similar one from Florida State.  Conversely, it is easier to sell an experience as a four-year starter on the basketball team at Florida than it is from MIT.  Universities make their names and sell on the strength of those names.  This is not unlike any popular brand of shoe or restaurant. 

The best advertisements for a type of car are the consumer reports.  Ask the people who drive them or have driven them.

The best advertisements for a restaurant are the consumer reports.  Ask the people who frequent there or have frequented that restaurant.

Similarly, the best advertisements for a university are the consumer reports.  Ask the students who attend there or ask the alumni.   

There is a popular listing called the “Who’s Who” on which a number of universities are prominently displayed.   Universities are judged on the number of alumni they have listed in the Who’s Who of American life.  There can be a Who’s Who of prominent athletes or entertainers, academicians, or top 500 company executives.   This is, rightfully, part of the selling tool for any university.   That you can identify a number of people in the Who’s Who of American life, suggests to your recruits that they have a better than average potential of finding themselves in this rarest of groups.  The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (1996) identified Harvard as number one with a total listing of 17, 428.  Columbia ranked second with a listing of 12,159 citations.  Northwestern University with its 5,591 citations ranks third.

If listing in the “Who’s Who” of American life is a selling tool, if the size of your endowment is a selling tool, if the dominance of your football of basketball team is a selling tool, if touting the beauty of your campus is a selling tool: if all of these things are selling tools – then let us be very clear that “Education is a product to be marketed and universities are in the business of selling the promise of an educative experience.”   

Not everyone who purchases a product will be satisfied with either the product itself and/or his/her experience with purchasing that product.  Not everyone gives good reviews.  Not everyone who goes to a restaurant is satisfied with either the food or the treatment.   Similarly, not everyone who attends a certain college or university will be satisfied with his/her experience.  However, we probably would agree that any place of business (other than congress) with a forty, fifty, or sixty percent-satisfactory rating would not survive very long.  In a recent study (Felice, 2010) a number of African American and White students attending a PWI were surveyed about their connection to the university.    

  • Sixty-seven percent (67%) of White respondents indicated that they wore their school colors around campus.  This compared with 21% of Black students. 
  • Seventy-two percent (72%) of White respondents identified themselves as “A (insert school mascot name) through and through.”  Twenty-five percent (25%) of Black students identified closely with their school.  
  • Ninety-seven percent (97%) of White respondents described themselves as “very connected to the University.”  This compared with 62% of Black students.   
  • Of great interest was that 14% of White students identified themselves as first-generation whereas 55% of Black students suggested that they were. 

Determining the level of connectedness to campus between first and second-generation African American students may be of interest.  We may also wish to ascertain the levels of connectedness perceived by African American students at HBCUs versus African American students at PWIs.  

 How then do colleges and universities with African American and Latino retention rates in the forty, fifty, or sixty percent range survive?  The answer is that colleges and universities are businesses.  African Americans and Latinos are not a market that challenges the success of that business.  In other words, there is no appreciable loss of income to accrue because of the low retention rates.  There are also no external regulatory bodies that hold these schools accountable.  Higher education is a business.  The rules of business must apply.       

Before any new product is brought to market, a need is determined and target population is identified.  The product is then thoroughly researched and piloted within that target population.  Products are only sold within viable markets.  If there is no target population, or if the target population is too small to sustain a viable business, the product will not be sold within that market.  For example; there are certain television channels and programs within the New York market that do not exist in Wisconsin.   In a recent study of 88 Dish channels in Madison Wisconsin, (Felice, 2009) only 10 (11.4%) had any identifiable African Americans either in program or advertisement. 

If the market exists and there is market demand, the product will come.   The evidence of a market and the potential for financial gain (given investment) will bring the product to market.   There is no need to create a product or sustain a market if there is no potential for financial reward. 

Forbes magazine has identified Madison, Wisconsin as “second in the nation in overall education.”  Madison, Wisconsin is well known as a college town.   It would be wise, therefore, to consider bringing the business of education to Madison, Wisconsin.  A brief review of colleges or universities either situated of holding a branch in Madison reveals – The University of Wisconsin, Edgewood College, Madison College formerly MATC, Madison Media Institute, Herzing University, Cardinal Stritch, Concordia University-Madison,  Globe University, Lakeland University, Upper Iowa University, and the  University of Phoenix.  (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison,_Wisconsin#Education).  Despite having one of the ten largest public universities in the country, these other businesses survive.   If there is a viable market, the product will be brought. 

However, there must also be the potential for financial loss if the product is sub-standard.  Without that leverage (potential for financial loss) there will be no motivation for change…regardless of title.     

If there is to be any fundamental change in the marketing of education to any particular population, you must first demonstrate to the university how that shift is in its best financial interest, or lack of shift will cost.  These are ultimately financial decisions that balance on costs-benefits analyses.  

A Shift in Rhetoric:

We have seen a shift, over time, from the rhetoric of Multiculturalism to one of Diversity, to our most recent alliteration – Inclusive Excellence.  We must recognize that the success of this movement hinges on our ability to demonstrate to our university how this investment makes financial sense to them.   

Williams & Wade-Golden (2008) offer a brilliant chronicle of the development of what they describe as the “three related diversity systems” through the Affirmative Action and Equity model, the Multiculturalism and Inclusion model, to the Learning and Diversity model.  (Please see Williams & Wade-Golden – 2008 for greater explication of the models.)  What strikes me is that despite the shift in rhetoric and the increased attention given to different populations, African American and Latino students continue to be so terribly outpaced relative to their ability to successfully matriculate through a higher education program.  These students continue to be woefully behind in graduation rates at most major institutions of higher learning.  Despite the terms we use, therefore, the interventions must be targeted to the unique challenges faced by each population.  Consider the training regimen of a professional football athlete.  You won’t train a tight-end the same way you prepare a running back, or a wide receiver.  Similarly, as much as we recognize that there are similarities in the discrepancies that each population faces relative to access and/or success, each must be identified individually and the targeted intervention must be particular to that population or sub-set of that population. 

We now have a new rhetoric of Inclusive Excellence (IE).  What does that mean?  How is this new or newly minted effort not pre-destined to the same poor fate of all the other wonderfully titled models?  And what does this have to do with a university being a business? 

Affirmative Action:

Over the past twenty years, the concept of Affirmative Action has been successfully marketed and sold (to all of us) on the pretext that one particular group (African Americans) was getting a leg-up…an unfair advantage on the competition.  It has been suggested that these students were not competent and were given the space of some more readied White student.  This is far from the truth.  But the rhetoric of Affirmative Action overcame the reality of it.  Eventually, the rhetoric became the reality.  Over the past two decades we have witnessed the dismantling to Affirmative Action to the point that the term is now rarely used. 

This has had a very negative, yet lasting effect on the psyche of African American students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWI).  The term Affirmative Action Baby has been coined and used in the pejorative to identify all African American students on certain predominantly white campuses.   The effort to vilify and marginalize has been amazingly successful.  Relatively recent court decisions (Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003; Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003; University of California v. Bakke, 1978) and propositions (Proposition 209, CA – 1996; Proposition 2, MI – 2006) have dramatically affected the number of African American applications to and students being accepted at a variety of institutions.  Affirmative Action is a contentious issue that has affected the way many faculty, staff and students view African Americans on campus – and the way African Americans have come to view themselves and others like themselves.

In a recent study of forty-two (42) AA students on a PWI (Felice, 2010), students were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “Many times I notice that Blacks do not acknowledge each other on campus.  They walk past each other.”  Thirty (30) of the 42 students agreed with the statement.  Although no follow-up was asked, a number of students delayed long enough, seemingly with a need to expand.

 One male student offered;

“It’s just two of us in the class…and he lives in my dorm.  It’s as if he’s scared to acknowledge that he’s Black.  Like they will take his grades or something. It happens all the time on this campus.”

Other students nodded, many of them sharing their own experiences.

It would seem that AA students have both internalized and projected the poison of Affirmative Action onto others like themselves.   There seems to have been a strong inter- and intra-ethnic separation around the issue of Affirmative Action being played out on our predominantly white campuses.  More research on the effect of Affirmative Action of the psyche of African American students on Predominantly White campuses is needed.

One would recall that the messages of many of our leaders who benefitted from Affirmative Action, and declared so, were either not advanced or summarily dismissed.  Recall some of the rhetoric around the advancement of our newest Chief Justice, our current President and our current First Lady.   (If you wish to read further on this issue please follow http://www.nationalcenter.org/AA.html.) 

Given these challenges (University of Michigan, Berkeley, et cetera) we no longer speak loudly and aggressively of Affirmative Action, and have shifted our rhetoric to more inclusive language of Multiculturalism and Diversity.   


The term Multiculturalism has held much better than Diversity.  There is very little negative press on it, but it clearly has not advanced the academic progress of African Americans much more than would be expected with natural regression to the mean.  It is clearly a popular term.  There are currently Directors of Multicultural Centers, multicultural offices, multicultural dinners, multicultural classes, et cetera.  The problem with Multiculturalism seems to be that it has been easily marginalized.   You send students to that center in that office over in that building, or you have that one class that focuses on that one thing, or you have this one dedicated space on campus where all the multicultural student offices are housed.  There seems to have been no attempt at integration or “inclusivity.”  This, therefore, does not challenge the rest of the campus to participate other than to come to a dinner during Black History month, or to take a class in Women’s Studies or African American History or Counseling.  These centers and dinners, classes and dances, provide an important outlet and opportunities for students and staff to recognize “other.”  It has brought African American students in touch with African students, Hmong students, Latino students.  It has offered greater opportunities to dialogue and share ideas and histories.  It has played its safe role.


Diversity, on the other hand, has become that “catch-all” term that seems to identify any and all differences.  A brief Google search for Diversity yields plant diversity, business diversity, bio diversity, jurisdiction diversity, planet diversity, animal diversity, insect diversity, seed diversity, fauna diversity, and dance diversity among many many others.  Whereas diversity was meant to capture the process of becoming more inclusive, it has become a “catch all” term for any- and everything. 

Inclusive Excellence:

The term “Inclusive” attempts to bring everyone into the conversation.  It is similar to “multiculturalism” but more expansive…more inviting of ethnic, social, and cultural difference.  It expands to recognize gender, sexual identity and learning differences.  It is a brilliant “catch-all” phrase which, conversely, can be used to select and de-select.

I will use an analogy to explain the challenge we have with the concept of “inclusivity.”   Think that you visited your favorite farmers’ market and purchased a variety of beans to make a beautiful soup later that day.  What you have brought into your kitchens are different beans that cook at different temperatures.   Putting them all into the same pot at the same time is a wonderful idea, except that some of your beans will not be ready while others will probably have melted into the soup.  Creating a wonderfully inclusive soup or frappe with all these wondrous beans would be tremendous – but we would have to pre-prepare some of them first.   This is the same with the concept of “inclusivity” when attached to dealing with students.   We have enough evidence to tell us that certain populations are, on average, more readied than others to engage fully in the process of higher education.  If all are put at the starting line and left to fend for themselves, many will remain uncooked.  We have the data.  It is compelling. 

The concept of “excellence” suggests that we are not compromising the academic integrity of our institution for anybody: And we must not.   As with the analogy of the beans in the pot, this suggests that we must pre-prepare our students to engage fully in the experience of “inclusive excellence.”   We have four (4) choices available to us.

  1. Make different types of soup in separate pots.  Just buy one type of bean and make that soup.
  2. Put all the beans in one pot.  Who cooks will cook.  Who does not, will not.
  3. Pre-select your beans.  There may be some of these beans that have the potential to cook closer to each other.  This way we get the flavors of each bean.
  4. Pre-prepare your beans.  Have some readying while the others are in your slow-cooker.
  5. Make better selections – where and from whom you purchase your beans.   
  6. Get into the business of planting your own beans.  Create your own farm.

Let me quickly move these from beans and pots and make your choices relevant to our students’ success. 

  1.  Define your college or university clearly and be very particularly about the type of student you want in your school.
  2. Bring students in on any pretext and make as much money as you can.  They succeed, you take credit.  They fail you blame them, their upbringing, the government, the school district…anyone who would sit long enough for you to tag them with the responsibility.
  3. Be more selective with your students.   If you want inclusivity and you want excellence then (a) establish the profile of a student who will be successful in your environment, (b) know that you want difference…that you are seeking difference, and (c) go search for that student.   You know that success is not simply academic.  Go search for that student. 
  4. This is like the PEOPLE program and the Posse program and TRIO and all those other programs that aim to ready first-generation students for higher education.  These students need particular support.  Put the supports in place, clearly identify the students, place them in the programs, and ensure that they use them.   Appropriate use must be one of the conditions toward retention. 
  5. Search the country for schools that do a great in preparing first-generation science students, or ethnic minority math students.  These school and school districts exist.  Find them.  Partner with them.  Use your leverage.  Use your name…if you have one. 
  6. Start a private school for ethnic and social minority and first-generation kids.   Create your own farm! 

Closing Comments:

I opened with the comment that “universities are businesses.”  I would strongly advise that you take that to heart.  There are monies to be made, financial supporters to keep calm, and wallets to pry open.  If you want a university to purchase the concept of Inclusive Excellence, not simply as another initiative or a fancy looking letter opener, demonstrate to the university how the business of inclusive excellence will benefit them financially. 

The question is, “How do we marry a socio-cultural perspective with a business-marketing model?”

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Inclusive Excellence IV: The Plan

Now you have the job.  You have your Chancellor’s back and he/she has yours.  The relationship has been established.  

Time to get to work.

I am going to use a real-life situation so you can see aspects of the model in action.  There are going to be gaping holes in the model.  That’s why we call it a model.  The game plan is that you take it, and match the major aspects of the model…the hinges upon which it sits, to your particular social and cultural environment. 

Know that each situation is different.  Each university is different.  You will have to match your intervention to fit the particulars of your university – it’s size, the particular state it is in, where you draw your students from, the type of weather you enjoy, et cetera.   These particulars, which may seem peripheral, are integral to your success in attracting students to your university.  I will revisit this point later in the presentation. 

 You will also find similarities.  There are certain similarities to all universities despite size or geography.  Then there are similarities that small universities enjoy, others particular to large universities, others to Midwestern universities, and other still to Southern universities.   Certain aspects in the model, therefore, can cross…can be used anywhere.   However, to make this model work, you will have to take the skeleton and clothe it in the body relevant to your situation and circumstance.   This means that you have to know your particular situation and circumstance.   That is the very first thing.  This too, I will get back to.  But you can place it as number one right now.

Throughout this piece, I am going to propose that you do a number of things and ask a number of questions.  What I will also do is attempt to consistently link both the directives and the challenges back to Inclusive Excellence (IE).  I will try to explain what these questions have to do with moving your university toward IE. 

Finally, do not expect a straight-line solution to this challenge.  Just as with any good recipe for creating a cake, you bring in diverse elements, mix them together in appropriate proportion, and then allow it to bake at the appropriate temperature.  Work diligently but be patient.   Remember that it is not as if everybody wants you in their kitchen in the first place.  Many are very happy with the cup cakes they have enjoyed over the past fifty years!  They are none-too-happy about you being in their kitchen tinkering with stuff.  It is okay to have the rhetoric of change.  In fact, many of us have been hired to lead the rhetoric of change.  But when you begin the process of change (a) it is not linear, and (b) there is a necessary process of grief that will be incurred.  This is another piece I hope we will discuss.    

Here we go.

1.     Learn Your Town/City.

This means that you learn everything about the place that you are going to.  

  1. When was your town/city built and why was it was built?  What were the social-historical circumstances that led to its being built?  What is its financial profile?  What is its social profile?   What percentage of your residents has attained a four-year degree?  How slowly or quickly does your town/city change?  What percentage of the population in your town/city is retained?  What percentage was born in the town/city, grew up there, went to school there, and still resides there?  Is your town/city a manufacturing based economy, a technology-based economy, or are you a university town where a large percentage of the economy revolves around the university?  Is your community heavily conservative, heavily democratic, or a mixture?  Would your town/city be considered an urban, suburban, or metropolis environment?  Do stores open late?  What is considered late?  Are there places within your town/city that ethnic and social minorities (to your town) can comfortably get needs met – haircut, meal, music, et cetera?  Are there available radio and television channels that serve or recognize ethnic and/or social minority populations? 

This is an incomplete list of the questions you have to answer before anything else can be done.

2.     Learn Your University.

This means that you learn everything about the place that you are going to.

  1. I know that you guys meet with all the social and ethnic groups and/or their representatives.  That is great.  I know that some of you even have informal meetings with students.  Beautiful.   I also know that many of you have great climate surveys commissioned.  Wonderful.  Let me add a little bit to your hard work. 

When was your university built, why was it built, how was it established? What type of students does it attract?  Are they first-generation or second-generation?  Where do they come from?  Are they primarily from within the community, within the state, adjoining states, or from all around the country and the world?  How wide is its net?  If given the names of a number of universities, which ones would your university think itself close to, relative to prestige?   Would it say that it matches up well against a University of Michigan, a UCLA, or Whitewater?  On what is that assessment based; numbers of students, strength of athletic program, strength of its academic program, endowment?  What is that assessment based on?  How accurate is that assessment?  Do the students agree?  Does the community agree with that assessment?  Does your university have a long history of support for and integration of ethnic and social diversity cultures, or is this process in its infant stages?  That you have had an ongoing process for years does not mean that there has been any or any substantial progress.   How committed are your ethnic and social diverse cultures to the university?  Do they attend your sporting events?  Do they purchase and proudly don your clothing? Do they bleed your colors or do they simply go to your school?   If I pick up the school newspaper, do I see myself reflected anywhere, or is it only in the sport section?   Am I evidenced anywhere in your alumni magazine?   What is the make-up of your Board of Regents?  How has that make-up shifted over the past fifty years… or has it? 

Here again – another incomplete list of questions that must be answered before anything can be done.

3.     Learn the Relationship Between the University and the Community.   

Here you are trying to find out if the university sees itself as an integral part of and player in the community, if the community and its attendant school district agree, and how that relationship might be demonstrated.  Some universities are the main employer in the community.  That is where the term “university town” comes from. For example: Madison, Wisconsin is a university town.  There is a very dramatic and much evidenced shift when the university is in recess.  Here are some of the questions you need answered.

  1.  What is the relationship between the community and the university?  How is that evidenced?  Are there any radio stations, stores, television stations, or barber shops that cater to diverse populations?  Do your students feel comfortable going down-town?  Do they pick up on-campus jobs or are there student jobs available downtown?   Do you have a rhythm and blues station?  Do you have a world music station?  Do you have clubs that students can feel comfortable at, or does that have to all happen on the campus?  Is there a self-imposed curfew that student hold themselves to?  That means, do they feel safe being off campus late at night?  How late do the buses run?   If I pick up the local newspaper, do I see myself reflected anywhere, or is it only in the sport section?    What is the relationship between the university and the school district?  How is that evidenced? Are there vibrant, ongoing academic relationships or is it that the university simply sends their teacher-education interns for the school district to absorb?  Are there ongoing tutoring, mentoring, and pre-college programs?  Is there a standing committee in discussion on this very issue of student readiness, recruitment and retention? 

These are some of the answers you will need addressed before you could move forward with this work.

After you get those answers, you have your data set and all cleaned-up; now you are ready to get to work on this thing. 

Let me take a few of these questions I have posed and answer them for you.  What I am doing here is simply giving you an example and explaining, as I go along, why this information is so important to your success in developing an intervention strategy.  Yes, it is an intervention strategy.  If things were going right, you wouldn’t need intervention.  Just the admission of a wish for intervention suggests that something is not as you wish or expect it to be.

That is next.

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Inclusive Excellence: The Prologue

Let me start by saying the Inclusive Excellence (IE) is a brilliant, but old, concept.  It is something I have been moving for years.  Ask my students.  Be that as it may, it is a great concept.

It sits on the premise that everyone is included – gets to participate without sacrificing academic excellence.  Wonderful!  Great!  Brilliant! 

Now the job starts. The first part is “inclusion.” How do we, as a culture, move to a state of inclusion without first achieving readiness?  We do not include anything (new foods, new music, a new child…) without a readiness to include.  Otherwise, it is an imposition.  Let’s say you get pregnant without having planned to do so; you may learn to love and enjoy the pregnancy, but if you were not ready for it, it initially is an imposition.  Regardless to what it is, there must be a process of readiness to engage if (a) proper learning is to take place, and (b) you are expected to participate in that newly learned behavior.  Consider any developmental process –walking, reading, driving….  It follows the same path. 

Readiness suggests a process of learning.  Learning is not tolerance.  We have tolerance.  We have lots of tolerance.  We do not have learning.  So we are not yet readied for inclusion.

Let’s look at the other side of the equation.  Excellence.  Remember, we are not sacrificing excellence – academic integrity.  Here too, we are dealing with the concept of readiness.  What is the commonly held or pervasive posture on the academic readiness of African Americans, Asian Americans, Caucasian Americans, Native Americans, Latino Americans, women, first generation college students, or foreign students from different cultural settings?  If these perceptions of readiness are different for different populations, then our ability to realize academic excellence as currently defined is suspect – at least.  This is because our conceptualization of academic excellence does not shift, but our perception of readiness to engage fully in that process shifts relative to the population that is the subject of our conversation.  I am arguing from the posture that the exclusion, or non-inclusion, of any one group is enough to define the process of IE as a “failure.”  We either include or we do not include.  There is no half-stepping here.  Given our criteria, we either demand excellence or we do not.            

There is clearly a shared perception of the unequal readiness of certain populations to satisfy the definition of “academic excellence.”  Current data put signature to that perception.  It does not mean that it is reality for all, but that there is enough evidence to offer support to the perception.

This is not about “why.”  That is a different conversation. 

Therefore in our goal to achieve academic excellence, we must take into consideration (a) this differential academic readiness and (b) the perception of lack of academic readiness.   Those are two very different yet related things.

Here is an example.  My son goes to a university.  They think he is not academically prepared.  That does not mean that he is not.  It means that they think that he is not – and consequently, their behaviors toward him reflect that perception/perspective.

On the other side of the coin; he thinks that they think he is not academically prepared.  So his behaviors reflect his perception of their belief.  Any challenge to his academic integrity will be viewed through the prism/lens of his belief in their belief of his lack of readiness.  Makes sense?

So since these beliefs are different for different populations, we have to take a second look at IE.

I argue that we (a) look at IE from a socio-cultural perspective, and (b) employ IE from a strategic marketing paradigm.

I am not looking at IE from a social activism model.  It will not work! 

I am arguing that it is not “the right thing to do.”  That discourse if off the table for now.  We will get to it later.   Right now, I am arguing that our economic solvency demands we engage in the IE model.  It is to our economic peril if we do not lead on this issue.

The question becomes, “How do we marry a socio-cultural perspective with a business-marketing model?”


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We’ve afforded these families and these kids all sorts of opportunities to lift themselves out of the appalling circumstances of their lives, yet they seem never to be grateful of our efforts; nor do they take advantage of the education.  They’re late for class.  Their homework is not done, or done poorly.  Sometimes it is done but never handed in.  They are disruptive in class – shouting out inappropriately, standing up, walking around, interfering with the other students who are trying to learn, intimidating the students…just overall disrupting the flow of the educative process.  We call the parents.  They either don’t come, or they yell at the teachers.  They, themselves, seem complicit in the whole thing and call us racist.  Or other times they don’t even call us back!  Look, just yesterday the principal tried to break-up a fight between two of them in the corridor and got smacked in the face for her efforts.  Come on Doc.  This is your area.  Tell us; what do they expect us to do?

In one form or another, this scenario has played itself out in at least eighty-percent of my meetings with principals or staff, or at seminars in which I am presenting.  The “these families” that they are alluding to are generally “African Americans.”  Although I am called in to deal with other ethnic and social minority populations, challenges with the African American population seem to more-often-than-not rise to the top.  These emotional sharings occur most frequently during round-table discussions rather than in the large group settings.  It would seem that there is greater comfort in these smaller groups – particularly if you allow a few minutes for ice-breaker activities and initial processing before joining them. 

But that’s not the point.  The point is, “How do you respond to that?  What do you do?” 

There is neither a single nor an easy response to this.  If there were, we wouldn’t be still dealing with this fifty-five years after Brown vs Board of Education. 

The first thing to recognize is that the approach to dealing with this issue is different relative to the age of the population (pre-primary, primary, middle, high), their history in the community (are they new immigrants or do they have a long history), the social grouping (lower, middle, high), the integration of that grouping (Is there a mix of lower and middle class, or is it a predominance of one class), the training of the teacher (has the teacher been trained to deal with that population or is it this one class he/she did) , the training of the principal, the readiness of the school district (particularly the Superintendent) to lead on the issue, the relationship between the Superintendent and the Board of Education (is the Superintendent a leader of a manager), and the level of integration of the families into the social fabric of the community.  

Those questions (above) must be answered first because it is from that knowledge and insight that the plan of intervention is developed.

The frustration you hear many teachers speak of is normal.  If you have not been trained to work with a population, and the population is relatively new and not yet integrated into the social culture of the community…this is expected.  Plus, let’s be honest about it, this is no way to be a successful teacher.  You cannot expect a teacher to do his or her best work if this is the situation he or she is walking into every day!  It simply won’t happen.  Additionally, without addressing the situation, you are offering those less-than-stellar teachers and easy “out.”  They just blame the parents, blame the school, blame the District…blame, blame, blame. 

Yes, that may be only 10% of your teaching fraternity, but do you know how many teachers ten percent is?   I have met and worked with many terrific teachers and principals, psychologists and social workers, but I have also worked with my fair share of those who seem to have a standard complaint stuck in a desk drawer waiting for just the right kid to pull it out.

This challenge goes both ways. 

Once we recognize and accept the fact that this challenge goes both ways (distrust, fears, concern, labeling, perceived targeting, etc.), our very next move is to get away from the emotional discussions and from the discussions of emotion.  Those take us nowhere. 

Frankly, it gets us into a game of emotional ping pong where one person serves and the others either deflects of tries to slam the ball back to the other side.  The parents never win those games.  They don’t have big enough rackets.  So they retreat, or they don’t answer the phone, or don’t come to meetings, or become very belligerent when they do come.   So we retreat to our corners in the same frustrated state that each of us came to the table with. 

This is a multilayered challenge that demands a multilayered response, the first part of which is “Understanding and Normalizing the Challenge.”  If you truly want to shift it, and that truth is different in different schools and in different school districts, you must first understand and normalize the challenge.

The story below attempts to explain and normalize one aspect of this enormous and historic challenge.  Follow it slowly.  It is written in very simple language but has profound parallels to our current conversation.  Remember, this is a multifaceted challenge.  This story simply takes one sliver of it and attempts to help you make sense of that aspect of the challenge.   When you’re done reading it, you are simply supposed to say, “Okay, now I understand.”

Read it.  Re-read it.  Then let’s talk. 

Spots On My Carpet

 Once upon a time there was a pretty little lady

Who had a pretty little house.

And a pretty little car

A pretty little sofa

And a pretty little chair

The pretty little lady had a pretty little dog

Who had a pretty little bed

A pretty little bowl

To put her pretty little food

She had a pretty little bone

and pretty little toys

A pretty little collar

And a pretty little leash

To take her pretty little walks

In her pretty little neighborhood

They were such a pretty little pair

They took pretty little walks

Around the pretty little park.

They were so happy.

One day they thought –

“Wouldn’t it be nice to share our pretty little life with another dog?”

So off they went in their pretty little car to the pound.

In the pound they saw so many dogs.

They saw big dogs

Small dogs

Fat dogs

Thin dogs

Smiling dogs

Frowning dogs

Each dog in want of a good home.

They chose one dog to share their home with.

And off they went in their pretty little car with their new friend.

He was so happy.

He got his own pretty little bed

And pretty little bowl

Pretty little collar and pretty little leash

They went for pretty little walks

Around the pretty little park.

They were such a pretty little family.

One day the lady went to work leaving the two dogs at home.

After a long day’s work

She returned to her pretty little house.


There’s a spot in my carpet – she screamed.

Oh my goodness!   What a mess!

Toys were strewn everywhere.

The place was in such a mess.

Who did this?


But why?

Didn’t I bring you from the pound?

Didn’t we share our pretty little home with you?

Didn’t we share our pretty little food with you?

Didn’t you have your own pretty little bowl and pretty little toys?

We brought you in as part of our family!

Is this how you repay our kindness?

She was so hurt!!!

Her pretty little house was ruined

And there was a spot in her carpet.


Moral of the Story: Do not expect me to change my behavior simply because either my geography or my social status has shifted.  It takes much more than a change in environment to precipitate/encourage/support a change in behavior.

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