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Students: Conclusion

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Chapter Excerpts

The call is not for educational leaders to become politicians, social workers, humanitarians, or counselors—although we sometimes find ourselves engaged in an element of each of these. The call is for us to take seriously the fact that the playing field is still inequitable, the achievement gaps still unacceptable, the barriers for children from non-mainstream homes often untenable. We must start where we are, challenge and overturn the inequities where we find them, and engage daily in the tasks of transformative leadership as a matter of principle and conviction. The need is urgent, the task is daunting, but the rewards are enormous. (p. 127)

If we can enlarge the cadre of transformative leaders, then the mantra “all children can learn” will be transformed from words on a page to the lived reality of every child in every school. We owe our communities, our nation, and our world no less. (p. 127)

Supplemental Chapter Resources


From Chapter 3: In addition to the discussion of Sophie in the book, I offer here a short, composite video of her story.

Dr. Ruth Simmons

Ruth Simmons Material for the discussion of Ruth Simmons was drawn from the transcript of the interview conducted on the television show, 60 Minutes, March 4, 2001. The transcript was purchased from Burrelle’s Information Services, CBS Worldwide Inc.

Other information was taken from the websites of Brown University. See for example http://www.brown.edu/about/administration/president where you may read her president’s message and find her biography outlined.

Art as a Metaphor

It is important for educators to clearly understand the differences between “opportunity to learn” and “ability to learn” exemplified here in the metaphor of a kindergarten student learning to paint.

In Figure 8.1 you find a grey and unappealing painting.

Figure 8-1

Here it is important to consider that it was made by a student who lives in a very impoverished setting—no books or art materials in her home, single parent who works two jobs to support this child and two other siblings. When she arrived in kindergarten, she had never held a brush or art supplies and did not know she should wash her brush (or use a clean one) between colors.

Her friend, however, grew up as the only child of a two-parent family who lavished her with materials and spent considerable time engaging in enriching and enjoyable activities with her. Her painting (Figure 8.2) shows evidence of the difference in opportunity.

Figure 8-2

Yet, too often, teachers will take differences in opportunity for differences in ability and determine quickly that the first child requires extensive remediation, while the second should obviously be placed in a gifted program.

This failure to distinguish between the advantages of prior opportunity and ability condemns one child to a lifetime of narrowed opportunity and misplaced assumptions. How much easier, cheaper, less time-consuming, and indeed, how much more equitable would it be to simply take the one minute likely required to teach the first one to clean her brush between colors and paint vials.

The METAPHOR, for that’s what it is, needs to be recalled on a daily basis as educators encounter students from very different home backgrounds with different sets of abilities, capacities, interests, and talents—and different prior opportunities.