Whiteness: Looking Back to Reshape the Future

I have been studying the history and current thinking on race for the past 18 months. Reading. Listening. Researching. I have been taking a deep dive so that I can both understand and share. I have learned about fundamental problems with the way we have achieved whiteness and ways in which we experience whiteness today. I believe that recognizing those problems can help us to live more complete lives and ultimately uplift people of all colors.

I invite you to join me on a tour through the history of whiteness, culminating with an exploration of new paths forward. We will begin in the late 1700s, where the erotic nature of Greek statues and the skull of a beautiful woman helped define our whiteness. We will then visit the 1920s and 30s to examine documents that formed the basis for Nazi Germany, sing along with beloved Paul Robeson in a ballad that captured American hearts, and see how Italians, Jews, and other immigrants became “white.” Finally, we will focus on the year 2020, where we discover new ways to view our social structures, unearth sources of venom in our social media, and pave a path toward social reconciliation and prosperity.

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Race: Myths and Misinformation

Beginning last summer, I decided to devote much of my time and energy to issues related to Black Americans. I have done much reading and studying. While I have not become an expert, I have been learning from experts and one surprising reality has opened my eyes: The concept of race itself is forged from myths and misinformation. Race is a social construct invented in modern times to support the enslavement of dark-pigmented people from Africa. Being a teacher at heart, I wrote this blog to share what I have learned with you.

Read on to learn about genetics, the history of term “race,” religious and scientific theories about race, and how IQ testing perpetuated race-based science in the 20th century. I hope that we can collectively come to understand the origins of the concept of race and thereby truly understand the origins of racism. By getting to the roots of racism, we can open the doors to greater harmony in our country and around the world.

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My Cosmic Day with Janet Grice

Janet Grice has passed away. She was dear to me during her year as a music student at the University of Oregon. We reconnected as adults, strolling and talking on the banks of the Hudson River. Yet, it was back in those college days that we shared had one remarkable experience that kept us forever connected.

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Empathy in Action on Chicago’s South Side

Empathy education. Is it valuable? Should teachers set aside precious time and resources to have students learn to appreciate one another? What about teachers in schools where the performance is not high? Can they afford to focus on social-emotional learning? I got my answer last week when I visited a public elementary school on Chicago’s southwest side. I saw rigorous, top-tier teaching that centered around building empathy and enacted best-practices that will likely raise student test scores in the near term and give them life-supporting skills for the long term.

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How Santa Brought Empathy to Wrigley Field

I recently became involved in The Nora Project, teaching children empathy for peers who have disabilities and based in a Chicago suburb just miles from where I was raised. I have been reflecting on my childhood influences that once steered me to invent special education technologies and now attract me to this project. The block where I was raised happened to be home to many people who lived with disabilities. My dad, who played the role of neighborhood Santa Claus, helped one such person to secure a nice job at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. In this holiday season, I offer my story. It is a story of empathy, making a difference, and helping others to make the world a better place.

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Math Literacy for the Information Age: A Proposal for Social Change

It is time to take a bold step that will dramatically increase the number of confident and competent mathematicians in our country. It is time to define math literacy and acknowledge our students’ achievements in becoming math literate. We currently use Algebra I proficiency as a placeholder, and this is a big mistake. The time has come for us to find earlier benchmarks in which students have acquired the math skills that are essential for success in life, and to celebrate gaining those skills under the banner of math literacy. Doing so will change our national dialogue about mathematics and will expand the pool of students who pursue higher-level math.

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Unraveling the Number Line

I want to share four important strategies for using number lines effectively in upper elementary grades. I have been concerned about the use of the number line, especially in upper elementary grades, because I’ve seen mixed results. There are times when I’ve seen teachers and students using the number line very effectively. And there are other times where it seems that the use of the number line can lead to complicated results and a lot of frustration.

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Lean On!

The script of Arjan’s Ignite! speech delivered at the NCSM National Conference on April 13, 2016:

So—it’s 1980 and I get my first teaching job, and I’m loving it.

I go to the principal. “I’d like to go into a class with a really experienced teacher and learn,” I say. He agrees; we talk with the teacher. It’s set.

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The Cognitive Sequence of Place Value Models

Upper elementary students must master place value in order to understand large numbers, and visual models can play a pivotal role. Grasping the base ten system is a big cognitive step from the one-to-one correspondence of counting and ordinance. By the fourth grade, students are working with numbers so large that counting is completely impractical. They must understand groups of ten, one hundred, and beyond by learning the value of each place in the base ten system.

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