Sunday, January 25, 2015

Excerpts and thoughts from MLK's Book

Among the books I'm reading lately is Martin Luther King Jr.'s Where Do We Go From Here, written in 1967, a year before he was assassinated. Reading his words as he wrote them, rather than the platitudes and selective quotes that have passed through the filter of American history, has been extremely enlightening. Reading this book has been at once encouraging (I'm not imagining all of this! I've figured out some things from first principles!) and discouraging (Jeez, all of this written in 1967 applies right now in 2015. Aww...dang.). 

Rather than put down fully formed thoughts on a book I'm only four chapters into, a week after MLK Day I'll take the opportunity to share some excerpts from the book that I've highlighted and pondered. Much of these quotes are from a radical activist who saw the need for reforming America from the roots on up. This is not the moderate, friendly, savior-type that we're taught about in school. MLK was a revolutionary who drew the full attention of the FBI because what he proposed was no salve. Rather, he proposed a complete remaking of a fundamentally broken country.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two paths diverged: Why the messages we send to students matter

Today's guest post is by Dr. Renée Hlozek, a Lyman Spitzer Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University. Renée hails from South Africa and came to the US via Oxford University in the UK where she earned her PhD (DPhil) in astrophysics as a Rhodes Scholar. She studies cosmology as a theorist working closely with data from large telescope collaborations. She's also an expert in astrostatistics, which is where our interests start to overlap. Renée was inspired to contribute a guest post following my recent missives on race and racism in astronomy from the perspective of a non-US citizen.

The end of the semester is always an emotional time for me. 

It's a time when you prepare your students to take their exams, and try to instill in them the confidence that they need to stay calm, focused and positive. If you are in any way involved in education, you know those last few classes are key to building students up to the final hurdle. It is particularly poignant to me, because I currently teach a class in one of the country's maximum security prisons.

When I first started teaching I was struck by just how much the class was like any other I have taught before; filled with camaraderie, frustration at algebra and the eureka moments when you get something just right. But there is one major difference between the students I teach inside and those I've taught outside of the Department of Corrections.

When I give positive feedback it often appears like the first positive feedback some of my students have ever received. Feedback on the achievement, skill, intelligence and ability of people I don't really know, but who I am connected to through mathematics.

You might be wondering why I chose to write a blog post about this?f

Friday, January 9, 2015

What can you do to counter racism? (part 1)

Here's an example of how you can use your privilege for good, rather than the societal default of racial injustice. Remember, there are no passive roles in structural racism. 

You can also use this video as a focal point for anti-racism discussions at your home or institution. Here's a helpful guide for how to do so.