Diversify Your Narrative

*Draft @ 5/16/21 @ 6:30pm*

As a straight, able-bodied, bilingual Chinese Californian male citizen with an associate degree, who will not be evicted if I lose my primary source of income, it’s good practice to under claim rather than over claim. here I am baby, no shade, but shade. Please verify the claims I or anyone else makes in your life for yourself, I have hope you weren’t planning to treat this as a social media clickbait, or the truth anyway. Remember just because writing with our voice or writing in the text is published, doesn’t mean it’s etched in immutable stone. 

Shareholder supremacy and the Market World capital at all cost, have man-spread their way into our public school classrooms by controlling the dominant narratives.

Caution: Manspreading occurs everywhere and anywhere

These narratives become pseudo-truths that lead to de-centering the learning needs of the students who are most vulnerable in our system of education. 

This is influencing our collective aspirations in achieving the ideals of democracy. I’m beginning to deeply believe then invest in public purpose, public services, and public goods. I’m learning how to defend and support the idea of public institutions as militantly as the Koch brothers, and the plutocrat class has fought for anti-government principles with lobbyists and policies. I need to stop internalizing the idea that governments are more inefficient than businesses. The reality is:

many businesses are faster at doing things because they do things that are way less important than what public institutions do.

My friends with 4.0 GPAs may boast to me that they can finish their homework in two hours, play video games (skewed because I’m a CS major), and barely have to study for their exams… from that viewpoint, they never forget to remind me that they are so much more efficient than I am. Why? 

Maybe it’s because multiple times in a single week: I have to deal with housemate drama, critically think about how CS curriculum matters beyond the grade and my employment, read between the lines of technical lectures that oversimplify without the guidance to verify just about everything, help my parents become better Chinese tutors which has of recently become essential to keeping our lights on, spend ~20 hours a week prepping and hosting my Supplemental Instructional sessions for Data Structures and Algorithms (side bar: student-centered teaching is more demanding than the Gates and Zuckerburg foundation markets their missions to be), work shifts at In-n-Out, do paid research in the College of Education and McNair Scholars, and read, (sometimes take the time to) think, write for The Learning Code. In that purview, my 4.0 friends still come up to me and say hey you should just focus on your studies and just get the answers to what your teachers are looking for… like why are you so slow… it’s like um yeah, I’ve got a lot on my plate, but thanks for the advice homie. “We have a natural nature to try to do things differently than before, that’s the heart of experimentation” – Po-Shen Loh, an award winning mathematician that is implicitly stating students need differentiated engagement opportunities, since… yesterday

I mean seriously I have classmates who boast about the knowledge they have in computer science, where they will literally build a 2-dimensional car on a screen that moves only on one axis and will say in perfect sincerity “you know, why do you care so much about your students teaching and learning and education? You should just focus on getting the answers in your classes, and a high GPA.” I’m like Hello I’m trying to figure out how to empower my cohort of learners in my discussion sections so they can actually feel like they belong, leave with joy, and a sense of freedom each and every time we work. Significant learning cannot happen without significant relationships and psychological safety. Ubuntu. 

People don’t learn from people they don’t like. You’re making an application where your 2 dimensional car moves back and forth on a computer screen. Please remind me again how inefficient I am, like we’re not doing the same kind of work. So instead of internalizing this prejudice and narrative that public services such as peer education sucks, having been in the same room as so many silicon valley tech start up people I hear talking, because they all enjoy talking about their work so loudly, but why do I rarely hear “John” having anything intelligent to say… the conversation usually goes like this “yeah charles just make sure you copy me on that email to Sarah, don’t want her to read it with any surprises, and oh yeah you just want me to reuse last week’s powerpoint? How about we do a different icebreaker for this?” *laugh* like what is John doing that’s adding social value for the communities he’s manspreading over? How many techies in silicon valley are adding tremendous social value? I don’t know, like my guess is peer educators at public schools are adding way more socially to the United States of America every day than most bros in silicon valley. “We have to fight back against this silly uninformed caricature of public action – wanting the wellness and success of the people in our country is patriotic,” said Anand Giridharadas author of Winners Take All.

The longer I work in higher education the more I experience plutocracy, a class governed by the wealthiest, influencing the ways our classrooms are funded, taught, and led – effectively influencing whether or not students become actualized, have agency in their professional networks, and efficacy in their ability to learn anything they see value in. I’ve never met a teacher who’s been teaching for a dozen years of their life, then go to some tech company and suggest changes in the way their production line of how electric cars or smartphones are manufactured. That’s probably because the teacher is asynchronously dehumanizingly grading – not because they feel that’s what’s most helpful for the 100 students they are responsible for, but legally required to. As if the process of learning can be compressed to a single letter. But more so now than years before, it seems like the billionaire class not only has more opinions about the future of education, where they lobbied us to use the technology they built, which will supposedly solve problems in education. However, anyone that’s been an actual educator knows that tech does not solve the most demanding problems that exist in a classroom. I trust with some critical reflection and research led by you, my reader, you will realize the production life of a product is far less complicated than investing in teaching as a process of change and positioning students to discover truths for themselves – not merely skill acquisition. We are all feeling the effects of when society does not fund and value teaching and learning as actual science.

Our education is marketed to help us develop the ability to hold multiple truths and complexities, to understand micro and macro, and society’s second-order effects of things such as where genuine civic discourse occurs. Straight up the business of teaching a novice learner to engage and value the subject matter is the hardest business I’ve been in. When we focus on strategic deep learning within our education, we defend against harmful policies and the people enforcing such policies in our shared reality. We will not stand by while we let the capitalistic greedy mercenaries and the pursuit of money at the cost of humanity, dictate how narratives shape our education. As a supplemental instructor, who hosts weekly discussion sections centering community before active learning, it is clear to me how much time and energy is necessary to develop learning trust, creative lessons, projects, and thought activities that reflect the diverse histories, identities, contributions, and experiences of the students in the room. If I were to solely regurgitate what I understood from class content, or force students to exercise active learning, before I co-constructed a space that was psychologically safe for learning to happen, my proposition would be drowning them in domination and control. I teach students, not content. Fear-based motivation for action is not how deep learning works compared to dream-building activation during the little shared time we have together in a week. It is time to reclaim our narrative, study our history and engage in civics. Your education should reflect you, but no institution, (traditional) curriculum or individual can ever do that for you. You have to see yourself and your dreams in the curriculum. But this is extremely hard when so many public institutions are operating under huge structural deficits. Pretty sure my teachers paid more income taxes than Amazon last year. 

Growing up I really struggled in learning anything in a classroom setting. I remember how dehumanizing, unengaging, or irrelevant the lesson plan for the day was. Especially when our precious shared class time was dominated by a lecturer that seemingly had no interest in their student’s lives. The representation of diverse racial ethic backgrounds exists in a classroom, not in the traditional STEM curriculum. This has been a way racial minorities do not identify or engage in educational institutions STEM departments. 

There’s so much cognitive and conscious dissonance paired with zero sum thinking that keeps us from acting in solidarity with one another. Are there Havard business case studies written from the vantage point of a warehouse worker, a laborer, a uber driver? Business schools should re-examine how they continue to churn out people when unleashed on society, show sociopathic instincts at scale. Profit at all cost is killing us. If we want a philosophy to be a foundational aspect of our lives, we have to consider critiques and alternatives. It’s within these dialectical clashes where intellectual roots can grow deeper. There’s a difference between Exposure vs. Knowing: how do we model for students 1) how to engage in long form consumption 2) challenging with the best critique and 3) comparing with the best alternative. 

Ultimate growth and engagement in learning starts with knowing ourselves. To build relationships to a level of unconditional trust, at times we must be willing to take a stand and bring the narratives in the room, to the forefront. Here’s a quote from a crazy math professor and learning doctor,

“We’ve never had a school system designed to teach students how to transgress. But I believe that is what we need if we’re to transform our society to empower the underclasses.”

– Jeff Anderson

How do you make sure history includes your story -> how might you design a career where your history makes an impact for a public purpose and the public good? Think about what makes public institutions so important in society. Healthcare: Keeping 350 million people alive vs. Tech: building an app where you share photos with your friends are two very different missions.

There are no woke points for being the first to merely share other narratives. There are no brownie points for being the first to update your truths. Being Current ain’t a thing to perform while others are doing the work or pitted against each other. Express what you need to, but here I remind myself to not turn this page into a stage.

Every billionaire is a policy failure. 

Every 4.0 student not guided to tutor their peers is a policy failure. 

The only person who’s better than you is embedded in you. – Chris Emdin from HipHop Ed.

Diversity your Narrative

Droppin’ some light on y’all Spoken Word Therapy


Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

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