EWS Liberal Arts Forum: Nathan Gibbs-Bowling

EWS Liberal Arts Forum: Nathan Gibbs-Bowling


So welcome to tonight’s forum
with teacher and education activist Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. And this gathering is put on by
the evening and weekend studies program at Evergreen. And so lots of
courses and programs are here tonight, as well
as community members that are joining us for this event. I’m Sarah Ryan, I’m
an Evergreen grad. I came back to Evergreen
when I was in my late 30s. And I have taught labor
studies here for 20 years. And I’m currently serving as
dean of evening and weekend studies and summer school. And I will be passing
that honor on next year. First, I want to acknowledge
the special place that we’re in. The Longhouse Education
and Cultural Center is a house of welcome. And it’s a public
service center that serves the tribes and the
Native American communities of the Northwest. So it’s a gathering
place, especially for arts and culture. And this summer,
they’ll be hosting an international native
artist’s gathering in August, with people from
all over the world. Enjoy the collection
of art that’s here. Don’t smoke in the
building or right outside. If you have to smoke,
there’s a smoking shack in front of the carving studio. So you go out the front
door and to the left. And there’s restrooms
in the back. Tonight we’re gathering
students and community members for a conversation with Nathan
called Teaching and Learning in Dangerous Times,”
a conversation worthy of the moment. We call this event a
liberal arts forum, not implying that
we’re all liberals, or that we’re all
artists, but taking seriously the democratic and
civic purposes behind public higher education seriously. And we gather our
learning communities, and use a variety of lenses to
look at a topic of consequence. We’ve invited a series of
authors, and activists, and public intellectuals
for the last few years, starting with Sasha
Abramsky, who is author of The American Way of Poverty. Some of you will
have been here when Robert Egger, the founder of the
DC Central Kitchen and the LA kitchen spoke. Last year we hosted Stephanie
Coontz, emeritus faculty member at Evergreen, for a conversation
on her book and her work on the history of American
families called The Way We Never Were, American Families
and the Nostalgia Trap. So this year, we’re focusing
on public education, as we confront dangerous times
with Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. We claim him proudly as
a double Evergreen grad. But I think we should
be most honored by what he brings
to the college, not what the
college gave to him. And the same with all of you. You’re all a gift. You bring your experience,
your perspectives, and as you know in your class,
a whole lot of knowledge to the conversation. In thinking about teaching and
learning in dangerous times, we’re not just thinking
about ourselves right here as a
college community, but about our own
children, grandchildren, and community members. How many of you have
family members, children, grandchildren, other
extended family currently in the
K-12 schools now? Yeah, a fair amount. So Evergreen’s
programs serve what we call the new majority
in higher education. So it’s ironic, but a
majority of college students these days are what are
labeled nontraditional. And you’re mostly among them. And so this is a
quiz, a little test. Count the ways– the National
Center for Educational Statistics has seven
characteristics of nontraditional students. So I’d like you to count how
many you personally have. So there’ll be one. First one is delays
enrollment, does not enter college in
the same calendar year that you
finished high school. So one finger for that. Attends part time for at least
part of the academic year. The third is works full
time 35 or more hours a week while enrolled. The fourth is considered
financially independent. In other words, you’re not
supported by the family that raised you for financially. Five is you have dependents
other than a spouse, usually children, but sometimes others. Six is you’re a single parent,
either not married, or married but separated with dependents. And seven, does not have
a traditional high school diploma, but
completed high school with a GED or other
high school completion. So clap if you have all seven. OK, how about six of the seven? [MILD APPLAUSE] Whoa. OK, how about five? [MILD APPLAUSE] How about four? [APPLAUSE] How about three? [APPLAUSE] Two? [APPLAUSE] Or one? [APPLAUSE] OK, so we’ve got
a vast majority– you’re considered highly
nontraditional if you got four or so. So welcome to the family of
highly nontraditional students. And the evening and
weekend studies program is organized for you. As dean, I want to hear
about your experiences, and I always want to hear
your review of our program. And our mission is
to serve students from all walks of
life, especially those who have family,
work, and other commitments, with interdisciplinary
theme-based classes, and rich opportunities
for hands-on learning. And I hope we do that. You can– in the back,
our outreach coordinator, if you’re interested in
coming to school at Evergreen, and you’re not
currently a student, we have catalogs for
evening and weekend studies. And we have a presentation from
the three master’s programs, one of which Nathan
graduated from, the master’s in
teaching program. So now I’m going to pass
it on to Ken Tabbutt, who is our provost. That’s the academic
vice-president, or academic leader
of the college. And he’s been a faculty
member here since 1993. He’s a geologist, and an
amazing photographer as well. And he’s going to
introduce Nathan. [APPLAUSE] Good evening. I hope the fire marshal
doesn’t come by. I think we’re above capacity. This is the fullest I’ve seen
this part of the Longhouse in a long time. What a great event. Is it? Let’s see if I can move this. Maybe I’ll just
hunch over like this. [LAUGHTER] Maybe that’s easier. So I’m not an Evergreen grad. I think I’m the only one up here
who’s not an Evergreen grad. I apologize. But it is my pleasure
to welcome you to the Evening and Weekend
Studies Liberal Arts Forum, and the speaker
Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. But before I do, I want to say
a few words about the evening and weekend studies program. And I promise to be
brief, because like you, I didn’t come here to listen
to the provost speak. The evening and
weekend studies program is an integral
part of Evergreen, and Evergreen State College,
as is our Tacoma program, as is our graduate programs,
and our res-based program. The evening and
weekend studies program provides a liberal
education framed on the values of the
college, so integration, interdisciplinary collaboration,
engagement, self-reflection, equity and social justice. So the value of a liberal arts
education has been questioned, and those questions
will probably persist. But the skills
and abilities that are the hallmark of a liberal
education, particularly an Evergreen education,
such as problem solving, communication, creative
and critical thinking, synthesis are what are
needed to contribute as an engaged citizen,
are foundations of a productive career. They allow you to create change. And they make your
life more fulfilling. I think that the polarization
of our population that we see today in large part, is a
product of a failed education system. Education, that’s
primary, secondary, and higher education. They need reform, and
they need public support. I’m speaking specifically
to the evening and weekend students who are
currently enrolled, but I applaud you for continuing
to pursue an education. So it’s a real privilege for
me to welcome and introduce Nathan. As Sarah mentioned, Nathan is
an alumni of the Tacoma program. He’s also an alumni of
Evergreen’s master’s in teaching program. He’s taught at Lincoln
High School for 11 years. Nathan received the Milken
Family Foundation National Teaching Award. He was the Washington
state teacher of the year, and one of four finalists
for the national teacher of the year. This year he was also awarded
the Joseph Albert Dear Distinguished Alumni
Award from Evergreen. And when he isn’t
accepting awards– [LAUGHTER] When he’s not doing that, he
blogs, and speaks on teaching and educational equity issues. He’s also the co-founder of
the Teachers United, which is an educational policy
advocacy group, which is needed now more than ever. And so it’s my real pleasure
to welcome and introduce Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. Thank you very much. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] You said the click– Sarah, the clicker is– The clicker? All right, go ahead. Good evening. Oops. Oh, no, no, no, no, no,
no, no, no, no, hold on. Good evening. Good evening. There we go. Microphones, microphone. Can you all hear me over there? Can you all hear me over there? OK, [INAUDIBLE] That’s fine. OK. There we go. I have slides, but
like, are they– Yeah, they’re ready. OK. I gotta say, I am
freaking out right now. And I’ll be 100%
honest with you. Like hearing that bio be read– I’m not a professional
presenter. Like, I’m not a
motivational speaker. I’m a high school teacher. And I live and teach
in my neighborhood where I live in
Tacoma, Washington. And walking in today,
I have to say– and some of you
up front saw it– I almost lost my mind,
because some of my students who had me in high school
came out this evening. And then I walk over
here, and some folks who I went to college with,
who are current educators today came out to see me this evening. And so I right now
am just honored, honored, honored to be here. I just want to kind of
tell you what’s on– [INAUDIBLE] I’m one of you. When we sat there and counted
off the things, I had four. OK? I went to the Evergreen Tacoma
campus, and graduated in 2004. I was the youngest
person on campus. And I had an amazing
experience on campus. For those of you who don’t
know the Tacoma program, it’s not quite like Olympia. [LAUGHTER] The campus is filled with
this just beautiful love, and filled with these
amazing, amazing, black women. Like, I basically went to
college with 100 Oprahs. [LAUGHTER] And they cared for me. They tried to take care of me. I worked my way through
college working at UPS. I worked that crazy
3:00 in the morning shift that Diddy rapped about. So I would get up at
3:00 in the morning, go work at UPS for
six hours, come home, put food in the Crockpot, day
sleep, wake up, do my work, and then go to school. And in the evening,
they’d see me, and they would be like,
(IMITATING WOMEN) baby, are you OK? [LAUGHTER] Babe, are you eating? Are you taking care of yourself? I’m like yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am. I’m taking care of myself. And so many grandmothers
tried to introduce me to their granddaughters. Like it was an absolute
crazy experience. Oh? [INAUDIBLE] for the recording? OK. So only for the recording. And I– I don’t know
if it’s even working. But I’m good either way. Whatever, fine. And so I say that
because I want to talk to you not as a speaker. Sorry. You’re fine. I want to talk to you
guys as a speaker, but as a peer and a teacher. Because the work in the moment
right now is super super, super, super important. And the same for my students. The stakes for all
students, particularly in high-poverty schools
are life or death. And I don’t say
that as a euphemism, or for rhetorical flair. But like children who emerge
from the public education system without the necessary
skills to survive in in life are doomed. They’re doomed to
mass incarceration. They are doomed to low
job expectancy, low pay. They are doomed to
short life expectancy. And they are doomed
to premature death. I’m a teacher, but I’ve spoken
at six funerals in my career. And so I take that
mantle of teaching– I take it very, very seriously. And I want to talk to
you today about my story, and my classroom, and where I
want all of us in the learning community to go today. First, my biases and
my known blind spots. One of the things
that frustrates me is when people won’t
own their flaws, and won’t own the
privilege they have. And so if you’ll give
me a moment, indulge me. I’m a native born,
English-speaking, heterosexual Christian man. And so right there, gives
me all sorts of privilege that I understand. I’m college-educated. I grew up with a mother
who loved and cared for me, and a stepfather that
was always there. I was able to enlist
in the military, and use my military career
to fund my education. I understand I have
a lot of privilege. I’ve traveled. I have a passport. I think I’m pretty
damn handsome. [LAUGHTER] I have a lot of privilege, OK? I want to own that. I want to own that. I also want to stand
here and say to you, I understand Evergreen,
and I understand Olympia. And so some of the things that
are true about me is, is I’m actually probably a little
less radical than a lot of you. When I was an undergrad
in community college, I was vice-president of
the college republicans. I’m a veteran. I lost a couple right there. Lots of you are like,
what, what what? [LAUGHTER] I’m a veteran. I like reading David Brooks
I think David Brooks has a lot more to say
about America right now in this moment than
Krugman and a lot of writers on the left. I’m a gun owner. I’m a church attender. I understand that
I will never know what it’s like to be
somebody who is not sure about their sexuality. I understand that
I have no idea what it’s like to have the
burden of being a woman, and dealing with sexism,
and heteronormativity, and all sorts of other
isms that I’m not going to get into right
now, but you know the isms. I will never know what it’s
like to walk around in a country and not be able to speak the
language and communicate, and be marginalized
because of that. That’s not my story. But what I can say, working
in Lincoln High School, I have my finger on the
pulse of those communities. I work at this really,
really amazing school. It’s this thing
called integrated. [LAUGHTER] That really isn’t happening
in schools nowadays. My school is– from year
to year, it fluctuates– 20% black, 20% white, 20%
Hispanic/Latino, 20% Asian, mainly southeast
Asian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and then
20% mixed race, or– so that last one is mixed
race, Pacific Islander, and First Nation people. I also work at a
high school that is about 80%
students in poverty, or students with low
income, but also has a graduation rate of about 86%. And so like, all your narratives
about what’s in school, and what school looks like– my building takes and goes, ah,
to hell with that, let’s go. And that’s why it brings me
so much joy to stand here, and see Cassie and Caesar here. Because they put up
with me for four years. But they know that that four
years was a labor of love. I want to start today by
talking about something that’s kind of got me concerned about
discourse in American politics. Right now there’s a lot of talk
about the lack of civility. We need to be more civil. People lack civility. But my concern about
comments about civility is, is that I oftentimes
feel that civility is a code word which basically
means we need to speak in a dominant white language. I also feel like
civility is often a term that people who have
power and privilege use in order to marginalize and
shut up the black [INAUDIBLE]. And so we look at organizations
and go, why can’t they be more civil? And what I’m saying
to you is, is that how dare we question
civility of people who are fighting for their
life and their breath? And so I think about this often,
and in particular, with this election. Since election day, I’ve
had an anonymous egg, or a deplorable on
Twitter basically call me a nigger once a week. However, I need
to be more civil. [LAUGHTER] So I wonder right now,
in this political moment, about calls for civility. I also wonder in this moment
about calls and complaints about things being political. Like I teach government class. There’s a lot going on
in government class, a lot of political
conversations. Essentially my kids
walk in every day now, and I’m like,
provocative question. Headline. Primary source. Question. Discuss. Right, good day. See you tomorrow. The class teaches itself. But a lot of people were
saying like, well we can’t be political. I’m going to argue to you that
a lot of things that people call “political” aren’t
political at all, they’re matters of
life and death justice. Me saying that law
enforcement in America should not kill
1,100 people per year is not a political statement. Me saying that
black lives matter is not a political statement. It’s about our justice. Me saying immigrant rights
are human rights is not a political statement,
it’s a matter of justice. And so I’m kind of concerned
that in America, we’re walking up to this
precipice– but like oh, I need to be apolitical,
I need to be neutral. Like I’ll quote Howard
Zinn at Evergreen, which is some really
basic stuff to do. But you can’t be neutral
when [INAUDIBLE]. And I would rather–
follow me on this– I would rather live in a society
that is uncivil but just. Y’all know where
I’m going, right? We live in a society
that is civil and unjust. And one of my concerns
about our society today, and one of my concerns
about where we’re going is, is that there’s a lot of talk
about we need to be more civil, be more civil, be more civil. But I feel like being
more civil means that marginalized populations
need to take it and like it. And so I’m going to put
that on your head today. The idea that again, I would
rather have perfect justice and tolerate incivility
than perfect civility and then tolerate injustice. You hear me now? All right. I want to back up
a spell, though. And I want to talk about my
life, and how I got here. So I went into teaching
because I love the anonymity. I like the idea
that basically, you show up at school on
the first of school. You have 125 students. You kind of win them over. And then there’s
no selling yourself for the next nine months. And then the next year, a group
of kids come to the building, you have a reputation. You had their sister,
then their brother. So like, you’re
known to the family. And there’s no sales involved. My life blew up last year. I wrote a blog post, and it
was called “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having.” And is was about
school segregation, and about kind of
[INAUDIBLE] in America. And I had no idea
where this was going. It was one of those things
where I wrote it, and then went to bed. And then woke up to
like 220 notifications. And then finally, I was
like, oh, this is a big deal. [LAUGHTER] OK, OK. And so that blog post would
be published in the Washington Post. And just time out. For me, I’m someone who barely
graduated in high school, and I slid through. I went to community
college, went to Evergreen, and back to Evergreen again. The Washington Post? I was like, oh damn! [LAUGHTER] It was in the Huffington Post. Which is kind of like, whatever. [INAUDIBLE] Right? [LAUGHTER] It was in the Hechinger
Report, which is like an eduwonk kind of thing. And by the way, their
comment section? Fam, never read the comments. Anyway– [LAUGHTER] And then the one that
got me, and the one that I was like–
was The Guardian. [MURMURS] Thank you, whoever that was. Thank you. [INAUDIBLE] Yes, yes. You understand, thank you. [LAUGHTER] In that blog post, I laid
out three or four truths that I believe
from my experience, and I want to leave with
you today about schools. And then we can
kind of figure out how to reverse engineer
this and go forward. Those four truths are these. One, our kids. Our kids. And when I say our kids, I
means kids of color and kids of poverty go to inferior
poorly funded, less well staffed schools. And this is by societal design. Essentially, what
has happened is, is that we have said that
a certain population, based on their racial makeup,
their ethnicity, their zip code, their economic
wealth, their geography is not worth investing in. But we’re gonna invest as
little as we have to in order to meet civil rights laws. Children of color go to schools
that are less well funded. They have teachers who have been
in the profession less time. The number that’s
always in my head is the City of Seattle
and Seattle schools. Rainier Beach High School is the
Lincoln High School of Seattle. It’s the low-income,
highly diverse high school. The average teacher
at Rainier Beach has been there for
under five years. Roosevelt High School is
not the Rainier Beach. It’s the wealthier high school. The average teacher at
Roosevelt High School has been there for
about 15 years. Now I’m not saying
that longevity is a proxy for quality. But I am saying
I’m a hell of a lot better now than I
was in year four. But when we think of this,
is that low-income schools, we get constant teacher turn. And basically, our neediest
kids get our least experienced educators, and that harms them,
and pushes them further behind. One of my policy passions
is the number one, the number one factor in
impacting student achievement within a school is
the effectiveness of the teacher in the classroom. And I put that on me. Like if my students
aren’t learning, that’s on me, as far as
in-school factors go. And so ideally, every
policy mechanism, the thing we should
do, should be pushing our most
effective teachers towards our neediest schools. But that’s not what happens. Every incentive for
me as a professional is to get the hell out
of Lincoln High School, and then get to the burbs. If I go to the burbs,
my kids are fed. They’re needs are met. If I call home as
a parent there, the pay is probably better. I could be home at
4:00 instead of 6:00. And so this is the state of
things happening nationwide across America, and
it’s not an accident. Like things like this don’t
happen in uniform patterns all across the entire
country on accident. These are intentional choices. Truth two– There’s
no desire or political or impetus to fix any
of this any time soon. Essentially, through white
flight and suburbanization, middle class and
wealthy families have surrounded
themselves with barriers that keep out the other. And they have no desire to share
their money and their resources across district lines. Here’s a funny thing,
is in Washington state, there’s like 200
school districts. Whenever I see a district
line, there’s a story there. And that story is some
communities, somewhere parents said I don’t want my
kids going to school with what? Them. Them. Them. And this is how you get
what you have in California. I’m not from the Bay
Area, but oh god– what’s that little city that’s
inside of Oakland? [INTERPOSING VOICES] Piedmont. So you have the city
of Oakland, California. And like we know the
demographics of Oakland, yes? [INTERPOSING VOICES] OK? Oakland looks like
Tacoma campus, yes? OK. Inside of Oakland there’s
a wonderful little enclave of wealthy white families
who have their own school districts. Whenever you see
district boundaries, those bounds were created to
keep somebody else out, or keep resources in. We are not in this
together as a society. And we’re guilty of it
here in Washington state. Kids in South King County, kids
in Puget Sound, kids in Tacoma, kids in Toppenish, they
do not get the resources that middle class families
get on the east side of King County. Has anyone here been to a
high school in Bellevue? OK. High schools in Bellevue look
like the sets of daytime shows. [LAUGHTER] I am not lying. I remember the first time I went
to an conference in Bellevue, I was like, damn. Like, I see how the
other half lives. Why? Because their property
values are higher. And so what they do is
they tax themselves, and use that revenue
to fund their kids through local revenue. And so what happens is
that other kids go without. Which leads me to three. All teachers are
not created equal. Again, if you believe
my starting premise, that the most important factor
within a school impacting student achievement is the
effectiveness of the teacher in the classroom, then we should
be undergoing whatever efforts we can to get our most
effective teachers in front of our neediest students. But that’s not what
we do as a society. As you can imagine, this
last one got me in trouble with some folks at my union. But that’s OK, because
I ain’t scared of them. Here’s the thing. I hit publish on this blog post. And everything kind of blew up. I got a letter back
in the mail, and I– whew! Some folks have heard
about this letter. Is that Steve’s laugh I heard? Hello. Hello, Steven. [LAUGHTER] I got a letter from
a realtor– no sorry, from a lawyer in New York. And basically, he laid
out all the reasons why everything I was
saying was crazy. And in this letter, he says
black students are lazy. White parents don’t want their
children around black children, because they’re a bad influence. And he put this on
[INAUDIBLE] on his letterhead. [LAUGHTER] Sent Is as a letter
to me at my school. And it ended, basically,
with Mr. Bowling, please stop blaming white people
for the failures of your race. [GASPS] What I would say
to you right now is the plight of my students
and the plight of my community is not a failure of my race. It’s a failure of America. And it’s a failure of
American political– it’s founding values. I was in an interview
Monday night, and we were talking about
what’s one thing you believe in that people laughed at
you for believing in? And I said the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment to
the US constitution has two clauses in it
that I firmly believe in. One, a guarantee to equal
protection under the law, and two, a guarantee
to due process. And if we look at all
the factors of society today, if we look
at education, if we look at mass
incarceration, we look at what’s happening
in Flint, we look at what’s happening
with prison sentences, we look at school
budgets, I tell you right now that we do not have
equal protection under the law. And these problems
go back to birth. These aren’t like oh, you
know, [INAUDIBLE] along. These are problems that
go all the way back to people’s births and
origins, and places they are. This is my home. I don’t live here now, but
I grew up in this house. My mother was born in El
Dorado, Arkansas in 1940. My father, rest in peace,
was born in rural Mississippi in 1930. And in the 1960s, for reasons
you can probably guess, they got the hell
out of the South. My father was stationed
at Fort Lewis. My mother’s brother was
stationed at McCoy Air Force base. My Uncle told my mother
life was better here. And then so
basically, the family moved up in that classic
African-American chain migration. I teach geography, so
this is geography stuff, whatever, fine. This is the house my
parents were shown, where my family was shown. This is in Tacoma’s
Hilltop neighborhood. It’s a beautiful,
beautiful 1918 Craftsman. Like I’m not a housing nerd. But I’m not going to lie. It’s a cute house. Four bedrooms, two baths,
about 2,000 square feet, whatever, whatever, whatever. Getting This is the house I was born in. I was born in this
house because my family was steered to this house
by real estate agents. And when my family was
steered to this house, we were shown this house,
and this house right now, if you tried to sell it,
it goes for about $270,000. So that sounds fabulous. But hold on. Let me tell you
about my friend Abby. This is my friend Abby’s house. Abby’s family moved to
Tacoma in about 1960. And they were shown this
house in North Tacoma. Different neighborhood. Four bedrooms, two baths,
about 2,000 square feet. Basically, a very,
very similar house. Abby’s family, her mother, same
job as my mom, she was a nurse. My family was not shown this
house in this neighborhood, because people who look
like me weren’t allowed to live in that neighborhood. Do we follow that? So this is an example of some of
the intergenerational injustice that has been done to
families and communities that reverberates through
the work we do today. Abby’s house, basically,
it’s on the market right now for about
$380 to $400,000. Think about what are
some of the things that Abby’s family would be able
to do with an extra $170,000 they did nothing to earn? OK, remember the beginning? I’m a teacher, right? OK, so speaker mode off. Turn and talk to your pairs. What are some things
that that family could do with an extra $170,000? [INTERPOSING VOICES] Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. By the way, that’s some
teacher voodoo right there, the three thank yous. I asked you to be
quiet, but cool. Anyway. [LAUGHTER] What are some things
that Abby’s family could be able to
do with $170,000 that they did nothing to earn? Please. Pay for college. Pay for college. She went to WSU debt-free. Please. Invest it, compound interest. Invest it in compound interest. What are some other
things her family can do? Get health care benefits. Pay for health care benefits. What are some other things? Please. Pay off old debt, or
high-interest debt? Pay off old, high-interest debt. Please Renovate or improve
upon the house. Renovate and improve
upon the house. Man, y’all are good at this. Way over there [INAUDIBLE] Get their children
transportation, so they can get a job. Get their children transport
so they can get a job. Please. Or they can just donate the
extra money to an organization to fight inequality. Good [INAUDIBLE]. [LAUGHTER] [INAUDIBLE] No shade intended. No shade intended, right? Like Abby’s fam,
no shade intended. Please. Buy a house in an area that’s
currently getting gentrified, like Hilltop. Mhm, and then have
a rental property. They could get a little
extra rental income, right? Go. Down payment on a car. Down payment on a car. Please. Private school. Come on now, private school. And so that private
school, what would be the purpose of entering
that private school? To help make sure that their
kids don’t go with the other. You understand
this, your hands up. Go on vacations. Interesting. After graduation, Abby
went on a tour of Europe, and I went off to basic
training for the military. Please, last one. [LAUGHTER] Oh, [INAUDIBLE] Open a business. Open a business. So we understand this. This is how inequality
is built. The only way you can erase this
kind of inequality is through education. But our kids that
need education are going to the schools
that are least equipped. Real estate is a
cause of inequality and then the perpetuation
of those inequalities create more inequality. And the situation, again,
is something like this. I was blown away the first
time I saw a map like this. This is a red line map. This is a red line map
of the city of Tacoma. Somebody in the front,
can you please read? What does it say for the green? Best. Best. Those are the best
neighborhoods. The best neighborhoods. And so you could
not get a home loan if you were an African-American
in the best neighborhoods. [INAUDIBLE] Thank you. Can somebody please
read what the blue says? Still desirable. Still desirable. It’s not the best, but
it’s still desirable. cCan somebody read
what the gold says? Definitely declining. Definitely declining. And then the red. Hazardous. Hazardous. Hazardous. Hazardous. The house that I grew up in,
that four bedroom Craftsman I showed you, that
home that I love, where my mother lives today– hazardous. The neighborhood
where I live today, on the east side of Tacoma,
where my students live– hazardous. What? The neighborhood where my school
is, where I ride to every day, or walk to. I won’t lie. I drive. [LAUGHTER] A beautiful straight out
of Harry Potter, 1913 brick building, looks
[INAUDIBLE] Hazardous. What? Here’s the thing, when they
were talking about hazardous, they were talking about
investment potential, and the likelihood
of default on loans. But what they really
mean is life itself. People living in
those red communities have shorter life expectancies. Their kids are less likely
to graduate high school. They have inferior
access to transportation. They live in food deserts. And the thing is, is y’all,
that map isn’t natural. This happened in
a uniform pattern across the country in
every urban area in America as a matter of government
policy at the state, local, and national level. One of the most important
reads of my adult life is a book called Living Apart. Write this down, Living Apart. It’s an e-book. You could read it in a weekend. It’s by a lady who’s a
reporter for the New York Times, who, when she followed
me on Twitter, made my life. [LAUGHTER] Nikole Hannah-Jones. And so in the book, she talks
about the Fair Housing Act, and how America
basically said on paper, we’re going to segregate. We’re going to
have fair housing. And then basically, over
time, walked away from it, and allowed housing
to be segregated. And y’all, I’m not a genius– I’m not. But if we go to
neighborhood schools as kids and we live in
segregated housing, then we’re going to have what? Segregated schools. We’re going to have what? Segregated schools. And the idea that we’ve walked
away from housing integration and then kind of backed
into school segregation– y’all, that’s not an accident. That’s planned. I’m not conspiratorial. I’m factual. Like, it’s documented. The craziest thing about
the book Living Apart is the hero of the
book is George Romney. George Romney was Mitt Romney–
was Mitt Romney’s father, and was Nixon’s HUD secretary. And George Romney was
a hero in integration. And that demonstrates something
that I tell to my classroom a lot is how like
politics and dynamics, how we think left and right. These things go back
and forth all the time. So I know everybody in
the room can’t see this. Can I get somebody
from the front row to kind of shout out across the
top, what’s that say, please? Academic achievement and
socioeconomic status. US School Districts, 2009- 2013. What the– So this is a graph of
academic achievement verses familial wealth, every
school district in America, over a four year period. If we look at the x-axis,
the x-axis running that way, we see poor and disadvantaged
to affluent and advantaged. And on the y-axis, we
see average achievement, grade level. Take a moment to look at that. And then one more time
please, please turn and talk to your neighbor and tell
your neighbor what you see. Go. See, proximity works. See, natural. [LAUGHTER] Thank you. Could somebody– could
a few people share? What do you see up there? [INAUDIBLE] hand, go. It seems like it makes a lot
of sense from where I grew up [INAUDIBLE]. It makes a lot of sense to
you, like a linear line almost. Somebody else, what do you see? Please. I see two kind of bell
curves on the scatter plot. So it’s generally pretty
similar across the board, but when you get
to the extremes, it’s a little [INAUDIBLE]. Whoever taught you
stats right now is like, bell curve, scatter plot, yay! [LAUGHTER] What do you see? I already got you,
I got you once. Let me go with–
what do you see? I’m looking at it and I am
in stats this quarter so– Flex your muscles. Go ahead. I see the bulk of us
right at middle class, is what it spells. The bulk of students
in middle class. As you allow for your
standard deviation– Oh you’re fancy. [LAUGHTER] You get more concentrated
on the higher end and more widely dispersed
and outliers on the poverty level, which means
that as you move out, they’re like separated
into poverty. I want to paraphrase for
this side of the room. He said basically everything
is close to the middle and then as you move out the couple
standard deviations, you get more– Outliers. More outliers, more
outliers, outliers. And the outliers are what
I’m going to talk about. Because the first
time I saw this graph, I was like oh, wait a minute,
this is a fait accompli. Poor kids, poor schools. Rich kids, rich schools. And I was like, ugh. But then I looked at it and I
was like, no, no, no, no, no. If I had my pointer right
now, what are those? [LAUGHTER] What are those? [LAUGHTER] What are those? Those are the schools that
are making a difference. Those are the schools that are
helping kids beat the odds. Those are the schools that are
taking low-income kids, kids of poverty, kids of
color and getting them where they need to be. The education conversation
in America should be, what the hell is happening
there and how can we bring it to scale? But that’s not the
conversation we’re having. Trust me, I spent the last
year visiting and talking to policymakers. Last week, I was in DC
at the Aspen Institute talking about this. That’s not the conversation
they’re having. What they want to
talk about is choice. What they want to talk
about is vouchers. But here’s the deal, is every
one of those schools that’s above the zero line but to
the left is a public school or a public district. And so we know– we know what it takes. We know what needs to be done. We know what practices
need to happen. But the question is, is do
we have the political will? I’ll tell you this. One of the greatest moments
of my year this year was the teacher
of the year gala. It’s like adult prom. [LAUGHTER] And so along the
back row, you have my friend, Shawn Sheehan, the Oklahoma
Teacher of the Year. He ran for state
senate this year. Unfortunately, he lost. It’s a shame for Oklahoma. Next to him, you have Tim. He is the Nebraska Teacher
of the Year, the loudest talker I’ve ever encountered
in my entire life. I was [INAUDIBLE] and
I was like, shit man. Anyway, the next name is
Daniel, the California Teacher of the Year. In front of us our partners,
including my amazing wife, [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE] So this was at the Ronald
Reagan Federal Building in May and it was one of the
most meaningful events of my professional career. Secretary of
Education, John King, stood up– stood up at the
dance and talked about equity. And he talked about what we need
to do in order to fix and turn around education and how
we should make equity a priority going forward. And I nodded my head and I
was like, you damn right, John King, you know
what we need to do. [LAUGHTER] And I sat there in my
bow tie and then afterwards we went to the movie theatre in
our fancy clothes and saw Civil War. And a bunch of us fell asleep. It was midnight. But whatever, it was an
amazing, amazing night in the Ronald Reagan Federal
Building in Washington, DC. One of the more depressing
nights of my life was election night. And so, hear me on this. Hear me on this. I want to be very careful
about my language here. I want to be very careful
about my language here. There are people in here who
are conservative and voted for Donald Trump and I
am not mad at you at all. What I am mad about is policies. And one of the things
that people on the left have done for the
last 20 years is that we’ve created demagogues
out of conservatives. And in response, they gave
us an actual demagogue. I’m going to argue that
the vast majority of you would probably trade
somebody you know’s left arm to have George Bush the first
back in the White House right now. [LAUGHTER] And a bunch of you are looking
at Ronald Reagan and going, he’s not so bad. [LAUGHTER] Hell, in my classroom
I showed Reagan’s speech from the– I’m sorry– the RNC in ’74
and my students are like, who is that? I’d vote for him. [LAUGHTER] He’s dead. He’s dead. But the most amazing
part of that speech is Ronald Reagan says we have
to stop talking about each other and to each other. And that’s what I want to
finish with as I leave you with, is how politically can we
stop talking about each other and to each other. One of the tools I’ve done
is, is the word racist is gone from my vocabulary. I will not call
somebody a racist. What I will say is,
the policies you support have a disproportionate
impact on communities of color. Because the second I say, you’re
a racist, dialogue is over, right? Nobody goes, you’re a racist. You know what, you’re right. [LAUGHTER] That
has never happened. That has never
happened [INAUDIBLE]. And so I won’t do that anymore. I won’t do that. What I want to do, is I want
to have focused conversations to people about policies because
what we’ve done is is we’ve created these polarized
lines in society and we don’t talk
across these lines. Me, I’m a college-educated
coastal, urbanite, in the Northwest. Man, I was born with The
Atlantic magazine in my hand. [LAUGHTER] Right? How am I going to dialogue
and discourse with people of their persuasion
and convince them that they need to help me and
support my issues if all I do is spend all my time demagoguing
them and calling them a racist. And I’ll tell you what, when
this really became clear to me and really became important
was two days after election day when the real racists showed up. This is Richard Spencer. This is Richard
Spencer speaking where? National– He’s speaking in the Ronald
Reagan Federal Building where I just had my gala and
the Secretary of Education said, we’re going to work on equity. And he stands there and he
spikes [INAUDIBLE] football on behalf of Nazism
and says hail victory. I took German in middle school. I may have been born but
I stayed up all night and I know that hail victory
translates to Sieg Hiel. We have to figure out how we
can reach across party lines and make allies because
this is the real enemies. My enemy isn’t my
conservative, ex-cop neighbor who likes to walk around with no
shirt on and is kind of weird. [LAUGHTER] My enemy is not the
father of my principal boss who is a banker and
loves Ronald Reagan. This is my enemy and this
is the enemy of our country. And what we need to do is
we need to figure out how in these dangerous times– how in this life
and death struggle. And I’m not exaggerating
this right now. In a life and death struggle
about what America is going to be, how do we unite? How do we bring our
moderate Republican brethren into the conversation. How do we motivate
conservative, moderate senators like Lindsey Graham
and Susan Collins and Rand Paul and John
McCain to make hard votes? It’s not going to happen
through being a demagogue. It’s not going to
happen through memes. It’s not going to happen
through really, really, really witty quips on Twitter. It’s going to happen through
hard, hard conversations. And you all and me, as Greeners,
as a community of learners, it’s going to have
to start with us. Because us on the left,
we’re not blame-free in this. We’ve helped create
these conditions and only in changing our
behaviors can we fix them. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] So we know you’re itching to
dialogue with Nathan some more. And first, we’re
going to ask you to talk with each other
for a little while. So if my ushers
will come up, there are some really smart people
that came here tonight. Some in your program, and
some that you don’t know. And so what we’re going to
do is ushers should come up to the very front,
and we’re going to take one and turn it
around to face row two. And then we’ll turn row three
around to face row four. And you’ll form a small
group with the people just opposite you. If you’re in the bleachers,
y’all have to do your best. And we do have some
chairs that people are standing in the
back can come and get that are up in the front. There are a few up here
in the front, and yeah, in the corners. And we will– the
most important thing is come up with a group
question for Nathan, and he’ll be circulating. OK, thank you. OK, we want to
hear your questions for Nate and discussion. So there are two microphones,
one on this side of the room and one on that
side of the room. And if you want to
raise your hand, one of the faculty with the mics
will come around and give you the Mike, and you can
dialogue with Nathan and the rest of the community. So who’s up? I’m going to unravel this. Oh, OK. All right. All right, so now comes the
part of the evening where I dodge all the hard questions. And, like, what I’d
like to just say before starting
questions is that, like, I’m a high school teacher. Like, I have grading
in my bag in my car. I studied economics. I don’t have all the answers. Only a-holes have
all the answers, but the fact that
I’m willing to admit I don’t have all the
answers, I think, means I’m on the right path. And so let’s start over here. Since the DeVos nomination
and appointment confirmation, I’ve been asked
basically that question online about six different
times, and each time I struggle and struggle with like a– I mean, like a 140 character
answer or a 280 character answer or a paragraph
answer, because, like, the answer really varies,
like, based on where you are and your circumstances. What I would say is, is
despite DeVos being confirmed as the most incompetent cabinet
officer in American history, education remains a local issue. And schools in America
receive between 8% and 18% of their money from
the federal government. And so what I would say
that the response is to continue to agitate at the
national level about education issues and to oppose
DeVos and any things in the department
of education they try to do in order to defund
or cripple our public schools. But on the flip side, there
has to be a localized effort to hold our local officials
accountable for equity and hold our local
officials accountable for positive outcomes
for low income students and kids of color. And, again, you can see why this
is longer than 140 character tweet, because it’s
a two front strategy. I would say, particularly,
and I might in with the room right now on this one is, is
that the charter school fight is one of the most problematic
fights in education. Because some of the strongest
advocates for charter schools are parents of color
whose children are not being served in
traditional public schools by a largely middle class
white teaching force. And so I’m not as
strongly anti-charter as some folks would
like me to be sometimes. See you’ve got quiet
just now, right. But stick with me here. I think if we make the battle
line charter, no charter, we’re missing the boat. There are highly effective
charter schools out there, and there are some really,
really crappy charter schools out there. There are highly affective
public schools out there, like the one I think
I teach at, and there are some public schools that are
underfunded, under-resourced, and need help. I would say personally, and
here’s why I get in trouble, I’m agnostic about
school models, but I’m a fundamentalist
about results for kids. And so if a model of schools
and if a system of schools is getting positive outcomes
for marginalized populations. Now one of the things you’ll see
is that the charter community is actually one of the
strongest critics of DeVos, because they understand
that poorly run, poorly operated charter schools
make their effective charter schools look bad. And that’s something
we have to keep in mind is we can’t allow
our fervor about school model to marginalize potential
allies and everything else. For example, Eli Broad of the
Broad Foundation down in LA is one of the largest funders
nationally of charter schools. Billionaire, kind
of eccentric, like has museums the
Broad Foundation. He came out against
that DeVos nomination, because DeVos has not
shown on the record a commitment to holding
charter schools accountable. And so one of the largest
advocates for charter schools was actually an
ally against DeVos. If we make the battle lines
charter schools and not quality, then we lose
potential allies. Now again, that’s
longer than a tweet. Next question. Back in 2011, my
amazing wife Hope over here, and some of my– you better clap for Hope– so my amazing wife, Hope, and I,
and some teacher friends and I started an organization
called Teachers United. And TU is a solutions
oriented, teacher led advocacy
organization that seeks to insert the voice of
experienced educators into the policy conversation. Here’s what happened
at policy work. I remember having this
moment when I was like, what in the hell is going on? I looked at, like, the docket
of what the Washington State Legislature had, like, as
their policy priorities, and then I looked
at my own practice and thought about what are the
barriers to my kids learning, and there was zero correlation
between, like, what I thought would help my students and what
the legislature wanted to do. And it occurred to me
that, like, the legislature is getting an earful
from somebody, but they’re not getting
an earful from teachers. Let me take that one
step further, and again, I might get in trouble. Some of the teacher advocates
who are out there are better advocates than
they are teachers. OK, and– stick with me. One of the things
I know is that like if you’re an effective educator,
that’s an all consuming thing. And so the most
effective educators are in their classrooms before
the bell, during the bell, holding there at lunchtime,
like running to the coffee machine after school
into the dark, making copies on weekends, going
into the building on Sunday when the church is
meeting to get stuff done, working over break. Like, that’s what effective
educators are doing. Those are the people that
need to be in the policy conversations, but they’re
too busy teaching to do it. And so what we did is
we basically went out, and it’s an invitation group. And we identify
people who we think are effective,
impactful educators, and we solicit them come
join us in policy work. And so in the
organization today, I’m the director of
government relations, which means that I do all the
interaction with legislators. We’ve helped craft legislation. We wrote a bill– helped
write a bill called House Bill 1345, which is about teacher
professional development, and, basically,
what we wanted to do is define the way teachers are
trained in Washington State. The purpose of our
organization is to take the voice of educators
and put them in the policy conversation, because
what you have is you have like the angry,
frustrated teacher who is, hell no, to any
change and rightfully so, they feel under attack
from the reform community. And you have pie in
the sky reformers who are divorced
from the classroom and, like, don’t know the
implications of the policies that they have. And so they’re like,
well, let’s just do this, let’s rate schools A to
F, and then people can decide. Which, gee, which
schools all get rated F? Our low income
schools, our schools filled with immigrants,
our schools filled with students of color. One of the biggest problems
with education policy is, is all we do is
talk about outputs, but don’t look at the inputs. And so like one of my goals
with Teachers United is, is to look at some
of the inputs that contribute to the outcomes
our students have. And again, the biggest
input in school factor is the effectiveness of the
teacher in the classroom. And so our policy focus
is what are the policies that we can help create in order
to attract, develop, and retain throughout their
career affective, passionate educators. Because every high
poverty school, every low income school
has that first year teacher teaching five periods of
algebra to all the kids that failed algebra in eighth grade. Those kids need the
best, not the newest. Every high school
has that person who got hired in like October to
teach five periods of freshman English– I see the heads nodding– to the neediest kids. Those kids deserve the most
experienced and most impactful, not the newest. So like our locus of
policy is how do we get our most effective
in front of our neediest, and how do we keep them there. And so that’s the work we
do and we advocate for. And so if you’re curious
about Teachers United, our website is
teachersunitedwa.org. Of if you follow me on
Twitter @nate_bowling, it’s all up and
down my timeline. The whole bias
thing man, like, eh. OK, so here’s the deal,
there are certain lines– don’t step on the
microphone cord– there are certain lines
that I’m willing to cross and certain lines where
I’m like, nah, right. And so, like, what’s political
versus what’s justice? I don’t think saying,
like I mentioned earlier, that I believe Black
Lives Matter is a political statement. I believe that’s a matter
of justice and fact. I don’t believe saying that
the prison industrial complex incarcerates young men of color,
particularly African-American males at 14 times as a white
male is a political statement. It’s a statement of fact. And so like I don’t tell my
students who to vote for. I don’t tell my students,
like, what party to follow, but, like, I do present facts
to them about the world. I, kind of, can play
a game with my class, and my students can,
kind of, nod along with this is, is, like, my
kids don’t know where I stand. I think most of them think
that I’m a frustrated Nixon Republican, and, like,
honestly, I might be. Like, I don’t know sometimes. But, like, I also
don’t stand and like– hm, careful here. I had a teacher who
I had in high school who basically like preached
weak liberal politics at me, and, like, I resented it. And, like, one of the reasons
why I was a young Republican is, like, I couldn’t stand
the Clinton administration in the 90s, and there was no
real anything on the left. And so there’s nothing
really formative on the left, then you go right. And so I don’t preach my
week politics at kids. I will say this, I
tell my kids this, I believe the Black Lives
Matter, I’m a gun owner, I’m a vet, I’m all
over the place, right. I’ve voted for Republicans, and
in fact, on this last election I voted for Republicans, but I
can’t mess with Trump, right. And but when I talk about
Trump in my classroom, I don’t talk about
him from the left, I talk about him from the right. And so what I can
do is I can talk about the traditional
Republican Party and talk about
Abraham Lincoln, talk about Eisenhower,
talk about, like– I don’t know about
y’all, but, like, during the Super Bowl
when George Bush came out in the wheelchair, I’m like
I miss you George one, right. And so I think there’s a way
that you can talk about Trump and talk about politics
from the right and the left. Because, like, I don’t know. We spend a lot of time
worrying about bias, but, like, not all points of
view are valid. Like, there’s a gentleman
back here someplace over here, and we had a
disagreement when we were talking in small groups
about, like, punching Nazis. I said, like, jokingly, like,
I don’t condone punching Nazis, but I’ll watch a
video on a loop. OK. Particularly, set
to music by the way. I mentioned to
them, there’s one– there’s one where it’s,
like, Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA, and it’s amazing. It’s like born. It’s like born. But anyway, like,
so bias, right? What is the other side of the
argument that the Holocaust happened right? What’s the other side of the
argument of mass incarceration? What’s the other side of
the argument of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Like, these are all things
that happened, so I don’t– I don’t obsess about bias. If I can go back to,
like, I said before about civility right, I would
rather have justice with bias then, like, some faux
neutrality and injustice. I guess sometimes you
have to decide, like, can you persuade a person? Right, like, who is
persuadable, and who’s not? And there are like
some people, like, I don’t see a point in being
civil with the alt right. Like, they have a racist,
anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, anti-trans ideology,
and there’s no point in engaging like civil– and like fighting to be, I’m
going to be civil with you, or just, Spencer,
you’re OK, right. That’s for me is either like
block on Twitter or disengage completely or stay the
hell out of Idaho or– am I lying though? Or, like, where the lie fam? Or watch them get
punched on TV, right. Like so that’s, kind
of, the– and you have to decide who can you engage? Who can you not engage? One of the most meaningful
conversations I’ve had about race this year was with a
lady who I met at the Aspen Institute this summer, and
she talked about how basically in lead up to the election
her father-in-law– nope, her grandfather
on her husband’s side who’s the only remaining
grandparent their children have is a virulent bigot. And she wants her children
to have a relationship with her grandfather, right. She wants her children to have a
relation with her grandfather– with their grandfather,
but she does not want her kids exposed
to his bigotry. And so she had to negotiate
the space and figure out, like, what am I
willing to tolerate? And I can’t decide
for you what you’re willing to tolerate, right. Like, I can’t tell
you what your line is. We just have to
decide for ourselves. And so last week
I was back in DC– I was back in DC, and I met her. And I was, like, how are things? And she’s like, I haven’t spoken
to him since election day, and he’s in the
hospital right now, and I don’t know what to do. She decided on that line, right. You have– like, we have
to do some soul searching, some personal examination,
because, like, there’s no point in sacrificing your
sanity and mental health for the struggle, right. Because if in this
struggle you lose your soul or lose your mind or you
burn out, then, like, great. Like, you’ve achieved a minor
victory, but like you’re burnt out and done, right. So, like, we have to
decide what we can do. But the flip side
of that is we can decide we’re only going
to do this and say, I’ve done this like him, right. And so it’s what are the
courageous steps that I can take within my own
sphere of influence, and what are the
things that I can do in support and with
support of my community in order to affect change. I’ll say this I’ve made
intentional effort to, kind of, get out of
my bubble, right. So I talked about how I was
born with a copy of Atlantic magazine in my hand. I’ve reached out to a couple
of conservative talk radio show hosts and said, I
would love to go on the air with your
audience and, kind of, talk about issues in
education and talk about political
issues, and, like, that’s, kind of, a
work in progress. My friend Tim from Nebraska,
teacher of the year. He went on Fox Business
Channel yesterday to talk about the
DeVos nomination. I didn’t tell Tim the
offer came my way first, and I turned it down, right. Because I’m willing to have
conversations in person, I’m willing to go on talk
radio, but, like, I’m not going to go on Fox. Like I’m just– that’s
my hell nah line, right. Right. And so everybody has to figure
out, like, what can you do, and then what’s
you’re hell nah line. And I’ll say this, my hell
nah line extends and contracts based on, like, where I am,
because I take care of myself. I’m accountable to my wife. I’m accountable to my students. I’m accountable to my parents. Like, my mom’s 76 years old. Like, there’s a finite
amount of like what I can do without like losing myself. So, like, that’s not an answer
to your question, right. It’s not an answer
to your question, but, like, this isn’t, like– it says a post-inaugural
conversation. I don’t have an
answer, but like I hope that’s part of a
discussion and, like, leading you someplace. I just dodge that
one like a boss. Well, I think I touched
on it a little bit in my conversation
in my presentation. Not every Republican
is my enemy. And, in fact, most
Republicans aren’t my enemy. One of the things that
happen in this election is that a whole bunch of
people on the left went, I can’t vote for her. And whether that was they
were too liberal for her or they have like
internalized sexism or they don’t like electoral
politics and the two party system or like
whatever, whatever, whatever your long Facebook rant
is, a lot of people on the left decided they can’t vote for her. A lot of people
on the right went I can’t stand this guy, right. However of the people who
said the Supreme Court was the most important issue
for them electorally, 57% voted for Donald Trump. There’s a nice fat
chunk of Trump voters who like held their
nose and voted for him who aren’t
really committed to him and his policies. Like for them it’s a
single issue gun control, abortion thing. I find that one of the
things I like to do is if I find
somebody, and I agree on 70% of the issues, 80% of
the issues, screw the other 20, let’s build common
ground, right. But the left is full
of purity politics. Well, you don’t
believe everything I believe about schools. Well no, I don’t
believe everything my wife believes about things,
like, we disagree all the time. But, like, hey. Whoa. Whoa. Damn. Really? Anyway, lost– you
railed me completely. That’s dirty, baby. That’s dirty. There are allies for
us in this struggle against Trump’s policies
on the political right who we need to not demagogue
and we not marginalize and we need to engage
sometimes in their terms. And like sometimes
what I have to do when I’m having an argument or
constructing an argument is, I have to concede to some things
that I actually don’t believe, right. I’ll concede to
some things I don’t believe to create common
ground to get them where they need to be
to have the conversation on their terms. And so, like again, I
mentioned this earlier on, like, I don’t find myself
reading a lot of writers on the left right now,
because they don’t have anything new to say, right. I’m reading David
Frum in the Atlantic. David Frum was a speechwriter
for George W Bush. He wrote the “Axis
of Evil” speech. He’s a conservative
Canadian immigrant. He is virulently
against Donald Trump. The things he has to
say about Trump policies are insightful and
brilliant and give me language to communicate
with conservative people. David Brooks and George Will– Jesus, George Will in
that bow tie, right, like, has been spewing Reagan values
since before I was born. When Trump got the nomination,
he registered in Washington DC as an independent
for the first time. He left the Republican
Party, right. There is common ground to
be built with conservatives, but like you’re not going
to build that common ground with conservatives
by browbeating them with some our
language on the left. We’re going to have to
engage them on their terms and concede some of the
battles in order common ground. I would say this the Trump
administration represents– no, not about the man. The policies of the
Trump administration– and see it’s not about
the person, the policies– the policies of the
Trump administration represent an external
threat to my students. I have Muslim students
who are concerned about going on a registry. I have Hispanic
Latino students who are concerned about their
documentation status or the documentation
of their relatives and being deported, losing DACA,
losing access to programming. I have female students
who, essentially, the President of
the United States has codified
sexually assaulting. I have African-American
students who watch the presidential debate
and heard both Donald Trump and Mike Pence saying that,
like, stop and frisk is good policy, when we know
that stop and frisk introduces black males to contact with law
enforcement and few things good happen when black males
come into contact with law enforcement, unnecessarily. OK, all those threats
that my students face, I have to be willing
to concede some of my pride and some of my issues
in order to build common ground with people
who oppose those policies. And, like, that’s hard. That’s some– 16-year-old
me would be like, what the hell you talking about? Concede nothing. And in fact 25-year-old me
who sat in this room in 2004 and watched the
Bush-Kerry debate and dropped F bombs the entire
time, right, would be like what are you talking about? But 37-year-old me
understands the stakes are too high for pride, right. And so I can’t– in my path to,
like, understanding, I can’t make enemies
of potential allies through demagoguery and
through my language. I can’t. I can’t. Like, the history of America
is rife with politicians coming to power and separating
working class whites and working class
blacks when they both share the same struggle
against power and capital, right. Like the whole immigration
thing is just– it’s that, right. Working class– working
class immigrants versus working class
white people like fighting for crumbs off the table. We have to figure out ways
to build common cause, and my biggest
frustration is my friends on the left who spend all
their time talking about how dumb Trump voters are. They’re so dumb. They’re so dumb. Why are they– what are they? Well, congratulations
on being smart. Look what it got you, right. Like the left spent– the left has spent
the last 16 years talking about rural
voters and creating resentment rural voters. And the rural voters
went, you know what? I’m going show you. FU, let’s go Trump. How do we– those
rural voters used to be part of the
New Deal coalition. Those rural voters
voted for Democrats throughout a lot of
the 20th century. We can bring them back. Not only can we bring
them back, but we can bring back also those
Rockefeller Republicans. Those business conservatives
who look at Trump and go, man that xenophobia
stuff is, kind of, crazy. It might harm my business. Like, there’s common cause
to be built. What I would say is– and I’m going on. But, like, there’s no permanent
political coalitions, right? Like, if we oppose the
policies the administration, we need to be able to build
temporary coalitions that might shift issue to issue
with allies to oppose what’s going on. And if I have to take the L on
something I’m passionate about, on one of my issues, in order
to get the W on three more, I’m willing to do that. But I would say this. That also means that
I am a pragmatist, and an institutionalist,
and an incrementalist. And I know that incrementalism
isn’t really popular with a lot of y’all. Like, a lot of my
experience with Greeners, they’re like, ooh, let’s go. Let’s go. But not everybody’s at
your level of consciousness to go with you. Do you feel like I actually
answered your question? One of my favorite
things happened post-election is the alternative
facts and fake news thing. And just I’m going to tell
a quick story really fast, and then I’ll get
to your question. I was at a soccer game
with a friend of mine. And basically, the referee
made a really bad call. And my friend Grant
stands up and goes– fake news! Fake news! Fake news– [LAUGHTER] –for a minute, and
not only for a moment, but, like, for a full minute. And it was so uncomfortable,
but so hilarious. I’m just like, god bless
you, you belligerent fool. [LAUGHTER] One of the problems
that has allowed for the rise of alternative
facts and fake news is the passive
consumption of news through our social
media streams. And so in my classroom– I teach media literacy
in my government class. And a one of the
things we talk about is what sources you rely
on and using valid sources. If your news
consumption is passive, which means you
basically look at what comes through your
social media stream, then you’re going to get things
from Occupy Democrats, which, let’s be real, is
liberal fake news. And you’ll get
stuff from US Uncut, which is liberal fake news. And you’re like, yeah, yeah. But the thing is
progressives are just as guilty of the fake news
thing as the conservatives are as well. And that’s not a
false equivalence. Like, I’ve had
many conversations with too many leftists
about vaccinations where I walked away and
went, that’s not true– [LAUGHTER] –right? And so if we’re active
in our media consumption and we’re going out and seeking
our media from valid sources, from reputable
sources, then that will help us avoid alternative
facts and fake news. You’re much better off waking
up and opening The Atlantic Magazine, The Economist, The
National Journal website, then you are logging
on Facebook and Twitter and just taking
whatever comes your way. The other thing I would say
about the alternative facts and fake news thing is– is that the question that
I asked in my classroom very often and that I think
adults should ask each other is, how do you know? And so I ask my students
all the time, like– well, they say, da-da-da-da. Well, how do you know that? Well, because– but how
do you know that, right? And so part of that is that
I don’t take anybody’s word for granted. I don’t take my mom’s
word for granted, to my own detriment
sometimes, right? And so it’s about triangulation. OK, the administration
is saying this. What is the opposition
saying, right? And, by the way, you
mentioned Kellyanne Conway. Can I just warn the
room really fast– there’s a lot of like
progressives out there who are like, man, she’s so dumb she’s– I can’t– she’s not dumb. She’s diabolical. She knows exactly what
the F she’s doing. She’s probably the smartest
person in the administration. Like, there’s this really
weird thing in America where we look at women
we disagree with, and automatically, they’re dumb. And, like, nah– no. And particularly, she worked
for Cruz before Trump. And you can go back
and look on YouTube at her just putting the
knife into Trump when she was working for Cruz. Like, she’s not dumb. And so what she’s doing
with alternative facts is completely intentional. What we have to do is we
have to be able to understand that Donald Trump has
7.8 million Twitter followers, whatever God
awful number it is, right? But we have our own
networks and communities. And so we need to be able to
respond to alternative facts. When the Trump
administration says, the media is not covering
terrorist attacks, right– we hate we have to be able
to respond factually with, yes they are. And, in fact, there’s, like,
a 24 minute long CNN interview with Jake Tapper that went
up about two nights ago where he responds point to point to
point to point to everything Kellyanne Conway says. But I would say this. The wrong way to go about it
is to yell alternative facts at somebody who you’re
arguing with, right? Like, I’m having a
conversation with my– well, that’s not true. Alternate fact–
that’s fake news. No, how do you know that? How do you know that? Well, the president said it. Do you take his word for it– right? And so getting back to
source and getting back to primary documents– the funny thing is
actually, everything you learned in eighth
grade about sources and primary sources is
actually true, right? Like primary sources
actually matter. They actually freaking
matter, right? And so what are the
primary sources saying? How can we share those? How can we elevate those? There are some folks
who can’t be convinced. And there are some folks who
want the alternative facts. And they’re not worth investing
your time in arguing with. But there are some other
people who are less invested in that narrative
you can actually have a conversation
with and persuade. And so I’m going to share this. I got in an argument with my
brother-in-law on Facebook. [LAUGHTER] My brother-in-law
owns the only gun shop in Olympia, Washington. I’ve bought a firearm
from my brother-in-law. I love him. I’m going to see him
at Thanksgiving, right? I was on the way to an
immigration protest in Tacoma. I’m not going to argue
with my brother-in-law, because he’s not going
to change his mind. So he said his piece. I said my piece. He clapped back. I blocked him– [LAUGHTER] –right? Sorry– I didn’t
block– muted him. So, like, he may have
said some other stuff. I don’t know. I’ll find out at Christmas. [LAUGHTER] Can I say just proud moment– my former student– Here’s the thing, right? I wish to god that I was
as smart as I thought I was when I was like 21. And I look back on myself as
a 37-year-old and say, oh god, right? And so I would just say, if you
believe that your reaction is righteous and just and you
can’t take any more, then, like, do you, boo. But the flip side
of that is is you have to know that there are
consequences with do you, boo, right? Like, telling somebody
off feels real good. You’re like, ooh, son,
I told them, right? But that’s not how
you build bridges. And so you have to make
a decision for yourselves as advocates, do you want to be
right, or do you want to win? Or do you want to be– I’m not going to say it. Don’t worry. Do you want to tell somebody
off, because at the end you’re going to feel better
about yourself and feel better? Or do you want to
engage them in dialogue in order to get to
a point of agreement that’s somewhere not quite
where you wanted to be, but closer than you were before? I think one of the
things I learned in an international relations
class at Evergreen Tacoma is that business negotiations
and diplomacy are different. In business negotiations,
you’re trying to get the best possible
deal for yourself. What’s the best
possible deal that I can get that’s going to be
actualizing and edifying to me? Diplomacy is how can
I make the person I’m talking to think they
got the best possible deal while simultaneously getting the
best possible deal for myself, right? And so a lot of
us treat politics like business, when politics
is actually diplomacy. And so if you’re a
young person in here and you’re righteously
angry, then be young and righteously angry. Like, you’re young. Why not? Like, be young. Be mad. Do you, boo, right? Great. If you’re young and
you’re not angry, then how can you best
couch your arguments in a manner that is going
to not turn people off? And if you’re older and
you had your young phase, you know better, how can
you get in conversations with the goal of
getting progress instead of a goal of getting
chesty and getting right? But don’t hear me wrong. Is there a place for
anger and indignation? Absolutely. I just talked about
watching videos of Nazis getting punched, right? Like, if I’m if I’m
standing in Washington, DC when Richard Spencer
gets punched out by the Nazi and the anarchist wants
to run past me, I’m like– [LAUGHTER] And If Spencer’s allies want to
chase him down, I’m like– [LAUGHTER] –right? So there is a place for that. There’s a place for that. But like, I’m 37. Like, every black male in my
family died in their mid-60s. I’m halfway there. I don’t have time
to be angry anymore. I got 30, 40 years in me. Am I going to spend my 30,
40 years building coalitions, my 30, 40 years
building bonds, or am I going to spend my 30, 40
years being right and happy with myself, right? It’s a personal choice. Be angry, right? Be angry, but don’t stay angry. Because what happens is
when young folks stay angry, they burn out. And they disengage
from the cause. [LAUGHTER] You’re going to hate my answer. You’re honestly going
to hate my answer. Yeah. I don’t think so. [LAUGHTER] This is going to get really
government class-y for a while. Just stick with me here. We live in a system
where we don’t have proportional representation. We have a plurality
winner take all system. And so whoever
gets the most votes wins all the representation. Because it’s single member
districts, first pass the poll. Again, 25-year-old me
hates this talk, right? Third parties aren’t
going to work. Because what a third party
does is a third party divides the opposition. And so you get the situation
where Bill Clinton was elected twice and never got
a majority to vote, because conservatives
were divided between Ross Perot and George Bush. Or you get Lincoln,
who was elected in 1860 with like 38% of the vote
because the Democrats were divided between Southern
Democrats and the Democrats. You may not like this. And Greeners– I might
get booed out of here. But if we’re going to engage
in electoral politics, you don’t create third
parties that win elections. You create third parties
when major parties collapse. Like, the Republican
Party came in the 1860s when the Whig party collapsed. I have a lot of complaints
about the Democratic Party. And I don’t consider
myself to be a Democrat. I am not a Democrat. But I also understand that
the way elections work, once the primary
has been settled, I have a choice of
voting for a D or an R. I can vote third party, but
that third party vote is, again, making me feel good, right? So in 2000, I voted for
the Libertarian candidate. And that felt good, because
I couldn’t vote for Al Gore, right? In 2004, I voted for Cynthia
McKinney, the Green Party. Look at me all over
the place, right? Because I couldn’t
vote for John Kerry. Neither of those
people came anywhere near winning the office
of the presidency. I think it’s a fallacy that
advocates for third parties think that third parties
happen at the national level. And every four
years, we’re like, let’s create a movement
for a third party. And let’s win the election. Or let’s make our
political statement. If we’re going to win
with third parties, we need our third parties
working in legislative races. If we’re going to do
the third party thing, it can’t be every four years,
let’s get Jill Stein out there, and like, woo, Jill Stein. [LAUGHTER] Like, I’ve seen that dog. That dog don’t hunt– [LAUGHTER] –right? But there’s a ton of people
in the Washington legislature who ran unopposed. Let’s get those third
parties in there. Who’s your third party
county council candidate? Who’s your third party
candidate for the mayor of the city of Olympia? Who’s your third party
candidate at the local level? If you want to go
third party, that’s the way it needs to start. And that’s my frustration
with the Green Party. Like, the Green Party,
they ran Nader, right– old-ass zombie
Ralph Nader, right? [LAUGHTER] They ran Stein, right? And they got like a million
votes a couple of times. But where’s the momentum? Where’s the, where’s
the, where’s the? If the Green Party
put their effort into organizing at the local
level, in local elections– if Olympia, this dumb,
dumb, dumb liberal city, could elect a Green to
the Poor Commission, that’s where it starts. Just in general, I think we
all pay way more attention to national politics
than we should. What’s happening at the national
level is really, really, crazy, but state politics matters. And I know from stats that
basically 60% of Americans can’t name their legislator. Right now somebody’s
like, oh, dang, don’t call on me, because
I don’t know mine, right? [LAUGHTER] And local politics is where
our organization effort needs to go. The abortion law that was
passed where a rapist can sue the mother if they have an
abortion of the baby created by rape wasn’t passed
through US Congress. That was passed through
a state legislature. And over the last eight
years, the left has been like, we have the White House. [SNORING] And they’ve gone to sleep. Like, where’s protests been
for the last eight years? Barack Obama created
a war in Libya. Barack Obama used drones at a
higher level than George Bush. And the left went– [SNORING] Meanwhile, while the
left was doing that, the right was
organizing and agitated and took away over 1,000
legislative seats at the state level. What did they do
with those seats? They’ve cultivated the next
crop of conservative politicians who are going to be running
for Congress in 2020. They also have codified their
control over state legislatures through gerrymandering, right? Like 36 states allow
partisan redistricting, which lead to gerrymandering. Well, what happens? You gerrymander. You create a safe district. Safe districts produce
more radical candidates. When they get to DC, they
have no impetus to compromise. And that leads to
dysfunction in politics. But the left just
let that happen. They were asleep at the switch. It’s funny, because I came
here and did a whole thing about Trump and
dangerous times– but in my heart, the dangerous
times are in Washington state. Jay Inslee finishes his
second term in 2020. Dave Reichert is a
Republican congressperson on the east side
of King County who has won elections for over
a decade in King County. If Dave Reichert decides
to run for governor– like Bob Ferguson
the AG is making a nice little, like, boom
anti-Trump thing right now. But up until Ferguson,
Reichert could walk into the governor’s mansion. Washington state, blue state,
hasn’t voted for Republicans since Reagan ’84, is on
the precipice of having a Republican governor. We already have a Republican
legislature in the Senate. And the majority in the House
is like one or two seats. Like, that local
politics is what matters. Because here’s the thing. If we look at American politics
and look at political history, the biggest periods of change
happened on unified government. And so in the
reconstruction era, all the Democrats in the
South are out of government. The Republicans amend the
Constitution three times, OK? Under Roosevelt
with the New Deal, Roosevelt has massive
congressional majorities. And he passes the New Deal. He passed social security,
all the WPA programs. Under Johnson, his
unified government, strong majorities in Congress– he creates the Great
Society programs– Medicare, Fair Housing
Act, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act. Trump right now has
unified government, some of the largest majorities
in over 30 state legislatures. The Republicans are a
one state legislature away from being able to
amend the Constitution. And so I would say– and this is a very long
answer to your question. Our hope isn’t in third parties. Our hope is in nominating
a progressive who shares our values to
the Democratic Party at the national level and
then working our asses off at the local level to
make sure that we’re electing and nominating viable
candidates and being out, and being vocal, and being
involved in politics. Because so many of
my friends are like, oh man, I can’t wait until 2020. 2020? 2018, fam. The midterms are coming up. And here’s the thing is
conservative voters show up to midterms, and liberals don’t. And so how are we as a
community of scholars, community of learners, community
of like minded people– and by the way, that’s the best
thing about being an Evergreen. Like, I can stand
here and I assume that the vast majority
this room understands that racism is a systemic
issue and not human relations. And that’s why it’s always
good to come home here, right? Some of you are like,
wait, I don’t believe that. But the rest of you do. Great. [LAUGHTER] Like, how can we
as a community help identify people
at the local level and then build them up
to the national level? Like, my congressman back
in Tacoma, Derek Kilmer– right– so Kilmer’s on the
Appropriations Committee right now. He started off in the state
legislature about 15 years ago. How do we identify
the Derek Kilmers who are in our community, get
them in the state legislature, and then get them to Congress? You don’t need to
control the White House to get what you want, right? And I don’t think we’re
going to control the White House through a third party. The opposite of everything
I’m doing right now. [LAUGHTER] I would say whoever is doing the
talking is doing the thinking. And if you’re a teacher,
you’re in front of the room, and you’re just yammering on,
yammering on, yammering on, then you’re lifting all
the cognitive weight. I heard somebody tell a story. And it’s dumb, but
it’s kind of true. Like, the best teachers
are PE teachers. Because they say, we’re
going to climb a rope. This is the rope. Watch me climb the rope. Now you climb the rope. I’m over here. [LAUGHTER] Right? But like, what other teachers
do is say this is a rope. Let’s discuss the
etymology of a rope. The word rope sounds like
it’s this, it’s this– if I’m yammering on– right– I’m doing
all the weight. I’m lifting all the weight. And so my goal in my
classroom is to shut up. I’ve had people come and do
a time study in my classroom. It’s 60% students, 40% me. I pose a question, turn
and talk to your neighbor. I walk around the room and
listen to the conversation. And then whatever
I want to say, I listen for a student saying it. And I’m like, OK. Hey, Amanda, can you
share what you were saying to the whole group please– right? And then students are
hearing Amanda’s voice. Amanda’s over there,
by the way, being shy. Thanks, Amanda. [LAUGHTER] I love I have former
students here. And two of them came late,
just like in high school. But anyway– [LAUGHTER] Oh, Aman– under the bus you go. Amanda shares out, right. Amanda shares out. And then I say across
the room, hey, Tracy, could you paraphrase
what Amanda said? And now I’m forcing them
to be active listeners in the conversation, right? I think one of the most
fascinating things to do is watch teachers who repeat
themselves time after time. If I’m repeating
myself to you, I’m conditioning you to
not listen to me. I’m saying to you,
you don’t have to listen to me the
first time, because I’ll say it five times, right? So that’s why when I want the
room to quiet down, I say, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m not going to walk
around going, OK, guys– which isn’t gender neutral. Hey, y’all. OK, OK, OK. I just– thank you, thank
you, thank you, and then wait. The most important thing for
a teacher to do sometimes is to just shut up– right– and provide
space for kids to think. And then the other thing
is wait time, right? Like teachers ask a question,
and they want a response immediately. Like, complex thoughts
take a while to formulate. So it’s ask the question. OK, y’all, private reasoning
time– think about it. Think about it. Think about it. Now turn and talk
to your neighbors. And that’s only 10 seconds. And maybe you might want
more time than that. But that’s giving students
times for their thoughts to germinate and
kind of flourish. And then you’ll get
more complex answers. The last thing I
would say is ask why. Why? And I’ll do this about
once a week with a kid. I’m like, why? Da-da-da-da-da. Why? Da-da-da-da-da. Why? Da-da-da– and they’re
like, damn it, because! I’m like, no. Why? [LAUGHTER] Why? And as you ask the why, the
why, the why, the why, the why, they’re deepening
their understanding, they’re thinking,
they’re reflecting. They’re making connections. They’re bringing
past information. They’re just grinding, and
grinding, and grinding, and grinding. All right. We all hold prejudices, right? Thank you for that head nod. My god, yes. We all hold prejudices, right? Is there a path to victory by
acknowledging your prejudices and then engaging someone in
conversation about theirs? Yeah. Like, that might be
a path to victory. Everybody has to figure
out what works for them. Like, I’m six feet tall 200
pounds, and have a giant beard. So the things that I do aren’t
going to work for you, right? You mentioned that you’re
a privileged white person. You can engage in conversations
in spaces that I can’t. Mhm. And so if you think
that your strategy is a way that is going to
convince people to your side, then, like, by all means. I can only say what
my understanding is. And you know what? In two years, I might
not believe this, right? When I’m 40, I might be singing
a totally different tune. I should honestly. Because we should all
be growing, right? If I’m giving the
exact same talking three years, that means,
A, I’ve made no progress. And B, I haven’t thought
about my rhetoric. Now to your point about
this is not normal– [SIGH] –there’s an interesting
argument about is America a nation of laws
or a nation of– men is the wrong term,
but it’s the term used in the conversation, OK? So the question is is
America held together by the Constitution and
federal and state laws, or is America held together
by our common agreements and the norms of
political discourse? We’re going to find out– [LAUGHTER] –right? Like, we’re going to find out
over the next four and possibly eight years if we’re a nation
of laws or a nation of men. There are some
behaviors that are happening at the national
level and at the local level– and actually, it’s worse
at the local level. Like that whole thing in North
Carolina after the election was crazy, right? So much of what we’re seeing is
abnormal for the post-World War II American period of economic
growth and prosperity. But if we go back
to the 1800s, dudes got caned on the floor
of Congress, right? Alexander Hamilton
died in a dual, right? And so like– thank you. [INAUDIBLE] So what is normal? I don’t know. The environmental
students here– like, there’s this idea of
environmental change being generational. And so you don’t notice
the deforestation, because within your
lifetime, it’s kind of always been like that. It happened very slowly. You don’t notice there’s
fewer salmon in the river, because in your lifetime. But if your grandparents showed
up at their birth and looked, they’d be like, what
the hell happened? I think in politics,
it’s that way too. What’s normal shifts, right? We can look at American
history and say what’s happening right
now is completely within one standard deviation
of American history. We can look and say
Japanese internment, Alien Sedition Act, Jim Crow. This is America. We can also look at Eisenhower
and the idealized version of Republican Party and say,
this is totally un-normal. Like, I don’t know. I’m not sure if there is a
normal in a country that’s 200 years old, right– if there is a normal
in a country with 330 million people, and if there
is a normal in a country that has so much geographic diversity
and differences, right? There’s a book out
there, Nine Nations of North America, one of
the most fascinating books out there– basically the idea that
Seattle and Phoenix don’t belong in the same country– [LAUGHTER] –right? And Seattle and
Miami sure the hell don’t belong in the
same country, right? And so, like, we’re
having a moment that’s terrifying right now. But for communities of
color, and for women, and for almost everybody who’s
not white, male, and wealthy, all of American history
has been terrifying. And so if we cling to
this idea of normal, are we really just
clinging to what we were accustomed to in the past? At the same time though,
I think there’s validity to the normal argument. Because the normal
argument allows you to go to somebody who’s a
moderate Republican and say, this isn’t the party of Nixon. This isn’t the party of Reagan. This isn’t the party of Bush. We’ve departed from the normalcy
of the Republican party. And so it’s a rhetorical
tactic that has utility. But I don’t think it’s
a guiding philosophy. Our goal shouldn’t be normalcy. Our goal should
be justice, right? And so that’s my guidepost. Now will I use the normalcy
thing in conversation as rhetoric? Hell yeah, because
it works, right? But it doesn’t work
with everybody. And so I would just say,
like, I’m a principled person, but also I can
compromise like a– [MUMBLING] –right? And it’s like having your tool
belt and knowing, like, well, for Uncle Jim, for Uncle Ken,
I’m going to use this, right? But for mom, I’m
going to use this. And for Doug, I’m going
to use this, right– and knowing which of your
tactics and which one of those work. One of the arguments
that I go with when I’m arguing with
conservative people is is I boost the patriotic
aspect my rhetoric. And so when I talk about
law enforcement and police violence, my whole point is
that I believe in police. And I believe their job
is to protect and serve, which is why I’m so
bothered by the idea that rogue officers are
allowed to use violence against marginalized
communities with no consequences or repercussions. And so I’m actually
making an argument on behalf of police,
the good police, against the action
of the bad police. In the same way, I believe
that the 14th Amendment the Constitution is basically
the most sacred promise, the most meaningful promise
that any group of people has ever made to anybody else. And so I don’t buy into the
we all bleed red– whatever. But what I will
say is that America is a nation that is built
on some foundational values. And among those
foundational values are– and start quoting your,
you know, John Locke. Start quoting your
Madison and Hamilton. And like, there’s something
about certain conservatives. You’re like,
Hamilton and Madison. They’re like, yeah, yeah. You’re like,
whatever man, right? [LAUGHTER] But the flip side
is that Barack Obama got to the presidency
based on a speech in 2004 when he said there’s
no red America. There’s no blue America. There’s one America. And so that argument
is trite, but it has cachet with some people, right? And so again, it’s back
to that tool belt. Like, you have a set of skills. Who is your audience? It is trite to you. It is trite to me. But somebody might
believe in that nonsense. And so if they believe
in that nonsense– if I’ve got to spit nonsense– y’all, you should see the things
I do in my classroom to teach stuff, right? If I got to spit nonsense
and rap a song into a gesture to get a kid to
learn, then so be it. In the same way, if I’m
talking dopey platitudes to convince somebody, then,
like, line me up to be a dope, right? But that’s 37-year-old me. 25-year-old me is like, but
I read, and Chomsky said. But what has that gotten me? Well, just one of the
things that we have to do is we have to change the
narrative at the state, local, and national level
about schools. Schools are kind of interesting. Because if you ask
the average parent– that’s putting it too simple. 80% of Americans have
very favorable views of their school,
where their kid is. But at the system as a whole,
their views are around 50%. Much in the same way that
Congress’s approval ratings are at like 13%, but 94% of
congressmen get re-elected. So there’s some disconnects
and some dissonance there. One of the things
we have to do is we have to celebrate
the successes that we have in public education. More kids are graduating
high school right now, not number wise, but percentage
wise, than any point in American history. And there’s college qualified,
highly educated young people coming out of every
university in America produced out of
our public schools. At the same time, as we’re
at like 85% graduation rates, universally that 15%,
school to school to school, are the same marginalized kids– students of color, students in
poverty, immigrant students. And so we have to
simultaneously celebrate the successes of public
education while advocating for the change that needs
to happen within the system. The thing is is that
change takes money. If you’re at a high poverty
school or a low income school, you’re going to
have students who have a lack of stability and
predictability in their life. And when a kid’s life is
in chaos, waking them up at 7:30 in the
morning saying, hey, go to calculus, like,
come the hell on, right? Like, you can’t
focus on calculus if you don’t know where
to sleep at night. And so it’s understanding that
and thinking about how can we bring to bear social
services and support services for students. The most frustrating
thing for me right now is the argument over
the budget in the legislature. Because the
Republicans right now have proposal to increase school
funding by making $1.4 billion of cuts somewhere over here. And somewhere over here is going
to be mental health services. Well, gee, the schools
that have the low income students from low
income communities actually need those
mental health services, so you’re robbing
Peter to pay Paul. And you’re actually–
it’s a zero-sum game. And so it’s, how
can we articulate what the needs of schools are? How can we advocate for schools? And how can we advocate
for policies in order to create the schools that
our kids need to attain and are worth believing in? And so for you and
your social network, that may be different
than me, right? So whatever your
sphere of influence is, whoever the people
you’re talking to about, I give a to Realtors
about two months ago. And so basically all across
the nation, any tax increase, Realtors say no to– particularly a tax on
B&O, because that’s going to increase
the transaction cost for them as Realtors. I talked to Realtors about how
education and real estate– right? And now there’s a cadre
of Realtors in Seattle who are pushing back against
the Washington State Realtor Association about their
stance on the budget. What networks do you have? What groups do you belong to? Who are your people
in your circle who you can persuade about
the importance of education and the importance of
investing in our neediest kids? We all have our network, right? Like, who do you know
who is an advocate? Who can you talk to? Who can you have
conversations with? The other thing I would say
is that the vast majority of adults who don’t have
kids never go in schools. Like, go visit a school. They’re kind of dope. Like, I work in a
building with 1,800 kids who are all hormonal, and
crazy, and smell kind of funny. But like, they’re awesome. And I watch them learn,
grow, and develop. I think if adults
in the community actually went to schools,
and sat in classrooms, and saw education happening,
it would revolutionize the way they view schools. The other thing
I’ll say is teachers love when guests come
in their classroom. Because if I’m teaching
and an adult walks in, all the kids are like,
whose dad is that? [LAUGHTER] Does he know my dad? Does you know my mom? And they all sit
up straight, right? Like, it’s great
having an audience in. And when community
members come into schools, they see what’s happening
in the classroom. That allows them to advocate
for the schools and advocate for what’s happening from
first-hand experience. The answer is nope. [LAUGHTER] Honestly, so I
talked earlier about like acting locally and
thinking about the legislature. But the school board
is the first election for its own people. And what often happens is people
go school board, city council, legislature, and then, and
then, and then, and then. The school board
in your district has more influence on what
happens in your kids’ lives than Betsy DeVos does. The school board
sets policy, hires and fires superintendents,
has influence on curricular choices. Like, no school
board elections– and you absolutely right. I’m remiss in mentioning this. School board elections are some
of the most important elections in our country. And, OK, fewer than 60% of
the people in the country can name their legislator. Man, can’t nobody name
the school board members. And the thing is, school board
members are unsung heroes. Because legislators,
it’s a part time job. School board members do
that stuff for free, right? That’s crazy. That’s crazy. I’m not here for free. That’s crazy– [LAUGHTER] –right? But we don’t pay attention
school board elections, because, because, because
we’re busy Snapchat, whatever. So the answer to your
question– your question is, is there anything more
important than a school board? No. So I said earlier on, the most
important in-school factor impacting student achievement
is the effectiveness of the teacher in the classroom. The effectiveness of a
teacher in the classroom is driven by relationships. Students buy into the
teacher before they buy into the content
and the subject matter. And so what has
happened at Lincoln High School is that we’ve had
an intentional conversation with the staff about how
can we build and cultivate relationships with students
that are meaningful, ongoing relationships? In addition to that, having
meaningful, ongoing– and by the way,
relationships doesn’t mean all my students love me,
and we’re all goody, goody, goody, and, like, we hang out. Like, no. I’m a villain to a lot
of my students, right? But they know that I love them. And I, in class,
every day by saying, I love you all, some
more than others– [LAUGHTER] –where’s the lie, though? Chairs in, and good day. And my students believe that,
because it’s true, right? And so there’s a kind
of cliche saying, people learn from
people they love. If I’m able to cultivate a
relationship with my students, they’re willing to listen
to me and learn from me. And so somebody could
come into my classroom with the exact same
strategies that I’m using. But if they lack
that relationship, they’re not going to have the
same outcomes that I have. Because that relationship
allows me to establish trust and rapport with my students. And then they respond to me. And so I would say there’s
been a building-wide effort about relationship cultivation. The other thing
that we’ve done is that we’ve invested money and
resources in family support. And so now we have a full-time
person in our building whose job it is just to
meet students’ life needs. So Paul this morning– I’m like, Paul, you are
squinting at the board like I have never seen. And he’s like, I
don’t have my glasses. Paul, I haven’t seen your
last glasses in weeks. I lost my glasses. Paul, see me after class. Paul, go see Miss Ha. Miss Ha is going to
help you get glasses. D, you’ve been in that same
sweater for a minute now. Are things okay at home? No. But he’s only going to talk
to me about it, because we have a relationship, right? So what’s going on? Well, we’re living
in a hotel right now. Is everything OK? We’re OK, but like, we
need this, this, and this. D, go see Miss Ha. Miss Ha is like, here’s
a Fred Meyer gift card for your family. You can use it to buy gas. Here’s some of this. We have a backpack program
where before breaks and before weekends,
a lot of our kids basically go home with a
backpack full of food, right? I’m talking on a college campus. A lot of us have taken
psychology classes, right? Maslow’s hierarchy of needs– like if your basic
life needs aren’t met, then the cognitive development
isn’t going to happen. And so what we’ve tried to do
is we try to meet our students life needs. Here’s what happens. School becomes a resource. And it becomes a
place where they come to so they can get actual help. And in the process of feeling
loved and getting help, they actually learn
some stuff, right? Like, I personally, and
my wife, have paid out thousands of dollars
in, hey, let’s fill our drawer full of snacks. Kids come to me. Hey, Bowling, I’m hungry. Grab a granola bar. Sit in your chair. Let’s go, right? My wife, and a couple
other teachers, and I do a called the
alumni support tour where we get in a car and
we do a 600-mile round trip around Washington
state and visit our alumni at universities. So we’ve pushed these kids–
you know, go to college, go to college, go to college. And they’re like, Bowling,
I’m black in Pullman. I’m like, fam, I know. And so we get in the car
and we drive to Ellensburg and spend the night and
dap up our kids, right? And we post this
on our classroom social media so our
students we have see it. And they know we’re invested
in them for the long term. And then we drive to the
Pullman and visit godforsaken Wazoo, right? [LAUGHTER] For real, man– Wazoo fam. And then we get out of Pullman
as quickly as possible, and go to Spokane,
and visit our kids in [INAUDIBLE] and Gonzaga. And then we zip back across
the state on that Sunday. That’s 600 miles. That’s four teachers. That’s about $1,000
out of pocket expenses. We’ve done it the
last three years. Like, that’s love, right? If you love on kids,
and invest in kids, and you make sure they’re
safe and their needs are met, they’ll rise to the occasion. The other thing I’ll say–
like more pedagogical, like, nuts and bolts things is– is we’ve expanded
our school day. And so our students
have a seminar class. And that seminar
class is a class where they get academic
advising and homework time. We do a thing basically called
academic acceleration where, like, if you can walk,
talk, and chew gum, you’re probably in an AP class. Now we put them in an AP
class that’s like here, right? But we give them
the academic support they need to thrive
in the class. I don’t care if
they pass the exam. Most of my students
don’t pass the exam. But they’re better
off being exposed to more rigorous curriculum. And they’re able to survive
that class, because they have a structured
hour within their day where they can work
on their homework, and sit with other students in
the same classes, and get help. And so I would say some of the
biggest changes we’ve made– teacher move, here–
the recap now– investing in relationships,
meeting students’ basic needs, and providing academic
support within the school day. Education– the reason
why it’s underfunded is we have a 200-year-old
Constitution that was written in a time
of horses, right? [LAUGHTER] Honestly, we abide
by these rules we’re a federal government was
created before electricity. Like come the hell on, right? And so that’s why
there’s no national– like, it’s stupid there’s no
national role in education, right? But our country was created
before the common school. Now to get to the real
nuts and bolts of it, Americans want more
government than they’re willing to pay for. And so there’s a downward
pressure on taxation. And here in Washington state,
we have the most regressive tax policy in the entire country. And so poor people
in Washington state pay a higher percentage of
their income than poor people anywhere else in
the country, which means there’s tax fatigue,
which means whenever’s a chance to vote for taxes,
they vote nah, right? Here’s what happens is if
you’re a wealthy community, you insulate your community
and keep your tax revenue local within your own schools, your
own kids, your own districts, because your property
values are higher. If you’re a low
income community, in order to generate the revenue
that the wealthy community has– their houses are
valued at more money– you would need to basically
chalk up the tax rates to like, 18%, 20% property taxes. So let’s say a neighborhood
in Bellevue, right, where the average
homes were $400,000– they can go property
tax rate of 1%, 2% and generate that same amount
of money that like Roy or Graham could do at 18%, 20%. Well, Roy and
Graham aren’t going to charge 18%, 20% property
tax rates, because that’s not sustainable politically, right? And so they don’t. And so the wealthier schools
are funded at higher levels. The rural and urban schools
are funded at lower levels. And you get the inequality. Now Massachusetts has the
highest performing schools in the country. And what they do is basically
a thing called funding equity. And so wealthier districts
get less money from the state, because they need less
money from the state. And poorer districts get
more money from the state, because they need more
money from the state. At the same time, if you have
special needs students, ELL students, foster care students,
who are disproportionately in your lower
income schools, you get more money per
student in Massachusetts. That’s not rocket science. You give schools
that have less more. You give schools
that have more less. And you give kids
that need more more. But there’s no lack
of political will to do that in Washington state. And one of the reasons why
is that the communities in Washington state
who are most affluent basically have insulated
themselves from the inequality and fund their own schools. And so they don’t
really care, right? Think about a year ago
when the 405 tolls went up. The east side of
King County howled, and the legislature acted. When Bellevue, Redmond, and
Kirkland howl, Olympia listens. Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland
aren’t howling about education, because they’re funding
their own schools through local revenue,
so they don’t care. There’s no impetus for
them to say, you know what? Take more of my money and give
it to those kids in Toppenish. They’re not going to do that. They’re not going to do that. And so what do you do? The state constitution
says that funding education is the paramount duty of
the state of Washington. The legislature got sued
for not funding education in Washington state. They lost. They lost that
case a decade ago. But we’re just kicking
the can down the road, kicking the can down the road. And we’re at the point now where
this session, the legislature is being fined $100,000
a day for being in contempt of the court order. So– right? One thing I’ve learned
about American politics is that we respond to crises. So I mentioned those
presidencies that were most influential, right– Civil War, Great Depression,
Civil Rights Movement. We’re not going to
have the response that we need about education
until there’s a crisis. But the problem
with that crisis is that kids like my
students in that crisis, there is going to be a
period where they get hurt– where they get hurt. And I don’t want to end on
a grim, not hopeful note. But that’s the reality
is that we’re not going to make the change
needs to happen unless there’s a crisis. And in that crisis, kids
are going to be harmed. Man, that’s not the way
I wanted to end this. Ahh– can I say this? Can I say this? Even though they’re
taking attendance and that’s why you showed up– [LAUGHTER] –as somebody who spent
so much of their life being a student of the
Evergreen State College, and somebody who loves what
this institution means, and as somebody who,
in the last 24 months, has met Barack Obama,
Joe Biden, Bill Gates, the Chinese president
Xi Jinping, being here is one of the most meaningful
experiences of my adult life. And I am super, super
thankful to all of you who sat here and listened. You may not agree,
but you nodded. [LAUGHTER] Like, I’ll take that. That’s easy, right? Who had thoughtful
questions, who pushed back– because this is a
community of learning, community of scholarship. And my babies from my
school are here among you. And– don’t cry– I’m super glad that
you had me tonight. And I will come back any time. Just thank you. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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