Keynote by Lisa Delpit (Teaching Tolerance 2012)
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Keynote by Lisa Delpit (Teaching Tolerance 2012)

– It’s now my pleasure
to have this opportunity to introduce our Keynote presenter, Lisa Delpit. A MacArthur Genius award winner, Lisa is both an author and an educator. She seeks to explore often
unrecognized cultural divisions and inequities in schools
and how they affect students of color. She is dedicated to providing
first rate education to communities in both the
United States and abroad. Delpit’s work on school
community relations and cross cultural communication was cited when she received
her MacArthur fellowship in 1990. She also received the award
for outstanding contribution to education in 1993 from the Harvard Graduate School of Education which hailed her as a visionary scholar and woman of courage. In 2003, Delpit received Antioch College’s Horace Mann Award which recognizes contributions
of alumni by of the college who have won some victory for humanity. And, of course, Lisa’s name was mentioned by many of our award winners as being an influential presence in their professional development as well. Ladies and gentlemen,
please welcome with me Lisa Delpit. (clapping) – Oh. That’s taped down, I
can’t move that. (laughs) Even if it was closed, it would help. Talk amongst yourselves. (laughing) Good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. I’m so honored to be here, to have heard about it. I wanna just talk a minute about multicultural education, our culturally responsive education. I think it is the biggest challenge, but it’s the most rewarding
intellectual opportunity that exists for us as human beings. And, I just wanna mention, Sonia, what’s the name of your
new book that’s coming out? – [Voiceover] Oh, uh, thank you. Finding Joy in Teaching
Students of Diverse Backgrounds. – Right, I’ll repeat that. Finding Joy in Teaching
Students of Diverse Backgrounds. And the reason why I want to mention that is because that’s what it is for me. I mean, I find a lot of joy in doing this kind of work. It takes a lot of humility to learn to see the world
through the eyes of others. It’s exciting, it’s
challenging, it’s demanding, but it’s also wonderous. When I was in Alaska, I learned so much. I taught in Alaska, and I learned to see through the eyes of some of the Alaska native folk who I worked with. I learned, for example,
the difference between looking, touching, and listening, compared to seeing, feeling, and hearing. And looking, touching and listening, it’s sort of like you are the agent, you’re taking agency. I’m touching, I’m looking, I’m listening. But, in seeing, feeling, and hearing, you’re a part of the world, and the world comes to you. As, or rather, you’re open. I won’t say the world comes to you, you’re open to the world. An example when I was
in Alaska in a village. There was a, they’re
mostly Alaskan native kids, but there was one little white kid who was the child of
a, one of the teachers. And that, the geese were coming back, and that was always an exciting moment. So, the teacher took the kids out to look, look at the geese returning. And, all the native Alaskan kids could see the geese in the distance. And, the little white kid couldn’t, and he was so frustrated. And the teacher was a
native Alaskan teacher and she said she came and looked at him and what he was doing was this. He was looking. What the native Alaskan
kids were doing was this. They were seeing as the world came to them. These kinds of differences and new ways for me to be in the world are such a gift. and I think whenever you’re working with children from cultures
different from your own, and sometimes from your own culture, but there’s always a
difference in perspective from the kinds of backgrounds perhaps that they are from and you are from, you are led to an expansion of your of being, of being a human. So, in studying other
cultures, I’ve also been led to traditional African
thinking about education. Asa Hilliard in SBA, The Awakening of the African Mind, talks about traditional
African pedagogical systems that emerged thousands of years ago but still exist in traditional cultural, cultures in the African continent. And one of the things that it says is that the cosmos is divine, and humans, as a part of the cosmos, are also divine. And our role, the purpose of education is to help people move forward, move higher in their divinity and then in their perfection. So, the aim of African
education for the mind is not separate from
education for the body. The body is a divine
temple housing a spirit. So, the education for mind, body, and body, are also linked
to educating the spirit. The role of the teacher in
teaching to develop divinity is to appeal to the
intellect, the humanity, and the spirituality
of his or her students. But in order to do that, the teacher must be
convinced of the capacity of these young, of the people they’re faced with. Their inherent intellectual capacity, their humanity, their physical capability, and their spiritual character. Pierre Erny in Childhood and Cosmos said, “African societies want to determine “who and not what a child is.” Who is this unique being? Not what we see on the surface. When a baby is born in our society, we tend to say, “Oh, what did she have? “How much does it weigh? “Are they all healthy?” Athabaskans in Alaska say, “Who came?” If we really want to educate low income and culturally diverse children, I believe we must learn
who the children are and not focus on what
we assume them to be. At risk, learning disabled, unmotivated, defiant, behavior disordered, limited English proficient. If we focus on the limiting labels, we teach children to limit who they are and who they can be. We all say all children can learn, but I believe the reality
is our children do learn, and what they learn is
what the larger society believes them to be. They learn it, and they believe it. The title of the recent, the book I recently published is Multiplication Is for White People. And that title came from
an African American child saying to her tutor. So, “Miss L, “how come you’re trying to treat me this? “Black people don’t multiply. “Black people just add and subtract, “white people multiply.” Now the reality is, no
one has ever said that to this kid, right? I mean I can’t imagine this kid was ever in a situation where
those words were uttered. And yet, living in the society
in which this kid lives, this is the message that, Lawrence, I think you alluded to, This is the message that
this child has internalized. So, we have to, as educators, figure out how to fight
against those messages that the children who are are marginalized may sometimes bring with them. And that is the learning who a child is at a much deeper level than what the child
knows or does not know. Asa Hilliard also said there
are two kinds of questions, type one questions and type two questions. And type one questions are, that’s the question we ask in school. And that question basically says, do you know what I know? Now, type two question, that, type one question asked that, a type two question is, rather than asking, do
you know what I know, a type two question
says, what do you know. That’s the question we
have to ask in school. And that’s the question that can lead us to educating all children. And this is the kind of question that culturally relevant
teaching embodies. It allows us, when we find out, or we ask, what is it that you know? It allows us to see the brilliance, the divinity in the children before us. To see them as inherently
capable of learning because we engage in the
intellectually stimulating task of uncovering what their brilliant minds have already learned. We use what we have already learned, all of us, as Yvette mentioned, to connect to what additional information we want them to acquire. By seeing them as already knowledgeable, capable, brilliant, we know at a very deep level that they have the capacity to learn whatever we might want to teach them. It becomes our intellectual challenge to understand our
subject area well enough, and our students well enough to shape content into forms that meld and conform to the frameworks that are already established
in the minds of our charges. And these frameworks have been created by the exciting and unique worlds that they have inhabited
prior to appearing in our classrooms. Make no mistake, however, if we cannot do this, despite all of the new standards, despite the common core, we risk generations of children who believe that multiplication
is for while people. When I visited Southern University where I’m presently, I’m working now, But when I visited there many years ago prior to working there, and spoke about some of these issues, one of the young student
teachers came to me and said, “So, “I’m glad we’re talking about this because “I don’t know what to do. “I had an eighth grade, “one of my eighth grade male students, “African American students
came to me and said, “So, Miss Summers, they made us the slaves “because we’re dumb, right?” So, I believe that if we are not convinced and manage to convince our students of their inherent ability, that common core will
simply become an empty hole through which all of our
expectations for achievement will disappear. If we don’t take time to know students and build relationships, standards just don’t work. Teachers have often said to me, and I think about what
you just asked there, they’ll say to me, we don’t have time for all that relationship stuff. We don’t have time to get kids to learn about their families and to get in
to all of that information. We have to focus on test prep. We’re at the bottom of
our school district, and we have to focus on the test prep. And my response always is, “So, how’s that working for ya?” (laughing) The reality is, if we
don’t focus on all of that, that may seem like fluff, we’re not gonna get to the other stuff. The reason why your kids can do so well is because you know deeply who they are. There is, while I was in Alaska, I also had the opportunity
to spend a lot of time in villages and to work with native Alaska healers. And they work on many different levels, but one of the things that
all of them said to me in one form or another was, I cannot heal you unless I know you. And I believe that we in education can take something from that. I cannot teach you unless I know you. On this auspicious occasion,
I just want to give thanks and praise to our honorees, Lisa, Anna, Darnell, Robert, and Lawrence. And I want to say, and I
want to keep this short so that we can maybe discuss a bit. You enter your classrooms, obviously armed with deep knowledge of
your subject matter. But you are not blinded by what you know. You are also aware of what you don’t know. And like many of us educators, you do not enter solely with content, with an understanding of
common core standards. or with lists of best practices. You enter every day, I believe, with the humility to learn. You enter every day with a question, who came? Thank you very much. (clapping) So, I was short there. If you wanna have some
comments or questions, Maureen, you want to monitor that, or you want me to? And I’m happy, are you coming? What happens now? You gotta tape your book back again? (laughing) – Thank you so much. Okay. – Lisa, thank you so much. Well, thank you. Thank you so much, Lisa, for closing this exploration of culturally responsive teaching on a very meaningful note, thank you. And now I would like
to invite the awardees back to the stage. Come on up. – That wasn’t part of the itinerary. – [Maureen] Yes, I’m
afraid some surprises. Thank you all for all the work that you do with the children in
your schools every day, and thank you for giving us
such inspirational models that will help educators
in schools meet the needs of diverse learners. Everyone, please join me
again in congratulating the 2012, 2013 winners of
the Teaching Tolerance Award For Excellence. (clapping) – Thanks so much, everybody,
for this terrific day of celebration and inspiration. I wanted to also let
our online audience know that we really appreciate your questions. They’ve been really informative and there’s been a great back channel chat for those of you who have
been keeping touch with that. It’s been really moving, we have a resource page for you at This is a we’ve provided you here, so it’s your
and then it’s TTawards. For those of you who can’t see it, we have the information
in the back for you in the room here, but for those of you online, this is the place that you can go to get all of the resources, including
the videos that you saw today of these wonderful awardees, and you’ll be able to
come back here and see the archived version of this event, including Lisa Delpit’s
amazing, just inspirational speaking moment here. It’s been a real honor for
Editorial Projects in Education to be able to have the
opportunity to put these events together with the incredible
leadership of Maureen and her team, Michelle, Michelle and Valerie, and everybody. I wanted a real shout out
for to them for their work down out of the Southern
Poverty Law Center. And, just tell you how
important it’s been. Last year we had Sonia Nieto leading off with a really
inspirational moment with some incredible teachers last year, and this year has just been
another remarkable year. I hope you’ll all be able
to join us downstairs on the 9th floor for a reception that we’ll be holding with these good folks here, and we’ll be running ’til about 6:15, assuming the snow hasn’t
shut Washington down. So, anyway, thank you so much. I wanna remind you, there is a, the evaluation form, so if any of you have, your feedback, we love your feedback for
you all in the room here. Thank you so much, we’ll see
you down on the 9th floor. Thank you so much for
celebrating Teaching Tolerance. Everybody. (clapping)

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