‘Leading for racial justice’ is focus of three essays in Education Week

UW–Madison’s John Diamond and former Madison Schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham are sharing their thoughts on “leading for racial justice” in a series of three essays for Education Week.

John Diamond and Jennifer Cheatham
Diamond (left) and Cheatham

Diamond is the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education and a professor in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Cheatham is currently a senior lecturer on education and the co-chair of the Public Education Leadership Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Diamond and Cheatham’s first essay, titled “Ed. Leaders: Discuss Race, Call Out White Supremacy,” which was published on April 13, argues that educational leaders need to be courageous in challenging white supremacy in their schools.

“The nation’s schools have a history of supporting and reinforcing racial hierarchies, along with other forms of domination, through their policies and practices,” the authors write.

They continue: “From Native American boarding schools to Jim Crow segregation, U.S. schools have been fundamentally shaped by race. These historical roots show up in our current systems through school segregation in practice if not in law, enrollment policies, and school discipline practices in which students of color are systematically provided with limited resources, less rigorous learning environments, and fewer chances to make mistakes. We cannot lead for racial justice without confronting this history and its contemporary manifestations. As writer and activist James Baldwin reminded us, ‘Nothing can be changed until it is faced.’”

Their second essay is titled, “Does Your District’s Way of Decisionmaking Reinforce Systemic Racism?” and was published on May 10. This essay challenges district leaders to examine their culture and decision-making practices to root out racism.

“For every district that declares that it is becoming an anti-racist organization, the daily habits and routines that define it will determine whether that is true,” the authors write.

Both essays, the first and second, are available in full on Education Week’s website.

A third essay by Diamond and Cheatham is forthcoming.

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