“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Booker T. Washington – Self-development
When should you put others’ needs above your own?
When we come to the aid of others, we also become happy ourselves by virtue of doing the right thing. It makes us feel worthwhile when we serve others. But happiness can come to us through a different path, where we focus just on ourselves and what we really want. Helping other people often drains us of our life energy and prevents us from becoming who we really are. It’s hard to know when putting other people’s needs above our own will lead to our own fulfillment.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts – founders of Teach Different and twin brothers with over 50 years of teaching experience – along with guests from the United States Robert Spicer, principal consultant for Restorative Strategies and Loyola University education student Jenna Daube, for a compelling conversation about self-development, enriched by the Teach Different Method.
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Image source: Library of Congress | Photograph possibly by Schumacher.
Dan Fouts 00:00
Hello, Steve and Dan Fouts here from Teach Different. We’re veteran teachers from the United States bringing educators together from around the world to learn a simple conversation method, which we model on this podcast for you. If you’re a teacher, administrator, or parent who wants to use the power of conversations to build stronger relationships and fight polarization, stay tuned to hear the impact our method can have on your discussions. Then join our Community of Educators at teachdifferent.com for additional resources and to participate in lively conversations among teachers and faculty, free for 30 days.
Dan Fouts 00:29
Well, welcome everybody to the Teach Different podcast. This week, we have a great quote from Booker T. Washington on self-development that we’re going to get to in a moment. Today we have two guests with us. One is a returning guest, Jenna, from Loyola University. She’ll introduce herself when she speaks. We also have Dr. Robert Spicer from Chicago who has a fascinating background in restorative justice practices. For those new to the teach different conversation method, we start with a quote. Then, we have a conversation interpreting the quote in our own words. After about 15 minutes, we introduce a counterclaim, to push against the claim of the quote. Here’s where the magic happens. Kids begin to realize that they see the world differently, but that they can share the same space and have empathy for each other. We need more of this in the world now. The conversation ends with an essential question. Here’s the quote on self-development from Booker T. Washington. “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Robert, welcome to the show. Please share your claim after you share your background.
Dr. Robert Spicer 02:12
Thank you so much for having me. My name is Dr. Robert Spicer. I’m incredibly grateful to be with all of you and to the listening audience. I was born on the East Coast, in Brooklyn, New York, and went to school there during my formative years. My parents immigrated from Guyana (mom) and Jamaica (dad). I decided to go away to college at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Historically, Morehouse was a black college, which links very intimately with the quote. Booker T. Washington, with the help of many donors, created Tuskegee University. After that he did some great things. Some great men and women came through that institution. I look forward to jumping into the quote in a minute. I’m married. I have four children, one from a previous marriage, and three daughters from my current marriage. Two of them are twins. One is an aspiring lawyer. My son recently graduated from college, Tennessee State University, which is also an historically black college in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m also a pet parent of a Labrador and a Pomeranian. I’m an adjunct professor at Loyola University, and my wife and I run our own restorative justice consulting business called Restorative Strategies. We focus on creating community within our school systems to dismantle the school to prison pipeline. I’m so incredibly excited to be on this call, and this podcast with an audience all across the world. Thank you for tuning in.
Dr. Robert Spicer 04:13
This quote has special meaning for me, because I feel like that’s the work that I do as a restorative justice practitioner when I’m training and teaching schools, and other entities, about the importance of using restorative justice practices when building community. Restorative justice in a nutshell is this notion of repairing harm, and helping individuals who have fallen into conflict, or have fallen out of good relationships, figure out how to rebuild that relationship even stronger than it was. Theorist Jay Braithwaite defines it as justice that heals. Restorative justice is a way of healing, and of creating balance within relationships where an imbalance was caused by, in his word, crime. But, it doesn’t have to be solely from crime, it could be from conflict or disagreements.
Dr. Robert Spicer 05:31
Booker T, Washington has special meaning to the African American community, because he was someone that came from slavery. His autobiography, Up From Slavery, recounts his journey from being someone with no connection to any economics, or anything of value as a human being, to rising up to become one of the foremost thinkers and institution builders in the world. He’s inspired so many people, and this quote is inspiring. I feel like this is what we should be doing.
Dr. Robert Spicer 06:09
As educators, we should be creating safe spaces, so that as we’re doing the work, we’re not giving people a handout, but instead a hand up. We’re not giving them fish, we’re teaching them how to fish. I think that creates the sustainability that he wanted. He wanted African Americans coming out of slavery to be able to stand on their own feet, to use the abilities gained from slavery, like building and farming, to take care of themselves and their families. I believe that education is a pathway to citizenship. How do we lift people up in a way that makes the people around them better, stronger, and more empowered? I think the work that we do with restorative strategies, and the work you guys do with Teach Different, speaks to this notion of building people and helping them become stronger. Frederick Douglass often talks about how it’s better to build children up than it is to fix broken adults. It’s better to reach the young people as soon as possible and help them. My organization’s focus on the school to prison pipeline, this very nefarious process of pushing our children out using zero tolerance practices, has arrested the development of our young people’s ability to become citizens. That’s why this quote fits well with my philosophy. We have to empower the people around us, and empower everyone to feel like they can take the initiative to become great men and women, not only in their communities, but for our society to continue to sustain and grow here in America.
Steve Fouts 08:20
Thank you for that. I have a question about the quote. Booker says, “if you want to lift yourself up, you lift someone else up.” The end game is that if you want to help yourself, then help others. Robert, would you say that helping others lifts you up? How? When you help others, a lot of people think that’s a sacrifice. You’re putting energy towards others and not thinking about yourself. Connect the dots for me. What is Booker saying here?
Dr. Robert Spicer 09:27 – Claim
It’s a great question, Steve. This whole notion of understanding the power of giving, the power of having your hand extended in a way that you can give what you can, and also receive. When you have it closed, you hold on to that gift. If I held on to what I’ve learned as a practitioner of restorative justice, then all of the people I’ve touched wouldn’t have this information. We stepped out with faith and trust that there were going to be opportunities. I knew that I was out here to help people who we’re in trouble. This quote really brings home this notion of giving. In the realm of the church, they talk about giving freely, that the more you give, the more you receive. People who are greedy, are greedy two times. They’re greedy when they have, and they’re greedy when they don’t have. You can’t enjoy the true prosperity of the blessings that you receive from giving when you’re greedy. I think on a basic human level, it just feels better to give. You feel good when you help people. The most beautiful times, when I felt most fulfilled, was when I helped people who couldn’t help me in return. They didn’t have anything to give me, but I felt empowered, moved, to give to them, because I felt it was the right thing to do. People who are in business talk about this all the time. When you chase money, it never comes to you, but when you chase impact, the money comes. It’s a mindset shift. Booker T. was about impact. He saw all of these men and women coming out of slavery, and knew what he had to go through. He also knew that here in America, one of the greatest nations on Earth, that you have an opportunity to build yourself with community help and financial resources. He had a vision when he was a student at Hampton Institute, before it became Hampton University. He saw what they were doing there, and he said, I’m going to take this down to Tuskegee, Alabama and create an institution there. It still exists today. In 2022, it’s still giving to the world, through its alumni, and through the multiple opportunities the institution has to share. When we help people, it creates this whole continuous flow of other people helping people. It’s not an addition effect, but a multiplication effect, because the more people we touch, the more people they touch. Before you know it, it’s everywhere.
Steve Fouts 10:36
It will circle back to the giver. Which is what he’s saying, right? If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up and wait. Watch what happens. You’ll probably get more than you ever dreamed of, in a different form. It’s really inspiring to think of it that way. I like how you put it. You shared a great perspective. What do you think, Dan or Jenna? Are we making sense? It seems so straightforward.
Jenna Daube 14:04
Yeah. Hi, I’m Jenna. I’m a student at Loyola University and I’m studying English and secondary education. I hope to one day be a high school English teacher. The image that comes to mind as I’ve been listening is this idea of planting seeds. That’s just something I’m always thinking about. You can think about it in a social service context, with teaching, and with all of these different relationships that we have with people. I have my bucket of seeds and it’s my job to spread them. The bucket doesn’t have a lid, either. I can’t put a lid on that bucket, because it’s all the gifts that I’ve been provided with. I often think about how I am so blessed in so many ways that I have to use them. That’s a big reason why I want to teach, because I have things I can give to empower other people. I’m sure everyone else here feels the same way. With those seeds, you have to plant them. You probably won’t see them come up, but when they do, all of a sudden, it’ll light up your life. You’ll see all this impact. When you’re interacting with a student, or another individual, you may not know where it’s going to go, if it’s going to sink in or take root, but it might. Because it might, it’s worth it to give. Maybe it will turn into something awesome.
Dan Fouts 15:58
I love that. That’s great, Jenna. You have the spirit of a teacher. That is the essence of being an educator. Jenna is my former student, Robert. I don’t know if you knew that. As educators, it’s our job to plant seeds. Many days, we don’t feel appreciated, but we know that if we keep helping, if we keep giving, we’ll bring others and ourselves happiness. If you overflow with happiness giving to other people, then you’ll be happy, because other people are happy to be around you. One of the things we do in these conversations, Robert, is encourage teachers to ask their students specific questions. Have you ever helped somebody? What have you done to help somebody? How did that make you feel? What did you do exactly? Have the kids write down what they’ve done to help others, or share with a partner, or whatever. This helps them bring in those personal experiences, and they see that there’s a common human experience that we all share and it doesn’t cost any money. We can all experience it together. That’s what I think this conversation, with this particular quote, could engender really well.
Steve Fouts 17:37
I think a direct question you could ask them, to get at this quote, would be something like, have you ever given something to someone and actually felt that you were better off? It actually improved you as much, or more than, what it is that you gave them. Can someone be specific about that feeling, the reciprocal nature of giving?
Dr. Robert Spicer 18:11
May I share a story? I’m a storyteller as well. I taught in a small elementary school on the north side of Chicago during 911. It was during that time, when I realized the importance of humanity. I was taught to damper down the humanity of myself, and the children, to focus on education and giving instruction. 911 changed that. That experience was my onboard toward restorative justice and its practices. I didn’t know it at the time. It was a young man who gently took me by the hand, guided me, and showed me that it’s better to give than receive right now. Right now, all 30 of us are going to give to you what you need right now, Mr. Spicer, because your parents are in New York, and you have no way to get in contact with them. You’re scared and hurt, but we’re here for you. We’re here to support you. It was at that moment, like magic, that I realized what I was told was wrong, in terms of relationships. I need to value my young people and their humanity, and help them become human beings with a purpose. That purpose is to be educated. Not, I’m your educator who teaches you, you listen and follow my instruction. If you don’t, then this is what’s waiting for you. Zero Tolerance was happening during that time period in Chicago. They lifted me up and that helped me to help thousands of people. That young man called me up one day, and thanked me. I was like, why are you thanking me? He said, because what I learned in that class helped me to become the man that I am today. Now, that was third grade. He’s a truck driver with twelve children. He lives in Monee, Illinois. He went through the system, but he left Chicago and is taking care of himself and his family.
Dr. Robert Spicer 20:24
Jenna, what you said about the seeds that you dropped was so powerful. We need to understand our role as teachers, which is to create the scientists, presidents, future teachers, and parents, as you did for Jenna, Dan. Teachers don’t make much, but we make a difference. That difference that we make, we see every day when we’re interacting with our children. They see us in the streets and in churches, and they have such respect for the things that we decided to give to them. Those children lifted me up. If they hadn’t done that, I don’t know where I would be. I probably wouldn’t be on this call with you guys. They lit a fire under me to say, Rob, what you learned from those veteran teachers was wrong. That way of interacting with children is wrong. Now that you know better, you must do better. As a disciple of this work, the focus is to teach as many people. A colleague of mine told me, Rob, you are the Johnny Appleseed of restorative justice. If you know Johnny Appleseed, he just went around planting seeds. You know what happened. All of these trees blossomed and people asked, where did all of these trees come from. They came from Johnny Appleseed. He did his job. You have people who plant and you have people who water, but our Creator brings the increase. He gives it the power to grow. As educators, you all are my people, we have a distinct responsibility to do what Booker T. We lift up the children, who are the future, and just like my story, if you invest in them, they will give you back a rate of return that is immeasurable, because of what they can begin to do and bring into society. It starts with what you guys are doing, what I’m doing, what Jenna is doing, and the many people listening to this podcast will be able to do if they take this quote to heart.
Steve Fouts 22:48
Beautifully said. It comes back to us. It’s something that we enjoy. We’re happy when we feel like we’ve had influence. That’s the currency of a teacher. Whenever we feel like we’ve had that influence, it means the seeds are growing, and it makes it all worth it. I never really thought about this quote from the teaching perspective, until this call. I was thinking about it connected to the individual realm. We’re probably all preaching to the choir with this quote. Robert, you know my role. What if we had to just stop here and take Booker T. aside and say, I know what you’re saying, bro, I get it. Thank you for the inspiration. But, here’s an issue I have with your advice. Let’s talk about a counterclaim to this idea that helping yourself necessarily implies worrying about other people and lifting everybody else up. Robert, I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Dr. Robert Spicer 24:20
I’d love to hear what Jenna and Dan have to say. And then I’ll tell you what I have.
Dan Fouts 24:31
Well, okay, that’s putting me on the spot.
Dr. Robert Spicer 24:34
Yes, it is.
Dan Fouts 24:34 – Counterclaim
My mind often goes to sports analogies. When you’re competing with somebody, the goal is to dominate them, to push them down so that you can be lifted up. We’re taking this out of its historical context, but that’s what kids are going to do. When you share this quote with them, they’re going to come up with all kinds of crazy ideas and applications. Competing and winning are not necessarily bad things. When someone gets less than you get, you don’t lift them up, you push them down in order for you to be lifted up. That would be my adolescent response to this.
Jenna Daube 25:36
I have a totally different take on the counterclaim. I think your sports analogy is an interesting way to think about it. The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of being a doormat. If you’re always helping others, how can you better yourself? That’s just going off the mindset that helping others doesn’t increase your internal wealth. I think students would talk about times when they were trying to be helpful or nice, assuming good rewards and stuff, but when that gets spoiled, it’s a really quick way to douse the light. It makes it difficult to want to keep going when it’s taking energy from you instead. I think they would probably bring up, what about if people don’t want to accept help, or they don’t even they’re thankful? Why would I help them if it hurts me?
Steve Fouts 27:04
They don’t want to resist the blessing.
Jenna Daube 27:06
Steve Fouts 27:08
Robert, what do you think?
Dr. Robert Spicer 27:10
I think what Dan and Jenna have said has been very impactful. How can I add to it? They’ve made it very clear, especially the sports analogy. There has to be winners and losers. That’s a given when we’re playing the game. I have to get the goal to win. Jenna, what you shared was very powerful, because all of us on this call, as well as your audience, have had that moment when they felt really excited about giving, and then their gifts were not taken at value. Some people thought you were giving in a way of quid pro quo, where I’m giving to you, so you have to give to me type thing, even though you told them you were just giving with no strings attached. It’s not love that has to do with anything else when it’s transactional. But, we live in this capitalistic society, and oftentimes, it’s a dog eat dog world that can be very cold and callous. You can run into a variety of issues being a giver. There’s a saying that I often share, givers do not have limits in giving. Takers will always take from givers. In order to not be harmed by a taker, you must put limits on takers.
Steve Fouts 28:48
Dr. Robert Spicer 28:50
You must. As teachers, that’s what we do. You go in your pocket and you give. I know Dan has done that for you and all of his students. We go in our pockets and we buy supplies. Sometimes we don’t get it back at that moment, and it hurts us as teachers. It bleeds us emotionally and mentally taking away some of the energy, zest, and vigor that we have for teaching. Sometimes we want to quit, because we’re giving so much, and we don’t see it coming back. But, education is the long game. This is not a short game. This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, and Booker T. Washington understood that very well. That’s why he built, with the help of the students, Tuskegee University. He knew this was a long game. He knew this was something that he needed to plant here because there was going to come a time when he was not going to be here anymore. He needed to leave something in the earth that would continue to give and keep on giving to better African Americans and the world.
Dr. Robert Spicer 29:57
Dr. W.E.B Du Bois was his counter argument to this whole notion of the Tuskegee institution. Du Bois was more about educating yourself and being the talented Ted. I would be considered that talented Ted, because I went to school and got my education to be a teacher. Others at that time became lawyers and doctors. Du Bois was focused on political aspirations. He wanted African Americans to attain political power, so that they in turn could define their destiny. Whereas, Booker T. Washington said don’t mess with that right now. Let’s focus solely on building your skills and talents in manual labor, carpentry, and farming. He had a great scientist at Tuskegee who found all the uses for peanuts. Agriculture was his focus. Du Bois’s argument with Washington was that African Americans needed to have political power to deal with civil rights. I believe both of them were right. They were two sides of the same coin.
Dr. Robert Spicer 31:33
I feel like you can give without feeling like you’re going to be broken by your giving. Oftentimes people are afraid that when they give what’s going to happen? It’s like the Good Samaritan situation. Three men pass by this man who was harmed by criminals. It took the Good Samaritan to help this guy. The question: why are you helping him? It’s not so much what this man can do for me, but what I can do for him. He’s in a space where he needs help. The Good Samaritan helped him regardless of his religious background or socio economic status. That didn’t matter. He saw someone in need, and he reached out to him. We see what’s happening globally to support Ukraine. People are reaching out to try and help this nation deal with this incredibly terrible situation. What if we all just said, you’re on your own? What is the philosophy, lift yourself up by your bootstraps? Well, that’s pretty disrespectful to tell somebody to lift themselves up by their bootstraps, and you don’t give them the boots. You’re the boots, not the straps. It’s just very important. Going back to what Dan and Jenna said, the sports analogy, and when we give it not being accepted, those are real counter arguments. That’s reality, a lot of times. So the question is, how do you keep filling your bucket to remain a giver in a society that will keep taking from you because they have no limits? They call you a sucker when they see you coming in. Here comes that sucker. He loves to give gifts, so we have to take take take.
Steve Fouts 33:19
Robert, the sucker is exactly where I feel like the kids would have all kinds of interesting personal experiences to share. You could ask them, has anybody ever given something to someone and received nothing in return and was looked at as weak? The receiver thought you were weak, because you’re doing something nice for them. Why would you ever do something nice for them? That’s the world we live in. I would love to hear them talk about those types of experiences. I think many might come to this counterclaim. Which is why I think the conversation would be good. I would add one more quick thing. It’s a psychological thing that happens to me, and it may happen to others. Here’s something I noticed about myself as a teacher. When you go to school every day, and feel like you’re sacrificing and always giving, giving, giving, giving, you feel as if you’re a good person. It does keep you going during the darker days. For me, that would often give me an excuse to not worry about my own stuff. If that makes sense. I’m doing all this good work here, giving every day. I have my issues, but I’m not going to worry about that stuff. I still feel good about myself and what I’m doing. Giving makes me sometimes forget about my own issues that I need to deal with. That’s my psychological take on the counterclaim.
Dan Fouts 35:26
To build on that a little bit. I think it would be fascinating during this conversation to have kids listen to each other talk about how it feels to give and not receive anything back, and how it feels to give and get something back. These are things that are private experiences. We don’t share this with other people. This is the power of this particular conversation. There are connections kids can make with each other about how they’re feeling about these different things. I’m seeing this conversation crystallize in my mind.
Dr. Robert Spicer 36:12
I want to throw in something for free. I’m an author, and I just recently wrote a book and published it on Amazon. The book is titled Aspirational Justice. It fits with this conversation and with this quote. What I’m looking at is a United States of America that has taken from its African American citizens, and has not given back. Now, there have been things that have been given, the right to vote, freedom, and things of that nature, but there’s still a retraction that is occuring. When George Floyd was killed, back in May of 2000, I was led to write this book, because I wanted to create a construct for how America can now give to its African American citizens and others who were being oppressed in a variety of different ways. I have four areas. The truth telling portion of the construct focuses specifically on social studies. Where we’re not living in the myth of America, but we’re living in the truth of America, and giving our citizens the right to be able to make choices based upon the truth. Not damning America, but helping make America a better nation. In the past being that foundation of how we can be better and how we can do better, and making sure we’re giving the right information. Within that reconciliation, being able to forgive, reconcile, understand and move forward as a nation.
Dr. Robert Spicer 38:15
The symbolic looks at what are the symbols that we need to have that show that we’re off of a war footing between different groups and what those symbols should look like. For symbols that are harmful, we need to move them into spaces where we can learn from them, as opposed to them being put on display making people feel like we’re not in a good relationship, because here’s a symbol right in our face plastered all over the place saying we are less than, we are not human. Back to Booker T, Washington being a man who built an institution. One of the greatest and most powerful institutions for citizenship is the school. As I was sharing earlier about the work that I’m doing, the school to prison pipeline and zero tolerance is arresting the development of key constituents, African Americans, Latina, LGBTQ students, students with 504 plans, and students with IEPs, those students who are the most susceptible to the zero tolerance policies and practices that we see. It’s happening all across the nation. I envision a School to Career highway that we build as we dismantle the school to prison pipeline and move the juvenile justice system away from our schools and begin to move the schools back into the communities where they were their home.
Dr. Robert Spicer 39:35
Finally, the tangible reparative process, which looks specifically at reparations. You have a group of people that for 246 years have given free labor. Well, that labor was taken. It wasn’t given freely, it was taken. How do we repair that financially when we see that the mean income for whites is $114,000, and the mean assets for African Americans is $14,000. There’s a huge gap economically, and it’s widening. How do we correct that? I could take that same quote and say straight up to the American government, if you want to lift yourself up America, help somebody else. I’d say help those in America who have been harmed. Recently they passed the Emmett Till anti-lynching law in the Senate. Now it’s headed to the President’s desk. This law is going to make lynching federally illegal with a steep punishment or 30 years in prison. Seeing African Americans as human beings worthy of being valued. We have to stop taking away individuals’ humanity, in order to make them into a thing. Our journey as African Americans, and those who have been disenfranchised for so long, has been about reclaiming that humanity. Racial justice is all about what that looks like, and how we can begin to lift everyone up. The power of the vote is not just for blacks, it’s for everybody, and that power can be used to change the world. We’ve done that, and we continue to do that. We want to be able to see ourselves as part of this incredible experiment called America.
Steve Fouts 41:48
Robert, I really appreciate that idea of reclaiming humanity. I’m going to add to that. African Americans are unique. I spent my entire career with young African Americans. I’ve never had a white student. This is the community that I’ve been with. I’ve seen potential for leadership. I don’t want to stop at the reclaiming of humanity. We need to exalt these students/people who have been oppressed and haven’t had the same opportunities. They have gifts, and they can save us from a lot of our problems. We need them. Our society needs that perspective. I would call it a compassionate leadership angle. We don’t do well with that. We have strong leaders, and we have compassionate leaders that appear weak. African Americans, from my experience, appear to have a great blend of both of those skills naturally.
Dr. Robert Spicer 43:24
We’ve had to do that, right?
Steve Fouts 43:27
There you go.
Dr. Robert Spicer 43:28
We’ve had to learn how to be ambidextrous.
Steve Fouts 43:32
Not empathetic, but ambidextrous.
Dr. Robert Spicer 43:34
We learned how to chew gum and walk at the same time and to do it exemplary in the midst of all of the things that we had to struggle with. I’m proud to be an American. I’m so happy my mother and my father decided to meet in New York City in the 60s, and had my brother and me. I had the distinct honor of growing up in the United States, through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and into the 2000’s. America has its problems, but it sure has a lot of strengths that we can build off of. I want to throw in cultural humility with compassionate leadership. As teachers/educators we’re not just getting to know about your culture so that we can say we know the latest dance or the latest thing, but that we have this whole awareness, as you said, Steve. The beauty that this culture brings. We do our very best to bring it out in such a way that an African American group can truly feel part of the culture, not like distant cousins. We did help build this nation into the most powerful nation on Earth. There are things that must be done.
Dr. Robert Spicer 45:04
In the preface of my book I ask, how can we have a relationship with a person or a government, when we never had a good relationship in the first place. Restorative justice has its strengths, but we needed something more, and that’s why I wrote the book. You can’t restore a relationship that wasn’t good in the first place. There was always an imbalance of power. Now we’re trying to create equity. You guys are hearing all about diversity, equity, and inclusion everywhere, right? You’re trying to create this balance, but that balance needs to be accomplished through a variety of different means – legislatively, educationally, institutionally, and spiritually. There’s a lot of trauma mentally and emotionally that has occurred within this relationship. We’re going to need to begin to heal. I feel very passionate about seeing that healing occur and happen in my lifetime. I’m just hoping and praying that it does happen, because I have four children that I don’t want to grow up in a society where they’re judged by the color of their skin, and not by the content of their character, just like Dr. King said. I want them to grow up in a society where they are lifted up, and it’s not called a handout. It’s not called welfare or affirmative action. It’s called this is what we were supposed to do in the first place, because as a nation we caused this to happen. We voted for these policies and created these laws. We created Jim Crow, we created all these policies and practices that were focused specifically on segregating one group from another and creating this imbalance in that segregation. Then, releasing all these lies about each other, so that we would never want to come back together as a nation, as a people. It’s just very important that we begin to move forward with that healing. As a parent, I want to see this healing occur, so my children can grow up in a society where they are valued, as you said, Steve. I want them to be valued for the gifts and talents they bring into the world.
Dan Fouts 47:21
Maybe a word that sums up that beautiful sentiment, Robert, is that everyone needs a sense of belonging. Without a sense of belonging, you’re always going to have people ostracized or people not heard, not appreciated, not seen for they’re beautiful talents.
Steve Fouts 47:49
You nailed it. The quality of young leaders that I saw in the communities where I worked in Chicago, was just out of this world. They were natural leaders, but they didn’t have that sense of belonging. They were missing pieces. When you’re a leader, and you’re missing that sense of where you belong, who needs you, then you’re left with raw leadership. You got me thinking now, Robert. You’ve motivated me.
Jenna Daube 48:52
One thing that comes to mind is that our job in education is to uplift. We’re supposed to show students that they have a whole treasure trove of gifts, a job, a purpose, and a place in society to use those gifts. If you don’t know that you have something powerful inside of you, and you’re not encouraged, fought for, and given opportunities to share those beautiful gifts, then what happens? Someone has to tell you and point out that you’re a good leader with some amazing skills. It opens their eyes, and it makes them realize they have power. They’re not helpless, but have something really important and very valuable inside of them. Going back to the seeds, we have to give them out, but it’s also our job to show our students that they have the same potential. I think that’s what I’m hearing here.
Dan Fouts 50:31
Well said, Jenna. Well, this has been a really great experience, and an invigorating conversation. We came at it from different perspectives, and I think we gave good treatment to the claim and counterclaim, and talked about some really important things that our society is struggling with. It’s all hands on deck to solve these issues. No question about it.
Dan Fouts 51:05 – Essential Question
We like to end with an essential question, Robert. You came up with one earlier that I wish I could remember. The kids will come up with great questions during the conversation. Here’s an essential question we came up with, when should you put others’ needs above your own? When should you put others’ needs above your own? An overarching question that you could leave the kids with, and then revisit throughout your curriculum, and move forward from there.
Dan Fouts 51:40
We really appreciate this. We’d like to say goodbye to everybody, and thank you so much for listening. Aspirational Justice is the name of Dr. Spicer’s book. I have not read it yet, but I am going to do that. This is definitely something to check out. Thank you so much, Robert, for everything and Jenna, you as well.
Dr. Robert Spicer 52:07
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Dan Fouts 52:11
Thanks, everybody. We hope you’re walking away feeling energized by some great ideas, and have a sense of confidence that you too can master the art and science of conversations to make a lasting impact. We at Teach Different are dedicated to supporting you along that journey. Please visit teachdifferent.com to join our Community of Educators for additional resources and engaging discussion among fellow teachers and administrators, free for 30 days. We’ll see you there and next time on the Teach Different Podcast, take care!